Thursday, May 23, 2013

It's Not the Size of Your Branch..Actually, It Is

After a day of spring yard work and tree trimming, my husband asked if I thought our city sanitation department would cart off the bigger branches we now had littering our yard.

I giggled and assured him they would.

"How do you know?" he asked. "And what is so funny about that?"

Turns out, I had called the city about that very issue after a major storm a few years ago. Several large tree limbs were piled at my curb, and I was concerned they were too big for the the city's yard debris services.

"Are they skinny?" the female sanitation worker asked. "Or are they big and fat?"

"Um, long and skinny," I said. "But they are very long."

"Honey, it doesn't matter how long the branches are," she said, "It's the thickness of the branch that really counts. You know what I mean?"

I couldn't see her over the phone, but I am fairly certain she winked at me.

"I think I do," I said.

And now you know. As if you didn't already.

My tree is not amused. I can't wait until he talks to me.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Thank you, Mr. Armstrong

Today is my son's last day at his elementary school. Although he won't be dismissed until 3 p.m., and I haven't yet attended his "Fourth Grade Farewell" ceremony, I'm typing this post through tears. Part of that is my 40-something-year-old hormones (I cry a lot. I broke a wine glass the other day and grieved. We had been so close).

But most of the tears today are because my little boy is growing up -- and I will dearly miss those who helped him become the fine young man he is.

We have been fortunate that his (public) school has been such a loving, nurturing, enriching place for my son and other students. He has been blessed by many teachers and staff members who always go above and beyond what is asked of them.

As much as his school staff rocks, though, this is dedicated to someone else -- someone who volunteers his time each and every school day to brighten the lives of children.

Mr. Armstrong is my son's school greeter. He also is my daily inspiration.

He stands in the school's parking lot each day, opening the car door for youngsters and greeting them with a smile, a small pep talk for the day, and a "fist bump." Come rain or shine, Mr. Armstrong is present. It's more than showing up each day for kids. Mr. Armstrong is present in the sense that he is engaged. He is involved. He is committed.

Mr. Armstrong, who has worked for ESPN and others as a monster truck commentator (so the kids already think he is super cool), could easily choose to relax at this station in life. But that isn't who he is. He is a man who must do something, something that matters.

I had the opportunity to speak with him at length one day, and he explained why he volunteers his mornings greeting elementary school students.

He told me it was important to him that children begin the day with a smile and some encouragement.

"I like to think it makes a difference in their days," he said.

Moms and Dads can get in a rush. We might gripe about the milk that was spilled. We might have our minds on that big meeting at work. We might be mad that our child just told us he needs khaki pants that night for the chorus concert he also forgot to mention.

We might forget to let our children know each and every day that they matter.

Mr. Armstrong's gift is that he helps children remember.

Every. Single. Child.

Every. Single. Day.

"Hey, sport!" he'll say, as a student climbs out of the car. "You look sharp today! I hear good things about you from your teachers. Go get 'em today!"

If Mr. Armstrong notices a child who is having a bad morning -- and he does notice -- he often pays a little extra attention to him or her, asking the youngster to hang out for a few minutes and keep him company. He'll tell his trademark funny stories, making sure smiles outshine tears before the child heads into school.

He reminds parents they matter, too.

He often leans into the car, greets any siblings and says to us frazzled, harried parents -- some of whom are still wearing pajama pants and flip flops and just trying to keep it together (er, not that I know anyone like that) -- "You have great kids, you know. Great kids. Super kids."

I nod. I remember. I do have great kids. Super kids. He has reminded me and my son of this every school day for the past five years, and I am thankful.

As I pulled away from the elementary school one last morning, I said to my high school daughter, "I wish I could be more like Mr. Armstrong."

I wish we all could be more like Mr. Armstrong.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Scenes from a Marriage: Send me something sexty next time, k?

The husband sent me some constructive criticism on a Porch post. I told myself to respond maturely.
Nailed it.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Well, I'll Be...

It's official!

As of today, You Are Enough is my most popular post on the Porch. That's probably not saying much -- since most of my regular readers are relatives who only check the Porch to see if I embarrass or slander them (uh, yeah. Why else would I write this?). Still, I am truly grateful to those of  you who read the post, shared it or "liked" the Porch on Facebook. Thank you!

The greatest thing about being a pretend writer is feeling like your words matter to someone. In case you're curious, the second greatest thing about being a pretend writer is saying, "Honey, I can't be pretend Morena Baccarin tonight because I'm being a pretend writer!"

If you are new to the Porch, you might be wondering who I am. I would love to tell you, but I often wonder that myself. The problem with being an overly right-brained creative type (besides not being able to help my kids with math after second grade, first grade, kindergarten) is that it's too easy to imagine myself as someone else.

In kindergarten, I was the weird, quiet kid with imaginary friends. I'm still that kid, but people look at me funny in the grocery when I tell my imaginary friends to stop eating the grapes, so I've toned that down.

The thing is, I never really grew up. Not really. Don't believe the wrinkles because they lie about who I am.

Of course, I act like a Very Responsible Adult when acting like a grown up is required (too damn often, if you ask me), but on the inside, I'm very much the child, sprawled on the cool kitchen linoleum, watching adults hustle and bustle and step over me, wondering why they never slow down and lie on the floor.

That makes being an adult more challenging -- as does finding my bra size in the girls' department, but that's a story for another day.

Sadly, we live in a world that discourages adults from playing Red Rover, but how totally friggin' awesome would it be if you and your colleagues went outside at lunch today and played tag until the boss called you back inside? (When she does, please say, "Just FIVE MORE MINUTES?!").

Like everyone else, I'm doing the best I can -- and that's enough, right? Right!

I'm a work-in-progress mother of two amazing kids, but please don't look for me to be PTO president anytime soon.

I'm on my second (of three. Because Hugh Jackman) husband, which proves I have an amazing sense of humor. He does, too. Plus, he's very secure in his masculinity, since he married the Karate Kid.

I have a real j-o-b, so I have to write in my spare time (hahahahaha. Spare time. Whatever!). I also write a column for an area women's magazine, so it's only a matter of time until Oprah calls. Don't take this dream away from me.

This morning, it took me a good five minutes to deduce that I actually had to plug in the iron before the wrinkles in my shirt would disappear. That's how much I iron.

I also just painted only the toenails that show in my open-toe heels -- while wearing the heels. I am surprisingly good at this.

What else? I love all chips that end in "o"; I cried when Hostess declared bankruptcy; and I have never had anything pierced. Nope. Not even my ears. I don't know why, really. It just never seemed like a good idea to put holes where holes were not.

I believe in God, fear religion and wholeheartedly believe the world would be at peace if everyone had porch swings.

Last but not least, I love to write and am grateful for the opportunity to do it here. Thank you for allowing me to be me, whoever that is.

You are always welcome on my Porch. Just so you know, it will be home base when we play tag at lunch.