How do you handle the panhandler?

I was making an early escape from the office this afternoon with several coworkers when we exited the lobby of our building and were flagged down by a man in the sky-way. I realized he was deaf when he signed something to us and offered a piece of paper in our direction. Thinking he needed assistance, I approached him, followed by my coworker, Maria. Glancing at the paper he placed in my hands, I quickly realized he didn’t need help but was seeking monetary donations for a trip being planned by a deaf persons’ association. 

Maria stood by my side as we tried to understand what he was asking while the others smirked in our direction and kept on going. The paper the man had given me was an unprofessional photocopy of a handwritten pledge sheet. It contained a brief explanation of the trip that was being planned and two columns for signatures and the amount of the donation each person had given. A few names and dollar amounts had already been recorded and it appeared most peope had given a few bucks each. I rummaged through my purse hoping to find a few singles, but no such luck. I looked at Maria warily and mumbled that I only had a ten in my purse. She told me all she had was a handful of change. At the same moment the deaf man was showing us a quickly scribbled note that said he could give change.

The first thought that crossed my mind was that this was a scam. The man could have easily forged the signatures and dollar amounts. His pledge sheet was unprofessional and there was nothing to prove that this was a legitimate fundraiser. Maria seemed to be anticipating my decision.

I’m not exactly sure what motivated me, but I signed my first name and an illegible last name and wrote down five dollars. I handed the pledge sheet back to the man, showing him the ten dollar bill and held up five fingers to reiterate that I was offering five dollars. He reached in his pocket and produced a five dollar bill and I traded him for my ten. Immediately afterwards, Maria handed him all the change she could pull from her purse. He gave her the pledge sheet and pointed to it, wanting her to record her name and pledge amount too. I saw her write down her first name and a fake last name and that she had given two dollars, but I’m sure it was closer to four or five. The man signed what I assumed was a thank you.

As Maria and I proceeded walking to our parking ramp, we laughed and asked each other if we’d been scammed. I jokingly asked her if she thought the man would’ve given me a receipt for tax purposes. We soon caught up with our other coworkers who immediately wanted to know what that had been all about and then informed us we had been suckered. I shrugged them off.

I thought a lot about that event as I drove home. What if I had been suckered? The man was not dressed well and he wasn’t exactly what I’d call neatly groomed. Maybe he HAD devised a somewhat believable hoax to collect some cash for himself. So? What if I had been duped?

I thought about the hundreds of dollars I spend each month on car payments, mortgage payments, the cell phone plan, cable, internet and any number of necessities and luxuries. And what about all the conveniences? In any given week, how much do I spend on fast food or any of the kids’ whims when we are out shopping? What about the five dollar coffee cooler I bought this morning?

If the fundraiser was a scam, then I hope the man is able to get what he needs with my money. He certainly didn’t look like he was in the habit of buying five dollar coffees or lunches at Leeann Chin.

And what if the fundraiser WAS legit? Then I donated a pittance in comparison to all the other ways my money is spent. 

If nothing else, the whole situation served as a reminder of how good I have it. And that’s well worth five dollars if you ask me.

Does this kind of thing ever happen to you? How do you handle it? What would you have done in my situation?

No lack of confidence here…

My oldest, Brad…. I may be a little biased, but I think he’s a good looking kid. Apparently, he is in agreement on this fact…

While watching his dad and the neighbor install light fixtures in the neighbor’s garage, Brad grabbed the stud finder, pressed it up against his chest, and announced, “The stud finder works!”

He seems to have made it through the teen years with his ego WELL intact!


I was the first one awake this morning, and the sun was shining brightly. When I opened the front door to grab the newspaper off the step, I was greeted with warmth and the promise of a beautiful day. I decided to go for a walk and changed into shorts and a t-shirt, grabbed my sunglasses and mp3 player and took off down the path that runs behind our house.

My usual route takes me past a little pond and today there were three families of geese paddling around. The parents were leading their little ones across the pond with the daddy geese taking the lead and the momma geese bringing up the rear. It looked as if the babies were expected to stay between their parents, but one of the babies was overly enthusiastic and took off ahead of Dad. The whole family came to a halt and the ants-in-his-pants baby was called back to rejoin his clan. He paddled fiercely back to where he belonged at which point his momma gave him a stern peck and yanked him back to where his siblings were waiting. I don’t think he’ll be venturing out of formation again anytime soon.

I wished I had brought my camera!

After watching the geese for a while, I picked up my pace again and by the time I got back home I had actually worked up a sweat. I sat on the front step, enjoying the sun and peeled off my shoes and socks before heading into the house to make a pancake breakfast for the kids.

