Monday, October 31, 2011

Lucky in Bridgewater

Too many families in our neighborhood are without power. We are the lucky ones. Our street has power, and we even have internet, cable and phone. Last night IL slept over so he could get to school in the am. His house is without power, but it turns out, so is his school, so it was just a surprise sleep over.

C is getting her Halloween wish: to see Paranormal Activity. Another electricity-less friend is taking them. In the mean time, I'm getting the house cleaned up. T comes home after a week away. Clean sheets, clean towels and maybe a clean dog.

In a few hours I'll light the candles, and hand out the candy. I miss having little kids who need me to walk with them and relish in the preparations: planning and carving the pumpkin, painting faces and post-Halloween celebrations. I wonder what to do with our dog. He scares everyone with his doorbell response. "Ruff Ruff Ruff!" (Translation: WHO IS COMING TO SEE ME??? SOMEONE IS HERE! LOOK! Sounds like "HOW DARE YOU COME AND TRESPASS HERE. I'M GOING TO EAT YOU UP!") Want to scare the kids on Halloween? Ring our bell.

Hope you, my readers, have power and warmth. And that you indulge in moderation.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


In Scandinavia kids look forward to Saturday. No day care or school. AND they get "Saturday candy". Yes, on Saturday kids all over Scandinavia get treats that they don't normally get during the week.

This morning all of New Jersey is on high alert: SNOW is in the forecast. WHYY said that it's the first October that we'll have had snow in 40 years.

I've decided that the antidote to impending snow is my own version of Saturday goodies: vanilla coffee, pumpkin candles throughout the livingroom, NPR in the background (they just did a charming story comparing finances using candy corn) and as soon as I hit "publish" on this, I will continue knitting Christmas gifts. I'm working on several projects at once, as usual. Since tomorrow I need something that I can knit without counting or thinking in the car, today I am doing a pattern that I need to follow carefully. I have some time to treat myself to what *I* want to do this morning.

Later on we will be at a Haunted House that the kids are working. I hope they aren't planning to cancel due to snow. As you know, I love winter climates and I love snow, skiing and the juxtaposition of a cold outdoors with a cozy living room. But I also like years when the seasons do what "they're supposed to do". Summer should be hot and dry, spring should be warm and breezy and fall should be a mixed bag of temperate days and cool nights. Rain is acceptable, but I think snow belongs in winter. But since it's coming, I'll plan my Saturday treat accordingly: hot coffee and knitting by candlelight.

Like anytime I get an unexpected guest, I'll do what I normally do. Change the sheets (to flannel). But melt fast, Ms. Snow... on Monday America has plans.... and a good guest knows when to leave.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Expanded horizons pays off

Bridgewater Raritan School District does not host year-long exchange students. While I lament our large class sizes, I really believe that this cultural experience brings a lot to the host community and is worth an extra few bodies in a high school of approximately 3000 students.

Yesterday this experience brought me financial gain. Who would have thought that twenty five years after meeting her, I would go into business with another foreign exchange student? Although we have been in planning stages for months, this weekend we launched our business and made our first sale.

It's terribly short-sighted that we don't host students. Bridgewater should, at a minimum, have a one-for-one policy (if a student goes on exchange, we can host a student in his or her place). There are lots of stories of how exchange years change students, and enriches host families, and the community at large, but it's something quite different to hear (or even write) about a business venture that starts twenty-five years afterwards! When I wrote my essay about why I wanted to be an exchange student, I'm sure I used the same expressions that are in the marketing materials: I wanted to "expand my horizons" and "try new experiences" or even "make new friends" and "learn a new language". And while I've been paid for translations many times (so you can argue I've already had financial gains), this life-changing adventure is not what I expected even two years ago, much less when we met in Helsinki in 1986.

I know there is little I can do to change the Superintendent's mind about exchange students. It would be different if we were trying to host one (which we should do, but I can't imagine at this point - besides, we host plenty of foreign guests already). Still, I can't help but appreciate even more that my school in Lahti welcomed me - enriching my life, and making friendships that have endured  two and a half decades.

I've written about doing things beyond my comfort zone many times over the years, which started in 1986. At the risk of overusing this metaphor, I'd say this is another one of those times. Long live the unexpected adventure! Fasten your seat belts. It may be a bumpy ride!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hard Work Pays Off

That's been the mantra in our household. Whenever C or N accomplish something, that's what they hear from us.

Tonight I heard an inspiring speech by US Congressman Rush Holt (NJ, D-12). (Of the slogan, "My congressman IS a rocket scientist"). He basically explained that he got elected in a highly R-district through HARD WORK and DEDICATION - and hard working supporters. It was a highly-political speech as it was at a Democratic fundraiser and targeted to the audience, but I really loved what he had to say. He's intelligent, compassionate and really made me believe in him as a representative. (He isn't ours, but may be with future redistricting).

