Monday, June 28, 2010

Facebook status

My facebook status says:

Casa L, Bridgewater's finest B&B is officially closed for renovations. Guests nearly constantly since Spring Break.... can someone come and take care of ME now?

We just got rid of the final batch of guests for this portion of guest-season (I guess around here ANYTIME qualifies). But right now I am really itching to feel like someone wants to take care of me and not the other way around. In January T had his accident and needed nearly round the clock care until mid-February (he didn't drive for more than 4 weeks), then in March my MIL and niece arrived. A week after they left, my Dad arrived for two months. During his stay we had two sets of "other guests" - the daughter of his best friend from England, then my sister and her two kids (they slept at the Marriott since the rooms were all full at our Inn). A week and two days after he left, a family of four came and stayed with us. They left about 20 minutes ago.

In addition I have hosted girls night in, a lunch for some special people and countless sleepovers (yes, they do COUNT). 

Yesterday, one of my daughter's friends - someone who spends many many hours of the week here - said something like, "C says you have way too much time on your hands." IS SHE KIDDING??? Does she think that because I am almost always available to host people - including her friends - and take her places I have too much time? Hmm... does having a real job mean she would respect me more?! Isn't caring for others a good use of time?

I don't know.

Yet, right now, when the house is so quiet that I can hear Diego breaths as he is sleeping on the tile (N is upstairs watching TV and the dog is melting outside), I feel like I SHOULD be doing so many of these sorts of domestic tasks: cleaning up, laundering sheets, figuring out what we are having for dinner. All I want to do is go to the pool with my book, sit myself in a deck chair and read for the next 2 hours, interrupted only by short dips in the cool water.

So, maybe if I want someone to take care of me, I can do it myself! Treat myself to some TIME. So I'll tell myself what I would say to a guest who wanted to swim:  

Here's a towel. Get changed. I'll take you there in 10 minutes. I guess I'll have to go find a suit. I know I washed one this morning....

Sunday, June 27, 2010

It's so important to...



If you ask my MIL what my biggest fault is, I think she would answer "Poppet can't say no." I know she finds many, many other faults in me - but this presumed fault is the subject of today's blog.

She would probably be right. I am constantly working to try to make everyone happy and rarely working toward my own happiness. When I do, I usually end up ruining other people's plans and then feeling guilty for wanting to do something for myself.

This week has been about making other people happy. Sometimes I can make them happy, but usually it comes at a price - often being my own feelings.

I like that I try to please others, however I have to learn balance. I need to also learn to be happy in doing something for myself without feeling GUILTY. 

Yesterday I gave in. I laid in deck chair. I read the New York Times.

But I was still worrying about my husband, the dog and our guests. I was even worrying about my friends who are fantastic vacations - wondering if they are having a great time. Why should that be on my mind???

This week I plan on spending time helping a friend pack her house before she moves to Florida. Although I know I should spend the time cleaning my own house, I feel as though I need to "pay it forward". When we moved out of our previous house, my neighbor helped me wash all the walls with vinegar and water. All day long. Other friends watched our children as we looked for a place to live. Others helped us pack, carry heavy items and paint.

I met someone this weekend who works for an organization where I volunteered during college. The first thing out of my mouth when I heard her say where she was working was, "I should volunteer there!" (Don't worry, it's not a promise!) Then I realized that making "them" happy with my volunteering would irk my husband and he'd probably say, "Why would you work for free?" Because it makes me feel good? Is that true?

"It's so important to make someone happy..."

But it's hard to make EVERYONE happy.

Maybe the song is right:
"Make someone happy,
make just ONE someone happy
and you will be happy too."

The song is a love song, so I presume it means that ONE someone is supposed to be my husband. But what about my kids (which one should I pick?), my father, my friends, my in-laws, my family??? The neighbors???? All the other people in the world who need help????

Friday, June 25, 2010

Sick puppy

I love to call someone a sick puppy when they tell a dirty joke. Yes, I like an inappropriate joke from time to time. Just don't tell anyone, OK?

But this kind of sick puppy is not cool. My poor puppy has been spewing "bad poopies" since yesterday. We haven't taken him to the vet (denial - yes) and I have spent the past 24 hours counting to ten whenever I see a certain person who gave doggie a chicken bone the night before said diarrhea emerged. The last time we took the pup to the vet, a large argument ensued over the cost of fixing Puppy's leg... in the end I took care of him and he did just fine. So although this breaks my heart, I'm trying to fix him with bland food, rice, TLC and water.

