Waiting Room Economics

Do you ever wonder if the world is spinning slower, or faster?  It’s this world full of doctors that plague me. How often we go so fast to get there to meet their appointments, as they slowly allow the time pass as we wait to get to the back. Not to see the doctor, but just to get to the back waiting room a complete walk through? That would be an accomplishment in itself.

I’ve often sat in those waiting rooms listening as the people discuss their appointment times. Sometimes they wait for thirty minutes to be called to the second waiting room. It could be an hour before they see the doctor. And as I waited in the line to pay for services rendered, I smiled at the discussion of economics. The bills they would surely receive reflected by ineffective insurance company payments. This amount divided by the number of hours spent in the waiting room. All would surely equal the reason patients are there, and are to return: high blood pressure.

It isn’t uncommon to hear the phrase, “If I could bill that doctor for every hour I have to sit and wait on him, he or she would learn to get in there when it is time.” There are also the glares received as the Pharmaceutical Representatives merely pass through the office, to the back, see the physician, and are back out before the first group even makes it to the second waiting room. “They have a job to do too!” But this surely prolongs the wait time of others who also have jobs to do. And would be back to them, rather than sit and wait.    

I was introduced to a cardiologist in Birmingham, Alabama earlier this summer. Hopefully she will not mind me mentioning her name. I was rushing into the facility to the lab. Down the hall, I was led into another room for an Echocardiogram and Electrocardiogram, prior to the physician’s assessment. Steadily thinking, my wait time was increasing. Yet, I was led to the exam room of Dr. Melissa Smallfield. I was in the facility for approximately 45 minutes, and waiting in the exam room for approximately 15 minutes, when in walked Dr. Smallfield. She looked as hurried as I did.

As she approached me, she extended her hand and apologized for being so late. Scott was with me on this first visit to meet Dr. Smallfield. He grasped her hand and shook it so hard; I thought he was going to lift her off the ground. He was so happy to see her. I looked down to notice the wait time, and advised her it was no bother at all.  The time we had waited for her was nothing compared to the times we were accustomed to waiting. With my previous cardiologist, I used to think there was a six-hour minimum wait time as a pre-stress test.

We made sure to welcome her to come to Louisiana to teach etiquette to the doctors on time management. A 15-minute wait is welcomed. God bless you Dr. Melissa Smallfield.  You serve your patients well, you do your practice well, and you do it right on time.

Published April 5th, 2012, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench.

Spring into Living for Today and Tomorrow

     Most people in the working world look at retirement as a savings account for when the job is over. The future is built around what you save while you are working. There are many who withdraw their funds for various reasons. Some people change jobs where they withdraw and transfer their retirement funds, transferring them to another account holder, or to an investment broker. Once you are hired with a company, you go to human resources and set up your benefits. These benefits normally contain healthcare, dental and vision, and as well as retirement. More than once, I have struggled with the questions of “How did I work so long, yet I feel as if I was worth more than this?” 

     If you are saving for retirement and do not know what other options are out there? Something you can consider is an account that holds investments in it. IRAs (Investment Retirement Acts) are not investments themselves, they are only the account that holds the investments. Within the account you can invest in stocks, mutual funds, CD’s, money market funds, and you can even own real estate in your IRA. An IRA is basically an account that provides huge tax benefits when used to save money for retirement.

     The two most common and basic IRA’s, are the ROTH and the Traditional. The main advantage of the Roth IRA is that you use after-tax money to fund it, so when you reach retirement age you will not pay any taxes on the withdrawals. The Traditional IRA, on the other hand, offers an up-front tax deduction, but commands taxes to be paid in retirement.

    However, taxes invested in the future from the company, are something for the future. As I was viewing an episode on KNOE news last night, I was surprised to see how much people are saving in heating bills this year due to the early spring. Some people stated savings up to $700.00 in savings. There were increased numbers in “do it yourself projects.” Home Depot has increased sales, as well as Lowe’s, and other stores that sell products as that. There is an increased number of building, an increased number of construction, an increased number of jobs and employees, and a decrease in job unemployment.

