July 28, 2014

Innocent until...

We recently refinanced our house.

As people who have been through the process of buying or refinancing a home know, there are frequently many hoops to jump through, sometimes very inconvenient hoops.

During one of those hoops, I had a financial person tell me something I knew not to be true. It was his way of "reassuring" me. Don't worry little lady. But, so as not to "ruin" our changes for the refi, I didn't tell him he was wrong.

Flash-forward to this weekend, when everything was supposed to be fine. But instead, I'm receiving collections calls every couple hours. After being a sterling customer and consumer for a company for 18 years, I'm now one of those deadbeat people because of one tiny delay in the refi process.

It is all a misunderstanding. I've done no wrong.

But how quickly the company has decided that I'm not to be trusted, that they need to harass me with phone calls.

I was their customer for 18 years. EIGHTEEN YEARS.

What happened to innocent until proven guilty?

About a decade ago, I had a similar experience. I went from being treated respectfully as someone with value, to being considered someone untrustworthy, all in a blink of an eye, and all because of something outside of my control.

People will treat you based on the lens through which they see you.

Most of the time, I have privilege. I know I do.

And so when I am suddenly assumed to be someone attempting to deceive when I am not, I get a tiny taste of what it may feel like to be an object of prejudice.

The rules are different for different people.

July 20, 2014

I Cut My Hair Off

Yeah, so I made a major change at the beginning of this month: the day before Independence Day; how appropriate.

Before and After: Long to Short Hair Makeover | The Karianna SpectrumI didn't post a dramatic, teasing, heading-to-the-salon "before" photo in real-time, or snap a pic of a mountainous pile of hair or anything like that. I posted a quick "before/after" comparison thing (with photos I took mere hours apart) just for fun on Instagram (at left) and then changed my profile pic on social media without any commentary, just to see what people would say.

I showed up to an Independence Day parade the evening of July 3rd to march with my son's gymnastics training center, and it not surprisingly took a long time for my fellow gym parents to recognize me. (They recognized my son, then looked toward the adult he was with and figured out it was me.)

I emailed my parents that night and attached a photo, because otherwise there is no way they'd find me in the 4th of July parade the next morning.

It has been sort of fun being "anonymous" until people figure out who I am. After all, one of my prime identifying features was my long blonde hair.

I knew people would be surprised. That was a given.

But I was more surprised by who noticed and their reactions.

Continue reading "I Cut My Hair Off" »

Yin and Yang

My family spent five days at a beach house last week.

It was an amazing time: sitting in a beautiful house overlooking the beach, exploring tidepools, dodging waves, walking on pretty trails, biking around the quiet neighborhood, eating bread from a delicious local bakery, and playing various sports in the yard.

I wasn't 100% "off duty" on work. I never am. But, doing work while overlooking the ocean is vastly different than the usual. I had a wonderful time with my family; and my family had an amazing time, too.

Sea Ranch Vacation - and then an interesting ride home

The drive back was through windy roads that allowed gorgeous views of the Pacific. After awhile, though, my son mentioned he was feeling a bit carsick. He had some gum, then spit that out and tried to take a little nap. Soon thereafter, he was awake and quite dizzy.

I pulled out a plastic bag. "You need this?" He shook his head as I put it toward him. He was repelled by the bag, so I stuffed it in front of my seat.

And that is when a brown slime suddenly exploded all over my hand, shoe, purse, and jeans. I immediately shoved the plastic bag in my son's hands.

"Oh no, he upchucked," I told my husband to inform him of the situation.

In response, my older son spewed his own stomach contents all over the front windshield.

My husband quickly pulled off on a turnabout. I screamed, thinking that he was driving the car off a cliff. (The road was steep and windy, after all.)

I opened my door, and started losing my lunch, too. But thankfully, I was doing it on rock and sand rather than in the car.

I started to laugh. Wholly inappropriate, but my family made for such a sad sight that I couldn't help it.

We got cleaned up (thank goodness for wet wipes, beach towels, and change of clothing readily available!) and were on our way.

A few minutes later, I heard a thump. I looked behind me and saw the hatchback was still securely closed.

An hour or so later, my older son started digging around the front seat area. "Huh, where's the Kindle?"

WHERE IS THE KINDLE?

Yeah, that's right. He vomited on the Kindle, so in our mad "clean up the car" routine, the Kindle was put on top of the car.

Alas, it went thump, splat, and shatter all over the freeway.

Guess we were supposed to be device-free just a tad longer...

