Friday, December 29, 2017

About that job. . .

A while ago I wrote that my present boss has been promoted and will be leaving our site.  I am an assistant property manager of compliance at our site.  I have worked here since Moses parted the Red Sea.  since 1978.  I have had a number of roles and most of that tenure I was employed by the former owner/agent. In 2011 we were sold to our present owners and I am employed by the managing agent.  Due to the complexity of the many subsidy programs we have, my role was restructured to deal almost exclusively with all the subsidy paperwork.

I do this well and have received awards, congratulatory emails, and excellent reviews.  However it has never been my goal to only do subsidy paperwork.  I have wanted to be a property manager almost ever since I started in this field.  With the first company I worked for I was the "heir apparent" and had been assured of the managership when my then boss retired.  Unfortunately we were sold before that happened so this was not realized.

He did leave under cloudy circumstances early into our time with our new company.  I was encouraged by my regional manager to apply for the position and I did.  I was told that I was not ready for this by the CEO of our management company.  I was devastated at the time but could see truth in what he said.  We had been with our new owners less than a year.  The things that we do in this company and the way they are done are very different.  I had also not had a lot of time to show my new company my strengths and what i could bring to the table.  So although I could understand what was said, I was devastated. It was probably a good couple of months before I shook it off and emotionally moved on with my life.

Six years rolled by and now the position is open again.  Being a glutton for punishment  firm believer that you keep striving, I again threw my hat in the ring.  This time the answer came in mere days and was again a no.  I am disappointed but refuse to let this get me down.  I think honestly that it is easier for the company not to have to train someone to do the job that I do (and there is not someone waiting in the wings who does it, so it would mean a new hire)  I think also that different companies have different cultures and that this company may not ever be able to see me as a manager.  While I am not sure the why of that, I have seen this with friends in other jobs as well. 

So luckily I had a plan B when I applied for the position.  I will spend the next couple of years getting a lot of additional schooling on my companies dime.  Education is never wasted and although I could in most cases just challenge the classes and obtain the management certification, I will take the classes.  Then, when KC and Lissa are a couple years older, I will apply for a managership in a different company.  I have friends in other management company's who have said I can send them my resume at any time.

Most importantly, I have not let this bother me emotionally.  I gave myself a full 24 hours to wallow in my unhappiness.  And wallow I did!  LOL  But I have a lot of great and wonderful things in my life and I can't let one no overshadow all of that.  I also know i really am a very capable person in the field I work in and that although this company does not see that outside of the realm of compliance work, I know it to be true.  With my first company my roles included staff management, budgets, capital needs assessments and more.  So I am moving forward into 2018 with a plan, with energy and with hope!

Vacation Week

I was lucky this year and it was my turn to take some time off after Christmas. This is on a rotation schedule at work and every 3 to 5 years it is my turn for the lions share of the days off.  I have been off since 12/22 and it has been glorious.  I don't typically take large chunks of time off (in fact the irony of all this is that it is exactly 4.5 work days!!) but when I am blessed to have the time I notice that suddenly my body stills.

I normally waken early every morning.  I don't set an alarm clock, I just wake up at 5:30  Apparently after a couple of days my body knows I am not on my usual routine and I am waking up at 6:30! It is bitterly cold here right now and that is physically difficult for me.  I confess to going to be early and reading till late into the night just so that I can stay warm.  I also don't have to be up before the heat comes on in the house and that too has been a treat.

There have been wonderful family times during this week together.  We went to Maine to spend Christmas Eve day with my mom and Griff.  They were so glad to see us and so happy with everything we brought.  Christmas Day was just my wife and i here with the kids.  Fiona was in the Big City with other family members but came here on Wednesday.  We had another festive family gathering and had a really good time together.

Yesterday I took the kids to the movies so we could see The Greatest Showman.  Great movie but not an accurate telling regarding Barnum's racism.  It sort of skirts around that.  But KC wanted to go because he loves musicals so that is why we went.

Today my wife and I are going on an actual lunch date.  This is something that happens very rarely as our time off schedules rarely come close to coinciding.  But this afternoon she is free and we are taking advantage of a gift certificate she got from a client for a restaurant.  I am really looking forward to this!

The year is speeding to a close and sometimes i wonder where all the time went.  But really when I look back, 2017 was filled with a lot of  great and exciting things.  I am lucky to have not just my family but a strong group of friends in a variety of walks in my life. This life I live would be so much harder if I did not have their wisdom, their laughter and their support.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people sitting, christmas tree and indoor

Merry Christmas Eve from our house to yours!  Chet had all ready gone up to bed when the rest of the kids hung their stockings. That means you only see three of the 4 who live here.  Fiona is with her first family in the Big City tonight and will be here on Wednesday to celebrate with us.

I love Christmas. I love the melding of so many traditions.  For instance, as I sit here writing I am sipping Coquito.  It is a Puerto Rican riff on egg nog, only better.  It isn't thick and gummy the way real egg nog seems to me. I don't even really like the soy egg nog as much as I enjoy coquito.  I first was introduced to it when we went to PR on vacation back when Chet was in 6th grade. This I did learn how to make and have sipped away at my container over the past few days.  Such a decadent delight.

There are pizzelles which are my favorite Italian cookie.  My friend Crystal brought some to our house last night and it made me literally glow with happiness.  They are something I don't know how to make and enjoy completely.

I used to have residents from Greece who made the most amazing baklava and little crescent shaped cookies sprinkled with confectioners sugar.  Mmmmm, divine.  I have not had them since they moved away but remember them fondly.  Also two recipes I don't know how to make.

Our family has food traditions too.  Home made penuche fudge to give as gifts (and lets face it, we make a double batch so there is enough for us to eat as well!) Frosted sugar cookies, and home made cinnamon buns for Christmas morning. When Fiona is home for Christmas I always make cheesy grits with breakfast because that is a food she loves from her past.  I love it too and have learned to make it just the way she likes it.

I wish the rest of the year, all our traditions could meld together as joyfully and with as much ease as they seem to at Christmas.  I have the feeling we would see one another differently, judge less and appreciate more.  

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christmas Eve Eve

Life has been busy enough lately that my posts all seem to linger in "draft" mode, never quite finsihed or brushed up for actual posting.  I looked in and saw that my hectic post was still hanging there in draft and laughed. 

Lissa's party was a huge success. She had a truly wonderful time with friends.  Friday night she was at a friends house and they had a party for her and gifts.  This family is amazingly wonderful and kind to Lissa and I am so glad that they are in her life.  It takes a village is not just a trite phrase.  It is vitally important to me that my kids all have a number of trusted adults in their lives so that if they are not comfortable turning to me or to my wife, that there is someone else in their corner.

The next day her party here happened and it was also a blast.  All the kids had so much fun, I overheard one of them saying that it was the best sleep over party they had been to because there was so much to do.  I am the queen of over planning for kids events so that was so very true.  11 is the age where cliques develop and Lissa has friends from a variety of walks of life.  As a homeschooler she has friends from dance, scouts, church, chorus and the neighborhood.  These kids don't all know each other.  So it was super important to me that there be activities that allowed them to get to know each other and to keep everyone doing something.  They were asleep by 11ish and started the day with home made waffles about 7ish the next morning. 

That night we had Vespers at our church and both the kids were in the pageant.  KC did an amazing job doing his reading from the pulpit.  He is one of those rare kids who did not have to be taught to slow down when he does public speaking.  He has a very measured, thoughtful delivery and did us and most importantly himself, proud.

Lissa was a "head sheep" and did well also.  By the time we were home from that though, we were all pretty tired.

My vacation started yesterday and that has been a huge blessing.  I rarely have big blocks of time off.  It is hard with the type of work that I do.  However at this time of year, when it is my turn for time off I can wrangle 11 days of no work by using 4 vacation days!  Score!!!  So yesterday and today we wrapped up holiday preparations.  Food has been bought, all the gifts and stocking stuffers have been wrapped, and tomorrow we will travel to Maine to celebrate with my mom and her partner.  In a true holiday miracle he is home from rehab after weeks of serious illness. 

Today I did not go out at all.  A snow and ice event made the roads less than great and I had no real reason to sally forth.  Instead, I puttered in the kitchen, making cookies, coquito and a special multi step pie (chocolate candy cane) for Christmas dinner. I cleaned the kitchen several times--I am not the neatest of cooks.  KC also had a part in it as he made fudge for my mom as one of his Christmas gifts to bring her tomorrow.

I know that people want to slow down the holidays.  And I used to feel that way too.  I have since decided after years of trying unsuccessfully to slow it down, that I will just go with it.  I'll do as much as I can of the things that we love.  Most things will happen, inevitably somethings probably won't.  But there will be more hits than misses. Memories will be made, laughter will be shared.  And that is the most important part of the holidays for me, anyway.

It's that most. . . hectic time of the year!

