Monday, January 16, 2017

Food packing day

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It has been a busy weekend in many ways.  Yesterday KC and a lot of the members of the dance school that they participates in performed shows at the area assisted living facilities.  They were very warmly received in all venues.  He was in 3 of the numbers this year and the shows were about 45 minutes in length.  They did 4 shows in all and devoted the larger part of yesterday to giving joy in this way to the seniors of our city.  He was proud and excited to be doing this.  Last year he was only in 2 numbers, this year he was in 3.  He stressed a lot about whether or not he would slip when he did his solo in the tap number, whether he would get tired doing the lift etc etc.  He did great though.

Lissa spent from 2 to 6 yesterday outside a local big box store with her Girl Scout troop. She was helping with the cookie booth and despite the very chilly temperatures the girls did well on their sales. Lissa and I worked together on finding recipes on the net that use Girl Scout cookies and folks who bought more than 4 boxes got a free recipe book.  It was a cute little sales aid and Lissa enjoyed doing it.  I helped at the booth the last 2 hours of the day, having completed taxi duties associated with the winter show performances.  Holy handwarmers it was cold!  Lissa was fine as I had her wear her really warm winter gear--snow boots, snow pants, parka etc.  Dressed like we were doing a winter hike.  However our troop is not wealthy and many of the kids working were very lightly dressed for being outside so long.  When I came I brought extra gloves and chemical handwarmers and just left them on the end of the table so people could borrow gloves, and use the handwarmers.  They were gone in a flash.  It is one of those things you don't realize at first. In a lot of social situations it is easy to disguise the fact that there is a real fine line between having enough and just barely getting by nowadays.  But sometimes it shows.  Kids who say they only wear hoodies because of "fashion" sometimes really only wear hoodies for other reasons.

Today Lissa has a "hang out" (we have apparently reached the age where we are too cool to have a play date) with her friend L.  I'll pick her up at 3:30 and she and KC and i will head to the food packing center.  Both kids were initially thrilled to do this.  Today not so much; primarily because KC is a bit tired from yesterday and because it made for a shorter time for Lissa and her friend to be together today.  However I have been impervious to their half hearted suggestions that we not go.

First of all, I believe in showing up when you say you will and I did check with them before I signed up our team. Secondly, I think the energy of the event will come through to them.  I have done the United Day of Caring with my work team and you can't help but get energized because to be in community with so many people excited to help others---well, it is pretty cool.  But most importantly, I think it is important to find a variety of ways to help others.  This is a way to give of service and I am convinced that service needs to be a component in creating a more fair and just world.  It isn't just about writing a check or dropping off a donation.  Those are fine. They are needed and there are times when I have contributed in that way as well. But we also need to be willing to work for a better world, and a fairer distribution of that which we all need in order to live.  So I hope today will help my two youngest see that and I'm more than willing to plan another "hang out" time for Lissa and her friend!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Farewell Pres. Obama and my take away

I watched President Obama's final address last night.  I was very emotionally moved by it.  I remember the joy I felt 8 years ago when he won his first term.  He was so classy, he had such vision, he was articulate.  He was BLACK.  He was from Chicago.  He was proof to my children that anyone of any color can reach for the stars and grab hold of them.

Throughout his administration I was never ashamed of the actions of his administration.  He spoke and acted with thought.  His kids weren't in the news for doing things they shouldn't.  His wife, was the most amazing First Lady of my remembered life time.  His presidency was for me, how my parents felt about JFK.

His closing address never wavered from that bar of civility and class that he set so very high from day one.  He didn't encourage negative sounds from the crowd when talk turned to the new administration. No "going low" he "went high" all the way.

I have great fears surrounding the Trump presidency. I worry that he will surround himself with people whose sole purpose is to dismantle the freedoms that have been so hard won for so many.  I worry that those all ready marginalized will be even more so.   I worry for those whose health care while imperfect, has been far better with the Affordable Care Act.  I worry for the rights of women to choose freely what happens to their own bodies.  I worry that as a country we will no longer be seen as wise and--well--important to the rest of the world. I worry that wrong choices by those in power will ultimately be a financial and environmental price that are paid for by my children.

Yet worrying can do little. So I try to spend a small amount of time acknowledging these concerns, validating their realness.  I spend a lot more time, figuring out what I can do.  How i can live my life in a positive meaningful way that lives out my personal values, and that does what i can to ensure the rights of others.

Part of that will happen Monday afternoon and evening as the kids and I volunteer with the United Way to package food for those who would not eat other wise.  A staggering number of children are "food insecure" in our country.  I personally know what it is like to wonder when you will eat next.  I remember hiding the fact that I didn't really have food in my house when I first went out on my own.  I didn't want others to know that all I had was one bag of potatos and food for my cat. To this day, a full pantry makes me smile and feel safe.  There are too many people without that feeling of safety.  I can help.  I can teach my kids that they can help, that when we have enough to get by we can and should reach out and give a little more to those who don't.

