Wednesday, December 15, 2010

An Actual Exchange of Text Messages

Let's revisit this sister crap, shall we?

Since I last discussed the issue, I sent my sister a birthday gift (she ignored my birthday). She returned the package unopened. (S very sweetly responded, "You should send her a note and say that it wasn't nice of her to do that.")

I called her to ask why she did that. She screamed at me. Something about how she was in therapy because of me and that I still need address what I'm doing to her. (Present tense noted.)

I responded asking what was I doing to her? I'm just living my life.

Then she hung up.

I had a discussion with hubby about the contact she's been making with C via Facebook, and if she's unwilling to have a basic relationship with us, is it appropriate for her to be contacting the kids, give them gifts, etc? We're very much wavering on that. But I don't feel comfortable with feeling like she's going behind my back to talk to my kids.

Today a package arrived for "The _________ Children: C, M & S"

So I sent my sister the following text message

Me: I have concerns about you sending things to my children while refusing a relationship with me. I'd like to try to work this out with you. I understand you are angry at me. I've been angry at you, too. But you are still my sister and I still love you. Let's try to resolve this. Please?

A few minutes later the reply came:

A: With the attitude that it is still all about you -- i'm not ready -- maybe after a few thousand dollars of more therapy about you I might be.

I then sent the following two texts:

Me: Huh? What attitude? I am trying to reach out to you for the sake of each of us and our families. Could we please talk?

Me: Please call me. We lead vastly different lives and have made very different life choices. I would like to understand how what I do 3000 miles away affects your life so deeply.

And...nothing from her.

For years I've known what the basic issues are with her:

  1. I was born
  2. I had a decent relationship with Dad (though still very complex). She like to claim I was Dad's favorite. I think we grew up in very different households with parents at very different stages of life and parenting.
  3. I did well in school and went to a decent college. That *was* totally calculated on my part, though it had nothing to do with her, because...
  4. I left AZ and stayed away. She has long said she hates AZ and always wanted to leave. But didn't in the end.
  5. I've had some professional success [despite current unemployment status]. I think the book thing has thrown her over the edge. She can't see that I had to *work* for all that.
  6. I have a mostly happy and functional marriage. Yup, i do. And proud of it.
  7. I have a daughter. She didn't even choose boys' names with her first two pregnancies, and I remember the call when she found out #3 was a boy, too. It wasn't a happy call.
  8. I'm sure there's more.

But now it's just exploded, apparently. I'm alternately amused and horrified that she ascribes so much power to me. I don't want it! I refuse it!

I refuse to take responsibility for the choices my sister has made in her life. While it apparently has yet to happen, she needs to accept responsibility for her own life. Her choices, the consequences thereof, and her future happiness. But this situation *is* hurtful to me. As much of a nutcase as she is, she's still my sister.

I talked with hubby about the package received and the text exchange. We agreed to accept these gifts. But we also agreed that we needed to open them to look at them to make sure they were okay. One gift (to M) was completely inappropriate for an 11 year old and C's gift was FAR more expensive than M's or S's. For someone for whom "favoritism" is an issue, she appears to be playing favorites with my kids. Ironic, no?

I'll send off the gifts for her kids. Trying to decide what to do about the gifts for her and her husband. And her birthday gift which still sits next to me. Send them to my mom's house perhaps? I don't know if that's the right thing to do.

At any rate, the saga continues.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Today in Suburban Irony and Ignorance

I've got two for you today.

First story

The other day, an acquaintance and Facebook "friend", joined the Facebook cause, "Stop Obama from changing the National Christmas Tree to the Holiday Tree."

I rolled my eyes. We all know this is bull. (We do all know it, right? Because if you don't know it, you should definitely click the link that follows.) I wasn't feeling in an "ignore it" mood, so I took the opportunity to look up the relevant facts on PolitiFact and posted the following comment to her Profile page. I edited myself several time to aim for the most calm response to this ridiculousness that I could muster.

"Hi, A__ - This background might be interesting to you. is a great resource for sorting out fact from fiction. The site won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009."

And I gave her this link:

Chain email claims Obamas plan to change holiday tradition

A replied:

"Thank you for sending this, at least I know its not true...I cant stand all this HOLIDAY is CHRISTMAS and we should embrace it!! Hope all is well...:)"

Fine and dandy. I made my point, figured I'd drop it from here.

In today's mail, we received A's family Christmas card. What do you think it said across the top? Merry Christmas? Nope. It reads "Season's Greetings" across the top and "Happy Holidays from the K_____ family."


Second Story

C's closest friend is M. M used to live across the street from us and M's dad is my kids' pediatrician. We always knew Dr. H was a tad more conservative than us, but the extent is only now becoming clear. It's never mattered much because we get along fine - we just don't talk politics.

Anyway, M is a very smart boy and has mostly stellar grades, is a mostly nice kid, etc. While we suspect Dr. H rides M HARD with expectation, M *is* smart. Well, mostly. In a very book-smart sort of way.

Dr. H, it turns out, is FOX/FAUX news watcher. He has also told M - and M believes him - that FOX/FAUX news is "liberal." We got a good laugh out of that. C tries to tell him differently, but M resists. If FOX/FAUX is "liberal" I don't want to know their definition of "conservative!" Whatever.

C and M are in 7 of 8 classes together. In the last several weeks, their english class has been reading parts of the bible from a literary standpoint. Mostly Old Testament. Apparently this exchange occured a couple days ago:

M: "I feel bad for the Jewish kids in school having to read the bible. It doesn't seem fair."

C: "Uh, M, the Old Testament is the Torah. Well, some of it is anyway. It's okay."

M: "No it's not."

C: "Yes it is."

M: "No, it's not. Next thing you're going to tell me they worship the same God as Christians do.

C: "Dude, they do!"

M: "No, they don't! It's a completely different religion!"

C: "Dude, they do. Jews came first. Christians came from Judaism. Same God. Muslims, too."

M: "Nuh-uh! You're lying. You're so wrong."

And apparently it went from there. C says M still doesn't believe him. Props to M actually thinking about those in another religion - but that's about it. (Major pride in my C, however.)

And that's the day in Suburban Irony and Ignorance...

Friday, December 03, 2010

This is Social Networking

Today I had a very humorous experience on Tw*tter. Bear with me, please, while I try to tell the tale. (And no, I did not get a job via Tw*tter - job search is a whole 'nother can of worms right now.) Just yesterday, I was trying to adequately describe Tw*tter to someone, and failing miserably. I realized several times in the last 24 hours details I should have mentioned. K, this is for you.

I have two Tw*tter feeds. One some of you know, the other you likely do not. One is more personal and local and political, the other more professional and sometimes more vanilla (more effort NOT to offend, I guess). I follow different people on each, and they each have their role. It can be confusing at times, sure, but I seem to be managing it thus far.

On the more "professional" feed, the one I set up to promote the writing a do for a website, I follow some food-related feeds, some mommy-blogger-like feeds, and so on. Keep that info in the back of your head while I go on to more back story. (Thanks.)

When the hubster and I lived a state away, while he was finishing his graduate degree, we went out to dinner maybe once every three months or so. The nature of the bank account an all that. But when we did go out, we were fortunate to have some decent restaurants from which to choose, at not horrible prices. The legacy of the former location of the Culinary Institute of America, actually.

In spite of this infrequent dining out, we did manage to cultivate a relationship with one restaurant and eventually were invited to a special wine tasting dinner. We splurged and went. And it was absolutely delicious. Wine, food, all of it. This is 1993 or 1994, mind you.

The wine being featured that evening was from this winery, and thus we were introduced to a very distinctive vineyard, with a very distinctive winemaker. From that point on, we sought out wines from this vineyard when we could and we visited the vineyard on a trip out west. We received newsletters and tried to promote them to friends when appropriate. When we moved here, hubby secured for me, as a gift, a subscription to their very special wine club. For several years, four times a year, we'd receive limited edition wines. Oh, they were so good. ARE so good. Just had one at Thanksgiving! But then laws caught up and the vineyard was no longer allowed to ship into this state. Alas.

Seriously, alas! I remain bummed on a regular basis that I can't get most of this stuff!

Anyway, this afternoon, on Tw*tter, a post from one feed I follow mentioned screwcap wine and what's that all about?


As a follower of this vineyard, I know that the Stelvin closure (aka screw cap) is really the preferred way to seal a bottle of wine instead of a cork for many reasons. I followed the cork funeral in 2002, and have happily unscrewed wine from the favored vineyard whenever possible (and even though they sold the brand of a couple of our favorite of favorites to another entity a few years ago - the Stelvin remains on those bottles).

So I posted a tweet about how my fave vineyard has been promoting Stelvins for years! YEARS! Then I posted a follow up with a link to some writing about the cork funeral mentioned above.

In the next forty minutes or so, my feed was followed by the vineyard...and the vineyard's more than a little esoteric winemaker. And then the winemaker -- the guy who started this whole thing -- direct messaged me thanking me for my comments about screwcaps. A guy whose work I have admired from afar for almost two decades sent me a personal message.


People, this is social networking. Awesome.

Please, unscrew a bottle of wine tonight. And think of the power of the 'net.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

It's Hard to be Hated

Yesterday, this man announced his retirement. Part of his reason for retiring in a couple of years is that the experience has taken a toll on his family. I am sad for him, for the church, for the people he served. He was always such an example of gentleness and grace. Still is, actually.