All I can do now is say a little prayer. I'm a believer in medicine over prayer - sorry, believing friends - but today since I am not taking poor Puppy to the vet I will have to try other methods. You are welcome to say a prayer, do a rain dance or think chicken soup and hot water bottle thoughts.

If only love alone could fix the ill and suffering in the world... ok, now I just sound soooooooooo naive. So I am stopping here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Last day of school

Today is the last day of school! Summer vacation starts at about 1:30pm. In the fall C will start school at about 7:25, N will start at 9:05. Yes - that is a 2 1/2 hour difference. Lots of Moms in Bridgewater (and presumably all over the country) do this, but it will be my first time. I can imagine how productive I'll be during that timeframe, but let's be honest....


I'm very sad about my son graduating from 4th grade... despite many a blogpost that might make you think otherwise I really LOVE his elementary school. I dropped the ball on teacher's gifts, so I am off to pull something out of my &^*( last minute again this year.

As I am writing this N just realized that he left his backpack at T's house.... So instead of breakfast, N is pouring dry cereal into a baggy so he can eat it in the car on the way to pick it up....

TGFTLDOS (Thank God for the Last Day of School).

Monday, June 21, 2010

big regrets and small ones

big regret: white tile kitchen floor and black dog - bad combo

small regret: that i no longer have kids to send to our great elementary school next fall

big regret: that i tried to run with diego (in 90 degree heat)

small regret: that i am soooooo far from my weight goal and time is running out

big regret: that i didn't realize that the pool opened a few hours ago

small regret: that my bikini doesn't fit as well as it could

big regret: that i didn't buy anything for dinner

small regret: that i said named names when talking badly about someone this afternoon to a teacher (she agreed)

big regret: that i didn't fix the a/c already (it works a little upstairs and fine downstairs - if you would like to donate to the air conditioning cause, send me an e-mail)

small regret: that i nearly poisoned diego this afternoon

big regret: that i just realized c is waiting to be picked up

small regret: that i am posting this without rereading... and breaking the no drinking sangria and blogging rule (well, it's more like a guideline)

big regret: that I have no other kids to send to our elementary school

small regret: that i'm sending my oldest to the middle school next year......

that i can stay at home with my kids starting tomorrow: NO REGRETS

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Broken Record

I started this blog after trying to get my C into E-language arts and math. One of the biggest and most consistent complaints of the district are how it doesn't meet the needs of bright non-AI-level kids. There is simply not enough enrichment for above-average, Lake Wobegone-kids. (There isn't enough "enrichment" for average and challenged kids either, but I'll save that for another blog. The most effective across-the-board enrichment I've seen was when C was in 2nd grade. That's 4 years ago.).

Of course this blog got me nowhere in that arena, but it has been an effective forum for venting in many areas.

Again we have received two letters both rejecting C into Algebra and E-Language Arts. This time her math was in the 95th percentile, her writing was in the 95th percentile (her reading was 85th). She did fine in e-math this year, and last year her score was 1 percentile LOWER.

It is disheartening to read the district's second to last paragraph stating, "C should continue to work diligently in learning mathematics. Please encourage your child to work with pride and dedication." It sounds condescending and fake coming in a letter saying "your daughter didn't make her goal".

She already does work with pride and dedication. I'll end with an e-mail that I recently received from her language arts teacher. Maybe then you'll see why she's frustrated that she didn't make e!

"I just wanted to take a moment to tell you how awesome of a writer C is! We all knew it anyway, but her motivation and participation is something to be admired. She is an excellent student!  I will miss this class next year!"

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Reflection

Fifteen years ago today I was the princess bride with the white dress and a halo of midsummer flowers, in lieu of a lace veil, crowning my black curls. Planning my wedding took all of 4 phone calls/in person visits. I'd known for most of my life where I wanted the service and where I wanted the reception. My Mom picked a wedding cake, and my sister went with me to pick the flowers. Bold colors - red and blue. I couldn't tell you any names beyond roses and star-gazer lilies, but the florist still remembers us!! The weather cooperated if you call sunny, humid and 95F agreeable.

