Archive for the ‘Trina Bartlett’ Category

Three’s a Crowd

Wednesday, January 28, 2015
No Gravatar

Here’s a secret about being a parent: sometimes we say the most when we say nothing at all.

The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve recognized that what I value most wasn’t inspired by words but rather by unstated expectations.

For example, I don’t remember my parents ever telling me I should go to college. I just knew that’s what I should do after I graduated from high school. I also just knew that I shouldn’t get married until I was capable of supporting myself. I never believed I should define myself by a relationship or that money mattered more than kindness.

And I never, ever believed I should have more than two children.

My husband, Giles, thought otherwise.

Perhaps our difference stemmed from the fact that I grew up in a family of two children and he grew up in a family of three.

Whatever the reason, he thought we should have three children. Since I’m the one who got pregnant and gave birth, my opinion ruled.

Maybe that’s why he decided that, since I had put my foot down about the number of human children, he should have the final word about the number of furry children in our home.

He knows how much I love animals and about my desire to adopt any stray that shows up at our door…or in the neighborhood… or in the park… or on the side of the road.

And so, he made a rule that, unless we moved to a farm, we could never have more than two pets at one time.

Having grown up in a family that never had more than one furry child at a time, I thought his decree was more than fair  (even though I did attempt to circumvent it a time or two).

Ironically, Giles is the one who broke his own rule.

Initially, he was irritated when I called him before six in the morning. I was attempting to walk our German Shepherd Rodney when a black and white kitten approached. Unlike most cats, especially our fat, grey tortoiseshell cat Skitty, the little kitten actually seemed to like Rodney. And that was the problem.

It wouldn’t leave us alone, so I called Giles.

“Just walk away from it,” he said.

“I can’t,” I replied. It won’t let us. No matter where we go, it follows us.”

“Where are you now?” he asked.

“In our driveway,” I said.

When he said “O.K.,” I assumed that meant he was coming out to help.

I was wrong.

I called him again.

“Where are you now?” he asked.

“Still in the driveway,” I answered. I heard him sigh, but eventually the garage door opened.

If our lives were movies, romantic music would have swelled in the background when he first saw the kitten. It was love at first sight. He scooped her up in his arms and told me to walk Rodney.

By the time we got back from our walk, Giles was asking me to call the vet to make an appointment.

Several months have passed since Artemis joined our family. She’s still cute, she still loves Rodney and Rodney still loves her. He’s especially delighted that tiny Artemis not only acknowledges his presence (unlike her feline older sister Skitty), she is also willing to  roughhouse with him (completely unlike Skitty).

And therein lies the problem.threes a crowd

Before we adopted Artemis, Rodney and Skitty had come to understanding.

Skitty couldn’t stand Rodney, and Rodney knew it. Because of that, he didn’t bother her.

But now that one cat will play with him, our German Shepherd thinks the other one should too. He has become that annoying younger brother who constantly teases and provokes his older sister.

Giles and I are now breaking up fights between the fat grey cat and the large, overly enthusiastic dog several times a day. He pokes at her, she hisses back and chaos ensues.

At these times, I am reminded of my insistence to only have two human children. Maybe I was reacting to more than just an unstated expectation from my parents. Maybe, just maybe, I realized that life would be much more difficult if Giles and I were out-numbered.

In my family, sometimes three really can be a crowd.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering or writing, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

Alone On the Curb

Wednesday, January 21, 2015
No Gravatar

I have no doubt that every child who went to elementary school during the 1970’s experienced the same trauma I did. Fortunately, I only experienced it once – or at least I only remember one incident. There may have been more, but none has stuck with me like the one that occurred that day in second grade.

I remember feeling completely lost and alone as I sat on the curb waiting for a mom who hadn’t arrived.

I don’t remember why I had stayed after school. I just remember that I did and was quite excited to do so. Bon the curback in those days, afterschool activities weren’t the norm for the under ten crowd. We had music lessons and 4-H and Scouts, but none of those activities were associated with school and there was no such thing as afterchool care.