When everyone had eaten enough pancakes and eggs, cooked to order, I cleaned up the kitchen and hit the shower, anxious to get outside and enjoy a play-day after spending the last two days working inside and out of the house. I dressed in shorts and a tank top and dried my hair with plans to get the deck furniture out and spend some time relaxing in the sun and playing our new Ladder Ball game with the kids.

I bounced out the door and suddenly realized the sun was nowhere to be found and the temperature suddenly felt much cooler. Damn! I tried to tell myself the clouds would move along shortly, but no such luck. I had to go grab a sweatshirt, but I wasn’t changing out of the shorts yet. I had faith the sun would make a return.

By noon, the sun was still missing in action. Mark and I made a trip to the grocery store to pick up some things to put on the grill for dinner. By the time we got back home, I had given up and changed into warmer clothing.

The kids and I still had fun playing Ladder Ball all afternoon but it was obvious there was no hope for getting even a slight tan today.

Dinner was excellent. We made some colorful kabobs, with teriyaki marinated chicken, red, yellow and orange peppers, mushrooms and sweet onions. We also grilled potatoes with peppers, onions, garlic and lots of butter and we enjoyed some fresh, sweet cantaloupe.

By the time we finished dinner, the temperature had dropped to 50 degrees!

It was a good weeked anyway, with all the makings of summer. We just need to sun to start cooperating!

Church, Faith and the Grand Poo-Bahs

My phone rang not long after I had rolled my lazy butt out of bed this morning.

It was my mom. She wasn’t feeling well enough to go to mass today, but my dad still wanted to go. His vision is compromised enough that he can no longer drive and so if he were to make it to mass, he would need someone to escort him. My mom wondered if one of the boys might want to take him. (I momentarily wondered why she hadn’t asked me to take him first. She must know more about my recent visits to a non-Catholic church than I thought, but I figured that was a conversation for another time, so I didn’t ask.)

I told her it wasn’t likely that either of the boys could take him as they were still sleeping and I volunteered to go instead. I told her that if I were going to make it in time, I would have to get in the shower and get cleaned up pronto! She was, of course, very grateful.

I was completely unenthusiastic about going to church and I felt guilty about that. I’ve grown accustomed to the energy and excitement in this other church I’ve been attending and would have much preferred to be going there instead. I reminded myself that if nothing else, I should be happy to do this because it was important to my dad. Once I realized that, I stopped feeling so selfish and felt better about going.

I picked up my dad about ten minutes later than he would normally want to leave, but I wasn’t given much notice, so it was going to have to do. He mentioned that maybe there wouldn’t be as many people in church as usual due to the holiday, but when we arrived we found that was not the case. The church was full, but we found a spot near the back and settled in before mass began.

It’s been many months since I’ve been to mass. In fact, my attendance has been sporadic at best for a couple of years now. But once in church, I realized all of the routine and ritual of the mass is still well ingrained within me. A lifetime of those habits is not quickly, nor easily forgotten.

The music was as slow and lacking in energy as I remember. I missed the guitars, drums, keyboards and passion of the music at the new church. As I sat listening to those around me singing, but not singing myself, I remembered how as a child my parents would insist that I sing along at mass. I don’t remember why I wouldn’t. Probably because I never thought I COULD sing. My refusal to sing became a heated issue at one point. I still remember my dad threatening to find a microphone and hold it in front of my mouth so that everyone would hear me. Since I didn’t sing today, I realized I must still be hanging on to that rebellious nature that was so evident back then. (Not to mention, my singing ability hasn’t improved much.)

As the mass continued, I contemplated my continuing departure from the Catholic Church. At first, there was a tremendous amount of guilt. Catholicism has been deeply rooted in my family for generations. I worry about disappointing my parents and as is somewhat typical of my family, this has become one of those topics we simply don’t discuss. I don’t bring it up and if they are aware, they haven’t said anything. Sometimes it’s easier that way. Maybe someday, we’ll talk about it, but not right now.

I think there’s a reason I ended up at mass with my dad today. I found myself listening, truly listening to the readings and to the priest’s homily. Even though I have been traveling in a different direction lately, it’s obviously opened my mind to hearing the message, no matter in what form it is delivered. Whether it’s because of the changes I’m making or in spite of them, my faith is growing. And that, after all, is the goal. I hope that my parents will understand, but even if they don’t, I know I’m doing a good thing.

P.S. The Knights of Columbus were at mass, I believe as part of the celebration of the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. They were dressed like this:

All through mass, I kept glancing at their funny hats and thinking, “The Grand Poo-bahs are here!”

