These Boots Weren’t Made for Walking

I glanced at the clock one more time, wondering when DW and The Tortoise would be home from the swim meet. It had been over for some time. Since DW and I had driven separately, I left after The Tortoise finished her heat.  I wanted to get home to make dinner and get The Hare started on her homework.  Diving was last, but the whole swim team stayed to cheer them on. They were winning by a hefty margin too.

About the time I expected them to be walking in the door, the phone rang.

“We had something bad happen tonight,” DW said solemnly, “The Tortoise’s brand new Ugg Boots were stolen.”

“WHAT?!” I exclaimed, “That was her Christmas present! Didn’t she lock them in her locker?”

“Well…” DW continued.

“Please tell me she remembered to lock her locker? Why the hell wouldn’t you lock them in the locker?” I barked, cutting DW off.

A knot was forming in my stomach.

“Honey,” he said quietly, “You’re on speaker.”

My heart sank further. I had reacted rather than responded and my daughter was listening to the whole thing.

“I’m so sorry, Mom” sniffled The Tortoise, trying to hold back the tears.

By the time they got home, I  pulled my emotions together. The Tortoise came slinking in the back door, pulling off her wet, muddy socks. She had no other shoes. We stood there and looked at each other a few minutes, her eyes brimming with tears. I reached out my arms to embrace her, as she fell into them deeply.

“I’m sorry I reacted the way I did,” I whispered in her ear.

“I’m sorry I didn’t remember to bring my lock for the locker,” she cried.

At about 5pm that evening she went to her locker to grab her cell phone and clear out the locker room of all her fellow team mates. She is one of the team captains.  She distinctly remembers seeing her boots in her locker at that time. AT 5:07 she called me to let me know what she wanted for dinner. The other team didn’t stay for diving and had already started packing up and loading their bus. By 5:30 the diving was over, and The Tortoise headed back to the locker room with her team mates. When she opened her locker, her boots were gone.

All of her team mates were stunned. They searched all the lockers, the bathroom stalls, the trash cans and even outside the locker room area. They told their coach. Our coach was amazing and quickly called the opposing team’s coach but only got their voice mail. It was also discovered that a couple of cell phones from other students were missing too. Their swim meet victory was fleeting. As a team, they felt betrayed and empty, even a little heartbroken. The Tortoise was devastated to tell DW what happened and walk through the cold, icy parking lot in her socks.

She should have locked her locker. However, people shouldn’t steal.

The next morning I filed a police report, even though I knew there was less than a slim chance of getting them back. I wanted to show my kids the importance of following through. I also wanted it on record that there was a theft at a school event.

Many tears were shed over the next couple of days. The Tortoise knew she was partially responsible for the missing boots. We agreed to replace them if she paid for half, even though they were her main Christmas present. She didn’t disagree and was willing to give up all the gift money she had. I asked her to wait at least a week, just to see if anything came of the police report.

Amazingly enough, we received a phone call by the end of the week letting us know that the boots had been retrieved. A student from the other team had taken them. The details were unclear as to how they were recovered, but from what I could tell, a girl from the opposing team had turned in one of her team mates to their coach. When the girl who took the boots was questioned, she didn’t deny the incident. She and her parents brought them back. The coach needed me to call him and let him know what I wanted to do about the boots: pick them up or press charges.

Press charges against a middle school student? That seemed extreme. But she did break the law. If there were no consequences, how would they learn the lesson? If there were no consequences, then how would my children learn the lesson? I tossed and turned about this dilemma all night. DW supported pressing charges 100%, besides, what did that really mean in regards to a 13-year-old kid? A fine? Suspension from the swim team? If it had been my daughter, I would have wanted the other parents to press charges and make her accountable.

The next morning I went to the police station with my final decision. I gave the officer all of the updated information and the coach’s contact numbers. They had already reviewed the surveillance tapes and had other information to give me too.

“So – if I press charges, then what?” I asked cautiously.

“Then we handle it all from here, you don’t have to do anything, ” he said, “we’ll let you know when we have your boots.”

I reluctantly left, picturing a very scared little girl waiting at the other school, wondering what kind of trouble she was facing.

Less than an hour later, I received a phone call from the other coach. He gave a brief explanation about how he offered all the kids a “free pass” if they turned in the boots within 24 hours. No questions asked. No consequences. He said the next day, the girl who took them showed up with her parents, voluntarily, and returned my daughter’s boots.

“So, when are you going to pick them up?” he asked.

I was stunned. No questions asked? Voluntarily? Pieces of this story just didn’t fit together – and why offer that kind of deal unless you already suspected that one of your students did indeed steal?

