Love Takes on Many Forms–Part 2

Welcome back, friends, and many thanks for stopping by twice this week.

When I left you last, I had totaled the much-despised, glow-in-the-dark-mobile minivan. Used the $$$ as a down payment on my beloved Camry and paid the rest off via use of 0% credit card.

(If you have a burning desire to be all caught up, here is the link to Part 1.)

Ten-plus years have come and gone since then. My Camry and I are quite close. It’s been very good to me—much better than I’ve been to it in terms of oil changes, fuel-injection cleaning, etc.

Not sure if other long-term Toyota owners would agree, but I’ve learned any work this vehicle needed fell under the umbrella of maintenance. Because this thing runs until it absolutely can’t (i.e., the engine started seizing when I let the oil change go for too long—oops!), I never KNEW my baby needed attention.

Camry 2002 My baby would miss me if I let it go, lol.

This brings me back to why I’m writing this post. I toyed with buying another Toyota. B/c I’m never in the mood for adding payments to my monthly bills, new or leased wasn’t a choice. (Besides, I fell in love with the new Mazda’s styling. We’ll see, in two years when Younger Son will be wanting a car.)

My self-imposed budget suggested buying an older Toyota (or VW Jetta or Passat, both of which I looked at too, since Older Son is a “V-Dub” kind of kid). I’d be buying a vehicle right around the age it would probably start needing the kind of work mine did. And I already know my baby is mechanically sound. It’s older and occasionally needs TLC in more expensive doses.

BTW, Hubby would have hit up the 401K for me to get the Mazda. New. I declined.

So, a few weeks prior to writing this I stopped at a new garage in the neighborhood. Hubby had been there a little while before and talked to the mechanic about my car. Wanted to meet the guy myself and show him my Camry. I didn’t know Jack—the mechanic—had replaced my battery this past winter. I liked him right away.

Wouldn’t you know? Chatting with him—as question-asking writers are wont to do—led to him telling me he was a certified Toyota mechanic x18 years before he went out on his own and opened the garage in my neighborhood. He stressed over and over what a good car the Camry is.

He also saved me $200+ on the repair. Picked up my car the same day I wrote this. Feels like I bought it yesterday.

And here’s another, pretty crazy coincidence.  God putting Jack-Certified-Toyota-Mechanic on my path wasn’t enough. Jack asked how I came by the car, so I told him my crashing-into-the-compressor story.

He stopped short and looked at me. “How long ago was that?”

“IDK. Younger Son was four. Maybe eleven years ago? The compressor was parked a few blocks from the school.” I mentioned looking up at the man at my passenger window.

“You mean Joe?”

“He lives in __________.”

“That’s the guy!” Jack said.

“Why? Were you there too?”

“No. My son was.” (He’s Jack’s only worker.)

And off Jack goes to confirm this story. Which his son did.

It is a seriously small world, folks, and little by little, we’re adopting Jack and his son as our go-to mechanics. They’ve serviced three family cars in two weeks and go well out of their way to keep us happy.

Tell me I met him by accident.

Have a great week,

Joanna

Love Can Lead You to your Angels–Part 1

Hi everyone. Hope all is well with all of you. Are we seriously past the midway point of July??? Why does summer  fly by faster than the other months?

A while ago, I promised a short series that tied into some recent posts from Kristen Lamb. Because writing the first seems to have erupted open a big can of worms in my already-overconvoluted brain, those are on  the back burner for now. I will get to them eventually. Kristen touched on some really important topics parents deal with, some which can be very challenging to younger parents. I’d like to do them justice.

In the meantime…

Every now and again ANOTHER thing happens to further my belief that God puts people in my path exactly where and when I need them.  (Feel free to substitute the universe, Higher Power, or whatever you choose to call an outside force you believe impacts your life—assuming you adhere to the a tenet that an outside force impacts your life. If not, call it coincidence.)

I have a 2002 Camry I absolutely love. Bought it at a great price from a local rental car dealer in 2004. It had 32K. It now has ~130K miles and has needed exhaust and mount work for close to a year. (I kept putting it off. Quotes I got were quite pricey. Figured I had until this past April before I had to pass inspection. April came. April went. So did May, and I was at June’s exact mid-point when I drafted this. It is July’s midpoint as I edit and post, BTW.)

Did I mention I’m a procrastinator? A very good one?

Anyway, the Camry is my second Toyota. My first was a brandy-new Celica GT I bought when I got my first real job. Sold that baby at circa 89K b/c the trans was banging, and I was told I’d have to have the trans rebuilt to the tune of $2600 or so. I learned the car sold a second time. To the best of my knowledge, the trans work was never done.