In some ways, it is like this every year.  There are a score of amazing, fun, and wonderful happenings.  There is not enough time for all that we want to do.  The calendar fills, then there are cross outs, additions, deletions. There are great things, and the challenges that don't stop because it is December and life is busy.

I am as bad as my kids.  I want to do it ALL.  I want to hear the concerts, see the plays, make the cookies, have the parties, send the cards. . .

We have done a lot.  There was a city play at the high school on Friday night.  Our former next door neighbor was in it as well as some of KC's friends from dance.  I had planned to take all 3 kids.  However some respiratory plague has descended upon us and Lissa was too ill to come so it was just KC and I.  Amazing production of Peter Pan though (with flying scenes too!!) and we enjoyed it greatly.  However that was tinged with sadness because Lissa was home sick and was not able to be with us.

A couple of weeks ago Lissa sang with a local school chorus at the start of our city's Holiday Stroll.  This was a first for her and part of the holiday craziness has been adding in the practice time for this. Attending the stroll has been an annual event for our family.  This year Lissa announced that she wanted to be part of the school chorus that her friend A is in.  We are entitled to participate even though we home school, so I worked to make it happen.  I think by the time December ends, Lissa will feel that her chorus experience is complete.  I am not exactly sure what she envisioned but this sample of the experience is apparently adequate for her at the moment.  I don't feel invested one way or another. I try to make sure that all the kids have the opportunities to dabble in things they find intriguing or interesting.  Sometimes they find a new passion. Sometimes, like this, it is more of "gee I want to see what this is all about."  She may opt to return in the spring but does not want to continue the commitment through the winter.

My wife was the chair of our church's Holiday Fair. A huge fundraiser for our church this was an enormous investment of time and energy on her party.  I sent out cards again this year!!! Last year I got so behind in things that I could not for hte life of me get them in the mail. This year, I did and I am so glad as there are many folks I don't connect with except annually with cards.

We saw a holiday play on the Friday after Thanksgiving as a family and have had Christmas movie nights together.  I managed to make the photo calendar for the grandparents and the shopping is nearly done.  We baked cookies and decorated.  Seasonal music has filled the house.  My wife made a super cool pallet snowman for part of our outside decorations. I love that he can easily stay up through January!!

My mom's partner has been very ill, hospitalized shortly after Thanksgiving for two weeks with pneumonia which came on suddenly and presently in a rehab facility.  There have been many phone calls and cards, emails and visits to lend what support we can.

This week things rachet up again with Thursday nights viewing of the new St*r W*rs movie.  Friday night Lissa is sleeping at her friends house. They want to give her their Christmas and birthday gifts for her then.  Saturday night Lissa and 3 friends are having a birthday sleepover here with much giggling, crafts and chaos.  Sunday is Vespers at church and KC is a narrator and Elisabeth is a "head sheep."  By Monday I will be tired but my vacation is on the horizon as it starts on Friday the 22nd.

And in the midst of all this fun and memory making Lissa KC and Chet have all been passing back and forth this respiratory plague amongst themselves.  I have a touch of it but seem to be holding it at bay with the regular use of Thieves Oil in our infuser in our work room.  I am in here a good 4 hours each night so I think it is helping.

Because life is always full of surprises, I also had one at work last week.  My boss of 6 years has accepted another position at a new site starting sometime in January.  This means the managership of the site I have worked at lo these many years is again open.

I have always wanted to manage this site.  I applied with my new company six years ago when my other boss was forced out.  I was not interviewed and told by uppper management that my skill set was not sufficient.  I am pretty sure that there were concerns about my competance and honesty as those were deficits in my prior boss.  Kind of tarred with the same brush so to speak.  But I have had 6 years with them since then.  I have received an award.  I have learned new skills. My integrity is defintely no longer a question in anyone's mind. I have done a lot that hopefully will show them I am the right person for the job.  I want it very very much.   But I also refuse to let this wreck my life.  Last time, I was depressed for weeks after their decision.  This time, I go into the situation with optimism and confidence in my abilities, but also the awareness that this company does not define me.  If they don't want me as a manager of this site, I have other options.  I have been taking courses in property management.  I will complete my certifications so that I have the creds to go along with the many years of experience.  And when my kids are a bit older, I will be able to interview at other properties that are further away from my home.  Right now, I need a closer home base so that I can do car pools and be available.  But at 11 and 13, I know that the time is fast approaching when they will have more independance.  Maybe it is that knowledge that helps buoy me this time.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Thanksgiving into Friday!

Thanksgiving weekend was so much fun!  After cleaning up from our holiday feast, it was about 4ish.  I was supposed to go Black Friday shopping with some friends.  So I tried to nap.  I am not a good napper. I have to be utterly exhausted or very ill in order to sleep in the day time.  I was not either.  Being in social gatherings energizes me so I was still on an endorphin rush of happy feelings.  I read my book and tried to relax.  I read my Facebook and tried to relax.  Nope.  Finally got up at 5 and decided it just wasn't going to happen.  Placed my Christmas card order on line, fixed the kids some supper (they can always still eat a few hours later) and did some piece work with my wife.

At 11 I met my friends at Wal*m*rt and we stood in line until the doors opened at 1 a.m. We had a pretty good spot at the front 1/3 of the line.  We drank coffee and chatted for hours but it went by so quickly.  Basically if I have someone to chat with, I am good anywhere you plunk me down.  Once we got inside I went directly to electronics where I successfully scored the camera Lissa wants for her birthday.  (I have the double joy of 2 kids with December birthdays) I also got my wife a great TV  The one in the work room is beginning to show distinct signs of aging.  I know she will love this and the price for it was less than we paid for the smaller one we have now!  I then did other parts of the store, nabbing deals on PJs and games  By 2:30 I was home and tucked into bed.

At 6:30 I was awakened by kids who were excited to decorate for Christmas.  So was I, so fortified with several cups of tea, and later, some coffee we had breakfast and decorated for a large part of the day.  The weather was uncharacteristically warm--like in the 50s--so we had no problem hanging the outside lights.  Some years you feel like your fingers will fall off from the cold, but not this year!

I really love to decorate.  I'd miss snoozing any day to decorate and I have passed that on to my kids.  We have about 11 totes of holiday decor and we use almost everything.  The house is large and accommodates a great deal of decoration without looking over the top in the least.  This year many decor items are related to very high places and the tree is wired to the walls. Rocky the Wonder Kitten scales it routinely and thinks that all the decorations are meant as kitten toys!

When we finished decorating I made the cemetary boxes for my grandparents and my mother in law's graves.  I was super excited this year that my wife found a great supply of red berries and even some wildly growing money plant. It really jazzed up the artificial picks of flora that I use and the evergreen boughs from our yard.

By then it was about 5 and the excitement and lack of sleep was beginning to show. I was able to snooze for about 30 minutes and then had supper, more tea and got ready to go to a play.  The kids, my wife and I went to see The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  It is rare for my wife to want to go to a social thing.  She is an introvert by nature and I was stunned when she had told me that she wanted to go.  I had immediately gotten the tickets when she said she wanted to go and I am so very glad we went.  It was laugh out loud funny and very wel acted.  I knew two people who were in the cast so that was extra fun as well.  I also like exposing my kids to a variety of theater experiences.  By the time we got home though, there was no denying that the surfeit of fun was catching up with me.  I was in bed,lights out by 10:30 and slept till 7 the next morning!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Thanksgiving Photo Op

It's been a good weekend.  Busy and fun and exhausting and fun, but still, I would not really change a jot of the weekend.  The picture above was Thanksgiving morning.Fiona opted to be in the Big City this year and did well with her visit.  The rest of our kids were here though and this is the picture I snapped of them Thanksgiving morning before everyone else arrived.  I did not think much about the pictures on the wall behind them.  At that time, I had only a few seconds to snap a picture and this was the only wall available  In a minor miracle, this is the first picture I tried to take of them and it was so cute right out of the gate.  Lissa is holding her dog Luna, if anyone is wondering what the shaggy lump is in her arms. 

It was as I was looking at the picture later in the evening, when things were quieter, I got to noticing the wall.  It is the wall that usually is inhabited by our love seat.  At Thanksgiving we have to move the furniture out of the living room so that is why that space was open.  The pictures behind the kids are of years gone by when they were very young.  Fiona's are hardest to see, they are the collage of four at the top.  In the center is a pastel drawing an artist friend did of Chet and Rob years ago.  I think Rob was about 7 when that was done, Chet would have been almost 18.  There is a picture of KC as a baby and of Lissa as a baby. 

And below them stand my beautiful, but so grown, children.  Lissa and KC have years with us still--but not LOTS of years.  And since the first 10 or 13 went by in a blink the years from 10 to 18 and 13 to 18 will be like a nano second.  Rob is 21 now and alternately going to the edge of the nest and stepping back.  This time next year I will be surprised if he is still living at home.

KC is all ready looking forward to his spring birthday, which will make him old enough to get a part time job.  He is eager for increasing independance and has a road map well thought out on how to achieve it.

