About That Mistake…

There are so many ways to look at this mistake that I haven’t been sure how to tackle it on here.

I’ll start here:  it truly was a mistake.

I will admit that I speed when I drive, knowingly, purposefully, in places where I think it doesn’t really matter to be going five miles per hour above the speed limit, in places where I feel like I’m more of a hindrance to traffic flow and more of a danger to myself and others if I obey the speed limit.

BUT

I do NOT knowingly or purposefully speed in school zones.

This school zone had signs posted; it had a flashing light. And I saw it, and I slowed down. And then I stopped at a traffic light, and the fact that I remained in a school zone went out of my head. I accelerated quickly, as I usually do when I get the green light, and was up to 36 mph in the normally 40 mph zone when the police officer read my speed, still inside the school zone.

I saw the lights flash on his patrol car and thought surely he isn’t coming for me, and still it did not dawn on me that he had cause, that I’d been speeding in the school zone.

I am lucky I got this ticket. Lucky that I got this reminder to be more present in my driving, to not go on automatic pilot when I get behind the wheel. The cost of the ticket or the optional online defensive driving course will be a small price to pay. It will be far cheaper than the physical trauma and emotional anguish my victims, my dog, my child, and I might have suffered had this driving error resulted in my running down an elementary school child crossing the street or some other such catastrophe.

So I repeat, I made a mistake. I got a speeding ticket. And I am lucky.

RRR – “I, Racist” by John Metta

A former teaching colleague of mine linked to this article from his Facebook page over a year ago, when it was first published.  The message of “I, Racist” has lost none of its import over time, and is particularly salient in the wake of these latest police killings of Black men in Louisiana and Minnesota. The author clearly illustrates the problems Blacks face in speaking to White people about racism, and candidly presents the many facets of White privilege that allow Whites to deny, ignore, and protest the very existence of systemic institutionalized racism.

As a White person with an awareness of the existence of racism and a desire to dismantle the system, this article broadened my understanding and reminded me of my complicity in perpetuating the system if I am not actively fighting it.

I highly recommend reading this article and sharing it widely.

RRR – “Every Day” by David Levithan

I read this young adult fiction book awhile back, but it still sticks with me, which, I think, says something about its value. In David Levithan’s book, Every Day, the story is told from the perspective of the roughly sixteen-year-old being “A” who every day inhabits the body of a different person of that age and therefore lives the life of that person for that single day. Each chapter then is a different day, with A being a different person, sometimes male, sometimes female, sometimes transgender, sometimes heterosexual, sometimes homosexual, sometimes drug-addicted, sometimes a person A likes, other times one A dislikes or disapproves of, and one time the person with whom A fell in love when A was in the body of this person’s boyfriend.

It’s pretty bizarre, and so creative. There are so many characters because each chapter A is A but also someone else. And A is driven by the desire to see and get to know the person A has fallen for, so there’s a larger story, and additional tension added when A discovers there might be a way to stay permanently in someone’s body.

I liked that it was wholly original and I thought the author did well to develop all of the secondary characters whose lives A steps into for a day. I found I couldn’t put it down, wanting to find out who A would be next. And it gets you thinking, about who you are beyond your body and about what love is, for examples. If you enjoy young adult fiction or fantasy, I highly recommend this book.

RRR – “The Soul of Discipline” by Kim John Payne

I just finished this book tonight. I will have to go back and reread sections of it, and I think it will serve as a resource for years to come. The Soul of Discipline: The Simplicity Parenting Approach to Warm, Firm, and Calm Guidance – From Toddlers to Teens is the author’s presentation of an approach to parenting (it isn’t just the discipline part, it’s the whole shebang, I think) that changes as your child’s needs change, that provides more freedom to children as they become more developmentally prepared to handle it, and that enables a parent to feel good about setting boundaries and then changing them when the time is right. I like the idea that as a parent of a two-year-old, I am a Governor, that I make the decisions, and set the boundaries, and that I do this to create a safe haven for my child, and to instill in him our family values – that we talk nicely to one another, that we don’t hit or kick others, for examples. And I like the idea that as my son gets older, it will make sense to shift to a Gardener role and finally to a Guide role. I like the idea of trying to help my child “put things right” when he does something that hurts someone else, rather than forcing him to offer the half-hearted platitude “Sorry.” I like the discussion about the detriments of screen-usage on our children and on our familial relationships. I appreciate the acronym of DADD (Disapprove, Affirm, Discover, and Do-Over) to help me in a crisis. I appreciate the warning not to overpraise, that “Good job” is a meaningless phrase. This is an insightful book with a wealth of information and practical ideas for parenting.