Whatever the reason my friends and I had stayed late, it must have been  a special occasion. I still remember chatting with my friends as we stood on the sidewalk by the playground fence waiting for our moms to pick us up. (In those days, the moms were always the ones who picked up the kids.)

As other moms began to drive up to the curb and my friends climbed into their cars (usually into the front seat, generally without seat belts and always with absolutely no concept of contraptions called car seats), our group got smaller and smaller and smaller.

Eventually, I was the only one still standing on the sidewalk until I tired of that and sat on the curb.

I know anyone born after 1980 is wondering where the adult supervision and teachers were. My answer is “I don’t know.”

Back in those days, vigilance didn’t exist like it does today, and teachers usually went home when the students did. There was a sense of trust in the parents and a sense of safety in daylight – especially in small towns. There was also a belief that situations usually worked themselves out.

Except when they didn’t.

As the sun started making its journey behind the Juniper-covered hills that surrounded the town in which I lived, I sat on the curb and waited. And waited. And waited.

Eventually, a teacher who had stayed late happened upon me as she walked to her car. She didn’t, however, see the same gravity in the situation that I did.

“What’s the matter?” she asked. “You look as though you lost your best friend.”

I remember contemplating her words. My good friends had all left me, but I didn’t think I’d actually lost them. But I didn’t share those thoughts. Instead, I told her I was waiting for my mom.

“Oh, I know your mom,” the teacher said. “I know she’ll be here soon.”

And she was right. My mom did arrive…eventually,

In those days before Google calendars and other electronic reminders, she had simply forgotten that she was supposed to pick me up at school. And, in those days before cell phones, answering machines and vigilant school personnel, I was powerless to remind her. Those things just happened to those of us who grew up in the 1970’s.

Mom may have told me why she didn’t worry when the bus arrived without me. Or she may have told me that she had a meeting and she thought she had babysitting duties covered. I don’t remember because her words never registered. I was too relieved and grateful that I wasn’t going to have to spend the night on the curb and wear the same clothes to school the next day.

I was reminded of this incident a few weeks ago as a read a post that has been recycled through social media a few times. It is a reminder of what would now be considered parenting fails but  were acceptable when I was young. And my generation survived anyway.

We didn’t wear bike helmets (although I do remember the humiliation of swimming caps). We played outside with no supervision (unless you count our dogs which all ran free without any type of fence – even electric.) And we weren’t electronically connected to everyone we knew.

If we were out of our parents sight, they never knew where we were, if we were safe or when we would actually arrive home.

I can’t imagine being a parent during that time period, and I give my parents kudos for being so strong.

Apparently, I am much weaker.

Both of my children have cell phones with which they use to constantly communicate with me.

I know if their plans have changed and they are going home with a friend after school. And when they text me such information, I can immediately text the friend’s parents to confirm.

I know when the band bus is running late or early, so I can arrive at the school in a timely manner. I don’t have to sit in a parking lot for hours waiting for a bus to arrive and imagining all that could possibly have gone wrong.

And I know that the school has my cell phone number so I don’t have to be sitting at my office desk to get a notice that my child is sick or is in detention (yes I have experienced that parental fail.)

Those of us who had the true 1970’s childhood experience may laugh at how much we protect our children these days, but deep in our hearts, we are also extremely grateful. Changes in technology and society ensure that our children will never be sitting alone on a curb waiting for a ride home.

And if that isn’t progress, I don’t know what is.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering or writing, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

#Horriblemom

Wednesday, January 14, 2015
No Gravatar

Of my many flaws, believing that I only have a few isn’t one of them.

On the flip side, I’m very, very good finding fault in almost everything I do.

It’s a trait that I come by honestly – it was passed down by the maternal side of my family, but I’m not sure whether its longevity is linked more to nature or nurture. While my mother and grandmother excelled at identifying their own weaknesses, they were less successful at keeping those discoveries to themselves.

I am cursed by these same behaviors.

As a little girl, I  grew up hearing my mother talk about her mistakes, missteps and misfortunes. When I became a teenager, she no longer had to point them out because I did an outstanding job of doing that for her.  Now, I just point out my own.

And even though I’m well aware of the warnings from psychologists and child development experts that we can damage our children when we speak poorly of ourselves, I do it anyway.