Then I read the comments on the online version of the story. I shouldn't have. No wonder the guy is bailing out -- and what I read was mild, I'm sure, compared to the vile comments thrown at the guy for the last seven years. But it was still nasty. Being hated takes it's toll.

See, I've been hated. There's a situation in my life about which I have not written here (and won't begin to give details in any way now) and in that situation, I am hated. I've had anger and deep, deep negativity thrown at me for about 20 years now. And even though the anger and hatred really isn't about me, it affects me. It affects my family. (Kinda like how layoffs aren't personal, but they sure affect me personally.) Yes, I made mistakes in managing this situation, especially early on, but I don't think I deserve -- or my family deserves -- to be treated like this.

I try to keep my head up and stay positive when the nastiness gets thrown my way, or questions about the situation arise from various quarters, answering as honestly as I can without getting to emotional or specific. Actually I try not to think about it, or think about it as a simple circumstance of our life when it does bubble up. True, there hasn't been any kind of incident in several years, but it's still there, in so many subtle and not so subtle ways. As the holidays approach, the issue feels closer to the surface.

Anyway, the point is, as vastly different as the two situations are, I understand (as much as I can given the disparity), that it's hard to be hated. It's just plain hard.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Disproportionate Growth

M's annual cardiology appointment was today. It didn't go quite as well as I hoped.

I'm nervous every year for this. We like to say that if you're going to have a heart defect, M's is a pretty good one to have. But it still doesn't make it easy or okay. I wish I didn't know the routine at the pediatric cardiology office so well.

We've known it would be likely that M would have to go on meds at some point. We knew there was a real possibility that the growth of his aorta would be disproportionate to the growth of the rest of his body. We hoped we'd at least get to a teen year before that was necessary. But we got that news today, when he's just 11.

He's still okay - more than okay - on a daily basis. He can still do most of what he wants to do. But his aorta is getting too big compared to the rest of him, and we need to do what we can to keep that in check. That means blood pressure lowering medications - even though his blood pressure is relatively low anyway. And we don't know for sure that this will work.

We do know that if his growth continues on this path - that is, disproportionately - he'll be at increased risk for aortic rupture. The numbers say we are about halfway to surgery.

I know meds are better than surgery. But I admit I had a moment where I wondered, don't we get a pass? After C's health crisis, aren't we done? But I know we aren't immune from anything. Just because we endured one crisis doesn't mean we won't have more.

And even with meds, M will still need a valve replacement one day. The ultrasound showed clearly how misshapen his aorta and the valves are. What should be round with three leaves...isn't. It's striking, really, even to the untrained eye.

The whole focus is, of course, keeping M as normal a boy as possible. He's concerned about being able to sail in the summers, play soccer in the fall and play baseball in the spring. He'll still be able to do all that, at least for now. I know we're lucky. I know it could be so much worse. I do.

But still.

Monday, November 01, 2010

The Insanity of Sanity

We road-tripped to our nation's capital this weekend for the comedian-led-but-really-quite-serious political rally. It was mostly good. I'm glad we went, even though the driving was long, and the teenager...very much a teenager.

We drove down Friday night (after an interesting soccer game for C...been a long time since I've been called "Toots" by an insecure, and obviously poorly-endowed middle aged man -- but that's a story for another time) and arrived 2AM Saturday at a friend's house. We didn't get up too late in the morning, but needed to be a little social before heading out the door again!

When we finally made our way to the local train station to get into the district we had our first clue of how crowded the event would be. To use the same oft-used, ironic description of the event, it was INSANE. Just getting fare cards! There we started to see some of the awesome signs, however, and costumes.

When we finally got onto a train, we were crammed in like sardines. Truly. Sardines. I held on tight to S's hand and hubby kept close to C and M. We all finally made it downtown but the preshow had long since started while we waited in line to get OUT of the train station. While waiting to get out we saw the 3rd or 100th person dressed like the extreme Senate candidate from Delaware -- but this one had props. She pulled out a clear lucite lighted v*br*t*r from a protective felt bag and showed it off.

There were so many people walking to the event area, and, once there, there were even more. It's a bigger crowd than I've been in since the January 1993 innuaguration. We spent a few minutes trying to figure out where, if anywhere!, we could actually get to someplace to see something, and it was pretty impossible. There were people in and on every possible crevice and surface, including on top of the port-a-potties. For real! We all started to feel a little overwhemed by the crowd and made our way to the steps of the national archives to just sit and regroup and get something to eat (even though vendors were running out of food). We were able to hear precious little of what was going on on-stage - but did catch the strains of Ozzy Osbourne.

THe people-watching, however, was terrific. Sure, there were some signs we discouraged the youngest among us from sounding out, and a couple similar costumes (directing the kids to look elsewhere), but mostly it was a fun, respectful, nice crowd. There were all ages and most colors. After a while, the insolent teenager (having texted how awful this was to all his friends back home) asked if we could try to get on the mall. Sure.

I really don't think anyone anticipated there would be that many people who would go. The permit are was about four blocks of the mall -- large blocks, mind you, completely open -- and we couldn't get onto the mall for another five blocks behind that. The side streets were completely jammed.

But we did make it close enough to hear the closing address. It was a serious message and our polical leaders would do well not to dismiss it. Especially with the size of the crowd there to support the message.

When the rally was over, we stayed put for a while. We talked with people. We observed attendees picking up trash with garbage bags brought from home - and not just their own trash. Yeah, I know this was mentioned at the start of the rally, but people were seriously out to be...reasonable. And nice. It was cool.

After half an hour we made our way through still-big crowds to one of the museums to kill some time before trying to hit the train home. We waited until after five before trying to get to a station...and were once again packed in like sardines on the train-ride home.

Was it worth it? I think so. There's more I want to say about it, but I am still processing much of it. I'll depend on some revisionism by my kids when they think back to this - C said it "sucked" and yeah, it wasn't what we expected/hoped for, but I think the bigger message came through. I think going to this was about more than the actual event.

Plus we got the kids home for trick-or-treating.

Parenting criticism from non-parents

It's happened again. That early 20s nephew -- whom I love -- has criticized my parenting. Most specifically, around all tht stuff that happened with my sister in August. He with his stellar, stable upbringing and vast experience. Good gracious. I should just let it go, and I'm trying to, but...sheesh.

He called last week to wish M a happy birthday, and thought he could get away with talking to me like I was M's secretary. Um, no.

Among the terrific moments in our conversation:

  • He accused me of going to his parents house that night, the last night of our vacation, to "start shit." Um, no. I went for dinner. His mom is the one who brought the whole thing up. I wanted to have dinner and hopefully an enjoyable last night of our vacation. Given that I was coming home to unemployment and was stressed enough about that and getting the kids settled in a new school year, a blowout with my sister was not on my to do list.

  • He accused me of not being able to let things go. This is so laughable. Yes, there are some things I've written about and "held onto" but the vast number of crap and utterly ridiculous things my sister has done/said over the years I have let pass (and use as fodder for "sister stories" among my friends). Hell, I was trying to let go of the issue when I went there that evening - and she brought it up.

  • He made some weird comments about my parenting "beliefs." He said, "You even wrote a book about your beliefs." It will be interesting what his reaction is if and when he ever actually reads what I wrote. The book is light early-parenthood reading, not a manifesto.

  • After describing a couple of my reasons for holding C back, he said it was unfair for me to hold one or two unfortunate incidents against my sister. If there had been just one or two "unfortunate incidents," I'd likely agree with him. There are, however, too many to count. I said I had reasons of which I hoped he never knows details -- and that's the honest truth. I hope he never knows about the affairs, among other things.

  • He talked about how his mom always told them about the fun she'd have with cousins, the adventures they'd have, and he wants that same relationship with his cousins. I appreciate the sentiment - but that's total revisionism on my sister's part. I can count on one hand the number of times there were such opportunties with cousins on my mom's side (and there'd be fingers left over) and the cousins on my dad's side? Well...there are two who have long standing drug and legal problems and we were not allowed to spend time with them without adults, and the other is much younger than my sister, so my sister would occasionally go over and look after her for a weekend when my aunt and her (7th) husband went away. Totally not the kind of fun my nephew is thinking about.

I'm feeling far more bothered about this than I have been about the actual blowout with my sister. I understand that his view is a bit skewed as he tries to hold on to some semblance of a normal mother -- even though he calls me when he has blowout with her. But since I have tried to be there for him when she has her meltdowns and stops talking to him, I admit I did hope for a little understanding. It was and is probably unfair for me to hope for that from him, her son, and I am trying to learn my lesson there. And just be available the next time the two of them have one of their blowouts.

Oh well.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Next Phase

It took C years to come to terms with his scar and what it meant. When, finally, he told me he wasn't embarrassed about it anymore, that was a huge step. Being willing to take off his shirt at the beach was another huge step, one even noted by his pediatrician.

We have now reached the next phase: using the scar to his advantage.

Soccer season is winding to a close. The coach has given the kids occasional days off from practice (which were every day after school). A couple times he's told the kids no practice, only to decide at the last minute he would hold practice after all.

This happened yesterday. C figured he'd take the bus home and I'd drive him back to school with his stuff for practice (that he assumes that since I am currently unemployed I'm now his chauffeur, at his beck and call at all times is another issue for another time). However, I was at a school meeting and not available for this. We had a text message conversation that I would be there as soon as I could, and if he didn't make it, I'd write a note to the coach.

