Rule Follower or Rule Breaker?

My answer: I notice when others break the rule.

In general, I do my best to be a respectful member of society. Yes, I occasionally break a rule. I walk where I’m not supposed to; I sometimes drive faster than I should. I’ve let my dog off-leash on a field and on trails that were not off-leash.

Which is why I didn’t say anything the other day when I tried to enjoy a picnic lunch at a local park.

Numerous signs at the park warn that dogs are to be leashed at all times. People are encouraged to call the posted phone number if off-leash dogs are around.

I’ve had two other picnics at this same park and seen unleashed dogs both times, their owners breaking the rule. However, the dogs were well-trained and kept their distance.

But this time, we had no sooner spread out our blanket and sat down, than a dog dashed into our midst and stole my grandson’s burrito.

The dog was leashed (does that count?) but the leash was dragging behind it. The owner apologized profusely and paid for the burrito. But now, my grandson had no lunch.

Still, I didn’t call the number to report the rule breaker. I didn’t want to be one of “those” people. I didn’t want to be a tattle tale, a spoil sport.

Then, another dog took a bite from the cookie my granddaughter was holding. This owner, this rule breaker, didn’t apologize. She was too busy swearing and trying to catch her dog. I talked (loudly) about calling the number and reporting her, but I didn’t.

I understand that rules are made so we can all live peacefully in a safe society. I also know none of us is perfect. Sometimes, we break the rule.

In hindsight, I wish I had called the number. I wish I had not erred on the side of leniency or listened to the voice inside me that shamed me into silence.

What would you have done?

Raising Adult Children?

In the first flush of parenthood, it’s hard to imagine that the helpless newborn cradled in your arms will someday be an adult.

Babies need help with everything. They can’t eat, sleep or clean themselves. They would not survive without you.

Toddlers need constant supervision. They have no concept of what’s safe and what isn’t. Preschoolers need guidance, even grade-schoolers require parental input. Middle-and -high-schoolers won’t admit it, but they also need assistance. Kind of like the gutter guards used by novice bowlers to successfully get a strike.

And then..the day comes with your child becomes a self-supporting adult and leaves home to live on his or her own.

This is the day you’ve been cheering them on towards. The day when you are officially no longer in charge.

But this hard stop isn’t easy. You still have so much good advice; after all, you’re older and you’ve experienced more. Sometimes, it can feel like you’ve just been fired from the greatest. most fulfilling and intense job in the world. And you weren’t ready to leave that job just yet!! You’re not even close to retirement!!

And truthfully, sometimes you just can’t help it. The advice leaks out. Obviously only with the best of intentions. You simply want your kid to succeed..I mean…your adult child.

And there it is, what I believe is the root of the challenge. This oxymoron of a mouthful: adult child.

It’s easy to think of your offspring as your children. Because they are and have been for as long as you’ve known them. Webster defines a child as: an offspring of human parents; a descendant; a young person, usually one between infancy and youth. It’s the last definition that trips us up. Maybe the truth is we’re struggling with the definition of adult: a fully developed animal; pertaining to mature life. Maybe we need to just take a breath and let go.

A new word to describe our familial relationships could help us in that process. We could simply say our sons and daughters when talking about our offspring. But our friends don’t ask: How are your sons and daughters? They want to know about our kids, our children, our adult children!

Stop me before I get into trouble with my own adult daughters!

I’ll let you know when and if I get this all figured out. In the meantime, I’m giving my dog lots of advice even though he’s technically not my offspring. At least I know better than to advise my husband.

Subscribe to Your Local Newspaper

It’s the right thing to do even if you don’t read it every day or agree with all the editorials.

I cancelled my subscription to my local newspaper years ago. I just didn’t have the time to read it through, and I was on a cost-saving jag. I thought I could just as easily keep up with the news via televised reports or the stories on my cell phone.

Now, I’m sorry I made that choice.

Many local newspapers have gone out of business because others like me no longer subscribe. Their demise is a major loss for our communities.

Budgets have been cut drastically at local newspapers. I talked recently with a former reporter who used to head up five other reporters assigned to cover one section of the county where I live. Now, one reporter covers that entire section. The former reporter shook her head when she told me how a press release she wrote was run without being checked because there simply wasn’t enough staff at the paper to look into the veracity of her release.