And yes, my children picked up on my behavior. What they haven’t done is repeat it. Perhaps their father’s side of the family is more dominant than mine, because they haven’t even taken my concerns about my inadequacies very seriously.

Instead, they’ve turned them into a running joke

When I started saying “I’m a horrible mom,” to note that I had experienced a parenting fail, they quickly picked up on the phrase.

When I expressed dismay or worry about a decision, one of them would say “Hash Tag Horrible Mom.” They found it so amusing that they began using it as the punctuation mark to most of my sentences – almost as a sign of affection.

And while I may suffer from an intense need to openly identify all my faults, I don’t lack a sense of humor.

That means I can not only appreciate how ridiculous I can be, I can also have fun.

And so it was last Sunday night when my daughter and her BFF were trying to complete a display for their social studies fair project. I tried to assist as needed, but I was actually contributing to the silliness as much, if not more, than they were.

I was attempting to restore some order to the overly loud and raucous high -jinks, when my daughter  played the Celine Dion song “My Heart Will Go On.” Kendall knows none of us can be serious when that song plays – especially since her brother shared Matt Mulholland’s  You Tube video “My Heart Will Go On – By Candlelight.”  (My Heart Will Go On – By Candlelight)

As soon as the first sorrowful notes began to play, I stopped in mid reprimand to launch into song – complete with overly dramatic arm gestures and facial expressions. The girls joined in, and the social studies project was forgotten.

At least, it was forgotten until my husband marched into the family room to complain about the noise level, of which I was a primary contributor.

When he left the room, I muttered “what a grumpy dad” under my breath.

The girls picked up on my words immediately. “Hash Tag Horrible Mom Hash Tag Grumpy Dad,” they said. The line has stuck.

Ironically, I no longer consider their words to be a reminder of our faults.

Instead, they are a reminder that, even though we may do many things wrong, my husband and I have obviously done just as many things right.

We encourage our children to pursue their passions. We help with school projects.  And, perhaps most important, we have a home that promotes creativity and freedom of expression (within reason of course).

If the worst my children can say about us is “Hash Tag Horrible Mom and Hash Tag Grumpy Dad,” then I maybe I should start ending my sentences with “#notsohorribleofamomafterall.”

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering or writing, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

Time Warp

Wednesday, December 31, 2014
No Gravatar

Tradition demands that every new year, I take time to reminisce about the past 365 days and  look forward to the next 365 days.2015

And so I do.

But what tradition seems to forget is that the older I get, the more quickly the years fly by and lose their distinct identities.

Instead, they blend together into a colorful yet unfinished collage of meaningful, embarrassing, sad, silly, joyful and hopeful moments that comprise my personal history and therefore, whom I am.

Only years of significant life events maintain their autonomy: the year I graduated from high school, the year I got married and the years my children were born are all still etched in my brain. Everything else is marked by “before” and “after.” If  I didn’t have those markers, I think I would lose track of time completely.

Just this past week, I found a wedding invitation from 2010 that caught me completely off guard. I was sure the wedding had been, at most, two years ago. I clearly remembered what I wore, the conversations my husband and friends had and the emotions of the day.  Yet, in my memory, my daughter had been older, I had been younger and the event had much more recent.

After convincing myself that my internal calendar can no longer be relied upon, I also realized how unimportant that really is.

The event itself and the memories it generated are what are truly important. The wedding was memorable and holds a special place in the patchwork of moments that comprise my life.

My children are now starting into that phase when they will be defining their own significant years. In approximately 365 days, as the calendar turns to 2016, my son will be celebrating the year he graduates from high school. I have no doubt that will also be a year that marks “before” and “after” for me as well.

But, unlike the years before I had children, I will now appreciate and celebrate the small and big moments during that year, not that date itself. Moments, not a four digit number, are what define me, my family and my life.

The four digit number just provides that reminder.

Happy 2015. May it be full of memorable moments that make you smile, laugh and treasure your life, those you love and the joy of living.

The Charity Case

Wednesday, December 24, 2014
No Gravatar

I was ready to shut down my computer, turn out the lights and leave my office for a much-needed holiday break.