No, but I really DID pay attention…. MOST of the time!

Bringing the yard back to life

I love a long weekend!

I was hoping for some really warm and sunny weather today but Mother Nature says, “Not yet.” It was sunny, but still somewhat cool and VERY windy.

I tried sleeping in today but extra sleep doesn’t agree with me anymore. My body craves the additional rest while at the same time, revolting against the extra hours spent lying in bed. I seem to have inherited my dad’s issue of getting a stiff neck when I sleep too long, so I woke up with not only my neck aching, but my back too, which then results in a raging headache. Fun stuff. I took a short early morning walk to loosen up my muscles then ended up popping some Advil when I got home and heading back to bed for a couple of hours trying to alleviate the pounding in my head. Normally I would have felt guilty wasting away the weekend hours in bed, but since we get an extra day this weekend, I allowed myself to take a break.

When I finally got out of bed and cleaned up it was after noon. Mark and I took off to buy some potting soil so I could plant my pots for the front yard. We also got some hanging baskets; one with red petunias, one with purple pansies and one with yellow violas to hang on the shepherd’s hooks.

We took a break to attend my nephew’s birthday party this afternoon and when we got back we got started on the yard. The boys took turns mowing the lawn. Kacey and Jake helped me plant the three large pots that adorn the front yard. We filled them with spikes, several different colors of geraniums, and a couple of other things of which I’ve already forgotten the names.

I DON’T have a green thumb at ALL. I need low maintenance plants. So this year I decided to try planting some perennials in the gardens. Brad already helped me plant some foxglove seeds and a butterfly mix in the back yard garden a couple days ago. Today, the kids helped me clean up the garden underneath our big pine tree out front and we sprinkled it with Bachelor’s Button seeds. Hopefully we’ll have some color around the yard in a few weeks.

As I was putting away the last of the rakes and shovels, I noticed some dead grass hanging out from underneath the deck. I poked my head underneath and found a robin’s nest with some new babies, waiting for their momma to bring them some worms. Aren’t they cute?

Savor the Dance

A little girl died yesterday, the victim of a tragic, heartbreaking accident. Her name is Maria and she is the five year old daughter of Christian music artist, Steven Curtis Chapman. Maria was playing in the driveway at her family’s home when she was struck and killed by a vehicle driven by her teenage brother.

The story is all over the airwaves today and my heart is breaking. It makes me wonder and painfully contemplate how devastating it would be to lose a child. I wonder how I would ever be able to smile again. It makes me think about a very dear blogging friend who has had to endure that very fate and it renews my admiration for the way he and his family face each day anew. Even though I can’t see his face, I see his smile in the words on his blog and it amazes me.

Every day, people die. Every day, someone loses a daughter, a son, a sibling, a parent, a friend. Often, I hear stories like these and my world stops momentarily as I contemplate the fate of those left behind, introspective for a few moments before my selfish thoughts return to the busy-ness of my own life. Too often, my life moves on seemlessly; the news becoming just one small blip on the screen of my day.

Why is it that when tragedy strikes someone famous, the impact on our own hearts feels more forceful? Is it because we feel we’ve come to know them through their work? Maybe it’s because they are not just one of the many faces among millions, but because they have touched our lives in some way that causes us to give them more consideration than the unfamiliar faces that appear in the media every day? We care about them. Just as with our own family and friends, we don’t want to see them hurting.

I wonder why such pain was inflicted on someone who has dedicated his talents and life to God. There’s a part of me that foolishly thinks that somehow, a person of such amazing faith should be provided a sort of umbrella from the heartache of this world. The truth is, none of us is immune to any of life’s fates. All around us, every minute, someone is diagnosed with a fatal disease, someone is killed in a car wreck, someone falls victim to murder, injury, financial hardship. People all over the world have to live without the most basic comforts and necessities.

I’m asking myself, “Why him? Why his family?” And then again, “Why NOT him?” This could be any one of us. This could be me. I know that without sadness, none of us can fully appreciate all the happiness there is in our lives. It doesn’t seem fair, but I guess someone must be the example, someone must stand as the reminder of all there is to be grateful for in our lives. And will I ever reach a point where I don’t need a tragic comparison to realize how many blessings have been bestowed upon me? For me, news like this makes me want to hold God’s hand that much tighter.

Steven Curtis Chapman has a beautiful song out right now, inspired by the moments he has experienced with his children. As he so eloquently stated, this song reminds us to “Take these moments that we have and savor every one of them because they all go by so quickly.” And how quickly, we may never realize.