I'll write more about the dinner another time. Dad was my date - he "won" a set of Shakespeare books at the silent auction, and he's very happy. I "won" 2 bottles of wine (from the basement of a collector, whom I trust has excellent taste in grape juice). It's good to have something to look forward to when I need to reward a job well done.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Girls behaving badly

I'm not a fan of bullying.

Last week I witnessed an incident of it in our schools. Something that won't make the new state-mandated programs, nor show up in the districts statistics. No calls to the principal. It was typical - the popular girl from the powerful clique pushes the new bespeckled, quiet girl to get what she wants. No, it wasn't the straight forward physical pushing that you see in the movies. It was the behind-the-scenes "you will do what I want or else" kind, that is so hard to prove.

Either way it's wrong. And it still goes on.

There was another incident this weekend - the popular girls laughing and talking about an incident. The unpopular girl walks by, the laughter stops. The girls stare at one another. I am sure I will witness more as the season progresses. It seems that old issues die hard.

In yet another circle one girl does something that the rest of the group doesn't like. Long after the incident is forgotten this girl still isn't welcome "to play with her old friends".

Even among some of my closest friends I see gossip and judgement - not the supportive loving behavior I want to promote. Of course I'm guilty too sometimes.

There are plenty of examples in a neighborhood near you!

Unfortunately this spiral won't end... I'm not talking about the Middle School, or even students at all. I'm talking about Moms. When do we get the policy in place that women have to be nicer to one another, if only to teach our children to be better people?? And if we see bad behavior (in ourselves or others) how do we best address that? Have any of you ever explained your own behavior with your daughters and/or sons, or are you, dear readers, beyond reproach?

With last week's incident, I've seen this bully in action for all the years we've lived here. I don't have the guts to face this particular bully and call her out on her actions. Hopefully someone else will someday. We can tell our daughters that they should make new friends. I am following that advice too. Until then, all I can say is I've been on both sides of this circle and it always ends badly.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The good side

She looked darling this morning as she left for school. Really cute. Black football jersey, black, red, silver and white ribbon in her curly hair, big smile on her face.

I've always been a bit ambivalent about my daughter's looks. We get comments all the time on her looks, and have since she was a newborn. Women stopped me in the mall to compliment her. I'd shrug and say something like "oh, baby gap makes all kids look fantastic".

The truth is I've never been beautiful and I don't know how to handle my daughter's looks. From a pretty young age I was traumatized by my curls. I was too skinny, and then "too flat", and then fat. The closest thing I got to a compliment was hearing that my mother was so very beautiful (she was) and occasionally hearing that I looked like her ("better that than looking like my Dad" I'd reply. He looks a lot like Hitchock.) Now "you look like your Mom" is the best of all compliments.

When people say she's pretty, I usually say "as long as she's nice". Or something equally evasive. How could my husband (he's kinda cute, if I do say so myself, but model-like looks, um....) and I  have such lovely looking children??? In that sense, my kids are both freaks of nature. They look like us, but much, much better.

But this morning, in her happy state, curly (but not too curly) hair tastefully done with a cute ribbon, off to school with her confidence and her Very Vera school bag, I was really proud of my daughter. A girl with the whole package and the world at her feet. Tomorrow is her first competition with her new team. They showed their hard work off to parents, and they looked ready to win. C left the house strong, confident and happy.

Beauty that's more than skin deep. What else could a mother want?

A picture. Wish I'd taken one, but I hope I've captured the moment here.

PS  Would I have chosen cheer for my daughter? No. But that's the unpredictability of parenting. You don't know what you will get. I never thought I'd be the mom of a beautiful cheerleader.  With all the sarcasm, complaining and criticizing I do on this blog, I hope you'll indulge me in a minute of bragging.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Why not?

Last week I saw a lot of people while working at the Book Fair. Several asked if I would run for the open seat on the Board of Ed.  I also spoke with someone last week who conspicuously did NOT ask if I would run.

I told them that I have no intention of running for this open seat.

When it's a mid-term opening, the sitting board picks the replacement from among the candidates (who sent in cover letters, resumes and filled in a form), in consultation with the Superintendent. I've been through this process before, and see no need to try again.

By my calculations, I have less than a 50% chance with these odds.

I'm not trying to sounds self-depreciating. The good thing about running for office is people show what they think about you. That includes BOE members. While a few members reached out to me to share well-wishes, most of them clearly didn't want me on their side of the table. As with any election, this appointment is a numbers game. Instead of needing a couple of thousand votes, I'd need five - and it's much easier to predict based on the past. My unscientific poling (well, my experience with the BOE members) tells me that of the 8 members who vote, two would vote for me outright, based on the their opinions of who I would be as a BOE member. One would vote for me over others if all candidates were equally qualified. Another two might vote for me if the other candidates were significantly weaker than me (and they don't tell you who is running until the end), and at the final three members would never vote for me no matter what.

