Fall woods

Fall woods

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Food For Thought

I was skimming through Slate magazine's online articles recently and came across an article by Hanna Rosin entitled Why We Cheat.  She quotes therapist Esther Perel, who works only with clients who are involved in affairs, as saying,

"Very often we don't go elsewhere because we are looking for another person.  We go elsewhere because we are looking for another self.  It isn't so much that we want to leave the person we are with as we want to leave the person we have become."

Three days later, and I'm still processing that.  (Not that my husband has anything to worry about, I hasten to add.)

How much sense does her comment make??  Maybe your life didn't turn out the way you wanted it to; maybe it did but what you wanted then turned out to be not so great after all when you got it; maybe you are just bogged down in the day-to-day of working and money and kids and laundry and routine and wondering how you got from the idealistic kid you used to be to this grown-up but mundane place.  Maybe you want to do something that makes you feel like the reckless, crazy adventurer you used to be and not the old fart sitting on the sofa watching sitcoms on weekend nights, even if the person at the other end of the sofa is your perfect mate.  How easy would it be to cross a line if it gave you some of that old feeling back?  

Purely theoretical, again: the scientist in me is intrigued by the hypothesis.  But given the divorce statistics in the US, if this is true, how much more important then does it become to consciously focus on not growing away from your spouse while you work to change whatever about yourself or your life is bothering you??  As Ben Affleck put it, (describing his own marriage, while thanking his wife during an acceptance speech,) "It's good, it is work, but it's the best kind of work, and there's no one I'd rather work with."

Amen.



 






Saturday, March 29, 2014

What A Freaking Day

Thing One and Thing Two both had away travel soccer games today.  (Way, WAY away.)  Then Thing One had soccer practice back at one of their more local practice facilities this evening, and don't ask me why they would have practice and a game on the same day--I have no idea.  Apparently to make the parents insane.

Add to this the following two critical pieces of information:

1) Himself is in Texas this weekend (= not available for chauffeuring purposes), and
2) It was 45 degrees and raining sideways all day

and you have the recipe for one very crazy Mama.  

Got up this morning, packed up lunches and snacks, umbrellas, uniforms, practice gear, gloves, sports goggles, dry towels, changes of clothes for all kids, bags for wet laundry, toys, games and books (plus a meal for the dog) and loaded the car with all of the above plus kids and dog.  Dropped the dog off at the sitter's and fired up the phone GPS for the first game location, which is about an hour from home.  En route, while on a major, unfamiliar highway in traffic in the pouring rain, I got a phone error message I've never seen before (invalid SIM card???) and the GPS crashed!  Lovely.  Had to reboot the phone and reenter the destination while en route.  Finally got to game site, set Petunia and Thing Two up in the back of the car with games to keep them dry and entertained, and stood out in the rain for an hour to watch Thing One's game, feeding the two younger ones lunch during halftime.

Game over, Thing One changed clothes in the back of the car and then ate his lunch on the way to Thing Two's game, another 45 minutes of unfamiliar roads (thank you, MapQuest) away.  By this time, the rain had become a downpour: who makes eight year-olds play in that kind of weather??  The fields for both games were turf, so game on except for snow and lightning, I guess.  Stood out in the rain for another hour watching a bunch of shivering second graders who really did NOT want to be playing.  Can't say that I blamed them.

Then back in the car, Thing Two sitting on towels because it was too wet out for him to even try to change out of his sodden gear.  (Note that Petunia had been in the car for about six straight hours by this point, between driving time and game time.)  Fire up the GPS yet again, this time for the practice facility: another hour on the road.  Quick change of clothes for Thing One and off to practice, while the rest of us finally got Thing Two out of his wet clothes and then grabbed a quick hamburger for dinner (and takeout for Thing One.)  Last stop: dog sitter's to grab the mutt, then home for showers.  Total time from walking out the door to walking in the door--8 and a half hours!!  And oh...the LAUNDRY.  :(

On the bright side, everything went according to plan, the kids really did behave remarkably well, and I managed to get everyone to where they needed to be when they needed to be there with all the right equipment and full bellies.  The planning and multitasking skills of a general, I'm telling you!






          





    

Friday, March 28, 2014

I Call BS

The boys had soccer yesterday at their indoor training facility, which is at one end of an office building comprised mostly of small individual businesses.  While walking to the restroom, which is in the main hallway, I stopped to read the piece of paper taped on one of the hallway doors.


You may need to click on the image for it to be big enough to read: apologies for the bad photo quality but this was taken at speed with my iPhone.

I recognize that there are more things on heaven and earth that are dreamed of in my philosophy and all that, but BALONEY.  The last time I checked, diseases (or dis-eases...wonder if they use the hyphen specifically to differentiate...) were not the result of imbalanced auras, and I'm not at all sure that the word "science" legitimately belongs anywhere on this page!