Lissa is always looking for new experiences and has all ready told me that she won't be here once she is 18.  I believe it.  Her drive and intensity when she finds things to be part of and experience is amazing to behold. 

My picture is a reminder of a wonderful family holiday spent together. It is also a reminder.  Reminder to hug my kids closely, listen intently, smile more and make memories together.  Those memories will be my comfort and will be their trampoline--helping them launch exuberantly and courageously into their futures.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The pause before the. .

It is Wednesday night.  The house is cleaned (relatively) the numerous pies are baked.  The shells are made. The turkey is thawed. The cranberry sauce is made.  Tomorrow there will be more to do but by 1:30 or 2:00 p.m. the living room will be full of food, family and laughter.  Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year. This year is a smaller gathering than most have been. My mom is staying in Maine; her partner is presently in the hospital and though improving, he will benefit from her presence. The kids godparents are visiting family in Texas this year and Fiona has opted to go to the Big City to have Thanksgiving with her cousin's family. So it is us and my in laws this year.  10 seems so small compared to our usual crowds, but I'll take it!

I love the way the kids pitch in. The living room has to be emptied of furniture to make room for tables.  There is vacuuming and baking and dip making and baking and flatware to polish and baking. . .  Truly we started at 8 a.m. and the last item for today was finished about 6 p.m. I don't often wish for a double oven but today it would have been pretty cool!

I love being enfolded in family.  Ironically Thanksgiving was not a favorite holiday when I was growing up.  It felt like a grownups gathering where I could not find a place for myself.  My family thought I should watch the Macy's parade, which I despised.  Ironically, KC adores the parade and that truly is his tradition of choice, every year. I love the way the things we cook remind me of experiences or people I love.  I love the way polishing my mother in laws flatware from Thailand makes me feel close to her, even though she died many years ago.  I love mixing my family's silver candlesticks into the decor and the things K and I have bought together over the years.  I love to arrange my black angel holding the harvest basket near our cornucopia.  Somehow we have quilted together an amazing tapestry of family, friends and we are held together by love.

This weekend launches the season of festive craziness.  Tomorrow night I am Black Friday shopping with friends.  We are gathering at 11 p.m. so hopefully i have time to nap for a couple hours before we head out but we shall see.  Then on Friday we decorate our house for Christmas.  Rob does not have to go into work till 2 and this is the only day we will ALL be home together until--well, probably Christmas.  So it is important to me that we decorate together that day.  Rob is the guy who always gets our tree up and put together just so.  And Chet will help decant the 11 totes of decor from the attic so we can get festive.  After that I hope to nap a bit as that evening the kids and my wife and I are going to see the play The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  My wife really wanted to see this and I love theater so I was easily talked into it. It is the only night my wife has off, so that is why this to will jam up that time period.  But Saturday I can relax a bit and there is always coffee.  And Christmas music. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Lunch with Fiona

Fiona has been struggling the past few months.  It has been hard negotiating the ups and downs of her mood swings, but last weekend we had a good visit.  She said to me that she finds it hard to visit home right now.  She wants to live here and can't.  To her,visiting here   feels like waving this in her face.  That is of course, not my intention. The goal of coming home to visit was to have healthy loving relationships with the family.  For a long time she has bought into my very genuine belief that what we are working toward is her moving to another less restrictive level of care.  I have repeatedly talked about how as kids get older they don't live with their parents.  They get their own place, or they have a room mate and share expenses etc.  It may help when I actually have one of my kids do this so that she can see I am not making this up!  Rob is close but still in college and not quite there yet.

However, despite her not doing well visiting here I wanted to do something to maintain connections so we went to lunch at a fast food chain of her choice. The food was fairly ghastly but the time together was fun.  There were selfies and laughter -- lots of laughter.  I wish I knew a better way to help Fi.  Her mental health challenges and her cognitive delays are kind of the perfect storm for behavioral challenges.  But since I can't come up with any better model than what I am doing right now, I am  glad we had time together to laugh, love each other and reconnect. This is Fiona and Lissa at the restaurant.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Coming home from church. . .

I've been meaning to write this for a while and time just keeps getting away from me.  A few weeks back we were driving home from church.  As I came up the main street of our city,  I saw a van by the side of the road.  The doors were open and on the side walk was a man with two other men doing something to him.  I could not tell if he was being beaten or if he had fallen and they were trying to assist.

I believe that we are not islands and that we need to work together to help each other in this world.  So unlike all the other cars flying by, I pulled over.  I got my cell phone out and proceeded to get out of the car to see what was up.

As I approached I could tell that the man on the ground was someone who is like my Fiona.  He was raging and the two men were using safe holds to prevent him from running into traffic or harming himself or others.  He was definately not being beaten.  I asked in a quiet friendly voice if everything was okay and they assured me it was.  So I just got in our van and and came home.

Something that surprised me was that my kids were terrified when I got out of the car so we had a long talk afterwards. I reminded them of my martial arts training. I reminded them that I had my cell phone out and on so I could call 911 if I had to. I explained that the cell phone and 911 was not just for my safety but in case authorities were needed.  If the man was having a seizure for instance.  If the staff could not calm him.  If it had been a robbery or an assualt, it is still important not to drive by, turn a head or walk away.

I also pointed out that I tried hard to use my senses calmly when I approached.  For instance, I noticed as I walked closer that the van was not a mini van like we have.  It was one of the full sized vans that many programs for people with disabilities use. Fiona's home has one. Her Great School in the Big City had a number of them. I looked at the postures and made eye contact with the people.

I have always stopped when I have seen someone who might be in trouble.  And as a general rule, people have almost always stopped for me when I have needed assistance.  But I was sad that my kids response (and this included two adult kids) was one of anxiety. We do live in a world where care and alertness is necessary but this must be balanced by our need to live compassionately.

Friday, October 20, 2017


Ever since the recent Hollywood headlines, there has been a Facebook movement called #metoo.  If a woman has been the victim of sexual assault or sexual harrassment, the idea is that one puts the hash tag and words in a status.  My feed is flooded with #metoo by friends coworkers, acquantances and those who I know only via the connections afforded by the internet. The volume of it astounds me.

I too, could place #metoo in a status.  When I was very newly hired by a property management company my equally new boss decided one of my jobs was to take residents down to the basement to access their storage bins.  I was 19 and eager to impress.  I never thought twice about this.  I didn't even think much about the fact that after a while the same GI kept coming to access his storage.  The military folks that lived there back then always had a ton of stuff in storage. They would need to get gear out for when they were going off on a tour etc.  At any rate, my real hash tag should have been color me clueless as I saw no red flags.  Til the day he slammed me up against one of the walls and started kissing me and groping me.

I studied martial arts and had a very instinctive and effective response.  He backed off, feeling very uncomfortable.  I said for him to keep his hands and everything else to himself.  And I was okay with that.  I would be lying if I said I was afraid. during the incident. Startled, yes, and very angry.   I reacted almost without thinking and never felt like I was overpowered. But I remember being furious because the man was married with two young children and what was he doing all over me with that at home?

No, my fear came when I knew I had to tell my boss that I did not want to be alone in the basement any longer.  I was smart enough to realize that what happened once, could obviously happen again. My fear was that I would be seen as a "lesser" employee.  "Gee, can't even send her to storage, have to send a GUY."  My boss to his credit didn't say any of those things.  There was a distinctly awkward feeling to the whole conversation though and for a long time, I was sure that I had damaged my budding career by even mentioning what had happened. In retrospect, for all I know, he might have been inwardly freaking out about what *could* have happened in storage.  Or, as I feared he might have been blaming me, assuming I was sending out sensual signals while I stood in the drafty storage room.

Which brings me to why this movement is important to me.  As women we hide things.  We don't share things that can make us appear diminished or less capable. But we also don't always support those who are brave enough to come forward.  I have heard women I love say "sure, it happened to me too. It was a long time ago.  It is time to move on."  Words that are not that easy for everyone because every situation is so very different.

I have also read women I love and respect speak of the things they do automatically to ensure their safety, checking where they park, making sure their keys are out, being aware of their surroundings.  I do these things as well, but always allayed it to my many years of studying karate . . . until one of my friends pointed out that in most cases male martial artists would not survey the surroundings in this manner every time they go out.

This does not mean i am cowering in fear anywhere.  In fact, I need to write a post soon about an incident that happened on the way home from church at some point soon.  I don't hold back from involving myself if I see someone who needs help.  But I also try to keep myself safe.  It's all about balance and I guess as women we walk that tightrope an awful lot.

Mostly, this campaign has made me realize that this is NOT the world I want for my daughters.  I don't want a flood of me toos.  I want a world where they are safe to be themselves, to walk in normal places without being afraid of undue attention, to know that workplaces can and should be safe for all. And if any of my kids are non hetero this all goes double as I know from sad statistics that things are even worse then. And if the world is not kind, and the gods are harsh, and my kids someday need to write #metoo, I hope that they will be enfolded, loved and given an opportunity to heal.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A House Divided

The NFL has brought the sharp division of beliefs in our country into focus with the many players kneeling during the national anthem.  I support the protest;  I know many who don't.  However I was literally chilled last night to hear that there would be efforts starting at the White House to make standing during the national anthem mandatory.

