Thursday, October 28, 2010

Being 13...

...kinda sucks.

I remember 13. It was November, and we had just moved from my hometown to Peoria. I was a freshman and not at all happy to leave my friends, let alone start a new school two months into the year. Double bonus: my first day of school was my birthday. I cried all the way home.

Life sucked. In part because of the circumstances, but in large part due to my attitude toward those circumstances. I was unhappy, had a chip on my shoulder, and was going to let everyone know about it.

It took me about a year to come around. The August before I started my sophomore year, I asked my mom if I could change schools. She must have been desperate at that point (I know the feeling now) because she obliged. Year 14 gave me a fresh start, and a new outlook on life. Sure, I made a ginormous amount of mistakes, but I had come from the depths of 13, so I could survive anything.

"You don't have to suffer to be a poet. Adolescence is enough suffering for anyone." -John Ciardi, Simmons Review, Fall 1962

I was lucky. What happens to these poor pre-teens who just get off on the wrong foot and are never able to turn it around? And even if they DO turn it around, does anyone bother to notice? Or are they destined to always be labeled as they were originally perceived?

13 is complicated. Yes, it can be a fun, carefree, interesting and cool part of your life. It can also be depressing, helpless, emotional and full of angst. 13 is trying on different personalities to see if they fit. Sure, you have your own, but you're not comfortable with it. Or it's not accepted. Or cool. So you act like you think you should, or how your friend does, or how the cool people do just to fit in.

"Don't laugh at a youth for his affectations; he is only trying on one face after another to find a face of his own." -Logan Pearsall Smith, "Age and Death," Afterthoughts, 1931

You make mistakes. Again. And again. There's no "learning from them the first time" at 13. You question authority. You ask why. You don't understand. You wonder when you're just going to grow up and then everything will be OK. You have no idea that your parents are going through three times the anguish that you are, just watching you.

"Adolescence is a period of rapid changes. Between the ages of 12 and 17, for example, a parent ages as much as 20 years." -Author Unknown

My heart aches for 13, but I know it's a rite of passage that all humans must go through, some more gracefully than others. Unfortunately, I can only watch like a hawk, listen when it's needed and pray like there's no tomorrow.

"Figuring out who you are is the whole point of the human experience." -Anna Quindlen

Monday, October 25, 2010

Peoria District 150 apparently wants to "rock and roll all night and party every day".

I don't consider myself a prude. But really, District 150? Is this photo truly the kind of representation you want of an already struggling school district?

Yes, it's cute, and funny - maybe hanging on someone's bulletin board at work, or perhaps sent through inter-office email. But on the WEBSITE?

I have nothing more to say about this. Really. I'm just speechless.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

If I wrote a book, would you be in it?

When people ask me what I do and I say, "I'm a writer", their next question is usually, "Have you written a book?"

Nope. But it's on my bucket list.

My problem is my topic. I have this issue with writing fiction; I mean, I have so much going on in my everyday life and my everyday brain that to conjure up some sort of fantasy scenario with amazing character development not only seems like a lot of work, but somehow redundant as well.

There's too much that's gone on in my world to pass it up.

If you go to my website, Kennard Communications, the first line is, "Everyone and everything has a story." The older I get, the more I believe that this is true. My story alone would encompass so many people and situations that I'd certainly have to change the names and places to protect the innocent (and the not-so-innocent).

The book would definitely be humorous. I mean, look at life. It's funny. And if you don't laugh, you'll curl up in the fetal position and cry yourself to sleep every night. Yeah, I've done that.

The book would most likely be ironic. Which is funny. Because a good friend of mine and I argue continually about the difference between "ironic" and "unfortunate". Unlike the Alanis Morissette song, it's not ironic that there's a fly in your Chardonnay, it's unfortunate. Let's just get that straight.

I could do an autobiography of sorts, but I always thought of them as pretentious; that is, unless you're some super-human individual who has encountered amazing adventures like war or the Peace Corps or disease or possibly alien abduction. And I just don't feel as if I've "lived" enough to start spouting off all the things I've learned.

The best I can come up with right now is a hodge-podge collection of stories. I could write chapters and chapters on parenting: what NOT to do, what worked for me, what I did that I didn't HAVE to do, what completely backfired - not to mention the "funny things that happened to me on the way to being a mom", including a section on "things you never thought you'd say" - i.e.: "Don't do cartwheels next to the tripods", "I don't have a staple gun and seven band-aids", "no farting in the van" and "stop going all 'General Grievous' on your brother".