His response: "That's OK. I can just tell him I got a flu shot. And if he somehow remembers that I already got one, I'll tell him I need two and show him my scar."

I couldn't help but laugh. I feel confident he's already used the scar to garner some attention from the girls..

Friday, October 22, 2010

Oh, the Irony

Today one of my favorite bloggers notes the release of a calendar for 2011 of "Great Conservative American Women." I really want to put a "(sic)" after "Great."

What is making me cringe the most is the ad copy that introduces a theme for each month, including, "Fight Feminism in March" (And, admittedly, I don't know who the March person is!)

Um, excuse me, but were it not for feminism, the majority of the women on this calendar would not be able to do what they do today. Do you really think the female politicians and pundits would be allowed, even encouraged to do what they do today were it not for the trailblazing of the liberal feminists of the 60s and 70s whom they so deride? Not a chance. Were it not for the inner fight and determination of the people these women fight against, they would all be June's representative - and have no other choice in the matter.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What are you going to do?

There's been a rash of head injuries in our town recently. Just yesterday, at a soccer game in a neighboring town, two of our town's soccer players received head injuries due to hard, intentional fouls by the other team. One also cracked five ribs, and for the other, it was his 3rd head injury in 18 months. No more contact sports for that kid, period. (And, of course, the ref, contracted by the other team, "didn't see" the fouls. Convenient, that.)

It got me thinking about another friend of C's who had a bad concussion last winter in a hockey game. This nice, nice kid had issues with short term memory, headaches, and all the other classic signs. Several weeks after the initial injury, and after a couple CT scans, he was still having headaches and other symptoms.

Around that time, this boy invited C and a few others to go out to the movies. After dropping off C at the theater, I ran into the mom in the parking lot and we got to chatting. I asked about the boy's recovery and the mom told me that it was up and down. Then she told me that the doctor had said the boy should not watch a lot of TV, read any more than necessary, and basically try to avoid much visual stimulation. I was kinda floored as she'd just dropped him at a movie theater, and then she added, "But what are you going to do?"


She said she got tired of the boy's complaints and caved. I know I shouldn't sit in judgment until I've actually lived her life, but I wanted to scream right there, "What are you going to do? You are going to go get him from that movie theater and take him home and put him in a dark room with soothing music or books on tape for as long as it takes!" But I didn't.

I guess I feel entitled to say this given the experience I have had parenting a critically ill child, but I would absolutely follow doctors orders. It might be hard - on both of us - but, sheesh! As the parent you sometimes have to do the hard thing.

I hope we never have to deal with the head injury issue. Please oh please let us have had our fill of crisis! But should it happen, I know what I am going to do.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How much has she been drinking?

A couple of days ago I was trying to write something about women in the workplace and how we've come so far - and yet haven't. My husband's aunt faced a similar work situation 32 years ago: she'd been working happily part time, a new manager came in, decided part-time didn't work and pushed her out of her job. Deja vu! At any rate, what I was writing wasn't coming together. It remains in fragments.

This evening comes word that the wife of a fairly notorious Supreme Court Justice has contacted a woman who testified at that Justice's confirmation - and asked her for an apology. (Read the comments - some are really funny in that sick humor sort of way. And all the ones that note the grammatical error.)

When I saw the news come up on my screen, I told my husband about it and his first response was, "How much has she (the wife) been drinking?" I thought that summed it up pretty well. But there are, obviously, deeper issues.

This wife has been in the news recently anyway. She has become active in some lobbying efforts and questions have been raised about the ethics of her activities. The recipient of the call has led a mostly quiet life since those confirmation hearings years ago. She's now a law professor.

The news did get me thinking about that whole event. The confirmation hearing, the testimony, the controversy - and the arguments I had over it with my dad.

It really doesn't matter to me where you come down on that whole issue. I will tell you now that I believed the professor. Surprise, surprise, my father believed the judge.

I mostly think that my father's belief had to do with his stubborn loyalty to the Republican party - though that wavered just slightly in following years when he realized that his beloved GOP wouldn't support the research that might slow his Parkinson's disease (typical scenario, yes, of believing in something until it actually affects you personally) - and his inherent optimism and belief that people are good and will always do the right thing. The later was both an endearing and infuriating quality. You'd think his years on the bench and what he saw during that tenure would have changed that, but no.

At any rate, we argued over this. I remember one conversation in particular. He was sure that in several of the testified incidents that the good judge was just joking, and the young woman (now professor) was just too sensitive and misunderstood. No harm done!

Well. At the time of these confirmation hearings, sexual harassment in the workplace was pretty well entrenched. I was "checked out," as it were, on numerous job interviews, and regularly at this one job. I was adept at dressing work-appropriate but not slimey-VP-attractive for that job. My college classmates regularly went to interviews where young male associates of whatever firm "interviewed" them, but rarely seriously considered them. Then they received letters saying things like, "Successful applicants to Goldman Sachs will be able to type 80 words per minute..." I'm not joking.

Just because it was entrenched - and, yes, likely improving over what it had been - doesn't mean it was right. It was certain of that, and told my father so. It's not about joking, I told him, but about feeling like an sexual object when I was supposedly hired for my mind. I then informed him of the ways in which I had been sexually harassed in the workplace and discriminated against because of my gender. I offered several specific examples from my then short work experience. I offered that every woman I knew had been harassed in some way, including his other daughter, his ex-wife, his girlfriends, and so on (this was before the step-bitch arrived on the scene). I didn't need to know the details, I just knew they had been. We all had been.

I think he was pretty shocked by what I told him. It's different when it's your daughter being treated in that way. I think it opened his mind a little to what some of the bigger issues were for women watching those confirmation hearings, though it did not change his view that the judge should be confirmed (which he was). It was another one of those topics about which we never spoke again.

But it ties back, in some ways, to what I was trying to write about a couple days ago. How we've come so far in the work force - yet, not. Two women get pushed out of jobs in very similar scenarios 32 years apart. Sexual harassment and discrimination still happens at an alarming rate. I'd even say it's on the rise right now as employers take advantage of anxious workers in a down economy. Women - including moms like me - still have to do battle to stay employed. We are paid less, diminished, and all that...and yet some of the most amazing, smartest, innovative, hardest working people I know are women and moms. The business world is losing out on so much of that. Why? What are they afraid of?

And now, in this climate Ginny Thomas wants Anita Hill to apologize.


Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Adventures in Parenting a Teenager

I recently wrote a short piece on transitioning a child into a new preschool for another project. It talked about acknowledging your child's different experience base, and gave some ideas for making the transition, among other things. By the time we've transitioned our kids into preschool, then kindergarten, then 1st grade, and on through the lower elementary years, we're transitioned out. We know, on some level, that whatever transition is going to be okay in the end - and so as the kids get older we tend to think of transition issues, as such, less and less.

Especially if, for example, you teenager's transition to high school means walking across the street to a different building he already knows and interacting with pretty much the same kids he's been interacting with for the last 9 years. No biggie, right?

Well, wrong, actually.

Turns out the transition to high school - even if it is across the street and with the same kids - can be a challenge. There is more work, more pressure, and mentally, it's a shift.

C is a smart boy. I'm not just saying that because he's my kid. His standardized test scores are high. His grades are good - very good, really. He has a certain awareness of his own mortality and the world that other kids his age tend not to have, probably because of his illness. But that awareness doesn't always translate into maturity.

Here's what happened:

We had to pull C from the freshman boys soccer team this week. We hope it's just for a few days, that things can come back together and he can go back. His coach was totally supportive of this decision and says he is welcome back when he is ready.

I'd been sensing something the last couple of weeks. Nothing I could absolutely put my finger on, but something. Then, last week, C didn't take the dog out or give her water for a full 24 hours, then lied about it. We pulled back on privileges and took the iPod. After that, progress reports came home, and his grades in a couple classes were lower than they could/should have been due to missing homework. The work and tests that were turned it were great - but there was stuff plain missing. We talked about it and formed a plan to address such issues. But when he called me from school asking me to bring his soccer uniform because he forgot there was a game, and I found that uniform in smelly pile partially hidden in the study, somehow it all clicked. This is off, I thought, and he needs help managing this transition. Not just the school work or the dog or other soccer laundry, but all of it.

I called my hubby and he agreed that pulling him from soccer for a bit was the right thing to do. Get the priorities back on track, then add the extra back in if we can. But I was nervous. I knew C would feel embarrassed, so I knew I had to do this quickly, minimizing the impact in front of his peers.

I went to the soccer field, talked to his coach. The coach was great, agreed with me, we called C over, and told him. To C's credit, he did not show any dramatics at the field. He just picked up his stuff and came with me. There was no adolescent tantrum in the car, no telling me how unfair it was, no arguing. I think, in fact, he was kind of relieved. He apologized, and said he knew he needed to take responsibility for these things.

Later than night, C and I talked again about the situation and why I made the decision I did. C agreed that he needed to get a better system under control for meeting his basic obligations, and hoped to go back to the soccer team soon. We talked about stress and how high school feels much more stressful, like the teachers don't really care whether you succeed or fail. I tried to reassure him that while that is not exactly true, that what definitely is different is the push by teachers to have the kids take more personal responsibility for their work. We talked a little more about talking to us when he feels overwhelmed so we can help him prioritize and strategize.