Regardless of whether one feels this is "disrespectful" or any of the other terms I have heard and seen bandied about, this should frighten all of us.  Compelling us to stand is not the beliefs our country was founded on. Such dictates bring to mind facist governments and dictatorships around the world where terrified citizens stand at rigid attention.

It has also been another learning experience for our family, as my brother in law unfriended both myself and my wife because our profile pictures on Facebook indicate our support of the protest.  I was sad that he did this without dialogue.  That seems emblematic of the divisions within our country now.  I felt worse when my wife texted him privately and he harshly answered in ways that made her deeply sad.  My BIL is  a funny guy much of the time.  He is possessed of biting wit and a facility with words that lends itself to riotious laughter at family meals.  However his belief system is very rigid and I always hoped that our life was just a quiet way to help open his heart to the fact that everything is not that black and white.  He refused to come to our wedding for instance, but was willing to come to our reception at the house. I was okay with that then, although my wife was angry.  "we're good enough to eat our food" she ranted.  I was sure that it was a step toward understanding that opportunities to break bread together would help him see that we are not so very different. 

He has always been a generous uncle to our children, yet I can not overlook the racist tenor of his posts. When I talk to him about kids shot in playgrounds by police, unarmed black men shot when they are doing what the police told them to do--I am always told "my kids are different."  They aren't.  Sure my kids are smart cute and talented.  But they are black.  They always will be black.  And the only reason he can see the other facets of them is because he knows them and has known them all their lives.

He can't accept that.  He can't accept the fact that my kids have been followed in stores, called poop face and worse and other racially based things.  Probably more I don't even know about because as much as i strive for open dialogue I am deeply aware that no kid tells their parents everything.  They have hurts they have chosen not to share, of this I am sure.

And so for the moment, we are a family divided.  Thanksgiving is typically at our home and I am not sure what that will look like this year.  Sometimes I think we should attempt to gather civilly and build on that which is common and good to us--the love that we all share, the memories, the laughter and the pie.  Sometimes I worry that this is just perpetuating a lie and that my kids will see this capitulation as white family being more important. Part of me is sad because I suspect he must have always felt this way, and how could I have not known?  I feel stupid, and duped, angry, afraid and alone. 

And if I feel that way, it is only a fraction of what my kids, my friends who are POC feel.  These are deeply disturbing times.

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Great Face Plant

Mostly I write about my kids.  Today I will write about me.  Two days ago I walked out of my office and slipped on the plastic Tr** decking and launched myself airborne down the stairs to the pavement.  I could not time things more badly if I tried.  10  minutes later my new upper level management boss was coming to the property to meet the site staff for the first time.  Her first impression of me consisted of a bloody face and a huge ice pack covering the rest of it.

It is not fun.  My face looks like hamburger but will heal.  Apparently I don't have that instinct most people do to put up their hands when they fall.  I literally face planted.  Not a mark on my hand!  In reality it was just all so fast there was no time to react.  I definately have a small concussion.  I have that mid day killer head ache thing going every day now.  I have had concussions in my long ago misspent youth.  I know that this will just take time to resolve and heal.  My mouth took some damage as one might expect.  It is hopefully not huge repairs. Several chipped teeth and I managed to dislodge a filling in this event! I also pushed back my front teeth somewhat, making it difficult to close my mouth. Kind of like giving myself instant braces. Fun times.  My dentist saw me right away and was able to file my bottom teeth slightly so that I could close my mouth better.  He feels that if I stay off solids for 2 weeks that he will be able to fix the rest of this pretty well.  So that is really good news. 

So I am trying to be positive and upbeat about this.  It could have been much much worse.  My company's workmans compensation seems like it will pay for any associated medical bills for the dental work.  I will likely lose a few pounds on my liquid diet.  (but oh I am missing my salads and fresh fruits fiercely)  It is a long weekend so I am having time to make some soups to put up for next week.  The long weekend may also mean that my face will look more presentable by the time I return to work on Tuesday.  (I was at work the day after the accident but had today all ready scheduled as a vacation day)

You know that song "I Believe I Can Fly?"  News flash.  I can't.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Take a knee, white America

I stand with the protestors.  I stand, or would kneel with those players who are trying to quietly and respectfully say to White America--"Wake Up!  Check your privilege.  Black Lives Matter."  As a mom of children of color I worry for my kids when they are out.  I worry about the young teen who loves hoodies now and is sooooo into the color black.  I worry for my 21 year old who is sure he knows it all and is often walking home from a late shift at the restaurant.  I worry that my young 10 year old daughter will be accused of "asking for it"   Her lovely pre-teen body looks older than her years.  Black girls want it, don't you know?

I am appalled that our country is even in this place.  I am still trying to figure out how we got here--or worse, if we were always here and I was so privileged I didn't know it.  I am so scared by the fact that there seems to be no way to even talk about this issue.  People either support BLM or they don't.  Those that don't, at least in my experience don't want to talk.  From the few I have managed to engage in dialogue this is what I got:

*no one owns slaves these days so this is a non issue. Everyone has the same opportunities.
*football players make millions of dollars and have no right to express their views on the field. aka they are naughty employees
*taking a knee is disrespectful to our flag and our country.  (I find this one particularly interesting as kneeling is a common posture in prayer. Also it is somewhat subservient (such as swearing fealty to a lord or king long ago.)
*if they want to protest they should do it off the field (but they should not block traffic, they should not shout, they should not use violence, they should not. . . the list is endless)
*it should be All Lives Matter
*if they did what the police told them, if they obeyed the laws of our great country, there would be no problems.

The problem is in my eyes, that for there to be a solution, white America has to be prepared to be uncomfortable.  We have to own that we are the problem.  The fact that my extended family can't see that and quietly unfriend me on social media for my views is emblematic of how divisive this is--of how unwilling the empassioned are to hear another view.  The people who did this love my kids, but they see them as somehow "other."  As in, my kids would never get shot by the police because I raised them right.

I hope to all the gods people pray to that the folks who say that are right.  But statistics show that they may not be. And is it even reasonable to assume that EVERY single unarmed black person who was shot was not raised correctly.  It just surpasses the bounds of reason.

I won't let my 13 year old son play outside with a cosplay decorated water gun.  I won't let him wear a Halloween costume that looks threatening and is dark colors.  Being seen by traffic is only part of it.  He could also be seen by a nervous home owner, or a rookie police officer who views the world through a skewed lens.  He will be out with friends on his own for the first time.  What if they do something silly?  They are 13 and I didn't always make the best choice at that age.  But I didn't worry about getting killed either. My son will go as a vampire rabbit.  His choice when I nixed all the others and it is funny.  It is white. It is safe.

But that situation is part of the dialogue of life for black America.  How to stay safe.  How to be heard. May we somehow hear what is really being said.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Precious moments

Image may contain: flower and plant

I am increasingly aware that life is so very precious and that joy is often found most in the smallest of things.  Like the gladioli in the picture above.  We planted them last year and they did nothing.  Literally.  Nada.  We forgot about them.  And for whatever reason, a few of them decided to bloom this year.  Well, two to be exact. But they are stunning.  One is a deep fuschia and one is a paler softer pink. My grandmother loved glads.  Looking at these two on our kitchen altar makes me smile and feel her spirit close to me again.

Yoga class renews my spirit weekly.  I don't love yoga as much as I love zumba but at least it is an hour that I can give to my body.  To stretch, to bend and to take an hours pause in our busy life.

Laughter.  The silly jokes the kids make up these days. Some "cringy" as KC puts it; some surprisingly witty.  I cherish the time together as a family. As the kids have gotten older and involved in a wide array of different activities, time for all of us to be together is even more cherished.  I know that time comes ever closer when it will be just Chet, Kirsty and I again at the table.  This is how it should be and I am proud of their confidence-their friendships and their passions.

Fiona has been struggling greatly lately.  The outward symbol of her anger is my refusal to let her pierce her navel.  The reality is that a peer left the house and this is the deepest cause of her unhappiness. To her it is another example of someone succeeding in a way she has not yet.  It is hard to face that, so it is easier to find something to be angry about and someone to pin it on.  I did not actually say no to the piercing, but I did say we needed an okay from her doctor. But it wasn't a "yes, jump in the car, we gotta do this NOW!" kind of answer so she became enraged.

This is always the hard part with Fi. She goes from happy to enraged in a nanosecond.  She had literally had a wonderful time at home and called me when she got back to the group residence asking about the piercing.  Fi is prediabetic which makes her more prone to infection. She has also some issues surrounding self care and is not reliable about keeping a wound clean. So the lack of a yes has been the catalyst to spiral her into a very angry state.