There's my love life - though I'm not prepared to reveal all the details - but friends of mine will say that the string of circumstances that led me from one failed relationship to another is the stuff of a Harlequin romance novel gone bad. Put it this way: if I ever find a man in the Coast Guard, I will have managed to unwittingly date all branches of the military. *sigh*

Then there's family - my twisted brothers and sister and parents that just shake their heads at us all. Many of my Facebook friends have "met" my siblings, and all agree that the Talcott clan is just a bit off. Perhaps we were all dropped on our heads as babies - it's possible. If it makes for some great Thanksgiving dinner fodder, imagine how it would translate into a juicy, familial chapter.

And let's not forget friends - oh, do I have stories! Unfortunately, these same friends have some pretty good dirt on me as well, so I'd have to get signed releases to tell those tales. Put it this way - it's kind of like the adage, "If you were in prison, I wouldn't be the one posting your bail. I'd be the one sitting next to you saying, 'Wow. That was a GOOD time'."

Maybe I need to sit on this for awhile longer. Maybe when I'm old and gray and not running around like a chicken with my head cut off, I can finally sit down to get some thoughts down on paper, then decide if anyone in the real world would give a rat's ass to read about it.

Until then, my friends, you all are safe. I'm just gonna keep living.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Googling God

I'm a big fan of the saying, "Everything happens for a reason." I've also started subscribing to the "God has a plan for you" mentality, though not without a fight.

The past few years of my life have been interesting, to say the least. There are friends whom I've had only for a short time that I say to apologetically, "My life isn't always this dramatic. Really. Just give me a little time to get it all sorted out." At least I thought that's how I was, until I looked back and realized that my life has been sort of a comedy of errors for nearly 44 years.

It's easy for me to sit here at this point and say, "Oh, that's OK". A couple of big dramas have finally played themselves out and God's plan has revealed itself just a wee bit more. Ironically, I remember saying to my mom, "I would never want to go through this past year again for anything." Her response, "Are you sure about that? Look at all you learned and how far you came. You really found out a lot about yourself and accomplished a lot as well."

You know, she's right. (She loves it when I say that.)

Every once in awhile, I'd look to the heavens and say, "God? I know you have a plan for me, but if you could just hurry up a little bit that would be great." It was exhausting, trying and trying while waiting for Him to reveal the next step for me.

Looking back, he did give me hints in small, subtle ways. The upsetting rejections of a few jobs led to a string of career circumstances that never would have happened without those depressing "Dear Applicant" letters. The frustration of not being able to find anyone to hear me about issues with my son led to assistance from an unlikely source and subsequent (cautious) rejoicing at some amazing progress. Finally letting some walls down and working through my bull-headedness with regards to a personal relationship has made my future look very, very bright.

When I would call my mom and cry to her that I just didn't know what to do, her response was, "Pray". Mom's a big prayer. I am not. I believe in God, attend church, and consider myself a Christian. But aside from the monotonous prayers I learned as a Catholic, I'm lost when it comes to prayer. So I did what any anal-retentive retired Catholic would do. I Googled prayer. And you know what? There's some good ones out there. And the more I read them, the more I realized that I don't have to say a prayer, that I can just talk to Him. Anytime. About anything. Which is cool. And obviously works.

But, as my mom reminded me, "Don't forget to thank Him." That's another task in itself. But I do know this much - I'll be in this position again. Needing help. Not knowing which way to turn. Feeling frustrated. Then I'll remember this past couple of years, and how He helped me through, even though at times I doubted He was on my side. Next time, I'll have more faith. And I'll try to stay more connected to him in good times, and in bad.

I'm not trying to be all preachy here, but this is my blog, and my story. So if there are any of my readers out there who have been in a bind and don't believe in Him, I can't imagine your plight. Feeling helpless while having NOTHING at all to turn to must be horrible.

Take five minutes to Google God - you may be surprised at how "at peace" you suddenly feel.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Who is your mentor?

Everyone has one. Whether consciously or subconsciously, we all have someone in our past or present life that we have looked to for guidance, or who have molded a part of our being in some way, both professionally and personally.

