Monday, August 30, 2010

Who knew I'd be Glenn Close???

Movies have always been a backdrop for my view of the world. Recently when I watched The Big Chill I felt rather pathetic. Of the characters depicted in the film, I thought my life most resembled my least favorite character, Karen (the stay-at-home Mom who has sex with the movie star in the yard). Everyone else seemed to be bound to their professional destiny, even if it is dealing drugs, while she was most defined by her relationship with men. Her husband, her lover and her kids, but maybe not in that order.  In her most memorable line of the film she chastises William Hurt's character exactly as a mother tries to shame her child. I speak to my kids like that all the time.

When I first saw this film way back in the day, I thought the characters were all really old (when did I actually get to be older than them?!). I assumed I would be most like the Meg-character (played by Mary Kate Jones, who I just realized is in Big Love). Meg chose an exciting career, first begun as social activism, then later turned to capital-infused greed and more or less forgot to have kids, ending up scrambling to have a baby without a partner, still unusual in 1983. I thought I was most like her because back in the day I doubted anyone would marry me, but I knew I was smart enough for any career.

But this weekend I was definitely Glenn Close. She balanced the weekends chaos - the "beautiful funeral" and a household of surprise guests - only to save her grief to private moments in the shower. I didn't cry in the shower (I had no reason to) but I seemed to handle whatever life threw at me. A 3-year-old who wouldn't leave my dog alone (I was petrified Diego would finally bite the kids who constantly wanted to pet, poke and pull him), a TV remote that wouldn't work when the kids needed a breather, a teary pre-teen daughter needing consolation, unexpected dinner changes, coffee that was too strong, driving to the shore in 3 cars through what New Jerseyites would call light traffic, but Western New Yorkers found daunting - no matter what the traffic, it's hard to drive the Garden State Parkway together - and dealing with the near 10,000 requests for drinks and snacks for children in all age groups. Did I say we had 4 adults and 7 kids staying with us - that makes a weekend household of 15.

And I realized that even though that professionally my life so far hasn't developed into one where I am the physician married to a rich business owner with multiple dwellings, I do share several positive attributes with ALL the characters of the show.

Life isn't a movie. We aren't characters written to typify a personality-type. We can ebb and flow. We adopt various aspects of personality by choice or necessity. Right now, on this Monday morning when I am cleaning up the mess, and making a mental list of what to get my family at the grocery store, I realize that I seem more like the loathsome (for me) Karen than Meg.

But that's OK. Later today I will be like Kevin Kline - and that's a good thing. Running in my New Balance sneakers. That's an unexpected development in my character, for I never liked to run in the 1980s. As long as I don't start to look like Jeff Goldblum, or am similar to the main character, whom you never see, (Alex) it's all good!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Argue, Clean and Find

Thank you for the positive feedback on the last three blogs. I am very happy that so many people enjoyed them (in person and online). I had several other things I had planned to blog about after that series, but I had to post another inspirational blog to share my good fortune!

Everything happens for a reason, right?

This morning my daughter asked me to help her with something online. Turns out, she wanted to buy a hoodie. Normally I would say this was a good thing. It is practical, not too expensive and follows the Middle School dress code (which will definitely become a blog at some point). HOWEVER.... I exploded in anger. "YOUR CLOSET HAS TONS OF HOODIES ALREADY!" She disagreed. I told her I'd bet her a million dollars that I can find 10 hoodies in her closet. I started pulling them out, one by one. We then argued over whether a zip-up sweatshirt with a hood is a hoodie, or whether a fur-lined zip-up is a hoodie, both are cotton otherwise. Does her $100 (or maybe only $75) Christmas-present North Face zipped up one count? (It's not cotton, for that price it should be silk!) No.. no no argues she.

If you accept that broader "if it has a hood and isn't a coat it's a hoodie" Mom-definition, then I won by a landslide. If you are taking the more narrow definition. I just barely lost.

But all was not lost:

I FOUND MY MOTHER'S MERRY CHRISTMAS NECKLACE. I have looked for this necklace for 3 years! I inherited it when she died. Every year I wear it from the first Sunday in Advent through Christmas. I took it off one Christmas 3 years ago when I got a different necklace from my husband and I was worried they would scratch one another. I knew I had put it in a special place, but when it was clearly "gone forever" after 2 years I finally let it go and realized that there was nothing more I could do except add it to the vague feeling you get when your Mom's been gone too long to actively mourn, but you miss her anyway. 

What it was doing in C's closet doesn't matter. I don't care how it got there - I might have put it there accidentally.

All I know is that my little prayer "Please don't let me lose this forever" has been answered and come Christmas I'll be wearing the most beautiful necklace ever made. My father has excellent taste, he loved my Mom and this necklace is tangible proof of both. Who knows, this year maybe I'll start to wear it as soon as the first Christmas decorations are put out at Wegmans....... even if it's before Halloween!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Eat, Pray and Live... a blog in three parts.... Part three LIVE!

Eat, pray... LIVE? That's not a typo. I know that Elizabeth Whatshername wrote love, but if you want a blog about love, there are a million others out there! Google away! Although if you want a blog about loving life, today's entry might work.

Do you read Oprah or watch the show regularly trying to learn how to live your best life? Or maybe you are a fan of The Ethicist? Do you spend your days wondering WWJD ("What Would Jesus Do"). I don't, simply because I know he wouldn't have run the red light that I ran yesterday, said nasty things about a close friend or tell his daughter "I don't want you to dress like a putana!" Please cover up would have been more appropriate wording!