Now I see that planning a wedding is an exercise in compromise; the most important skill in my married life. Each day I find that I am still giving and taking. The gift registry? Very practical - just as we live today - dishes that are fine for every day and fancy use. Even planning daily dinners - "who likes potatoes and who wants pasta?" uses the same skills as picking what we would serve the guests. There's always a skeptic: There's a famous line from my mother that went something like this, "well, no matter where we have the reception the food won't be as good as mine." The compromise there? Have the out-of-town guests back to the house for her Italian food - caponatina and sausage and peppers. I'm sure it wasn't what my in-laws were used to, but that's what marriage is - a melding of two people from different homes to create a new home. Pasta AND potatoes! Everyone's happy!

Yes, there have been plenty of tears and difficult times. Marriage hasn't always been easy for me. I am sure we will continue to struggle at times. There are plenty of things we'd like to change about each other. There is a symbolic value in the location of our reception - hills and valleys in every direction.

But I still remember it as the most beautiful wedding I have ever been to, and I still think I had the prettiest dress of anyone I know. My husband is still a handsome catch and our children are beyond our wildest dreams. As I watch my husband cut our suburban lawn this sunny afternoon I wonder: How many young brides feel this way after 15 years?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Getting what you want

I got what I wanted - or what I thought I wanted for N- today.

N will have an IEP (individualized education program) starting next year. Basically he'll be in co-teaching but they will help him with small things through the day - he'll be in the regular curriculum for all subjects all day. I started this because of his atrocious writing - apparently poor spelling and writing isn't enough to get an IEP. It was a lose-win. He wasn't poor enough to show that he has a learning disability, but he still gets an IEP for other issues. He completed their testing and they found that while he is weak, he only falls below "within normal range" in spelling. What I wanted was a program tailored to his needs. I have it, but without the writing focus, which they don't think he needs, so is it still a win?

I got a lot of compliments on what a wonderful boy we have! Everyone who tested him commented on how pleasant, how funny, how engaging he is. I knew that.... I just am floored that he isn't dyslexic or has some other learning disability, according to them.

Writing IS important!  ACCORDING TO ME!

But I got what I aimed for - a program aimed for him. Any suggestions on magical stuff to put in an IEP?! According to you....

Monday, June 14, 2010

The road

changes coming round real soon 
make us women and men"

I know the way to Bridgewater from my Western New York hometown very well. I can tell you where's the good coffee and where are the grossest toilets (hint: Wegmans has very clean johns in Johnson City, NY). I've certainly clocked the miles after seven years in New Jersey. No matter whom I drive or which path I take I always blast the tunes. And my mind always wanders back to my childhood.

This weekend I heard John Mellancamp and was thinking about favorite line from my favorite JCM song, quoted above. The song in general is very reflective of my upbringing in a small town. Even though it lies in the Northeast, culturally my hometown could have been Indiana and the small town mentality rings true of "E-town".

I've been holding onto sixteen for a long time. So have my high school friends. Is that why we're still friends?  Perhaps if you hold too much to the past, you lose sight of the present. Dwelling on who we were, or worse, our perceptions of who we were, can skew how we interact today. I think some of my friends misunderstood certain fundamental aspects of my childhood, and on Saturday I learned they still judge me for it even today.

I started by saying I know the way between my hometown and Bridgewater very well. It's more than highways though - I know how I got here. As with everyone it is a combination fate (or Providence if you so believe) and choices, and hard work. My parents instilled certain values in me and for the most part, these have guided my life's biggest decisions regarding education, marriage, kids, employment, etc.

That said, if there is a theme that I come back to in this blog (at least the non-BRRSD entries) and in my life today, it is about being grateful for who I am and what I have. I think that my biggest fault today is that I never say no to others - I am constantly doing favors just because I feel that in the karmic universe it is important to say yes when you can help others, even if I don't feel like it. I don't take my life or anything/anyone in it for granted (well... maybe I take my husband for granted sometimes, but most women do after 15 years). I know any one of us are an unexpected x-ray away from a bad diagnosis... Carpe Diem! I know that even close families can fall apart in a crisis. And I see that my life is much more than the size of my home or the stamps in my passport.