I am not sure how to best help her with this.  She has decided that I am the root of all that is unsatisfactory in her life.  I am not willing to wear that cloak and have told her so.  Loving her and caring for her does not mean I can or will agree with everything she wants to do. She is entitled to her anger, entitled to her feelings of frustration.  I get that. I am trying to give her some space and hope that at some point, she will be in a place where we can talk things through but so far, nothing close to that is happening.

So I will look at my glads, listen to music that I love and breathe deeply.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The kids have wheels--bike wheels that is!

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling It's been a long bikeless year for us here.  Last year, our bikes were stolen out of our shed.  It was traumatic at a number of levels.  For KC it was particularly painful as he had the previous December won a really beautiful Trex bike at our city holiday event.  It was a gorgeous bike, far beyond our price point.  He had barely ridden it as snow came early and then in spring, it was stolen.

It was obviously our fault.  We should have locked the shed.  But our city has not typically been a place where you had to lock things up.  So this new found knowledge brought pain as well.  Most times, our city has big city opportunities but kind of a smaller city feel.  There are festivals in the center of town, a farmers market weekly down there, free concerts on the common in the summer.  Food festivals galore throughout the year.  The list is really endless. But though they may lead to seeing friends and neighbors, we don't live in Mayberry RFD.

Despite all that, the opiod crisis is strongly felt here and likely contributed to the bike thefts. Lissa's bike was taken as well as Robs in the same sweep.  Mine was not because it was hanging up and far too difficult to remove quickly.

A few weeks ago I got Lissa a new bike.  It is a rather inexpensive big box discount store model, but she is growing so much that it does not make sense to invest in a pricey bike right now.  I was saving for one for KC when our friend (who is also KC's godfather) heard of the situation and offered a free used bike for him.  It had been given to him by someone and he has not gotten into riding as he thought he might.  So for the price of a tune up, my son has some nice new wheels again.

At first, he was afraid to ride the bike.  This one is bigger, but truly fits his growing, oh-so-tall young mans body.  But he is feeling all clumsy elbows, knees and gangly these days.  The bike seemed gigantic to him.  I assured him it was not and he could do it.  Sent him up the sidewalk listening to his dramatic discourse on how he was going to fall and break a limb right before dance classes resumed. (laughing in my head at the ranting!)

Tonight he and Lissa went for a bike ride and as I  suspected, the lure of freedom,the feel of the breeze as he moved his bike along the sidewalks, overcame his fear.  He came home with a gigantic smile on his face and said "it's back!  my confidence is BACK!"

I told him how happy I was (watched Lissa roll her eyes in the background--she's been out riding for weeks since she got her bike) and we talked of a family bike ride once my bike gets tuned up. I'm looking forward to it. There are some nice bike trails in our area and it will be fun to explore these together.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, bicycle, house, tree, plant and outdoor

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Growing faster and faster

Today I am very aware of how much our family is changing as the kids grow older.  Yesterday, Lissa went with a friend to an amusement park in a nearby state.  She wound up spending the night at her friends house and I picked her up this morning.  She eagerly regaled me with stories of all the "thrill" rides she went on.  She had a really excellent time and I am glad for her.

Last night after he finished work, Rob went to a friends house and was there till late, watching the Mayweather/McGregor match.  I was still slightly awake when he got home so he was able to tell me who won.

Today at noon KC left to go to a friends house for a party and won't return til 9ish.

All of these are good things.  We are doing our job as parents and our kids are fledging and growing--bravely trying new experiences, forging relationships, dreaming dreams.  It is exactly what I want, yet the moments are bittersweet  all the same.  Small hands no longer clasp mine, in fact almost all my kids are now taller than I am.  There are many things I love about parenting my kids as they get older.  The more in depth conversations we have; the movie nights we share together.  Jokes that have an increasingly more adult grasp of linguistic wordplay.  These all make me smile and are moments I treasure.

But I am very aware that their orbits are no longer firmly around me.  The gravity of friendships, interests, and new experiences has caused them to loop outward into their own orbits, only rocketing back to me periodically. KC is all ready talking of a part time job next year when he turns 14.  Lissa wants to volunteer at a local doggie day care when she turns 12. Whether I am ready for all this or not, time marches on. . .

Thursday, August 24, 2017


The eclipse was a big deal in our house.  Although we were not in a path of totality we eagerly made eclipse viewing boxes with the kids. We all talked about the eclipse.  I was at work on the day of the event and our maintenance super brought up a welding mask so we could all look.  It was cool. I am looking forward to the next one in 7 years which will have a path to a state near us and where we could potentially see totality.

After having myriad conversations with the kids about not looking directly at the eclipse, why we don't look at the eclipse etc etc, you can imagine my shock when I watched our current president squint up directly at the eclipse while aides shouted to "put on the glasses."

In the grand scheme of things, if he chooses to damage his vision, it is not my concern.  What concerned me was what appeared to such oppositional behavior.  I have been to the oppositional rodeo a few times as a parent and it is not fun!  But for a leader with such huge responsibilities to exhibit such behavior is terrifying.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Kayaking and phones that don't swim

Last week Lissa and I left mid week for a camping trip with dear friends of ours.  Our two families have camped together now for more years than I can count.  Our kids have been friends since they were young preschool aged wee ones.

In years past I had all the kids with me but this year marked the first time that it was only Lissa and I going.  KC wanted to stay here in town and complete his week of dance camp.  Chet opted to stay home, saying sleeping on the ground didn't appeal to him at the moment.  Rob had to work.  Lissa was still very excited though--so excited she opted to skip dance camp on Wednesday so we could hit the road early in the morning instead of after dance camp was done. (she was only supposed to be at camp through Wednesday, KC went all week)

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, sitting, tree, outdoor and natureSo we did and I loved the time that it was just she and I .  It was such a different dynamic that rarely happens in our large and busy family.   She too, looks so grown up in this picture, that I snapped right when we got to the campground.  Time flies, it really does.

Unfortunately, this is the only picture I have of the days we spent together.  I took a number of great ones but on Thursday of our vacation we went kayaking.  First time for both of us. Our friends suggested it and they have kayaked on this particular river before.  We set off and most of the way was really delightful.  It was a six mile journey with lots of stops for the kids to play, snack snap pics, jump in the river, etc.  However as we journeyed on the skies began to darken and I worried that a pop up thunderstorm might be headed our way.  I expressed my concern to my friends who were stopping to do more river play.  We agreed that Lissa and I would journey on ahead (there were many other kayakers from the same outfit on the river so I knew I could not get lost or something weird like that)  I had been paddling for hours and felt relatively confident.  The river was low--I had to pull us across shallow areas numerous times.  So we agreed to meet up at the take out location and Lissa and I set off.  Sure enough shortly after that it began to rain, but thankfully NO thunder.  So we were safe, though damp and kind of chilly.  Lissa was getting tired and doing far less paddling.  But we paddled on and then rounded a corner on the river.  A tree was leaning out over the river and I remember telling Lissa to push us away from that with her paddle as we were headed too close to it.  I don't know if she did or not but the next thing we knew, the tree had ensnared us and we were being pushed backward by it. The kayak began to fill with water as it tilted and we capsized.  Apparently said overhanding tree disguised a rapid little current of water there.  It was not over our heads but it did terrify poor Lissa.  I held onto her and the kayak and all our belongings went down river.  We had life jackets on so we were safe and I was not letting go of her because she was hysterical.   Someone who was playing on the banks a short distance from us saw the mishap and came to assist.  I passed Lissa across to him so that she had hands on her the whole time.  Then I climbed out of the river myself.

Amazingly all our belongings except my  beloved NFL hat and our sunscreen were recovered.  Lissa was not hurt. I got an epic bruise on my right arm but it has never pained me.  We were fine.  Shaken but fine.  My friends arrived to find us all ready loading up back into our kayak ready to paddle the last wee bit to the take out spot.  I felt it was really important for Lissa to see that this could happen and we would not tip over again.  Regardless of my efforts though, she is not feeling any kayak love.

My phone was drenched and died despite my immediately plopping it in a box of rice pilaf in my camping kit when we hit dry land.  Hence my lovely shots are lost and remain only in my memory.  But I remember my tall strong daughter on a giant boulder in the middle of the river. I remember looking down at polished river stones in amazingly clear water, deer prints on the sand bar, and laughter.

The event was also a bit of PSA for life jackets.  I made Lissa wear her jacket and I wore mine.  My friends did not and Lissa was miffed.  I said that sometimes stuff happens and you don't know when it might happen, but that this was a way to make sure we stayed safe.  It was indeed a key part in our overall safety when the accident occurred.  So yes.  Wear the life jacket people.  I am a good swimmer. I am still glad we had them on.  I also learned a bit too late, that Otter box makes a "dry box" that would have kept my phone safe and dry.  I'll have the "phone life jacket" next time too!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Summer musings

I have been reminded often this past season to live life deeply, and to remember that there are not always second chances. A tragic murder where I work took place.  A domestic violence situation that flared suddenly into tragedy with a young woman winding up dead.  Her life was snuffed out and many others were also forever damaged by this.  I remain forever grateful that long ago when my family member was involved in an abusive relationship, that she eventually fled.