Where do you get the guidance you need to live a good life? Or are you, like many people, just trying to figure it out as you go along?

So far, this blog is mostly questions. The truth is I can't tell you how to live the life you have! But as I turned 40 (aka "half way to 80"), I realize that the challenge of my life isn't have I done everything I have wanted to do in life. I haven't ever been to Machu Picchu or the Galapagos Islands. But if I were to die tomorrow, could people at my funeral, or in my obituary say that I lived the best life I could in the time that I had? I think they could, so I'm doing well!

Unlike JFK or Neil Armstrong, Mother Theresa or John Lennon, no one is going to remember me for my world-changing career. I'm OK with that. But if I continue to speak my mind, I may be remembered for my wit (or, perhaps for those "awful things she said!"). If I continue to try new things, I may be remembered as a person who likes a challenge. If I continue to do things for other people, I'll be remembered as giving.

If I love, I'll be remembered with love.

So my message is to spend your life not wallowing on regrets, for we all have them! It's to be the best person you can be at any given moment. That's a tall and unrealistic order. So when you fail, be quick to forgive yourself. And forgive others, just as quickly.

You don't need to go to India, or Europe or Machu Picchu to find yourself. But there is nothing wrong with trying that approach. I spent a long time wandering Europe's outdoor markets and cultural landmarks seeking answers. I spent a lot of years worrying about my life and love. I've done some stupid things. Drank too much Shiraz. Kissed a few too many frogs. I wasted a lot of time being regretful and holding on to grudges. I still do these things - sans frog-kissing.

Did you do something enjoyable today? I did. I spent a lot of time talking with friends. Did you do something for someone else today? I did. I made a nice dinner. Did you try something new? I did. I was at a job interview, trying on a new future.

Life - for me - is not living by the reasons NOT to do something. I have always been scared by plenty of them. Why didn't I apply to Georgetown? So what if my grades weren't great! I should have paid the $25 application fee and tried my chances. I've spent way too much time using excuses for not doing things like that. That has to stop. "They're not hiring!" So I didn't send my resume, when maybe it would have sparked an interest. If I want something, I need to stop making excuses and go for it!

Sometimes, the spark in me forgets fear or logic or judgment and just DOES. That's when I'm living life.  This summer I let a boat pull me at full speed while I stood on skis holding onto a rope. With the chilly, salt-water infused breeze in my face and hair, I felt fully alive. Last week, running with Diego, loud music filling my iPod-budded ears I felt it too. Standing in front of a podium, telling the school board what I want for my kids and yours, I feel powerful (and, let's face it, weak), but always alive, when my heart is pumping harder from the adrenaline of speaking in front of several hundred people trying to improve the educational options for my kids and yours. But sometimes it gets me into trouble. Words I can't really take back, are my most consistent example.

I'm lucky. I share my life with someone who also likes to see new places, try new things and he loves nothing more than sharing these experiences with our kids. Almost every free weekend he wants to get into the car or on a plane, book a hotel on priceline and see where the roads take us. When we were young, it was an Oregon beach. Now it's likely to be Toronto, Kauai or Fort Lauderdale. He works hard, he plays hard.

Like the video games (I so hate), life restarts every day. What do I want from today? I have a great life. It's OK to want more! And it's OK to go for it. No, I don't have a book deal to cover my world-tour expenses. But I have a lot of opportunities for happiness. I'm taking them, and not looking back. No excuses. Ready, Set, GO!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Eat, Pray and Live... a blog in three parts.... Part two Ora et Labora

I was raised by a mother who didn't believe in God. Both my parents believed that it was important to have a basis in religion to help form a sense of morality - at least I think that is why my atheist Mom forced me to attend weekly services at the local Episcopal church. It helped that Rev H was big on logic, and short on judgment.  My Mom didn't like God, but she really liked our "local messenger" and she respected him even if she didn't drink the cool-aid. I know why she didn't believe in God - she explained that her faith died with her first marriage (and losing her firstborn son some 20 years later probably didn't help matters). My Dad refuses to discuss his religious beliefs seriously. He still attends the same church, but there are all the lingering questions, and I have a feeling he will never give in and give me the answers for which I yearn.

So it should come to you as no surprise that my faith is incomplete. Sometimes strong, sometimes non-existent. Still I like to go to church and soak it all in, especially the music. I recently joined St. John's Church in Somerville, and it is just what I want. It reminds me of the parish where I grew up. St. John's is all about love and service. Love for one another and love for God in seemingly equal amounts. It is about service to the community and being there makes me want to be a better person. What I love most of all are the messages I hear from Father Ron (and the Deacons). I always go home thinking about the sermons.

But do I believe everything they believe? Not always. A few months ago my daughter brought her friend with us to church. The friend's Mom is quite ill and the girl was upset during the service. After the service I brought her to meet Father Ron. He sat with her, he spoke with her for 15 minutes, and he prayed with her, and for her. My daughter even commented that holding hands (all 4 of us) with the Father was a moving experience. But is it going to lead to a miracle cure for her Mom? Nope... and that would make it much easier to believe.

I've been thinking of my own doubts a lot recently as I ponder the BIG NEWS in religion this summer. The so-called Ground Zero Mosque. This time last week I was agreeing with most Americans that it wrong to put a mosque THERE.

