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Vigilant.  

The word by itself would have sounded daunting to me only a few weeks ago.  I would have pictured a group of vigilantes storming the streets with pitchforks and torches seeking out the town witch.   However, I am aspiring to be more vigilant about my life.  About my kids, my relationship with my husband, my close family and friends, my writing, my faith; heck, even in my housekeeping.  Now that does sound daunting.

You see, my mother-in-law passed away a couple of weeks ago.  She had liver failure due to years of battling diabetes and taking medication to treat it.  It happened very suddenly and we are still reeling from the shock of it.  She was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver only a few weeks before her death and not once were we given a specific prognosis.  The specialist told her he would give her another medication to prevent further damage, which they would start as soon as she could get back in (which wouldn’t be until the doctor was back from his Spring Break.)  She never saw the doctor.  Why not? She didn’t live that long.  

We had so many “why’s”, “what if’s”, and “why didn’t we’s …” that it made our heads hurt.   Too many unanswered questions to be able to count.

When we finally got home and I was able to reflect on the week, the  word “vigilance” kept popping into my head.  I wished my mother-in-law had been more vigilant in terms of her health.  Why didn’t she ask more questions?  Why did she not try to eat better to get rid of the diabetes?  Why didn’t she let her husband take her to the hospital as soon as she was feeling poorly?  Why wasn’t she more vigilant?  Then I realized I could ask that same question of myself.

Looking deeper into myself, I knew I needed to change the way I lived my life.  We had so many friends and family doing so much for us during that tough time; praying, giving, cleaning, hugging, listening, and just being there for us.  However, it almost made me feel worse. 

Because as I looked inward, I came up short in comparison.  I hadn’t been doing all of those things for others.  I have been living in my little bubble and not really thinking about others like I should.  I go to the gym, get my kids to school and their activities, grocery shop, go to monthly book club, occasionally clean, and then foster my social media addiction.  I rarely call friends, even family.  I despise the phone but I love to talk.  Damnedest thing.  I don’t write letters.  My best communications efforts are making snarky comments on Facebook and Twitter and texting as needed.  I believe in God but you wouldn’t know by attendance at church. 

My social ignorance hasn’t been intentional.  I just get tunnel-vision and block a lot of things out.  However, my eyes have been opened and I am seeing past my bubble now.  Every day is a gift.  Every friend is a treasure.  Every family member is irreplaceable.  Each person and every situation that comes into my life was placed there for a reason.  It is how I treat the person or react to the situation says a lot about me.

Well, I am going to be vigilant from now on.  I am only getting one shot at this.  What about you?  Won’t you be a vigilante, too? (Think old Dr. Pepper jingle:)

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As I mentioned in my little bio page, I live in La La Land.  Pretty sure you have heard of the term. But this la la land is an actual place.  It is in Johnson County, Kansas.  More specifically, the Blue Valley school district. 

We have great schools, great youth sports programs, affordable housing, and easy access to a little big city, Kansas City.  A lot of people around here say “oooh, you live in Johnson County” when I tell them where I live, like I live in the Beverly Hills of Kansas City or something.   If that is the case, there must be a trailer park in Beverly Hills that I haven’t heard about yet.  I haven’t lived many places, only 4 cities to be precise, and the ones I have weren’t affluent, just REAL. 

Let me back up a little and tell you about my childhood community so you can understand why I am frustrated living here as a parent, trying to raise three happy, healthy, and grounded children. 

I grew up in a community of roughly 10, 000 residents that varied in socioeconomic status to a certain degree as well as a race, just a little bit.  The richest person in town was a practicing lawyer as well as owner of a local trucking company.  There was a section of town where the “rich people” lived  and your family was considered loaded if your house was over 2,500 square feet and had a 2 car garage.  The kids that had it good were the ones with basketball hoops in their driveways and finished basements.  We actually had a finished basement via my father and one of his friends that was in the construction business.   We felt we were on the cusp of greatness!  