When I think about how much stress is put on teenagers today, it's no wonder some crack! They are just kids - often very little kids in very big bodies - but the pressures and the expectation are high. I think this transition for C is something we'll have to keep a real finger on, make sure it's working, so that he doesn't crack. As I said, he's a smart kid. I feel confident that he can do all of this - the school work and the soccer and the band and home responsibilities - but he needs the right support. Figuring that appropriate level of support is going to fall to me. I hope I get it right.

(As an aside, after pulling C from the team, I talked to my friend the school committee member - the one whom I helped get elected. She has a 10th grader going through some drama right now, we we've been comparing some notes. When I told her what had transpired she said, "You're probably the first parent in the history of this town to do that. I bet the coach was shocked." I chuckled. She continued, "No, really. Kids get benched for bad grades all the time and parents complain and moan and blame the school, but you are the first parent I have ever heard of who has taken their kid off a team for academic-related issues. I think you did the right thing." I was flattered to hear that last part, but was sort of taken aback to hear that I was the only parent she had known to do this. I don't know what that says about the parents in this town - but if it says what I think is says, what I probably already know from previous school-related dealings, God help us. As another friend once remarked, "This isn't the 'Age of Enlightenment,' it's the 'Age of Entitlement.'")

Monday, October 04, 2010

I Suppose I Should Tell You What Happened With My Sister

(Hold on, this is a long one)

So. The trip out west. And the sister blowout after which she is not speaking to me.

It really starts years and years ago. Don't all such situations start well in advance of the actual "event?" But I don't know exactly when it started.

It could have been when C was a baby and she came out for a few days to "help" - which consisted of her spending the morning criticizing my new parenting, then taking the T into the city for a few ours, coming back mid evening drunk, reeking of cigarette smoke, telling us about the cute sailor she met at a bar and then wanting to hold the baby. Um, no.

Maybe it started when DH and I got married and she pitched a fit because I didn't want to get acrylic nails. I've never been much of a manicure person and there was really no time in the day before. No matter. It pissed her off so much that, instead of driving to the B&B where I was staying and hosting breakfast, as agreed, so I had a ride to the church, as agreed, she had her husband drop her and my dad off. When asked where the car was, she gave me a shit-eating grin and said, "It's not here and (her husband) is not coming back."

Maybe it started when C was a baby and we went out to visit, spent most of the time cleaning out a storage space of my dad's that she had been asked for MONTHS to clean out, and then she demanded a cut of the couple furniture items we had sold. On that same trip, we went to dinner with her and two of her sons (11 and 4 at the time), and learned much about how not to parent. The boys started acting out immediately upon arrival at the restaurant, and my sister started trying to get them to stop by saying, "If you don't stop, we're leaving." Did they stop? No. Did she make them all leave? Of course not. After a little while, it turned to, "If you stop I'll pay you a dollar." They never did stop.

Maybe it started after my sister bit me.

Maybe it was the way my sister stopped speaking to me after C was sick. You know, because I was so insensitive to how worried she was. As if I didn't have a few other challenges right in my face.

Or the other times she's stopped talking to me for God knows why.

Maybe it started a lot of times. Who the hell knows.

And now has "Annoying My Sister" listed on her "Interests" in Facebook. No, really. I have screen shot of it. I'll have to dig it out. (I mention that level of maturity here and here.)

It probably most directly started two years ago. My sister's youngest son, my nephew, CS, requested that for his 16th birthday, my C be allowed to fly out there for a week to spend time with them over the summer. Sounds so benign. But in addition to scheduling challenges (we weren't out of school until late June, they start school mid August, C's sailing schedule, their extensive vacation schedule), there were these considerations:

1. C, at that point, had successfully spent the night away from home exactly once. He's a homebody. To send him 3000 miles away for a full week didn't seem realistic.

2. My sister's complete lack of appropriate home environment. My sister stays up to 3 or 4 in the morning most nights, playing Euchre with her ex-boyfriend's wife and other odd characters, maintaining no consistency of routine for her kids. Well, just the one kid left. She and her husband regularly play that kid off one another.

3. CS, the nephew, is mostly a good kid deep down, or will be. But right now he's a snarky, entitled brat. A couple of friends have had encounters with him on Facebook and can vouch for this.

4. I know other things that have gone on in that house. The value system - the affairs, for example - don't sit well for me.

5. You can't count on her in a big or little. (One of many examples: In 1999, Hurricaine Floyd was about to hit North Carolina, where we lived at the time. I was pregnant with M. I spent two days looking for batteries - we needed some backup D batteries for flashlights. I'd been beaten to them at every store. I finally called my sister as a last resort. I begged her to overnight some D batteries. Begged her. She said okay. I caller her later than day to make sure she'd put them in the mail. She hesitantly said yes. I should have known. The batteries never arrived the next day. I called her. She said, oops, she'd accidentally overnight-ed them to herself. Uh huh.)

This wasn't exactly a situation that felt comfortable to me. I said no.

My sister sent me a letter telling me how selfish I was and how much I hurt her and CS by not letting my son go. And how rude I was for giving him an actual gift late. My oldest nephew (CW), got into it, too. Yeah, a 23 year old started telling me how to parent. (A couple summers ago, when CW was interning for the summer out here, we'd let C spend a bit of time with CW. At 21 I finally felt he's gained a little maturity. Even so, consistently, for two days after spending time with CW, my C would have a nasty, snarky attitude toward the rest of us)

(I should also mention that that summer with CW, and the previous summer when CW went to an internship in anther city, my sister threw a scene each night before he left, threatening to kill herself, and all sort of other dramatics. Each time, CW almost missed flights. But I suppose that was her point in the end. And she wonders why her two oldest don't want to spend time at home.)

Anyway. This trip.

We got out there on a Friday. CW and CS came over to the hotel that afternoon to swim, and we were all to meet at a pizza place that night (one for which I had to make reservations a month in advance). CW asked for my C to spend the night. I said no. My reasoning on this was simple: we had been up since 2AM local time, C was tired, and their house would not be an environment in which he'd get to sleep at a reasonable time - and he can be a real bear to deal with when he's that tired. At any rate, we go to dinner. My sister and her husband show up late and fighting. CW is stressed. CS is a teenager, and not in a good way.

I might have considered letting C spend the night the next night, but it wasn't offered. That afternoon we went to a cool Mexican restaurant, and back to my sister's house for some dessert. CS does not join us - busy with friends. But we do finally see the other nephew, CL who had been at work. He's heading back to college the next day.

The vacation week continues. We see my brother and his kids, my mom, we go to California and have a great time.

Meanwhile my sister posts this passive-aggressive Facebook update about how "wonderful" it is to see all of us. Her friends totally catch on, and the comments are, "Like Texas?" (where her in-laws live and where she complains about going *all the time*) and "(snicker)."

Back in town the next weekend, we see my sister and her husband on Friday night, and make plans for Saturday. (No CS - I note that because there were plenty of time for CS to spend time with C, and maybe even build up some trust with me, and those chances weren't taken.)

CS wants my C to go off with he and his friends. They say they are going to do a slip-n-slide at some park. Um. Slip-n-slide at some park? With what water? This is Arizona? Everyone needs to bring a gallon of water. With what kids? Just friends. My sister can't give me names. She doesn't know. CS is 2 1/2 years older than C, and it's enough of a difference that I'm uncomfortable about judgment and exposure. And that no one can tell me who these kids are - that I'm just supposed to trust a nephew (just because he's a nephew) who has declined to spend much time with us and is really snarky in general. It doesn't feel right to me, and we have plans with my mom (whom my sister treats *terribly*) to go to the art museum anyway.

Yes, I am the mean mom and I say no. I use the excuse of one of my favorite local laws about teen drivers: For the first year of driving, teens here cannot drive groups of friends. I like that law. I go with it.

There are plans to go to my sister's house for dinner, however, and they include my mom. We pick up cupcakes from Sprinkles. We go.

We get there, everything seems fine. Well, as fine as it gets with my sister. CS comes home and my sister claims ignorance that my C wasn't with him. (I'm doubting more and more that she didn't know - I think, really, we were set up).

Then my sister says, "Okay, I'm going to say this and then we're not going to talk about it anymore. I am so hurt that you didn't let C go with CS. We are your family, too, and you should let C spend time with us."

It went on from there. She kept saying that she was just going to say it but we weren't going to talk about it. What the fuck? Why not? Well, aside from the fact that I could totally destroy her marriage with reasons why I wasn't comfortable with the situation. She is so committed to being the victim, the wounded party. It was all about how hurt she was, and what the right situation was for my C was beside the point.

I stood up and said, "I think we should go." My husband heard me, and said, "You think we should go? Okay."

Whoa! Big warning sign there. My husband, such an even keeled peacemaker kind of guy, wants to go. Turns out my sister's husband had been making snide comments about the situation in front of all the kids and DH in the next room.

Now there's a healthy house dynamic, don't you think.

A few more minutes of arguing - with me NOT saying the big things - ensued and we left.

My kids were upset and we had some long talks with them about what had happened and why we felt it necessary to leave. We didn't say we'd done the right thing (still don't know if we did, really), but expressed compassion for my sister and her family while reiterating that their physical and mental health and safety came first for us.