Thursday, March 27, 2014

Oh Good Grief

Petunia came home from school today, plopped herself down in a chair at the kitchen table, and informed me with a very dramatic sigh that all she's EVER wanted in her WHOLE life is a pony.

(Never mind that her "whole life" spans six and a half years, and that in those six and a half years I have never once heard her mention wanting a pony previously.)

Bubble-popper that I am, I pointed out that we have nowhere to keep a horse in our yard (yes, I know about boarding stables, but why go there?), after which she pouted her way upstairs in a frighteningly preteen fashion for a first grader.  This mama don't want no drama, and it looks like there will be a lot heading my way over the next decade or so!    




Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I Never Said That Rationality Entered Into It

I know that statistically speaking, it is safer to travel by airplane than by car.  And my husband commutes 40+ miles each way every day, so he certainly spends a lot of time in the car.  But he's on a plane right now on his way home from a business trip, and I will be a LOT happier when I hear that his plane has landed safely.  In my imagination, there are just so many more possibilities for a happy ending when you have a problem and are on solid ground to begin with, as opposed to up in the air or out on the water.

And after all the uproar of the last few weeks regarding the lost Malaysia Airlines jet, I think I am more on edge about air travel than usual.  Yes, the authorities' current speculation that the plane had mechanical problems that caused it to go down is less disconcerting to me than the possibility that it was hijacked by terrorists for the purpose of turning it into another airplane-bomb, but still: that's a lot of lives lost and not exactly a happy ending either, especially to contemplate when a loved one is in the air at the time.  And unfortunately, Himself turns around and gets on another plane on Friday morning to join his teammates for one of those crazy 200-plus mile relay races.

I traveled a lot as a kid.  We were constantly on planes for one reason or another, and I don't remember being fazed by that at all.  I guess now that I'm fully aware that I'm not immortal, I don't take things so much for granted!  And it utterly boggles my mind that current technology does not enable us to keep track of exactly where airplanes are, a situation that I hope will be changing very soon.  It is a relief to me that United knows where my husband's particular plane is, anyway, and that its listed status is "Arriving Shortly!"


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Purple Day For Epilepsy Awareness, Wed. March 26th

My best friend from college has a preteen daughter who has been diagnosed with Childhood Absence Epilepsy.  In my friend's words, "For anywhere between 5 and 15 seconds, she will suddenly become unresponsive--she will stop talking mid-sentence and stare, and then pick up where she left off.  If she is walking she will continue to do so but will likely change directions and wander."  These seizures make it impossible for her to ride a bike, ski, or swim safely, and they (along with the side effects of some of the first medicines she tried) have caused her to fall behind in school as well.  

I received the following in an email from my friend a few days ago.

********
"This Wednesday, March 26, is Purple Day, the international day for epilepsy awareness.  Here's the story, from http://www.purpleday.org/ .

How Did Purple Day Start?

Purple Day was founded in 2008, by nine-year-old Cassidy Megan of Nova Scotia, Canada, with the help of the Epilepsy Association of Nova Scotia (EANS).
Cassidy chose the colour purple because in some cultures the lavender flower is often associated with solitude, which is representative of the feelings of isolation many people affected by epilepsy and seizure disorders often feel. Cassidy's goal is for people with epilepsy everywhere to know they are not alone. 

To learn more about Cassidy and Global Purple Day Partners EANS and The Anita Kaufmann Foundation (AKFUS), please visit the About Us page."

********

She asked us to wear purple tomorrow in solidarity with her daughter, which I will gladly do.  Passing this message along in case any of you feel inspired to do the same in honor of a particular loved one or in general.  And Elizabeth, I know this must seem a terribly simplistic and not particularly helpful gesture, and I can't argue with that.  But I will do it anyway, because my friend asked for my support, and because perhaps increasing awareness with bring more resources to bear on this miserable disease as well.

  





Monday, March 24, 2014

All Ready For Halloween

In my defense, it was cold outside yesterday afternoon, not much above 40.  And Petunia had to come with me to Thing Two's two-hour soccer practice, because Thing One had a game at the same time and Himself is a coach, so she couldn't be on his sideline.

My mother made a special blanket for us a few years ago, after observing my kids shivering on the sidelines at a spring or fall baseball or soccer game--who remembers which at this point.  It was sewn with love from a double layer of very heavy flannel-like material, and I brought it with me to the field yesterday for Petunia.  Who promptly wrapped herself up in it like a mummy, head and all, and proceeded to play video games inside her warm cocoon.


It was very easy for me to forget that she was there, because she was being so quiet.  And the other parents near me had no idea that she was there at all.  Which made it very entertaining to watch their reactions when the 'blanket' sat up and started singing!

