Monday, August 27, 2018

Personal Responsibility Life Lessons

Mason started high school this year and he’s loving it. He’s loving the open campus, his teachers, and the freedom at lunchtime to go out to eat. I’ve been encouraging Dave to back off and let Mason start really stepping up and taking responsibility for getting up on time, working with his teachers, homework, etc.
Our neighbor takes her son to PHS on her way to work and invited Mason to ride with them. She said, “I can’t be late so the latest I ever leave at 7:35, you need to be outside waiting for me.” I told Mason you need to be outside at 7:30 and ready to go. The first day she called and he ran outside. The second day she called and he was already out the door but she hadn't seen him yet. The third Day she left without him. Perfection! Things had been going well until yesterday when before bed I said to Mason, “Your dad does not have to work tomorrow and I don’t have to be up early so be sure to get yourself up and get outside to ride with Jen in the morning." He said Okay.
This morning I didn’t hear any activity but I stayed in bed. Finally, I heard him up and moving and thought oh good. As I heard him run down the stairs and the front door closed I looked at the clock and it was 7:36. I wondered, "Did he make it?" Nope! I heard the door open and he came upstairs and he busted into my room and he said, “Jen left, it was only 736!" I said, "Oh that sucks." He left our room. As Dave and I lay there I wondered if he would ride his bike or what he might be doing. Dave asked me if I was going to take him to school and I noted he didn’t ask me to take him. Dave said he’s going to be late for school and I agreed, "Yeah probably." A few minutes later, really more like 20 minutes Mason came in and said, "Mom are you going to take me to school?!" I said, "Oh do you do you need something?" Exasperated, he said, "I need a ride to school, you know that!" I said, "I don't have to go to school. You didn’t ask me to take you to school. Exasperated he said, "It’s implied. I need to get to school." I said, "You have legs, you have a bike…" He left the room and immediately came back in and in a very fake polite frustrated voice said, "Mom, will you please take me to school?" I said, "Oh you need a ride to school? Okay let me get up and get dressed and brush my teeth, I’ll be ready in a few minutes."
I took him to school and on the way, I said, "Look, here’s the deal, Jen said she can’t leave one minute past 7:35 which means you need to have your happy ass outside at 7:30. If you were getting out the door at the very last minute and you have a car and a job and your car doesn’t start, will it be implied that someone is taking you to work? Um, no. You need to take responsibility to make sure you get where you need to be and you get there on time." Later in the day, Dave added, "If you miss your ride, you better get on your bike and hustle to school. Be sure your bike lock is handy and ready to go. It's called a Plan-B."
It will be interesting to see how next week goes, but suffice it to say, he's getting some real-life lessons in what it means to be responsible, and to take responsibility when he's not making the grade. 

Monday, August 20, 2018

A Whole New Life - No Thank You!

In May of 2015, I had an incident while I was at school. While sitting in a video editing class viewing other student's projects, I started to feel strange, like a tingling in my knees that was moving up my legs into my torso and I felt like I might faint. I excused myself and very intentionally made my way to the health center where I asked if someone could take my blood pressure. They said something about a form, and my student ID and I said again, "Can someone please take my blood pressure?" There was more talk about the form... I interrupted and said, "I'm going to pass out" and I looked for a chair. The next thing I knew paramedics were there, my BP was really high and I was taking my very first ride in an ambulance. The ride was just 15 minutes and by the time I arrived in the ER, everything seemed to be fine. My vital signs had stabilized and my BP was much lower, still elevated, but not like it was. Some tests were run in the hospital and it was determined that I hyperventilated. What?! That sure did not resonate with me as to what had happened, but okay, I was feeling better and I went home.

The following weeks I had several occurrences of that same kind of what I determined was anxiety-like episodes and one really left me shaken. I took a quick trip to CVS Pharmacy and when I came out the doors, I did not know where I was or why I was there. I had a sense that I was in a familiar place, but I did not know where my car was or even what I was driving. I stood there for what seemed like a long time and started to walk into the parking lot looking for a car that I hoped I would recognize when I saw it. I did. I got in and sat there for again, what seemed like a long time. I finally felt like I could drive and I drove home like nothing had happened. When I got home I took my blood pressure and it was slightly elevated but I attributed that to the scare I just had. I stretched out on my bed and started to cry. What was happening to me?