     With spring in the air, the future is getting brighter for all of those who are starting new jobs. With these new jobs are people beginning to save. Whether it is through retirement through their company, or through their independent investment agency, 2012 has brought forth many positive changes for the year thus far. It seems the savings offered forth through savings, have opened the door to spring into living for today and tomorrow!

                         Published March 15, 2012, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench.





















Take Pride in your Country

     Do you ever wonder why we practice fire drills, tornado drills, or disaster drills? I have had those drills, but what about when someone takes over the plane you are on? Or what about when a plane flies into the building you are working in? Have you ever had a drill for that? Maybe it is because you don’t live in a place where there are tall buildings. But should that matter?  It mattered on September 11, 2001, at 8:46AM ET.

      I remembered the stunned looks on their faces. I remembered the tears that rolled down the faces of others. And I remembered both of those feelings as well as the nausea I felt thinking about my own friends and family who lived and worked in those areas. It seemed the whole office was like me. Just waiting for a call from someone we knew to call and say, “I’m okay.”

On September 11th, 2011, I spent most of the day remembering others and their families. I read an article about “Rick” Richard Rescorla. Rescorla was a decorated U.S. Army Colonel who at 62 years of age, and a director of security at Morgan Stanley, insisted on two safety drills every year. There were 22 flights of stairs to conquer, but it was his safety drills that got more than 2,500 employees out alive; although, 13 others, including Rick were unable to survive.

      A decade of war behind us and many of us look back with remembrances. We remember loved ones. We remember emergency personnel, policemen, firefighters, people on other floors, from the street, and in the sky that put forth effort to save a life, or give theirs for another.

This year, on September 11th, 2011, as I remember that day, and the many heroes among us, I thought of those who made sure I was safe in my working environment. Dr. Lloyd Grafton who wrote the manual for crisis intervention in the school systems. Harrell “Bubba” Tucker who enforced those rules at Caldwell Parish Schools during the 3 years I was employed there in some capacity, C.L. Lewis who walked many a nurse and nurse tech to her car late at night in the parking lot at Glenwood Regional Medical Center. Jeremy Tinnerelo who monitored the night shift every night, preparing us for our jobs, because when it comes to an emergency situation, the best way to handle it, is to have a prepared team. His shift, my shift, was always prepared for anything.

Well, almost, I watched the television, and as the Super Bowl played and the Star Spangled Banner began, nothing makes me more proud. This proud representation of our country shows once again how truly we stand as a nation. The only thing is, when we have two pop singers, one age 58, the other age 30 – What does it say about our country when we have two people represent our country, singing the National Anthem, when they don’t even know the words.  Maybe it was just, me fearful of the educational system. We have had a lot of separation of church from school, but the Star Spangled Banner is one song that is not church; for me it is the building block of this country. Once you learn your ABC’s letter by letter, not in song, then you learn the National Anthem word by word, then you learn to sing it with pride. Maybe they should ask my friend Victoria Garcia to sing it. Now there’s a lady who sings all of her songs to God thankful for her gift to sing.

  Published March 8th, 2012, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench.

Feeling Those New Car Blues

     If you’re like me, you probably drive your reliable vehicle to work every day, and the thoughts for your list of things to do for the day are running through your head.  Then it happens. You observe the red light, you stop, you sigh ever so loudly as you look down at your watch, and you look to the right. There it is! That brand new vehicle you have had your eyes on.

     Now you have played this charade before. You have stopped by the car lot, and inquired on the price, the financing, the possibility of getting it used, the price, the financing, and still, you drove away. We all have made our fair share of financial mistakes during our younger years! Unfortunately, I racked up a lot of credit card debt during college. Think about it, they would not have sent me a credit card if they did not want me to use it. They would give me time to pay it off. Unfortunately, my idea of when, again, we did not share the same concept of time. I drove the ugly car in college, and was so glad to get the new “used” car.