For October: a few good dramatic moans and groans instead and we're all set.





Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Dozen Years And Three Lifetimes Ago

I remember being somewhat annoyed that everyone was making the day all about me because I was the one in the beautiful white dress and veil.  (As far as I was concerned, there were two of us getting married, and Himself needed some say too...he wasn't just a decorative accessory in a tuxedo!)  And life wasn't going to come to an end if we had to make a last-minute substitution of reader or offertory-carryer or whatever it was because somebody's aunt and uncle hadn't followed the driving directions and were late getting to the church...as long as we were married by the end of the day, nothing else was really going to matter in the grand scheme of things.

I remember laughing with Himself as we knelt side-by-side during the ceremony because the siren from the firehouse next door to the church kept going off (and off, and OFF), drowning out the priest's voice.  And also because we were pretty sure that one of the tapers that our mothers had used to light the unity candle was going to set the altar on fire before the wedding Mass ended because it was burning down much faster than it should have!  

I remember that a friend of mine from graduate school flew halfway across the country and then took a bus the rest of the way so that she could be with us.  I also remember that after the formal reception ended, we stayed downstairs at the hotel with our friends and family instead of taking off because so many of our loved ones were there and we didn't want to give up the time with them.  When we did finally steal away, I remember looking at Himself and being overwhelmed by the simple rightness of it all, of having him standing next to me, matching rings on fingers, at the end of the day when all the craziness was over.  

Twelve years later, I still feel the same way...happy anniversary to us.






Saturday, March 22, 2014

Song Aversion

So, I was driving all over hell with Thing One today getting stuff done, and at one point Roxette's version of "Listen To Your Heart" came on the radio.  I immediately switched the channel...despite the fact that the associations that song has for me date back to the late 1980s, I STILL don't want to hear it.  There aren't too many songs that evoke a visceral negative reaction like that for me, but here are a few others off the top of my head:

Garth Brooks, "The Dance"
Dire Straits, "Romeo and Juliet"
Mark Wills, "She's In Love"
J. Geils Band, "Centerfold" (don't even ask; it's a long story, but thankfully does not relate to me posing for anything, or to me at all, actually.)

All of these were songs I liked very much at one point (except for the last, which I didn't care about one way or the other), until something changed that.  And of course men were involved.  Damned Y chromosomes.

Given that tomorrow I will have been married for twelve years to a man who is not associated in my mind with any of these songs (and that he and I have been together very happily for a good fifteen years now) you would think I could have just let some of this crap GO by now.  But no...there is no place for logic here.

Friends, please tell me that I am not the only one carrying around baggage that manifests only when called from the depths by particular songs.  Please?

*****

ETA: You can add Hall and Oates' "Maneater" to that list, too.







Friday, March 21, 2014

Befuddled

I assume that at some point I will finally stop expecting academia to act like the real (aka business) world, but I am not there yet.  Christ on a cracker.  I feel like Alice in the damned rabbit hole.




Things That Are Making Me Happy Right Now

1) Sunshine!  Glorious sunshine! (it's still cold, but where's the surprise in that?)

2) Bigelow's French Vanilla tea

3) This eau de parfum, which I get at Sephora but is doubtless available elsewhere also.  It really does smell like lemon sugar: I love it!  (Wonder what it says about me that my preferred scents are food-related?  The other perfumes that I wear regularly smell of vanilla.)


4) The crocuses in my yard, which the deer and/or rabbits have not yet eaten.  (That rotten egg spray stuff works MAGIC.)

5) Zumba.  I tried that class again last night and was slightly less uncoordinated than the first time but not much!  So much fun...I think I'm hooked.

6) The book I am currently reading: "The Provence Cure For The Brokenhearted" by Bridget Asher.  About halfway through and having a hard time putting it down so that I can review the applicant files for this afternoon's interviews, which I REALLY need to do.  

7) This song, which has been stuck in my head for two days.


What's making you happy today??



Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I'm Not Evil, Really

Had to stop at the grocery store in the closest outpost of civilization today.  It happens to be owned by friends of ours, and they hire mentally (and/or otherwise) handicapped people as their baggers.  It really is a worthwhile program, and I am all for people doing the best that they can, whatever that might be.  If  your best is bagging groceries with a smile, more power to you for doing it and more power to the supermarket folks who hire you, too.  

That said, I do my very best to go to a checkout lane that has no bagger.  And it has nothing whatsoever to do with prejudice...I just want to bag my own groceries!  It's the OCD in me, you see.  When I unload my cart onto the belt, it is in an organized fashion so that it is easy to bag cold stuff together, heavy stuff together, light stuff together, produce together, etc.  I've yet to meet a bagger of any persuasion (in any grocery store) who notices this, and it makes me nuts.