July 9, 2014

Lonely

There are some days when I really wish I had a sister.

Or a daughter.

But, I have neither.

Broke Girls: What Fine Means

There are some days I really wish I was not a woman.

To admit that makes me weak.

Just the thing that I hate about being female.

Am I Really Fine?

But I don't want to be a guy, either.

I'm in a house full of men.

That's not the point.

A Strong Woman

I want a safe space to just be myself.

I want someone to understand.

Not to judge.

The Most Common Lie

#YesAllWomen really hit me hard

Because it is true.

And somehow the guys were shocked.

Behind I'm Fine

Today I felt pressured.

I felt uncomfortable.

I was vulnerable.

And I wish I could talk about it with my non-existent sister.

June 30, 2014

Meta

If something funny, sad, inspirational, or odd happens, it used to be that I'd think, "Ah, better make it a blog post!" These days, the short stuff goes on Twitter, some of the medium stuff goes on Facebook, and photos of course go on Instagram.

I miss writing.

I miss talking about things that matter to me.

I still have thoughts that I want to develop, but whether they are worthy of public posting is another matter.

It is funny, but the value I place on my own opinions extends to others' rights to have their own. And so, when I think about something passionately, I don't want to post about it necessarily because I don't want to offend or discount another's point of view. Kind of silly, I guess. But, it is kind of a warped Golden Rule. After all, if I feel so strongly about something, I figure others do too.

And then there those things for which I'm merely an observer. For example, yesterday I received an email informing me that a fellow elementary-school parent had passed away. I had noticed her in a high-backed wheelchair at her daughter's concert earlier in the year, but then she didn't attend the end-of-year performance. Originally, I thought she and I were very similar: we both had back pain. But, clearly her situation was much more complex and serious. I was shocked to see her in a wheelchair, and even more stunned to hear of her passing.

Of course I have lots of thoughts about her right now, but it seems "wrong" to pontificate on how her particular situation has affected me, because I am far, far outside of her circle. I do not want to "borrow" a story that belongs to her family and close friends. (Recall how other bloggers were accused of being "grief vultures" earlier this year?)

That said, even being on the periphery of a situation can still impact us.

To merely tell myself that I am "lucky" is too little. I look at some things that have happened this past year to a bunch of people: whether only an acquaintance, or someone quite close to me. When I observe others' triumphs and struggles, of course I end up relating them to my own life: whether it is to dig deeper myself, or to acknowledge tremendous thanks for what I've been given.

June 15, 2014

A Boat in Argentina

With the season of graduation, I'm definitely having a big case of nostalgia and shock, although not as strong as what will happen next year when both my boys will be promoted from their current schools into the next great academic adventure. I'm not happy about how the numbers the kids have left at home are dwindling, and yet I'm amazingly proud of the young men that they have become, and are becoming. They are still "young," I know. But for both of them, they've spent more time at home already than they will in the future. (Yeah, unless they move back post-college...)

My oldest is now officially taller than me. He has a small mustache. My youngest is about to be "top of the school" as he finishes up his elementary school career. (While his older brother holds court as the top of middle school.)

For fun, I showed my sons my CMEA photos, since my oldest son attended CMEA this year. For me, it was for Chamber Singers. For him, Orchestra. While reminiscing, I also came across this photo: me and some of my classmates on a boat in Argentina. (You can see the flag on the boat, yes?)

On a Boat in Argentina
It was a World Cup year when we were there. (1990: Argentina ended up being runners-up.) We had the experience of being stuck in traffic during a game-day celebration. We learned just how "fanatic" fans can truly be. It was terrifying, exhilarating, and of course FUN. My trip to Argentina was the first time I got tipsy, the first time I swore in public, and also the first time I successfully conducted a transaction in a foreign language. (I was alone. Whenever I was with anyone else, they would take over.)

During our trip to Argentina and surrounding areas, one classmate broke his collarbone while riding a horse, another suffered strep throat (which the hotel doctor couldn't identify), and we got to be extras on a telenovela. We toured cemeteries, went to "The Jockey Club," and had a (private) laugh at the missionaries attempting to convert half-naked beach-goers in Rio. Now of course, the world is watching Rio... and I'm still cheering for Argentina.

May 24, 2014

You're a Handsome Man!

I am on the email list for a fun shop that has a variety of different home, garden, BBQ, and personal equipment. I have a leather-bound journal from this shop, and purchased my dad a leather flyswatter. Not everything there is leather, but... I like leather.