The freedom of the press is enshrined in our constitution for a reason.

Sure, we can all still get our news from the big-name papers, but those papers don’t report on what decisions are being made by our city councils, our county supervisors or our neighborhood school boards.

No one is holding those elected officials accountable except our local news. I know I don’t attend all those meetings.

I don’t want to knock our local television news stations. Many have investigative reports. However, they are also time limited; the half hour of news shares space with weather, sports and advertisements.

I was foolish to rely on my cell phone to give me comprehensive news coverage. We all know now that our electronic devices curate the news to our particular bias.

Now that I subscribe again to my local newspaper, I’m reading stories I wouldn’t have otherwise. I’m reading editorials with varying points of view.

I’m counting on my local newspaper to hold my local elected officials accountable for how they’re spending my tax dollars.

Are you?

A Missed Opportunity?

I look at the most recent viral video and wonder, did the Catholic school chaperones miss a teachable moment?

Teens do not have fully developed brains. They often do not have impulse control. This is scientific fact. This is why we scratch our heads and wonder how could a teen who gets straight A’s do something so stupid?

The human brain is not fully connected until the age of 25. This is why teens need chaperones (over the age of 25) on school trips. Chaperones are there to keep the teens safe and to help them make wise choices.

Suppose you were chaperoning a group of teens. Suppose you were minding your own business in a public space, and someone in that same public space started shouting insults at your group. What would you do?

My first choice wouldn’t be to encourage the teens to participate in high energy school spirit chants. Raising the volume, chanting, beating drums, crowding, does not change people’s minds or diffuse a situation.

Sadly, there are people who are aggressive in our public spaces. There are people who will shout insults in a public space. There are people who will do their best to rile others up in a public space.

I can’t say what the smiling teen was thinking. But I do know that smiling in response to taunts does not diffuse a situation. In fact, experience tells me it does the opposite. I learned pretty early that one of the best ways to get my siblings even more upset was to smile at their anger.

While the insults were being hurled and the drums were beating, the adult chaperones could have leaned into the moment and taught the teens an adult response that was better than the ones on display. A response they could use throughout their lives.

How about ignoring those who are shouting insults or crowding your space? How about huddling together as a group and saying a quiet prayer for those insulting you?

How about debriefing later as a group, talking about how it felt to be insulted and not respond, you know, like Jesus did?

Waiting

I don’t do well with waiting. But I’ve come to realize that most of my life is spent waiting.

Waiting for something to happen, waiting for a call, waiting for a job opportunity, waiting for the doctor/dentist, waiting in line, waiting…

“I’ll be happy or at peace or relieved when (…) happens.” How many times have you heard someone say this? How many times have you thought this?

We roll our carts up and down the grocery store aisles, filling our baskets with food, feeling productive. Then, we head to the check-out only to discover a long line where we will be kept waiting our turn.

We travel to work or an appointment and traffic slows us down and makes us spend more time than we’d like in the waiting. The uncomfortable in-between of our homes and our destination. 

Nowadays, we often look at our phones while we’re waiting. Checking email. Reading the news. Catching up on any number of social media platforms,so all this time waiting feels like productive time. 

And maybe that’s the challenge of waiting.

It’s a space filled with perceived nothingness. 

Webster’s defines waiting as: to stay in expectation, as of an anticipated action or event; to be or remain in readiness; to remain temporarily neglected or undone. 

I was inspired to write this poem after watching surfers one day. 

The Next Wave

Another dawn

And I’m sitting atop the sandstone bluffs again

Watching the ocean rise and fall

Like someone breathing.

A surfer launches from the beach below paddling

in search of the next wave.

Reaching where the last swell crested

he straddles his board and waits on

the ocean’s heaving chest.

But no waves are in sight, just the sun

shimmering gold on the water’s blank surface.

How I wish 

something new would happen and either

sweep me to shore in a heart pounding rush

or knock me flying and tumbling in a swirl of water.

I think anything’s better

than the waiting. 

Is it possible to be happy, at peace, relieved while we’re waiting? I don’t know. But it’s a question I’m going to ask myself the next time I’m waiting. I know I won’t be waiting long for that opportunity.