So, despite the fact that I know it LOOKS like I am deliberately avoiding the mentally handicapped, I swear that I'm not...I'm just indulging my own mental problems!





   

       

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Gods Are Finally Smiling Upon Us

Spring!  Spring at last!!  Recording the blooms for posterity before the $#%%&$ deer eat them.


And in other good news, the miserable, effingly freezing winter we had did NOT in fact kill my beloved rosemary bush!  The center is gone like the wind, for sure, but I just looked more closely and the edges have clung tenaciously to life and are still green.  Take that, Jack Frost.  (Actually, don't.)


Monday, March 17, 2014

The OTHER Aftermath

The creeping crud, of course.

My body is generally obliging...when I really just don't have the damned time to get sick I usually don't.  Last week Petunia had strep and then both boys got colds (but thankfully, NOT strep), and when my kids get sick I usually do too because they are good about sharing like that, but I sailed through the week unscathed.  When I have a family of houseguests coming for the weekend plus a house that needs cleaning top to bottom and a party for 40+ that needs planning and cooking for, I'm moving so fast that the germs can't catch me!

Even yesterday, the pace hadn't changed.  Guests left around 11, then it was science fair project time with Thing One, quickly followed by Family Heritage project time with Thing Two.  And then I had an hour left before I went to bed, for crying out loud.

Good God, I hate school projects that need to be done at home.  And why the hell are we requiring kids to make a family tree that involves pictures of their GREAT-GRANDPARENTS anyway??  The only one of my kids who ever even met a great-grandparent is Thing One, and he doesn't remember her since she passed away when he was about 18 months old.  I could paste faces cut out of photos I bought at a flea market onto the upper branches of this &%$#% family tree and Thing Two wouldn't know the difference.  But, since I am anal and compulsive, I spent an hour of yesterday that I will never get back scanning and printing old pictures--maybe this thing will be a good keepsake for him someday, anyway.

And don't even get me started on the whole science fair project thing.  The problem with science fair projects at my house is that I am a scientist and my husband is (or at least was at one point) an engineer.  Himself has bachelor's and master's degrees in Chemical Engineering and I have a Ph.D. in Biology, so both of us know a thing or two about planning experiments, interpreting data, and making posters.  As often as not, we end up arguing with each other about the way Thing One should design his experiments and present the results, which is really NOT the point of this exercise although Thing One does learn from it at least.  When we find ourselves in a heated disagreement about fine points of experimental interpretation that are way above our kid's head to begin with, as we did again yesterday (why can't this kid just make a volcano like everyone else??  when you do a real experiment involving gravity, friction and momentum, the science gets adult-level in short order) it is just time to walk away from the trifold board.  To our credit, this year Thing One actually planned and executed his own experiment...we were mostly trying to help him with the data crunching since he hasn't mastered Excel graphing yet.  Even with a more hands-off approach, it was STILL a massive time suck.

A friend of mine who also has fifth and second graders and who consequently spent her Sunday doing the same two projects texted me last night.  She thinks that her kids' teachers should have spent their weekends doing her parenting and housework, since she spent her weekend doing school projects.  Ha.  I just want to know how the kids without involved (or, you know, English-speaking) parents get all these things done.

At any rate, going back to the creeping crud bit, I woke up this morning feeling like a truck had hit me, since today things finally slow down again.  Lovely.  And totally characteristic, I might add.  I was sick at the beginning of every.single.college.break I ever had, the inevitable collapse after gutting out finals week.  And of course, Petunia missed the bus because we couldn't find her sneakers, so I had to drive her to school!!  Murphy's Damned Law, I tell you.




Sorry, Couldn't Resist


Happy St. Patrick's Day!!


Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Aftermath


Yes, we go slightly overboard with decorations around here at this time of year.  Just be happy that I haven't yet managed to get a picture of the newest ones: two large green-glowing electric shamrocks currently hanging in the family room window overlooking the driveway!


Quite a party last night.  The kids (ours and the visitor, the daughter of Himself's best friend) were stowed upstairs with a sitter, and the dog was safely deposited at her sitter's house, far from the noise and confusion of 45 or so adults having a grand old time into the wee hours.  It's rare that we get to see so many friends without the distractions of kids or sporting events or whatever, so we always look forward to the party even though getting ready for it is an undertaking and a half.  Note to any entertainers among you: I tried an experiment this year and cream puffs are really easy to make and look awesome on a dessert table: just sayin'.  A few minutes on the stove, a few minutes in the oven, split, fill and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Nothing to it.  (The bars next to them in this pic are brownies prepared with Bailey's in the batter and more Bailey's in the icing...another winner.  The dessert table contained almost as much alcohol as the bar!)