I called my sister-in-law and told her what happened. She totally agreed with me and understood. (My brother doesn't, but then he and my sister have always played the two of them against me. They are closer in age and their early experiences with our mom and dad are more similar, which may have something to do with it.)

We left town the next morning. No contact since. I don't know what happens next, if anything.

I don't know if I did the right thing by leaving that night. I felt like no matter what, that evening was shot, there would be comments and glares and all sorts of mature behavior on my sister's part. I just felt like we had to go, for our own sanity.

And there you have it.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Kindred Spirits

I went to the grocery store this afternoon. The parking lot was pretty full. I ended parking to the left of a late model Lexus SUV. As I got out of my car (a Honda SUV, admittedly, but aging at this point), I noticed a bumper sticker on that car next to me. It was portraits of Adams, Washington and Franklin, a la Shepard Fairey. with "Faith, Hope, and Charity" written underneath. It amused me because, well, our founding fathers were deists, not faithful "Christians" as we think of today (though Adams was a Puritan).

Anyway. I took a couple steps further and saw the bumper sticker on other side of the car. It was a bumper sticker for Glen Beck's "Restoring Honor" propaganda presentation, er, rally in late August. At first my eyes widened a bit, and then I just rolled them. I rolled them big. What else can you do?

About this time a woman was pushing her cart to her car on other side of the driving aisle. There's was a cute little girl in the front.

Our eyes met briefly, but enough for her to catch my attention when she spoke.

"I had the exact same reaction," she said.

We both chuckled, that knowing, oh, God, what idiots are among us chuckle. And went on our ways.

It was reassuring to know there are others around who share my views on this kind of thing. My town can be so infuriatingly conservative. For example, letters to the editor promoting a right side of the aisle incumbent candidate solely on party affiliation, not ackowledging the many problems with that candidate (4th worst attendance record for votes, not attending meetings directly affecting our district, taking travel per diems on days he did not travel to the state house, leaving his wife of several decades and now shacking up with his campaign manager, and so on), or claiming this same candidate is awesome because of his opinion on illegal immigration - not that there have been any votes on the topic here, and, hello, haven't you noticed where we live? It's not exactly the top issue facing us in these parts. And then there is all the stuff going on in my home state out west. Headless bodies in the desert? What? And someone who makes such ridiculous claims actually leading in the polls even though it was completely disproved? I don't get it!

And so, I take these moments where I can.

But I'm very nervous for November 2.

Friday, September 10, 2010


I'm not in a stellar mood today. Just FYI.

It's quiet here. The kids are all in school, full-time. Just me and the dog and cats until 2:30.

I am now unemployed. The last week - particularly the last day - was yucky. Particularly pathetic was when, on that last day, when I'm trying to leave, the dev staff that had been avoiding me and not talking to me for a solid month (fear for their own jobs, I think) decided they wanted to give me a cake and suddenly be friendly. Yeah, right.

Did have this amusing exchange during the lame cake attempt:

New developer whom I had not yet met: "I'm sorry we won't be working together. Where are you going to."

Me: "Nowhere yet."

ND: "So you just decided to take some time off? How nice!"

Me: "Not at all."

He left seconds thereafter and did not have cake.

I didn't either, actually. I was not in the mood for eating grocery store preservative-filled cake. I thanked them, took my card, and left. The card, after a cursory glance at the BS "good luck" comments, went straight to the recycling.

Yesterday I received a L*nked*n invitation from a name I didn't know. I looked at the invite more closely. It's from the new "Talent Acquisition Manager" at the now former company. It said, "I'm looking forward to meeting you and working with you."

Talent Acquisition Manager FAIL!


I did have an interview early last week. The job fit is, dare I say it, ideal. I thought the conversations went well. The part-time factor is a factor, however.

I jumped through hoops while on vacation to set the interview up for my first day back from vacation (kid coverage and all) because the recruiter said they wanted to make a decision quickly. By last Friday I had heard nothing. I emailed the recruiter. She said they were hoping to make a decision this week or next. Great.

So I am pretty sure I didn't get the job. I think I would have heard if I had. I'm a little bummed.

(But also, I do wonder about their decision making skills. During the interview they expressed disappointment in the quality of the contractor that was there last fall. A terrific woman I know interviewed for that contracting position and did not get it. Clearly they should have hired my friend. Clearly they should hire me.)

I had plenty of time to think this week - and plenty more such weeks ahead, I fear - about how so many smart women are underutilized and under appreciated because companies won't think outside the box - even as they tout that they want employees to think outside the box. I know many women who could offer so much, but corporate America is so afraid! Of them, of their brains, of the way they work, of the their (entirely appropriate) priorities. It's sad, really. And I wonder how many opportunities have been lost by this fear.

I also finished reading a book this week. The book is getting some good reviews (including the New York Times), and it's well-written - but I didn't much like it. Bummed me out because I've liked other books by this author. Perhaps it's because part of the subject matter: the dot-com boom and bust of the late 90s/early 2000s is something I actually lived through.

There were characters I knew well, and had no interest in spending more time with. (M*T grad students/grad school dropouts who start Internet companies and play Ultimate Frisbee in their spare time. Euw.) There was a late book addition of distant estranged family in London that I thought should have been a book on its own. No real resolution to that sub-plot. And 9/11 as a plot device. Hasn't that been done enough? (Don't know how to resolve your character? Kill him! In a terrorist attack!) And one minor character came dangerously close to uttering my literary (and life) pet-peeve, "At least you have your health." (I once literally threw a book across a room when the character, in an exciting plot twist, uttered this, then the book jumped to a scene 6 months later with no explanation about how the protagonist got out of that plot twist. Ugh.)

I'm working on cleaning up and cleaning out the house. A summer of stress (not to mention a family of five people, two cats, one dog and a fish) has left much in disarray. It will be good to clear it all out. Hopefully clear out my mind in the process.

So that's where it's all at. Did I mention it's quiet here?

Monday, August 30, 2010


Sitting around the hotel pool on a Friday late afternoon into early evening, I looked around and thought...

Fake. Fake. Fake. Real. Fake. Real. Fake. Fake. Real. Real. Fake. Fake. Fake...

I'm home from vacation. While most of it was good, the part with my family was a challenge. Currently (again) not on speaking terms with my sister. I'll tell you about that sometime. Sigh.

Monday, August 09, 2010


On Friday night, in an effort to cheer me up (the sage continues but can't and don't want to talk about it right now), we went into town for open studios at an artist's building downtown. On the first Friday of every month, (most of) the artists stay late and open up for the public to see and/or purchase. We saw some really cool stuff.

Down one hall on the 3rd floor, there weren't many open studios, but we did wander into one that was pretty quiet. Sitting on the couch, with oils surrounding him on every level on every wall, was a gentleman sitting in for his wife, the artist. Most of the work was fine - not striking in an "oh my goodness this woman is amazing" kind of way - but solid and skilled.

There were two paintings that stood out to me. One had probably more energy than any other painting in the room: it was a painting of a woman struggling with a broken umbrella in high wind. The other was of three female figures on a beach, and I instantly thought of this artist, Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida and the series of paintings at the beach and more specifically, the painting of the Two Sisters.

(The backstory: When I was very young, my mother took my to the J Paul Getty Museum in California. The Sorolla painting The Wounded Foot is there, and I was instantly drawn to it. I was allowed to purchase a postcard of the painting and kept it for many years. I even took it to college with me and, during my sophomore color studio class used that painting as the basis for a final project, a collage using ColorAid paper. Unfortunately, my professor lost my entire portfolio from that class and the postcard was lost with it.)

I hesitated in the studio. We were making small talk with the gentleman. Dare I mention the association I was making? Would I sound pretentious? But I kept looking at it, and the gentleman noticed. He asked me if I liked it.

I told him it reminded me of some of the beach paintings of a Spanish post-Impressionist, Sorolla, and he was silent for a moment. He then told me that the painting was created as part of an exercise in a class. The exercise was to try to generate similar energy and feeling as a specific artist. And in this case, the painting was based on - you guessed it - Sorolla.

Then he told me I was only the second person in three years to make the connection.


Every once in a while that Art History degree emerges to fun effect.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Time for Another Leap

When my company hired a VP of Engineering recently, I was hopeful. My previous boss, whom I like very much as a person, is not a very good manager. This new person started and I was pleased. I thought, "Finally! We'll make some forward progress!" The developers were optimistic, I was optimisitc, the QA people were optimistic.

But then I started to get a weird vibe. He didn't seem to get my part-time schedule at all - and kept pushing against it. Why wouldn't I be in on Wednesday? Explain it again.

I just kept at my work, kept up the communication efforts, kept doing what needed to be done and looking for additional ways to contribute. Like usual. But also like usual, my kids and my family came first. There were a couple days I needed to shoot out right at my ending time, and I made no apologies for that.

This VP is rather a youngster. Early 30s. Smart - well, book smart, I guess. Wife stays at home with small children. Email at all hours. Etc. We are clearly at vastly different points in our lives.

This afternoon he called me in before I left (earlier than usual, admittedly, as hubby is on a bad work schedule, but I worked all this out with management over two years ago when I started the job) and told me that I needed to go full-time, every single day in the office during "normal" hours, 8-5:30. Or transition out of the company.

He then handed me a piece of paper with what he thought was the job description. Most of it was what I do already. Under "Qualifications" it read, "Two years previous experience."