Once I got pregnant with Older Son, Hubby started thinking along the lines of a minivan. With three part-timers (a.k.a., Hubby’s boys, a.k.a., my stepsons), we wanted to be able to travel in one vehicle when the boys visited.

I won’t share which brand, but we did buy a new minivan, a new model that had just been released. It was okay at first, but as time went on, issues showed up. These included alternator problems—corrected under warranty—and transmission issues (which started rearing their ugly heads about one month before the five-year warranty ran out).

Forgot if we got it repaired. All I know is, one morning I had a whole five minutes extra time between schools after dropping off Older Son. I remember wondering if I should splurge that time getting a cup of coffee. While I pondered that I reached down for my purse to grab my cell phone.

Looked up just in time to see the plumber’s compressor in front of me (not that I knew it was a plumber’s compressor).

Didn’t see it in time to stop before I plowed into it.

(Note to self: Multi-tasking while operating a motorized vehicle may not necessarily be the best idea. Nor is buying a vehicle that hasn’t been around long enough for it’s problems to show, especially once the warranty runs out.)

A familiar face showed at my passenger window. I knew I hadn’t seen the man in quite a while, and I certainly couldn’t remember his name. “I know you!” was all I could say before I started crying.

He nodded. “I’m Joe. Don’t worry. Make sure you’re okay.”

I was. That was my luckiest crash ever. Totaled the stupid minivan. We still had full insurance coverage and got more for it from State Farm than I could ever have made selling it.

Put that cash toward my current Camry. The second I got back in a car—a blessed Toyota—I knew I was home. My minivan days were done.

In the interest of brevity, I’ll stop here for today. In the meantime, tell me about your relationship(s) with your vehicle(s). Do you have a favorite make or model? Does your car become a part of you, or are you a leaser who easily lets go?

Have a great day and catch you later in the week!

Joanna

 

Tailor-Made Dental Appointment?

Hi all. Hoping all my American friends enjoyed the extended, Independence Day weekend, and that everyone else got to do something productive, fun and/or relaxing too.

Today I’d like to dedicate to my dad, gone twenty years on this date. Rather than get into something long-winded, I figured I’d share a little episode from back in the day when my dad was still here. (If you’re into reading tributes, feel free to access his here, written two years back.)

I am a crafter. I love making pretty things! Back in my hospital-working days, I loved splinting, too. Always found it so cool to take a flat piece of plastic and custom-mold it into an object of healing.

I’ve painted, made photo albums, frames, stenciled—just name it. (Yes, writing absolutely counts. Writing a scene makes me so happy: taking a blank screen and giving it sight, sound, taste, smell. People talking, living, etc, all b/c of a thought or idea that took on life via how words are combined.)

Just recently, I tried my hand at a very simple quilt.

Quilt (front)  05-2014  Made my own binding! (Raise your hand if you love YouTube. 🙂 )

Assembling the pieces with pins reminded me of a time I took my dad to the dentist. (You’ll get the connection very soon, I promise.)

Quilt (back) 5-2014 This is the flip-side. LOVED this simple fabric!

Long story short, the dentist started poking around in my dad’s mouth. After a while, he asked if my dad had worked as a tailor.

I was flumgubbered. “How on God’s earth could you know your patient’s occupation by looking into his mouth??”

Dentist went on to explain that tailors tend to put pins in their mouth, often when measuring clients for alterations. (I’d witnessed that action many times—do it myself every now and again, too.) Over time, the pins leave tiny scrapes on the enamel; these are visible to the dental expert’s eye.

Go figure!

Your turn: have you ever had someone guess at your (or someone else’s) profession, vocation, day job, etc) via some ridiculously seemingly unrelated clue?

Have a great week, friends!

Joanna

When You Take That Step Back…

A solution often shows.

Hi all and welcome to the next-to-last Monday of June. We are six months into 2014. How does time keep going faster?

Wimbledon is underway today. All the best to Andy Murray, defending champion, and all the players competing, especially the qualifiers. This is the professional tennis world’s biggie tournament, especially when it comes to prestige.

Ma n Kev  Mamma and YS (18 months)

Younger Son is a great kid, but definitely a work-in-progress. Although not diagnosed, my inner occupational therapist notes a touch of each of the following: Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD); anxiety; cognitive inflexibility and decreased frustration tolerance. (Translation for the latter two terms: being able to conjure a Plan A, B, C, etc and staying cool when the going gets tough. Neither skill is among this 15.5-year-old’s strong points. He’s also true to his ADD in that if something isn’t of high interest or motivation, he probably won’t be bothered with it.)

