Monday, June 5, 2017

Saying Goodbye

Life is tricky sometimes. Relationships are complicated and not always easy. We recently laid Dave’s mom to rest and to say we had a complicated relationship would be an understatement. Dave and I were friends for many years before we got together in a romantic relationship, but it wasn’t until we were together that I started to get to know his family and as far as I knew, we were all getting along just fine. Dave and I married, we had Mason and Dave’s mom came to stay for a week or 10 days after Mason was born. It was awkward for me and I tried to talk with her about it. One morning I was making coffee and I said, “This is kind of awkward, us not really knowing each other and now related?” She replied, “Oh? Do you think so?” I went on to say, “Well, yes. Even though Dave and I have known each other for six years, you and I don’t really know each other at all, and here we are with a new family. I hope we can all be really happy together.” She didn’t say anything. I thought things were good. Dave deployed just a few weeks later and I made it a point to travel with our baby and dog to San Jose so Dave’s family could see him and spend time together. I did this at least once a month, in addition to sending cards and photos for the full 18 month deployment. 

Things went along pretty happy-go-lucky as far as I was concerned until Dave was home and we were celebrating Thanksgiving at our house. All of Dave’s family was there and we were going around the table sharing what we were grateful for and when I shared my gratitude, Mary rolled her eyes and looked away from the table. I couldn't believe what I just saw, and felt! I stopped in my tracks and in an instant, I had the experience that people talk about when they say, “my life passed before my eyes!” I was flooded with moments when I had offered a gift and she rejected it, or things she had done for Dave and Mason and purposefully left me out, in that instant I realized she didn’t like me. I let here know right then that I didn’t appreciate her being disrespectful to me at  my Thanksgiving table. She laughed and told me not to be so sensitive, that was her go to answer if anyone called her on being mean, “You take things so personally.” Or, “Don’t be so sensitive, it was just a joke.” Or my favorite, at Easter and Christmas she would shop at See’s Candies. It was tradition to her kids a chocolate bunny or Santa and when grandkids came, they got one, too. She never got me one, not one. One year Dave asked her as she gave him and Mason the Santa’s, “Do you have one for Kathy?” She opened her eyes really wide and looked at me, shocked, “Oh, did you want one?” How does one respond to that? The next Easter we were sitting down to dinner, she always made a rack of lamb, one of Dave’s favorites! As we all began to eat dinner, Dave spoke up that the lamb was tough and overcooked. I tapped him on the leg and said, “Dave! Your mom made that especially for you, say thank you.” She about came out of her chair and scolded me, “He can say whatever he wants, don’t you tell him what to say to me.” Wow, I was surprised that he being critical and when I defended her, I was the one that was not practicing good manners. It was at this point that I had to make a decision, this was not going to get any better, and after thinking about things I decided that I was going to simply remove myself from the situation. I didn’t put Dave in the uncomfortable situation of having to fight for me or “choose,” I simply let him know that I would not be going to celebrate holidays, I absolutely wanted him and Mason to go, but I would not be going with them. This was the way it went for the next 12+ years and you know what, to this day I still do not know why she didn’t like me. Dave tried to talk to her, and she simply would not acknowledge that there was an issue. I think she simply liked the arrangement with me not attending her holidays and life went on.

I share all of this for a number of reasons, first and foremost this situation has made me acutely aware that I do not want a situation like this when Mason gets married. I will do the best I can to be supportive of his relationship even if I have to perform an academy award winning performance. The other reason I share is to hopefully create some self reflection in others about how they live, and here is the question I’m posing, “If you knew your life was being documented, either via the written word or video, would you behave differently?” Most people I ask this question say no, but I bet the real answer is yes. It’s similar to knowing something is wrong, but contemplating getting away with it if you are 100% sure you will not be caught. Finally, The Monday Motivator is my story, it’s a weekly post about my life and the way I see it. My experiences with Mary are mine, viewed through my lenses and felt with my heart. In any case, this for me was a life lesson for sure. I’m proud of the way I handled it, but it was also sad that hers was the only funeral I’ve ever attended that didn’t make me cry. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Tough Business, Tougher DIY

This week, I had to turn down one of our favorite cooking demos/fairs as we just can't do it this year - great people to work for. It’s hard to say no to things we love to do especially after the exchange I had with another organization who wants Mason to perform at their fair. It was several communications over the last two weeks that ultimately (with what they were willing to do) would have had me to paying for Mason to cook/perform at their event.

I got the sense that they thought I was being unreasonable asking them to pay for the supplies for the cooking demo and samples. They said it just wasn't in the budget...really, less than $100 isn't in your budget for entertainment? I got a twinge of the possibility that they may say not-so-nice things about Mason Made and the Partaks. Here is how I explained to them where I am coming from and why.