“I won’t be picking them up, ” I replied, “our police department will be contacting you to handle all the details.”

“What?” he said shocked, “So you really are pressing charges? But we got your boots back, isn’t that all that really matters?”

“No – not really, ” I said, suddenly very confident in my decision, “what matters is raising kids to be responsible adults.”

A few days later the phone rang at 7am. It was the officer working our case. He had picked up my daughter’s boots and wanted to bring them by the house so that she could wear them to school. It was an incredibly sweet gesture, but she had already gotten on the bus. He then offered to bring them to her school – again, way above and beyond – but I wanted to see what kind of condition they were in and clean them, so I offered to come get them from the station. He was very appreciative, as was I.

On the way there, I just kept wondering if this would be a turning point for this little girl. Would she make better choices later? Would she and her parents perhaps have more communication? I hoped that this would end up being a positive outcome. When I picked up the boots, tucked inside one of them was a note. The officer had not read it and was under the assumption that it was an apology. I signed the paper work, grabbed the boots and headed home. Once home, I finally pulled out the note:

“Sorry for the inconvenience…”

Inconvenience? You have GOT to be joking!

She then went on to explain that she has the same boots and forgot that she left them on the bus and only wore her flip-flops into our school. After the meet, she put my daughter’s boots on thinking they were hers.

That was her pathetic attempt at an apology. So let me get this straight. She by “mistake” went into someone else’s locker and took out their boots. She didn’t notice that none of the clothes were hers?

And then, once she got on the bus, she didn’t question the fact that she supposedly had another pair of the same boots already on the bus? And, in addition to those two lies, it took her two days and a team meeting to “tell” anyone her “mistake”?

My initial impulse was to make a copy of this ridiculous letter and give it to the police. I wondered what, if any, consequences had been doled out. The anger inside me was bubbling over.

I took a deep breath, folded the letter and put it in a file. This was not my child and I was not her parent. Obviously there were bigger issues here than just some stolen boots, and unfortunately, this is where my story ends. Because really, what could I do about it anyway? Even if I did bring this new development to the police’s attention, whose to say her parents wouldn’t just run out and buy her the same boots to back up her bullshit story?

My daughter, and all her team mates, remember to bring locks now.

Perhaps, one lesson was learned.

Differences of Opinion are Well Received

One of the things I love best about blogging is engaging with a community. Opinions evolve. Perspectives change. Sometimes I see how inaccurately I projected my thoughts or even how off the mark I was by the responses in the comment section. I welcome your feedback and would like to take a moment to respond to a couple of great comments from yesterday’s post.

This first comment comes from Sandi Ormsby of Ahhsome.

“Personally: I’m not interested in reading about someone’s divorce. Even if they are in the public eye, announce it, and be done with it…everyone should be allowed some common courtesy, some dignity to move forward without their spouse. We don’t need to gossip or offer opinions.

BTW, re: “We want to hold on to the hope that our dreams can come to fruition, that our lives will not fall to a national statistic…” well said, but I don’t think divorce is causing her to lose that dream or even damaging it. Her happiness is just being altered a bit.”

Celebrity divorces are announced daily, it seems. I was at the salon getting my hair done this morning, chuckling at all the weekly magazine subscriptions laying on the tables. They are riddled with hook-ups and break-ups. I think what struck me the most about Heather Armstrong’s announcement was how much attention it is receiving from more respected news sources, if that makes any sense.   She seems less of a celebrity to many of her followers and more of a friend or personal acquaintance. There are many bloggers that I read so often that I feel like I know them, personally. In fact, there are a handful that I consider friends because we interact outside of the blog world, albeit only through emails and text messages. Every time I hit “publish”, I am forever sharing a piece of myself, good or bad. Sometimes, there is an unsettling feeling knowing complete strangers have a very limited opinion of who I am.

The second comment comes from Kathleen at Richwell Ventures.

“Of course it IS nice to see people succeed, but you mean, “and never fail”, and good luck with that. She did succeed, just not indefinitely. I don’t know of this woman or how long she has been married, but I do know that the only constant is change.

I do empathize with her. It SUCKS. It’s devastating, I have been there, heck who hasn’t, but the potential death of her marriage does not automatically destroy her future, nor negate the blessings she has had up to this point. It just changes, and we endure – or don’t.”