One of my friends who I saw on Saturday wrote to me when I was sixteen, "a true friend knows everything about you and likes you just the same". It's that type of friendship that I need to hold on to from when I was sixteen. Friendship and family life is a long and winding road.... that leads to Bridgewater. Remember to see the whole journey and not a single image from a 25 year old postcard.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bad sportsmanship is never the best game plan

Am I looking for a soccer scholarship for my daughter? NO! I want her to learn sportsmanship from being part of a team. I think her coaches are teaching her just that.

Today C saw firsthand an example of BAD sportsmanship. And bad referee skills. Poor sportsmanship is like porn: you know it when you see it!

Today C's team played Wanaque Thunder, the only undefended team in our flight. The game ended in a tie, thanks in part to C's great goal! But the goal isn't what I'll remember about the game in a few years. I'll remember these snotty 11 and 12 year old girls we played. KS was kicked in the calf so badly you could see the marks from the other team's cleat for at least an hour after the game. Wanaque huddled together on the field and laughed at KS while waiting for her to be carried off the field. Our girls were on a knee, as is the general practice, the other girls flatly refused even when our SAGE parent yelled, "HEY GIRLS, in Bridgewater when someone gets hurt we get on a knee!"

In response to this incident, CG asked "What is wrong with you?" of the laughing teammate who actually hurt KS so badly you could see the marks from her cleat on KS' calf. For that comment CG got a yellow card! Even when the ref later admitted two errors he didn't make any changes or even address Wanaque's poor behavior. First: Wanaque's second goal came from a play in which they should have been fouled.Second: he had to admit at the end of the game that KS was more seriously injured than he originally believed and he had fouled KS, even though KS had been the injured party.  The opposing team got a free kick just outside the box after KS' injury, skillfully deflected by our EL.

If you saw yesterday's USA-England game you caught that even the notorious English weren't cocky when their player ran into our keeper with a full force cleat to the chest. English fans are known worldwide for their poor manners. But not this time!

I am not trying to sound like sour grapes! I know it can be hard to ref - people simply see things differently! In fact I should be happy that we tied with a previously undefeated team. If the girls had been nicer, I would have felt the same way about this game that I felt about the US-UK game yesterday - 'as the underdog, a tie is fine with me!' Our girls worked well together and gave it their best despite the nastiness, so it would have been even sweeter with a win to wipe the smirks off their faces. The nastier these girls got and the harder it rained, the more it unified our team. Our girls stepped it up a notch and by the end of the game, the girls were on a fire that even the pouring rain couldn't put out.

I'm not naive: I know that 12 year old girls are often rotten to one another. They are even mean to their closest friends - but on the field, in front of their families, I expect better behavior. Laughing at another kid's injury makes me ill!  It's not the first time we've seen bad sportsmanship. Earlier in the season I was shocked when one of the teams' girls spit on their hands before shaking at the end of the game.  Can we say YUCK?

I just wonder what the other teams in our league think about Wanaque's poor manners, constant pushing and negative sportsmanship? Is it really a win if you are bullies? These are 11 and 12 year old girls playing travel soccer, but today they seemed like hooligans! It made it more ironic that we got yellow cards  and someone rooting for our girls was thrown off the field for calling the ref an asshole. (Not that I don't agree, but KS's uncle shouldn't have said it).

I have always hated it when the bad kids don't get caught, and when the good kid gets caught after she retaliates. Happens all the time in life. That doesn't mean I liked watching it today.

***Picture from Fall 2009 (not the ref mentioned above).

Update from feedback: I have been informed that some other teams (including re: girls of the same age in the BSA program) don't take a knee as apparently it's OK to use this time for strategic planning. While I find it appropriate for kids to be respectful when someone is hurt, no matter whether it is a teammate or an opponent, apparently I'm the last of a dying breed. But I've also heard that certain high school teams are also very appropriate in such situations. It is possible to be competitive AND nice. 

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Checking out of the B&B

Upstairs Grandpa G is quietly packing. He's been with us since the weekend after Easter. Before that my MIL and niece were here for all of Spring Break. Our next guests arrive on the last day of school for just under a week. That means Casa L will have had guests from March 26th through June 28th (minus 10 days).