I’m going to hug my kids extra tight tonight.


Open Mouth, Insert Foot

Mark and I have very different parenting styles. It’s a point of contention every single freaking day now and then.

I am the softie calm and rational parent.

He is the drill sergeant iron fist. (Before you get your shorts in an uproar, I asked him to describe his parenting style. That’s the description he gave me!)

There have been ocassions where I have walked away from a situation because I can’t get on board with how he’s dealing with the kids. There are times when he gets upset with me because I’m not “strict enough.”

(pbbbtttt…. WHAT-EV-ER!)

I am all about garnering understanding and encouraging cooperation through conversation and hugs and kisses and sarcastic humor. (Well….. maybe not always. I’ve been known to blow a gasket now and then. But most of the time, I try to get there calmly.)

He expects no repeat offenses. He doesn’t get why they have to push the limits.

I say they are kids and kids push their parents’ buttons. That’s what they do. It’s our job to keep steering them in the right direction. Sometimes they cry. Sometimes they pout. They’re not going to be happy when they’re made to do something that’s not fun. They aren’t going to like it when you point out that they are out of line.  So be it. Let them pout, cry, sulk or whatever, as long as they understand where we are coming from and get over it eventually. I’m going to get on with my business and ignore the crying, pouting and sulking while they get it out of their systems.

He doesn’t get why kids cry, pout and sulk when he has clearly explained his position. He can’t stand to see them frowning and hates when they refuse to talk after they have been given a “talking to.” It drives him nuts. I try to remind him that Wally Cleaver is a fictional character and clearly there is no aspect of his personality in our children.

(Honey, you’re dreaming if you think you’re gonna get a “You’re right, Dad. I see the error of my ways and I will take steps to correct my behavior. I’m so glad we had this talk.”)

When the same issues come up time and again, I sigh and explain the rules again, and remind the kids that we have been over this before and it would be nice if we didn’t have to make an issue of it repeatedly. He gets irritated at having to repeat himself and yells. (Not always, but more than I do.)

It’s a constant effort to find some middle ground on the parental battlefield.

And sometimes I jump to conclusions.

After dinner this evening, Jake was asked to clean up the kitchen. Dinner was simple and there wasn’t much to clean up. Jake proceeded to deal with his task and appeared in the family room, plopping himself in front of the television rather quickly.

There was one pot used in the dinner preparations. We usually wash the pots by hand to save space in the dishwasher and to make sure that they get completely clean, as the dishwasher doesn’t always do such a fantastic job of this.

Mark asked Jake if he had washed, dried, and put the pot away. It was a good bet that he hadn’t. The pots are usually left to “soak” (whether they need to soak or not.) I usually end up taking care of them when I pass through the kitchen and find them soaking in the sink, even though there might be a more effective lesson in calling the kids from whatever activity they’re involved in to come finish the job.

Jake’s response was, “I have to do the pot too?”

“Yes, you have to do the pot too,” Mark informed him and then left the room to do something else.

Jake hung back for a moment, reluctant to tackle the massive chore of washing out that one single pot. He grumbled to me, “Why do I have to wash the pot too? I cleaned everything else. It’s not fair. No one else even helped.”

I reminded him that there are many times when I clean the entire house ALL. BY. MY. SELF!

“I help you,” he muttered meekly.

“You didn’t help me this past weekend,” I reminded him.

“You didn’t ask me to help you.” (He’s looking rather sheepish now.)

“Just because I don’t ask you, does that mean it’s fair that I clean the whole house by myself?”

“I’m going to wash that pot now….” he said, trying to make a quick exit, but not before Mark reappeared.

When Mark saw him still sitting in the family room, he said, “Are you still here? Didn’t I just tell you to go wash that pot? Get up there and just finish it up, now. And make sure you dry it and put it away.”

I was frustrated. This wasn’t the first time I thought I had successfully accomplished something with the kids, only to have Mark come along and add his two cents, making me feel like I hadn’t handled the situation satisfactorily.

I shot Mark an evil eye and told him, “I’m not going to deal with the kids on stuff like this anymore. I’m just going to keep my mouth shut. You can just take care of it all. You know, I just had a whole conversation with him and got him to realize that he needs to finish what he was asked to do, and it didn’t take any yelling. But if you’re going to just come in behind me and yell at him anyway, there’s no point to me even trying to deal with stuff like this.”

Mark gave me a blank stare for a moment before telling me, “I was in the laundry room, running water. I didn’t know you talked to him. I couldn’t hear anything.”



“Well in that case, I’m an ass. Sorry.”