But have you ever thought about who those people are, and perhaps taken the time to thank them?

Mentors come in all shapes and sizes, and can change over the course of your lifetime. When you're a kid, your mentor could be your third grade teacher, your soccer coach, or your friend's mom. As you get older, it could be a professor, a guidance counselor, or even the cool older kid in school. You may not realize that these individuals are your "mentors" - at that age, who even knows what that really means? But these are the people we remember later on - the ones that shape our lives - above and beyond what our parents can do. Parents, of course, have a standing order as mentors - I know mine do.

Thinking back, I remember my mentors. In grade school, it was the 6th grade teacher who encouraged my writing. I still have her comments on my short stories - "You should be a writer when you grow up" is the one that makes me want to contact her and say, "Thanks in part to you, I did." In high school, there was the mother of a friend of mine whose house everyone always hung out at. She was the consummate stay-at-home mom. We were always welcome there, and she always had snacks. I was one of the few girls in the group we hung out with, and she, with three sons, "adopted" me and all my teenage angst as the daughter she never had.

In college, my mentor was my first boss at the advertising agency I interned at in Milwaukee. She was the one who took me under her wing, and taught me the ropes of not only advertising, but working in the professional world as well (i.e. it's not a good idea to drink as much as the client during lunch). To this day she remains a good friend.

Today, I have several mentors. Some I look to for guidance in my professional life. These are the people that I call when I need advice in my work - the ones I "follow" to see how they are taking life by the horns. The ones I try to model myself after not only because of their own success, but their attitudes and optimism as well.

Personally, I have a good friend that never bullshits me. She'll tell me if she thinks I've made a bad decision, will neutrally guide me when I have a problem, and constantly reminds me of my good choices and "how far I've come".

Reciprocally, I hope that there is someone out there that considers me their mentor. I hope that I have had a positive effect on someone's life, and that years later, they remember me as one of the people that influenced them, professionally or personally.

Take a few minutes to reflect on your mentors, past and present. If you get the chance, look them up and thank them. As I've said before, we're all in this together, and sometimes you need to let those people know the difference they have made in your life.

Friday, October 8, 2010

How to make a decision

Anybody know how to do this? I have some ideas, but sometimes lack the confidence to implement them and be secure in my ultimate decision.

This isn't about "paper or plastic", "white or whole wheat" or "soup or salad". This is the big stuff. The stuff that YOU have to decide and the stuff that has the potential to change the direction of your life, temporarily or permanently.

My mother has always encouraged me to make lists of pros and cons, and that is a good practice. Usually, it gets me to really think about all the possible aspects and outcomes of my decision, both good and bad. The problem I have is in weighing their value. There may be only one or two "cons" on my list, but they may be so significant that they outweigh the eight "pros" in the other column.

I know - I over-analyze a bit.

I've found that talking it out with others helps, too. Trusted friends whom you respect can shed light on your decision-making, bringing up points that you perhaps never thought of. A good friend won't make the decision for you, though, but will act as a sounding board for you to verbalize your conundrum. Talking about it out loud, whether with someone else or just to yourself, also gives you a sense of your attitude toward one decision or another. If I find myself getting into a debate about my options to the point where I'm defending one choice over the other, it somehow becomes very clear.

My last piece of advice is not all that tangible, but works for me. Sometimes, we don't realize that deep down, we KNOW what we want. It may not be the popular decision, or the choice that our friends or family would make, but in our gut we know it's the best for us. I know when I've made my decision because of how I feel when I finally commit to it. Sometimes it's like I was just punched and I feel defeated. Other times I'm excited and anxious. The key here is being able to LISTEN to your gut without having others' opinions about what you "should" do affecting that feeling. That's the rub right there.

Above all, know that decisions, while they seem very, very final, are not always. These are variable times we live in, and you never know what's around the corner or what kind of curve ball God's going to throw you next. Make your decision with an open mind that if circumstances change, you'll be open enough to revisit and reevaluate if necessary.

Some heavy thoughts for your weekend, and for mine.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Seriously, what's going on with District 150 buses?

From the Peoria Journal Star, October 4, 2010:

"A Peoria District 150 bus driver was cited for driving under the influence after veering off the road and hitting a pair of parked cars early Monday.

The bus was carrying 20 children. The driver and 13 students were transported to local hospitals for observation.

