The Bail Holder

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The Bail Holder is that friend that either brings you back from the brink of certain disaster, or stands by as the lifeguard that will pull you out of the deep end when you start to flail. Allowing you to give into some of your baser instincts, without causing any permanent damage – or a trip to the courthouse. In other words, the Bail Holder is the voice of reason in a cacophony of crazy.

It would be fun if the entire Tribe were all crazy at the same time, but that could lead to the demise of everyone. That’s why, while others may consider The Bail Holder friend to be a Buzzkill, in truth, they’re often the glue that holds the whole beautiful mess together.

Many moons ago I worked at a psychiatric hospital. As you can imagine, it was a stressful place to work. To help us all cope with the difficulties we faced every day, the whole crew would go out for happy hour on paydays. We were young and relatively free of responsibility aside from work. Because many of us often walked the line between behaving like a patient or a responsible caregiver (it’s just how psych people roll), we took the precaution to make sure at least one person that agreed to remain in complete control of their faculties. More than just a designated driver, this person agreed to attempt to keep us relatively in check; basically, the Designated Bail Holder (DBH). Yes, she might go to the bar to fetch us darts, but she would also ensure we only threw them at the dart board, not each other. For single members of our crew, the DBH was a wingman or even a creeper deterrent. For the sad among us, the DBH was a counselor. For the over-served, the DBH was the key holder and taxi driver. In other words, the Bail Holder was the adult that let us all feel free and safe to cut loose, with nothing more than a possible hangover to regret in the morning. I learned the value of having a Bail Holder in my Tribe during my Green Oaks days, and have carried that forward into my present stage of life.

Perhaps the most crucial time to have a Bail Holder in your Tribe is when one of you has been wronged. I don’t know about you, but it’s far easier for me to be rational when I’m the injured party; but mess with someone I love and the gloves come off. Seek and destroy is the mission at hand and it’s easy to go off the rails in a situation like that. Thank goodness, in my Tribe at least, one of us usually comes to our senses before we do anything truly dangerous. Or illegal. One of us steps into the role of Bail Holder, sometimes just in the nick of time to avert disaster, but the role never goes unfilled.

I’m the first to admit that in my Tribe it’s rarely me that holds the bail. I’m much more apt to be the instigator, or the second in command of any operation. Although as I’ve matured I have found myself assuming the Bail Holder role with more frequency. I guess it comes with age. But I must confess I don’t ever plan to take on that role permanently, because I don’t intend to ever grow all the way up. Adulting is overrated.

Drinking, Driving & Drugs – Two of These Go Together

In my house music is a part of every day. Be it professionally produced, hummed by one of us, or completely made up – it’s an important facet of our lifestyle. I have a penchant for making up ridiculous songs about all manner of topics, however for this one I reached deep into my memory bank back to my Sesame Street days. There was a song I used to sing all the time, “One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others.” That song is what inspired this slide.

Let’s face it, everyone likes to have a good time. For many that involves an occasional adult beverage. For some, wisely or not, that means several. We also have a basic need to get from place to place on occasion; because although communes were all the rage in the 60s and 70s, most of us do not live with our friends. Since man (because of course women would never do this) first began to use modes of transportation other than walking, locomoting under the influence has been an issue. Actually, I’d guess that a fair share of walkers put themselves in danger while intoxicated even before there was no other choice of conveyance. And while it seems as if it’s nonsensical to hop into a two ton metal machine while inebriated, for far too many it is not.

This same desire to have a good time exists in our kids. It would be great if they just chose not to imbibe until they are of age, however that often doesn’t happen. In many ways, adolescents are more likely to make poor decisions when it comes to driving under the influence. The arrogance of youth and faith in their own invincibility often leads to ruin. Theirs, their passengers, other drivers, etc. A poor decision in this arena can be life altering, or even ending.