Back to the point, life was simple back then.  We walked to school (11 blocks), we ate what our parents fixed for dinner or we didn’t eat, and we played outside CONSTANTLY.  The only things I couldn’t have done without were my bike and my books.  They were crucial to my freedom as well as my social life.  I didn’t have a phone in my room (the equivalency of cell phones for preteens now), no t.v., and no computer (were they even invented yet?).  My books were my escape from a not so happy home life.  I loved to transport myself through the stories I read.  I lived a different life in my imagination.  That was all I needed.  That was 1980ish.

In 2010, in the suburb I live in now, most kids would consider those poverty-like conditions.  Unbearable.  Horrific.  Cruel even.   I want to yell at them and tell them to get a grip!  When my husband and I moved here twelve years ago, I expected the area to be a little more metropolitan than where we had lived before, another Midwest little big town.  C’mon, let’s face it-we are still smack dab in the middle of the Midwest.   Uhh, wrong.

Yes, we picked to live here.  It is just that I think most of the way people see things here is skewed.   The kids around here wouldn’t know “the real world” if they ran it over with their BMW’s.  (It might be their parents’ but it doesn’t matter.  It is still an effing BMW!)  I am not sure if it has always been like this since I didn’t grow up here.  However, since I have kids that are now at an age where their friends are beginning to influence them more, I am fully aware of the rampant dysfunctional parenting styles I see around here.

 My oldest child is in 4th grade and some of the children have cell phones already.   A couple of the kids had them last year even. Who in the hell are they calling?  I understand if they are walking home from school and need to have a way to reach someone in an emergency.  If there were kids walking a mile to get home, I get that.  None of the kids have to walk more than 4 or 5 blocks, at the most.   At this age, we are with our kids 99% of the time, minus school time, and when we aren’t there, they are with a friend and THEIR parents.  Okay, maybe the cell phone was free and the parents don’t have any major cost associated with it.  That isn’t my point.  It isn’t necessary!!  Cell phones are needed for communication when access to a home telephone is not available.  You know that thing that plugs into the wall and transmits voice.  Novel idea, eh?

I know that cell phones aren’t just for talking anymore.  Hell, I have an iPhone and talking is probably the function I do the least.  However, I am also an adult that pays for it.  It is my organizer, GPS, yellow pages, newspaper, etc. all rolled into one.  When I was a teenager, my parents finally gave in and got my sister and I phones for our rooms.   I think I was fifteen, close to sixteen when this monumental event happened.   This wasn’t a cool cordless phone or even a cute Garfield one that opened and closed his eyes when you picked up the receiver.  But I didn’t care.  It was a phone!!! My mom sprung for call waiting when she realized how much time we spent holed up in our rooms talking to our friends and how many calls she was missing as her sisters and friends kept telling her how our phone always seemed to be busy.  Pretty sure these days around here, having a phone in a teenagers’ room isn’t a request seen often.  Probably not even on the radar screen.   Now, cell phones replace that one and if they get to text, ooh, that is like if got an extra phone line for call waiting in my day.  Jackpot!

My next pet peeve is ALL THE CRAP kids have around here.  It borders on obscene.  Let me explain why it bothers me so much.  It isn’t necessarily the stuff but at how young the kids are when they get it.  Motorized scooter at age 6. I have seen first hand kids that are 7 and getting the Razor motorized dirt rockets.   The appropriate age the manufacturer gives is 13+!   What?!  Again, go back with me in time.  In my elementary school days, the fastest things I had were my bike and my roller skates.  All propelled by my power.   You might as well give the kids now a couple of Twinkies as he or she zooms down the street just to make sure they don’t burn any calories steering.  And these are the same parents that are puzzled when their kid complains at soccer practice about having to run, or kick the ball, or just… stand there.  I have seen it first hand.  Drives me up a wall.   Just heard about my neighbor giving their daughter an iTouch and she is 9.   I have another neighbor that put flat screens in all of their kids rooms, ages 9, 7, and 5.   The thing that kills me is not the kids asking for all of this crap.  It is the parents that give it to them! 

