Category Archives: Thought Full

DIY Decision

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Leave driveway.

Bump.

Return to driveway.

Leave family note, “Flat tire. Took grey car.”

Return home. “Don’t worry, we put on spare,” my husband says. “And I found the guarantee. The hole is not in the sidewall, so the tire’s covered!”

It’s Monday morning, I drive to tire store.

Tire salesman pokes, prods, and then tries to ram his finger and pen into the sidewall.

He motions to me, and it’s not to show me my guarantee.

I brace myself and follow him to my car.

“Looks like you need to replace all four.”

“But this one was replaced just two years ago,” I point, defending my nearly new tire. And isn’t the flat one covered by the guarantee?”

“It’s too worn to repair,” he says. “And this one,” he shows the uneven wear of a second tire,” needs to be replaced too.

“Course you could change out just the,” he continues, planting doubt. “But I wouldn’t. By the time the rainy season comes, you’ll need to change those two too.”

“But it’s not going to rain,” I protest, smiling at my joke.

“It’s up to you,” he says.

I hate when they say, “It’s up to you,” like I’m in the hospital and he can make me sign an (Against Tire Advice) “but I’d replace all four.” he repeats.

Anxious, I take the bait. “What’s the cost?”

He tells me.

“Any other options?” I protest.

“Well you could replace three.” He tells me that cost, which is nearly the same. My nerves are fraying.

I leave.

I ponder. I fume. I thought we had a guarantee.

I return.

“Ok,” I say resolved to calmly start over. “What are my options?”

Not missing a beat, he leads me to the tread chart. “Anytime you have 1/16” (1.6mm), you need to replace your tire.

We return to the tires. He re-explains the tread.

I look myself.

I scrutinize the tire opposite the flat one and agree. That tread is worn.

I re-examine the other two. One is good, the other – not too bad. I don’t see the same wear the salesman describes.

While alone, I re-evaluate and return to the counter.

“I’ll take two new at the front.”

“Ok,” he says writing the order.

Relief. He doesn’t try to talk me out of my decision.

A new customer enters the shop. He too has a flat. “Replace all four,” the salesman advises. With in minutes the man is buying $600.00 tires.

The minute I see my two new, I know I made the right decison.

It’s a DIY Tire Decision.

And as for tread, so far so good.

Just curious, did you ever walk into a tire store and hear, “Your tire is covered by the guarantee. Please sit down, it will just take a minute to fix it.

I haven’t.

When I need to buy tires, it’s time for a DIY decision.

Whether it’s about tires or another purchase, have you got a DIY decision to share?

Boomerang!

IMG_0593One sunny Sunday, a mom, dad, two teen boys, and a boomerang went to the park. It was hot and shade was small. The middle of the field baked, so, seeking shadows the family pushed their throwing game to the edge of the grass near a tall wide-branched tree. Beneath that tree picnicked a small boy, his dad, and pregnant mom.

Boomerangs are supposed to return to their tosser. But sometimes they don’t.

On that Sunday one sailed out and kept sailing till it landed in that tall tree.

“Oh well. Let’s leave it,” one teen said.

“We can’t get it out,” agreed the other.

“What could we use?” I said, turning to Doug.

“What do we have?” he said, looking at me.

The small boy who had been sitting under the tree began tossing his soccer ball into the air.

The boomerang smiled from above.

Opening my backpack, I pulled out a water bottle.

“Let’s leave it,” the first teen repeated.

“We need rope,” said Doug, walking to the nearby railroad roundhouse tool area to borrow some.

Waiting mom tossed her water bottle into the air.

Doug returned with rope.

Using his knot knowledge, he tied the rope to the water bottle strap,

No longer beneath the tree, the small boy and his family watched my family while the dad kicked the soccer ball to his child who received it and tossed it into the air.

My teen who’d said, “Leave it,” tossed the roped-water bottle into the air too. The bottle missed the tree.

My other teen moved closer. “Throw it straight up.”

“Leave it kid” threw again, this time knocking the boomerang down a branch.

“Throw higher,” my other teen instructed.

Another toss nudged the boomerang lower.

A third scooted it further down.

About five tosses later, the boomerang sailed back and “Leave it kid” caught it.

Me, I philosophized.

What did we learn today? Did we teach something to our kids? What did the small boy learn? What about his parents? What would have happened if my family had left the boomerang stuck in the tree?

Were the responses generational? I wondered why Doug and I turned first to problem solving. It never occurred to me to leave the boomerang in the tree. I wondered why at first our kids wanted only to walk away. I noticed that when we stayed, eventually our kids (and maybe that small boy) caught on.