One of their latest emails was a summer sweepstakes, sponsored by them and another company. As is traditional with this sort of thing, entry into the sweepstakes automatically puts the entrant on the mailing list for the other company. No problem!

The prize is a bike and a variety of other fun-looking items. Of course I wanted to enter!

And so I did.

The welcome email I received shortly thereafter from the other company announced, "You're a Handsome Man!"

I was slack-jawed.

Only men like the items that caught my eye?

There had been no indication that this other company was specifically targeted to men. The sweepstakes didn't say anything like "Father's Day alert" or anything of that nature (although I have my own thoughts about what is considered a good gift for dads versus a good gift for moms.) Nope, the prize is a "Summer Kickoff Package" or something like that.

I'm not "offended" or anything of that nature, but definitely thought it was funny that the assumption was that only a man would enter the contest.

May 23, 2014

Walkathon vs. Spellathon

When I was a first-grader, we had a walkathon to earn money for the school.

I was so excited to make my way around the field, since each lap meant another stamp on the cardboard rectangle hanging around my neck. Some of the kids tried to "cheat" and run, but I kept walking like a good little girl. I took a few breaks, but mainly kept walking for as long as I could, hoping that I could snag a trophy.

And I did.

I was the female winner for first grade. It was fun! I wanted to be the overall winner someday, but figured I might have to do that on fifth-grade legs.

Second and third grade had a variety of different fundraising activities, like cake walks, special teacher-student baseball games, and family picnics. In fourth grade, the school announced that it had been determined that we should really only do "academic" things in order to earn money.

The Walkathon was thrown away for the Spellathon.

I studied hard for the Spellathon, but it certainly wasn't as exciting as the Walkathon. Still, I wanted to win!

Unfortunately, I was so stressed about not making a mistake that I spelled "education" as "educationtion." I was carefully forming my letters to be perfectly legible, but I guess didn't realize I had repeated the "tion." Since it was a quick test, there was no opportunity to double-check work. Bummer.

In fifth grade, I didn't care. The Walkathon had been fun, but the Spellathon was just boring. But, apparently "academics" had to come first.

Well, now the tides are turning again. There is concern about overweight children and worries about stressing kids out too much over academics. My son's elementary school does "run across America" and has a variety of mandatory physical challenges.

I smiled when he brought home a Walkathon pledge sheet.

There is no "competitive" aspect to this contest; it will only be to earn money for the school. But, my son is excited. He wants to see how many laps he can do within the 30 minute time-limit. (Hey, mine was all day!) He is looking forward to the fresh air, and I'm sure they'll be cranking some rad tunes, too.

May 22, 2014

Ride the Ducks: San Francisco

Last weekend, I played tourist.

My mom used to be a tour guide, so typically my "tours" come from her. Plus, years of school field trips to various historical landmarks means I think I know a lot about my home state.

But, when Ride the Ducks: San Francisco invited me to a special bloggers' "Giants Pride Night", well, of course I had to attend! After all, I've seen Giants games from the stadium, but never from the water.

My fourth-grader --ever a Giants fan-- was ecstatic that we'd get a chance to hang out in McCovey Cove during the game. He dressed up in orange and black, and was eager to experience Ride the Ducks.

The Ride the Ducks kiosk is located in Fisherman's Wharf across the street from the famous sign, and next to Applebee's. It was very convenient to go upstairs to use Applebee's "facilities" before our tour, and also to pick up a "to-go" soda. There are many park-yourself lots in the area, and we had no difficulty finding a spot.

Ready to Ride the Ducks in San Francisco | Karianna

Once on board, the bloggers were treated to free chips with salsa and spinach-artichoke dip from Applebees. We were also given our very own duck bill so that we could quack along with our Captain's music choices.

Captain John led us to several important areas in San Francisco all while providing plenty of historical context. But, this isn't a dry tour, either in the literal or figurative sense. The Captain was extremely entertaining, keeping everyone on board quacking with glee. My fourth-grader nodded at several points, giving me further detail about California history and how it related to what Captain John was explaining.

You'd think that the daughter of a tour guide would be bored out of her skull. But I was not! The tour was informative, upbeat, and plenty of fun. I learned quite a lot, as did my son.

After touring the land, we took to the sea. Once in the water, some of the kids on board got a chance to "drive" the boat. While in the water, the sun set, providing gorgeous views of the Bay Bridge and AT&T Park. We anchored in McCovey Cove to follow the game via radio while listening to the crowd cheer, and watching the scoreboard from our position in the water.