RRR – “City Dog, Country Frog” by Mo Willems

This is a children’s book that I found at the library and just love. City Dog, Country Frog introduces the idea of loss, but in a way that suggests that death is a natural part of life, and something we all must face at one point or another. The illustrations by Jon J. Muth are excellent. We laugh out loud to see the dog swimming or smiling like a frog. My two-year-old son doesn’t quite understand the permanence of the loss, but he understands that someone is gone. This is really just a gem.

Indignation…and Shame

I suppose it makes sense that strong emotions propel one to write. Today I am feeling indignant. Well, really, it was two days ago, but I am trying to recapture the feeling to fully report. How people can be so utterly unfeeling, so callous and cruel to others is really unbelievable.

Liam and I were running errands, drop off the recycling at the local collection site (our apartment complex DOESN’T recycle — can you read my indignation at THAT ridiculous policy, but I digress), and then returning some clothing toward which Liam expressed some dislike (“too tight” — one of his favorite phrases about some pants) to the used children’s clothing store. On our way we were stopped at a light where there happened to be a man standing on the median holding a sign that read “Hungry. Anything helps.”

As we were sitting there, I was contemplating what I had with me. I typically don’t leave the house without a bevy of snacks for Liam, so I was thinking I could offer this guy a chia pouch and some pretzels. Then I got to thinking that the pretzels were in a reusuable bag (like this one — highly recommended), that I didn’t necessarily want to give away, and did I have a plastic bag in which I could put the pretzels, and before I had gotten far enough in my planning, the light changed and I felt compelled to move along, having utterly failed to offer the man any sustenance.

As I started pulling forward, the man got a glimmer in his eye and a smile on his face and started running toward the cars that had just begun moving. He wasn’t looking at me, but beyond me. I turned around to see a guy in a burgundy pick up truck holding his hand out his window. It was closed, as if holding change or some bills, and as he drove by, he made a big show of opening his hand up as if dropping the money on the ground.

Except there was no money. He wasn’t offering the hungry man anything but ridicule. He drove off with a smile on his face, having just had a good laugh. At the expense of a hungry person, hopeful for some help. The man on the median looked at the road, searching for the coins that could mean a meal. I shook my head at him to indicate there was nothing, ashamed that a person could be so heartless. And then I drove on, ashamed that I had not offered what I could.

A return

I’ve been away from my blog for awhile now, over three months, which seems like  both an impossibly long time and hardly a moment at all.

Time is strange.

This post marks a return to this space and this creative endeavor.

Along with many other happenings, I have been concerned that I wrote haiku using lines of 5, 7, and 5 words rather than that pattern of syllables per line that is the actual poetic structure. Whoops. I haven’t made the time to look back on my posts to see, but I think it’s funny that this worry has intruded into my life when so much else has been vying for attention.

We’ve moved.

I am now living in Texas, near Houston.

We’ve actually been here over a month now, which is pretty crazy. Our house in Tucson is still for sale and we are living in a temporary apartment. Most of our stuff is in storage, but the longer that is the case, the easier it is to believe we can live without it. Although, the Christmas decorations and the camping gear would be difficult and expensive to replace.

Some great aspects of this part of Texas so far: the moisture (though ask me about this in July, and I might not consider it great), the trees, the grass, and the sunshine (again, July might be a different story).

There’s more to say about the good and the challenges, but I’ll leave it for other posts. I’m hoping to return to writing more regularly (especially since I just revealed this blog’s existence in my holiday letter to friends and family).

Bye for now.

Regan

 

Mission Accomplished

It is hard for me to believe that this month of September is on its way out already. I gave myself this challenge, er opportunity, to write a post everyday this month, and while I missed a few days last weekend on a camping trip, I’ve made them up to successfully have posted thirty times for the thirty days of September. I am proud of that.

Writing every day for thirty days has been an enlightening experience. I’ve definitely learned that I need more than one day to write a post I really like. I did better in the beginning, working on drafts of several posts at once and then taking one to publishable form each day. Then I got behind, or busy, or what have you, and I was under the gun to produce publishable material in a couple of hours. Not my style. Sometimes, the words flowed, and I liked what came forth, but other times, I felt dissatisfied. As I move away from the daily publishing, I do hope to continue the daily writing, so that I can produce two or three posts a week that I am proud of.

I learned that writing begets writing. I definitely found I had more to say once I made myself speak on a regular basis. In fact, a few of my posts grew too expansive and had to be divided into multiple posts (a few of which aren’t yet finished).

In Blogging 101, one of the later tasks was to set a schedule, and I completely understand now why they suggest this. Knowing I had to post everyday helped me to pay attention with a writer’s eye, to keep thinking about writing and what I might write about throughout the day. I don’t believe I can keep up with a post-a-day schedule long-term; however, I do want to commit myself to a schedule going forward. I feel like that will keep me on track.