This week after learning more about the proposal, my feelings have changed. Granted, I do get my news from a lot of left-leaning sources (NPR, the New York Times), but I still live in mainstream America. This time last week I felt it was in poor taste to put a mosque there. I was never thinking "over my dead body can they put a mosque there!" Just more like, this just doesn't sit right...

Build, Baby, Build!
After hearing more about the proposal and a call in show on WNYC my mind changed. It was an open-phones radio call in for residents of Tribecca (the area where the mosque/cultural center is being proposed). Some residents said that there is already a mosque on or near the proposed site as well as a Muslim bookstore.While the rest of the country seems against the Mosque, local residents called in with a wide number of reasons why it should go through. Since they live there,- and lived through 9-11 as the WTC's close neighbor, and the aftermath - it is important to take their views into consideration.

It is true - there are a lot of reasons to despise religious fundamentalists OF ALL RELIGIONS. But from my basic understanding of religion, the key element of any religion beyond belief in God, is love. Nowadays it seems as if religion is about loving only ourselves, and hating everyone else! How come it's fashionable to hate Muslims, but anti-antisemitism is still wrong? If it had been a Jewish Community Center, it would have been fine. We live spitting distance from a Hindu temple. I think it looks very cool and I really want to visit it sometime, but when there were proposals for its expansion, local residents vehemently opposed them. Even I find myself falling into this hypocrisy. I don't like some Christian denominations (and some I directly fear), but others are OK. Even with religious denominations that I find perfectly acceptable, I find myself saying my church is better. With a smug smile I say, "Well, we ordain women, and we accept gays - and we feed the poor, accept the oppressed and don't care how your bread is buttered as long as you come to church sometimes! We are the welcoming church."

What would the founding father's think? I hate to be cynical, but I think the Founding Fathers were thinking of the US more in terms of capitalism than religion, despite the quotes from this blog. I grew up learning that the Anglican church (known as Episcopalian here) was founded because a horny King wanted to get a divorce and the Pope wouldn't allow it. Let the religion without sin cast the first stone!

Which brings me back to my own little world. There are millions of Christians and millions of Muslims occupying the same planet. I am not the only Christian who battles huge doses of doubt. My guess is that there is a family somewhere South of Soho looking for a nice place to hang out, read books, knit for the needy, offer Arabic classes for their pre-school kids and maybe to pray. And in that same family, the Mom knows she is a Muslim, but her doubts are just as strong as mine. Maybe she smartly (unlike me) keeps them to herself as she goes about her day. My imaginary Muslim NYC mama-friend and I are not so different. This summer my daughter benefited from the "Christian Community Center" by going to YMCA camp. My kids learned to swim at the local JCC. Our lives may be fulled with similar activities and similar obligations as my Muslim mama-friend. She may be a Muslim in name, but like me, full of doubts and just wants to raise nice kids.
I'm sick of people hating each other because of religious beliefs! I'm sick of the misinformation and the judgment. The fear-mongering is beyond reproach! It reminds me of the constant discussion of impending war in Israel over religious places of worship, water and power that people have been fighting for since Christ's birth. Now, I think it's heartbreaking that the fight is over land and power is just an hour from my home.

Assuming all Muslims are Terrorists is like saying All Christians were Crusaders. Not all Jews are militant Zionists and not every Hindu is heading to fight in Kashmir! 

This should be the message.... stop fighting over how people pray! Let them build it. If it offends you,so be it! Voice your opinion to Mayor Bloomberg (or to me, I like a nice debate) and then go on with your day.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Eat, Pray and Live... a blog in three parts.... Part one Mangare!

I start this short series by admitting that I never completed Eat Pray Love and I haven't seen the film. I know how it ends, anyway. Life's to short to waste on bad books, and I hated this one! Elizabeth Whatshername lost me in Italy. I found it unreasonable that the beginning of the book focuses on not the break-up of her marriage, but the break-up of post-marriage lover.  Any person who anyone has seen When Harry Met Sally knows he is the "transitional person". Not the one. So I didn't understand the misplaced mourning of her post-marital lover. For me Elizabeth came off as selfish and whiny. As I read on my contempt grew.

So when she hit Italy and described how she was speaking idiomatic Italian after 3 months, I decided she was a complete hack! There are not many talents that I have, but if I were to admit to any, I'd say I have an ear for foreign languages. Even with some "gifts" in language acquisition, I'm the first to admit that learning a language requires hard work! Unless you are very lucky, vocabulary has to be memorized and then incorporated into authentic language. In other words, Rome wasn't built in a day, and Italian isn't learned in 3 months. Ask any exchange student! She's an unreliable witness.

So, although the blog may sound like an homage to Elizabeth, it totally is NOT! But I like the idea of Eat, Pray and Love - except I am changing the title slightly - lest I be sued for plagiarism (By the way: unlike her book and movie, I am not making 1 cent off this blog).

Fresh lettuce, tomatoes, apples, peaches and pears from Melick's

Part 1: EAT. 
Several of my friends are trying to lose weight - with mixed results. Some of them have not done any better than I have - others have done a bit too well. I want to lose weight too, but I realize that I love food. Food means so much to me - it is a tangible link I have to my mother, it is a daily comfort and joy, and it is a source of nourishment that we all need.

And it is a frustration. I am always eating.  I like good food. Today has been a great one so far for good food: I made a beautiful omelet with fresh peppers and mushrooms, then enjoyed chocolate that a friend brought from Israel... and I just got back from a wonderful afternoon picking fruit at Melicks. We picked apples, peaches and pears and I bought their tomatoes and lettuce. Now as I type this I'm eating a medley of freshly grown tomatoes in a little balsamic vinegar. Heaven! It continues: tonight my husband is making a rare treat (no pun intended) steak for dinner! His cooking is a big treat alone. Yum yum yum!