Did I mention when he gets an idea in his head—as in, my-Xbox-isn’t-working-at-9PM-Friday-night-so-we-have-to-go-buy-one-now—redirecting him is next to impossible?

A little background: The kid loves football. He played in a recreational league at age 10 (?) and maybe picked up an allergy to commitment sometime after that. He quit after a second season. During middle school, he came home with papers for wrestling and decided last minute he wasn’t joining. Talked about football too, but never took active steps to join his school’s team or any league, for that matter.

Aside: He finally agreed to join me on the tennis court this past weekend. If he practices and gets a feel for the court, his serve and winners have potential to take my head off. (Must be all that weight-lifting turning him into a power hitter.)

Back to the post: This past November, he asked me, “If I join a Saturday basketball league, do you think I’ll commit to football?”

Awesome question! (Showed insight into his issue.) “My suggestion: try and see where that takes you.”

That small commitment has so far resulted in having joined—and stuck to—training for football for the upcoming school year.

Hubby and I constantly express praise for how committed he has been to his decision.

He’s come up short in one place: commitment to his grades in school.

I’ll tell you true, folks, the boy is no stellar student. Not that I expect him to be, but a little effort here and there would be nice, especially when it comes time to studying for quizzes and tests, and especially since he gets a decent return when he takes a whole 15 or 20 minutes to look over his study guide nightly a few days before a test. (Homework isn’t an issue. He gets that done, usually w/o a hitch and w/o help, reminders, etc.)

Kevin kindergarten school pic Kindergarten

Long story short, I had to bite the bullet and step back when it came to freshman algebra. He was in danger of failing—and not having the necessary credits to play football come fall. I gave frequent reminders to pull out the material, do five measly practice problems a night, employ his older brother/math whiz for help as needed, go to teacher for extra help, etc.

The result? Viva la resistance. The only time he studied is when I hid the X-box controller. (Remember the high interest and motivation I talked about before? The grand irony: only the controller he liked went missing. He couldn’t be bothered playing with either of the other two sitting near his unit. “But I didn’t do anything!” he usually wails when he notices its absence. “Exactly,” Mom says. Then he’ll pull out his notes and come back, pleased as punch to claim an 82 on his Social Studies test. See what I mean?)

Anyway, I finally decided to stop “necking,” as he tends to say. In other words, if he failed algebra, he failed algebra. He wasn’t taking direction from me or his dad, and life lessons tend to stick better anyway, or so says MHO. (Besides, as a freshman, he has three years to make it up–he needs it to graduate. I figured if he loved the class so much the first time, why not sit through it another year? Or, better yet: rather than sleep late during vacation, he can get up every morning for summer school then go to football practice. 0:-).

photo (49)  One of my favorite pics, when YS played with the rec league. 

I also checked with his guidance counselor to find out if he has the credits to play next year. Somehow, I wound up getting a call from the supervisor of the phys-ed and athletics department.

I gave her some background on my guy and his lack of commitment to studying.

God (Universe, Higher Power, etc) provided the EXACT answer and direction I needed. The supervisor advised me to direct Younger Son to her office the following week. “In cases like this, I have the kids bring me their work on a weekly basis. If grades aren’t up to par, they’re not allowed to play.”

Woot! Younger Son will have to be accountable to someone other than his ma, his pa and himself. He enjoys pleasing teachers, coaches, etc, he likes (as long as the effort he has to put in isn’t overwhelming).

Being able to play and not be benched or not allowed on the team might be just the carrot that needs to be dangled in front of him to get him to commit to his schoolwork a tad more.

And mamma doesn’t have to be the studying enforcer.

Sometimes, you have to take a step back and be open to different ways a situation can work itself out. You might be pleasantly surprised at how life jumps in and gives you exactly what you need, exactly when you need it.

What are your thoughts on this matter? Do you get out of the way, let life take over and see where it takes you? Have you ever gotten what you need exactly when you need it?

Have a great day everyone!

Joanna

 

Letting Go: They’re Growing Up—Part 2

Hi everyone. Hope those to whom this applies got to enjoy a wonderful Father’s Day doing exactly what they love to do. I know my hunny deserved a great day. Hope he feels he got one. 🙂

As we’ve all come to learn about Joanna Aislinn, she is not particularly good about creating—let alone sticking to—a schedule.

I am very glad, however, to have hosted Christine Warner as she launches her next book, Secret Love. (If you missed it, the link to last week’s post is below.)