“Let me explain why we ask that the events pay for this. We are not a restaurant, we do not make our livings in the culinary industry. Restaurant chefs will often do live cooking demos, at no charge, as a means of promoting their restaurant(s). They have groceries at their disposal, and they can write those supplies off. They also expect that by promoting their establishment and their brand (if that's the case), they will make more money by gaining new customers. 

Mason is a Chopped Junior Champion - he won the competition on Food Network and people come to see him. He had a woman this weekend who paid to come into KidsExpo to see him in April, and then traveled to the Auburn Spring Home Show to see him cook again - he has many fans who travel to see him in person. I'm sorry we did not coordinate this sooner to be able to really promote and do a video to share on social media, but it is only fair that Mason make something for his talent and performance. The events that hire him use his image, typically use the wording that includes "Food Network," and I'm sure you'll agree, those things are a draw. 

As far as supplies go, it adds up to buy all the things one needs to do a cooking demo even for a small crowd. Even if I bring things from our kitchen/pantry, by the time I purchase what is needed, take time off work, and get Mason to and from an event, I've now paid for him to do your event. I think you will agree that this does not make sense. 

I'm sorry that this is not working out this time, maybe we can plan with more advance for future fairs and properly promote Mason's appearance so as to justify what would likely equate to about $100 (or so) more that what Mason makes as an entertainer.”

This woman put him on her promotional calendar to be there without confirming with me or finalizing our agreement. With that said, the email I received from our other event planner asking if Mason was planning to attend this year is what’s real, they get it.

"I really hope you and Mason have made plans to join us again for the Chef Showcase during the Fair on July 4th. He’s one of our fan favorites and both of you are such a pleasure to work with."

All of this had me ready to throw myself into a hands-on project in the backyard. Dave and I have many things on our list of things to do, but one big project was prepping and paving a 21 x 5 ft area in our backyard. I was determined to complete the job over the weekend while Dave was gone and I did. But not without the help and support from 2 girlfriends. 70 pavers, 112 bricks, 12 bags of sand, and 2 double shots of tequila at the end. My back was shot and I was crazy tired, but I feel like I accomplished so much! Gaining over 100 sf of patio space in a very small backyard is a big deal. It’s not done, but it’s well underway. Have a great week and just get it done, whatever it is, start. You will be amazed how fast your to-do list turns to done!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Entrepreneurial Kids

Mason had a meeting with the principal of his school this week to talk about an idea he has to help kids earn money. Basically, to get kids involved with local businesses, community members, and just thinking entrepreneurially in general. It's amazing how many "stops" there are in our world today. Can't do this because of child labor laws, can't do that because of liability and insurance, and can't do that other thing (sell cinnamon rolls baked in the school cafeteria before school) because it's against the law to take sales away from the district meal program - not allowed to compete.
So we (parents) either create jobs for our kids and pay them to work instead of the "free ride" allowance, or if we let them do work for others, we are essentially breaking the law. How's that for teaching your kid life lessons?

The good news is, the two of them put their heads together and came up with a great plan, but I gotta tell you, our government has put together such silly laws and restrictions, it's no wonder so many people just want to panhandle or collect government assistance.

It seems to me that there is a void for kids in middle school. They are old enough to do so much, yet not old enough to legally work. Why can’t we find means and measures to set them up for success and teach them how to provide for themselves? I believe we can and in mine and Dave’s case, we are. People certainly do not agree with how we are raising Mason, but I want him to know he can always take care of himself. He does not have to rely on someone else for what he needs. He can build and empire and take care of others, as can so many other kids if their parents would just see how able they really are. 

I’m going to stop here because Mason and I have some exciting things on the horizon. We’ll be sharing soon and it’s our hope that others will want to duplicate what we are creating. The is hope for the future, there really is!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Happy Mother's Day

On Friday Dave and I worked at Mason’s 7th grade Renaissance Faire. It was really neat, the teachers that organize this each year do a really great job. It is their intention that it be as authentic as possible, they even make it clear that if the kids do not put together a real costume (not a hoodie that says, “this is my costume.”), they cannot attend. My space was the pouches booth in the merchant’s row. They had pre-sewn pouches that the kids had to string twine through the tops and make a double closing draw string. I had two 7th grade interns in the morning, and two in the afternoon after lunch. The kids had to come early and get their training and then they had to help their classmates with the instructions to complete the task. There was a flower head-wreath booth, in addition to jewelry making, braided fabric belts, and embroidery. I was impressed with the games, stilt walking, real chainmail vendors, and jousting! See the photos, it was a really awesome event for everyone who attended. 