     I finally had the opportunity to get married and found two-party income made a difference, until that started spiraling. I had to lose the new car to keep other things. At that I kept putting myself down since I had made some dumb mistakes with credit cards and then with a new vehicle purchase. I read an article where the author suggested he considered starting a toilet-cleaning campaign to wipe it out. I never get good ideas when I need them.

     The author I am referring to is Jason Topp, and he had helped me find some since, and since it is an election year, the worst time to buy, because the “purse strings” are getting held tight for high times at the end, you should really evaluate what, why, when, and “The Bottom Line.” What I mean is it is like the Keystone Project. My dad is an engineer and works on pipelines. He is an inspector. He has been working steadily every year, and now we have the election year. He is still sitting at home waiting for his boss to call him every day. He says it is the election year and happens all the time. If the President would have passed the Keystone Project, many people would be back at work, like my dad. The work would be committed for a long time. Instead, he has been out of work for almost six months. He is already wondering which medication he can do without, because he can’t afford to pay them. We don’t need Keystone near November, so we can pass out atta ‘boys. We need jobs and creative financing. We need contentment.

     As before when I have my traffic light meltdowns. Jason suggested I should be content with my vehicle. Instead of being satisfied with my current car and seeing it as a gift, I didn’t appreciate what I had, especially considering there was nothing wrong with it. My car got me from point A to B, but the gas of this Chevrolet 1500 was not equipped when driving to the store, and Allyson had to ride on the backseat on top of the groceries. Don’t get me wrong, it is a great truck, but I need something with a little more room.

    So I went in for the test drive. I just had to make sure I could get in and out of the vehicle it. I had to make sure it suited me. I had to make sure it had the right interior, the right radio, something to keep the kids busy in the back, and of course, it had to accommodate me with a Bluetooth for my phone, as I can never find it to hit the switch to turn to come on in the car. As I made myself comfortable in the office dreaming big, I then started thinking about the price. What if she could not meet my price? Then nothing else matters. We can’t even talk about my petty wants and needs. The she returned with a difference of $250 per month. $250 more, that is like when you get to the register, and have to start taking things out of the bags or the grocery cart to get the total to what you can afford. Embarrassing? True. Seriously, yes.

     Don’t get me wrong, there were first buyer’s programs, rebates, good student awards, this place tried everything; but my lip was still dragging the floor. I wasn’t getting the car. In this day and time, with the hold backs on projects and campaign kick offs can rally employment. The bottom line is the President ‘2012, will release the Keystone, and like my dad, you will see a change and employment, and you know President, Sir thank you for doing something, I think I will go for a ride in me new car, nothing like that new car smell to chase away the blues.

            Published March 1, 2012, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench.



A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned

     Some people rely on their banks to tell them when they have spent too much, or if they have a little extra as a result of rewards. For me, I am one of those people always trying to save money. My children notoriously ask me, “Mom, give me some money for this or that?” If I feel like it is something they “need,” then I find the way to make the purchase. It may not be that day, but it comes. As for the children, they ask for it. If I tell them it is rather expensive, and that item is not a necessity, then I tell them “no”. They then go through the begging and pleading stage. It then comes to the question, “Mom, do you not have it, or do you have it in your rat-hole money?” I am not a mean parent, but I try to buy things based on a rewards system.”  I watched people and asked others this week “how do you save money when you shop?” What I got was both ways to save money normally and not so normal ways to save money!

1. Use coupons and rebates from newspapers and magazines. Use rebates you get when you earn cash in your spare time, free! 

2. Save money on cell phone purchases!

Did you know that you can save $100 or more by not renewing and upgrading your cell phone service at the store? Instead you can buy cheap cell phones online from Amazon.com and do it all with them.

3. Save money with the library!

Pay for things that the library offers for free. If you can get past the frequently outdated décor, public libraries are home to a wealth of resources. 