I wanted to tie into Stacey Wilkes’ Life Lessons of a Mom posts one more time. (They’re quite interesting and very mom-relatable, or so says MHO.  Feel free to check them out.  I linked you to her most recent.  This one and this one are read-worthy as well.)

Ended my post-before-last on the topic of overprotective Italian mammas with a promise of a post about D-Day, a.k.a., the day Older Son’s acquired the dreaded DL. That would be the—scary music please—Driver’s License. (Thought I was bad the day the kid went on the ski trip.)

Joanna n baby boys  Older Son is on my right.  

Background: I always remember a day when Older Son was eight. I was standing on a neighbor’s porch, watching my boy cross the street alone. Out of nowhere a thought hit me: That boy is halfway to his driver’s permit.

Well, that stay of execution came, sooner than any parent wants, I guess. At sixteen-just-turned, the boy did his six-hours-behind-the-wheel course and practiced driving with his mamma every chance he could. (Talk about not feeling in control that first time the kid is controlling the car and mamma is in the passenger seat. The perspective changes big-time!)

DL Day came in December—on a snowy morning. He already had a car and went to school with it immediately after finishing his road test.

Aside: My Italian mamma didn’t let me take a car alone anywhere for the first six months. See? I’m much better at letting go than my ma was–and is. She’s an off-the-boat Italian mamma–and far, far worse than I. Just sayin’.

Back to the DL-Day: That evening, Older Son told me he was picking up his girlfriend at work, off a nearby, VERY BUSY highway. No way was that boy going onto THAT highway, and driving up a slippery, snowy and/or icy ramp in the dark w/o his mamma.

He did fine until after we picked her up. I knew where three lanes on that stretch become two; wasn’t sure the kid did. Not sure, either, whether he noticed the semi-trailer merging right to left—sans blinker—at that exact spot.

Mamma calls out: “Watch the truck!”

Older Son swerves left at the very instant a car flies by on the same side.

Don’t ask we didn’t get side-swiped. God was watching I’m sure.

We got out of there safely and dropped off his girlfriend at home.

Mamma promptly lost it, on the less-than-five-minute-drive between our houses. Older Son, in all his compassion, pulls over and hugs his mamma. “I knew this was coming.”

“I’m sorry! It’s just that I love you so much, and I know I can’t hold you back, but I’m so scared at the same time.” Sob, sniffle. Sniffle, sob.

The next morning, I got up and did the li’l old Italian lady thing—sobbed like a fool—while everyone else slept. The morning after that, the inspirational books came out.

By the end of that first week, people often asked, “How’s the driving going?”

“I’m doing much better,” I would answer.

I realized then I hadn’t texted the kid—for the first time in a week—to make sure he’d gotten to school.

I suppose I’m doing better, almost seven months since DL Day. I’ve survived his first snowboard trips with only a friend, and a spring-break ride to the shore. The next biggies: going to the shore with his friends and no parent(s).

The weekend-after-the-senior-prom deal is more than a year away.

I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

photo (33)  This was taken on the first day of this school year. (Only they aged, right? Right??) The brute on my right is Younger Son. He’s training for a lineman position for his high school’s football team. (Now why can’t either one of these guys be into a nice safe sport like…uh..tennis? 😉 )

Check out Christine Warner’s virtual visit here.

Have a great parent war story to share? I’d love to read about it! Solidarity!

Have a great week, everyone. Thanks for indulging me!

Joanna

Letting Go: They’re Growing Up (Part 1)

Letting ‘Em Go: They’re Growing Up—Part 1

Since I’m still developing the posts I had hoped to get to this week—based on two written by Kristen Lamb at her awesome blog—I’ll allow myself to get sidetracked a bit. Hope you get something out of the next two weeks.

Really loving and relating to fellow blogger and fiction author Stacey Wilkes’ Life Lessons of a Mom posts. One of her most recent touched on her self-imposed role as overprotective mother (a.k.a. chaperone) on her 8th grade daughter’s upcoming trip to Washington, DC.

Stacey and I are both Italian mammas. My mom is off-the-boat, and her family of origin is one of the most loving crowds one could get to know. Unfortunately, anxiety—and hence the need to control their world—runs rampant. (I’m blessed enough to take after my dad’s side. Counseling in my younger days helped too—a lot.)

Not sure how much of this stuff is in-bred, lol. I consider myself a pretty laid-back parent—not to be confused with permissive. I work very hard at giving my kids their space while hovering near enough in the vicinity to be ‘hands-on’ if/when needed (or wanted).

Letting go when it comes to ‘big things’ is another story. Not saying I don’t, but that deep-seated Italian (?) anxiety, upbringing—whatever you want to call it—shows up. Every time Older Son (in particular) wants to do that next thing my mom would have NEVER allowed, I turn into a sobbing fool.