This was year 5 for Mason to be cooking at BerryFest. It was great because it wasn’t too hot, but the weather was nice enough that families wanted to be outside. Since it was Mason’s fifth anniversary, he demonstrated how to make strawberry cream and then showed the audience five different recipes they could make with it. The five recipes were, a parfait, little strawberry pies, a trifle, brownie cheesecake bites, and strawberry shortcakes. He sampled out the trifle that he made with the strawberry cream, fresh strawberries, old fashioned donuts, and whipped cream. It was really good! You can see a bit of his demo on my Facebook page, we did some of it Facebook Live. Oh, and another cool thing, Mason did his first radio interview to talk about BerryFest. They liked him so much, the host coming on after his interview asked him to stay and to do another interview. Not bad, I've always told him he has a face for radio! HaHaHa!
So my Mother's Day was pretty ideal, I slept in a little, I did a bit of light housekeeping, Dave brought me coffee and then Mason and I went to BerryFest. When we got home, we dropped Mason off to play racquetball and Dave and I went to Petes for a drink. After Pete’s, Dave made my favorite dinner, it seems it’s becoming our traditional Mother’s Day dinner, barbecue crab, steamed asparagus, a lobster cake, and a cocktail. Mason finished it off with a strawberry shortcake zested with lime and he added caramel. #SoGood.

Funny story, while eating dinner on the patio an old country song came on, one of our favorites from the day and I grabbed Dave to dance with me. We were doing the horseshoe and Gunner was having no part of it! He was jumping on me and pushing Dave away from me as if to say, "No! She's mine!" We laughed, like that laugh that you share with few people in life. Magical, really, the stuff that makes life amazing. However, the morning did start with Mason being so eager to give me my gift that he was barely able to wait for me to finish shaving my legs! Happy Mother’s Day.

Mason on the Pat Walsh Show

Monday, May 8, 2017

Teenage Brain is Alive and Well!

Life lesson for this week:
Me: "Where is the weeding tool I gave you last time you were weeding?"
Mason: "What tool?"
Me: "The straight one with the fork-like prong on the end."
Mason: "I don't know."
Me: "Well, you need to know because you needed the tool, I loaned you mine, and now I want it back. Please give me the weeding tool I loaned you."
Mason: "Oh my God mom! I don't know how you can expect me to give you something that I don't know where it is."
Me: "So let me be sure I understand this, you needed something to do a job, I loaned it to you, and now you can't return it. Is this something like you renting a tool from Ace Hardware and when they call you to say, "Mason, are you bringing that back?" Your reply is going to be "Oh my God Ace Hardware, how can you expect me to return a tool to you that I don't know where it is?"
Mason: "That is SO not the same thing mom!"
Really? The underdeveloped brain of a teenager is alive and well!
But wait! There’s more, “Teenage Brain Farts.”  Mason wanted something from me and I said no, I reminded him that he did not finish the yard work I asked him to do, and he left his crap on the couch even though I'd asked him several times to take it to his room. He replied, "Mom, what do you think I was just doing? I was outside working in the yard."
Let’s be clear here, he was outside for all of 15 minutes and he was using a jackhammer, and last time I checked, a jackhammer is not necessary for pulling weeds. That's exactly what I said to him when he told me, "I did pull the weeds! I pulled the weeds mom! Why can’t you believe me that I pulled the weeds?!” I looked out my bedroom window and guess what? The weeds were still there. I brought him to the window and showed him. He said, "Well, I didn't pull all the weeds. So?”
Nice Mason, real nice, “So you want me to buy you a game (pay you), even though you have not done the complete job I asked you to do for me?"


So I comment, "Next time we go out to dinner and the server only brings you a portion of the meal you order and says, 'Well, I didn't bring you all of your order, So?' is that okay? Do you want to pay for your whole meal? Because you saying you didn't pull all the weeds and then asking me to buy you, *Fill in the Blank Here friends* is the same thing as the server asking you to pay for all of your order when they only brought you some of it."
Mason: "OMG! That is SO not the same thing!"

All I can do at this point is laugh. And what's even funnier is when he tries to do this to me and it's really NOT the same thing. I’ll have to take better notes next time he comes up with his analogy that really isn’t the same thing…

Monday, May 1, 2017

Nature vs Nurture

I’m not sure what turns on reflective thoughts, but I’m finding myself thinking about what makes this this, or makes that that. It’s rare that a week goes by that someone doesn’t tell me how polite Mason is, or they ask how it is that a 13 year old boy is so grown up. I rarely take the credit, although if Mason were an ill-mannered brat, people would hold me responsible for that for sure! The truth for me is this, it’s a combination of upbringing and character genetics, yes, the old nurture versus nature. 