4. Buying used stuff always saves money!

This is one of my favorite creative ways to save money. I first learned the power of this back in college, when I discovered that I could get my textbooks for free, by buying and selling them at Amazon.

5. Simplify your wardrobe.

Don’t buy clothes that will only work as one outfit. Look for clothes that you will be able to wear with many other things, creating multiple outfits 

6. Make money with your clutter

It is easier than you may think: eBay, Craigslist and Amazon.com.

7. Maintain stuff

Even if you buy the best stuff, if you don’t maintain it, you will not save you as much money as it could. To make it even easier schedule most of your maintenance all on one day with a Car Day. 

8. Save money on exercise

You can get much cheaper access to a gym and use it for gyms. Spend a wonderful afternoon or morning walking or riding at Lincoln Parish Park.

9. Regularly Shop Insurance Rates now there is something to be said for finding a top-rated 

10. Use Cash-Back Debit Cards

My 2% cash-back debit card is my new favorite financial product.

11. Live in smaller homes

For some reasons, Americans just love to assume that bigger is better with just about everything. Often just by throwing junk away and spending time organizing storage areas and closets, you may realize that you DO have a big enough living space; it just needed a little organizational love. A lot of money can be saved by living in a smaller place. 

12. Buy a used car

You can save a lot of money on car depreciation by purchasing a car 2 years old or older. Some cars can lose as much as 35% in value during the first year. It’s best to drive a car as long as you can especially if you do purchase them new.

13. Shop after the season

Shop for holiday cards, decorations, and gift wrap as the season ends, and keep them for next year. We do this and then we are set for next year. 

14. Shop when no one else wants to

If you are considering a new home, remember the best time to buy is in the dead of winter, when other buyers huddle inside. You can save 5 percent off the peak-season price.

15. Save money on your home entertainment

You can now watch many TV programs or if you rent a lot of movies one, of the best ways to save money is to use Netflix or online video rentals. 

16. Buy jewelry from a discounter

If you haven’t purchased jewelry in a while, you may be interested to know that the jewelry industry is going through some major changes. Many direct importers are selling rings themselves at much better prices than you could get from the traditional stores. 

17. Save money at the hospital

I didn’t realize hospitals would be honest most times, but check your bill when it comes. There was a time Scott came in for a “stomach or gastroesophageal” problem. When the bill came, we were billed for a cast, and a medical shoe.

18. Go out to dinner for half price

I love to try new restaurants, but since it is quite an expensive hobby – it is nice when you can save a few bucks. Enter the Entertainment Book. Also consider Groupon.com or Restaurant.com who sells $25 gift certificates (with restrictions) for $10 to thousands of restaurants across the country. 

I am certain you have your own ways of savings, as I have mine. Whatever the trick, stick to it, or share them with your fellow friends, neighbors, or in this case, readers with the economy the way it is these days, every penny saved, you know you have earned it.

        Published February 23, 2012, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench.

Waiting upon an Economic Star

Families today often find themselves with large amounts of debt. College loans, car payments, desperately trying to put enough back to buy a home, while maintaining the expenses of having small children can lead to financial struggles. Any financial planner you speak to will tell you the first thing you need to do is to sit down together and develop a financial plan you both agree on. What they will not tell you about is leverage.

Popular host and author of the book The Total Money Makeover, Dave Ramsey, conducted a study and found that seventy percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.  If you are one of these families, then you have too much household debt; too much household debt leaves banks reluctant to extend new loans for home purchases and business expansions, because these lenders don’t want to make bad investments. This causes leverage. When the banks hold back consumer spending as a result of consumer spending, home foreclosures and the prevention of future credit it sets a pattern not only for you, but for your children as well.

What you should do to improve the present and future situations, is to create a plan to accomplish goals and stick to that plan. Keep things in order by making changes like increasing your income. If you can increase your savings or simply reduce expenses you have a starting point, but above all make it a manageable plan. Don’t allow pleasing things to the eye to pull you away from your goals. Many people perceive budgeting as a restriction on their finances and they do not want to take away from what they already have. Instead they would rather take out a loan, or a mortgage. They can pay it back, right?