Grandpa G is very easy to host. As long as I make coffee in the morning, he usually requires little during the day. And he is happy to help out. He practically adopts the dishwasher as his territory and he helps do laundry without me asking. He doesn't care that I'm messy. (I'm sure he'd prefer it if I were neat but I'm not stressing all the time about it when he's here- he sees that my life is very busy). His long stays have helped him assimilated into our lives here. Everyone in our lives knows him here - and almost everyone enjoys him.

This trip I think N got a lot out of having Grandpa G here: Grandpa saw N pass his blackbelt testing, he played chess with Grandpa G and Grandpa G spoke to N's class about what London was like during World War II. Good times!!

The house will be quiet without him! But not for long... the L family arrives on the last day of school. They will be staying for just under a week. I'm looking forward to having them here, but I still can't forgive a stupid little thing that happened 2 1/2 years ago. I have about a week and a half to learn to forgive and forget! Why is it always the small stuff that sticks with me??? Oh well........

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Enjoying it while it lasts...

Yesterday I helped in the elementary school library for one of the last times. My son has library only once or twice more before the last day of school. I'll be so sad. In so many ways helping in the library was a major part of the journey that lead to this blog and opened up to me the world of Board of Ed meetings and educational policy issues that have really been a huge focus for me through the past three years. If only we had won our original fight then... we would have lost them now anyway!

Today I spent the day at my daughter's Graduation Carnival. I'm full of cotton candy sugar. Sticky and gross, but happy that I spent the day laughing with my friends. Next a walk with my friend - looking for somewhere where we can sit and have coffee too.

Tomorrow - Liberty Science Center with my boy, the future scientist/inventor. I'm looking forward to it.

Last night I was with new friends. Tonight it's my final time at the elementary school's PTO dinner. It's a Girasole. What a treat!!! Except for the acute shoulder pain from nearly 3 hours making cotton candy (it will be worse tomorrow, I'm guessing), I feel great!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bridgewater pros and cons

One of my readers is considering moving to Bridgewater, NJ. For her and for others who found my blog looking for my opinion on this community, I have put together my own short list. These are some of my favorite and least favorite things about my current home.

We moved here in 2003 because of the seemingly unique blend of great schools and relatively low taxes. Our decision was also influenced by an article on Bridgewater we saw in the New York Times titled If You're Thinking of Moving to Bridgewater. (NB: it's old so you may have to sign up with an account to read it). The schools are no longer the top schools that they were and the tax base has changed so that the local people pay more and businesses are paying less. But much of what they right still rings true.

Do I put pros or cons first? I'll start with ambivalence.

Ambivalent (having feelings that contradict one another) reasons (both pro and con):
The schools. I have sung the praises of our kids' school(s) for the better part of 7 years. For the past four I have have looked a bit more critically at their deficiencies.

I am also ambivalent about those who run the schools - both as paid supervisory staff and the elected Board of Education. I am very perturbed at the BREA (the Bridgewater Teachers' Union)

Summer options. The township runs a playgrounds program. It used to be free - now it is $100 and open to kids from 9am-3pm. My kids loved it until this year. My daughter can't go because it is too far from home. Kids who have working parents can't usually attend since it doesn't cover most parents needs for childcare. It closes when it rains.

Pools - there are no (to my knowledge) public pools in Bridgewater. Either you are a member of a pool club, or you have one in your back yard. Once you join a pool it is your summer identity. You end up socializing with those in your pool more than those at other pools. It's just the way it is. Even those who are fortunate enough to have a pool sometimes join a pool, theoretically so their kids can swim on a swim team, but I think it is a "have your cake and eat it too" thing. Some days I think even less rosy thoughts about this... 

The job market. There used to be lots of opportunities here, primarily in pharma and telecommunications. Today these industries and most others are going through layoffs and merges.

Top 10 reasons for moving to Bridgewater:

I have made wonderful friends here! You know who you are....

There are lots of transplants here. People like me who don't have roots in BW and are therefore very open to making new friends. The vast majority of people I know here come from other towns in New Jersey - and a few are from other states or other countries.

We live in a neighborhood where neighbors socialize with one another. Most of my friends have similar experiences - block parties, group barbecues and friendly help are the norm, not the exception. When we were looking at houses we got a feel for a neighborhood by showing up at the time parents put their kids on the bus and then talking to the people waiting.  (At my bus stop you'd get the feeling that there aren't many K-4 aged kids. Good to know if you have one).

It's equidistant between New York and Philadelphia - so dual career families find it to be a good medium. For me it's convenient for day trips to either city and we take them, especially to New York. Although I would not advocate commuting to either of these places, many people do it every day and it works fine for them. There are lots of companies still based here or within 10 miles so you can get a job with a very short commute.

There is a Wegmans and lots of good shopping in Bridgewater. My favorite grocery store chain (get their artisan bread ONCE and you'll just know). For those who prefer Shop Rite, we have one just a hair to the West of BW and just a hair to the East of BW. We also have almost any national chain store (Best Buy, Crate and Barrel, Costco to name a few). Many others are nearby. There is a popular mall - but that might not be your scene...

There are many many many extra curricular opportunities for children. There are lots of different levels for soccer or baseball/softball. Two different organizations run competitive swim teams (the Y and the JCC). In the summer there are numerous private swim clubs - some have more competitive swim teams than others.

It is definitely NOT "Real Housewives from New Jersey" here.  Lots of people - like me - are very laid back, not social climbers (where would they climb to?) not wearing the latest clothes or getting their nails done every three days. In fact it is so uncommon to be outlandishly dressed up that I call a certain person I know by the loving nickname "hair and nails".

It's pretty here - there are four distinct seasons and the options for things to do in your free time are nearly endless.

The Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts are well organized and offer lots of opportunities for young people and adult volunteers.

Top 10 reasons for moving somewhere else in NJ:

There is no downtown where people gather. Most of the restaurants and stores are part of national chains and there is a lack of home-town feel. When I run into people it isn't on Main Street sipping coffee in the local cafe, it's at the Grocery Store on a soccer field or at the mall. (As much as I love Starbucks, it would be nice to support a local business too if there were any).

There are some very judgmental parents out there. Sometimes it is the subtle "I would never do that" after you tell someone something you've done. Happened to me today! I said "We're taking X with us on vacation this summer." It was followed by "I would never let my kid go."

The town often votes down the school budget. If you don't live in a community that regularly supports its schools, then it might not be the best place for you to raise kids.

Expense: Housing is very expensive. Taxes are high. And it isn't always as nice as the price would make it seem. That said, while most families are "mostly upper-middle class" there is a certain amount of economic and social diversity, but not much.

Despite the high taxes the township provides very few services. Even our main roads don't have street lights! The fire department is volunteer - so our taxes should be low. And snow removal? The worst I have ever experienced in the US. There is little public transportation within Bridgewater. There are buses and trains to New York City - but I haven't found a way to get to Philly from here, nor even how to get to Somerville from my house without a car - or bike.

Everyone knows everyone's business. People talk. I have had a couple of acquaintances make the paper for their um... misdeeds. It isn't pleasant.

If you are a Democrat you are a political minority. If you want to live by like-minded people and you're a left winger, this might not be the right zip code for you. Although it is an unscientific poll, I'm quite sure that Catholics are the majority followed by Jews - but that's just my world. I could be way off base....

These are my thoughts. What are yours? What did I leave out???

*************

This isn't an exhaustive list and I assume I will change it as I think of things over time.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A perfect weekend

Everybody needs a little time away
I heard her say
From each other
Even lovers need a holiday
Far away from each other
-Chicago

It was great to be away and it was great to come home - until reality set in about an hour ago...

It's back to life, back to reality here in at Casa Poppet. I'm trying to book our tickets to see my in-laws. It is expensive and complicated. No matter which flights I choose I am guaranteed to disappoint! My niece has apparently picked her vacation week based on the guestimated dates I gave several weeks ago. When I went to find flights to match these dates today, they are sold out. The flights we usually take - and booked the last time we flew - are no longer flying. It's more complicated than I remember. I can't please everyone! This time it looks like no matter which flight I choose EVERYONE will dislike it. No one likes a 7 hour layover......

I wanted to blog about how invigorating the weekend was. On Friday I spent a few hours with one of my best friends from high school. BP and I would lie on my bed listening to Howard Jones for hours and hours, talking and talking. As young adults we cooked together and played cards while her daughter slept. Now we don't live near each other but I wish we could spend our evenings playing cards and talking.

