Thursday, December 31, 2015

The "All Lives Matter" debate

I am still amazed by how quickly the words "black lives matter" seem to make situations so charged so quickly.  Inevitably someone jumps in and says "ALL lives matter," like the phrase is saying that they don't.

Inevitably, they are white people who say this.  Inevitably, things get hot.  I am white, but I am outraged by the way white privilege is so entrenched that people are flat out unable and unwilling to see what we are trying to say.

We are not saying that other lives don't matter. We are saying that the circumstances and culture of our society  does not value black lives.  That our strong black men are at risk.  That our young black children playing in parks are not safe.  That our black daughters and sisters are dying when they are stopped for traffic violations.  Is that likely to happen to me?  A middle aged white woman?  Nope.  Because I have white privilege.  Whether I want it. Whether I acknowledge its existence.  It is there.  And I reap the benefits in my day to day life.

I wait up when my son is at work.  Sometimes he walks the quarter mile from the restaurant where he is employed.  It is late when the oyster bar closes.  He is a strong handsome black man walking through town in the dark, after midnight.  You bet I wait up.

I made sure every water pistol or air soft gun in our house is fluorescent yellow green or orange. In no way can they even remotely look real or I throw them out.  Would I do that if my kids were white like me?  I don't know for sure, but I doubt it.

I worry that my teen will do something silly with his friends--some of whom are white--and that they will run off and leave him in a situation where he is more at risk than they are. Teens sometimes do stupid things. I was a teen and I did too.  But I didn't die because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

2015 was filled with so many profound examples of how racism and white privilege are very alive and well in our country.  It is my hope and prayer that 2016 brings opportunities for change.  I hope it begins with my white friends accepting white privilege and using it for change.  Instead of railing that it doesn't exist, lets use our voices. Let us speak out with our black friends, neighbors and family and work together for safety, for equality, and for the sanctity of life.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas 2015

It has been a wonderful holiday thus far.  Filled with warmth and laughter, presents anticipated and those that surprise.  Yummy food, lovely music and memories to hold close. This year more than ever, I am aware that we stand poised to have very different Christmasses in the not so distant future.  
This year found us driving to Maine due to my mom's health.  In recent years she has driven down to spend Christmas with us.  Her cardiac issues made her feel unable to handle the not insignificant trek from Maine to Massachusetts.  We drove up yesterday and had a wonderful gathering. She and G were truly thrilled by the carefully chosen presents, by the love our tribe showered on them and these feelings were very much reciprocated.

Today found a day of fun here as well. Unseasonable warmth meant that mid day my wife and I took a walk and we were talking about the day.  In the next few years much will change.  Our Rob will likely move to another area, or be in a career where he can't be home for Christmas.  He hopes to work on a cruise ship so who knows how many more Christmasses we will be lucky to share with him.

My mom was more obviously "old" when we visited this time.  My mom has been sort of ageless. She worked for a loooong time as a teachers aide in the schools in Maine.  She is very active in her church and the Guild that they have. But I could see that her strength is not what it was 6 months ago.  She sometimes has to use the chair lift to get to her second floor apartment.  She is not doing badly; she is aging.  It was a reminder that I don't know how many Christmasses we have with her either.

The littles are not so little now, but thankfully there are still a lot of Yule tide celebrations with them.  Chet remains perpetually youthful,enjoying all that there is to do at this time of the year.  But I am not so ready to give up the crazy early a.m. wakeups on Christmas morning. Or the setting out of carrots and cookies on Christmas Eve.  Nor am I ready to give up my mother.  

Christmas is beautiful and wonderful but it is a time of the year that is so highly emotionally charged as well.  Fiona was not with us this year as she had a chance to spend Christmas with her Cousin N.  She arrives tomorrow and will celebrate with us a day later.  I missed her being here, but I am glad for her.  It is important that she be involved with all her family and that she always see that I support and encourage this.  N put extensions in her hair for her today and sent me pictures. They are beautiful and she did an awesome job.  The gift is a joint one from N and I.  I bought the hair and N did the installation for free as her part of the gift.  It is a perfect example of blending our families; the fact that we could work together to make something special happen for Fi is so important to me.

So now I will curl up with a book to the sound of Christmas revelry and games in our front hall and thank the goddess for a holiday of beautiful memories to carry forward.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Ready for Solstice

It is nearly Solstice.  That time when the day is shortest and the night is longest. . . that tipping point after which we know that incrementally, we are regaining bits of that precious light. Seconds to be sure, but we will regain light.