I had several more anxiety attacks through the summer but for the most part, things seemed to normalize. It wasn't until December of the same year that I woke up with a horrible headache. A headache like I've never experienced, I had to guess it was a migraine. I had plans that day to have lunch with a friend but between the headache I had and the crazy weakness I was feeling, I canceled. I took my blood pressure around 1 PM and it was elevated, but not more than usual, 140/90 if I recall. I was expecting friends that evening and I didn't want to cancel because they were coming to watch Mason's episode of Chopped Junior and they had gifts for him. They came and we had dinner while we watched his episode and here it came again, that feeling in my knees, up through my legs, into my torso and suddenly I felt like I couldn't breathe. I asked Mason to get me the BP cuff and here we went again, 180 over something...but I knew I needed to go to the ER. My friends took me in and by the time we got there I was feeling like I was fighting to stay conscious. I was rushed right in and spent over 6 hours there. The ER doc had this to say, "WOW Mrs. Partak, you are healthy as can be, I can't find a single thing out of line, but what is up with this blood pressure? Did you take too much of your thyroid medication?" Nope. "Did you drink some coffee or take some kind of stimulant late today?" Nope. "Well, I'm going to prescribe you some regular blood pressure medication and askt that you follow up with your regular doctor." Great, and I headed home.

I started taking the medication and things seemed to settle down. I had a few more episodes of what seemed to be anxiety attacks, the sense that I might faint, and weakness, but each time it happened and I checked my BP, it was normal. Fast forward to early 2017 and I find that I am really struggling to keep the pounds off. The things I could do with my diet and exercise were not working and guess what else? The hot flashes started. I didn't initially connect the things that had happened in 2015 with the onset of menopause, but you know what, that is exactly what was happening! The more I read and the further I am getting in this process of the life change, it's exactly spot on. Here I am today not so much with the blood pressure episodes, but I am up 30 lbs and I cannot get the weight off. I have severe joint pain to the point I don't want to stand up in the morning and hold my own weight, but it hurts to keep lying in bed. I walk like I am an ill 100-year-old woman - I add ill because I don't want to be disrespectful to those fit and spry 100-year-old women. My emotions are a mess, I cry, I'm sad, I'm mad, I snap at Dave and Mason, it's awful. I'm sure you are reading this thinking, Oh, Kathy, just get this XYZ herb, or this supplement, or get to the gym, you need to exercise, or this diet is just what will help you, Fast, it's just what your body needs, it helped me... I hear you, we all want to help, but I have to tell you, if I wasn't experiencing this and know on my honor that it is the way I'm sharing it is, I don't know if I would believe me.

With all of this said, I am doing my best to know this too shall pass. It will not be forever even though ten years feels like a lifetime. I know I am not defined by my weight and body size, but yeah, I kinda am. Our society does not see what is really happening, it sees that I let myself go, that I don't have the willpower to not eat the cookies. For those of you who know and admire my optimistic outlook, you would be surprised to know that I cry every day, that I don't want to leave my house because my clothes don't fit and it hurts even more to buy BIGGER clothes. Going to the gym is a double whammy - not only does it hurt physically, like real constant pain, it hurts to see how big I am in all the mirrors. I don't want to go out with Dave because I am embarrassed about what I look like and how that may make him feel. I'm really more miserable than I've ever been and I'm not sure how to get through without major repercussions to my relationships. I wrote to my doctor today letting her know how extreme my feelings and emotions have become and she will be seeing me this week.

How is it that women all over the world can be feeling this way and there is not more being done to help? There are only 1100 doctors that are fully educated and certified to treat menopause, only 1100 in the United States. There is a sense that once we are past childbearing years, we become obsolete, no longer needed. I am absolutely sure most will disagree with me, but again, this is where my emotional state is right now, this is how I feel. I want this documented why? I don't know, I just want to be able to go back and connect the dots because I'm sure my memory is not getting any sharper either. I hope you all are aging more gracefully than I am, really, I do.