Sometime ago Doug and I, from our parents perhaps, learned to stick with finding a solution. On Sunday American ingenuity became the mother (and father) of invention.

I think today we showed our kids they could stay,  dig in their backpacks, borrow things from others, try, and not give up.

I don’t think there was a right way to solve that stuck boomerang situation. Leaving was an option and could have taught the kids that sometimes it’s good to cut your losses and walk away.

But I’ll admit I’m happy we stayed, and that because we did, the boomerang (and it doesn’t always) came back.

Any boomerang-stick-to-it-don’t-walk-away-until-you-try-learning happening in your life? Send me a story. I’ll write one back.

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Things I Wish We Could Talk About

table-2The oddity I feel when a transgender friend shows up at our house dressed to the nines including earrings, stockings, breasts, and perfume. We exchange hellos while I, crouched under a desk, vacuum cobwebs housed for years under a former craft table.

Splotched with paint at the front of the desk, I aim to flip it so the paint spats are at the back and the new owner will have a clean space to work. But it’s not easy, because the desk has only a small square space to turn in. So, dressed in a black skirt and pretty blouse, our transgender friend, skirts female self for a moment and steps into manhood to help me lift the desk up over the other desk so the craft table can spin in a circle.

As we turn the table together, I, dressed in the same blue jeans and crumpled t-shirt left last night un-hangered on the floor, transform into my female self. Without missing a beat, I let my friend direct the furniture move. My friend lifts the work table, spins it, while describing the physics. Me? I lift a little, but mostly caution against not knocking a protruding Egyptian sculpture and a shadow box full of painted metal figures off the wall.

Strange how we fluidly we can change roles.

Exercise is Not Optional – the first in a series

brainDo you ever wake up and want to exercise? It’s a rare day I do. Out of eight mornings in a new regimen, yesterday was the only rooster time I awoke rested and ready to run. And yet, on most days, after one lap —  sometimes — it takes just half way around the track when I realize, I’m happy I started.

The problem, or rather the challenge, is that the relaxed post exercise state that steeps in the bloodstream, lasts a scant 24 hours. Exercise endorphins are like drugs, and the dosage is one small injection per day. runner

While in the endorphin-induced euphoric exercise moment, I commit, completely confident that next morning, theIMG_5177re will be no internal discussion about whether to jog my mile. But every morning, like, well, clockwork, 6:30 a.m. arrives, and it’s a Monty Python argument (“Yes you will, no you won’t.)

I create combative conflict about whether to go out and run.

Here’s the script:

  • Resistant me: “Not today’s, it’s my day off.”
  • Resilient me: “Get out of bed now!”
  • Resistant me: “Exercised every day this week (It’s Tuesday).
  • Resilient Me: “You’ll feel better if you go.”
  • Resistant Me: “Time to rest.”
  • Resilient Me: “Get Dressed.”
  • Resistant Me: It’s warm inside; cold out there.”
  • Resilient me: “Just walk today, you don’t have to run.”

On the days resilient self agrees, resistant self grudgingly follows.

At the park, my resilient self remembers why I returned to the track. I always feel better.

Each day I commit builds on the day before.

What motivates you outside to run or walk or exercise when you don’t want to?  Got any tricks or internal dialogue to share?

Non-Caring Person Cares

pioAgkRBTLong ago, a friend of my moms left a bottle of medicine at our house. I saw it on the kitchen table and didn’t tell her. When her friend arrived home, she called my mom to see if her medicine was there.

“I knew she left the medicine,” I told my mom.

“Why didn’t you tell her?” she scolded. “That wasn’t very thoughtful.”

Though I couldn’t explain it to her, I had a reason.

I was working on becoming what my then 10-year-old self called, “A non caring person,” a person who didn’t take care of everyone, a person who didn’t notice when others forgot their things. I was tired of noticing other’s oversights.

Toni, a girl in my fifth grade class could absent-mindedly drop her pencil while she raced down the stairs and it was I who picked it up. Scampering after her, I’d hold out the pencil, saying, “Here Toni, your pencil.” My fifth-grade mind thought remembering her pencil might create a bond between she and I. Maybe we could be friends. Sadly, retrieving the falling yellow stick yielded nothing, barely a glance let alone a thank you.

With my mom’s friend, I didn’t intend to be unthoughtful, instead, my 10-year-old self, was trying to be less attentive to others. I wanted to “not care” thinking if I didn’t, maybe others would find my things. I wanted to be carefree. Perhaps I wanted to attend to myself.