Also, I believe that the BOE does what many businesses do: asks someone whom they want to fill the position to apply. In the workplace, this isn't a guarantee that you will get the position, and here it might not be either, but for me, it discourages me from applying.

If the BOE really wanted me, they could have had me. Why put myself through a losing battle? In six months there will be an election, and voters can choose their favorite candidate, a more balanced process. When it comes to trying to get on the BOE and not making it, I've been there, done that. Got the yard signs.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


What a life to have lived! Steve Jobs really had it all: family, inestimable talents and more money than most countries... but he still couldn't beat the Big C. Still seven years is more than most pancreatic cancer victims can bank on, thanks to unbelievable opportunities to access to the world's best medical care.

Everyone was talking about his Stanford commencement speech. I have to admit that I haven't had the chance to hear the entire thing, but what I have taken from it is that if you live life doing what you believe in and you love, then you are a fortunate person.

I may be exhausted and stressed out, but my day was as follows: I spent the most of the night caressing my daughter's back as she hacked away. (She'd cough, I'd wake up and rub her back, we'd fall asleep, then repeat - at first I would run from my room, but then I just crashed with her, as it was almost like contractions: every half hour or so a coughing fit, then every 15 minutes, every 10 minutes.... etc.). Then I spent from 9am until 7pm selling books to kids at my son's school. In the two short breaks I took, I spent time with my Dad, came home and made dinner for my family. Now it's bedtime...

So really, I spent the last 24 hours doing what I love for the people I love and for my son's school direct benefit and our community at large, indirectly. While I can't bank on Steve Job's bucks from living this kind of life, I certainly can know that it was a day well spent. If my husband were able to work less this week, it would have been even better. But thanks to Steve's ideas of changing how we use computers, T and I could still communicate a bit during the day. I'm going to send him a youtube link to wish him good night.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

For Maggie

Normally I never mention anyone by name in this blog.

But today, this dedication goes out to Maggie! She helped at the Book Fair, even though she is chairing another this week. She's always got my back, no matter what the crisis or moment of joy.

And tonight, as usual, she talked me off the ledge after I angered the Cheer Gods.  I had the balls (and the poor judgment) to ask the head coach to send out an e-mail requesting that people use digression when hitting "reply all". The coach clearly didn't like my insubordination (even though 4 different parents were complaining to one another, as we were waiting to pick up our kids and 2 parents addressed it publicly already). I thought I would bring it up privately. The coach wondered what I was talking about! For the record, today alone I got 26 e-mails from the cheer team. About 5 concerned me. And if you read yesterday's blog you can guess I got more e-mail than just regarding cheer.

Now my daughter is upstairs worrying about the coach's retaliation. She, The Sacrificial Lamb... and I, the girl-ridden mother who threw her first born under the bus!

Again, Maggie had the right words of wisdom... but they weren't necessarily to be shared....

Lucky are we who have her in our lives!

"I'm gonna try with a little help from my friends...."

And for those of you who prefer a little edge:

Dino's out there..... in the Woodstock audience.... if he's watching this nonsense drama from heaven I know he's laughing at me for letting it get to me.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"Short term idiocy, long term results"

I'm not taking my own advice: too much focus on the short term can have adverse effects on the future.

Yesterday was a hell of an example of that.

I spent 10 hours volunteering at the Book Fair that I'm chairing. I will be there six hours today, tomorrow and Friday and 8 or 9 hours on Thursday. A very intense, but short-term volunteer gig, but a huge time commitment nonetheless.

Yesterday I lost focus on my long-term plans: I should be working on launching my new business. I should have prioritized that. There is so much to do - both unexpected last minute paperwork and things that I could have already been working on for a while.

I also have several other things that needed my attention. I'm volunteering for 2 other organizations. Both of them take considerable amounts of time. Again, they have to come second to the paying gigs, but didn't last weekend.

We have been reorganizing the house so that things aren't always such a mess. This takes time. Last week it was the upper cabinets in the kitchen. This week the lower cabinets with the ever-dreaded baking drawers. Yuck and Yuck! But the results? The top shelves look better than ever. Everyone in the household is more agreeable with a clean kitchen! Not staying as clean as it could with me at the BF for 10 hours.... and not getting better this week.

But another "Oh Sheeeeet" moment thanks to the Book Fair? I forgot to make a change to airline reservations within the 24-hour window so that we could stay longer, and my husband could return earlier from our visit to his parents. I had promised myself I'd get that done. Now? Each change would cost $250, plus any difference in fare. Guess we are coming back on Tuesday, not Thursday. It's literally the "oops heard around the world!"

And my plan for myself - long term? Stay at my weight. Important for me, and my loved ones. When was the last time I broke a sweat? Um.... September...?

Today I can fix some of these kinks. Well, not much I can do about airline tickets, we're not spending $1,000 on change fees, we'll come home on the Tuesday. That's just the way it is.

Guess sometimes it's easier to do as I say, not as I do.