The unexpected praise or apology

I can be ornery. I like to do things a certain way, and I have a hard time apologizing. I am not sure how that happened in life, and how I became so stubborn. I actually think it is an artifact of growing up so fast. My mom became sick when I was 12. The next four years were filled with her. Taking care of her, cleaning our house, paying bills, using food stamps to buy groceries, finding my own way to/from school and other events, the list goes on. It was all up to my sister and me to figure out how to take care of my mom and figure out how to navigate our own lives. In my own way, I grew up so fast, and had to figure out things on my own, that I almost designed my own life very early on. Maybe they are/were coping mechanisms, but those critical years (when I should have been out playing and getting into trouble) I was just trying to keep shit together.

A recent Seth Godin blog titled: “Notes, not received” made me think about how maybe my childhood hardened me into not being the best at giving praise or approval. I rarely got it myself, so how would I learn to give it out to others? The third and last parts are what specifically stood out to me:

An expected apology rarely makes things better. But an expected apology that never arrives can make things worse.

An expected thank you note rarely satisfies. But an expected thank you that never arrives can make things worse.

On the other hand, the unexpected praise or apology, the one that comes out of the blue, can change everything.

It’s easier than ever to reach out and speak up. Sad, then, how rarely we do it when it’s not expected.

I still have so much to learn. I could definitely be better at work, at home, and with friends/family at unexpected apologies AND praise. We probably all can. We all probably have urges and then decide to not act on them. This is my reminder to try harder, let go more, and say what is on my mind. Hopefully it is a good reminder for you too.

A clever, lazy dad

I am from the Midwest. I have not been back home for over 11 years, but there are parts of Indiana you can not take out of me. There are pieces of my childhood (sometimes redneck and all) that are the fibers of who I am. When my language goes a little to that of an expletive nature, Chris has a saying for me: “How are you doing DC?” Those were my father’s initials. It is though he is channeling me. He was a trash talker and most likely is where I learned the swear words that come out of my mouth. Of course if I ever mimicked him as a child I got in so much trouble.

There are often articles and images and videos that are shared on the Internet that remind me so much of my childhood. We were poor. Indiana is, well, Indiana. It is the Midwest and things are just different. Creativity might look a bit different from say it would in San Francisco or New York City. You might not have the space to roam and ponder how to sit on your butt in a chair and not have to chase after every ball as you teach your kid to play baseball. Maybe you do not have batting cages in your town, or if you do have them, maybe spending the money is not in your monthly budget.

Whatever the case, a clever idea is a clever idea.

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Sugar, layaway, and freedom as a kid

My mom did not drink Tab (that I can remember). Tab was too expensive. My mom drank Faygo. The cheap woman’s soda. A bottle was about 10 cents. She could purchase more bottles if she purchased Faygo. Besides, it was basically carbonated sugar-water of sorts. With such high amounts of sugar, why would it matter what it tasted like? As someone who no longer drinks soda, I can only imagine what my future kids will think of me. Hardcore? Mean? Boring? I will not let them drink that syrupy substance that has so much sugar they will bounce off the walls. Hell no. I have gone from being a child who hated her vegetables, to being a hardcore vegetable addict. Not only for the taste, but for the nutrition. Probably more for the nutrition and what that means for my health and energy.

I think we had Kool-Aid, but from what I can remember, it was “fake.” Some other knockoff brand. From what I can remember it still tasted fine. Again, it was just drinking sugar-water. Along with those frozen Fla-Vor-Ice quasi popsicles. They were basically sugar-water. No wonder we loved them. Sugar was few and far between in our house!

I really doubt my mom worried too much about us. She was too busy (when I was really young — before she got sick) trying to make sure we were fed, and that she made it to one of her many jobs on time. If she was not working, she was planning many months in advance how to get us Christmas presents via the longest ever layaway plan. This was before credit cards were so common and that is how you eventually owned products. She was the queen of figuring that out. Going each week to a list of grocery stores to get the best deal, and to a few other stores (such as Target) to pay that week’s installment of layaway. Her Friday nights were a scavenger hunt of sorts from store to store in order to get the best sales and purchase price. Sometimes she had us in tow. It was exhausting. These days we go to different stores not for the deals, but because of the assortment. You know those items that you can only get at Trader Joe’s!

In the summer she spent her spare moments not figuring out her layaway plans, but taking care of our vegetable and flower gardens. While I will never know, I think it was her favorite time of year. She was working with her hands, out in the sun, and most likely it was therapeutic for her. Any of her other waking hours were spent helping us with homework, and giving whatever time was left to her church. Thus why this line resonated with me from this Today.com Parenting blog:

“She said get the hell outside, and we did. We made up games and rode our bikes and choreographed dance routines and drank out of the hose when we got thirsty. I swear, my mom did not know where we actually were half the time.”

We did just the same. I do not remember telling her where I was going or what I was doing. I never really got into too much trouble. I was either on my paper route, riding around, at a friend’s or neighbor’s house, or snuggled somewhere with a book. Harmless. Today I bet life and freedom is not so easy to come by. Thank you, Mom, for the freedom.