Scenic Views at Ride the Ducks: San Francisco | Karianna

Ride the Ducks is branching out! Although I had the pleasure of experiencing the San Francisco tour, there is also Ride the Ducks: Branson (ride through the Ozarks, splash down at Table Rock Lake) and Ride the Ducks: Philadelphia (ride through historic areas of Philadelphia, splash down in the Delaware River). New Orleans is apparently next on the list.

All locations have special offers and combo-ticket opportunities to enhance the tourist (and "staycationist") experience. The "Wacky Quackers" partner programs provide savings at other attractions and restaurants in the city of origin. For San Francisco, special offers include a visit to the Aquarium of the Bay on Pier 39 in addition to the ride on the Ducks, and --for those Giants fans!-- the "Splash Hit! Splash Down! Combo Package," which includes a behind-the-scenes tour of AT&T Park with a splashdown at McCovey Cove. Sunset tours will soon be available in San Francisco, an experience I highly recommend.

My son and I won't forget our evening cruising around McCovey Cove. The ride was informative and exciting on land; then relaxing and breathtakingly beautiful in the water. Even before we had bid adieu to Captain John, my son remarked that we must Ride the Ducks again sometime soon!

--
Disclaimer: Ride the Ducks: San Francisco provided the trip for free for review. Applebees provided soda, chips, salsa, and spinach-artichoke dip. I will receive no further commission or compensation for this post. I paid for transportation to the event and for my parking.
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May 13, 2014

the rotten apple. the poisoned tree.

if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.
But... if we stay silent, then isn't that permission for them to walk all over us?

All year, a particular girl has been hurting my younger son. I've only mentioned it to the teacher a couple times, because my son wants me to be quiet. He isn't 100% sure that her actions are on purpose (but, he's 99.99% sure.) He doesn't want to be a tattle.

Last year, I witnessed her kick a younger child. I reported it to the principal. The next day, the girl told me (with an eye-roll) that I was wrong. As I calmly explained what I had witnessed with my own eyes, the girl simply turned her back on me and walked away. Her mom --who used to say "hello"-- now only stares at me with steely eyes.

Today, she bashed a ball into my son's face. He had to go to the office to ice his nose. He told me I couldn't tell anyone what happened. He doesn't want retaliation if she gets in trouble. And yet, I hate that the girl can just continue to act out without consequence.

I'm shy about sticking up for myself. And so, I can understand how my son feels. Unfortunately, that also means I'm hesitant to make waves myself, even if I really should Mama Bear a situation.

When I was a yard duty, I only reprimanded two children the whole year. Those two children's parents subsequently contacted me after school to inform me that I must have misunderstood the situation. One parent specifically sought me out to waggle her finger in my face. How dare I disrespect her precious child by accusing him of something he didn't do!

it isn't that others are against you; it is that they are for themselves.
But... sometimes their actions completely defy this - because hurting us does them no good at all.

My older son has his own thorn: a boy whose first-and-final visit to our house was filled with disrespect and behavior more fitting of a preschooler than a middle-schooler. I was shocked at how he barged into my younger son's room to play with (and ultimately break) toys without permission. He haughtily informed us that our house is very small in comparison to his, and wondered why my son doesn't have many items he would consider valuable.

Thankfully, the friendship ultimately ended. But not without some rather surprising, scary, and ultimately harmful events coming to pass. My older son --like my younger son, and like me-- didn't want to make waves.

At one point, I wondered what "good" it was that this boy's family was trying to press issues that wouldn't have done anything for their economic, social, or other status. I couldn't figure out their motivation, other than sheer power over another human being.

Usually I can see the other person's carrot, and can explain it to my sons so that they can at least understand how a different perspective can explain someone's actions.

But, sometimes I cannot.

Will this matter in a year?
Maybe...

The car who sped around me to nab a parking space? That won't matter. I didn't end up in a dangerous situation because I had to park elsewhere.

The woman who decided to leave her entire cart-worth of groceries on the conveyor belt at the store? Thankfully, that won't matter in a year, because that delay didn't put me in an uncomfortable position, even though it may have.

Something that happened three years ago to one of my sons? Yes, it still mattered in a year. It still matters now. His personality has been changed because of it.

Something that happened two years ago to my other son? Yes, it still matters over a year later. But... I know the past is the past. I cannot change the past. I cannot...

I cannot predict the future, but I see some things unraveling that I don't like. I don't have control over other people's kids. I'd like to believe the best in people. I'd like to believe that people can change. But in many cases, I'm looking at the tree as well as the apple, and have my doubts.