Then, our office doorbell rang, and I knew I had to answer it. With less than 36 hours before Christmas, I also knew I wouldn’t be able to help whomever was at the door. The Christmas donations had been distributed, our emergency assistance dollars were expended, the case manager was gone until Monday and the immigration attorney, who fills limitless roles, was on her way out the door with me.

I answered the door anyway.

To my surprise, the person ringing the bell wasn’t a client. Instead, it was Kathy, a volunteer who was working with a homeless woman who had no place to go for Christmas.

Fortunately, I was able to help Kathy access the necessary resources so the woman would have a warm room for the holiday. With that done, I was once again ready to leave my office. That’s when Kathy asked in a rather off-hand manner if I knew a man named “Ed.” When I said his name was familiar, she gave me a knowing smile.

She described a homeless man who wanders through our community wearing open-toed shoes even in winter.

“He’s living in a barn,” she said. She described his circumstances, I expressed my concerns and we parted ways.

Only when I was driving home did I appreciate what she had told me. There is a homeless man walking around my community wearing open-toed shoes, living in a barn and teaching people like me a lesson.

I needed that lesson.

I spent the last few weeks looking forward to the holidays not because they remind me of the blessings of charity and love but because I’m exhausted and ready for some time off work. I’ve told myself that I’ve made a career of charity and therefore deserve a break. I’ve been ignoring the fact that, for the most part, my life has been one big break.

For some people, a break isn’t the luxury of a few days of sleeping in, the opportunity to curl up with a good book or time with family.

For some people, a break is a hot meal, a warm bed or a kind soul who spends time listening.

For some people, a break is help paying an electric bill so the power isn’t shut off during the holidays.

And for some people, a break is an opportunity to pay it forward.

People who pay it forward are the reason I even have a job.

Just a few weeks ago, a check arrived from a man who received assistance from Catholic Charities WV (where I work) when he was down on his luck. The check was for the exact amount we had helped with his electric bill.

There was no note attached. His check said everything.

It said that charity is rooted in the words “to love,” and  that love demands that we share our gifts with others.

It was also a reminder that each of us, at some point in our lives, is a  charity case.

Some of us might be homeless.

Some of us might need help with our electric bills.

And some of us might get so caught up in the demands of daily living that we  forget how fortunate we  really are.

Thankfully, all of us, no matter what are resources or circumstances, are just as capable of giving and receiving charity.

This holiday season, I wish everyone that joy.

Time Travel

Wednesday, December 17, 2014
No Gravatar

I think my daughter’s obsession with Dr. Who is what prompted my husband to ask me the question.

“What period of time would you travel back to if you could?” he asked.

I didn’t give his question much thought.

“I wouldn’t,” I said.

My husband, an avid history buff who thought I shared his interest, looked puzzled.

“I wouldn’t want to deal with being a woman during any time but the present,” I said flatly.

My response may have been a reaction to the fact I had just finished Stephen King’s 11-22-63, in which a man travels back in time to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. While King’s novel is a work a fiction, he paints a clear picture of how different life was for women even during those relatively modern days. He didn’t so much inform as remind me.

While I don’t have a time machine per se, I have something almost as good. I have a baby book, which my mother used to document the first few years of my life – a time about which I have no memories. When I browse through it, I am not only carried back in time, I am reminded of how expectations of women have changed greatly during the last 50 years.

Take, for example, my birth announcement.IMG_1babybook3

Considering whom my mother was and whom I would become, the announcement could not have been more ridiculous. It featured a toddler in a crown and a sash with the words “Our New Miss America is Finally Here.” I’m quite certain my mother never would have forgiven herself had her daughter grown up with any desire to enter beauty contests. I’m just as certain that the available birth announcements in rural Montana in early 1967 were quite limited, so she probably didn’t have much choice.

Just as she probably had no choice about how her name would be listed in the hospital announcements in the local newspaper. Instead of having her own name listed, she was listed as my father’s wife. She was the one who had endured nine months of pregnancy and the birth, but my father was basically given credit.

baby book 2Now, nearly 48 years later, I don’t even have my husband’s last name, and few people question that. Nor do they question the endless possibilities for my smart and talented daughter who recently leafed through the pages of my baby book with a mix of interest and disbelief.