It is not easy.  It took six years.  Six years of late night calls, tearful conversations and more.  I had given her a debit card with enough money for an emergency run to a hotel room if and when things ever got dangerous.  She would always assure me that things were never that bad, that he was sorry.  Things would change. She would change. He would stop drinking. Things would be better when he got a new job and was given credit for the amazing work he did.  The litany was endless.

I was very young- between 20 and 26 during the years this took place.  It used to make me so intensely angry.  I could not understand how she could let this happen.  How her love for this man could supplant what seemed to me just common sense.  I am a different person than she.  I am a martial artist. I absolutely would not for any reason stay in a relationship where I was afraid or had been harmed.

For me, the hardest part of those six years was staying in relationship with my sister while she stayed with the abuser.  Not that he tried to distance us, he didn't. (which is an anomaly in abusive situations.)  But watching her stay where she was unsafe, listening to the nonsense come from her about why it happened--those were the hardest things.  I would offer to pay for the divorce.  I would offer help in securing her own safe apartment.  I would offer to help get her a car so she could get a job once she was on her own.

And it still took six years.  With a persistant and steady family support, it took six years to leave. It wasn't about me.  It was about her believing she could do it.  Finally when her young daughter was threatened, she left.  I did what I said I would do.  She finished her education and got a good job.  Her life is different and she is alive today, a mother and a grandmother, and married to a man who loves her and treats her with kindness.

The fall out from this incident, and another in our city just a few weeks before culminated in a domestic violence vigil at the apartment community where I work.  Experts who can help those experiencing domestic violence spoke.  Many who know work as advocates have previously experienced the horror of dv first hand.  Their stories were chilling and yet they were also stories of hope.   At the end, under a nearly full moon, we lit tiny battery candles and placed them in the grass outside.  We sand Amazing Grace.  We said their names, so that they will not be forgotten, so that they will be remembered as more than that final act against their defenseless bodies.

I was very emotionally depleted by the end of the vigil on Friday evening.  But this weekend has been so healing and restorative.  Saturday I started the morning with yoga.  Then spent the day doing errands and chores.  I helped my wife with two of her cleaning contracts. And today, was just amazingly special.

As a two mom family, Mothers Day has always been about my wife.  I help guide the cooking and festivities to honor and celebrate all she does.  When the kids were very young, there needed to be help in making gifts, etc.  Now there is still coordinating that has to happen.  So long story short, we don't do anything to honor me on that day.

Instead, at some random date when we can get together, we celebrate Ooma's Day. And today was that day!  It started with tea and blueberry muffins in bed and continued with a hike up a local mountain.  There were gifts in there too, beautiful thoughtful gifts. But what I treasure the most was todays hike together.  We have not hiked much in recent years. My wife has some mobility issues caused by her frequent ankle breaks.  So it was really special to hike on a stellar weather day.  We noshed on the summit and then made our way back down the mountain to our car.  I feel restored, my well has been replenished and I am ready to face the new week.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Thinking and living deeply

There are the days when my emo teen feels like he will drive me round the bend.  Days when his sister "the tweenager" does the same.  There are also some wonderful conversations and experiences happening.

One convo that I treasure was with KC about a week ago.  He is thinking about the fact that next year he is old enough to get a job.  He wants a job  phone and knows he has to have a job to obtain said phone.  There are several markets in our community that are good first jobs for kids.  Rob worked at one of them and that may help the hire process as Rob was a great worker.

KC was concerned about how to address people.  He knows that if he is stocking shelves people will likely come to him and ask questions.  His concern was that in todays society, saying sir or ma'am might not be polite.  "What if someone is trans and I can't tell?" was his question.  I was so proud of him for thinking deeply about this, for having the compassion to see that speaking to people in the way they see themselves is important.

We talked about how the interaction in the job he is likely to obtain would not necessarily require sir,ma'am or anything to help someone out.  A friendly smile and a comment like "oh we have those in aisle 2 should I show you?" would work out just fine.  If it was someone he was meeting where a more in depth relationship/conversation was to unfold, it was totally fine to either use their name or ask how they preferred to be addressed. He is my sensitive, deep thinking soul.  But in particular this level of sensitivity makes me have hope in the harsh world we presently reside in.

Last night the two kids and I went to our church to help stock for today's monthly food pantry.  There is a ton of set up work to do and we have always had dance commitments that kept us from helping. With no dance in the summer and no camping trip this weekend we were free to help.  KC was a huge help lugging boxes, breaking down and disposing of recycling and keeping things organized.

Lissa and I worked together packing large boxes of eggs into one dozen boxes.  Then when we finished, she wandered over to a table where a bunch of store brand small pies were located.  Her sharp eye picked up on the fact that she saw one pie with mold on it.  She then decided to make it her mission to check every single pie to make sure it was safe and good quality.  There were a LOT of pies probably about 100.

I had finished my task and things were wrapping up.  We had a 30 minute drive home ahead of us and had worked for 2 hours.  I confess I was tired.  I asked her if she'd like me to help her finish up the quality control.  She looked at me and said "I've got this. I'm just fine.  Go find someone to talk to!"  (My love of chatting is fairly legendary in our home!)  It was clear that she really owned this job and that it was not fair to jump in and help.  I took her advice and found someone to chat with for the remaining 10 or 12 minutes that she needed to complete the job.

I am grateful that all my kids seem to mostly live with compassion and think of others.  We need that in this world.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

"Some" of our "summer"

I used to write so regularly; how did life get so.darn.busy?  I think back on how people would say it "gets easier" when the kids get older.  I don't really think so. It just gets different.  I live in my car, during the "school year"  Lots of dance classes, Scouts, church and more make for very busy happy and engaged kids. There is Rob to get to and from the train station, and Fiona and Chet are in the mix as well.

So I am very grateful for summer. For the chance for the routine to change. It has still been busy but in different ways.  Evenings at a friends pool or the lake, a BBQ at our house on the 4th of July, and a BBQ at a friends house 2 days earlier.  There have been sleepovers and silliness.  There has also been time to read a book aloud together and Lissa and I are reading a series called The Last Dogs.  It is sort of a dystopian novel for the tween set.  Lissa is a huge animal lover and we are all ready on the second book.  She will literally listen to this series until all I can do is whisper because my voice has grown so tired!  All my kids can and do read on their own, of course. But there is something special about sharing a book together, snuggling as we read and wondering aloud what will happen next.

We are not camping as much this year as we are trying to save enough money for a month long trip across the US next July.  I so hope we attain this goal.  It will definately be a memory making experience for all of us.

KC is volunteering at the library again this summer and both kids have dance camp coming up next week as well.  Thank goodness for dance camp as KC in particular goes into withdrawals when he is away too long from the studio.

Tomorrow evening we will work at our church helping to set up the food pantry the following day. This is something we have long wanted to assist with but can't when dance class is in session as the times conflict. So tomorrow we will have a chance to tangibly reach out and help others.  While we always support the food pantry with donations, being part of the work is also very important.

Rob is a man now!

And still more celebrating!  June 2nd our Rob became an adult. The big 21!  I still can't wrap my head around that.  It seems just yesterday we were watching Little League games, planning summer camps, teaching him how to set up a tent, watching him fool around at the park with friends. . .

Truly the years go by so quickly.  I am grateful for each and every bit of them.  Even the hard times.  All parents have those and we are no exception. But he is an amazing guy.  Quietly funny, helpful, a guy who makes friends easily and goes to great efforts to keep connections.  He is a beloved big brother, though in his first family he was the youngest, in our family he is in the middle.  I asked him what he wanted for his birthday and he wanted a simple party at home with us.  Chinese food and his favorite kind of home made cake.

I have to say I kind of revelled in this.  I know the day will come swiftly now when I have to text him a birthday greeting or find him on Social Media and send my love to him that way.  So that we had one more year to smile across the table, and read silly fortunes from our fortune cookies--gee I feel like I got a gift as much as our son did!

That night he had a couple of friends over and they had a fire in the fire bowl in the back yard.  He had committed to heading up a fund raising dinner at our church the next day so I reminded him that he had a heavy obligation.  He gave me a funny look and reminded me that his girl friend is only 18 and that they would be drinking sodas.

No automatic alt text available.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Mom's Birthday

Today is my mom's birthday.  So we packed up the clan--all the kids, plus Lissa's dog Luna, and headed to Maine to celebrate with her.  My mom was turning 84 and while in most respects I view that as 84 years young--I have noticed changes in her this year.  Mobility is more of an issue than it ever was.  "The Arthur" as she puts it has impeded her ability to enjoy things that even a year ago, came more easily to her. She tires more easily as well. Though like me, she was blessed with a very high energy level most of her life, she now finds the need to nap, and pace herself more and this is a tough pill for her to swallow. There may be many birthdays left.  There may not be.   So for these reasons I felt, I think, a bit of urgency in making sure we were there on her day to celebrate with her.  Last year we were away camping and though we sent gifts and visited a week later, I know for her it was not the same.