In both their ability to alter consciousness and their tendency to coalesce, drinking and drugs are the two that go together. Driving is obviously the one that’s “not like the others.” The discussion could have ended there, but I used this slide to cover one more facet of the drug and alcohol subject. The debate over what a true “gateway drug” is continues to rage on, even in professional circles. No matter how that debate ends, or continues in perpetuity, the evidence that alcohol use typically precedes drug experimentation in adolescents is irrefutable. (Cigarette use is also highly correlated with both drug and alcohol use, but that gets its own slide.) When you choose to drink, particularly at a party, it’s much easier to decide to take the next step. Especially when it’s a good friend passing the pipe.

I’m certain my kids are tired of me singing that old Sesame Street song as they walk out the door. Honestly, at this point, I tend to get a good natured eye roll. But I’ll keep doing it. I continue to hope that it reminds them how high the stakes can be, and helps the message stick in their consciousness. So far, I haven’t had to bail anyone out or rush to an ER, so they couldn’t have completely blown this slide off, right?

Chosen Family

“To us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there.” Barbara Bush

I love this description of what family is. Nothing in it implies that you must have a blood bond to consider someone family. It’s about the people that surround you, love on you and are there when you need them.

Growing up as a military brat, we rarely lived near any family. I did spend lots of time with my mom’s parents while my dad was stationed in California, but when we moved to Hawaii and then to Alaska, we no longer had the ability to see them easily and often. Honolulu was really the first place I started to understand that there is more to family than blood ties.

My first experience with a Chosen Family was with our next door neighbors in Hawaii. We shared a driveway with the Cathey family. They had three boys. In fact, Mrs. Cathey gave me my first babysitting job. At the ripe old age of 10 I was put in charge of those three boys. (Before you freak out, my mom was right on the other side of the carport.) Those boys could be a handful, but the experience they provided me with was invaluable. In many ways, they reminded me of the myriad younger cousins I had left back in California. One Christmas their grandparents came for a visit. Sadly, that was to be their grandfather’s last Christmas as he passed away suddenly while in Hawaii. I remember the shock and grief that struck not just the Cathey family, but us as well. It was my first real experience with grief. It was also the first time I can remember feeling as if these people were my family. I felt like I had lost my own grandparent. It made no sense to me at the time, but I loved them like I had known them my entire life. Why? Because they were always there when I needed them.

Fast forward many years later, and I found myself newly married, in a new city, knowing only a handful of people. Adjusting to the difference in climate and topography was rough, but nowhere near as rough as adjusting to life without friends and family around. While it took a few years to find, I did finally start to form connections that grew into a familial bond. That experience helped set the tone for how I live out my adult years. I have embraced the idea that family is not just dictated by blood. You can choose some family too.

The interesting thing about Chosen Family is that they can come from very diverse places. From a job, church or even across the street. The unifying factor seems to be a willingness to serve each other and to share true community. Do I mean that every mutually beneficial relationship ends up to be a familial one? No, but that’s at least where it starts. And honestly, many of those “for a season” relationships turn into a somewhat extended family. One that you may not see or interact with on a regular basis, but at the same time you know that they are there. And all it takes is a phone call to have them come running should you need them, and vice versa.

When my son was five years old he fell and dislocated his thumb. (He explained later that he “might have been hopping down the stairs.”) It was a Saturday, my husband was out of town, and I wasn’t sure where to take him for treatment. Thankfully, I have a friend that’s an orthopedic PA. She called around to the local ERs to see who was on call and then told me which one had the best orthopedic physician on duty. She also offered to go with us, but I assured her it wasn’t necessary. I hadn’t even finished the sign-in paperwork when she came strolling through the ER doors. My friend didn’t want us to have to be there alone and wanted to make sure my little guy received the best possible care. In addition to the support she offered by just being there, because of her training, she was allowed to stay in the treatment room with my son while they fixed his thumb. It’s a very painful experience that the staff usually asks parents to leave the room for. Thankfully my son didn’t have to suffer through it without a familiar face. When I returned to the room my usually stoic friend was wiping a tear from her cheek. Despite having performed and assisted on a multitude of painful pediatric procedures, this one was much more different. Why? Because that little boy was more than just a patient to her. Through the course of doing life together we had become more than mere friends. We were family, bonded by love – no blood relation required. So bonded are we that our children consider themselves to be siblings.