This season has been a busy one full of so many ways to celebrate.  And i have loved every bit of it.  I decided this year  that I was not going to try to pare back activities unless the kids seemed to need it. I was used to being rather minimalist in my choice of activities when Chet was young. But aside from making sure that we made sure they get adequate rest, the youngers (can't quite say littles any more) can handle a wider array of experiences than Chet can.

So we saw the Nutcracker--a local performance that a friend of ours was in. We listened to holiday music performed by local school kids.  There have been trips to see lights. There have been multiple Christmas parties at the dance school as well as Lissa's birthday celebrations. Special foods, special TV programs, and lots of special books have been shared.  We have made our family mural, made gingerbread houses and the house sparkles with an abundance of decorations. (that I most sincerely hope conceal the lack of deep cleaning during the month of December!) The tree lights twinkle and my favorite holiday plates are our regular every day plates during this month.  It is SO much fun!

But winter is also about stillness. It is about that pause, when the earth rests.  And Solstice reminds me to take that pause.  The picture above is our kitchen altar.  Our family altar is in the kitchen over the sink very intentionally.  I believe that the kitchen is the heart of our home. It is the place where we start each day and where we end it each evening. Over the month I have been gradually changing up the altar to reflect the coming of winter. Back right is a ceramic of a wolf that KC made several years ago at pottery camp.  In front of that is a spectacular speciman of mica that used to be my grandmothers.  There are rocks, that remind me that winter is hard and a tiny candle to remind me that the light returns.  A lovely long piece of birch bark rests across the back of the altar.  Birch is my favorite wood for starting a hot blaze quickly so it is symbolic of the fire of life for me on our altar. And there  snow people because they make me smile.

Sometimes the pause in my life is only the period of time that it takes to wash the dishes.  But the altar keeps me centered and more peaceful.  Blessed be.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Christmas Eve with my mom

Heart disease runs strongly on both sides of my family tree.    Both of my grandfathers died of massive coronaries.  My mom and my dad and my sister have all had high cholesterol since forever.  It is the primary reason I became a vegetarian over 25 years ago.

About a month ago, my mom had what was later found to be a heart attack.  There has been testing on going since then and the final decision is that there is a clot but the location of the clot is in a vein that is so small that a stint would likely do more damage than help. It is being treated with medication and she is very upbeat about this.

However, this  active woman has been experiencing shortness of breath, and has to occasionally use the chair lift to get up the stairs to her apartment.  For the first time in years, she felt unable to make the drive down to spend Christmas with us.

We will bring Christmas to her, and to her friend G on Christmas Eve day.  The kids are excited to be travelling up to see her ..  I am too.  I am mindful that this heart attack was a reminder that time is fast and fleeting and that someday there will be Christmasses when we are farther apart that a drive can solve.

However I am not dwelling on that.  Life is also for living and I am of the opinion that if I waste the time we have worrying about when I won't have her, it is like losing my mom now.  And since once of my kids is anxiety prone,I have always tried to teach him to live in the moment and that is what we will do.  We will laugh, and joke and admire gifts and make memories.  Because good memories are what can help us when there are darker times

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Holiday Mural 2015

So every Christmas season we cover a wall of our dining room with paper and make a giant holiday mural.  This year KC suggested Santa's work shop.  It is a tradition that we are all featured in the mural so you will notice that our faces have been added to "elf bodies".  The pictures don't really do the mural justice as it is so big and getting it all at once instead of in bits and bobs of smaller pictures has much more impact.

I love that this is still so much fun for all of us.  We draw and paint a lot but we also add objects to give dimension--bows on the packages for instance.  The packages are made from scrapbook papers and the "ribbon" is duck tape because our cat would ingest real ribbons.  The star on the tree was on top of the tree in Lissa's room last year but it broke and could not go on this year.  However it could be tacked above this "tree."

Something new to the mural this year was the incorporation of KC's advent doodles.  He started doing this last year with his friend the fantastic artist Jane Houghton.  Jane actually published her doodles this year into a little count down that goes on a teeny easel and is on our dining room table.  KC makes a doodle a day and we have found ways to incorporate his into the mural. If you look closely, Rob is holding skates that have laces with a #8 squiggled into them.  There are also doodles that act as ornaments on the mantel. ( a canle and a nutcracker)

Perfection is not the goal and everyone contributes ideas and art as the month goes on.  As the days shorten and we creep closer to the shortest day of the year, things like this brighten my spirit and help me wait for the return of the light.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Lissa at nearly 9

 Lissa turns 9 in a few days.  The 16th, to be exact.  I look back and she has grown so much in the past year and accomplished so much.  I am so proud of her.  She fascinates me, challenges me, and being her parent constantly makes me look for ways to meet her where she is.  And Lissa is always in a different place from any of my other kids!

