A Man With Integrity

My mother has been visiting us for two months, and today is her scheduled flight home.  We spent the morning packing and enjoying the sunshine, and then she and I went to lunch and did some shopping.

She decided to leave her purse at home, as we’d had to pack several items into it to save weight in her suitcase.  She did take her wallet, though, which was a cause of concern for me.  See,  Mom has memory issues.  Lots of ’em.  So I was worried that she’d  forget it somewhere.

We’d been to Target, and she put her red wallet under my purse in the red cart (yeah).  Only I’d bought something.  As we walked out of the store I left the cart right outside the doors, grabbed my purse and bag and we walked to the car.  I didn’t give her wallet a thought.  Neither, apparently, did she.

We drove to Office Depot so we could print her boarding pass (still no working printer in my house), and as we pulled into the parking lot she suddenly realized she’d lost her wallet (Yes, you were smarter than me and saw that coming.  Whaddya want – a medal or a chest to pin it on?).

Ohhhhhhhhhhhh crap.  We’re supposed to leave to take her to the airport in 90 minutes!  If we don’t find her wallet that means we don’t have her drivers license.  No drivers license, no board plane.

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh CRAP!

We looked all over the car, then I drove back to Target.  We looked in all of the carts in the parking lot, and we asked at customer service.  I have to say that the Target employees  were AWESOME.  Three employees helped check carts.  The security guard reviewed videotape to see if we could tell which customer took our cart.   I was walking around the store asking women to lift their purse (or their child) so I could see if there was a red wallet underneath, in their red cart.

Mom was paralyzed with self-loathing and dread.  I called Husband and asked him to meet us so he could get the thumb drive and go print the boarding pass, in hopes we’d find the wallet.  Fun stuff.

A half hour later, while we waited for the security guard to look for the person he saw on the videotape, Mom gets a call from a friend.  Mom is telling her she can’t talk, but the friend says, “No!  Someone found your wallet and called me!”

Mom was too shaken to talk, so I talked to her.  A man said “his nephew” found the wallet, and he’d called 3 or 4 people before he’d found this particular friend, who knew Mom’s cell phone number.  I got the guy’s name and phone number and called him.  He was friendly, mentioned that he saw Mom was from Connecticut and he was from Massachusetts, and told us, too, about “the nephew”.  I thanked him, then explained that we had to leave shortly to take Mom to the  airport.  Could we come pick it up?  He agreed to meet us, gave us his address.

As Mom and I drove over there I told her not to count on her money being there.  After all, the nephew (if there truly was one) did not walk back into Target and turn the wallet in to the employees there.  He brought it home.  That right there made me suspect that the money – and perhaps the credit cards – would be gone.  After all, he could always claim that the money was gone when he found the wallet.

But as long as her drivers license was there, we would be happy.  We’d just consider the lost money a “stupid tax”.  I know I’ve paid plenty of  money in stupid tax over the years myself!

The man met us at the entrance to his apartment complex, handed over the wallet and said, “This is exactly how my nephew gave me the wallet.  Was there money in there?”

I looked through the wallet, noticed that the license and credit cards were there but the money was missing,  and told him yes, there’d been money.  Mom said she’d had about $60 (though we later realized that she only had $40).   He gets on his phone, calls the nephew and tells him to give back the money.

At this point Mom and I are so relieved that she can get on the plane that I’m about to thank the guy profusely and just leave, but he tells me to wait.  He asks me to follow him to his apartment; he’d get the money from his wife and they’d get it back from the nephew.

Uh huh.  I am still skeptical at this point.  What’s he up to? Is this guy trying to set me up?  I reluctantly follow him, and I call Husband.  I tell him what’s happening, and I tell him that I’d rather he stay on the phone with me “just in case.”  He tells me not to get out of the car or go into the guy’s apartment.  Well, duh!

A few minutes later, Husband still on the phone, the guy emerges from his apartment, walks over to the car and hands my mother a wad of cash.  He says, “My nephew had this, and he says that’s all that was in the wallet.”

Personally, I don’t care if it’s $4 or $40.  I’m completely shocked, and  thrilled, and in awe of this man.

Integrity.

He chose to:

1.  Contact us – taking several phone calls to do so;

2.  Meet us;

3.  Believe us about the money;

4.  Be willing to give it to us out of his own pocket, if necessary;

5.  Demand that his nephew own up.

And all of it really had nothing to do with us.  Helping us was a by-product.  This guy couldn’t have done anything else.  Because integrity, like fidelity,  is personal.  It’s about him, not us.  His values.  His beliefs.

I was near tears as we thanked him, said G-d bless you, and drove away.  Despite all of the politicians and Tiger Woods’ and Kardashians, we need to remember that there are still plenty of people who do have integrity in this small community we call the world.

I’d say that nephew, and all of the other people in his life, are even luckier than we were today.

Safe travels, Mom.

Take The Park the Car Challenge

The price of gas has all of us, especially those of us with SUVs, crying into our cereal. I’m following lots of tips to save money on gas, but have come to the realization that the best way to save on gas is to simply drive less.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

I’ve started the Park the Car Challenge, and I’m the first to sign up. It’s very simple but not so easy.

What’s the Park the Car Challenge?

Well, you simply park it. The car, that is.

One day per week we’re not going to use the car for anything. No trips to the mall or the grocery store. No Starbucks or Barnes and Noble. And, bless us all, no gas stations.