In my years in Texas I have had lots of people come through my front door. Some have been there for a short time, and others are still around, 20 plus years later. Some still live near me, and others have moved onto other states, but the bond remains. We have shared far too much to let time and distance separate our hearts. Even if we rarely talk or see each other, the love abides.

My Chosen Family has blessed me, and my blood related family, in too many ways to count. From something as simple as sharing carpool duties, to sitting with each other while a loved one has surgery, or stepping in to care for a younger child when the ambulance is at your door to help your older child. We have shared childbirth, toddlerhood, teenage malaise, illness, divorce, loss, great amounts of joy and lots of coffee, wine and chocolate. Simply put, we have shared life.

 

This Family that I have cobbled together is one of my greatest joys. No other way would I have this many sisters, brothers, cousins, nieces & nephews, etc. It’s a beautiful, diverse quilt that brings warmth to even my coldest, darkest days. And it’s a quilt that just keeps growing. I hope that it’s never truly finished.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love, Logic & Laughter

There’s a popular parenting paradigm called Love and Logic. The school district we live in has offered several seminars with the author and those trained in the method. Of all the parenting approaches I’ve heard about, this one seems to make the most sense. Natural consequences, setting clear expectations, consistency, etc. But I think it’s missing a key that the husband and I use. Laughter.

There’s a medication on the market currently that is used to treat the post-stroke phenomenon of inappropriate affect. What does that mean? Well, as Danny Glover explains, it means displaying an emotion/reaction that isn’t necessarily appropriate for the situation. Outbursts of crying or laughing. The first time I saw the commercial I was afraid someone was going to tell me I needed it. You see, right or wrong, I tend to try to find a reason to laugh. My friends, I’m sure, are sick of hearing me say it but my motto is, “You can laugh or you can cry. I’ll laugh if at all possible.” It helps that I have a well-honed, slightly sick sense of humor. Spending several years in the mental health field tends to do that. Either that, or those of us with that type of personality gravitate towards the field. Hmmm, that sounds like a whole other post…

Anyway, given my propensity to find the humor in all situations, it should come as no surprise that I have approached parenting in much the same way. With an irreverent, often inappropriate sense of humor. No topic is off limits in our household. In fact, the more difficult the topic, the more we have tried to normalize discussion of it. Believing that it is our job to equip our kids for life in the real world, we have held little back. Sex? Yep. Drugs? Check. We have done our best to answer questions openly, and honestly. Sometimes a little more honestly than we feel comfortable with, but the thing about kids is, they know when you’re not honest with them. And every time you fib, they trust you a little less. Do I mean that we’ve told the whole unadulterated truth to a five year old? No. But I did have to have a very uncomfortable & frank conversation with my 12 year old about sex. You see, we wanted to be the main source of our kids’ education, in that area especially. Sometimes that meant getting ahead of the curve. As uncomfortable as it was for everyone involved. Especially the kid.

Unfortunately, my internal filter doesn’t always work so well. Especially when faced with a difficult task like discussing oral sex with a 6th grader. (Necessitated by a situation in our neighborhood.) As such, from time to time I have expressed my thoughts in a completely irreverent manner. The first time I did it I was horrified with myself. I even apologized for it. Alas, that didn’t keep me from doing it again. And again. And again. My inappropriate declarations became so regular that one of my kids created a power point with all of my catch phrases. As I paged through it, I was slightly horrified, but also entertained. And when my kids went through it with me, they appeared to feel the same way. The advice was funny, but honest and true. And because of the way it was presented, it seemed to stick a little better than any serious lecture on the topic could.

Just as I’m slowly introducing you to My Tribe, I’m going to run through the Power Point in several posts. Hopefully you’ll be more entertained than horrified. As I share them, I ask for your grace as I’m pretty much just spit-balling my way through this parenting thing.

Boomhauer – An Original

img_0420We have a dog. His name is Boomhauer and he brings the joy like no other dog I know. At least to the people he loves. The rest of you, well he doesn’t have much use for you. Boomhauer loves who he loves and dislikes who he dislikes. No guilt on his part. He’s just being who he is.