Flat screen t.v. for your room? Sure, son!  Wouldn’t want you to have to be down here spending quality time with the family.   ITouch? Sure, honey!  Wouldn’t want you to have to read a silly old book when you play, play, play on your cool gadget that you are either going to lose or step on and crack within the week.  Cell phone with unlimited texting?  Sure, darling!   Wouldn’t want you to have to walk five feet and get tired having to use the vintage house phone.   The more they whine, the more they get.  It is unbelievable.

THIS is why I call where I live la la land.  These children are going to grow up even lazier than they are now and expect the world to hand them everything.  The work ethic is atrocious and they are just elementary school aged kids.  Wait until they get to middle school and the dramatics and mood swings kick in.   Ugh! 

The sad thing in all of this is that I am the minority.  Rarely do I find another person that hasn’t already done these things for their kids or hasn’t talked about doing them.   I just want my kids to have  strong core values and have a few close friends that share them as well.  My job as a parent is to teach them humility, love, compassion, empathy, manners, and too many other values to list.  I only get one shot at this and I am desperately trying to not screw it up.  This is why I love the Midwest.  Most people are simple and down to earth.  What you see is what you get kind of people.  Life is about the relationships you have with others and becoming the best person you can be.  Not how much crap you can accumulate.  A ton of people around here attend these massive congregation churches we have and I see “I love Jesus” plastered on their Facebook bulletin boards.  Then, they turn around and have every brand name clothing item from Nordstrom (as if they would shop anywhere else) and buy their kids everything under the sun. 

Maybe I am seeking reassurance that there ARE others out there trying to teach their kids the same things I am.  I pray there are and that I am not too stuck in my old school ways to realize that this is just the way things are now.  I wish parents here would comprehend that saying “no” to them now will give them so much more later on in life e.g.  appreciation, gratitude, and a strong work ethic.  

“Just Say No” is no longer just a drug campaign slogan; it is also a Parenting 101 class.  See you there !

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La-La Land

The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms defines “la la land” as:  The state of being out of touch with reality.

The name of my blog is somewhat ambiguous. One reason is literal and one is sarcastic.

The literal reason is because I am constantly reading and it is usually fiction.  Therefore, my mind is not usually in the real world.  I am perhaps traveling the countryside during pre-Revolutionary war or perhaps falling in love with a Regency rake right along with the heroine.   Don’t get me wrong; I take care of my children and a spot of housework as well as get to the gym every day except Sunday.   However, while trying to deal with the insaneness of raising kids, reading keeps me sane throughout the day.  It is my equivalent of taking 10 deep breaths to calm the nerves before I rip my children because they left their shoes in front of the door for the 400th time  instead of walking 2 feet further and putting them in the closet bin.  My trips to la-la land usually happen while doing cardio at the gym (I am one of those people who can run, walk, sit in the car while reading  without getting motion sickness), sitting at one of the children’s athletic practices, or, much to my husband’s chagrin, at night after kids go to bed.  

The sarcastic reason is because of the city I live in and the community that  surrounds me.  I will talk about it  in future posts and it will all be in humor with an underlying current of contempt.  Let me explain further. I live in an affordable yet affluent suburb of Kansas City.   Affordable and affluent seems contradictory, right?  The cost of living here  is sick compared to places like Denver and Minneapolis.  There are plenty of parks, recreation programs, as well as two professional sports teams that you can practically watch for free because people are dumping tickets left and right.   The affluent part of this equation is where it gets tricky.  We are affluent but yet not.  It is all about appearances.  People appear affluent but if you looked inside their homes, you might find entire rooms without furniture or they are so deep in debt they can’t peek their little turned up noses over the piles of bills they have.  There are days when I look at them and feel pity and then there are days where I feel like slapping them, hoping to dislodge the common sense that has obviously gotten stuck.

In conclusion, the things I say about La-La Land might be about what I am currently reading, writing, or just plain dealing with in my everyday life.   Might be funny.  Might be sad.  Might just be  gibberish.  You will just have to visit me and maybe you will enjoy La-La Land, too!

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