All Write, Columns

Apology Accepted?

The crash happened in a split second. One minute my husband was driving down North Monroe Street, and in a flash a sedan darted out in front of him from a side street.

By the time he hit the brakes, he had hit the car, which spun 180 degrees, ending up with its back end in the southbound lane and its front end in the northbound.

Stunned and shaken, he pulled over in a nearby church parking lot. An off-duty fireman stopped to see if he was OK while others checked on the teenage girl and her passenger.

Derek drives an F-150 truck, and it hit the rear passenger door of the small sedan. All of the car’s airbags deployed. Amazingly, no one was injured.

“What were you thinking?” Derek asked the driver.

She said she had seen him signal to change lanes on the busy four-lane section of Monroe and thought he was turning. She thought she had time to make it across the intersection.

She thought wrong on all counts, and her mistake could have had a much higher price than just the inconvenience of damaged vehicles and time spent on insurance paperwork.

In the following days, Derek wavered between anger and relief. Several weeks later when the dust and the insurance had settled and his truck repaired, he received a letter from the girl.

“I’m sincerely sorry for the accident I caused. I’m very grateful you’re OK. This accident made me realize how very short life is – your life could be taken in any minute.”

The note seemed genuine and heartfelt, and whether her mother made her write it or not, the effect on Derek was liberating. He had already moved past anger, but her words allowed him to think more kindly of her.

A sincere apology will do that.

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if that happened more often?

Instead, sorry/not sorry has become a hashtag on Twitter, a popular Demi Lovato song, and a featured phrase in everyday conversation. Sorry/not sorry is what you say when you acknowledge your words or actions may have upset someone, but you really don’t care.

Huckleberries columnist Dave Oliveria refers to insincere mea-culpas as “ap-hollow-gies.”

It’s like when my boys were fighting and someone’s feelings, body, or toy had been hurt, and I’d admonish the offender to tell his brother he was sorry.

“Sorry,” the culprit would mumble.

The word was right, but often the body-language – arms folded, eyes-rolling, shoulders shrugging – revealed the kid was less than repentant.

That kind of apology usually resulted in further consequences. Even so, an “I’m sorry” rendered because a kid doesn’t want his video game privileges revoked, doesn’t get to the heart of the matter.

And speaking of hearts, there are times when even the most genuine mea culpa cannot mend or alleviate the pain of damage done.

Think of the courtroom apologies proffered by people who have killed or maimed someone while driving drunk. Or the relationships broken by betrayal. Or the workplace gossip that results in job loss.

While saying sorry may be the right thing to do, it doesn’t automatically translate into forgiveness.

And sometimes we can be haunted by the apology we never received.

Many years ago, someone close to Derek treated him very badly. Harsh words and untruths were spoken. He waited for an apology or even an acknowledgement of wrongs done.

It never came.

Eventually, Derek chose to forgive this person. It had little to do with the offender and everything to do with my husband’s peace of mind.

Forgiveness is a choice, and so is asking for it.

The letter from the young driver demonstrates what it means to acknowledge harm done and accept responsibility for it.

“I know I’m young and learning. I know that this was my fault, and I take full blame,” she wrote. “This has helped me look at life from a different perspective. I appreciate every moment for what it is. Once again I apologize.”

Apology accepted.

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Columns

Caution: Kids at Work

The friendly bagger shook open my reusable bags on Saturday, and eyed the flood of goods making its way down the conveyer belt toward him.

“How heavy should I make these bags?” he asked.

“Load ’em up,” I replied. “I’ve got kids at home to bring them in.”

The cashier paused her scanning. “Your kids help you unload the groceries?” she asked, wide-eyed.

“Only if they want to eat,” I replied.

Her surprise baffled me. If I work to earn money to buy the food, and then shop for it, and turn it into delicious meals, why wouldn’t my kids at least carry the groceries into the house and put them away? It’s called being part of a family.

I’ve been amazed by how many parents I’ve encountered who don’t expect their children to help with the most basic tasks of family life. On the contrary, they’re struggling to do it all so their kids can have it all. But the newest video games, the fastest computers, the sleekest phones and being part of elite club sports teams can’t replace lifelong lessons learned at home.

Specifically, skills learned while wielding a toilet brush or vacuum cleaner. Those skills will be far more useful in daily life than the super speedy thumb work needed to unlock a new achievement in “Gears of War 4.”

Work has never been a forbidden four-letter word at our house. The adage “Many hands make light work,” is so true, and with four sons, we had plenty of helping hands.

Toddlers love to help, so while our kids were still in diapers they learned to set the table for dinner. Picking up their toys before going to the park or watching a video became a breeze thanks to a simple song all four of them can still sing.

“Clean up; clean up, everybody, everywhere!

Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share”

Of course, as they got older getting them to do their work became an onerous chore for me. Arguments about whose turn it was to clean the bathroom, who was supposed to mow the front yard and who didn’t empty the dishwasher ruined many a Saturday morning.