Boomhauer is comfortable in his own skin. Since I know I struggle with this sometimes and other people I know do as well, I decided to go to the source to see how he does it. So I interviewed him. Hopefully my translation from Husky howls & German Shepherd yammering into English is fairly accurate. If not, I’m sure Boomhauer will express his displeasure by using his beagle skills and skunking in my lap.

How are you today Boomhauer?

I’m a little annoyed that you woke me from my 15th nap, but other than that I can’t complain too much.

You seem like you couldn’t give a rat’s arse what other people think of you. How do you do that?

It took me a while to learn, but I decided a while ago that aside from the people that are important to me, others’ opinions of me don’t really matter.

That sounds a little harsh and self-aggrandizing…

Well, I am the most beautiful creature to ever walk the earth, at least according to MY Girl, otherwise known as your daughter, but that’s really only part of it.

Can you please elaborate on that?

As a puppy, I was always trying to figure out exactly how to make everyone around me happy. I felt it was my job and if I didn’t do it, no one else would. I tried everything I could think of. Following them around, sitting on their feet (and faces), bringing them trophies like the corners of pillows and the toes of socks. I even tried to make our house a little more habitable by removing a few pesky pieces of wood from the coffee table that people would stub their toe on. While I would get some encouragement, I felt like I was being judged far more often than praised. Nothing I did was enough to keep them all happy all the time.

That seems like a lot of pressure to put on yourself.

It was exhausting! Even taking 30 naps a day, I found myself with no energy left at the end of the day. And as time passed, it became more difficult to ever feel rested. And the more tired I got, the less I was able to keep anyone happy. Let alone find any peace myself.

But you seem so full of joy now. What changed?

I came to the realization that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t please all the people all of the time. So I quit trying.

You mean you just didn’t care anymore if anyone was happy?

Yes and no. I began to tune into the people around me. And myself. It turns out that in my desire to please people, I often neglected to do the things that they really liked. I would run around the yard, chasing off squirrels and all kinds of other threats, and I would get a “good boy,” but it wasn’t enough. So I took a little while to observe the people around me. When I stopped running around I began to notice that it’s often the little things that matter the most to people. The good morning I would greet them with when I got out of bed. The gentle nuzzle of my nose against a hand to say hello. The exuberant greeting at the door and then my long run down of all the things I had done and seen while they were gone: the sunbeam I slept in, the dog I kept away from the house, the pesky UPS guy that has such a loud truck, even about the squirrel that taunts me through the living room window. In sharing my authentic self and what brings me joy, I was able to bring them joy as well.

So instead of doing more, you did less?

Yes. I quit chasing my tail to entertain them and I focused on the things that were in my power to provide. I also took the time to figure out what I wanted & what made me happy in the process.

And what does that mean?

By slowing down, I learned that I enjoy many of the simple things. A good conversation, a snuggle on the couch, a walk (if I can ever talk those lazy people into taking me on one), and of course, a chewy bone. No life is complete without those on a regular basis. I didn’t have to run all over the place, trying to be everything to everyone, I just had to be me. I am enough.

That’s a really difficult thing for a lot of us to do. Can you give us a little advice on how to just be ourselves?

First of all, you have to stop and realize that you are the only you in the world. There has never been and never will be another perfectly imperfect creature exactly like you. Your talents, your faults, your dreams, your purpose. It is all unique. And valuable. That’s the hardest part. From there, it’s a whole lot easier to figure out that the people that value you, will be there no matter what. And merely the act of being your authentic self, and sharing that with people, brings both you, and them, joy.

That sounds super easy, and difficult all at the same time.

It is. But it is worth it. Being comfortable in your own skin means courageously embracing yourself, faults and all, and sharing the real, unadulterated you. And true intimacy is being able to ask for what you need from the people in your life. I try to do that every day. Why else would I constantly roll over and ask you to rub my belly?

 

 

The Jedi and The Padawan

In every well balanced Tribe, there is at least one younger, in either age or experience, individual. To borrow a term from Star Wars, a Padawan. And in every tribe, there is a Jedi that provides the wisdom and balance needed in any number of circumstances.