AARP Article

Monday, August 13, 2018

A Letter To My Son As He Starts High School

Dear Mason,

This letter is long and it is somewhat as much for me as it is for you, maybe more for me. You’re outgoing, smart and social. You work hard, set goals, and meet them. You make consistently good choices, except when you won’t write a book with me because you want to play video games. You have a compass suited for self-direction. You’ve grown taller than me. You’ve even grown away from me - pushing back, questioning - becoming an individual with thoughts, beliefs, ideas, and experiences separate from your dad and I, and I love it. All of this, as hard as it can be to face, which is the point of raising children - to guide you growing up, send you out and watch you make your way, making this world a better place. So, we start the great journey of high school soon, the final frontier between childhood and your future.

This is new territory for me and I'm excited for you because I know what's coming. I'm also sad because I have to let you go… tomorrow, you will embark on a new, life-changing chapter that will mark your path into adulthood. It seems like yesterday I was rocking you and penning Monday Motivators, which by the way, I am way behind on. And in the blink of an eye, we’re already here. You are a high schooler.

All summer I thought of this, without tears, only the logic of being a mom. You, my son, are just ready. Like you were ready to go to preschool at two years old like you were ready to play with the kids at the hotel pool in Windsor, “I hear fun! Hi, I’m Mason, M-A-S-O-N!” and you jumped right in the pool to play with the kids, you have never been afraid. I always found comfort in that you are always just ready to take on the world. Even if heading into this new chapter means it ends that much quicker, it is exciting for all of us.
But recently, as the start of the school year draws near, I feel myself hesitating. I have so much I want to say, or maybe I’ve said it all, but I want to be sure you know, make sure it’s all in one place. So here I go, writing it all down so you don’t have to remember, you can come back and look at it. Now I’m asking myself, “Have I said everything that I need to say? Has he heard me?“ I feel so good about the foundation your dad and I have laid for you and feel proud of what we have done, how you have grown and the potential for all the success I see coming for you.
But still, I think of the barriers, the blocks, and the challenges to getting you on the other side of these next four years - happy and whole.
Here I am, your dad, too, we are here for you, with all of our hearts, our loyalty, and our relentless commitment to parenting you. And of course, all the other stuff I know and want you to know, that even listed here, still doesn’t seem like enough. There is more I want you to know. But I’m sure it will feel like that for the rest of my life so I’ll just need to stand with you while you live it now in high school, and in the background, once you are on your own, and then a phone call away while you are creating your own family.
As you enter high school, I have some last minute, but timeless advice for you. I hope you look back at this letter and see that these points are valid and will not only serve you now but all of your life. Dad and I won’t always be there at every turn or place of challenge for you, but we can share some of our best advice as you enter this new stage–because we’ve been there, too.
So, as you enter high school here are some of the many things I want you always to remember…
#1.  I started with my handwritten card encouraging you to learn to write nicely, cursive if you are so inclined, but learn to hand-write with your own style and flair. No matter how you choose to express yourself, you will want to write a love letter or two in your life. When you are famous you will need a flash signature, not a printed one.
#2.  We’re more alike than we’re different. We are all a little nervous showing up. On day one as you walk on to campus, you will be faced with guys who are way more developed than you. Guys who could be GQ models, with cars and girlfriends… This may be a little intimidating, but don’t let it hinder your confidence. Don’t compare yourself to others now or ever. Be patient and kind to yourself & others and know that high school is just one stepping stone to the rest of your life. You will look back and see that even the model guys were insecure and worried about being liked and fitting in. We are all more the same than we are different.
#3.  Don’t lose "you," in our eyes, there’s no one who can equal who you are. You’re smart, kind, a hard worker when you want to be, and your love for life keeps my heart happy. You have certain gifts and uniqueness’s that no one could match, and we love that about you! Please don’t try to change who you are just to impress others or make more friends. Find your identity and fight the temptation to change who you are to please people. You are an amazing soul – exactly the way you are, don’t apologize unless you’ve wronged someone - not for being you, for telling the truth, or for standing up for the underdog.
#4.  Be a good friend. Even if you have just a few close friends who really get you, that’s success. Having lots of followers and “likes” may work for some people, but when it comes to real friendships, real-life relationships, a few are superior to many. There’s nothing better than looking back at your life and having a couple of friends who have been witness to your memories. Be a good friend to have good friends and be kind to the people you encounter, not just now, but always. #KindnessRocks #ThinkOfMax
#5.  Be the guy who is respectful to the new kid in class, to the substitute teachers, and say hi to the kid alone in the cafeteria. Be the guy who stands up to the bully and if you can’t stop him or her, get someone who can. Remember the Go Giver? Be the guy who gives and all you want and need will come back to you.
#6.  High School is a great time to learn about relationships of all kinds and that includes girls. Don’t allow that one part of high school to direct the rest of your life. I really can’t stress this one enough. High school is a time to discover who you are, have a ton of fun, work out your insecurities, laugh, and so on. Please don’t let a girl(s) stress you out. As you already know we can do that, young women are learning to figure this stuff out just like you are, most times, letting things cool off and a little time pass is the best course of action. That time will help you respond to and not react to a situation. I hope you have lots of girls who are friends, but seriously, now is not the time to get so focused on a single girl. High school is a great time to learn how to treat young women with respect, honor, and kindness, please don’t forget that.
#7.  Get good grades. They matter not just to get you into the college you want to go to, but because they prove your ability to meet deadlines, do superior work, and take direction. It feels good to get good grades just like it feels good to finish a project, or put in a hard day’s work and get paid. Your grades are your paycheck for the next four years.