Two. 2. Dos.

Um....if he thinks he could get some person with two years of experience in here to do what I do, he is out of his mind. He would lose the better part of a year of productivity for this person to come up to speed on the product, the technology, how the company works, and so on.

So. Looks like I'll be transitioning out of the company. I may mount some kind of a defense when I am next in the office, but I doubt it will do anything. He seems to have made up his mind long since. I'll try to negotiate a real transition and severance. Then I'll be looking to leap elsewhere.

But to where, or what, I don't know.


Thursday, July 08, 2010

In Case You Think I've Been Exaggerating

I've mentioned my sister numerous times in many contexts. She is 13 years older than me chonologically, but otherwise...well, have I mentioned the time she bit me? She had just turned 40.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, on Facebook, she fanned some ultra-conservative politician, or maybe Gl*nn B*ck or some other freak. As usual, I said nothing about this. I never do because, well, my sister just isn't worth the effort. However, one of her college friends made some comment about it, basically expressing dismay. My sister responded that she liked to do that specifically to piss me off. I said nothing, but went back a couple hours later and tried to take a screen shot of it because I was rather stunned at the immaturity of a 55 year old, even this one that I know to be so immature - but she'd deleted the exchange.

Today this came up:

Just so you know I'm not exaggerating when I talk about my sister. She lives a pretty sad life if this is what gets her going. It's hard to be a part of it, and I wouldn't be except for my nephews, whom I love dearly. (And whom does the oldest call when he needs emotional support? Hint: Not his mother.)

I'm totally dreading that drip in August. I'm doing it for my Mom and for my kids, I tell myself. And after 10 days, I will get to leave and come home to my own life, 3000 glorious miles away.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Good Things

This spring in spring soccer, C's team was pretty good. Like last year, they did not have any losses in their regular season (but blew it in the first game of the playoffs). Unlike last year, C did not break his arm. Phew, phew, and phew on that one as sailing season has started and he's trying to position himself for the high school team.

Many of the same kids were on the team this year, but there were some new ones, too, including a boy who has cerebral palsy. T could not run as fast as the other kids, could not pass with the same quickness, but never expected to be treated any differently. He never, ever gave up in any game. He'd get knocked down, and get right back up. No whining, just kept going. I could learn some things from that kid.

In spite of his perseverance and determination, T did not have a goal during the season. He wanted one, and the other boys knew that. The other boys decided it needed to be a team effort. They didn't make a fuss about it, didn't talk about it, just decided to do it. In the last half of the last game of the regular season, up by just one, the rest of the team worked their butts off to try to get T a goal. They covered and passed, and gave up chances to score themselves. The played hard defense on the other end of the field to get it back down to T as quickly and as often as possible. The whole team wanted T to have a goal. By the end of the game as the parents realized what was going on, the whole field wanted T to have that goal - but the other team also seemed to know that the boys *didn't* want them to just give T a goal. Know what I mean? There was some hard play going on out there. Nobody was giving up.

Alas, it was not to be. It was an exciting, heartwarming and heart breaking 30 minutes of adolescent soccer. T did not get a goal in the end - but it felt like the team got so much more than a mark in the win column that day.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Some Things Never Change

We're going out west in August. The kids haven't been out in 3 years, and although I saw my sister and mother in March, it was very brief, and I haven't seen my brother, a couple nephews and my niece in that time.

So...we make an effort to go out when we know they will all be there. We're flying cross country, at rather significant expense, and what's the response?

"I don't know what our schedule is like. Hopefully we'll be able to see you, but I just don't know."


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

And Now for Some Updates

A couple of weeks ago I had jury duty. It was mostly benign, aside from the guy a couple chairs down in the jury room who kept falling asleep and snoring.

(He was overweight and likely suffered from sleep apnea, thus is constantly sleep deprived. I would have mentioned one of my husband's college classmates who was diagnosed with sleep apnea in his early 20s and once started treatment had a complete change of life. Really. Was a kinda weird guy, up at all hours in college, always seemed groggy, barely graduated. Now he's completed several additional degrees and works in patent law, completely different personality, and so on. But I digress.)

At any rate, jury duty got me thinking about when I started this blog. It was jury duty that broke the writing dam I had built up. It was good to get some of that stuff out finally; it really helped me process some things that built up, and some things that have happened since. Now, 3 1/2 years later, I still have much to say, but am not blogging as much - mostly because of lack of time.

Most of the time I feel completely overwhelmed with schedules and commitments. When I do have down time from everything else, my thoughts are muddled. Too muddled, even, for writing them out. Hmmmm.

I thought, however, I'd update you on a few things.

First, the whole church thing. I wrote about it here. And here. And here. And several more places, too.

This spring a couple people were elected to the vestry that have some clue that all is not well. This was a particular coup as the rector tried to stack the vestry with his supporters. While still trying to claim the church is "growing." Uh-huh. The annual pledge drive only reached 40% of goal by deadline - and had started one month earlier. I hear they are still trying to secure adequate pledges.

A "wellness" survey was put out this spring, asking things like, "How often do you go to church now compared to 5 years ago?" and "Would you recommend St. _'s to your friends?" I filled that out. I said "no" to that last question, in case you were wondering.

Then there was a meeting, to which several people I know (who no longer attend) went - meant to be a venue for honesty and hopefully the start of healing. R, the rector, was supposed to be there just as an observer. But when one of those who has fallen away mentioned something specific (that wasn't even specifically about R), apparently he launched into a tirade. Several vestry members did observe this. He continued his lashing out after the meeting was over, and those that went are still shaken.

Several of us - actually, many of us - had hoped he'd realize things weren't going well and he'd leave on his own. We figured the best chance was this summer as his son graduated from high school and he wouldn't necessarily be tied down by schools. Well....the son was accepted to a good out-of-state university, but has told several people that "it has been decided" that he will attend a local community college. R is digging in his heels. Great.

I take the kids a couple towns north to a church every once in a while. Occasionally I miss church, but when our schedule is really busy, it's a relief not to have that on the schedule, too.

Next, the school start time thing, which I wrote about here, here, and here. And other places, too.

Well. I ran my friend's school committee campaign this spring. It was horribly stressful and I found my breaking point - but she was elected.

The candidate against the start time change engaged in some very dirty tricks. She lied. She called my candidate names. She tried to encourage bullet voting - which is not illegal, just ethically questionable. Even with the bullet voting, my friend won. On paper it doesn't look like a big victory - but if you think about how she overcame the bullet voting and dirty tricks, it's significant. If the other candidate had won, the start time would have been reversed at the April school committee meeting. Phew!

At the first start time committee meeting post election, I was floored when one of the antis went on and on about "keeping an open mind." Yeah, you first. Especially since, at the next meeting WHERE NONE OF THEM SHOWED UP we saw data from parent and teacher surveys that show increasing and strong acceptance and approval of the time change! AND decreased tardies at the middle school and high school, decreased disciplinary actions at the middle school and high school, and increased number of students on high honor roll at the middle school and high school. Academic performance at the upper elementary shows a slight increase - yes, it has benefited them, too! Tardies are up at the upper elementary school, it;s true - but when you break down statistics, a small number of students account for the majority of the tardies. While the school department won't release names to non-personnel, I asked one administrator if I could rattle off the surnames with ease. Meaning they are all the vocal antis. She just smiled.

Our superintendent decided to leave after all this - she took a beating. But we appear to have hired a really good new guy who starts August 1. I think he will shake things up, but it will be good for our district long-term.

Finally, the S and the friend's son thing. (Here, and here)

This is still very bothersome to me. S is fine, that's clear. M and P were able to resume their friendship somewhat, though it was fairly clearly being dissuaded by A. We haven't seem P much lately, though I haven't made any effort to deny M calling him, and so on.

I've tried to reach out to A, but aside from coming for a glass of wine in November, she's resisted. I can't blame her, but it's still sad. She's super cheery when she needs something from me - like a cub scout project or whatever.

This has meant that until recently it's been easy to keep D away from S. But when baseball season started, there were overlaps at the ball field. S would want to go to the playground, and D would be there. D is a little old for the playground, I think, but whatever. S would see him - she still thinks of him as a big brother because the families were close for so long - and want to play with him....and that would send my stomach to my throat. I would supervise far more closely in those circumstances (missing many great plays by M), and encourage S to hang with the girls, etc.

Next week is the final cub scout event at a climbing gym we've been to before, and it's for families. S will go ballistic if she doesn't get to go - so the whole family is going. D will be there. I'm pretty convinced this kid still doesn't know appropriate boundaries (I've observed him in other ways, and C has told me some odd things), so it all makes me nervous. I told C what was happening when it happened, and I think I will ask him to help make sure D and S are away from each other, but we have to be careful how we do this so we don't make a scene, so it's totally obvious. Ugh.

I sure hope that kid is getting some help.

Work is muddling along. It is what it is.

We've had some school stuff with C, nothing too terrible but some stuff. It's been his algebra class. For the first time, he's needed to make an effort. Sometimes he made that effort, and sometimes he didn't. Let's just say we were not invited to the middle school awards ceremony this year (which was tonight - and, I admit it, I've felt some stabs as local people on FB have commented on what a lovely evening it was), where kids who have remained on high honor roll get called out. And it's only math that's the issue. But his grade wasn't so bad, really. B+, each term. Not the worst thing in the world at all, I know. I know!