Many years ago I had a baby girl, and a husband that travelled about 80% of the time. While I was fortunate to be able to be home with my daughter, it was quite challenging to adjust to something akin to single parenthood. After doing it for about a year, I had finally figured out a way to make it work without losing my mind completely before he got home. I got used to the bumps in the night, the feeling of walking around an empty house and the weight of being the only one around should an emergency crop up. About this time, one of my closest friends, whose husband hadn’t travelled since they’d had their son, was suddenly faced with her husband being gone for a few days. Because she knew I was fairly experienced at it, she reached out to me. She found herself in uncharted waters and needed a guide. I packed up, we had a sleepover the first night he was gone and then the next night I went home and she handled the rest on her own. All she really needed was a little encouragement, but in this situation she was a Padawan & I was her Jedi.

Lest you think that my role remained that of Jedi with this Tribe member, let me tell you how our roles reversed. You see, my incredible friend is also an incredible mother. She has a son that is autistic. I have watched her educate herself, seek out services for her son, go into battle on his behalf, and even teach other parents/friends how to interact with those on the autism spectrum. Many, many times I have stood in awe of her and her willingness to go to any length necessary to protect and provide for her child. While I have learned a lot from this friend, one of the things I’m most grateful for is the example she set for me in how to go to battle for your child. Sitting at the feet of a seemingly invincible advocate has paid me dividends more times than I can count. Every time I have had to go to bat for my children, my friend has had my back. She reminds me that my job is to provide for and protect my children, even when the world is trying to do just the opposite. She encourages me to persevere, through administrators, coaches, teachers, physicians; whoever and whatever obstacle stands between my kids and their needs. Because of her courage and the wisdom she has imparted to me over the years, I have often prevailed in my advocacy for my kids. In short, I am a grateful Padawan.

Over the years there have been many lessons learned and taught within my Tribe. Each of us has been a Jedi and each of us has been a Padawan at some point. As tempting as it is to think of yourself as a Jedi all the time, I have learned that in truth, a Jedi Master is one who recognizes their need to be a Padawan too.

The Partner in Crime

There are four basic categories people find themselves in when it comes to the Partner in Crime:

  1. The Want Need/Want One
  2. They Have One
  3. They Are One
  4. They are Both 2 & 3

To the surprise of absolutely no know that knows me, I fall, definitively, into the 4th category. I have the great privilege of not just having Partners in Crime, but of being a Partner in Crime.

Why is the Partner in Crime crucial to any Tribe? Because they bring the fun, the whimsy, the adventure that brings sun to the day to day, often dreary, trial that is human existence.

  • They encourage you to throw caution to the wind and eat cake & ice cream for breakfast once in a while. Or splurge on that adult coffee…
  • They’re the people that agree to take the road less traveled with you, even if it makes the kids in the backseat nervous.
  • They’ll join you as you trespass in an old castle because you’ve never been in a real one.
  • They climb on pool furniture, as if you’re playing a game of Hot Lava, at a hotel pool with you.
  • They’re labeled with you as the “crazy drunk ladies,”(even when you’re stone cold sober) by the pearl clutching naysayers of life.
  • They’re the ones that you travel half way around the world with not knowing where you’ll sleep.
  • And finally, crucially, they’re the ones that arm up with you when you’re headed into battle. They may not know how you’ve been wronged, but they’ll be damned if they won’t help you find justice.

We all need that friendly, mischievous voice that encourages us to step out of our comfort zone. To conquer a fear that we thought would always have a hold over us. To take a chance, even if we might fail, because they know we’ll come out better on the other side for having tried. Thankfully, in my Tribe, I can always count on at least one Partner in Crime to leap into the abyss of the unknown with me. Even if it takes a little shove to get me to jump.

If your Tribe doesn’t yet have a Partner in Crime, perhaps it’s your vacancy to fill.

*It must be noted that you can’t have an entire tribe full of Partners in Crime at any one time. Every well-rounded Tribe needs a Bail Holder. But we’ll get into that one another time.

The Dress – A Short Story

Janie was in love. Not just puppy love, or a crush, but true, depths of your soul, deep in your bones love. The forever kind of love. Thankfully, Janie was in love with her best friend. And that best friend, Thomas, had asked her to be his wife.

