Archive for July, 2012

Disneyland “Carma”

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

“LA is a great big freeway. Put a hundred down and buy a car”. Whenever we were in our car during our brief visit to SoCal last weekend, all I could hear in my head was Dionne Warwick singing “Do You Know the Way toSan Jose.” Six lanes of cars, bumper to bumper, going in every direction. Unless you keep vampire hours, there doesn’t seem to be a time of day in LA that there aren’t too darn many cars on the road. How do people live like that?

The reason we were subjecting ourselves to the parking lot that doubles as the LA freeway system was to spend a few days with our daughter, Valerie, who’s going to college in Orange County. While we were there, we planned to meet up with some other family members and do a couple of days at Disneyland.

I know there are people for whom going to Disneyland sounds like punishment. They are thinking why would anyone choose to spend $100 a day to stand in line for an hour in 90 degree heat, buy $4 bottles of water, and get caught in a human logjam on a replica street of small town America?

Put that way, it does sound a little crazy. But our family looks forward to Disneyland. I’m sure part of my affection for the place is because Disneyland was often where we went for summer vacation when I was growing up in Salt Lake. If we could make it through the seemingly endless days of visiting relatives in the LA area and listening to the grown ups talk about dead people we had never met, Disneyland was the carrot at the end of the trip. I remember buying the ticket books for rides and how we really had to work to use up all the “A” tickets which were the boring rides and attractions and how precious that “E” ticket for the Matterhorn was.

On the drive down I-5 on this trip, Steve said that the one thing he really wanted to do at Disneyland this year was go on the brand new Radiator Springs Racers ride at Cars Land. My brother, who lives in the LA area and is a bit of a Disneyland geek, said that websites were saying that Fast Passes for the ride were sold out by 10 am.

The not-so-fast Fast Pass line at the “Cars” ride

With that in mind, we decided that we would get there when the park opened at 8 a.m. on Saturday and head straight to the ride. The kind of pressure we were feeling to get there on time should be reserved for court appearances but nonetheless, we were determined to give it our best shot.

We were in the park by 8:10 and not knowing exactly where the ride was, we didn’t realize that the line of people stretching nearly back to the entrance were all people waiting for Fast Passes. Jennifer Lynn was in tears over a miscommunication, we had already lost my sister in the crowd, and my stomach was in knots. Ten minutes into our vacation and the magic kingdom looked like more like the black magic kingdom to me.

We regrouped, took a few deep breaths, reminded ourselves that we were there to enjoy one another’s company, we could do the ride at some future visit, and that we had better pace ourselves or our blood pressure was going to end up off the chart. So we ditched the cars ride and instead  headed off to the Tower of Terror. There was no line so we walked right on the ride. Once we got a rhythm going, we had a fun, if not exactly relaxing, couple of days at Disneyland and California Adventure.

The irony of spending eight long hours in the car getting to Southern California and navigating our way through seas of cars on freeways so we could go on a “cars” ride wasn’t lost on us. I guess even at Disneyland, LA is just a great big freeway.

Where’s the parenting handbook?

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

After two two-hour phone calls with our almost 20 year-old daughter, Valerie, I was reminded yet again that parenting is an art not a science. Just when I think that everything is in place to produce a predictable result, the experiment goes totally off course and explodes. And there I am, without a clue about how I’m going to help her sort through the mess that seems to be lying in front of her.

The subject of the sometimes tearful and mostly angst-ridden phone calls was whether Valerie should move forward with her plans to study abroad.

For college students these days, studying abroad has almost become an expected component of their college experience. I remember at the parent orientation, hearing all the student presenters talk about it. They all had studied abroad except for one young man and he said that he wished he had.

So Valerie took the initial steps several months ago to get the paperwork underway to spend the spring semester in Spain. We encouraged her to do it because it seemed like a good fit for her; she’s eager to add to her life experiences, she’s practically fluent in Spanish and she wants to have an international perspective on life.

But now she was at the point that she needed to really get serious and make a final commitment to going.

The problem is that every time she thought about going, her stomach knotted up and she got overwhelmed with anxiety. Let me insert here that this is a girl that takes 18 units, has two part-time jobs, studies martial arts, and is working on several unpaid design projects just so she can build her portfolio. Her plate isn’t just full; it’s constantly on the verge of spilling off the sides. So the trip toSpaindidn’t sound exciting to her, it sounded like a tremendous amount of anxiety producing work.

But yet she kept pressing forward because in her mind, she heard people criticizing her if she decided not to go. “They would think I’m not adventurous, or I can’t commit, or I’m scared of going.”

It took us a while to get there but the more and more we talked, it became apparent to us that studying abroad was not the best thing for her and we needed to do a complete reversal about what we were advising her and tell her we thought she shouldn’t go.

We had to remind her that it doesn’t matter what other people think about you. What’s important is what she wants to do. We spent the hours on the phone reminding her of who she is and what she really cares about which is focusing on creating the best portfolio possible so she can get a good job out of college and not have so much stress in her young life.