I do agree with Sandi that everyone needs to move forward in their own happiness – however that may look. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that fans won’t speculate about the circumstances or outcome, it is in our nature to have an opinion, even if it is based on nothing concrete, mere assumptions. My hope is that the Armstrong family has good communication and a loving support system. And yes, Kathleen, I suppose it is a bit naive of me to want to see long-term success without failure. Maybe what I really hope is that we are able to succeed with minimal failure. I fail at small things every day: lose my temper, forget to pack someone’s book, start dinner too late, etc. But the one thing I don’t want to fail at are my relationships. Those are the things I hope to keep close, protect them at all cost. Although I know that comes with a price too sometimes. I also agree with Kathleen, because I know personally the devastation of divorce. It certainly was not my intent to imply that divorce would cause someone to lose or damage a dream. But it is the end of one dream – until the next one is envisioned. Happiness is a choice, I believe, although some days are much harder to find it than others. I never went in to my first marriage thinking, “let’s just see how long we can keep this going“. Obviously, my dream was a life long journey. The journey just changed, but in the end, I found a different happiness, a different dream, and a different future.

My dream now is to follow my creative interests and write more professionally. I want to build a better blog, start a book and even do some public speaking again. But the biggest part of that dream, is having my kids and DW at my side. That is the part that is sad to see – the end of a partnership. Even though I know there are always opportunities to build new ones.

Heather Armstrong is Separated. Who Cares?

On Tuesday last week, iconic blog mom and author Heather Armstrong  announced that she and her husband have separated. More than just the blogosphere  has been buzzing. Twitter, Facebook, parenting websites and even major news sources, like ABC News  and The New York Times, have been featuring this announcement. This struggling marriage seems to have taken on international proportions, drawing sympathy from thousands of fans. But why?

On average, 50% of first marriages in America still end in divorce, while 65% of second marriages fail. Even the most private relationships have trouble, imagine how hard it is to keep it together under the public eye. And this isn’t even a couple known to their audience on the silver screen, masked by scripts and scores. What you see is what you get. For almost eleven years, Heather Armstrong has stood in front of her readership in emotional nakedness, unscripted and without apology.

So, I can’t help but wonder, who cares? And why?

We care.

There are dozens of reasons why she has such a strong following. After all,  Forbes referred to her as one of the most influential women in media, and HGTV added her to their design blog team. She has had numerous interviews and awards.  Heather Armstrong took her blog from creative outlet, to lucrative business. But, unlike many of the celebrity personalities decorating the tabloid magazines, Heather Armstrong captured our hearts in the most intimate way, by telling her story, everyday. We read her words as if listening to a friend. We comment as if our opinion matters. We’ve watched her go from single working girl to married with children. Many of our hearts have beat in unison as she confides about her trials with depression. We cheer her on in parenting moments, personal triumphs and relationship woes. We laugh at her candor and marvel at her observations.

We relate.

We celebrate.

We are inspired.

Above all else, we want to see her succeed, especially at the very things that we strive to protect and perfect every day: our relationships, our children, our creativity, and our future. We want to hold on to the hope that our dreams can come to fruition, that our lives will not fall to a national statistic.

And as a fellow blogger, we want to be able to say, “See – we can have it all.”

Moments You Don’t Want to Forget

Me and The Tortoise, age 8

I can’t listen to LMFAO’s Party Rock Anthem in the car without  cranking up the volume. It is also nearly impossible to keep my shoulders from dancing or my fingers from tapping the steering wheel. But then add my almost 14-year-old daughter in the car and we might as well install black lights and a fog machine because we sing and sway so enthusiastically you can hear us coming for miles. The car becomes our own personal dance club and recording studio.

While we were stopped at  a light on Sunday, I pretended a small umbrella was a microphone and belted out a few lines in my best Elmo impersonation, causing The Tortoise to start choking on her own spit from laughing so hard. By the time we reached our destination, we were breathlessly silly.

Me and The Tortoise, age 11

“Mom, ” The Tortoise asked between gasps, “Were you always this cool?”

“Huh?” I asked perplexed, turning off the car.

“Were you always this fun and outgoing?”

I shook my head in embarrassment.

“Not outwardly,” I said cautiously, “I have always felt this way on the inside but was too afraid of what other people thought of me.”

“That’s surprising,” she replied.

“Why?”

“Because I just can’t picture you being any other way – you say what you think, you make friends with everyone, you have fun whenever possible and don’t mind laughing at yourself.”

“Do I embarrass you?” I asked concerned.

“Not at all!” she said quickly, flashing a big grin, “I like it.”

“Well, good,” I sighed in relief.

Me and The Tortoise, now age 13

“So when did you change your mind about what other people think?”

“When I became your mom,” I said. “Then I just worried about what you thought of me.”

We got out of the car and headed towards the restaurant.

The Tortoise grabbed my hand in the parking lot, gave it a tight squeeze, “Well, I think I want to be just like you.”

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 56,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 21 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.