These are the types of things (sans chocolate and steak, but it was only a taste of chocolate) that I could live on and lose a ton of weight. If only I lived like this every day!

But I also love baked goods, and any sweets in the house have an exceptionally short shelf life. I want to cut that kind of eating - snacking on "empty calories". At 10 pm the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, and before I know it, I've eaten 5 cookies. On Friday I had a half a dozen cookies for lunch! You should see me when I am visiting friends. I always stand by the food and I always eat everything!

I love healthy food. I love salads and fruits, salmon, chicken and all kinds of whole grains. Why can't I seem to cut cookies, snacks and those lovely salty chips? To keep me in check I use Fit Day to watch calories and I just discovered the CDC's site for looking at what caloric intake to meet your weight/weight goal.

In a few ways I am like my mother. She was a curly haired woman with dark eyes - much more beautiful than mine, alas - and she was good with languages too. We both loved cooking and we both loved food. She was a much better and more accomplished cook. Maybe that's why I love to eat?

So today - in my Eat segment of Eat, Pray, Live, I will share with you two of her recipes for you to try and share with your loved ones. They are both healthy (the first more than the second, but you can substitute whole wheat pasta and turkey instead of bacon) and both tried and true. Both can be altered to meet your own taste buds.  Manga!

In a blender:
1 1/2 cups (3-4 slices) of cubed toasted bread

1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
3 tablespoons olive oil
1-4 cloves of garlic (I tend to use 4)
3 cups tomato juice - the bottom part if possible.

Then add  1 cup water
black pepper
Cayenne or Tabasco or chili
2-4 tablespoons vinegar
3 ice cubes
Blend and chill
Garnish: croutons, green peppers, cucumbers, onions, fresh tomatoes, cubed or diced... or whatever you have in the fridge.
(Note: when I make this I often put the garnish veggies in the blender in the beginning and have a bit on the side for people to add to taste.)

Spaghetti with pea pods

1/3 lb pea pods (remove stems and strings)
3 strips bacon or 3-4 slices boiled ham, cut in strips
1 small onion, chopped
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped or 1 tsp dried dried parsley
1 lb spaghetti
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Grated parmesan cheese

In saucepan cook onions and bacon or ham until onions are wilted and meat is crispy. Add sugar and parsley. Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in lots of water with 1 TBS salt and drizzle of oil. To saucepan add 1 cup water, pea pods, salt and pepper. Cover; bring to boil, then reduce heat and cook until pods are still a little crunchy, about 8 minutes. Combine with cooked spaghetti. Top with grated Italian cheese.

Friday, August 20, 2010


We lived abroad for many years and during these years I was grateful that there was a NATO base about a mile from my home because they sent Armed Forces Radio. That meant I could hear about 7 hours of NPR programming per day in my car or home. Paybacks were 2 hours of Rush and 2 hours of Dr. Laura. To be honest, my leftist-liberal mind actually preferred Rush to Laura! This morning on NPR I heard some news that finally Dr. Laura had gone too far. (Or you can google her!).

If you don't know her, this clip below is a parody of her.

Dr. Laura's radio slogan is "I am my kids' mom" (i.e. I stay at home and raise my kids) and I have found her advice offensive almost every time I have heard her. There is nothing wrong with being a Mom who works outside the home. Who am *I* to judge others who do? And more importantly, who is she to judge them? Doesn't her radio show and books (with national tours) qualify as working full time outside of the home??? This hypocrisy always got my goat. 

Sometimes I would slightly agree with her when she was speaking with a particularly troubled woman about a litany of bad choices in the bedroom. Of course I would say that some people need to think about their kids more. HOWEVER, I don't think that all adultery is always wrong! I don't think that every child of divorced parents is troubled. Sometimes people shouldn't have married in the first place, and some children are more stable without the constant fighting or abuse. I don't think that her holier-than-thou attitude on these subjects really helps her listeners.

I haven't heard her in years and I am happy that I no longer have to wait for Rush and Dr. Laura to finish for Talk of the Nation to begin on the only English language local radio station. But she must have made me think, because why would I feel so passionate about her now that she's apparently being forced out of her job? I have little hope that the stations that carry her will find someone more open-minded, but if you are going to have someone replace her, I'd suggest "Sarah!" She is just as much of a hypocrite, a loud-mouth and shares the same target audience.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


For decades I have cried about, complained incessantly about, and hated my curly hair. For months this is how I felt about C choosing cheer over soccer.

About a year ago I had an epiphany. Some people "find Jesus!" -  I "found curls"! While I can complain that I can't figure out whether I have enough gray to dye or not, and like every other woman in the world I crave positive feedback, I no longer complain about my lack of good fortune in hair karma. I turned over a new leaf and I decided to actively love and embrace my frizzy, wild, funky curls. Now I am grateful for every little kink! ;-)

With nightly practices already underway, it is now or never! It's time to embrace the inevitable. Dive in head first and don't look back. Accept change and love my daughter's choice about cheer. I've been treating it as thought she had chosen something really bad (like drugs?). It simply isn't the end of the world. But when I googled "cheer" looking for images for this blog, I got that queasy feeling from the pictures. And I had to breathe deeply - am I really supporting C doing that?! Thirty seconds into my changed attitude I realized it hadn't really change.