Your probably questioning, how do I save money? At the end of the week, there is nothing left. I researched several different opportunities to save money that I was unaware of and I will be happy to share them with you. Are you ready to save? Okay, here are some ways to save and to teach our children to save too. Create a simple budget with all of your expenses. Include a column for an emergency fund, birthday fund, Christmas fund, and to tithe. When you create the budget, include the family. Explain to the children that instead of getting an allowance, their allowance will be a contribution to the family budget. Explain to your children, this is for the new game, the new CD, the money for movies on the weekend or the money for gas. If they do not want their money to come from the allowance, they will have to get an afterschool job that does not come from the family budget. Most importantly, if your employer doesn’t have a retirement plan, include that in your budget. Hold out $50 weekly so when you retire, you will know have to go back to work second jobs like some people do.

Another way to get out of debt is to embrace the trend. Avoid those financial struggles on daily basis. If you need something, ask for it. Try to connect with your friends by phone, Facebook or Twitter. Let them know what you need. I no longer have a Land Line. With cell phones, you have no long distance fees. I saved $80 a month discontinuing that expense. Stop eating out! Open your refrigerator door or your kitchen pantry. It is cheaper and healthier to eat at home. Save money on exercise. I know there are 24 hour gyms you can go to. How many people go to the gym at 3:00 A.M.?  There are several recreational centers that offer free classes. There are high schools in every community. Go take a walk on their track. If you have access to a swimming pool, what a wonderful form of exercise this is. Either way you save around $35.00 a month. If not, take that money and utilize that activity center or the natatorium at one of the colleges. The Glenwood Wellness Center Track is open to the public and it is free. If you live in Lincoln Parish, you have one of the most beautiful places to walk – The Lincoln Parish Park. It is one-time fee a year, and it is worth every trip.

Shopping – the threshold of wealth for retailers, shop when the time is right. After season you can get holiday gift wrap, decorations and holiday cards for next year for half of the price. August has been proven by markets to be the best month to shop due to the back to school sales and with the tax-free weekends. Thursdays are the best day to shop as this is the day the shipments come in for retailers, and they begin sales on the items out front, to make room for the items in the back. Most importantly, when you shop, only take cash. You can’t over spend then, because you will not have the money to do so.  

There are many things you can do to get into debt. The pitfalls are always there. However, there are some ways of getting out, and some ways of avoiding them all together. It takes planning, it takes discipline, it takes family, and it takes motivation to stick to these plans. It can be done.

   Published February 23, 2012, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench.

LEAP Into Testing

Yes, parents and kids, it is that time once again.  As a former teacher I used to indulge in decorating my boards to influence happiness and encourage learning. The kids would drag their book bags, and I would just smile and welcome them to the door. After January, it is hard to keep children on task with the work you are on.

 I have taught all disciplines and all grades except pre-K and Kindergarten. I felt I wouldn’t connect with the children. However when it gets close to March 1, the children truly understood the phrase “Beware the Ides of March!” It is at this time I am normally closing my unit on Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. This referred to the warning from the Soothsayer to Julius Caesar of Caesar’s impending death on the Ides of March. Under the reigns of Catholic religion, there was an Ides in every month. For March, May, July and October – it is these months that share the 15th.

The Ides for the children began thereafter; that is when the Louisiana Department of Education sent over massive stacks of books. The children could see the teacher’s wearing down. Teacher not on duty, no longer came out for a breath of fresh air. These teachers were in their rooms becoming one-teacher test banks.

I spent most of my time creating the most answered questions for parents. These tests are given every year, neither parents, nor do the students rarely understand their duties. So I thought I would go ahead and answer a few of the most asked questions, as to get everyone ready, and too “Beware the Ides of March!”

Is there a place where teachers, families and students can use to help support students throughout the school year? The answer is yes. There is a Testing Resource Center located on the Louisiana Department of Education website that invites grades of all ages to access interactive web-based tools. There is a hotline that opens during high times (March 14 – April 8) to assist in answering questions from the sample booklet posted on the web.