The friends were really the highlight of the evening.  I keep coming back to the fact that I've lived in this house for almost twice as long as any other place in my life, so this is really the first community we've ever been part of.  Looking around the room last night, I was reminded of how lucky we were to find this place and how much I don't want to leave it.  The icing on the cake was that my Muslim taekwondo instructor friend came by for half an hour...you know that a St. Pat's party is the dead LAST place that an observant Muslim should be (the whole Christian saint thing, plus the whole alcohol thing...) so the fact that she came by at all was the highest of all possible compliments.  And to top it all off, she brought me these as a hostess gift!


I should explain that this woman puts sequins and sparkles on everything she owns, including her headscarves, nunchuks and bowstaff (a six-foot pole used as a weapon in taekwondo.)  It is entirely characteristic of her that she would see something green and sparkly and buy it for me for St. Patrick's Day!  These slippers rock.  :)

Another friend brought this, which is absolutely beautiful:


I will be using it year-round!!  WAY too pretty for only one day a year.

The beer and wine and car bombs and conversation flowed and it was just an awesome night.  We stumbled up to bed about 2AM and are moving very slowly today, but it was 110% worth it.

****

In the back-to-reality department, I've been working with Thing One on a Science Fair poster for the last two hours.  Harsh; very harsh.  So much for taking it easy this afternoon!



      




Saturday, March 15, 2014

Sunday, 1:24AM

It's good to have friends, and having so many of them together here tonight is ABSOLUTELY worth all the effort of putting the party together.

That is all.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Hips Don't Lie

Mine say that I am very, very Anglo!!

As I mentioned, I've been trying to do more cardio lately in preparation for this next taekwondo belt test.  Because of my knee issues, running really isn't an option, so I've been spending a lot of time on the elliptical machine at the gym--productive, but boring as hell.  When one of the taekwondo instructors mentioned that she's been taking a Zumba class and that I should try it too, I figured sure: why not.  I've been laughing at myself for the better part of 40 years now; why not give some other people a chance as well??  (There are some things that my hips just don't DO and many of those show up in Latin-style dancing.)

 I should also mention that this is the Muslim instructor, who wears the characteristic headscarf everywhere she goes unless only women are present.  I showed up for the Zumba class last night, and of the eight women in attendance, five were wearing hijab...I joked with my friend that that exercise room was probably the only place in the county other than their mosque where I would be in the minority with my hair uncovered!  Total lack of coordination or no, I had a blast and will definitely be going back next week.  It was a remarkably multicultural experience...some of the music was Bollywood-style, and the moves ranged across the entire spectrum from the cha-cha to the Charleston (really!) to the aforementioned things that my hips can't quite manage.  The hour absolutely flew by.

Woke up this morning and can feel every one of those muscles that I used last night!  I told Himself that if I keep going to this class I will have a waist for the first time in years and also a derriere that you could bounce a quarter off...boy, my glutes and obliques are unhappy today.  Wow.  And of course, we are having another mock black-belt test in taekwondo this morning, so I will be in really sad shape by this afternoon!

Oh well, this weekend is the big party, so I will have earned my beer (actually, wine...not much of a beer drinker, St. Pat's or not.)  After class, the cooking and cleaning begin in earnest!

****

Apropos of nothing other than that I just looked up and saw them, when you guys go for mammograms, do you get flowers??  The practice that I see has you choose a bouquet on your way out every time.  They really do a great job of making what is essentially a nerve-wracking and physically uncomfortable experience as pleasant as they possibly can.


Happy Friday, y'all...


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Out Of The Blue

Do you ever have occasions when people whom you have not spoken to or thought of in years pop into your head??  As I was driving to the gym this morning, I started thinking about my former almost-mother-in-law for absolutely no reason that I can determine.  I was engaged to her older son while we were still in college, back shortly after the earth cooled; she and her husband were as kind and welcoming to me as they could possibly have been, but the relationship was not meant to be and fortunately, I realized it before we married.  The last time she and I spoke was in the fall of 1994, shortly after I broke off the engagement...it was entirely characteristic of Pam that she would have called to see if I was doing okay, even though I had just broken her son's heart!  We've had no contact whatsoever for the better part of 20 years now, but I still remember that thoughtful gesture and many others, and since the universe has brought her back to my mind, I hereby raise a figurative glass in her honor.

In more concrete news, my dreaded six-month followup mammogram was today and all clear.  (The 'dreading' part was the ouch factor, not so much a concern that something nasty was going on, but you never really know.)  Good news, for sure.  I even managed to squeeze in some gym time beforehand--I've made it a priority to get to the gym more often lately and I actually have a reasonably non-saggy butt for the first time in about a decade!  After the last taekwondo test, it was clear that I'd never get through the next one without a significant uptick in cardio endurance and upper body strength.  I learned to use two new machines at the gym this morning and am feeling quite proud of myself even though my triceps will HATE me by Friday, probably along with the rest of my body since two girlfriends have convinced me to try a Zumba class with them tomorrow night!  (God help me and my very Anglo, non-swiveling hips.)