#8.  Don’t wish this time away. Right now, you’re probably excited to start on this new journey, planning what to wear the first day of school, and thinking about who you will see from EV Cain, and meet from Bowman, but all that will soon fade and you will be up to your eyeballs in homework and upcoming projects. You will have to write essays, do research papers, midterm exams, and you will just want it all to be over. It will suck! Trust me, don’t blink, it will come and go so fast, and you will look back, five, ten, twenty-something years later and see those were some of the best years of your life. Please enjoy the journey, the good, the bad, the ugly, the fun, all of it, it will go by so fast. Remember, each experience is shaping who you are and the adult you are going to be.
#9.  You can always talk to me, or your dad…or me - ALWAYS! I’m so glad you talk to me about your feelings. You’ve always come to me with body stuff, girl stuff, and the stuff that makes you feel like you need to stand your ground. Keep it up! High school may feel different, you may not want me to know what you are thinking or planning, but please, if you are scared, think you may be in trouble, or just need me, speak up. You may find yourself in a situation that I won’t like, and you might be right, but you can still come to me. The consequences will always be less if you come forth with it and let us get to work on solutions than if you lie or keep quiet, they are often one in the same by the way. These years will make up some fun and exciting times, but they can also be confusing, too. Your heart isn’t ready for all that may be coming. Remember when I told you I wanted to be selective with whom I handed your heart to? That’s still true, I will be very careful and even then, I will still hold it safely in mine. I got you fam. ;)
#10.  There is no one-way, there are lots of ways. Take as many orange roads as you can, they will lead you to new adventures, new friends, and more opportunities than you can ever imagine. Listen for the pieces of life that excite you, that make you feel full and engaged and go towards them.
Intentional Winning In Life
#11.  Play. Join. Volunteer. Work. Help others. Try new things.
#12.  Think carefully about how you talk to and about others. Think about what you say and how you say it. You cannot un-ring a bell and you cannot unsay words. You know this, you can say you are sorry, but that is not always enough. Think, say what you mean and mean what you say. The wisdom of meaningful words is powerful. Only second to the power of silence, choose carefully.
#13.  Be good to people. All people. See the best in them even if you have to look really hard.
#14.  Be proud of yourself, your family, your friends, your school, and your community. Be proud of how you have contributed already and that you are a Chopped Junior Champion. Play to your strengths until you find you are strong in other areas, too. Try out, participate, play, compete, sweat, learn to win and lose, just show up and play the game. Tune in and love how it makes you feel and learn about yourself and life along the way
#15.  Be a serious student, not just in high school, but in life. You were given a creative, sharp, and curious mind. Challenge it. Ask questions. Think critically. Cultivate a love of learning and life will instantly become more fun because you want to, not have to.
#16.  Build relationships in abundance, every time you meet new people, new orange roads present themselves. Every new introduction is a new opportunity to build your network, ask questions, learn about people and they will want to know more about you.
#17.  Be safe. Please don’t drink or use drugs. You are so amazing without those poisons. Your brain needs more time to develop, let it do its thing without altering it and possibly hurting you or the people you are with. Wear your seatbelt, don’t text and drive, and don’t get in cars with people who you KNOW drink or use drugs. You do not have to chug things and participate in competitions about who drinks the most, smokes the most, or does the most whatever of things. Tide pods are not candy and you can’t swallow a spoonful of cinnamon. Call me. Call me. Call me. Text me 52 and I will call you to tell you I need to come get you - it won’t be on you, it will be on me.
#18.  Wait for sex. Please. You have an amazing life ahead of you and not only will the emotions of intimacy and sex complicate your life, a baby will change the course of your future completely. It will not end your life, but it will close so many doors. If you find yourself in love and unable to wait another minute — know consent means two people verbally, deliberately, clearly saying the word “Yes.” If you are not sure, wait! If you are sure and so is she, wear a condom. Every damn time, no matter what she says, you take responsibility for your actions - wear a condom. Babies & STIs — they’re real and they CAN happen to you.
#19.  Save your money, for every dollar you make, save .40 cents. If you can manage to save and invest just $100 a month for the next 8-10 years, you can have millions when you retire at 62 - think about that, just 10 years of investing and you do not have to invest or save again, that money invested will take care of you later.
#20.  You can say no to anything at any time. Your body, your mind, your heart. Never forget you have choices. No is always one of them. Unless I ask you to write a book with me or do the dishes. That’s different.
#21.  Take risks and mess up - FAIL. Preferably in a typical, correctable, healthy, learn-from-your-mistakes kind of way. Still, be vulnerable and brave enough to always reach and grow and stumble beyond what you thought you could do. Laugh at yourself and roll with the punches, but learn from your mistakes. And remember, if your friends are going to do something stupid, and you can hear me or your dad in your ear, listen! You will be on the news as the kid cook who got arrested. If nothing else, that kid cook thing can be your out when you are feeling peer-pressured to do something you know is not right.
And if you remember only one thing, let it be this: Whether you do or you don’t — our love for you is not conditional, not measurable, not connected to the outcome of your life. We will feel proud and we will feel disappointed. We will be certain and we will be afraid. We will know some things and there will be other things we won’t know. We are still growing and changing and figuring life out, too. Underneath all of this life we are living, all of this life we are trying so damn hard to get right, our love for you runs steady and unchanging. Even in the messy emotions and my infinite offerings on how to live fully, my love for you and your dad is the only thing I know for sure. It is my only guide.
So go forward and do your thing, with hair-flips (stop the damn hair flips), crazy socks, and voice cracks. Embrace it all. Just be you. It’s the best way to be. 
Love, Mom and Dad