There are lessons for all ages to apply their skills. There are five levels of achievement – Advanced, Mastery, Basic, Approaching Basic, and Unsatisfactory. The 4th- and 8th grade students must demonstrate basic or above skills in English or Math, and approaching basic in Science, and Social Studies. Students in 3rd, 5th, 6th, and 7th take a version of the test known as the iLeap, which assesses where they are in the testing for the upcoming years, but does not hinder them moving forward grade-wise.  

 Parents wondering, “Is this just unnecessary paperwork, or does it really have anything to do with the school?” The truth is yes. Your school district is held accountability to your child’s learning while at school. Doing the best they can, there are things out of their control, so they must do their very best to improve the districts’ score, in effect, the school will be able to qualify for grants, and equipment that will assist your child in learning with the best of textbooks, the best in computer technology and the best of supplies teachers can use to teach your children.

There are many things out of a teacher’s assist your child in getting them ready. They can complete extra drills and worksheets on testing data. They can encourage children to be on time and eat breakfast. They can encourage children to get a good night’s sleep. They can explain the change in scheduling earlier, so the children aren’t alarmed when the schedule changes. They can even practice it, so the children are comfortable. Make the children comfortable with you being in the room, as a teacher can be present, but is not allowed to answer any questions. I remember one year, I lost my voice the week of LEAP. We were considering tape recording my voice for instructions, as they have to be repeated so much. However, I had another system worked out to where I could get their attention without talking. As long as I was quiet for 15 minute intervals, I could speak slightly above a whisper, or write it on the board.

We made it through the week, because the kids did their job and the parents did theirs. So remember to “Beware the Ides of March,” as you never know what will befall you. Parents, make sure the kids get plenty of rest and are up early so they don’t feel rushed. Teachers love children and want them to excel. We will do our part, but we need you every day to ask about the test. Encourage them to do their best. Tell them about your worst subject. Find out all you can, so you can are prepared. Most of all, when the scores come in, praise the child for his/her effort. Let that child know, that he’s the best. He’s our best. That means more to him than any grade, and then, let him play. He’s only a kid once.

        Published February 2, 2012, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench.

Bereavement: For the Giver and the Receiver

As year of 2012 kicks into gear, I find myself all too often running into people who want to talk about yesterday. I suppose it is normal to look towards to the future and find it hard to move into it without someone in your life in it; whether that person has gone on before us, or sitting in the chair across the rooms. You see some of us use memories with a smile and want to remember more, some don’t even want you to bring that person’s name up and some wished they could say, “Hey, do you remember when we went to the beach with the kids two years ago?” However, grief sometimes robs us of those very memories.

Most of us have all had a situation when we have had to be the receiver of care or in other times we have had to be the caregiver. As the caregiver, you must fight your own personal needs – your emotional needs, depression, irritability, anxiety, and even resentment. The caregiver must give all – supporting the children, the bills, medication, personal needs. All of those things are suppressed while putting the needs of one above all others.

            In an article caregiving, bereavement and complicated grief, Kathrin Boerner PhD and Richard Scultz PhD advised most deaths are preceded by a chronic illness and disability and the provision of support by family caregivers. These two doctors have suggestions for what professionals can do to help caregivers both before and after death has occurred to cope. I know these are two doctors, and if you know me, dare me to argue or disagree with a doctor.

Yes. I will disagree with their solutions. Yes. I will argue with these two doctors, one doctor having a background in Psychology and Sociology should know that the mind doesn’t work that way when there are emotions involved. I have 4 aunts, and they are all my favorites, but my favorite Aunt Joyce Swett, lost her husband, Micky Swett, about 10 years ago. She still sleeps during the day if she has nothing planned, and she still sleeps in the chair, because she said “Since her and Micky were married, she never slept in her bed alone, and she won’t now.” There was no solution for this type of coping mechanism.