However, this algebra teacher has the power to mess with high school in a big way. The decision is whether C goes into the highest level math in 9th grade or the mid-level is up to her. While both courses count the same for GPA, they do track a kid's science courses. If he's not in the higher level 9th grade math, he can't do chemistry in 10th and physics in 11th - and no chance to get into the really cool electives in 12th (environmental science, for example). We're trying not to be helicopter parents, but it's about options. This is potentially closing doors. And there's no reason that anything he did in 8th grade should have such an impact on high school tracking.

The handbooks say he has to maintain an 85 average to stay the higher level. A B+ average would certainly meet that, right? Well the teacher is trying to push him lower, and playing games with hubster and me as we try to get clear answers on why she's doing this. She's not returning emails, and so on. It's infuriating and frustrating. C used to enjoy math, now he thinks he's bad at it and hates it. Ugh.

Just keep swimming, as Dory would say.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


It's been a long time since I've had as crappy a day at work as I had yesterday. It's not that it's been wonderful until now - it's just been "fine" - and it's a job and it's a recession and I go into the office every day thinking about ways to contribute. And in the scheme of things I've had much worse days at work.

But it was crappy enough to make me wonder what I want to do when I grow up. Do I still want to do this kind of job? Isn't there a saying that "just because it's what you do best doesn't mean you have to do it?"

What else would I do?

A former coworker once called this job the "golden handcuffs." That is, it pays well enough that it's hard to walk away.

Writing books, as I have learned, pays poorly. As does web writing. I've found that the plethora of writers and "writers" available via the inter-tubes has devalued the work somewhat. If you won't go low enough in price, there are plenty of other writers (and "writers") out there who will do it for that lower price. And often the group or person seeking that writing gets what they pay for - of course.

There's no more musing than that today. Yesterday wasn't awful enough to make me cry or immediately start searching the job boards. Mostly it just pissed me off how shortsighted and closed people can be. It just sucked and made me start wondering about other options.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Prayers for Father M

When C was sick, Father M was the rector of the church we attended. He was with us on the day C coded, and was back many times over the subsequent weeks. He was one of our team in those hard days.

Later, Father M baptized S, and Mrs. M was C's 3rd grade teacher - a wonderful woman who did wonders for C, for his self-esteem.

I've also written about Father M in terms of what has happened to the church we attended. I can't find those posts right now. I'll look later.

Suffice it to say that Father M and his family are very dear to us.

Father M is in the hospital right now, and could use some prayers. The prognosis as I understand it this morning is good, but still. Prayers for Father M. Please.

Father M is in the same hospital that treated C. He had a heart attack on Friday at home, went to the regional hospital first (same place we started with C), had stent put in an artery there, but had another heart attack in that hospital and at some point was transferred to the bigger city hospital. Another stent was going in this morning. My husband is checking in with them, offering what help we can.

When they get back to town, troops will rally. But still, prayers for a wonderful man, who still has a lot of love to give to his family and friends - and as as much love due him

UPDATE, 4/26: Father M is home. He came home Saturday and is doing very well. He was given the all-clear by his primary today, and then went to the grocery store (he's a marvelous cook - but allowed a friend to bring them soup for dinner). He's well aware, however, that he must take care not to overdo it! I just spoke with Mrs. M, and she is exhausted but so relieved. Thanks for your prayers!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I think I'm seeing light at the end of the tunnel in the worst of this insane couple of months. I'm feeling a little more settled - some days, anyway.

We've made it through the anniversary of the worst of C's illness. I think we're all okay. Acknowledging it and thinking about it a bit actually helped - not trying to push it down and away in the name of being busy (like I was doing).

We also had the Science Fair. Both M and S participated. M made a Van De Graaff generator and S did a project on the Slender Loris. M won 2nd place in his division, S an honorable mention.

S's birthday party was Saturday and it was a blast. 18 little kids running around a gymnastics place, followed by a concentrated dose of sugar (cupcakes). But my girl was happy.

For her actual birthday yesterday, S got her photo on In a good way.

From the start of the book project, I didn't really understand the level at which the book would be promoted. I wasn't sure if the publisher saw this as a straight to the remainder bin kind of product or what. I've been pleasantly surprised at the publicity efforts.

The publicists are having me write some summary promotional pieces that they submit to prominent websites. I've had to submit a few pictures. They've sent the book around. The CNN thing came about like that - they sent the book to someone there who liked a particular chapter and asked for a piece related to it. I did that a few weeks ago. When the publicist emailed yesterday, I was surprised. It's been very prominently posted on the Living section for almost 24 hours. 300+ comments on the article, too - some with legitimate commentary, some the words of the usual internet trolls.

When the article appeared on CNN, I finally told my office about the book. Hadn't breathed a word of it to them in all this time. I considered it and kept it wholly separate. My coworkers seemed generally happy for me - that was cool.

I have more such articles to write - wonder where they'll turn up!

Taxes are due tomorrow - never fun, but once we get it over with, it will be ignorable for another year. Just wish we didn't wait until the last minute like this, but that's something else entirely.

My candidate's first school committee meeting is tonight. Cool.

Then April break. Even though I'll be working my regular schedule (and, oh, how I like "regular!" Really!), we have fun stuff coming up. Normal, fun stuff. Stuff I feel I can handle okay. Normal stuff is what I am thankful for!

Baseball season, and coffee selling season, and hospital fundraising season...all stuff that, while busy, I feel I can manage. Plus it's spring, and the weather trend is warming (even if it's a little chilly today). I'm looking forward to getting into the yard. There is much cleanup and planting to be done.

So it feels like I'm settling a little. I'm hopeful for time and initiative to get the house organized and cleaned up a bit, and for the impetus to get to the basement and start doing some printing.

Happy spring.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


My sister has left Facebook. The nephews are still on it, and I think the youngest of those nephews (16) could use some parental supervision, but I'm glad she's gone from Facebook. It was kind of like the weirdness when your mom joins Facebook and makes inappropriate comments on your status updates. Yes, my sister did that.

While I was out west, she made a comment that even though she is exceedingly conservative and thinks Ann Coulter is a Goddess (it made me throw up a little in my mouth just to type the name), she only joined all sorts of ultra conservative Facebook groups just to piss me off. I never commented on such behavior, and mostly tried to ignore her presence so it's just screaming for the comment, "How....mature." Yes, she is my *older* sister. I asked why she left and she sent me a rambling email that smacked of right-wing paranoia.

I mentioned a couple days ago that my sister is becoming a caricature. A caricature of what, you might entitled, wealthy and bored suburban housewife. She's always been that, but it's just getting worse. Her appearance, for one. She's all into using Latisse on her eyelashes and so her eyelashes are cartoon long - but she's too vain to wear eyeglasses or contacts and can't see to put on's all smudged and garish. She's thinner than ever - but eats like a horse (I predict a third septic system in current house in the near future - stomach acids wreck the flora of a septic system and consequently wreck the septic system). She's all about her designer labels. Her days revolve around online shopping. She's taking a Spanish class so she can speak better with "service" people. I kid you not.

She has one child left at home, and doesn't seem to do much for or with him - hence he's becoming quite the snot (right, eba?). Absentee parent who lives in the same house. I think my brother in law is an ass, but he's the one that gets the youngest going in the morning (though litte other guidance from what I can tell). My sister sleeps in every day. Every. Day.

After we had lunch with our mother, I noted that my mom finally had handicapped plates on her car (two knee replacements, major back surgery, etc.), and my sister said, "Yeah, but she refuses to get the rearview mirror thingy for me to use. Do you know what a pain it is to walk from the far end of a parking lot when there are all these handicapped spaces empty right in front of the store? She's so insensitive."

Just let all that settle for a sec. You can't make this shit up.

In spite of the email response about her Facebook departure, my sister currently will not return my phone calls. I think it has to do with the book. My mom is currently on a bragging spree about the fact that I wrote the book (only took 43 years for the woman to express pride in me - but that's another post), and my sister is jealous. She's always been wacko about perceptions of favoritism from our parents, and this isn't helping. If she's not getting all the attention, then the parent in question loves my brother or me more, has always treated her terribly, and woe is her life, and can't we see how awful it is to be her?

Um, yeah.

And the family wonders why we don't come visit.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Where to Begin...

It's been quite a while since I have posted anything here. It's not for lack of things to say or a desire to say it; it's more exhaustion and anxiety.

I ran a friend's campaign for school committee here in town during mid February into late March. It was pretty well all consuming. My friend won in the end - and it was a fairly significant victory I think, given the nastiness of the campaign (that's a whole long post itself). But I never want to do such a thing again. I managed to find my breaking point, and it wasn't pretty. But two decent candidates were elected, and that was good.

In the middle of that, I flew out west for a day and a half to do some video stuff for the book. It was probably good to get away and get a break from the campaign stuff, but it was still just a crazy trip. While I was out there, I saw my sister (who is becoming a total caricature), my mom (almost didn't see her - even though it's been 2 1/2 years since I've seen her, she initially said she was too busy), and a friend from high school I reconnected with on Facebook (that part was great).

I think I thought that getting busy with the campaign would distract me from the time of year, it being the time of year that C got sick, and the PTSD symptoms that often well up around this time. I was wrong. It likely made it worse. Add in a very busy husband and clueless inlaws....let's just say things feel pretty sucky. It's not the doldrums I experienced in December; it's different from that, but it's sometimes hard to explain how.