On Saturday I spent the day with my "second family" - the neighbors from down the street. I felt at home from the moment I walked into MJ's kitchen. I felt like one of the family. On Sunday I attended the wedding. It was small - about 50 people - not many for a big Italian family. It was so wonderful that the feeling is mutual. I was as much the Bride's family as she is mine. Reciprocal love! Her parents, her siblings, even her cousins embraced me and talked about the old times.


Today I roamed around my alma mater's campus. It was beautiful. Think of Hogwarts without any witchy-scary vibe. When I was there a few years ago I felt bad about myself. My friends all were in the middle of their careers and I was the only one of my close friends who stays at home raising kids. I felt pretty worthless. Today I just took in the beauty of the school and remembered the happy times.

I also ate. More than I ever allow myself - big calorie sins.

Like good friends and surrogate family (which is sometimes easier to get along with than my own) its good to know that my favorite ice cream shop still makes the best ice cream! I treated myself to a "medium" - which looked like super large and that my favorite bagel place makes the best veggie cream cheese.

If only I could bottle the love I felt this weekend to open now when I feel so unloved and overwhelmed. It's awful anticipating negative reactions from people you want to please. Why can't I relive the feeling?  It's only been 24 hours. I should have gotten a tub of the ice-cream. That too was something to savor and I could have at least enjoyed it while surfing Continental Airlines. Oh well....

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Memorial Day

My family is not a military family. We have several members who have served in various armed forces in various capacities, but no one close to me has either been a soldier in war (Dad was in undeclared war as a medical officer) or a lifetime military person. So for me Memorial Day is more a concept of national pride and thanks, than a day spent mourning my relatives.

But today I was reminded that I have had plenty of people whom I love who were lost in other ways. One of them was very violent. So it seems almost ironic that BP (my friend, not the company) called me on Memorial Day to tell me that she was watching a painful reenactment of the murder of our friend, Yngve Raustein. The program, called Unequal Justice, was designed as a push for clemency for one of the three teens involved in his murder. (The other two have served their time and been released). It brought me back to a difficult time in my life. I felt so horribly guilty that our American society is so violent and the victim was such a nice guy. Apparently I am not the only one, a student wrote a letter to the MIT paper with similar views.  I felt so sad that someone had been killed so unreasonably.

In 1994 my Mom met Yngve's Mom. It was a very sad moment. The two Moms, both of whom had lost their firstborn sons just looked at each other, and started crying before they even said a word to one another. The bond of losing a child was awful. My Mom knew Yngve - he'd spent Thanksgiving at our house one year. Watching the perpetrator's Mother crying because her son is in jail, I wanted to say, "Yngve's mother is also affected and will be for the rest of her life. Even if she did sign the petition (which shows what a good person she is), she won't get her son back because your son hit him for no reason whatsoever. What kind of person hits someone so hard that he breaks his hand for laughing? Even if Yngve had been laughing at your son (and he wasn't!), it is no reason for your son to hit him unprovoked? Yes it is unjust that your son didn't actually kill Yngve, but he struck him down unprovoked in an act that ultimately ended his life a few minutes later."

As a mother I see both Moms living the worst case scenario. One is the mother of a victim. The other the mother of a perpetrator! I certainly don't want to be either mother!

For years I would not watch any violence on TV or in movies. I wouldn't read violent books. I didn't want to watch newscasts of violent acts. And while I want to forgive the people who did this to my friend, I can't. I want to find empathy in my heart for the mother of this son who will live the rest of his life in jail, but it's hard for me. Maybe it's the violence of the US society compared to Norway - that they can sign a petition saying OK to let him out, and I can't that has hardened me.

Even this blog is doing what annoyed me most about the tv show. It is focusing too much on the perpetrator, too little on the victim. Would Yngve had married? Would he have ended up working for NASA? Maybe he would be in the private sector working on the newest greatest breakthrough? The European Space Agency? Would he have had kids? Would they have had his quirky sense of humor? I remember our lighthearted conversations. I gave the letter to his mom where he wrote "please" after every sentence (hearing that we Americans say please all the time, it was in jest). 

Even if I want to remember the good times, I am forced to think of the bad times as well. In the end the most important thing is to remember. Losing someone in war isn't so different from losing someone in a violent crime - except in war a soldier knows he is putting him or herself in danger as an act of patriotism. In this case, Yngve was just walking down the street laughing with his friend.