I can look at many families, my own included and see two parents who raised 5 kids and we couldn’t all be any more different. Same parenting (mostly), same sociological environment, yet you have one child who is quite codependent, two who are felons, a fourth who is successful as middle class Americans go, and the fifth who is independent and outgoing more than anyone else in this family. Why is that? Same mom and dad raising all of them. Then you have a smaller family, two kids, one is a scholar, happily married, two kids, who are also thriving. The other is struggling to understand how to adult, that there are consequences and boundaries to their life choices. Number two has five kids with four different partners and is now married to another and parenting their kids. The last two of five are being raised by grandma and grandpa. How are those kids so different? These are just two examples of why I don’t take credit for who Mason is, and why I won’t feel totally responsible if he were to take a turn for the worse. To a large degree, and especially as he grows into an adult, he has a character imprint that makes him who he is. I see my job as creating situations that he can grow in and learn from, putting him in environments that will positively influence him, and doing my best to spot the teaching moments and make sure that the wounds & scars are less than the lessons he can move forward with.

I look at Mason’s early years and I did things much differently than my mommy-peers. Keep in mind that I had Mason at 37 years old and my mommy peers were typically younger women. Does that matter? I can’t be sure, but I suspect yes. Mason was on a schedule from the time he was born. He had regular meal times once he was outside of 3 months, we had a routine for our day and especially our evenings. He had dinner, we would play or cuddle and then it was bath time. After bath time we played a little more and then it was bed time. Mason slept in his own bed from day one. Now, I don’t believe in co-sleeping as I’m of the mind that mom and dad sleep together, that is their intimate space and when kids are there, well, other things fall off the radar. Granted, we are all pretty exhausted when a new baby enters our lives, but hey, the best gift you can give your kids is happily married parents. How do mom and dad stay happily married? They do the things they do in bed without kids! I had another reason for not sleeping with Mason and it was this, Dave deployed when Mason was just 3 weeks old. If I were to sleep with Mason and then work to get him to sleep on his own 18 months later, I thought he may feel displaced by Dave and then possibly harbor some kind of resentment. I don’t know why I had that forethought, but I did. Mason has always been a good sleeper and to this day, he is fine sleeping away from home and Dave & I.

The other thing I did from the very start is I, “said what I meant, and I meant what I said.” If I stated a consequence for an action and Mason took that action, the consequence was imposed. There was no question, no second chances, just the consequence. This has really served Dave and I as parents, Mason is now 13 and he knows we say what we mean and we mean what we say. Back to the DNA imprint, even though that “nurture” training has been successfully programed, the “nature” in the kid will still make a poor choice and have to endure the consequence. So with all of this said, I believe all kids deserve a nurturing and loving environment to grow up in. That means punishments as well as lots of joy and rewards. But a great environment is not all it takes, and frankly mom and dad, it’s not all on you! Kids are little humans, they will start making their own decisions earlier than you think, and they won’t always be to your liking. Love them, guide them, scold them, teach them, and love them some more. What I find is the most important part of nurturing our kids is being a good role model and setting good examples. That way, when they do make poor choices, they can’t come back to you and say, “Well, you did…” 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Happy Easter

I'm out of sorts. Mason, Gunner and I made the long drive to Utah to see my family. My mom has been declining in the recent months and it was just time to get there and see her. My mom waited for me to get there and then today, took a turn for the worse. Even though death is expected as our parents age, it brings out questions of mortality, and all kinds of emotions that are impossible to articulate. What's the point to working so hard for this, or making that just right? We're all going to die anyway. Of course, the point is that we make the most of each day that we have so when our time comes, we don’t look back with regret. We don’t wish we had tried harder, or done more. I know that I live out loud and I’m coaching Mason to do the same. It doesn’t matter if you step up and fall flat on your face. In fact, if that happens, it will be an epic story for years to come! Step up again, and again, and again. Learn to play the guitar, be an actor, skydive, take a cake decorating class, write a blog - make it you life story so your family has it when you’re gone, learn to dance and then go invite someone you don’t know to dance with you, the list could go on and on. Ultimately, make the most of today - no, every day. 

Tell those you love that you love them. Let the little shit go. It seems the disagreements only matter if we think we can continue arguing our point. What if you are walking away for the last time? You can't talk about it any you still want to be right? Even if you are? It's all so surreal. Faith really helps those that believe there is a home, they're going home to family and father. I get that, even if it's just for the comfort that there is something more, or better. What will it be like for our kids to have to say goodbye to us? That makes me even sadder.

It was a long drive both ways and an emotional trip. I want to thank my sister Teri Cartwright for taking care of my mom as she gets ready to transition to whatever is next. The job of the caregiver is not an easy one and my sister is the strongest, most giving person I know.  

Sunday was Easter. It was a lovely day. We all slept in, Mason got to hunt for eggs that all had scratchers in them and ended with his basket that contained the entire series of The X-Files on DVD. He was over the moon! We watched tv, laughed, sat in the hot tub, and Dave made a traditional Easter dinner while I made brownies for dessert. Not a chocolate bunny in the house. It was so nice to just live the ordinary with my family, these are the moments that ultimately will be the most special memories, wouldn't you agree?