ABC News ran a story about a wife, married in 2001. She had the perfect husband and the perfect marriage. All of a sudden he acted like he didn’t know who he was. He didn’t have anything to do with the kids. After a visit to the doctor and a diagnosis of a glioma, the couple would have many struggles ahead.

There were no bereavement tips. There were no grief plans. It has been brought to my attention there are care-giving experts at the AARP. If you have AARP, then I assume you would know about their services. How about a 45-year-old woman, she has a husband, they are self-employed in a masonry business together, with children, and both appear to be in perfect health. Then in one day, fate would turn everything in their world upside. They left the hospital with no support. They left the funeral home with no support. They lived their lives with no support.

I know what some of you are thinking, if they were involved in a church then, the church would come and help them. The neighbors would give the all the support they need. Even Lynn Feinberg of the AARP said Americans provide an estimated $450 billion in home care for their sick and dying family members. “What doesn’t exist is a structure to support these folks. They have to find their way in an unconnected network of support at a time when they are most stressed?”

The sickness begins earlier than death. It could be days, weeks, months, even years when these caregivers wait, watch, cry silently with their heads in their hands, waiting silently for the next request-the next interaction,  just to have hope that there might be  some form of connection so they don’t feel alone. It’s a lonely place taking the role of the caregiver. It’s even lonelier when others distance themselves from you because they are scared to bring up the good times, the bad ties. Remembering – is what makes all the difference in every role – every day.

Published January 12, 2012, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench.

Recitation Nostalgia

     Sometimes nostalgia strikes when you never thought it would. Maybe when you are eating your favorite ice cream, reading and old book, or perhaps when you are sitting at your daughter’s school attending a program in the cafeteria. It did for me, not only did I pass the gym and the office with a grimace, but the mere presence of the principal’s office and the coach standing outside of the lounge, was enough to bring those memories flooding through my mind.

     As I sat in the school cafeteria at Choudrant Elementary, I was watching the rows of new inductees from the 6th grade class sitting in anxiously with their feet swinging rapidly underneath the chairs of the new 2012 National Junior Beta Club Members. The former members were sitting behind them staring in remembrance of the year before. I watched as Assistant Principal Ms. Debi Hauser was trying to keep her composure, while monitoring every entrance and exit in hopes, the event would go forth without any problems.  As the other children began to march in the cafeteria to take their places; that’s when the nostalgia began, and the fact I didn’t attend this school, is what made me take it all in the most is what really got to me.

     The parents had already arrived and taken their places on the three rows behind the reserved seating for the children. The seats that once seemed very comfortable were so small now. The cafeteria which once seemed a place of dread now seemed a place of anticipation as the adults appeared to be in a constant stare as they kept looking over their shoulders for one of the lunchroom ladies to open a steel container of that cold chocolate milk. The cinnamon rolls and the hot buttered yeast rolls were a treat if served at any time during school. However, as an adult, it almost appeared as if any grown-up present would have surely taken a defensive position if just one metal rack were to open in the cafeteria.

      It didn’t take long for things to begin. I could see the nervousness of each and every child reading over their speeches and thought, “Does this nervousness occur each time?” “Does this nostalgia linger in your mind at every event, every swing of the bat, every swing of the golf club, every shoot of the pistol?” I started to think back at the many pageants Jess participated in as she was growing up. The two elective categories she chose to pursue were the talent category and the spokesperson category. She told me she was nervous every time and it didn’t matter how many times she went on stage. It made me think, at 15, 16 and 17-year-old having the courage to get up there and conquer that fear; and she stepped up and did just that. However, she had conquered many things in her life. Raised by one parent until she was six, diagnosed with a disability when she was seven that we were told would go into remission when she was 15; it didn’t then. It never did. She still struggles with it, but she doesn’t let it get her down. She works 20 hours a week; attends classes weekly; and is enrolled in a dance school and company where she takes classes weekly in ballet, pointe and poise. 