On a recent morning many years later, I am in the stall at the park and notice hanging heavy on the door a white canvass bag. Peaking inside I find a phone and other purse things. Someone has left it.

When the bathroom door opens, I know it’s the owner of the bag. But she is silent. She does not say, “Hey do you see a bag on the door hook?” Does she not know she left a bag in here? I wonder. I step outside. A woman stands tentatively at her idling car, which is live-parked at the curb. A man waits in the driver seat.

“Did you leave something in the disabled bathroom stall,” I call to to the lady. She nods, still tentative. She walks slowly, but does not speak.

“Is it a canvass bag?” I ask?

“With red straps?” she finishes.

“Yes,” I say. As she plods to the door, it’s clear she needs help. I ask, “Would you like me to get it for you?”

She nods again, staring at me. I fetch the bag and hand it to her.

After all these years, I still notice things. But as an adult, I enjoy noticing. That morning I made a connection with the woman who left her bag. Entering the flow of that stranger’s world for one minute, I am in synch with her. Noticing her we connect, and I help.

The woman walks to the car. The driver, likely the caretaker, and I make eye contact. He gives me a thumbs up. As her caretaker, it must be a relief for him to have a bit of help for that one moment. He notices too!

Paying attention is good; it creates an opportunity to connect to another person.

Anything you can notice today? Maybe you, like me will find an opportunity to help and connect with someone.

Attribution for bottle image: <a href=”http://cliparts.co/clipart/2332183″ title=”Image from cliparts.co”><img src=”http://cliparts.co/cliparts/pio/Agk/pioAgkRBT.png” width=”350″ alt=”Medicine Bottle clip art – vector clip art online, royalty free …” /></a>

 

 

Beyond Bed and Bath

IMG_5121Shopping for bed sheets today at Bed Bath, and Beyond, my arms are full. A helpful employee asks if I need a cart.

“Yes, that would be nice,” I say.

“I’ll get you one,” she tells me.

She’s African American, and immediately I feel the usual, overly self aware, sensation, afraid I’ll do or say something wrong, act phony, or come across as, “Hey, I’m one of the nice white people.” See jenncastro.com/2014/12/07/take-your-seat-white-america/

Lately, I’m very aware of micro aggressions, where white people naively say or do something insensitive to a person of color. I don’t want to commit a micro aggression.

Aware I am definitely over complicating the interaction, I’m certain she is making sure I know, that by helping me, she is just doing her job. Still I’m aware that whenever I’m around an African American person, I feel like I’m seeking to be forgiven.

“Could you tell me where to find the kid’s sheets?” I ask.

“My children’s sheets are behind you to the left,” she responds. A minute later, I’ve forgotten the directions and walk through the store in an endless circle. Cycling back to her department, I have to repeat my question.

She tells me. I don’t find what I want, and seek her help again, “Do you have printed queen size sheets?”

She doesn’t, but offers to special order them.

I hesitate, “Will there be a shipping fee?” I ask.

“That would depend on the cost,” she replies. She looks it up, and there is.

“Well, I’ll just get these,” I say pointing to the drab beige in my cart.

“Maybe shipping could be waived for a one-time deal since we’re out of stock,” she offers. It can. I thank her.

“Would you like to pay here or downstairs?” she asks.

“Here is easier,” I respond. I give her all my information. She suggests I continue my shopping and offers to find me to give me the hard copy of the receipt.

I tell her I’ve finished shopping, so she invites me to follow her to the printer. I do.

We walk through the endlessly full, busy aisles. We don’t talk. I don’t expect to. Arriving at the printer, I’m aware of every move. I extend my hand to hers to receive the receipt, thank her, and head down the escalator to finish my other purchases.

But I want to thank her more. How? I wonder as I wait on line. About to leave, I ask to see a manager. “Was there a problem?” the cash register employee asks.

“Not at all, I just received some very nice help from someone upstairs, and I want to let her manager know,” I offer.

“Do you know her name?” he asks. I don’t.

“She’s an African-American woman in the bedding department,” I respond.

“Yes, I know her, I’ll tell the manager,” he says.

Suddenly I feel connected. Maybe I helped. A little.

Here’s a question.

Any action around the Black Lives Matter movement you can take, today?

Black Lives Matter.

