Saturday, October 22, 2016

Grandma, what big eyes you have!

My mom made this year's Halloween costume. Grover is playing the wolf/grandma. I bought him a granny wig but the jerk won't wear it.  It took about 43,000 treats just to get these photos.

Happy Halloween, ya'll.


Sometimes I see parents huddled on the sidelines of a soccer field on a blustery Saturday morning and I think, "Oh, thank God my kid doesn't play soccer." My girl doesn't play soccer or volleyball or basketball. Nope. She sings. And sings and sings and sings.  She sings so long in the shower that she sets off the smoke alarms with the volume of steam cascading out of the bathroom.

Lately, I feel like I spend all of my time driving her to rehearsals, driving her to performances, keeping track of rehearsal/performance schedules, and making sure she's wearing the right stuff to the right performance. She's in two choirs - a girls' touring choir (representing our city) and a show choir at school. For the past six weeks, the show choir has been rehearsing four days a week. Fortunately, the touring choir only rehearses on Sundays, but the duration will increase a bit as we get closer to the big concert in December.  My mom is flying in for that show - she is going to bawl her ever-loving eyes out when she hears these girls sing.

Earlier this week, we attended performances for both choirs. On Monday night, she participated in a women's choral festival. Six or seven choirs performed, most of which were from high schools around the state. So, needless to say, my kid was the youngest/shortest one there. See if you can spot her:

On Tuesday night, we attended the show choir performance at the middle school. It was combined with a jazz band concert (which was not nearly as brutal as the beginning band concerts I attended at the elementary school last year). Her dad and I sat close to the front so that we had a good view. The fun thing about show choir is that they sing and dance. The choir sang three or four songs. During one song, the choir members started whistling. Her dad and I looked at each other and laughed under our breath: our kid can't whistle. She later told us that she was instructed to fake it. She wasn't in the front this time, but it was still pretty easy to spot her.

She has a show choir field trip on Monday and she is SO excited. The choir is visiting six local elementary schools and will perform the same songs they sang at Tuesday's concert. She told me, "Mom, when we are at each school, the choir members who went to that school get to say their name at the end." She can't wait to show off at her old school. I'm picturing her proudly announcing her name at the end of the show but in her head, she will be thinking something more like, "That's what's up, bitches!"  

Next month, she's trying out for a musical at school. I don't know if she'll get a part, but if so, I'll drive to those rehearsals, too. I warned her that the big parts will probably go to eight graders, since they are more experienced. But still, I think she has as good a shot as anyone. Sometimes I do start to wonder if she will be able to pursue a career in music someday. As she develops as a singer, it's starting to feel more feasible, anyway. I would be so happy for her if she is one of those lucky souls who gets to do what she loves and make a living at it. She's asked for guitar lessons for Christmas. Who knows - maybe she'll be playing gigs at the farmers' market before we know it! 

#choirmom out.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

It's good to be . . . employed

When I arrived at work last Wednesday, I saw a meeting request from my boss as soon as I logged in. Mandatory company meeting at 8:30 AM. The new guy in my department asked me, "What usually happens at these company meetings?"

"I wouldn't know," I said, "Because we've never had one."

At that point, I basically knew what was happening - the company was being sold. All the signs had been there - closed-door meetings, sudden changes in routine and policy.  As I sat at my desk and waited for the meeting to start, I felt rattled. I'd been through this sort of thing before and it's scary. I remembered a friend telling me about a local insurance company that hauled everyone into a meeting and then packed up their desks while they were in there. I nervously IMed back and forth with a co-worker: "Do you think we'll have to pack up our own desks?" I asked.

When the meeting started, we all sat in the conference room and stared at a PowerPoint that was projected in front of us. "We've been sold," my boss said. He then flipped through a bunch of slides that described the new company and what would happen next. He said that his last day would be Friday. He thanked us for doing our jobs and whatnot. After he was done talking, the management team from the new company came in, introduced themselves, and gave us an overview. They had flown in from the corporate office in a neighboring state.

A lot of thoughts passed through my head as I sat there. Selfishly, I waited for a slide addressed specifically to me: "Don't worry, Claudia. You still have a job." My next thought was, perhaps, also a bit selfish. At my annual performance review in the spring, my boss told me that he wanted to move me into a management position and have the members of our small development team report to me instead of to him. I realized that I'd been duped - the company was being prepared for sale all the while.

By the end of the day, I was mostly convinced that I still had a job. I kept having "Office Space" flashbacks - I pictured the Bobs sitting me down and asking me, "What would you say you DO here." My next thought was one of concern for my friend in accounting. I knew that the new company probably had its own accounting people and that her job might be redundant. I tentatively approached her office and asked her if she was coming along for the ride. She shook her head. "No." I felt awful.

So yeah, it was a rough day. I don't think it helps that I've been sick for nearly three weeks. I did see a doctor last week, but recovery is slow. I cough professionally now - I should add that to my resume.

Once the shock wore off, I started to look for the bright side.  The transition is nerve-wracking because I'm going from a company of 18 people to a company of 1300 people. But who knows - maybe it will represent new opportunities for me. If I were 20 years older and had an acquisition looming, I'm sure I'd say, "I was done, anyway - talk atcha later!" But, as it is, I have a solid two decades of working ahead of me. So, I may as well make the best of it.