Plans are proceeding apace for Saturday's fiesta (if you can call a St. Patrick's Day party a fiesta.)  There will be much cooking and cleaning to do between now and then, but the shopping and organizing are done, and that's the bigger hurdle for me.  Corned beef and colcannon and homemade soda bread and Bailey's-laden desserts...delicious!    


Monday, March 10, 2014

Nice One, Jackass

At Petunia's request, I took her to Wendy's for lunch today.  (She was home from school, but the boys were not.)  As we were ordering, a large man barged up behind us, planted himself right next to me (about three feet from my daughter) and started yelling obscenities at the counter worker while simultaneously waving a to-go bag in the air.  "Why can't you &%^$ people ever get my &%^$ order right?  I wanted a &%^$ chicken sandwich, not a &%^$&%^$ burger.  What kind of &%^$ morons are you, anyway?"  And on and on, up until the moment when he was handed his replacement sandwich and stormed away.

After we sat down with our food, Petunia asked me why the man was so mad.  I told her that it was because he hadn't gotten what he ordered.  Then she pointed out that she'd been given a chocolate Frosty rather than the vanilla one she'd ordered and that she wasn't yelling at anybody.  Indeed.  I asked her if she wanted me to take it back, and she said no and cheerfully ate the chocolate one instead.

Keeping things in perspective, first-grade style: that's just how she rolls.



Sunday, March 9, 2014

No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

Like most of the rest of the country, I was appalled back in January when I read the story about the kids in Utah who had their lunches taken from them and thrown away because their school lunch accounts were delinquent.  Then, recently, I saw a story about a bus driver in Georgia who'd been fired because he complained on Facebook about a student at his school going hungry for the same reason.

Last week, I picked up the phone and called the administrator at my kids' school who supervises our lunch program because it embarrassed me that I didn't know our district's delinquent lunch-account policy.  I was told that kids with negative balances are allowed to charge set meals, but not to choose a la carte items.  Then he threw a statistic at me that stopped me dead in my tracks: here, in a fairly well-to-do school district that might have a few kids qualifying for reduced-cost or free meals, but likely not many, a full THIRD of student accounts are delinquent at any given time.  Imagine what that number might look like in a school with a different demographic population.  Then further imagine how any reasonable business might possibly begin to function with a third or more of its clientele perennially behind on its payments!  You can readily see how this could become a significant operational issue.

At some point, for at least some of these kids, it comes back to parental responsibility.  If you have the money for a hot lunch, put it in the damned account already.  If you don't want to spring for the school lunch, pack a lunch.  If you don't have the money for either option, sign the kid up for the free or reduced-cost meal plan through the school.  The form is right there in the packet that they hand you at the beginning of the year or whenever you come in.  But whatever you do, DON'T leave the poor kid hanging in the middle, for crying out loud.  Your financial situation and decision-making are likely not at all within their control, but darned if they aren't the ones taking the consequences squarely in their psyches and stomachs.  No school district's food-service program can sustain (for long, anyway) an obligation to feed every child who comes in without funds, despite the fact that is absolutely the right thing to do from both the moral and practical standpoints.   If that kid is getting fed, the money for it has to come from somewhere, and school budgets these days aren't a good place to look for extra dollars.            

Yes, I know that some parents don't or can't parent well.  (I hope to hell that the kids of those parents can get help navigating the meal system through the school service providers whose jobs are to find and help them.)  But for damned sure, in our district, that ain't the parents of a third of the student body.  Not sure why people would expect free lunches for their kids--especially in those kinds of numbers--and be surprised when any school district pushes back for financial reasons.  And most importantly, who loses out in this situation??  The kids.  Any real solution to this problem has to start with everyone involved doing everything in their power to make sure that kids are fed; period.  

   








Saturday, March 8, 2014

Food For Thought

Had a conversation with a friend at the gym last week and I've been chewing on a comment she made ever since, Grady Doctor-style.  (The good doctor often writes about remarks made to her in passing that she has mentally filed away to process later because they resonated with her.  I knew at the time that this was going to be one of those sorts of comments for me.)

The conversation itself was about soccer--the friend's son plays with Thing One.  We were discussing the tryouts for next year and the politics involved and some frustrations she's having with the parental competitiveness bit of it.  Small potatoes in the grand scheme of things, no doubt.  The interesting thing to me was that midway through a sentence, she stopped, shook herself, and noted that she needed to stop worrying about it, because the issue was only in her sphere of concern, not her sphere of control.


She hastened to add that this was not something she'd come up with herself, but rather a concept that her husband had brought home from some business seminar or other.  I'd never heard the concept expressed so succinctly before, so I went home and looked it up.  Basically, the universe is divided into four parts: 1) things that you can control, 2) things over which you have influence but not control, 3) things that affect or interest you but over which you have neither influence nor control, and 4) things totally irrelevant to you.  Her point was that since she had neither control nor influence over the soccer issue in question, wasting mental energy on it was futile.  

The concept itself wasn't new, but sometimes a particular way of expressing a concept makes it stick more.  Or maybe it's just that having a quick, easy-to-remember phrase to use as a mental litmus test makes that test more likely to be applied?  All I can say is that I've found myself thinking about which sphere a particular issue falls into more than once recently.  And if that keeps me from wasting mental energy on something I can't control??  So much the better.  

After all, it IS just another way to think of my signature lines:



Friday, March 7, 2014

Mean-Spirited

Had to order a part for an appliance this morning.  Stopped by the store to do it (not a big chain, one of the independent places) and, in the course of making polite conversation with the owner, who lives not too far from me, was informed that my next door neighbor is a put-the-cart-before-the-horse business type who has declared bankruptcy in the past.  I really didn't need to know that little piece of info.

He went on to gloat about somebody else's home foreclosure and then threw in a few snarky comments about my kids' school (which his kid attended years ago) as the icing on the cake.  I couldn't have been in the place ten minutes and I walked out feeling slimy. Or slimed, I guess.  Another friend told me a while back that this business hasn't been doing great and that the owner will be retiring soon. Wonder why??

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

I Really Don't Know Why I Bother

Unfortunately, I am the only person currently living in my house who cares enough about its state of neatness/cleanliness to actually DO something about it.  Basically, what this means is that I am, Sisyphus-like, constantly pushing the boulder uphill, only to have it roll back down the second I stop to take a breath.  My house embodies the second law of thermodynamics.

Which is why this picture that I saw on Facebook today is so darned funny: it's completely true.


Our annual St. Patrick's Day bash is next weekend.  We're expecting 50 guests, plus or minus a few.  Since my husband's best friend and his family are coming to the party from out of town, we will also have houseguests from Friday to Sunday (the party is Saturday evening.)  That combination would ordinarily be a recipe for a nervous breakdown even under the best of circumstances.  Adding in the background level of chaos normally present in my house (toys, laundry, dog-hair dust bunnies, loose papers) does not improve matters, especially considering that some combination of party guests, houseguests, and babysitter (watching our kids and the child of the houseguests during the party) will be using every room of the house.

I've been trying to pre-clean and organize for a week already: the painting project in the living room (and some touching-up paintwork in the front hall as well that I didn't mention) were all part of that endeavor.  The house may actually be shipshape by a week from Sat, but I will probably be a raging lunatic by then!  It would all be so much easier if I could manage not to care what the house looks like, but I am descended from a long line of Italian neat-freak women and that ain't going to happen.  If I had a "woman cave," it would be pristine!  And also padlocked.  :)

Monday, March 3, 2014

How I Spent My Weekend

When I wasn't at basketball, of course: I present to you my newly repainted living room.  And my eternally-photobombing dog.


The burgundy wall is an accent wall: the other walls in that room are the cafe au lait color as well.  It is actually several shades lighter than the color in the dining room beyond, but you can't tell that from this picture because of the lighting differences.

It didn't occur to me to take a "before" shot, which is unfortunate.  Perhaps instead, you can imagine four mushroom-colored walls, painted shortly after we moved in and thoroughly dinged and dented from the years in which this space served as a playroom (why, in a home with three young children and no playroom space, would I even try to maintain a formal living room??)  The pre-painting spackling required turned the room into some awful sort of Pollockian parody, but fortunately a fresh coat of paint covers a multitude of sins and even the spackle-spotted mushroom walls were better than the gigantic cabbage rose-covered wallpaper that came with the house!

For the time being, this room will remain the music room/dojo--the piano and electric keyboard live here, and the remainder of the open space is perfect for practicing taekwondo forms.  And perhaps, eventually, now that we have older kids and a finished basement, it might even become a proper living room!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sins Of The Fathers

Yesterday was the last day of our basketball season.  During our scrimmage, the father of a child on my team gave me grief for "going too easy on" (as he put it) his five year-old son because I cut him some slack.  Kid needs to toughen up, I was told.

Later on, Thing One had a basketball game.  We happened to be seated near the dad of one of the kids on the other team, a handsome, clean-cut boy of perhaps 11 or 12.  Taller than average, a better player than average, but at least at this point, not in any way, say, the next Michael Jordan.  Probably not even the best player on his team that day.  His dad directed him from our sideline the entire game, never mind the instructions from the *actual* coach on the other sideline.  Do this.  Do that.  Give him space.  Get the rebound.  Take the shot.  Dad played some ball himself way back when, I'm told.  Big guy, big deep voice.  A couple of the kid's mistakes had him pounding one fist into the other palm in frustration.  Crossed my mind a time or two that maybe I wouldn't mind so much if their team won the game: might make this kid's car ride home a little more bearable.  May I also state for the record that this was a rec-league game????

I've written here on more than a few occasions about the batshit crazy dads whose sons play on the A team for travel soccer at Thing One's level.  Not all of the dads are like that, to be fair, only three or four, but those few are poisonous.  I am beyond grateful that Thing One keeps landing at the top of the B team.  Most of these guys played themselves too, I gather.  Way to live out your own dreams through your kid, or feed your ego through your kid, or whatever the hell it is you're doing.  Great example you're setting there.

It must be a father-son thing: I've been watching kids play soccer, baseball and basketball at one level or another for over seven years now, and I have yet to encounter a father/coach who is not harder on his own son than anyone else on the field, including my own husband.  (For all I know my dad was harder on my brother than anyone else too, but at least he didn't coach anything!)  Oddly, the same dynamic does not appear to play out often between fathers and daughters or mothers and daughters, at least that I've seen.      

Yeah, I played some basketball myself, too.  When I watch Thing One play, there are things I want to say.  I spend a good bit of time with my fist firmly planted across my lips, trying to remember that it ain't my show and I'm only there as a cheerleader.  Sometimes I forget, truthfully, but I really am trying to shut up.  Himself prefers to watch soccer games from several fields away for the same reason: that way the kids can't hear anything he says.  

Petunia tested for her Senior Yellow belt last week, and she absolutely kicked butt.  One fierce little pigtailed ninja-in-training!


Note the yellow hairbands on her pigtails??  Her new belt is yellow with a black satin stripe down the middle, and of course we had to paint her nails to match it before her belt test just like I do with my own!  (Yes, it's an odd look, but that's how we roll.)


I watched her entire test.  I cheered and clapped when it was appropriate, but that was it.  It would NEVER have occurred to me to yell from the sidelines, telling her what to do during her test (I was thinking about this during Thing One's basketball game.)  If I had, I would have been asked to leave immediately, without question!  And that would have been a good thing.  Maybe we need dojo rules at the basketball court.







Saturday, March 1, 2014

So, This Blog Has Justified Its Existence And Then Some

I started it on a whim.  Over the past year and a half, it's become a place where I can vent and ruminate.  And, increasingly, where I can communicate with blog friends.  But yesterday, it also revealed itself as a place where I was able to ask for--and almost immediately receive--information that could potentially save the life of a battered immigrant woman in West Virginia, a legal situation I know little to nothing about and a state in which I've never lived.  Two people responded, one of whom I "know" (but have never met) and the other anonymous.  I immediately forwarded all of the information that they provided to the friend who brought the situation to my attention, in hope that her contact will use it to help this woman.  Such an amazing example of the power of the internet being harnessed for good, and I am beyond grateful to both of the people who took the time to post in response to my plea.

*****

Because I am a massive nerd, thinking about this reminded me of social network theory, specifically a concept known as "betweenness centrality."  In a social network, high "betweenness" individuals are often found at the intersections of more densely connected network communities, as depicted below (the red dots.)



These people are natural brokers of information and collaboration, not necessarily (and often not) central to any social clique but residing on the periphery of multiple cliques.

I've just realized that I am a red dot.  Not overwhelmingly cool, for sure, not "in," but generally liked and respected and with a wide circle of unrelated and sometimes unlikely acquaintances that has been a godsend in this particular case.

When my friend (who is not connected to most of my social networks at all) mentioned the woman's situation and asked if I knew anything about the law involved, my first thought was "Sadly, no."  Quickly followed by: "Oh, but I've worked on PTA stuff at my kids' school with a woman who is very involved in fundraisers for a women's shelter here in my county.  Maybe she could help."  As it turned out, she didn't know the answer either, but a contact of hers at the shelter connected me to somebody who eventually gave me similar information to what NOLA and Anonymous posted here.  Connect, connect, connect.  

Before I heard anything back from that source, however, it occurred to me to post on this blog, knowing that NOLA could probably refer me to somebody if she didn't have the info herself.  Anonymous was the icing on the cake that came out of that decision (and connected to my blog through who-knows-what other series of blogroll links!): wonderful information and his/her (her, probably?) mitzvah-of-the-year chalked up.   Connect, connect, connect again.

Proud and thankful to be a red dot, even if this train of thought does forever cement my nerd status.  Maybe I'll use this for my Facebook profile pic going forward!