Our original plan was to celebrate with a picnic at Portland Head Light but the weather was not picnic friendly.  So we opted instead for delicious Amato's Pizza.  Best pizza in the world if you ask me!  Absolutely adore it.  So we bought lunch and brought up a variety of unique prezzies.  I made her favorite cake which is a "daffodil cake."  Truly this cake is not for the faint of heart to make.  But it came out really well and she was thrilled.  This has always been her favorite of all cakes and she remembers my grandmother eeking out all the eggs this beast cake takes even when times were very hard and money and eggs were scarce.  In our more profligate world, I made not just the daffodil cake but a regular vanilla cake as well.  My kids hate daffodil cake so we had two choices for the festivities!

Going up there was absolutely no traffic.  But coming home?  The fates were not so kind.  Our usual 2 1/2 hour ride took over 4 due to heavy traffic and the weather.  But smiles, laughter and memories were worth every second of it.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

All the Feels

Dance recital day one was today.  The kids are doing The Lion King. The school does it as theater so there is a story line, dialogue and lots of dancing.  This year with KC in 5 classes and Lissa in 4 and them BOTH wanting to do the production dance, it was crazy trying to keep costumes straight--make sure everyone got changed in time (twice they only had 1 number to get off stage and change) .  It was my day to work back stage and I wasn't just focussed on my kids.  There were several others with multiple changes that needed help as well.  Plus I filled in for the security desk for part of the event. So it was busy to say the least.

It was however, magical, exciting and emotional. KC has danced since he was 5.  Actually he has studied dance since he was 5. But he always danced.  Once he decided to get around to walking he was really all about dancing. I have so many pictures of him dancing around the house waving silk scarves when he was about 2.  When he was 3 he did these crazy skits every night after supper and a dance was always part of it.  By the time he was 4 he was asking for dance classes and trying to teach himself tap in our front hall. At age 5 we found Miss Heidi's school and he has been there ever since.

Lissa is a gifted dancer but in some ways I see myself in her. I had ability but not a drive.  KC is consumed with a passion for dance.  Lissa enjoys it. The costumes are cool. Her friends are great.   But it isn't this burning thing within her like it is for KC.  Nonetheless, I also love to watch her dance. She is fluid and graceful and has an amazing ability to interpret the emotion of a piece with her body.

The kids godparents came out to see the performance, as did my FIL and my wife.  Tomorrow will be my turn to enjoy the performance with Rob, my wife and my mom.

There was more today though.  Unknown to any of us, KC was awarded a $500 dance scholarship to the school.  We did not know that KC was nominated for this--actually I did not even know about the scholarship which is a memorial to Miss Heidi's beloved father.  He passed away last year and she mentioned as she awarded it to KC how much her dad enjoyed watching him dance. It was a huge and very unexpected honor.

I am grateful that this is another circle of loving support for my kids.  A place where they are challenged, yet respected and where friendships run deep and strong.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Coming of Age

Image may contain: table and indoor

I'm feeling like this is a pretty emotional weekend.  You could start with right now.  The fact that I am in a house with no kids in it.  At all.  Like zero.  For the first time in about 13 years.  The picture above is part of the reason why.  KC is away on the final part of his Coming of Age year at church. It is an overnight retreat in a state near us.  Before they left for their retreat we gathered in the space above for a short ceremony to send our "kids" off. They will return as more than kids.  Not adults, but having symbolically left childhood behind.  On the sanctuary space you can see in the back ground the masks that they made as part of this experience.  KC's is the one on the left with the blue hair.  It was a very empowering experience for him to make a mask and think about what he shares with the world and what he chooses to keep hidden behind an invisible mask.

This weekend too, will be transforming for him.  KC has never wanted to stray far from home.  Or far from us, for that matter. As an infant he craved skin to skin contact more than any of my children.  As a toddler he loved to play but wanted to have me close, and involved.  As a young elementary aged child he never ever wanted to stay the night away from home.  He loved having friends over but was very anxious at the thought of being away from home.  Tonight, he will sleep with 14 other friends from church and trusted mentors.  He is ready.  I am excited for him and I was pretty dry eyed through the ceremony.  Then I came home and a sweet note was pinned to our dry erase board.  Written in green marker--green is always the KC color at our house--it read

Dear Ooma and Mom,
Right now I'm probably having an awesome time.  But I love you and really miss you.  Keep Maui happy. (his cat) Drink a small bit of wine and please send me WARM HUGS love you lots, KC

My darling, brave funny and talented son--so many warm hugs are headed your way.

While he is off, Lissa is at a sleep over at a friends house.  Tomorrow  I will meet her there as Karen is having a pot luck Mothers Day brunch and Lissa and Karen's two girls are helping to organize the crafts that the kids will do while we ladies chat.

Tomorrow night Rob is taking his girl friend to her prom.  I can't wait for pictures!  But so much. So soon.  Truly one day they can't tie their shoe and the next, they fledge. They fly, they make you think they are going to crash.  And then, they catch an updraft, and soar.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Shea Moisture Products

While I am not a POC, I have 5 kids who are.  Thus, in order to be an informed parent and to help them learn to take care of their hair, I am pretty versed in hair products.  I loved the Shea Moisture products though they were not our only products of choice.  Shout out to Talijah Wajaad hair oil, plain old Suave coconut conditionar, AsIAm products, Proclaim products and the Cantu natural hair moisturizer. So clearly, in our "bathroom salon" Shea Moisturizer was not the only game in town.  But the reason there are a variety of things is because all my kids have different hair textures.  Their hair needs different care in the winter than in the summer.  When KC dyes his frohawk the colored parts need a different kind of love.

I also confess that I rarely watch ads. The SuperBowl might be the exception to that.  But in general, I am pretty legendary for not seeing "the" ad everyone is talking about.  My wife and I do piece work at night.  Ads are either muted so we can chat, or I am running to the kitchen to put the tea pot on or change a load of wash.  So I never saw the ad that Shea Moisture produced until I was on social media and a few family (some of whom are stylists) posted it.

I watched it dumbfounded.  First of all, to me, knowing what I know about my hair (straight thin white people hair) and my kids hair we have totally different hair needs.  In that list of products I mentioned earlier?  There is 1, exactly 1 product we can all use and it is NOT Shea Moisture products.  Nope, it is the old Suave coconut conditioner.  I can use about a dime sized amount of it on my hair twice a week.  Where they might use a ton to detangle or co-wash, I use literally a dime sized amount.  If I used any of the oil rich products that their hair loves and needs, I would look like a slimey headed person.  My hair is not as oily as in my youth but it is not dry by any stretch of the imagination.  I can't go more than a day without washing it or you can totally tell.

So with that information in mind, you would assume that people who actually MAKE hair products would understand that different hair needs different products. The blonde and the redhead in their ad?  They don't need the same product as a POC.  There is a single token POC in that ad.  If their products have expanded to include white folks, then in my opinion there should have been 3 POC and one white person, going "wow! they even have products for my hair!!"

See, even though I don't watch ads, I know my kids do.  I want my kids to be proud of how they look, the hair and skin and beautiful long eyelashes that they have been gifted with in this life.  I found out not all that long ago that the reason KC used to draw himself in cartoon form with spikey hair was because he hated his curls.  Hated them?  The curls I loved to detangle and scritch with my fingers when we did hair?

Lissa for years wanted straight hair and we had so many talks about loving the hair she has and why straightening it would damage her hair.  She too had times of "hating" her hair, though eventually most of her dislike centered around the time involved in hair care rather than her hair itself.  She investigated locks and decided to grow those.

I want my children to see people like them using products designed for them.  There should be handsome young black men like my sons or smart pretty black girls like my daughters in those Shea Moisture ads. It wasn't just a marketing mistake. It was a slap in the face to black people.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Another Teen Ager

The day after Easter was KC's birthday.  My once tiny preemie guy is now a teen that is nearly taller than I. With his own quirky sense of humor and artistic style, he is taking on the world.  So much has changed for him.  Part of that is his participation in our church Coming of Age program.  Through out the year he and the other participants have delved deeply into themselves, exploring their beliefs, what they see themselves doing in the world, how they share themselves with the larger world and what they keep within.  His mentor has been amazing and I know the friendship that was all ready there was strengthened during this time.

KC has come into his own in many areas this year. At the  dance studio he got bumped up to a more advanced class. Far from being intimidated by the fact that he is one of the youngest dancers in the group (most being in high school) he worked hard and has found his niche.  It certainly helps that this is a really nice group of kids who seem to really empower each other.  It also helps that he loves dance passionately and works hard at it.  Still, he rose to the challenge and did not even consider stepping away from it.