She is fiercely independent, impetuous, tempestuous, intensely loyal, brave, silly and enchanting.  She is a vibrant package of contradictions that somehow blend into the amazing person she is.  The top picture was taken during our holiday decorating, in late November.  The middle two were taken today.

For all of Lissa's life and most of KC's Ben lived next door to us.  The kids grew up together and Ben spent a LOT of time with us at our house.  The kids formed a club that they call KLB (from the initials of their names) KLB grew with them and became a really organized little affair. They developed a comic book making side of KLB. They rotated being "captains" of the club.  They made the TShirts that you see them wearing in the pictures.  They pretty much created official KLB club everything.

Then, this summer Ben moved.  He is still in town and they still see each other often, but they don't see each other daily, the way they used to.  It has been hard on all the kids,even though my kids understand that in most every way possible this is a good move for Ben and his family.

When I asked Lissa what kind of party she wanted she immediately asked for a KLB party.  So Ben came to our house about noon today and is spending the night and will go home tomorrow about noon.

They have had a blast. They played outside.They made an indoor fort and played there. They did crafts. They decorated gingerbread houses and played games.  Lissa chose Chinese food for supper and they stuffed themselves on the really super delish food that the little place down on the corner churns out.  Then, I suggested that we go to a local botanical garden that has an amazing light display.  Only about half an hour away, it was a great way to spend time outdoors on an amazingly balmy night.

We all had a blast. The lights were amazing. And what kid doesn't like being up late in the dark?  All of mine love it at any rate. When we got home, we actually had Lissa's cake and ice cream.  The cake was at her request, a KLB themed cake in the official KLB colors of red, blue and green.It is the only cake I have ever seen that did not say Happy Birthday and instead had a wobbly KLB written on the top by the birthday girl herself.  It was perfect.

The bottom picture is of Lissa fooling around with friends at the recent Girl Scout holiday parade.  One of the things I admire about my youngest daughter is her determination.  She gave Scouts a try a year ago and it was a meh kind of experience for her.  But she did not give up, in large part because if the program was only adequate, the friendships were strong and compelling enough to keep her involved.

Lissa is virtually unstoppable when she sets her mind to something.  This will be a huge asset to her in later life.  She wanted to learn to swim this year and gave up one dance class to accomplish the goal. At the end of the 12 week session she could swim the length of the pool, do a very adequate kneeling dive, do back stroke and float.  Next, she would like to try basketball, so I am presently looking into that for her.  I love that she samples, experiments and tries things out.  She isn't sure where her niche is but she enjoys the journey.

Happy Birthday my princess!

Monday, December 7, 2015


Today was one of those days.  A day when everything was just a little off.  An overwhelming amount of paperwork that had to be deferred while I drove to a 3 hour training.  Racing back into my office after the training I neglected to notice that my car door did not close all the way.  This left the dome light on and subsequently the car did not start when I went to go do my taxi run for the kids.  I got a jump start and all was well as far as that but it did put me a bit behind schedule.

We arrived home briefly so that I could grab my supper smoothie and as we were returning to the car KC noticed the sunset (oh, the early sunsets of December) streaming red and pink behind us.

"Wait," he said. "please, I have to try and get a picture of this."

I almost said no.  We were behind schedule.  Dance class started in just a few minutes.  But there are only so many sunsets.  And when the goddess grants us the beauty of one, he is right.  We need to pause.  To be there. To enjoy.

Two days ago a dear friend passed away.  Her family had run the local flower shop for 75 years.  Jeri had seen us through christenings, weddings, funerals and memorial services, recitals and anniversaries.  She watched my children blossom.  Each year we brought cookies to the shop and she gave us a pointsettia.  She loved us and loved my kids-all kids.  Jeri won't see another sunset.  I need to remember to enjoy sunsets and all the other things that are a lot more important than always being on time.

Sunday, December 6, 2015


Things have been busy with holiday goings ons here.  Saturday was particularly stacked with busy and fun things.  Lissa had a birthday party to attend.  KC and Rob and I went to our city's holiday stroll.  They also sealed a new time capsule before the event and we watched this as well. And, in a 5 seconds of fame moment, the local paper interviewed me for my thoughts.