I guess accepting my hair as beautiful isn't such a huge leap. It's hard to change my attitude just from sheer will about certain things and easier on others.

Leaf: consider yourself overturned! I heart Cheerleading - it's a sport and C loves it. So I love it too! Rah Rah Rah!

Like any alcoholic, I'm off the wagon only 3 hours after posting this blog. We got an e-mail about a mandatory parents' meeting tonight to discuss "issues".  Here's a clip from the e-mail:
We are sorry for the "last minute" notice, but it has come to our attention that there have been various discussions taking place regarding our attendance policy, productivity of the Harry Ally practices, etc.
We very much want this season to be successful and therefore would like to make sure that we are addressing any questions or feedback upfront.
I've been to enough mandatory meetings about the attendance policy! I feel like I've given them a pint of my first born's blood. So what did I do? I sent them a reply....saying we've drunk the cool-aid - you can see drops of it on all our canceled checks,  and we know the recipe by now. I might have lost their vote for most popular parent, but oh well. They are making it very very hard for me to embrace cheer with love and compassion. Rahhh?????

Monday, August 16, 2010

Type specific ADD?

This weekend I got sucked in... to! It's a site for knitters and crocheters to share patterns, information and pictures. I think that if I spent as much time on actually knitting as I did on the site, I would have knit an entire sweater!

Who knew there was a single site that I could waste more time on than Facebook? One of my friends said she has recently become addicted to Twitter. If she can, than I can, so I'm staying off tweeting for now.

I realized that for me half the fun of knitting comes in the planning and starting phases. A long time ago I did the Myers-Briggs personality test and I think I ended up with ENFP (don't quote me, I think Clinton was still in office). But that fits - bright ideas, gets bored easily, dislikes structure and has a problem finishing things. That's exactly how I seem to knit! 

But do I have an actual deviant form of ADD specifically for knitting? (Whether or not I have real ADD may or may not be the subject of another blog). I would hardly call it ADHD - how can you be hyperactive when you're sedentary?

I am about half way done on a big sweater project for my husband. I began it in August 2009, it was nearly finished and I ripped up several inches this June - I'm not quite back where I was. It is a heavy project - and not conducive to knitting in the sun or heat. I know this sounds like a lame excuse but it is true. In the summer's heat I want one skein (ball) of yarn and I don't want five pounds of sweater on my lap. I also have one arm done, but the wrist is too tight, so I think I will have to start over!!!!

The body 75% done. Still need to knit one arm and put the entire thing together.

On top of that I knit two baby hats this past week - both of which need final touches. The second hat is identical to this one, but in blue, beige and brown for a baby boy. One of them I'm planning to sell to a friend. What would you pay for a hand-knit hat? The other I will either sell to a FB friend or donate.

I need to sew in the extra yarn - hidden in the picture
Then yesterday I began a Christmas stocking with another design that I need to follow a complicated pattern in order to finish. It is with yarn I bought this summer at a Monastery that my Uncle designed. I keep thinking that the project has to be for a good cause, and it definitely had to be with a somewhat religious theme. I am sure that a true catholic doesn't think a Christmas stocking counts, but I do.

Probably Christmas 2011 is more realistic for this work of art to-be

Last week I started a scarf for either my father-in-law or T's grandmother. Thinking I'd get a jump start on Christmas gifts. I knit this while watching N and his buddy at the pool. I would have thought it would have been done by now, but it's not. This project is very visceral. The yarn is cashmere and creamy to the touch. 

A gift for the person who has everything. A snugly scarf.

Then yesterday I remembered that I had promised to knit a baby blanket to donate to a church that gives them to every newly baptized baby. I LOVE THIS IDEA! But with 5 projects on my needles - not to mention a scarf I started YEARS ago for my daughter's friend, and a sweater I started in 1991 that patiently waits to be picked up again - am I doing more than I should be doing at one time? Plus I recently found a Courier blog that focuses on knitting. It's author, Pam also has a contest for knitted donations. I really want to enter something.... but what??? Perhaps the pink hat? Hmm.....the wheels are turning!

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by your own creative impulses?

I need to get back into the school year. While N and C practice their jumps (at cheer or tae kwon do), or the BOE tries to convince me that putting money back into sports instead of the classroom is really a good thing (fodder for another blog), I'll be knitting and knitting and knitting. Lucky me!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Power hungry?

It's Saturday and you'll find Bridgewater's reluctant Cheer Mom (aka Bridgewater Soccer Mom) outside trimming bushes with her mini chain-saw. It's scary power! Don't mess with me today... but at the same time visions of a fingerless me heading to an ER keep me from really going wild.

Middle School placement letters came today. So far C has not been placed on a team with many of her friends. We're still waiting to see who else she'll be with, but like a TV series in it's 2nd and 3rd season, we're likely to find a new cast of characters in the fall Middle School friend line-up. I hope I'll like the new friends better than I like this season's characters on True Blood. Make new friends but keep the old? Not this skeptical Mom. I assume all new friends are prostitutes and drug addicts until proven innocent??? I'm kidding, of course! Joking aside, I like her old friends just fine, and to be honest, I met some of my very best friends in "junior high" (aka middle school).

A friend I trust likes C's new math teacher. That's good news. I just got a text - someone else said C's language arts teacher is "the only teacher who ever taught her daughter grammar". A good teacher is like winning the lottery! That's music to this Soccer Mom's ears!!! 