He has aged out of the boys book club at the library but has begun doing extra volunteering there. Part of that time is helping the librarian with the book club. She has tasked him with thinking up some new games to go with the books that they read and he has been thinking about this ever since they spoke.  Book bingo and pictionary, figuring out if he could make Wheel of Fortune. . . It appeals to his natural creativity and allows him to have a role in something that has been a fixture in his life for about 3 years.

Monday we drove to Maine to see my mom and her companion G.  We celebrated KC's birthday with them and it was so much fun.  My mom is starting to feel her age these days.  There is not anything hugely wrong but she moves more slowly and has more aches and pains.  It is enough discomfort that the idea of attending both Rob's graduation and the kids recital was too much for her to contemplate physically.  It is hard for me to grasp her aging, very much so for KC.  I write to my mom twice a day by email and he always asks how Nana is.

But aches and pains did NOT stop the celebrating. There was food and cake and laughter. Gifts and joking and lots of love.  I am grateful that we had this day as we all know nothing is promised and that time together is for treasuring.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Easter Eve

I've become a rather infrequent blogger, haven't I?   Many times it is because I mull things around in my head so long that by the time I have a chance to sit and actually tap out my thoughts---they feel redundant and like other bloggers have spoken with more clarity.

But today, I am taking a bit of time to write.  It is Easter weekend and Fiona is home for the weekend.  We have colored eggs, had her favorite supper and she and Lissa are presently cuddled on the couch watching a movie. It has been good.

Tomorrow morning my goal is to get everyone out of the house for 7:30 and take them to breakfast. This gives my wife time to hide the Easter clues that she writes for the kids so that they can do their basket hunt when we return from our UU church and she returns from a different UU church that she works for.

This is a very busy weekend and I am glad that I went to yoga this morning.  That hour, just for me, helped me feel relaxed and ready for the demands of the weekend. Well, demands is probably the wrong word. But juggling the emotional needs and mental health issues of my two eldest at a holiday time can be challenging. It can be stressful.  It is also paradoxically, a great joy.  I love when our family is together, building memories and sharing love.  So the vigelance and over planning is worth it, but a quiet reflective time before it, also did not come amiss.

At the closing meditation our instructor always gives us a word of the day. Previous words have been things like "inspire" "wisdom" "kindness."  Todays was family. How apt.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Wash Day Grins!

I am officially an adult!  How do I know this?  Because I about did the dance of joy when the washer repair guy came today!  We have only been washer-less since Friday at noon.  That meant two of the 4 regular Friday loads had been completed before the door hinge decided to break on our front loading machine.  Since we could not ensure it was tightly shut OR that it would open if we tried to jimmy it somehow, we left it until today when the repair man could come.

On Saturday I spent several fun filled hours at the laundramat doing the 6 loads that accumulated between Friday at noon and Saturday at about 2 p.m.  What can I say?  We are apparently a very sloppy family of 6 with a LOT of wash.  It did not help that Friday we also change the beds and one of those loads did not make the cut before the door catastrophe.

But today, today is blissfully wonderful and right.  There is no mountain of wash in my teeny bathroom.  This was seriously giving me anxiety which is somewhat stupid.  In my defense it is a VERY teeny bathroom and the pile, er mountain that developed was large enough to hide a Yeti.

So now, I will drink tea and fold wash, and smile!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Of Cobras, Planks and Downward Dog

Life is busy, and truthfully I would not have it any other way.   Days are filled with work, train schedules for Rob, commencement details for Rob, work for Rob.  There are dance classes for the youngers, Scouts and sewing classes for Lissa and book club nights for KC.  I love that everyone has a lot of interests. These experiences are their choices. None of it is me deciding to fill up the hours of our days and nights.

My work is fast paced and stressful.  I typically (shhhhh!) work through my lunch. I always have plans of walking the site at lunch.  It almost never happens.

At home at night, there is a little Facebook noodling, but it is mostly house chores and then doing piece work as we work toward our dream of traveling in July of 2018.  Bottom line, is that when I get to bed I have maybe 20 minutes to read and call that "my time."  Don't get me wrong. I love to read.  I love that our life is full and rich.  But greedy little soul that I am, I craved a bit more time for myself.  Maybe--gasp--60 whole minutes for myself!

I found myself longing for last summer when I could take Zumba classes.  I love working out in a group setting, but flat out can not get up at the crack of dawn to go to a gym.  When train runs are over, I can walk in the mornings. As much as I want time for myself, I know I need 6 hours of sleep a night to be a healthy happy woman!

Enter, Hot Yoga.  I have not ever really been a yoga person.   I have dabbled in it long ago in my teen years.  Then I tried it a little at our church camping weekend.  It was fun but I think mostly because I was on the beach.  I was really super focussed on the sand under my feet and the feel of the breeze.  It made it less annoying to me that we seemed to flow soooooooooooo slowly from one pose to another.

See, I am a bit of a hyper person.  Not distractedly hyper (usually.)  But someone who doesn't do meditation well.  Someone who likes to beat book times on hikes.  Someone who loves to move.  So the slow peaceful yoga?  My wife loves it but it just isn't my thing.

One of my friends from the kids dance school told me about this new yoga class.  Ironically the studio is so near the train station that it is crazy easy for me to get to. The hot yoga class is Saturday mornings at 9 a.m.  The time is perfect for me. I have all ready been up for 2 hours and gotten the grocery shopping done by then.  The kids are old enough now to stay home for an hour when I go.

And I have discovered that hot yoga (at least at this studio) is a lot different from my other yoga experiences.  There is a lot more movement, a lot less of the tedious holding of poses until you die of boredom  until you are one with the universe or something.  The hot part is a super bonus for me.  I am almost always cold.  For about 90 minutes on Saturdays now, I am warm.  Not hot and sweaty mind you, but warm.  The heat in itself is such a joy.  OK I know that sounds weird but 95 is my temperature of choice on a summers day.

It is challenging my body, keeping me fit and limber, which is good for me physically. I have always been pretty limber and it is coming back quickly. But more importantly is the benefit of that hour to myself, with friends.  Just time for me.  Namaste!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Happy Birthday Kirsty!

Image may contain: indoorImage may contain: drink

A few weeks ago, I took one of those silly Facebook quizzes about "which season are you?"  Anyone who knows me well, knows that winter is my least favorite season of the year.  I find enjoyable things about winter--mostly because I have kids, and I think that me moaning about being constantly cold could get really old quickly.

But spring and summer are my favorites.  I love fall too but it presages the dreaded winter so I am always enjoying cider and foliage and hearing in my head "yeah, just WAIT!"    However, Facebook, the "accurate" news source of our time decreed that I love winter best.  When I was speaking of this with my wife, she said "but you celebrate everything.  All.the.time."  When viewed that way, I can see why FB got it wrong.  There are a lot of festive things in the cold months and I do celebrate with an excess of abandon.

Take yesterday for instance.  My wife's birthday is actually today.  But had the weather not gifted us with a blizzard, none of us would be home today. She had several client jobs scheduled, I would have work, Rob would have school and KC had 3 dance classes tonight.  So planning ahead we decided that we would celebrate the last day of her 57th year and hold the party on Wednesday.  Wednesday is our least busy night of the week and we could safely guarantee that all would be home.  I was even able to put in for a vacation day so that I could help the littler kids get the party ready.

And party we did.  We decided on an emoji theme.  A visit to the dollar store got the supplies we needed to make the emoji face party favors and the cardboard for the placemats.  We took emoji faces that were sort of tailored to each of our personalities and mounted them on small yellow plates. I taped those to the rulers.  There are 2 faces to each favor, so you can spin it according to your feeling at the moment.  The rulers came in 3 packs for a $1.00 so this was literally a very low cost, fun to make party favor. If I was doing this as a party for kids, I would have the components to create an emoji face but they'd have to choose the sections and glue them on.  But I was doing this, "adult style!" We made the placemats with graphics I got on the computer and printed off.  After trimming the cardboard for the placemats we had nice sections left and we used those to make signs for the dining room walls.  For instance giant LOL, I heart Mom, etc.

We had my wife's favorite meal--Chinese take out from her favorite restaurant.  Then we gifted and ate cake.  There was much laughter and fun.  It was a wonderful party and a wonderful night. (insert happy emoji face here!)

Super Bowl Monday

Our company unexpectedly gave us Monday off if the Patriots won!  This of course added to the all ready high level of SuperBowl frenzy in our home.  We are a big football family and New England Patriots fans all the way.  While much of last night looked like I would be reporting to work as usual, a series of mistakes by the Falcons, some good playing and some good fortune on the part of the Patriots, and we had our 5th Superbowl win and a day off!    It was a wonderful moment to remind my kids that you keep trying always.  The Patriots could have given up and just phoned in the balance of the game at almost any point.  But they kept their focus, they kept perservering and luckily, it resulted in a win.