One quick example: In 7th grade, Older Son won a raffled snowboard. Of course I didn’t allow him to attend the ski club’s day trip that year! The thought of a 14-year-old on the slopes with who-knew-what-kind-of-supervision (if any) freaked me out. The next year, the moderator of the club begged me to let him go. She called, left me her cell number, etc. I finally acquiesced. (Hubby might have taken him to a local ski resort in the meantime, so we had a sense of what the kid was like up there in the fine, cold powdery stuff.)

Trip day arrived (a Saturday). Dropped the kid off at the bus in the winter-dark at 6:30 AM and waited a while. Since I was the only parent fool enough to hang out in the parking lot, I decided to go home and save Older Son the embarrassment.

Sat outside my house and sobbed like a fool. Every generation of Italian ladies that came before me channeled themselves through me that morning. Settled for texting Older Son at intervals throughout the day. Thank goodness the boy is kind enough to return his ma’s messages.

We’ll discuss the day said kid got the dreaded DL another time.

So: How do you let go? Are you naturally good at it, or is it a practiced skill? Are you an “Italian” mamma?

Have a great week, folks!

Joanna

Mothers, Jeans and Self-Esteem

Welcome to another week, folks, and a new theme. Always a pleasure to be here and share with you! Thanks so much for stopping in 🙂

mothers day flowers 2014   Mother’s Day Flowers from all my men–I’m too short to get a good image if vase is on table, lol.

Joanna n baby boys  I’m thinking my boys were one and three (?) in this image. Now the big one is the little one, and the little one is the big one. Where did the time go?

Joanna n Niconus 05-11-2014  Older son and his ma on Mother’s Day–the other guy goes camera shy. 

joanna n hubby Mothers Day 2014   Hubby and me on  Mother’s Day :). Now why didn’t I insist on a photo with both my boys????

So last week I shared about jeans, finding that elusive, “perfect-fitting” pair (I’m sure I’ll look for a loooong time, lol) and some encouraging news on that topic via Charlotte Hilton Anderson’s blog, The Great Fitness Experiment. (Among the reasons I’ve always liked Jennifer Lopez too. In many ways, she put those of us whose back ends like to uh…hang out more than others on the map. She also very kindly helped designed a line of  jeans made to fit said folks. Thanks, J-Lo! )

Rather than drag y’all through a longer-winded post than usual last time, I figured I’d pick up with a related topic today. (I promise, people, I’m working on keeping these shorter. )

Much as I love jeans, I hate shopping for them. (I’m to the point where I’m NEVER in the mood to shop for anything—eh, maybe shoes every once in a while. I always seem to gravitate toward the same colors and styles anyway. Seriously, how many red jackets or purses can one person have?)

A couple of years ago, I was killing some time on a Saturday morning. Strolled into the local TJ Maxx and wandered over to the jeans rack. I wound up trying a tan pair of skinnies just for the heck of it, in a brand that tends to fit me better than others.

Danged pair actually fit okay, even in the trouble spots. Long story short, I didn’t like them enough to buy them. I did, however, feel encouraged b/c a pair of “skinnies” almost fit well enough to be a choice.

Met up with my mom later that day. Feeling good, I told her about the jeans. Her automatic (paraphrased) response? The jeans fit because they weren’t cut right and/or had stretched.

No way on the planet—in her brain—I could have lost a pound or two, or have walked and exercised my way into that cut.  Then I wonder why shopping for clothing is more distasteful than it should be, lol.

So go figure, a few weeks ago, Mama actually complimented me in a pair of skinny jeans. I believe she phrased it something like, “I don’t know if you lost weight or it’s the pants, but those look good.”

Whaaaat???????

Mama almost knocked me out. (Feel free to go a little LL Cool J here.  What can I say? My latest TV addiction is NCIS Los Angeles.)

Joanna n mom Mothers Day 2014   Okay. We’ll let Mamma have a spot on the blog b/c she said I looked nice in my jeans. 

So, my blogger-friends, shall we go there? Shall we talk about how our self-esteem relative to clothing all comes back to Mom, lol? If that’s the case, what helped you get past it? (For me, a single book changed a lifetime of perspective. This related blog post tells that story.)

Here’s the link to the post that got me started on this blogging jag. (It’s over at Charlotte’s blog.) I also came across this assortment of seemingly simple exercises  Charlotte authored for Shape magazine. I hope to have checked them out more closely by the time this post airs.

Have a great week, everyone!

Joanna