I totally understand how hard it can be to silence the critical voices in your head. I struggle with the ones who tell me who I’m not capable or smart. So I can have compassion for Valerie when she loses sight of the truth that the only person she has to please when it comes to making decisions about what she pursues in life, is herself.

Tonight when we talked to her she sounded so much better. Although she hadn’t “pushed the button” as she put it to withdraw her name from the study abroad program and cancel the trip, she had made the decision not to go. We could tell that a huge burden had been lifted from her.

In the end did we give her the advice that has her best interests at heart? We pray we did.

Volunteer Appreciation

Monday, July 9th, 2012

The concept of volunteering is something that I have only recently begun to appreciate. I was never exposed to it growing up because my parents worked for themselves and their lives were almost entirely focused on creating commerce to the exclusion of doing anything to give back to the community.

The only job my mother rather reluctantly volunteered for was being a “room mother” when I was elementary school. This was the mom who brought treats on holidays. Forget cupcakes or brownies for a class party. For some reason, the typical party food when I was growing up was open-face tuna sandwiches on white bread cut into triangles. Or if it was Valentine’s Day, cut into heart shapes. No chance of sugar-induced hyperactivity in my third grade class…life was quite Spartan growing up in Salt Lake City in the 1960s.

But I digress. As a parent, I’ve done my share of volunteering and so have most other parents. If your kids are involved in activities, it goes with the territory. We’ve worked bingo nights, gymnastics meets, beer booths at Infineon and like you, a ton of other volunteer jobs. But this isn’t volunteerism in its purest form; it’s more like a trade. I’ll do this amount of work so my child can have this kind of experience.

So when people freely volunteer their time without any expectation of getting something in return, it always amazes me. I had this experience once again on Sunday, when a fantastic group of volunteers showed up to sell tickets and pour beer at the Art & Garden Festival. Their only tangible reward is a t-shirt and a few dollars off of a tasting package. Since the event is free, it’s not like they are even getting free admission for volunteering.

So why do people volunteer? I’m sure there are a lot of different reasons. I know some like the camaraderie, some see it as a way to give back to Petaluma, and some people get a sense of satisfaction from knowing that they’ve worked hard and contributed to the success of an event.

Whatever the benefit people get from volunteering, my hope is that volunteers feel appreciated. Whether a volunteer dependably shows up to work a three hour shift at a booth or gives up their entire day to schlep ice, as clichéd as this has become, it’s true; we couldn’t put on the event without them.

So to our volunteers, you are the best. Thank you for doing an awesome job!

Summer Sewing

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

One of the projects that my 16 year-old daughter, Jennifer, had on her to-do list for the summer – in addition to sleeping in – was learning to sew. She has always been good at crafts and many of the items she has seen on Etsy inspired her to try to make a cute skirt or sundress for herself.

I was happy to have the opportunity to teach her because I have fond memories of spending summers sewing clothes that I was going to proudly wear to school in the fall. I would redo the topstitching on a pocket until I deemed it perfect, all the while imagining the praise I would hear from my peers when they complimented me on something I was wearing. I could hear them say in amazement, “You made that! Cool!”

Sewing also represented a special bond I had when I was a teenager with a spinster aunt who lived in Fresno. The summer before I started high school, my parents arranged for me to fly from Salt Lake to Fresno by myself so I could spend two weeks sewing with Malno (her parents were very German). I felt so cool to be flying alone and I can still remember exactly what I wore on the plane: a knit dress that was inspired by fashions in the 1920s and a long string of faux pearls. You see, the movie “Thoroughly Modern Millie” that had come out a few years earlier had popularized the some of the flapper styles.

Once I arrived in Fresno, Malno devoted all her time to me. No wonder I have such fond memories. Our days were spent shopping for fabric and sewing. Odd as this sounds, Malno had a Ph.D. in home economics from Brigham Young University. So in the couple of weeks that I spent under her tutelage; I produced some very stylish outfits.

The sewing machine that Jennifer was going to learn to sew on is the same machine that Malno told my father to buy for me almost 40 years ago. My Bernina is like the Incredible Hulk of sewing machines. It’s big and heavy and clunky and it still sews great. It reminds me of a diesel Mercedes from the 1960s which in fact, was the kind of car that Malno drove. Not pretty but built to last. Gotta love that German engineering.

When it came to choosing what to sew for her first project, Jennifer had the good sense to choose something for which the fit of the garment wouldn’t be a deal breaker for wearing it. She selected an apron pattern and some cute broadcloth fabric that had a vertical pattern which made cutting and sewing a straight line an easier process.

As I showed her how to follow the instructions for laying out the pattern pieces and getting them aligned with the grain of the fabric, she commented on how old school this all seemed. I had to agree that sewing really is a low-tech process. The cutting and seaming that creates a three dimensional garment from a flat piece of fabric hasn’t changed since cavemen starting putting skins together.

I pointed out to Jennifer that sewing, like any craft, is as much about enjoying the process of whatever you’re making as it is about having a finished product. In a time when we’re used to instant everything, it definitely requires slowing down and moving methodically from one step to the next. Whether sewing as a pastime catches fire with Jennifer is yet to be seen but I was reminded of the gratification I used to get from it. Bring on the next project.