Remembering Jane

I don’t know why I remember, but at church one Sunday I stayed sitting when everyone else got up to sing. Then I looked left, and a woman three seats down was also still sitting. I don’t know why I remember but her hair was scraggily. I don’t know why I remember but she was holding her stomach. I don’t know why I remember but she was wearing a lime green skirt and torn yellow leggings. Her sweatshirt and her arms were wrapped around her middle, and her head was down. She was wrapped up inside her own arms. She was wrapped small, but I think standing she would be taller than me, which isn’t saying much, but it’s saying something. I don’t know why I remember, but after I rose to sing the last stanza if only to drown out the man down the row who always sings off-key, I looked again and the woman was still sitting. The song was over, and I don’t know why I remember, but everyone but me walked away. I stood staring, watching everyone walk away and was about to walk away too, but I didn’t. I don’t know why I remember, but it seemed like I should go talk to her. I don’t know why I remember, but I didn’t know what to say. I ran sentences through my mind. Ask if she’s ok; see if she wants to talk. See if she needs money. See how she found the church. I stood staring. I don’t know why I remember, but I wasn’t self conscious about staring. If she were someone I knew, I wouldn’t have stared but she was so wrapped up inside I didn’t think she noticed me and so I took advantage. I don’t know why I remember but I decided to sit down next to her and ask if she was ok and I don’t know why I remember but I do, she said, “No.” And I sat there and remembered that everything I’ve heard about helping someone is to listen, to simply sit with and be in their presence. And I don’t know why I remember, but it felt good to listen. And I don’t know why I remember, but eventually i talked too, to this complete stranger. I told her she wasn’t alone and that someone was there and she told me, “People are following me.” And I asked her, “Who?” And I don’t know why I remember, but I wanted her to feel believed. I don’t know why I remember but I asked her if it was ok if I put my hand on her shoulder and she said it was and I don’t know why I remember, but she cried. I think she felt as if some sadness could come out because someone was next to her. I introduced myself and she told me her name was Jane. I don’t know why I remember, but Jane told me that she knew people who practice witchcraft and that she was tired of locking up her things, and I told her that it must be hard to have to lock her things and I don’t know why I remember but I asked her if she thought she had a mental illness and she said, “yes,” and I thought that since she answered yes, maybe she wasn’t so far beyond gone, and I don’t know why I remember but I told her that she must have done something to get herself to the church and that maybe she didn’t need to understand everything but that maybe it was important that she came to church today. And I asked her if she was homeless and she said sometimes. And I don’t know why I remember, but she said thank you for sitting with me, and that makes me smile right now while I remember. And then I asked her if she wanted a cup of coffee and if she would like to meet our minister and she said yes then I introduced them to each other, and walked away. I feel bad about that, but I wasn’t sure what else to do, so later I talked to the minister again. And that night I sent notes to all the people I know who work with mentally ill or homeless people and I got some ideas about how to help her and I wrote them down and put them inside my purse for her and she was on my mind all that week and still is from time to time, when I see that piece of paper in my purse. And I still don’t know why I remember, but that was a lot to remember.

It’s 10 p.m. Do You Know Where Your Glasses Are?

IMG_8391A friend remarks that some people need to keep a bit of anxiety in their life, “The brain searches for equilibrium to stay comfortable.” How true.

Diagnosed years ago with nearsightedness, it’s taken just as many to learn how to keep track of my glasses. How can that be? Why not put them in the same place each time I remove them?

That’s what I tell my kids to do with their shoes, and they do. That’s what my husband does with his glasses, and he’s worn them only two years.

Following my partner’s advise, I designate a container and spot on a shelf and label it “Jenn’s Keys and Glasses”. The system works — until I stop using it. More honestly I resist using it. Curiously, I convince myself that, when waking up, breakfasting at the kitchen table, leaving my car, walking into the house, If I put my glasses in a new place, I will remember. But I don’t. Next I admit to the four other places I leave them and make a sign listing where to check. IMG_8389

But the resister in me gets more creative. I leave them in new locations (by the cook book, on the shelf at the kitchen window, at the piano, and tell myself, “You’ll remember.” (I don’t). Upping the anti, I scatter them in additional random spots: on the game closet shelf, near the gardening tools in the garage, atop the chicken coop door.

Sometimes I won’t even check the five places labeled on the basket. My refrain becomes, “Anyone know where I left my glasses,” and my sons’ mantra becomes, “Check your list.” The worst is when, they tell me what I tell them, “Think about the last place you put them.” At least some know the system.

Last week I got serious about routine (http://jenncastro.com/2015/03/23/routine-questions/) and made a new commitment to keep track of my glasses. They have one place — In the basket.