As the weeks and months passed Janie & Thomas planned their wedding. Neither of their parents lived close, so it was up to them to make all the arrangements. The church was chosen, a lovely old church with incredible stained glass windows and a picturesque garden. The minister was chosen. That minister just happened to also be a DJ on a local radio station ad later became the voice of the local Major League Baseball team. An unconventional man, to be sure, but the perfect person to marry these two young love birds. The florist was chosen. Simple bouquets & arrangements that both reflected the small budget the couple was on, but also perfectly represented the couple – understated & beautiful. Then came the photographer, a quiet & immensely talented man that excelled at disappearing into the scene and popping up just in time to catch the real, candid moments that most photographers miss.

Once all the “pros” were in place, it was time to get down to the wedding party. Both the bride & the groom had been blessed with a large, diverse friend group. Winnowing down the wedding party proved to be quite difficult, so they threw convention to the wind and had a rather large, unevenly numbered one. In the end, it provided one of the most memorable moments of the recessional when the last groomsman walked out with a bridesmaid on each arm and a smile from ear to ear. Once they had all accepted their positions, the tuxes & gowns were chosen and ordered. The plans were almost complete.

The final piece of the puzzle was the wedding gown. Unlike many young girls, Janie had never been one to spend time daydreaming about her perfect wedding. Janie didn’t really like to be the center of attention, so the thought of “all eyes on the bride” was quite daunting. That’s where her friends came to the rescue. They encouraged, cajoled, even threatened, the young bride into finally getting around to finding the perfect wedding dress. It took several trips to the bridal salon, and what seemed like a thousand pictures ripped from magazines, until Janie found a dress that made her feel both beautiful and confident. Her friends even managed to talk her into buying a pair of shoes as they found her intent to be married barefoot a little too unconventional. So resistant to shoes was Janie, that it took the possibility of being stranded at the mall, miles from home, shoeless, to convince her to buy a pair. The fare required by her friend for a ride home was a shoe receipt.

Two weeks before the wedding, the gown was ready for a final fitting check. Surprising even herself, Janie approached the task with a tinge of excitement. Up until that moment, the whole wedding and marriage thing hadn’t truly felt real. Something about sliding into that silk sheath, changed all of that. A little fear, the tiniest hint of doubt, a full measure of excitement and a final washing over of contentment and confidence in her decision to marry Thomas followed the zipping up of the dress. Janie finally felt ready. Ready to walk down that church aisle, to meet her best friend at the altar and pledge to live the rest of their days together.

One bright sunny day, a somewhat rare occurrence in the Pacific Northwest that Janie called home, Janie found herself in a room with one of her best friends, Susan. The dress was laid out on a chair, the shoes were awaiting her feet, and the veil was hanging from the door. Susan helped Janie put the dress on, held it up as Janie slid her feet into the shoes, fluffed out the petticoat and finally affixed the veil to the French knot that Janie’s hair had been twisted into. With one last check of her makeup, the bride was ready to make her debut.

Susan stuck her head out the door and informed the awaiting crowd that the bride was ready to walk the aisle. As Janie stepped out of the room there was an audible gasp. Janie looked and felt like the most beautiful woman to have ever walked this earth. As she proceeded down that hallway, Janie was greeted with smiles and laughter, cheers and applause, and even the occasional indecipherable rambling. But Janie didn’t notice any of that immediately. Instead she was focused on the person standing at the end of the hall. There, with tears streaming down her face and the biggest smile Janie had ever seen on that face, was her mom, Harriet, waiting for her. Standing next to her psychiatrist, the mental health nurses and the key wielding orderlies working the day shift, the mother of the bride pulled her daughter into a bear hug. The whole menagerie immediately broke into tears, followed by laughter, and a few odd notes from Edward, one of the more colorful patients. Janie had never felt so loved, not to mention entertained, in her entire life.

The wedding followed a few days later, with Harriet, on a day pass from the hospital, in attendance. Surrounded by all the people they loved the most Janie and Thomas pledged to live together; ‘til death do them part, in sickness and in health, and even on the off chance another wedding dress had to make it’s debut in the corridor of the local psychiatric facility.

 

 

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