The holiday strolls is so much fun.  It was unusually warm and pleasant this year and we meandered around.  We noshed on the loads of free food that is available,oogled crafts, made some gifts at a local bead shop and chatted and hung out with friends.  About 20 to four I had to leave Rob and KC and walk back home so I could pick up the car and drive over to get Lissa at the party.  When I left, KC filled out a raffle ticket for a new bike. . . and when I came home I found out he was the lucky winner.  He gets his bike tomorrow and he is one happy little dude!

Later than night I had a holiday dinner party to go to at a coworkers house.  It was a lot of fun. Great food, laughter and general festiveness.  I was not out late and home in time to see the littles before they went off to bed.

Today we had church and after service there was a surprise birthday party for a wonderful fellow.  A good friend, Bart was also Rob's mentor in coming of age.  I know Rob would have wanted to be there but he did not get home from work till 2:00 a.m. and was just rousing when  I left for church at 9.  We stayed for a bit to wish Bart happy greetings and then came home.

Kirsty had made a beautiful evergreen swag for the front porch of our home and woven lights into it as well.  I got busy in the holiday department as well.  I made these really cute gifts for the kids dance teachers.  The school is doing their recital based on Frozen this year.  I turned tiny ballet slippers into Elsa and Anna holiday ornaments.  I got the slippers at the consignment store and the rest of the decorating stuff was mostly from the dollar store, so it was inexpensive and a lot of fun to make.

After that, I made the cemetary boxes for my grandparents grave and for my mother in laws and brought those down.  I always feel better getting those on. Why I need to visually mark that someone cares about those who are buried there makes no sense, but I do.

Tonight was the first night of Hannukah and as usual, my kids played the dreidel game.  We are not Jewish but our religion does honor Jewish roots.  And my kids have always loved dreidel nights.  I was the fly in the ointment as I would not stop watching the Patriots game to join in as I usually do.  I have promised that I will play on Tuesday night though in retrospect I would have had a lot more fun with the dreidel than I did watching my team lose!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Murals and Calendars

Even though the kids are bigger, much of what is important to us all at holiday time remains home made.  KC wanted a Star Wars advent calendar this year.  I checked them out.  Store bought cost $40.00 if you could find them.  Yes, they have some little Star Wars toy each day.  But aside from knowing I would be stepping on little toys for 24 fun filled days till the dog ate them or Eldest Son vacuumed them up. . . well, I could not justify the price.  I love the kids being able to open something and mark the time till the big day.  But I don't love it enough for the price it was sold at.

So I decided I would make him an advent calendar.  I used the magic of the internet to find 25 pictures and phrases from the movies.  I popped them into my scrap book program so that I could size them down to what I needed.  I printed them.  I used the same scrapbook program to then print a 4 page picture "banner" (as seen above.

Then I just worked on the back of the picture and cut out the doors with an exacto knife and taped the picture there. Wrote the numbers on the doors with silver glitter paint and voila! A calendar for cost of paper and ink.  And a very happy boy.

I know it might not fly for some kids. But this guy is artistic and creative so he was thrilled by the idea that it was made by hand.

We also started our annual Christmas mural today.  KC's idea was to have Santa's workshop and have us all be elves.  One elf making toys, another baking etc.  Kirsty put up the paper last night and the drawing and painting has commenced. This is an exceptionally enjoyable activity because it is something anyone can add to when they have a few minutes and just want to do something to de-stress.  Every year I wonder if this is going to be the year that they roll their eyes and say how "over" these traditions they are.  And I am so very grateful that year has not yet arrived!

My hippy chick

Yeah, but not hippie like a beatnik.  Hippy like in pain.  Back when she was really little just a bit over a year I believe, Miss Lissa jumped off the couch. She was copying her exuberant big brothers who were taller and stronger than she was. She landed wrong and I knew right off something was wrong.  After an ice pack didn't help and kiddie tylenol didn't help we trotted to the local ER. Where we got zero help.  I got the rent a radiologist who was less than useless.  I am being 100 per cent honest when I tell you that they had me prepare her for the x-ray.  I am not a radiologist and I did a poor job.  The xray showed nothing, and was blurry.  The weekend radiologist said all was well, gave my daughter a popsicle and sent us home. 