My other take away was that I need to have more conversations with the people who don't believe as I do.  This is harder for me than volunteering and giving of myself.  I don't like arguments.  I don't like listening to words that sound hateful, or bigoted or flat out illogical.  Additionally I live in one of the bluest of the blue states.  I think that the only Trump supporters I have actually met can be counted on one hand. But I may be wrong.  Maybe they are as afraid of dialogue as i have been and we have been politely ignoring each other, to our detriment.

I know I can not support the ideology of this adminstration, but I need to understand those who did. We all need to.  Because if it really was out of work white workers who were Trump supporters, or gray haired ladies who remembered the 50s fondly or whatever, we need to talk.  I need to know how they think this will be better.  I need to know what CAN be better,with or without a Trump.  I think that is the only way we can move forward, toward that illusive "greatness" that became a slogan in a campaign that will be remembered for years to come.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Little Aggravations. . . large blessings

It has been a tough, albeit short, work week.  A dear coworker and his wife tragically lost their son two nights ago to an asthma attack. Their son was young and healthy (mid 20's) and had successfully managed asthma his whole life.  Yet in a blink, he was gone.

I can't wrap my mind around this.  I don't know what to say to them.  My coworker and his wife stopped in to the office today and all we could do was cry together.  Which seems counter productive to my "fix-it" nature, but I suspect it is all anyone can do. They are handling the routine affairs, sleepwalking through the things that are required when someone passes.  Grieving with someone is also necessary.  So I sat at my desk, all blotchy and red nosed (I am the ugliest crier EVER!).

Last night Rob asked if he could stay out late after work.  His girlfriend had invited him over and he would, he said, be home a bit after midnight.  My wife sighed.  Rob coming in, even when he tries to be really quiet, results in the puppy barking like a maniac for a few seconds.  Not long, but just long  enough to waken my wife who has trouble returning to sleep.

I am normally pretty sympathetic to her.  She and I both have crazy levels of work demands and I get her need for sleep.  Last night though, all I could say to her was how lucky we are that he was going to walk in the door at midnight.  We have friends who would give anything right now to get awakened at midnight with their son coming home.  We are blessed.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Welcome 2017

Today  Lissa was at a friends house and my wife was at her church job. Rob was working and KC and I were home  alone on a gloriously sunny and not too chilly winters day.  We decided to welcome in the new year with a short hike.  Only about an hour or so and very close by, we rambled about and chatted for the hour that we spent together.  Despite the moodiness that comes with the nearly teen status that he's so proud of, KC is still overall a very talkative guy.  He lets me into his feelings most times and I am grateful for that.  While I can't and wouldn't "fix" everything it sure helps to know what he is mulling over.  He is my deepest thinker and my fellow whose emotions run high to the surface.  Of all my kids, he wants and gives hugs most readily.

The weather was perfect for our walk, no wind so the fact that it was barely 30 was not a problem.  Glorious sun and crystalline blue skies contrasted with the white snow on our trek.  I don't know what 2017 holds, but it started in a totally wonderful way!

Friday, December 30, 2016

A good cup of coffee

I am a woman with mostly simple wishes.  I am not big on having the fanciest thing, the gadget with the most bells and whistles, the newest and greatest of pretty much anything. But simple things are harder to find these days.

I love rolling the windows up and down in a car and not pressing a button.  Until my present car I could still find cars like that.  I"ll admit that it helps that I also drive small low budget  vehicles and drive standard to boot.  But those little buttons have motors. Motors that will need attention and replacement.  That never happened with my little crank windows.

About 15 years ago my wife and I got a small 5 cup coffee maker.  On Christmas Eve Rob accidently broke the carafe.  I discovered I could not find a replacement carafe and we began to look on line for a replacement.  Although I typed in 5 cup coffee maker I got all these fancy things through the feed first. Keurigs, french presses, latte thingies.  And 12 cup programmable coffee makers. It was like someone was saying "5 cups?  You think you only need 5 cups?  Wait!  Look at this!!"  Finally after scrolling, for $11.99 we found a small 5 cup replacement coffee maker.  It looks like the picture above.  It works perfectly and meets our needs.

But it made me think about how each day we are subliminally bombarded this way all.the.time.  Menu items are "super sized."  Phones have to be so fancy that you need a doctorate to use one.  Televisions are "smart."  For the record my "dumb" TV works fine and I am totally happy with it.  But I think a large segment of society try to buy their happiness. I would hypothesize that this leads to a state of chronic dissatisfaction because there will always be something bigger and better out there.

I see this in my kids.  I am often saying to them that there will always be someone who has more than you and someone who has less than you. The secret is to be happy with what you have, and to give what you can to help someone else.  Off my soap box now and off to enjoy a good cup of coffee!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Kwanzaa Night!

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In an odd way the goddess apparently felt the need to smack me up side the head and slow me down.  I came down with a stomach bug on Christmas Eve and was sick all that day and all Christmas Day.  I woke today, restored to my normal energetic self.  While I did get up to do the gift opening on Christmas morning, I spent the majority of the day cloistered in my bedroom to try and contain my germs and recover most quickly.  I hate being sick. I have no time or patience for it!  I am especially annoyed that this happened during Christmas!!! I adore the entire celebratory month of December.  While I know I am fully at fault for squishing in every bit of excited fun that I can, I just can't do it any other way.  Some day from the confines of my rocker I will scroll back through a legion of memories of concerts and ballets, parties and gift making, and so so much more.  