Apparently, her interest in time travel isn’t limited to Dr. Who, but I’m fairly certain she finds a great deal more potential in the future than in the past.

And that is exactly as life should be.

The Naked Christmas Tree

Wednesday, December 10, 2014
No Gravatar

There is a naked fir tree in my living room right now. Well, it’s not completely naked. A  few lights  are strung around its fragrant limbs, but the lights aren’t on so the tree looks much the same as it did on a hilly farm only days agochristmas tree

My family hasn’t had time to decorate. We barely even found the time together to get the tree. Our days of leisurely trips to the tree farm are long gone. Choosing the tree has become a mission that must be executed with precision to insure we all make our next appointment or activity.

Every time I pass by the living room, the naked tree serves as a reminder of life as it is today: more things to do than we have time to do, the energy and opportunity to do them and an appreciation that the fullness of each and every day.

The unpacked brown cardboard boxes and plastic crates that surround the tree serve as reminders of life as it once was. Most of our holidays decorations and ornaments represent a person, an event, a pet, an interest or a special occasion. Collectively, they  have written the history of my family’s life. Almost every object has a story that we read each December, put in a place of honor then pack away for eleven months only to be taken out the next year and read again.

Our new kitten Artemis, who adopted us a couple of months ago, serves as a reminder that life will be different in the years to come.  In fewer than 24 months, Artemis will be a full-grown cat who may or may not be jumping at the limbs of the Christmas tree and poking her pink nose into the boxes of decorations. My son will be in college and may or may not be participating in the family’s annual pilgrimage to get the tree. And I’ll be older and  shaped by circumstances I can’t even begin to predict today.

There is a naked fir tree in my living room right now, but it won’t remain naked much longer. Soon, it will be decorated, glowing and the center of celebration. After the presents are opened, the cookies eaten and the holiday meals enjoyed, it will stand in my living room for a few more days, but it won’t receive the attention it once did. If history holds true, we will forget to water the tree, and the needles will dry up and start to fall out.

By New’s Year Day, the ornaments will once again be packed up, the tree will be dragged to the curb and the needles will be vacuumed. All that will remain of this year’s Christmas tree will be photos, a few ornaments and the memories attached to both.

Time marches on, and change is a constant. We can’t hold on to the past, and we shouldn’t try. But we can hold on to traditions. They are the architects of memories and the link between the past and the future. They can also be found anywhere we can find family – even in a naked Christmas tree.

A Mother’s Heart

Wednesday, December 3, 2014
No Gravatar

What my brain wants for my children is often very different from what my heart wants.heart

For years, my brain (and therefore my mouth) has insisted that one of my primary responsibilities as a mom is to ensure that my children grow to be independent and self-reliant individuals.

My heart should be grateful that my two teenagers want the same thing. At least, they want the independent part. Their inclination to be self-reliant is a bit questionable based on their expectations that their parents continue to provide them with  shelter, transportation, money and food.

Other than those minor exceptions, they generally don’t express nearly as much need for their parents as they once did, nor do they have much use for our knowledge and advice.

With lingering memories of my own distorted sense of maturity as a teenager, I  usually don’t let my children’s dismissal of my abilities bother me.

I’ve actually become quite accustomed to it, which is why I appreciate when they suddenly recognize they still need me.

Such was the case this week when my procrastinating son realized the deadline to complete a school-related projected was way too close. Not only did he ask for my help and suggestions, he actually listened to me and took my advice.

Despite my insistence that I want him to be independent, I must admit that I rather liked the fact he still needs me, Something tells me, I’ll feel that way no matter how old he is or what he’s doing with his life.

My brain may be spot on with its efforts to ensure my children grow into responsible adults, but I’m pretty sure my heart is also spot on with its efforts to hold them tight.

I’m pretty sure that’s a conflict I took on the day I became a mom. It’s also one conflict that I don’t mind negotiating.

There is, after all, no way I can lose.