Back to the yard. Clean-up of the fallen pricker bushes. Maybe that's why this poor bush hasn't been trimmed in years! At least a wheel barrel is safer than a chain saw. When I really win the lottery, cutting bushes is definitely getting outsourced!

Friday, August 13, 2010

The blog that wasn't

I started to write a blog today - maybe you'd call it a rant instead. I tend to react emotionally to things that don't necessarily warrant such strong feelings. Today it cost me exactly one half hour of my life.   Time I could have spent in the sun!

Last June, when September seemed like a distant future, I offered to co-chair a book fair. I did it with the caveat of "unless I go back to work". Since I'm still "employed" by the same company often referred to as "Casa L's B&B" I have plenty of time to chair a book fair. No problemo!

This morning when my co-chair and I stopped by the school to ask about numbers copies of materials to distribute for classes, the administrative assistant said we need 27-30 per classroom. I freaked! I blogged about the state of schools with 30 kids per class. I wrote about the demise of kids' ability to concentrate (not just mine, either!). I wrote about teachers' bitterness about their situation with up to 30 kids in their classes. I said children already vie for the teacher's attention in classes with 20 kids. Finally, I wrote about how upset parents may be after they have grown accustomed to 20-23 kids per class. It was an angry blog. The kind of thing you want to read only after a glass of wine.... I guess those breakfast mimosas did take a toll? Mimosas you ask?? Ha!

Turns out a little information is a bad thing! When the administrative staff said we should assemble 27-30 copies per classroom, she possibly guessed we would need extras. She didn't say that we needed all 30 copies for each class. I just assumed it.

Maybe my assumption is correct. Perhaps I am WRONG!

Even if there are huge classes this year, my kids' teachers should be given the benefit of the doubt. They are professionals, and as such can manage classes of any size (within their contract, which I guess says 30 kids) without the devastating impacts I am imagining.

So take a deep breath. It was a beautiful August day today. No too hot, not too humid. Breathe in the fresh air and sunshine and remember - school's not here yet. I shouldn't anticipate problems before they happen - especially things that are completely out of my control. The BOE knows how I feel about class size. I questioned Dr. Superintendent publicly about it several times last year....

It's AUGUST. Too late to change class sizes, and still officially vacation! September will come soon enough, and armed with the correct class size numbers I can attend a BOE meeting and voice my concerns before the appropriate audience.

But for now I am going to enjoy a spaghetti dinner and then sit on the deck and enjoy a summer evening's breeze.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Simmering just below the surface

I've already started buying school supplies
I have taken a hiatus this August from blogging about BRRSD matters, but today I want to at least mention the possible influx of money to districts from the federal government. Apparently Christie WILL request funds for New Jersey, after he initially indicated that he might not (according to a news report, see below).

Watch NJN's news from Tuesday. NJN is our local PBS station. First it discusses the new aid to help reduce teacher lay-offs (see above).  After that, it has a report on new concessions that Edison teacher's union has agreed to. They are taking a new cut in pay in order to save jobs. The highest in the state.

I realize that this is not happening in Bridgewater. I already saw the new faces (and no, not former BRRSD employees rehired) cleaning in two schools this week. Maybe some classroom teachers will be restored to my kids' schools, especially my son's Intermediate school where I thought class sizes were already high. To my knowledge they didn't redistrict, as someone requested the BOE to do last spring, and so I think the Intermediate School to the East will continue to have smaller classes than the Intermediate School serving the bubble year of west-side kids.

Part of me has really enjoyed the head-in-the-sand summer I've enjoyed. I haven't even missed worrying about what is going on in the district. It seemed to run fine without me interfering. But I know like anything else, you can't keep things on autopilot and sooner or later I'll be back at that ugly Wade Building trying to coerce the BOE to see something my way... largely in vain.

There will be plenty to talk about. I just spoke to two different people, one online, the other in person, who want to abolish the current school system. The first suggested that everyone should home school (and while she meant well, I think she doesn't understand that home schooling is a luxury only available to the middle class and wealthy - internet resources are fine, and often free, but most people have to work full time (both Mom and Dad, if both are around) in order to feed their families and pay their rent, others don't have the educational levels needed to home school). The other person would like to privatize schools in such a way that the funding follows the student and families get to choose where to send their kid. This happens to a certain extent already in areas where there is "school choice". Although there is some form of school choice in Somerset County, you certainly don't hear about it much in Bridgewater.

The list goes on of things to be discussed in the fall. Until then, I plan to embrace my ostrich-like mannerisms, if only for a few weeks more. I need a deck chair an a section of the Times and I'm good to go!

Enjoy the last few weeks before summer break is over. Enough blogging before coffee!!!! Have a great day!

UPDATE: This was in the Courier when I just checked. BRRSD's Cheryl Dyer more or less says it's too late... not for me, it isn't!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dreaming of a white Christmas in August?

I love dreaming about knitting almost as much as I love actually knitting something. Is it the optimist or the ADHD that always has me looking for the next great thing to work on?  Currently I have more yarn than I can manage in my bedroom closet. But, I'm often so tempted to buy more that I can't help it. I just have to....

I am still working on a sweater (see left) I began one year ago this week for my husband, T! He noticed that I haven't knit anything for him since before we married... and he was right! So I took on a major project. I have 1/3 of the sweater left to know and 1 arm to knit. That might seem like the easy work is done, but the true work comes in assembling the whole sweater. I may have to outsource! It will be gorgeous when it is completed, but I can't predict how long it will take me to finish. It should have been done long ago.....