Fiona was supposed to be home for Christmas and on Christmas Eve day I got a call from the group home. There had been a very serious incident with Fi; one which may have some longer lasting repercussions due to the level of property damage she engaged in.  Her plan does not permit her to come home within 48 hours of that level of disregulation.  I am not adverse to this.  Fiona has such trouble self regulating and if an incident of this magnitude happened, I feel woefully ill equipped to prevent it or something worse in a simple family dynamic. Yet in an odd cosmic way, things were aligning. You see, I don't have a bedroom for Fi.  I always give her my bedroom and sleep on the floor in one of the kids rooms when she stays over.  This would have been less than enjoyable given how I felt physically.  (usually it does not bother me in the least)  

The family decided to wait the big holiday dinner a day so that I could enjoy it with everyone so tonight we feasted instead of yesterday.  We had a lovely Kwanzaa dinner instead of a Christmas one.  Kwanzaa is a holiday that Rob never really has embraced despite all my efforts to make it part of our family culture.  However the younger kids are really into it.  The picture above is our kwanzaa candle blazing.  The first night of Kwanzaa is Umoji which means unity.  It was a beautiful night to celebrate family unity.  We have fewer family meals these days.  Between my wife's work schedule and my son's work schedule it is rare for us to all sit at table together.  Tonight we were all together, laughing, eating and enjoying the gift that is the greatest of all-family.

Friday, December 16, 2016

December is celebration time

It is the holiday season.  Lights and decorations festoon the house.  A tree is a glow in the living room, overburdened as usual with a plethora of ornaments.  Many made by the kids over the years, treasured by us sentimental parents.  I remember my first "grown up" trees when I moved out on my own.  They were artfully decorated. Every bulb matched or coordinated.  The garland was placed just so.  Nowadays?  I look for the home made "elf" ornaments we did of each kid one year.  I look for the ornaments that our kids have made for us. The ones with a photo of us at a favorite place on summer vacation.  The first ornament my wife and I bought together. etc etc.  It is, as my KC wisely says, about the memories.  I can save the color coordinated tree for a fond memory in the past, or perhaps a hopefully long distant future when the last of my kids have set sail fully on their own life paths.

We are at that cross roads where schedules and interests are changing up what the holidays have been for us.  There are traditions that are still fairly sacrosanct.  The great house decorating day.  Cookie baking. Music. Travelling around looking at lights.  But some things, are changing.  There is less reading aloud of holiday stories. There was no mural this year.  The kids have more get togethers with friends these days. There were several nights of making some really cool gifts.

I try not to over program but admit to failing pretty epically at that this year. With Chet, when he was our only, it was pretty easy to avoid that trap. And honestly in his case it was imperative that I do so.  He can not handle too much hype.  As an adult, he knows he doesn't WANT the hype and just opts out.  But the youngers?  Well, it is fun and they are young for a second, or so it seems.

So we have had a lot of extra activities and there will be more this weekend.   More gifts made for friends. A free movie showing at a local juice bar with friends. Last night Lissa went to a gingerbread man decorating event while I was at the dance school with KC. (Thank goodness for a wide and caring group of friends who helped with transporting Lissa to the event as I have yet to master cloning myself)

Today I worked only a 1/2 day because most of the family will see the new Star Wars movie at 12:30 and I was on call to pick up Rob from the train.  And today, Lissa is 10.  Double digits for my youngest!  She woke up early this morning at 6:10, sooooo excited to finally be 10.  No more babies in my house!  She is such a sweet, yet sassy little minx.  With a wit beyond her years, she can hold her own with the older kids.  Yet the tender side of her is evident when she is working with the animals, most especially with her puppy Luna. She is smart and analytical in her thinking and an excellent problem solver.  She is a good friend and I am lucky to be her Ooma.

I still remember the December she came home--it was a December we were not sure we would be able to get back to MA in time for Christmas because of the interstate compact taking forever. Paperwork around the holiday time can get a little wonky!  But we did get home and I remember vividly her in her baby carrier by the tree on Christmas morning.  KC was barely 3 and lisped "Merry Christmas sissy".    I remember wondering what her personality would be like.  I remember feeling I was woefully underqualified to parent a girl, having had 3 boys--Fiona though my daughter has not lived in our home full time.  I worried that I wouldn't figure out the girly stuff.

Little did I know that I would not have to figure it out.  Lissa has a style sense that is all her own and she is independent in her thinking. Honestly it wouldn't matter if I WAS a stylish person because she wants to figure things out on her own.  Sometimes the strength of her will exhausts me, but at the end of the day, I am abudantly grateful for it.  The world can be a hard place and she will need that strength in the years to come. She will need to know that she is good, and smart and capable.  That she has the right to dream and the power to make dreams into realities.  Happy Birthday Lissa!  I love you so much.