A Different Kind of Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 26, 2014
No Gravatar

Since the beginning of November, I’ve been seeing social media posts discouraging retail stores from opening on Thanksgiving Day.

I get that. Thanksgiving is intended to be a time for families and friends to spend quality and meaningful time together. But whether or not stores open on Thanksgiving, there will always be people who have to work.

I should know. I grew up in such a family and I married into another. Because of that, I am fascinated by the people who are oblivious to the moms and dads who have to work regardless of a special day on the calendar.

Anyone who watches the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade or football games should recognize  all of the people who have to work to make those events possible and broadcast them.

Anyone who expects up-to-date news and information should recognize that reporters and editors are hard at work trying to keep the world informed.

Anyone who  is traveling and needs gasoline or a meal on the way to the family feast should recognize that the clerks and cooks and waiters providing that service probably want to be with their own families.

Anyone who is feeling sick should recognize that health care providers are at work or on call  regardless of the day or time.

Police officers are still on patrol, movie theaters are still open and hotels are available for weary travelers on every holiday.

And for that, I am appreciative. I am also appreciative that this year, my husband does not have to work on Thanksgiving or on Christmas. But he has on previous years, and my children learned to accommodate. In doing so, they received a great gift: they learned that celebrating isn’t so much about the actual date or time but about cherishing special  moments with people we love.

Here’s wishing everyone those moments of celebration this upcoming holiday season.

Words of Wisdom

Wednesday, November 19, 2014
No Gravatar

Years ago, in what seems another life, I used to work with adolescents. During that time, when I had no significant parenting experience, I considered myself a champion of youth. I thought young people should have seats on boards of directors for nonprofit organizations and that adults  needed to really listen to what they had to say.

I like to believe that still hold those values. I also know that I’m not the champion I once was – and that’s not because the focus of my job is no longer youth.

It’s because I live with two teenagers.motherhood

Since my children are quick to point out how I, a professional woman with a Master’s Degree, am generally clueless about anything of importance, one might assume I am in awe of how much they know in comparison.

I’m not. At the same time, I know I don’t often give them the credit they deserve.

When my son mumbles at me under his breath, I often forget about  his ability to make a whole room laugh with a facial expression or wry comment.

When my daughter snaps at me for asking her a question, I tend to ignore the fact that she’s often lost in a book or absorbed in learning.

And when I get anxious about the mistakes I make as a mom, I definitely don’t give my kids enough credit for setting me straight.

Thankfully, they do it anyway.

Last Sunday night after a very busy weekend, I found myself already ramping up for an even busier work week. In other words, I was starting to stress myself out. And when I stress myself out, I tend to stress  out everyone around me out as well. Or, in the eyes of my  children, I can be incessant and annoying.

So it was for my daughter, for whom I made several suggestions about things she should be doing. Nothing I said was necessary or even important. In reality, I was putting some of my own issues onto her shoulders, and she knew it.

“Mom,” she said. “I’m the one living my life. Let me do that.”

She was right.

There are times when parents have to interfere in their children’s lives, but that wasn’t such an occasion.

She wasn’t making a decision that affected her health or her future success. She had a perspective that I didn’t, which is exactly the reason I used to be such an advocate for young people.

They might not always be right, but adults aren’t always right either. Adults might have more experience, but sometimes that experience keeps us bogged down in all the reasons something won’t work instead of getting excited about testing the possibilities.

Most importantly, the potential of our young people is only limited by the opportunities adults provide them to grow and learn.

And those opportunities often mean that we moms have to let go of our strong desire to steer the direction our children take in life. Instead, we have to trust that even though our kids may not always know where they want to go, the responsibility of finding their path lies on their, not our, shoulders.

My kids have taught me that being a good mom sometimes means I need to stop providing advice and instead need to listen to them. When I do that, I can hear them say  they need a mom who allows them to fall, make mistakes, struggle and discover that sometimes the best path in life is the one that isn’t mapped out years in advance but is one that is blazed by experiences.

My daughter may only be 13, but I have no doubt that’s exactly what she meant when she told me that she, not me, is the one living her life.

Hopefully, I can follow those words of wisdom.