     I see many people going to work daily. Most of these people are those who wear smiles on their faces for everyone they meet. It is almost as if either way this person spreads positivity towards everyone. Other people wish they could catch a break? They wonder how it happens that these people, who seem to shine so bright; never lose their glow? They have truly been touched by something so positive. These other people are so strong they possess this “cloud over their heads effect” and they cannot find the real way to the top.

     It is kind of like the Republican Election. When it first started, a number of contenders should I say, were at the top, dwindling down to a top seven candidates as the real person for the job. Now we have a lowly two front-runners waiting to see who will defeat Barack Obama in the November 2012 Presidential Primary.

     I am not sure, but I do know how November 2012 will turn out, but I do know that I have seen some grimaces on the faces of two Republican contenders, but nothing but smiles from President Obama. Maybe he knows something we don’t. Maybe he is just enjoying the last few months in the White House. Maybe he is like my older daughter when she gave her speeches, won and smiled; or like my younger daughter when she was inducted into the Junior Beta Club and or maybe he is like others like her; maybe he just knows the tickle of a true winner, and always wears a smile.

        Published December 29, 2011, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench.

The Life of a Parent Changes

      Last evening Jess called to check on her sister Allyson.  You see Allyson has been out of school now with mono for two weeks in total misery. She talked how it had been a while since Ally and I had gotten the chance to just “hang out” with mom. I, of course threatened to remove all of her favorite treats for when she comes in on summer break. I love spending quality time with my children, but every mother knows when your child is sick, it is not just “time spent.” It becomes more like a vigil.

Every since Jess left for college I have been worried over things as such. What if she gets sick? What is she runs a fever? What if she needs to see a doctor? What is she gets dehydrated? What is she can’t open a can of chicken noodle soup because she purchased the can you have to open with the opener, instead of the pull back tab? Yes, these things run rapidly through my mind. It is not because I think she does not have the mental capacity, it is because I feel it is my “momly” duty to take care of these things. It  doesn’t really matter if the store is 30 miles away either, or in college in the same state, I think I would still worry.

I guess we all go through this separation in life. It seems with your children it is a constant. You cry as they go to school for the first time. If you were a stay-at-home mom or dad, it is even worse. When they leave for college, it is another separation. Then they decide to get married.  A whole new kind of separation; one in which you relinquish your child, the responsibility of providing unconditional love, a shoulder to cry on when your child is worried or scared, someone to cling to when he or she has a bad dream in the middle of the night.

You think, it is all over, isn’t it? No, actually it isn’t. Because then your childbecomes a parent. When you were the parent of your child and their spouse, at times, you were still “super parent” – able to leap to the ATM in a single bound. But now, your child feels the responsibility nudge. The couple of kids are now the couple of parents raising your grandchild. You want to spend time with your child, but your child can’t, because their child has needs. Then their child starts to take the same steps you took.

Strangely enough, this is the tight rope of life. When you started along the way there was some slack in the rope. But now, your child sees their child as grown independent adults and they begin to mimic those same feelings you once experienced.

I see Jess growing into a college person now. In a few years she will graduate and get married. She will then start her on family. She will be so busy; mom and dad will be put on the back burner, so to speak. As her kids grow and evolve into teenagers, and then off to college they go; she will realize they don’t need me anymore. That’s when you get them back. The phone rings, and that little girl voice will be there saying, “Mom, my baby is in college, and is getting married in the fall.”  I asked if they needed any help. He said she was taking care of everything, and he was just hanging out. He would let me know if something comes up though.

I guess no one ever knew there was an evolutionary cycle in being a parent. With all the talk shows, self-help books and psychological theorists, you’d thought they’d have come up with something by now. Some Freudian type of Humanity Vs Displacement theory to justify the shift back into the population, and the return to the Nurturing stage after the dislocation of the grown child’s children reciprocated instead of trying to lump it all into “empty nest syndrome,” because there’s way too much action in and out of the nest for that one.

                  Published December 22, 2011, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench.