Friday, April 23, 2010

You know you're getting old when you've seriously considered stirring BeneFiber into your beer.  (Why not achieve two goals with less time, right?)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

My Bar Stools... A Metaphor for Life

Not the kind of bar stools at a real bar. (If only...) But the kind that appear at most suburban homes' breakfast bar/buffet/homework center/clutter catching surface.

I got my two bar stools at a discount furniture store.  They were in the very back, in the scratch and dent section.  I love to shop there.  Why?  Because I have children!

By design, they are the stylish black kind you can find in a Crate and Barrel catalog.  But I do not have a Crate and Barrel life.

The bar stools were marred and boogered before I bought them.  In fact, that's why I bought them.  In addition to the price, $20 for both.  I knew that these would be the landing spots for my kids in the most hurried moments of our busy life.  (I actually got this idea from my sister, who had similar bar stools in her otherwise Martha Stewart home when her kids were small.)

We generally try to eat family dinners in the dining room.  But there are those occasions when a few bites at the bar on paper plates will have to do for now.  Food flies everywhere.  Dog drool is deposited along the edges of the chairs as Sadie searches for stray morsels.  (OK, I'll stop blaming the kids and dogs for everything.  I contribute to the slopiness at the bar a plenty.)

I like to think I'm giving this suburban motherhood thing a good go.  From a distance, I think it looks about right (by current cultural standards, which I know in my heart of hearts are generally ridiculous).  But, like the bar stools, if you take a closer look, life is messy and crusted with remnants of milk laughed out the nose, slowly developing manners, and other unsightly but fun and memorable moments.

General ramblings on life

I’m taking a personal day today to catch up on housework and self-care! I’m listening to the 70’s channel on Rhapsody… all Me, all the time.
It’s funny how little things like improved penmanship and posture can sprinkle bits of challenge and excellence throughout your day. I’m reading this book called the Fred Factor. It kind of relates to that. It’s basically about doing your best and putting a flair of extra care in all that you do.  Some days I do better than others.
Yes, summer break is in my sights!! We are out of school mid-June and shortly after that, we are headed for Sunny Florida! It’s a vacation we’ve been meaning to take for a long time. We’ll visit with my dad and also take the kids to see the Rat (Mickey Mouse). The rest of my summer will be spent camping, painting, and generally frolicking about. I’m not going to obsess about what the brooding winter might bring like I did last year.
Remember in college, you’d have what we thought then was “hell week”. Ha! Life was so easy back then… “oooh, a few exams, I think I may perish”… we didn’t know what busy and stressed were yet! All that to say, May is hell month for our family. It’s full of all good stuff, but a LOT of good stuff. Little One's Birthday (5 years, so we promise a big one for that number), her preschool graduation, mother’s day, our state-wide academic testing, May fest at my school, and the MAJOR event of the girls’ dance recital. Let me shorten my self-centered dance recital tirade … wiggly, tired, cranky girls in tights, itchy sequins, make-up and 3 layers of aqua net hair spray, one exhausted mom!
Speaking of the recital… prepare to laugh or be impressed, I don’t want to know which one you choose. There is a parent-child dance in the recital and GUESS WHO is participating. We are doing 3 Michael Jackson numbers. I am playing it cool so I don’t embarrass my kids.  Just between you and me, it is like a secret dream come true!! So many times I’ve grooved with Michael and wished to honor him with my best on stage, and now I have my chance. To keep up my suburban mom image, I am keeping all of this excitement out of sight.  The girls doing the choreography don’t know jack about Michael. I don’t want to be a dork, so I don’t correct them. But it is extremely annoying. At the risk of sounding like a brag, I was the only person in the rehearsals that knew how to do the moonwalk correctly…. Including the seasoned dance teachers. Oh by the way, have I ever mentioned that I am a huge Michael Jackson fan? Not the screaming and crying at a concert kind, but the kind who ponders the deep meaning of the songs until I understand his insane eccentricity… STOP LAUGHING! There is really a lot of artistry there. Not to mention the dance revolution he spearheaded which changed the face of pop music performance forever.
Work is going better. I think I am finding my groove. Taking over for another person mid-year is an interesting exercise. The kids and faculty were used to “her way”. Now it’s my way. I haven’t changed anything major (yet). But it has taken time for us all to get more comfortable with the arrangement. I’d say the down side that remains is the serious lack of friends for me. I have not found my “peeps”. Many days, I feel lonely in the adult conversation realm. I guess maybe that will come with time. I’m amazed at how much adults can still act like snobby high school girls. I literally still sit at a table by myself in the faculty dining room.
I guess that leaves marriage to discuss. I still have the best marriage of any I’ve ever seen. But sadly, that’s not saying much. I am married to the best husband on the planet. We are great teammates in the game of life and parenting. Yet, we still have trouble staying connected on any deep emotional level. By the time our day spits us out on our bed at night, we just need to be brainless lumps of humanity, consuming what the idiot box offers until we succumb to sleep. It’s on our list to get a babysitter and go out together, but it’s a ways down the list, somewhere between preschool graduation and itchy sequin application.
You know you work in an elementary school when you find yourself at home grooving to your ipod playing the song “All the Single Ladies”… by the Chipmunks.
You know you’re a busy mom when you actually consider stopping mid-stream in the bathroom and saving the rest for later when you have more time.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Good writing

I'm discovering (duh, I guess I'm a little slow) that the best writing is usually collected around a central theme or focal point.  Perhaps this is why my attempts at blogging seem like a series of rabbit trails to strange places in my brain.  Because they are.

I just read this fantastic book called Little Chapel on the River by Gwendolyn Bounds.  I won't take time to go into a full review here, however raving it would be.  The book is focused on this little Irish pub in New York and all that goes on there.  That is a gross oversimplification, but I think gross oversimplification is something my writing lacks.  A thesis statement, a main idea.  There you go.  That's what it is I don't have.  Now High School English is all coming back to me.

Julie's blog in the movie Julie and Julia was wildly popular because people were drawn to her central premise; reaching a life's goal.  Another example of just what I'm missing.

Profound questions of the day:  Suppose I had a main idea, what would it be?  What would provide enough material for a sustained effort?  Even if I found something wildly consuming to me, would it matter to anyone else?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

So, I've decided to work on my posture.  A noble endeavor that my Granny repeatedly demanded throughout my life.  Ironically and sadly, this dignified woman's chin hovers close to her chest unless she reminds herself as she's reminded me so many times, and sits up with a deep breath and shoulders back.

Women with good posture always look graceful and radiant, even in frumpy outfits on a bloated day.

Over the years, I myself have begun to fold in at the corners like a greenstamp on a hot day.  My default setting is becoming almost spoon-shaped, with shoulders lifted slightly and turning forward.  I was told by a chiropractor a few years back that my "head forward" stance was probably the cause and the result of neck tension and headaches.

I draw on my handfull of yoga lessons to guide the renovation.  Shoulders down away from the ears, head back, neck perfectly perpendicular to the floor, pointing straight through the top of the head to the ceiling.  The triangle-shaped bones forming the back of the shoulders flatten and spread, like wings.  The clavacles in the front of the shoulders level out, parallel to the floor.

It feels good.  But for a while, it takes intention and muscle control to sustain.  After re-setting my posture, I can find it creeping back to the default setting, if I take my mind off of it, in about 30 seconds.  I hope eventually, this will be my new default, and I'll just have to relax and breathe if I find myself curled in from the heavy loads of life.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Pre-Summer Observations

I started my Summer blog before Summer actually started.  Here on the East Coast, we had this freak warm spell for a week or so that got me in the mood.  The spell is broken now, by the way.

Observation #1:  I'd rather write than eat.  Some mornings I have about 15 minutes extra before my day gets rolling towards work.  I know I should acquire sustenance.  But, I feel a pull similar to gravity towards the computer.  I click out a few lines here that somehow make me feel like I'm cleansed to start the day fresh.

Observation #2:  I've heard parents talk about the phenomenon of carpool.  Not the kind with briefcases, blue tooth and coffee mugs.  I call mine the kidpool.  We inventory backpacks, lunchboxes and homework before the "red bus" pulls out of our driveway.  I learned quickly that I am not a part of the conversation during this commute.  In fact, my voice makes no noise at all.  Here I am, I think to myself, the older kid phase of life.  I can no longer accurately say I have small children.  Many veteran parents have shared with me the time warp that occurs as you watch your children grow up, bewildered that it seems like just yesterday they were in diapers.  I am determined not to bemoan the passage of time and pine for the old days, like my mother did.  I felt like I was committing some personal offense by coming of age.  Anyway, all that to say, kidpool is an interesting experience.  The kid next door has a voice that could cut glass.  I turn the speakers all the way to the front and listen to classic rock.  Occasionally, the kids acknowledge the front of the vehicle with a slight car dance.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


I suppose most people are always in the midst of some life transition.  The days are gone when a large percentage of the work force spends their entire career in one place and earns the gold watch at the end.  Other morphing of family structure and phases of life passing from one to the other, these are commonplace.  I don't know why I think I'm so special.

Yet, the following things happening in the same season are rocking my world...

Career transition (sudden and impulsive, with associated doubts and apprehensions)
The waning life force of a stalwart mentor, safe haven and beloved grandmother
My youngest child beginning Kindergarten
Continuing to find a comfortable space in marrige, even after 14 years.  I think this is a constant adjustment for married people.

I feel like I'm going through a doorway.  What will the new room look like?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Two things I really must do alone:



I'm learning that the grieving process begins before the person close to you dies.  It has begun for me, and I just want to be away from all humanity.  I'm not sure how this is going to work when all of the visitors, well-wishers and casserole bearers start to pour in.  I should cross that bridge when I come to it.  However, this whole suspense thing is challenging my plan-ahead nature.  Selfish perspective, I know.

If I got a huge span of time alone, I'd probably also get some housework done.  It's a mindful experience for me where I get completely engrossed in the reward of clean floors or white porcelain fixtures.  The constant interruptions in my house are just not appropriate conditions for my zen housecleaning experience.  Thus, it piles up.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Profound question of the day...

Suppose you start a blog to develop writing skill and prowess.  Does every post need to be an exercize in development and positive growth?  Or is it OK to just blurt nonsense at times?

I'm going to say it's OK as long as I call it a "free-write" or a poem...

good times and sad times with my wacky family
(even the ones we're not related to)
tears in church... pastor knew what we needed to hear
hysterical laughter in the grocery store
tender moments at the hospital with granny
how do you do a traditional holiday meal without her?

Ooh, I feel a haiku coming on... (bless you)

interstate jamming
cherry blossoms celebrate life
deep breath in and out

Friday, April 2, 2010

Summer now?

After my last post, I wondered to myself, why am I starting my summer project in the beginnig of April?  Well, it is Spring Break (what little we have left after the intense snows of winter nibbled away our days off from school) and it is the first day of temps my cold-natured self felt comfortable in sandals and capris.  To me, the downhill slide to Summer has begun.  Emotionally, I am coasting on a bike with my hands in the air and wind in my hair.

Yes, I said school.  I've just navigated an impulsive and abrupt career change in the last couple of months that escorted in this sense of life transition.  After four years of counseling with adults and families in a community-agency setting, I was beginning to feel restless.  The building where I was housed felt dark and heavy with the pain and resistance of my adult clients.  I was surrounded by people who really didn't get what I do.  Suffice it to say I was an oddball in an organization that, at the end of the day, was not an exact fit for my professional uniqueness.

One day, during a particularly restless moment, I clicked into a human resources website where an open position peaked my interest.  I felt suspense and excitement the moment I saw it, mixed with fear of what would come of it. 

Funny how in hindsight, a situation can look completely different than from the middle of it.  A few short weeks after taking the plunge into a new venture, I was pining remorsefully for my old office and odd comrades.  What have I done?

I am now two and a half months into my new vocation as an Elementary School Counselor.  I thought it was a great thing due to the convenience factor of being in the same school with my kids, not to mention health insurance and a salary increase.  And it is.

A wise friend said to me once, "Every job comes with a plate of crap."  Poignant and yet disgustingly accurate.  We live in a fallen world, and even the best of fits between employee and employer inevitably contains distasteful aspects.  (If you have one that does not, I don't want to hear about it right now because this theory is quite soothing to me.)  Since I don't want this particular writing project to be about work, I won't go into the details on the plate.  But some days I'd gladly grab a fork if my former job's plate of crap was offered back to me.

This blog is about celebrating perhaps the most beautiful thing about the vocation of public education: SUMMER OFF.  A time of self-care, re-envigorating via inspiration and recreation.  I'm sure that the myth of superabundance will prove disappointing as there is no way I can fit in all of my creative, adventurous, industrious aspirations into a two-ish month span.  But, I've tried to narrow down my priorities to the important stuff.  Notice that house and yard work did not make that exclusive list above.

This whole rift in my professional life has disabled my type-A, plan-ahead, no margin of error personality.  And I'm kind of liking the freedom and abandon.  I can sense a colony of dust bunnies planning their seige on my home.  I'm not happy about it, but I'm suffering from a bad case of what another wise man termed "a serious deficiency in the give a shit factor."

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Day 1

For many reasons I plan to explain later, I feel like I am in a transitional phase of life.  Some chapters have closed, and new ones gape with unknown angst in front of me.  From now until later August, I will endeavor to record my thoughts and experiences here.  Perhaps I can sustain a discipline for a defined and relatively short season.

I admit that I'm inspired by the central character in the film, Julie and Julia.  Probably just one of a thron deciding to chronicle some dream or set of expectations on the world wide web.  Julie chose such a defined goal when she decided to chop, bake and saute her way though her hero's landmark work.  As for me, I have a strange assortment of goals for the Summer...

1.  Develop myself as a writer with the discipline of daily (or almost daily) memoirs.  The great challenge is to create spece in my crowded life for this.
2.  Read - I do this every summer.  And it usually gives rise to my best attempts at writing.  Ideally, I'd love to add the dimension and richness of a book group, consistent with my belief in the power of human connection.  Since this involves the will of others, I won't evaluate myself by the success or failure of this venture.  (I've never had any luck getting people together for social purposes.)
3.  Go on an adventure with my family... more about this later.
4.  Frequently burst into song.

Who knows if I'll have the fortitude of both Julie and Julia.  But I am inspired by their tenacious pursuit of their dreams.  Just keep in mind... neither of them had children!

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