But the problem is that I keep picking up other projects. In May/June I knit 4 placemats for a wedding gift. I used a Nature's Choice yarn and only wish I had taken a picture. Sometime in the last year I also knit a baby hat for two different newborns and a scarf for a 30th birthday gift.

Last week I realized I have far too much yarn in the closet and began knitting a scarf for my father in law in a cashmere wool I purchased at a close-out sale after Christmas. It is turning out beautifully and will make a lovely gift for someone who is nearly impossible to shop for.

Sometimes I surprise myself about what I *don't* blog about. I often blog about love, but it seems I didn't blog about one true love: the US Olympian's HAT! It was love at first sight!! Tonight I found the HOLY GRAIL of patterns: the Olympic Reindeer hat. I can't wait to start it!!! I CAN"T WAIT! Since the moment I saw the proud American athletes walk onto the Vancouver arena I have dreamed about knitting it. Now I can!

You can too! The pattern is free on Ravelry by a clever woman named Helena! Thanks, Helena!!! You made my otherwise humdrum day!!!! I hope that I can do it justice. I almost woke T and N up (N is sleeping with T in our bed) to look through my baskets of yarn for appropriate yarn and needles. I might have to stop by a local yarn shop tomorrow to invest in more needles. You simply can never have enough..... or can you?! I can't wait to start it!!!!

Once I've finished T's Norwegian sweater, of course.....


I didn't start on the Reindeer olympic hat because I couldn't get it together out of my stash - I have plenty of red, white and blue yarn, but none of the same thickness, making it hard to knit together as one hat.

I DO have a ton of leftover yarn from the above-mentioned wedding gift. I guess I thought I would knit the happy couple a blanket, but never got even close. So today I spent time here and there knitting a baby hat. No, I don't know anyone having a baby, and yes, I already have a pink baby hat waiting in the closet for someone to give me good news, but I wanted to see if I could make a hat in an afternoon/evening. This pattern was also free. With the thick cotton yarn it was no problem and wallah (I speak several languages, not French)... here's my latest creation. Am still itching to start Mr. Reindeer. Don't worry - after a few rounds on my Sandnes sweater, I'll break down and buy some yarn! I mean I only have 4 huge baskets of yarn in the closet... what's a few more skeins?!

I sometimes feel like a day running errands is a wasted day. How could today have been a waste? I knit a hat! Not world peace, but a tiny accomplishment! Indeed!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Girls day out

"In New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There's nothing you can't do now you're in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
let's hear it for New York,
New York, New York..."

My friend and her daughter were up for some mother-daughter quality time. I am always up for it, so I gathered my inner strength and drove into the city, confident I could get there on a Sunday without denting the car (we have a history of accidents heading in or out of the Big Apple).

I LOVE being in New York. But being there is like having a high school crush on a guy who is out of your league. I never got to date the most popular boy back then, and I'll simply never have the income - or lifestyle - to make New York my home.

But that's OK - my life is very rich and yesterday was a great example of my good fortune. If there is one thing I've learned since high school, it's that what you wanted at 14 looks very different at 40. By that I mean attainable. None of the boys I knew back then seem "out of my league" today. What about the Big Apple?

New York seemed unattainable once. For now it is. I've chosen a life where family comes first, and while some New Yorkers combine the city and child-raising, that's not my choice. Yesterday, I managed the subway like a native, resisted the urge to force the girls to spend time at MoMA, letting them choose what we do... and guess what? We shopped because that's what 12 and 13 year old girls want to do. I navigated us through Uptown and Down, taking in exactly the sights the girls wanted to see (the Abercrombie Flagship store on 5th Avenue and various stores, large and small, in Soho) and feeling relaxed. Family and the city!

Being in New York is so inspiring. This morning I sent a resume... it's not a commitment. Not a marriage proposal... but it's an expansion in my horizon. In my own minor way I'm looking ahead. I have little faith that this single e-mail will amount to a future on Park Avenue, but it can't hurt to try. 

I recently had lunch with a boy I had a "like major" crush on when I was a teenager. Although I find it unlikely, he claims he didn't know how I felt back then about him, and if he had, maybe.. Did I not try hard enough to get the unattainable boyfriend's attention?  What else could I have done?

I don't want to be asking myself that about this professional opportunity! (Or any chance, really!) "Could I have gotten it?"  Maybe if I get it, I'll find what I already suspect. I probably can't do it all at the same time: commute to a job in the city AND manage two kids. But I want the chance to try before I give up!

As I drove out of the city, full of Mexican food, with fresh memories of our happy girls trying on 70% off swim suits, I was happy and confident. Was it from being in New York? Or was it me?

Friday, August 6, 2010

WSJ nails it

I've discussed this before: the chasm between women who work and those who are at home, and I've also discussed the fact that I can't seem to be able to say no.

I have been thinking about this a lot. My daughter and her friend offered to try to straighten my curls. She has a straightener. Since I had a little free time, I thought - why not today?

It was a lot of fun and looked great, but I had to swallow hard when I read a comment about it on Facebook. Someone's comment had nothing to do with my hair but that she was working on very important things at work. Did she mean she couldn't waste her time getting her hair done by her daughter? Or was she saying that she's a more important human being than me because her work is so vital to the world? She didn't say. She didn't even follow up her comment with an explanation.  It sounded like "I'm a very important person." The "you're not" addendum strongly implied.