Thank you to Janell Burley Hofmann and  Jenna Orme for the inspiration when I knew I wanted to pen this letter but just couldn't seem to put it all together on my own. 

Monday, August 6, 2018

Movies, Offers, and Games at the Gym

It's been a busy week! Mason shot his first speaking roll in a SAG short film. I'm so proud of him and he actually has talent. LOL! I have to check myself because as his mom I see him as sometimes more than he maybe is, don't you think? I guess I am also harder on him in other instances, but after seeing him in action this past weekend I know he not only listens to me, he has what it takes to be an actor. Whether or not he is willing to do the work, well, that remains to be seen. Stay tuned for more about #KnightRighters.

I wrote two offers this week for two awesome families, and guess what, they were both accepted! WhooHoo! I'm so happy to be helping both of these families own their very first homes, it is my favorite part of my job. Now I just have to keep things on track for the next 30 days. Send good vibes our way because this business can certainly be fickle.

I will wrap this week up with the news that I am making it a priority to get back to regular workouts at the gym. I've been struggling with menopause and lots of joint pain, it's been really hard but this last week Mason and I had a ton of fun at the gym. We got all new game-like workout equipment and it's been fun to do something different while getting a really good workout. Seriously, look at this equipment. I'm finding that I need the regular workouts to keep the pounds at bay, it seems too much to ask that I shed some. I'll keep going, regardless of if it hurts or not, it's still good for me, right?