Another task of Blogging 101 that I never got to in the two times I took the course was to create a Blog Feature that was a regular post. I want to do that, but I’m not sure what it might be as of yet. I am still toying with the ideas of reviewing books and passing along links to articles I’ve read that I find particularly interesting.

One of the things I managed to do this month was to experiment with short codes and create a couple of new pages that pull in posts with specific tags. I’m excited about that, and am looking forward to creating a few more menu options that gather related writings.

I also got started on creating a links blogroll, one that doesn’t just pull in the last 10 sites I’ve read posts from, but is a list I can manage. I need to get it updated to list some of you bloggers that I really have enjoyed reading.

Speaking of reading, I feel like that is one of the negative sides of everyday blog posting–at least with my schedule. I was so busy writing that I didn’t get to read many others’ blogs. I hope to get a chance to explore those blogs of people who have read and liked my posts. I do appreciate the traffic. A hearty thank you to all of you reading, liking, and commenting. The feedback and connection is really heartening.

And with that final thought, I’ll say goodnight. Until tomorrow–or maybe the day after tomorrow (wink).

Cats and Dogs

My little About blurb on my sidebar is a lie. It says I am both a cat owner and a dog owner, and as of July 26th, 2015, I am not.

I grew up a dog person. We had a Dalmatian, a Christmas morning surprise one year for my sister and me, and I adored that dog. She was smart and beautiful, had an arresting bark, and an adorable way of turning her head when you asked her a question. As an adult, I had long longed for a dog of my own, was just waiting to get settled into a house and a marriage before taking on that responsibility.

I became a cat person. After the Peace Corps, I moved in with my sister, and her cat, Tigger, became a part of my life. She was a big cat, a blood donor at the vet hospital, who came to my sister already saddled with her silly name. My sister believed her to be part Maine Coone. She was medium-haired and haughty. She had this swagger to her walk, wearing what my sister called her fuzzy pants because of her long fur. She was gorgeous, and had such a personality, I was smitten. I had thought cats were flat, standoffish, boring. She was standoffish at times, but never flat nor boring. No, Tigger was a fine ambassador for felines.

And when my sister’s boyfriend, and his two cats, Binky and Roxy, moved in with us, I learned that cats have personalities as distinct as dogs’. Another misconception I had about cats was that they were all the same, but with three in our apartment, I learned that was not the case at all.

Fast forward to my sister, her cat, her boyfriend now fiance, and his cats all getting their own place, and me on my own. Then Bennet (so named after the protagonist of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet) came into my life. He was found abandoned on the street near my sister’s house not long after my nephew was born. My sister’s two cats (Tigger had since passed away) were not willing to accommodate another addition to the household, and so I took this kitten in, and he changed my life.

As I told him when we said goodbye at the hospital, “I didn’t know how lonely I was until you came along.” And that was true. My life was so enriched by sharing it with Bennet. I spent long days at school, teaching and coaching, and I was so lucky to come home to my whiny kitty. Bennet was a talker. He was part Siamese, part American Short-hair, a breed called Snowshoe, and he had the Siamese sassiness, oh yes.

Bennet was a good judge of character. My mom says she knew how right Jim and I were for each other because of the ease with which Jim got along with Bennet, and perhaps more importantly, the ease with which Bennet got along with Jim. Before we married, I joked with Jim about having him sign a pre-nup that said he didn’t get the cat if we broke up.

Our neighbors called Bennet “Handsome Cat.” I attribute this to his clear blue eyes, the white lightning streak across his forehead, and the distinctive soul patch of darker fur on his chin. He was a very handsome cat, and very fastidious, too. He was always grooming and, aside from his bad kitty breath, he always smelled clean. He was also a very talented acrobat, turning somersaults in pursuit of a mouse on a string, jumping to the tops of the refrigerator or kitchen cabinets, and dashing down the hall in his pursuit of kitty treats.

Bennet’s death came unexpectedly. He was only eight years old. After a day of listlessness, we noticed swelling in his face. We thought perhaps he was having an allergic reaction to a bug bite or something. We took him into the emergency vet hospital and learned he was feverish. The doctor believed him to have an abscess, so they kept him overnight. They found it, full of bacteria, and gave him antibiotics, anticipating a return home the next day if he responded well to the treatment. Instead we received a phone call at two in the morning that he’d gone into respiratory arrest. We arrived at the hospital to say goodbye before asking the technicians to let him go.

So, now, I am no longer both a dog and a cat owner. Bennet is gone and there’s a hole in my heart that he once filled.