Except she could not walk. Except she screamed in pain when I changed her diaper and had to lift her little bum. My family primary care was on vacation and the hospital had automatically sent the films to his office.   We were stuck in limbo for 2 weeks.  Managing pain with tylenol, carrying her everywhere.  I was frantic as my youngest is a very energetic, on the go child and her behavior and  constant pain were highly atypical.  There are times as a mom you know something is wrong. This was such a time.  Eventually she began to crawl, hitching both legs together at the same time.  That was when I knew it was the hip. 

The Dr came back from vacation and saw us.  After telling me I was an overprotective parent they finally agreed to re-do the xray.  I got a call at work 20 minutes later where in hushed tones they said they were very sorry and she had indeed broken her hip.  However, the hip had all ready begun to heal and appeared to be in proper alignment so nothing else was needed.

And she healed and all was well.  Till about 3 weeks ago when she began to periodically complain of her hip hurting.  Most times she has not been doing anything outrageous and I tracked it  carefully to be sure.  I asked my wife to call our Dr for an appointment as Lissa is STILL a high energy girl with a very high pain level and for her to ask for pain meds is very out of the norm.

This time we got our Drs new nurse practitioner. She does not know our family and this was our first meeting. She told my wife there was no way anything from that long ago could cause a problem now and that we should give her tylenol.  Minus the popsicle it was that long ago ER visit all over again.

Yesterday Lissa almost could not get out of the car after they got home from doing errands.  When I got home from work she was better but in no shape for dance, though we let her go to Girl Scouts. It was obvious that climbing stairs hurt signifcantly.  I was worried to have her sleep in her bunk bed (top bunk) so she was in my bed last night.

Today we called the Dr again and he saw her and has authorized an xray.  He wants to rule out any spur or calcification that may have resulted from the original injury and depending on what the xray shows, an MRI may be the next step.  I am just thankful that we are at least getting some diagnostic assistance as it kills me to see her hurting.

Holiday blur!

I blinked and it was Thanksgiving!  I guess it just feels that way.  Life is so busy and I am always trying to soak up every minute of it.  It was a wonderful day.  A day filled with joy, laughter, family and friends.  As usual, there was lots to prepare.  Our gatherings are so large we don't fit in our dining room any more.  There is a large table there but squish 13 plus people around it and no one can move.  So we move all the furniture out of the living room, bring in banquet tables and rental chairs and find it accommodates all who come much better. 

I was sad that my older kids cousin N was not able to come this year due to transportation difficulties.  Even the younger kids missed seeing her--though I think in that case it was primarily because her daughter is around KC's age and they are very good friends. 

Food was delish, the table looked pretty and managed to combine things from all the various families whether it was in the food choices or the flatware, or the salt cellars that were my great grandparents.  KC got to watch the Macy's parade with his Aunt Lynne.  Their tradition was snowed out last year and they had to resort to watching in their separate locations and texting as they saw the floats go by.  He was happy that this year, it was "normal."

Friday morning found us decorating for Yule.  I had gathered all the harvest decor the night before so that we could jump into decorating right away. I knew it was something the kids would want to do first thing and I was not wrong.

Our house is a sprawly old victorian.  It can and does get a lot of decorating. We are still not quite done but things are looking festive and it does not look overblown.  One would think it might if you saw how many totes of decorations came from the attic, but really it gets spread over so many rooms that it is really pretty.  Rob still likes to put the tree together for us and helped the littles and I decorate it.  K focusses on the outside.  Chet pretty much stays in his room till we are done and then he likes to help ferry the boxes back to the attic and vacuum up the floors.  The littles flit here and there and bring me items for the displays and decorate the little trees in their bedrooms.  Christmas is still magical to them and it still is to me for that matter. I love the music, the sparkles, the memories.

Saturday we had our usual errands, went to our church craft fair,  and then spent the afternoon with friends at the local roller rink.  These friends used to live right next door to us and the kids so very much miss their best buds.  So for 4 hours we skated and chatted and had a blast.

Sunday we drove up to Maine to see my mom.  She has some health issues right now and will be having a cardiac test tomorrow at the hospital up there.  If things are not good they will likely do an immediate stint.  We brought her favorite soups and canned fruits so she will not have to worry about food as she rests from whatever is done, reading material and music. And of course just being there with our love and laughter helped her greatly. When we got home, Lissa marched in our town's holiday parade and tree lighting ceremony. 

Compared to the rest of December, this was a relaxing weekend!