But here’s the thing, even though I am ready to allow orderliness into my glasses life, it is not easy. Removing them, I sense a tug to leave them wherever I am. Fighting the tug, and taking my husband’s advice, “Always put them back. Leave the case in the basket and when you’re done store them inside the case.”

The relief I feel when I find them in their place, inside their case, is incredible. And if finding my glasses can calm me, what’s next? My keys? See sign, I solved that years ago, most of the time.

Is it true that committing to a glasses basket is the sign of a sick mind (the clean desk story is next) and that our resistance to order makes us creative?

I think not.

I think it diverts our energy. Scatters it sideways.

What I wonder, is what to do with the newfound peacefulness?

How about you? Holding on to a little anxiety that keeps you a bit on the edge? Got any order you need to put into your life? How will you respond to the newfound energy?

 

 

 

 

 

Routine Questions

waiting on wednesdayI have time compartments that dictate what I can do when. “Work,” which means school stuff, is roughly 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday. Weekday evenings are for cooking dinner, a meeting here and there, and a lot of I’m not really sure what.

Brainless play is Friday night. Socializing, the occasional (but strongly needed – more about that soon) intellectual talk, and sometimes dinners out, happen on Saturday night.

Pancake breakfast (from time to time), soccer playing and ref-ing, household shopping, cleaning (sort of) and fixing broken things (a bit) is for Saturday. Church, and a lot more of I’m not sure what, is on Sunday.

That’s my routine. Sound familiar?

Here’s what I wonder — if keep this schedule, when will I finish writing my book?

So I’ve started disassembling that routine. Here’s an example:  Recently, my family made plans on a Saturday night. I could have made plans with a friend, but instead, I stayed home — to write. The next day, they went out again, and I stayed home — to write.

The result of staying home on those days, is that, from the inside of some where, small chunks of time for writing have started falling into my lap (top). The more I risk facing my blank or sloppily organized page(s), the more time I find. The more I stop myself from saying, “yes” to  things I’m used to, and instead answering that small tug that whispers, “Here’s an hour, take it,” the result is a new routine.

Last week, I read a book (well, actually a chapter) about another writer’s routine, the kind I long for, because it’s orderly. She wakes each day to meditate, workout, say mantras, read some soulful pages, eat oatmeal and grapefruit, plan and pencil in this and that, until she’s ready to write — five pages…

For me, for today, it’s “Time appeared, grab it, sit, write,” or “Everyone’s going out Friday, don’t make plans,” And I don’t, so that I do – write.

So here’s a novel, so to speak, question, is there a schedule you need to shake down so you can do what you want to but don’t cause you haven’t asked your self a routine question? Maybe it’s time.

 

Orange Twist

orangesOut of the blue, I bring my friend an orange. Grab it from the fruit bowl on the way out the door. We meet for a chat, and as we part I tell her, “Oh, I have something for you.” She’s just moved, and her new home is in boxes. Life is busy. Her eyes light up when it hand her the piece of fruit, “Just yesterday, I wanted an orange, and I didn’t know how I’d get to the store.” How did I know? Did I?

Continuing my orange jag, one Wednesday, I pack three in my lunch bag; one for me, and one for each kid. But that’s where the story twists. While one kid leaves for class, the other stays in the car to study. Hearing a muffled mutter, I turn to find a man near my door.

Covered in hair, many layers of clothes, and packs, and dirt-crusted nails, he is holding an empty cup. I sense he wants money. My purse is in the trunk, and I’m reluctant to locate it. Trying again to see if I can afford this homeless man any dignity, I ask my question, “How can I help?”

But he’s too far gone and cannot articulate, so I assist, “Would you like a piece of fruit?”

He cannot say. Choosing for him, I hand him my orange.

Later I tell my son a wish. “What if I could bring him a sandwich every day, and leave it at the edge of the parking lot. He could come to trust that lunch would await him. Maybe that could change his life somehow.”

“That would be cool mom, but you better be careful he doesn’t tell his friends about it,” he cautions. I smile thinking about a line of homeless folks gathering to capture my row of sidewalk sandwiches.

But what if each of us who can brings an orange, or a box of crackers, or an extra sandwich to share? When I hand that piece of fruit to that man, I wonder if it shines a very small light in his life. I know that his crusted dirty hand looked a bit brighter holding that sweet piece of orange fruit.

Like the orange I gave my friend, I don’t know why I carried them with me that day. Not sure it matters, more important is that I had something to give away and I did.

Anything you need to bring along today? Anything you need to share?