I'm sick of being told that I don't count because I don't have an income. When school closes due to snow I am literally the first call for HALF A DOZEN FAMILIES!  Every time it happens I have other families' kids here. Last year I literally had 10 children here on a snow day (2 families with 2 kids, one family with 4 kids and my 2 kids)!

I don't mind it -and I offer to help - but I don't think that it is fair that working moms look down on parents and feel so superior that they can actually comment on it publicly!

We all can work together!! This Wall Street Journal article looks at this topic and I love how they portray it. Of course, I have to be better about saying no. There is one family that call regularly but I LIKE THAT because it is completely reciprocal. They are my first call in need. They take Diego when we are away and we take Cracker when they are away. They take our kids, we take their kids. No questions, no judgment!

We all need each other! Working outside or inside the home.

I've been a full-time working Mom as well. I get both sides and the nuances of in-between. I am just sick of the war.

And really, all I did was spend an hour with my daughter and her friend in the middle of the day. For most people who stay at home, that is the entire point!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The national pastime...

Took the kids to a Somerset Patriots game yesterday. I could care less about baseball, but anyone who has been to a Patriots game knows it isn't really about the ball. It's about the ambiance. The pre-show featuring a local organization's talents, the cheesy giveaways from local banks and of course the must unpleasant of summer gigs, Sparky - the Patriot's lovable answer to Snuffleupagus.

It got me thinking about other local things I want to do before school starts.

I want to knit something for a good cause (not to mention maybe win some yarn). I read about it in the Courier yesterday.  We have lived here for 7 years. Perhaps it is time to subscribe to the local paper - as just looking online means I'm missing some goodies? How long will it take for me to let go of the "Star Regret" (what I call my hometown paper) and embrace Central Jersey's journalism?

So if I want to stay in Bridgewater and have a great day - besides MR's pool, which I'm guessing isn't open to all of cyberspace, what do most people do in Bridgewater? My 12 year old would advise me to go to the mall... I always enjoy Duke Island Park (you can play volleyball there on Saturday and Sunday mornings and on Tuesday evenings during the summer for free!), and my membership to a local pool club. A stay-cation for me means extremely limited driving. I do so much driving... this week a stay-cation does NOT mean MoMA (one of my favorite places) or trekking to the Liberty Science Center. Duke Gardens is the outermost geographic limit...

Maybe Stay-cation means staying home and nesting. Cleaning out just one closet. Sitting in a chair, treating myself to TV during the middle of the day, curled up with Diego or reading a book. Lunches with friends. Family movie night in T's basement lair.

A mani-pedi at Paradise Nails in Bedminster? A stroll around the ever-crowded 4-H fair next week? If yesterday was any lesson, sometimes the best way to enjoy the day is just under your nose.

**** Addendum: Just realized that on Thursdays there are two things I have been meaning to try. A Thrift Shop sale at St. John's Church (except when I checked the link it says "except August") and a Outdoor Market in Somerville near the courthouse.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Identity crisis?

I knew it would happen. I ran into a Mom this morning from C's soccer team. C has been playing soccer with her daughter since first grade. That means some 6 years of spending time together on the field and off. It was the first time that I have had to own up to the fact that C is doing cheer this fall, not soccer.
B expressed regret that the girls won't be playing together this fall.  It made me sad. I will miss seeing the girls and families every week.  I should be thinking "but we'll make new friends at countless cheer events, not to mention all the football games" but I just can't help thinking "I like the friends I've already made, thank you very much, and I don't need any more!"

But does having no kids in soccer at all mean I'm no longer a soccer mom? Do I have to change my blog title - as I am now a cheer Mom? I always was a TKD Mom... but I highly doubt that TKD Moms qualify as a political movement (maybe in Korea they do, but here we aren't even much of a niche-market.

It's what I'm thinking about while I'm "nesting". Each summer when we return from the sojourn at my in-laws' summer home, I spend time cleaning up and cleaning out. I like going away, but it is always a special time to return to my own home. I always feel energized for the upcoming school year and optimistic about my own future plans. I hope that I can harness some of this feeling for Fall 2010 even though I am replacing (GASP) the soccer field with a football field. I guess I would never have thought that there was much difference - and probably there isn't - but there is for me.

If it is OK with you - I'm still keeping the Bridgewater Soccer Mom as a blog persona. If we take experiences with us to the next phase of our lives (I still harness some of what I learned leading girl scouts) then I'll always be a bit of a soccer mom, right?! After all sometimes I still feel like a sixteen year old foreign exchange student. I no longer rely on trains where announcements like "Seurauva pysaky Lahteen" are supposed to guide my travel (or give me the confidence that foreign travel gives). Still I use these skills to maneuver New Jersey highways, and of course, when I travel by air or bus or train today. Although my days of travel by train have been curtailed by life as my kids' mom, I haven't forgotten the joy and stress of being somewhere very unknown and try to incorporate new experiences in my every day life. Is that's how I should think of cheer?

Hopefully C will also keep enough of her soccer-player-self to find her way back onto the pitch. We can't make all the decisions for our kids, especially about their extra-curricular preferences when they get older. But we can influence our own impressions. Right now, in this probably temporary "nesting phase" (it's just not my style to strive for neatness), I will try to save a little positive energy to rethink my negative image of all things cheer. But that's a long way from changing the title, outlook or content of this blog or my own self-image as a Soccer Mom.

At least for now.....