That’s when I bought a white board and hung it in the basement. Each kid had a list of tasks. No television, no video games, and no hanging out with friends until their work was done.

This worked great until they became teenagers. Suddenly schoolwork, sports and socializing, made holding them accountable difficult, but as priorities shifted, so did the workload.

Thankfully, habits ingrained when they were younger paid off. Simple things like rinsing their plates and putting them in the dishwasher after a meal, or taking the trash out on Tuesday before leaving for school, were already second nature.

When I complained to my sister-in-law about my middle-schooler having a fit one morning because his favorite shirt wasn’t washed she said, “Why on earth are you still doing his laundry?”

Bingo! The next day, I gathered all four of them in the laundry room and showed them how to use the machines. To avoid fights, I assigned them each a laundry day. No one ever yelled at me again about not having clean clothes.

The only drawback to raising kids who know how to work is that as soon as they’re able, they want to work outside the house. You know, where people actually pay them money for their labor.

Our three older sons got jobs while still in high school. As long as they maintained a respectable GPA, made time for sports or social commitments and didn’t seem overwhelmed, we encouraged their efforts even though it meant a re-division of the workload at home.

Now, Sam has followed their example. Two weeks ago he started working at Shopko. As if that wasn’t enough change in our household routine, our middle son Zach is moving to Nashville.

I might want to start having my grocery bags packed just a little bit lighter.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval

Columns

Magic Under the Big Top

Sawdust. Greasepaint. The wire stretched tautly high above the center ring.

The circus was never about the animals for me. It was about magic, make believe and those daring young men on the flying trapeze. Once upon a time it really was “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

Last week’s news that after 146 years, the curtain was coming down on the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, triggered a flood of memories.

While the industry’s sordid history of its deplorable treatment of animals is undeniable and inexcusable, the circus of my childhood was more than bullhooks and elephants.

I can still remember clutching my dad’s hand tightly as we went through the turnstile at the old Spokane Coliseum. My parents had taken me to the El Katif Shrine circus before, but this was my first exposure to the crème de la crème of circus magic – Ringling Bros. – the big time.

Even as a kid I loved old movies, and I’d seen the glamour and pathos of the circus in films like the Academy Award-winning “The Greatest Show on Earth” and Disney’s “Dumbo.”

But I’d recently seen “Trapeze” on television and I was enthralled with the idea of flinging myself through the air into the waiting hands of the well-muscled Burt Lancaster or pretty boy Tony Curtis.

My friends and I played “circus” on the playground at recess at Jefferson Elementary. We’d swing higher and higher, until the swing set rocked with our rhythm, then we’d let go of the chain and sail through the air to land in the gravel, hoping to nail a dismount worthy of Ringling Bros.

Mostly, we just got rocks in our shoes and occasional bloody knees and skinned palms.

Under the big top of the Coliseum, I sat entranced. From the red-coated ringmaster with his shiny black top hat, to dozens of clowns in a tiny car, to the lovely ladies in sparkling costumes riding atop high-stepping steeds, the circus held me in its grip. My eyes glittered like the sequins on the tightrope walker’s tutu as I tried to absorb the pageantry.

And then Gunther Gebel-Williams and his big cats took the floor. He strode into the center ring with a leopard around his shoulders, dimples flashing, blond hair flowing, bronzed abs rippling under the lights. Pure showmanship and undiluted magic.

I saw several other circuses, but nothing ever measured up to the first time I saw the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.

However, by the time I reached my teens my Gunther Gebel-Williams poster had been replaced by Andy Gibb and Leif Garrett posters – the gaudy glow of the circus had dimmed, replaced by the flashing lights of disco fever.

Later, as a busy mom of four sons, my home often seemed like a three-ring circus complete with roaring animals and stunts as breathtaking as a toddler scaling a teetering bookcase. I had neither the time nor the inclination to leave my house to see one. My parents took my oldest son once, but my youngest at 17, has never been to the circus.

Now it looks as though he never will.

I’m OK with that, but I wonder what his generation’s equivalent will be. Running away to appear on “America’s Got Talent” doesn’t have the same allure.

Sure, they can watch death-defying stunts on YouTube, but seeing Johnny Knoxville catapulted in a Porta Potty will never equate to watching an aerial acrobat soar high above the ground, spinning into a triple somersault, stretching to grab his partner’s waiting hands.

In fact, today’s kids seem to have their eyes on electronic screens from the moment they wake up until the moment the clock on their cellphones, Kindles or iPads tell them it’s time to go to sleep.

Perhaps that was the best thing about the circus – it got us out of our houses, away from our screens and caused us to look up for just a moment.

 

Cindy Hval can be reached at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.

War Bonds

Would You Rather?

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In the latest episode of my podcast “Life, Love & Raising Sons”  my two younger sons, Sam and Zach joined me for rousing on-air game of “Would You Rather?”

It’s a simple conversational game we often play at the dinner table where we ask each other questions like, “Would you rather hug Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton– Heidi Klum or Russell Wilson? Mick Jagger or Keith Richards?”