No driving to the park or the library, but feel free to walk or bike. No driving to a friend’s, but go ahead and invite them over. Heck, you can invite your friends to take The Challenge too, and do things together.

Carpool with other participants to work, to the movies, or out for ice cream. We can really affect the price of gas, try to put the kabash on all that oil speculation, if we reduce our oil consumption. Supply and demand, my friends!

So what did we do on our first week of The Challenge?

We spent the morning making Play-doh poops and potties (at Son’s insistence), and then we went to the pool. While he napped I called my cable company and saved $52 a month, and then I called my cell phone company and saved another $20 a month (I reduced the number of minutes in our plan).

I also straightened up a few things and did some work relaying projects for my job.

So, on the one hand we have no money spent on gas. No money spent on lunch. No money spent at the store. No money spent, period. $70 per month saved on cable and phone bills.

On the other hand we have lots of togetherness. Lots of productivity. Lots of fun.

It was a smashing success!

This won’t work as easily when school starts, but it’s perfect for the dog days of summer. Unless – gasp!- we move our No Drive Day to the weekend.

Hmmm, that could get very interesting…

Do you have what it takes? I know you do! Want to join me?

The Best Mother’s Day Gift

I love gold hoop earrings. They’ve always been my “staple” earrings, and I’ve had several pair over the years. The ones I like are very thin, simple hoops, medium-sized and 14k gold. Over time they tend to break or bend or fall off, so they occasionally have to be replaced.

I have wanted a new pair of gold hoop earrings for about two years, ever since my last pair broke. A few times Husband has attempted to purchase some for me, but they are always either too small or too thick or too…not the ones I want. I always appreciate the thought and effort, but if they aren’t what I want I’m not going to wear them, so I’ve returned them. I don’t know why I never exchanged them – likely there was a big expense just around the corner and I thought I’d delay it until a little later. Only a little later never came.

Last week Husband was lamenting that he had no idea what to get me for Mother’s Day. After telling him to read my post he still wanted to purchase me a gift. He’s just gotten another nice check from Shutterstock for selling his animations, and since we agree he use that money for whatever he wants, I agreed. And I often have to remind myself that allowing people to give to me, being willing to receive, is a kindness to them. I have always veen more comfortable with the giving than the receiving. So, if my husband wants to buy me a gift, buy me a gift he will.

When I mentioned that I really wanted those gold hoop earrings he did not do a happy dance. “I never get the right ones,” he groaned. “You always return them.”

True, but I’d thought of a way around that. I suggested that we go together to buy them, then use a gift certificate we had for lunch at one of my favorite places. He agreed – and that right there was his real gift. Husband abhors shopping. I like it when he comes with me. Ergo it only happens about twice per year…

So after a lovely morning of sleeping late and hugs and kisses and a homemade card from my two favorite men, we headed off to the local flea market, purveyor of good deals. I’d bought my last pair there for about $45, and that was about $10 less than I’d seen them anywhere else at the time.

We went to several merchants, and the least expensive pair I found was $99. Seems the price of gold has gone up since the last time I bought some. Wow!

I just couldn’t justify spending $99 on a pair of hollow gold hoop earrings. Earrings that are so fragile they always break. So instead we found some identical gold-filled ones for $10. They’ll probably last about as long as the real gold ones, and I won’t freak if they break or get lost.

So, I let Husband buy me a gift.   And I saved him $89.

Good thing there’s no scorekeeping here.  His last gift was $4000.

I’m just not one of the women who want and expect extravagant gifts, especially for Mother’s Day.  The only gift I really need for Mother’s Day I received from G-d and Husband, and is the one that wakes me up every morning with a kiss on the cheek and an “I love you, Mommy.”

And that’s priceless.

The Meanest Mom on the Planet

Say what you mean and mean what you say.

To me that sentence illustrates one of the most important aspects of my parenting philosophy – consistency. It’s hard to stick to your guns and follow through on things. When that weepy face (upset at the prospect of missing the trip to the pro football game because he didn’t meet the clean-your-room-or-lose-the-privilege requirement upon which the trip was predicated) begs me to reconsider, I’m sure I’ll want to give in and let him go, while threatening that he “…better clean it tomorrow, OR ELSE!”

I just don’t think that would serve him, though.

My son is three, so that hasn’t happened yet. Other things have happened, and I use various strategies consistently in my efforts to teach him self-discipline, and that are consequences for every action. He knows if he’s warned and continues the behavior the consequence warned will happen. Despite the tears. Despite my own inconvenience. Despite my son, or others, thinking I’m a mean Mom.

The other day he was misbehaving and I told him that if he continued he would get a timeout. When he continued the behavior I asked him if he wanted a timeout. Instinctively adept at the concept of reverse psychology, he answered me with a resounding “Yes!” So, he got a timeout.

I always think I’m in the minority with my thinking on this. A friend’s son once said to me, smugly, “If I pester her enough I’ll get what I want. I always do.”

Sooooooo not happening in my house.

Imagine my pleasure in reading about the self-proclaimed Meanest Mom on the Planet, who sold her son’s car for breaking a rule upon which having the car was contingent.

Not an easy thing for her to do, I’m sure. But the right thing, most definitely. And a very hard lesson for her son.

But I’ll bet it’s a lesson learned.

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