In addition to DUI, Gary H. Davis, 46, was ticketed for improper lane usage, failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident and driving on the sidewalk."

And here I was complaining that my son's District 150 bus was a half an hour late to pick him up today, thus making him 20 minutes late for school.

Oh, then there was the fact that the District 150 bus didn't even show up at his school to pick him up until 2:45 pm - 45 minutes after school had ended, and five minutes before I was halfway there to get him myself.

This is apparently where I should look on the bright side. At least his bus driver wasn't drunk. That we know of.

I don't really know the whole story here, so instead of just preaching what should be done, I'm going to ask for some explanation. At the beginning of the year, we were told that the bus routes were getting "ironed out" and we needed to be patient. The kids were going to be late until evidently some magical solution was to be implemented to make all the bus drivers hit their stops at the allocated times.

I thought my son's route was the lucky one - our first bus driver was spot on every day - up until last week. She's mysteriously disappeared - replaced by someone who drives looking at her address sheet in one hand and apparently at times talking on her cell phone in the other.

I understand there are glitches. I understand drivers need to get to know the routes. And I praise the dependable bus drivers who make very little yet put up with a lot every day. Hats off to them. But I think most parents have been pretty patient with District 150 and/or bus transportation in getting the kinks out. It's October, Guys. And part of the reason why the District changed the middle school times to a non-working-parent-friendly 7:25 am - 2:00 pm was to accommodate the bus schedules - to make them more efficient and less costly. OK, at what price now?

I'm lucky I don't have to take off for work before my son gets on the bus. I see kids standing at their stops alone and I wonder what they do when the bus doesn't show. And what about the kids who are supposed to be home at a certain time and don't show up? The only phone call I got was for my son, asking me to pick him up.

All I'm asking is this - I'm doing my part to get my 13-year old, bleary-eyed son out to the bus stop at 6:40 am every morning. The district or bus company or whoever is in charge of these people needs to do their part to be there to pick him up. And get him home safely, and on time. That's our agreement.

And I promise not to show up drunk at my stop if they promise to do the same.

Friday, October 1, 2010

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

I often think of this. I don't know why. But there are definitely times I feel as if I am not using my physical and mental capabilities to their maximum potential (try ALWAYS), and feel that having a superpower in one of those areas would make up for my other gross deficiencies.

So what would I choose? There are so many. Physically, would I pick speed? Perhaps that would alleviate my chronic lateness. I could certainly get more done. But I'm a "stop and smell the roses" kind of gal, so I think I somehow feel I'd be missing out.

What about strength? I suppose this would come in handy when I get the urge to rearrange some furniture and don't want to wait for some big, strong guy to come to my aid. Superhuman vision would be awesome - not necessarily X-ray - there's no need for that, really. But I'm as blind as a bat, and to be able to see clearly would be a definite bonus. And I've often wished I could fly - it seems as if I waste a lot of my day trying to get from Point A to Point B.

Maybe mental superpowers is the way to go. Superhuman intelligence? That would be nice - I feel as if I am pretty smart in some areas (writing), but incredibly stupid in others (math, science, geography, history.....) But I'd hate to be that irritating know-it-all at the party that no one wants to be around. Mind control? Ha - maybe for my kids. But I'm pretty pro-free will, so that may screw with my morals a bit. What about precognition? I'm always wondering what will happen next, but then again, maybe I don't want to know.

So what's it going to be? I think if I had to choose any superpower, I'd pick telepathy. It seems the safest, and most beneficial. It seems these days that a lot of people tell you what you want to hear, and bending the truth - whether it's to avoid hurt feelings or to keep from divulging information - seems to have become the norm. I try to be as honest as I can with people, probably to a fault. I always want to know "the whole story". There's been too many times when I thought I knew someone, only to find out they were thinking something completely different. With telepathy, I'd know if my son really DID brush his teeth. I'd know if that client across the table is considering hiring me for his project. If my boyfriend really does think these pants make my butt look big.

With telepathy, not only could I read their actual thoughts, I could communicate with them without saying a word. How many time have I thought, "I'm not a mind reader!" Yes, the power could be a curse at times, and my kryptonite would definitely be my sensitivity in knowing the truth.

So if I had this superpower, I wouldn't have to ask this question: if you could pick any superpower to possess, what would it be?