Also featured: wet Hutts vs wet dogs, eating pencil shavings or glue and Sam tries to stump me with “Would you rather relive your first date with Dad or your wedding day?”

Click here to tune in. The show airs daily at 11 AM, noon and 5 PM at Spokane Talks Online and is available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Google Play etc.

Listen to previous podcasts here.

Columns

The road to enlightenment

In which we travel, see beautiful things, drive past enlightenment, do not catch Pokémon, but a lot make memories.

Scenic mountain vistas, mighty locomotives, a dash of dogs and a sprinkling of enlightenment – our recent road trip had it all.

After an enjoyable visit to Olympia a couple of years ago, we decided we wanted to take our youngest to the state Capitol. The torture of an Interstate 5 drive had been lost in the haze of more pleasant memories.

We arrived in time for a late dinner at the hotel restaurant, and our spirits were revived with food, drink and a view that didn’t involve asphalt.

“Look at the lady with the cute dog,” Sam said, as we gazed out the window. “I think it’s a corgi.”

 A few minutes later, Derek said, “Hey! There’s a lady with two of them!”

Bemused, we watched a parade of corgis and their owners, taking a slow stroll around the hotel grounds.

“Must be a corgi convention,” I speculated.

In the morning we found out a corgi dog show was being held at the hotel.

With coffees in hand we braved I-5 again for a few miles before heading to Elbe, Washington, for a steam train excursion. Aside from the train at Silverwood, none of us had been aboard a genuine steam-powered train.

On the way, we drove through Yelm and right past Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment. To our surprise, Sam had never heard of JZ Knight. Or Linda Evans. Or New Age anything.

Derek attempted to educate him: “A bunch of people sold their dogs, their cats, their kids and followed this guru chick who claimed to channel a dude named Ramtha.”

“Dad, you can’t do that,” said Sam.

“Do what?” asked Derek.

“Sell your kids,” Sam replied.

“Well, they did,” said Derek, who then attempted to explain Linda Evans and the 1980s. We believe travel should be as educational as possible.

While explaining “Dynasty” and really big hair, he also confidently negotiated a seemingly endless series of double roundabouts.

“Boy, all I’ve been doing is making right turns,” he mused. “I hope we’re getting somewhere.”

But get somewhere we did. We enjoyed the 14-mile excursion via First Class passenger car. Brilliant blue skies framed Mount Rainier, and we disembarked at Mineral to tour the Logging Museum, which is set up like a railroad logging camp. We explored the camp and the steam locomotive exhibits before boarding for the return trip.

The next day Sam announced he wanted to see some waterfalls, so we laced up our walking shoes and hiked Tumwater Falls Park. The 15-acre park features a network of trails and footbridges offering expansive views of the tumbling falls.

Of course, the point of our visit was to tour the state Capitol. We knew our politically aware son would appreciate the rich history of the building and sitting in the Senate and House galleries. Our visit concluded with a stop at the gift shop, where we discovered that our state is still firmly in the grip of a two-party system. You can purchase Democrat Merlot and Republican Merlot, but if you’re looking for a Libertarian Pinot Gris, you’re out of luck. You can also get Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders paper dolls, but there was nary a Gary Johnson paper doll to be found.

While Sam enjoyed the Capitol, he was unimpressed with the slogan we read on a sign: “City of Olympia: Working together to make a difference.”

“I feel like it should be, ‘Working together to make a more clichéd tagline,’ ” he said.

The snark is strong with this one.

After dinner at Budd Bay Café we were eager to stroll along the boardwalk with Sam. The lovely views of the marina and harbor were a highlight of our last trip. To our surprise, the boardwalk teemed with people milling about looking at their phones. Couples, singles and families ambled along, heads down, staring at their screens, oblivious to the sunlight reflected on the water, heedless of the lovely displays of public art and tone deaf to the lone street musician who strummed his guitar.

My suspicions were confirmed when I stopped at Harbor House.

“Is this a Pokemon Go stop?” I asked.

He nodded.

“It’s right out there,” he said, pointing toward the harbor. Then he shrugged. “It’s an epidemic.”

We watched as couples ignored the delighted squeals of their toddlers pointing at the boats bobbing in the water, instead intently scanning their phones for a Squirtle in the wild.

Saddened, we escaped the crowds and climbed the lookout tower, which offers stunning views of the harbor crowned by the Capitol dome.

Gazing down I saw a lone family on the beach. None of them had smartphones out. The preteen brother and sister were skipping stones across the water while their parents watched.

I looked for Derek and Sam to show them another family untethered from technology. I found them standing side by side, talking quietly, watching the sun slowly sink into the horizon. Their broad shoulders and height are so alike now, it took my breath away.

Quietly, I sat on a bench behind them and dug my phone out of my purse. I didn’t use it to search for a Pokemon, I used it to snap a photo and capture a memory.

I’d seen a lot of lovely things on our trip, but nothing as beautiful as this.

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Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.