It's been seven years since C was sick. Half his lifetime. He is fine. I know he is. But still I have this fear that he will get sick like that again, that it could happen again, knowing how lucky he is to be alive. I can still see his little body hooked up to those machines and all the tubes going in and out and the alarms. I have flashes of going into his room immediately after the code when there were two of the most experienced nurses working on him and the towels on the floor because all the blood hadn't been cleaned up. A few weeks ago, someone said to me, about C's illness, "Well, just get over it." I wish I could.

Half his lifetime. We've long told him that his life will grow around his illness, that his body will grow around the scars. The scars stay the same size while he grows. That is exactly what is happening, both physically and metaphorically for him. It's a significant milestone for him, I think, this half a lifetime mark - he remembers more of his life since his illness than from before it. But it's not half my lifetime; I'm still trying to sort it out, figure out where it fits in my life experiences. It's still big for me.

C is more prone to lung issues now. A few weeks ago C was sick. A virus went straight to his lungs (as it often does) and he was on steroids and breathing treatments and missed several days of school. A couple times I almost took him to the ER. He didn't want to go (he still has issues around his illness whether he admits it or not) and DH's cooler head prevailed, but it scared me. And I don't think I acknowledged how much it scared me. I expected everything to just stop for a while as we dealt with that, but it didn't. I know, duh.

C is a typical teenager, and for that I am grateful - though I still have moments of anger and irritation with him. He is, as I said, a typical teenager, and all that entails. It all makes for some confusing emotions this time of year.

I really want to curl up under the covers for a while, but that isn't happening. Hubby is on a bad schedule at work, kids have school and sports demands, science fair is coming up for M and S, S's birthday party is Saturday...and on and on. I just keep trying to plug ahead. This time of year it seems to be all I can do.

Yesterday was Easter, and I tried to make it a nice day. There was little cooperation from the kids or others on that, though. I ended up walking three of the five miles home from the beach alone in flip-flops.

Monday, February 22, 2010

On Breaking the Cycle

I've been silent here, but it has not been for lack of things to say. There's been much happening, and much thought, but very little time to be reflective. Many things I've wanted to write down, but not exactly compelled to write down. Until now.

My husband has had this patient for the last few years, a young woman in her early 20s with bad disease, a history of less than stellar life choices, and sketchy family support. SH. When my husband met SH, she had two very young kids but the dad (dads?) was nowhere in sight. The woman's mother (younger than me) - and grandmother - were not exactly pillars of appropriate behavior and choices. There were no fathers or grandfathers around for any of them. Very little stability.

It's been up and down with SH over the last couple of years. My husband is very good about HIPAA and doesn't reveal identifying details to me when he talks about stuff at work - I didn't know SH was "S" until December, and just learned the "H" this morning - and it's rare he talks about patients at all. But sometimes he does need to talk about what he's seeing, what he's treating, and how hard it is. SH was always a challenging case from a patient compliance AND severity of disease standpoint. Still, he fought for her as best he could. There was something about her - the rough around the edges young woman (girl, really) who deserved a chance to break the cycle of the generations before her. Even though she hadn't been particularly successful in that so far.

SH was post BMT and doing okay until November, when she contracted H1N1. It's been a rollercoaster since then, emotionally draining on everyone. In some senses, the staff knew SH wouldn't make it and arranged for her kids to get into the normally strictly controlled ward so they could have Christmas together. But SH hung on.

Before we left on our recent vacation, my husband made sure SH was squared away as best he could. That she was as stable as he could help her be. But the experience with SH has been so draining that he really needed the week away from the hospital. Really, really needed it.

We only left town for a few days. We came home on Wednesday night. On Thursday evening, late, my husband went into the hospital to move some things around in his office so some painters could get in. While there he learned that SH had passed away that morning. Her lungs and her compromised immune system could just never recover from that virus.

It's always sad when a patient doesn't make it. It's always hard. People are always left behind. There's always hurt. But this case feels a little different. Like SH never got that real shot at breaking the cycle, really learning from the past and moving into the light of the future. Will her sons have that chance? I don't know.

There are ways in which I think SH was very attached to my husband, but not in any way that would make me remotely jealous. I think my husband was the first male in her life who didn't stop fighting for her, who didn't walk away even when she was hard to deal with. (And she could be very juvenile and hard to deal with.) I think she needed that as much from him as the chemo and the other treatments. I'm glad he could give it - even though in the end he couldn't save her.

SH's body is still in the hospital morgue. Her family is struggling with finances to have her remains cared for properly. I think about her two little boys needing to say their proper goodbyes, about her mother getting another chance at raising children, about whether they'll be able to break their cycle. I hope they do. For SH.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Just a Thought

For an actor whose breakout role was as Frank-n-Furter in the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Tim Curry has had an alarmingly mainstream career.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Cute Teenager Ways

C, at 13, has a changing body. He's rather self-conscious about it (as many teenagers are), and even though we have tried to be open in conversations since he was little about bodies, he gets embarrassed. Even so, I try to do as much talking at him as I can (before he runs away), so he continues to get certain messages from us. It's such a delicate age.

About six months ago I bought a stick of deordorant for him. I put it in the bathroom, told him what it was and when to use it. His response? "MO-OM!" As expected. I did not monitor its usage.

The other night, when I went to bed, there was a note on my pillow. From C.

The note asked me to please get him some more deodorant. He suggested spray deodorant as he needed some at school for after gym and he had the impression the spray lasts longer. It was sweet.

At Costco yesterday, I could not find spray - but I did find a package of five sticks of clear gel, and figured he could try that and not worry about using it up.

This morning he very sheepishly asked if I could help him with the new deodorant. Seems he couldn't get the gel to rise. We went through this very funny dance, each of us pretending we weren't talking about what we were talking about (because that would be embarassing). Finally the gel was figured out and the subject dropped completely. But I did get a, "Thanks, Mom." And that's more than I usually get these days.

Having a teenager is so funny. He still needs me but doesn't want to admit it. It's sweet. It's hard. I'm so glad he's sitll here - in all contexts.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Crazies Win a Round

Last night came word from the School Committee meeting that our Superintendent is resigning.

I don't blame her one bit - though this is a real blow to the town.

Ms. S has spend most of her career in our town. She was first a 3rd grade teacher for many years, then did some more graduate work and became Assistant Principal, then Principal of the upper elementary school, then Assistant Superintendent, and, for the last three years, Superintendent. She is not retiring. She's going to take everything she learned here - and another district will get the benefit. She'll be snapped up - at a higher salary - because she's forward-thinking.

She's not perfect, but was pretty good overall and she was a step up from the last Superintendent. She worked to implement programs to improve academics. The change in start time and the high end learner program were just a couple of her efforts. The teachers respected her. A majority of the parents did, too. I worry that some administrators will follow.

Yet a small group of parents and a couple school committee members created an extremely hostile working environment for her. Publicly attacking everything she did - and deriding her personally. I don't blame her for leaving.

This small group of crazies, who do they think will come into this hostile environment? Who will want to work here? There's already a lack of qualified administrators, and 30 (yes, THIRTY!) districts in our state are looking for superintendents. We don't pay particularly well, either. This is going to be a mess.

Also, two school committee members are up for reelection, and neither are seeking reelection. That's going to be a mess, too. Ugh.

The next couple of days/weeks/maybe months, the crazies in town will be gleeful. They think they have won the war. It's going to get uglier, I fear.

And our kids' education will be the casualty.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

I Don't Think So

S goes to a Kindergarten extended day program three days a week. She loves it. I love it. M loved it when he went (C never got in - too long a waiting list and we were new to town).

One of the things I love is that the kids are introduced to a wide range of literature (mainly children's literature, of course), artists, and music. Far more than the regular Kindergarten curriculum can provide (I could start again on the half-day Kindergarten issue - but I won't. For now.)

As an art major in college, I particularly enjoy and appreciate the artist introductions. They've studdied Georgia O'Keefe and the Impressionists and others. When we go to museums, S (and the boys) have some sense of what they are looking at, and that's great.

S's monthly extended day calendar came home today and I happily looked for the "Artists of the Month" listing. The artists for January 2010 are:

Jackson Pollack
Thomas Kinkade

I thought to myself, "Oh, cool. Jackson Pollack. Perfect for this age. And who else? Thomas Kinkade?"

It took me a moment to remember the name, then I said, loudly, "Oh, no!" Then, "EUW!!!"

Thomas Kinkade, if you don't know already, is one of the premier purveyors of schlock in our country. It's not art. It's crap. I don't care if he makes a lot of money and has stores in malls across the country and is a good Christian, this is not equivalent talent to Jackson Pollack. If anything, Thomas Kinkade will be a sorry footnote in the art of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, noted more for his business and marketing skill than actual artistic merit.

I want so much to call the teachers and tell them this - or at least ask why they thought he was worthy of inclusion. Maybe I'll just ask in passing when I pick S up tomorrow.

Call me an art snob if you will. I don't mind. While Thomas Kinkade has made "art" accessible to the masses, there is so much out there that is SO. MUCH. BETTER. And accessible and attractive and thought-provoking...all with actual talent behind it.

Time for a visit to the ICA, I think, to counteract the "Painter of Light." (Gag.)