I was full of nerves over the weekend as Monday (under the new regime) loomed. I read the massive packet of paper that had been handed to me, and filled out form after form. I read the employee manual. No more jeans in the office. Artwork hung in one's cubicle has to be pre-approved. No piles of paper on one's desk (not that I have piles of paper on my desk, anyway - ya'll know how I feel about clutter). Whole new world.

Monday was a blur. The management people from the new company have been very hand-on as they help us get used to new systems.  They really seem determined to make everyone feel as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. Everyone I've met so far has been pretty darned nice. It's just a whole different world so it will take some time to get used to it. Honestly, working for a company with more resources might end up being a good thing. Someone swung by my desk yesterday to inform me I'd be getting a brand new laptop. New phones were installed over the weekend (I don't know how old our old phones were, but I felt like Fred Flintstone would have felt pretty comfortable using them).

So, I'm still stressed out, but I'm getting there. I think I'll feel better by the weekend. I've been sitting here at my desk (at home) since 3:30 AM because I cannot sleep. Also, my roommate was snoring loudly enough to beat the band and I could not shove my ear plugs any deeper into my ear holes. I wish I was a little more agile when it comes to adapting to change, but I doubt I can rewire my brain at this point.

I guess I'll go feed my doggies now. I can't say that they've been very sympathetic about what I'm going through. Jerks.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Looking up

AAAAB+.  Those are my daughter's current grades. I felt it was only right to post that update because she is not too happy with me for telling people that she had missing assignments.  One of her friends mentioned it at school and I guess she was pretty embarrassed. I realized that I do need to be more careful about the information I share about my child. She is getting older now and is more aware of these things. I do like to reach out to other moms for support sometimes, though. I have known the same group of May 2005 Babycenter moms since, well, 2005.  These are the same moms with whom I compared notes about when to start my infant on cereal. As parents, we often experience the same challenges at roughly the same time. The good news is that my daughter is not the only one who has struggled with the transition into middle school.

Now that I know she needs more hands-on help with keeping her organized, I am trying to do just that. She is caught up on missing assignments now. I am keeping a close eye on the ol' campus portal now. She either loves or hates the increased attention - I'll keep you posted.

Speaking of my kid, who do I talk to about stopping her from flipping water bottles? If that isn't the weirdest use of one's time I've ever seen . . .

Let's see . . . what else is new?  I fasted for World Farm Animals Day last Sunday. It was a challenge, but I just remind myself that the movement helps to bring awareness to the plight of animals on factory farms. Obviously it didn't hurt me to miss a few meals.

We had our roof replaced earlier this week. We knew we'd need to do it eventually so we bit the bullet.  We took out a home equity line of credit so that we can get a few things done around the house (we're replacing some of the fencing next). I'm sort of surprised that my husband actually took the initiative to take out the line of credit. Normally he resists all attempts at home maintenance because, and I quote, "it'll just get that way again."

I've been visiting a dog in boarding for the past couple of weeks. He came in as wild child. Practically feral. I was supposed to foster him but he wouldn't even come in the house. So, the founder of the rescue decided to board him instead. I'm still hopeful that maybe we can foster Rio. Several volunteers are working with him on socialization. I've spent some time just sitting in the kennel with him, giving him yummy treats. Last time I visited, I was actually able to take him on a walk (getting a leash/collar on him was a miracle in itself). He's getting a lot better, though he still seems bewildered about doggie behavior sometimes.

Anyway, that's about all the news I've got. I'm getting a mammogram in the morning (don't get jelly, now!) I've had a cough for two weeks. I keep picturing that I'll have a coughing fit while they have me strapped in and will inadvertently tear my left boob off from the violence of my hacking. Here's hoping I come out of it with two boobs, though.

Until next time, mes amis . . .


Friday, September 30, 2016


ACFF.  Those are my daughter's current grades. I am beaming with pride, as you can imagine.

So yeah, the transition to middle school has been pretty rough. I've started forcing her to choose her fashionable ensembles the night before each school day in a desperate attempt to make the mornings a bit less chaotic. Not that it helps. She frequently leaves without breakfast, running out the door like Dagwood Bumstead. I thought she was faring okay academically, though. Thought.

As I'm sure is the case with most school districts, our district posts attendance, assignments, and grades online. I've had access to this parent portal for years.  However, it was seldom used in elementary school. I mostly just logged in when I needed to add money to her lunch account. I decided to log in on Monday and have a look-see.  It's a good thing I don't have a heart condition (yet). Here is what I saw: five unexcused tardies for science class, failing grades in two classes, and 11 missed assignments.  I just about hit the roof.  She was supposed to go to a friend's house after school on Monday. I sent her a text. "COME STRAIGHT HOME." I jabbed the letters into my phone hard enough to hurt my thumbs.

My child is pretty smart. She does well on tests and such. I've been keeping an eye on quiz/test scores. She usually scores very high (and in one case she scored over 9000% on a quiz when her teacher apparently entered the score incorrectly). However, despite her performance on tests, her teachers can't overlook missed assignments.

I do not know how this little situation has gotten so far out of hand. We ask her every day if she has home work. "Um, I don't think so," she usually says. You don't think so?! I mean, we're not asking her if she thinks it might rain - we are asking her if she was given an assignment. Most teachers don't say, "Do it if you feel like it, kids. If not, no biggie."

Shortly after making my unfortunate discovery, I reached out (via email) to the teachers for whom she was missing assignments. They all responded promptly and seemed glad that I give a rip. I'm sure they frequently encounter parents who are very "whatevs" about their child's education. All confirmed that she could still turn in those assignments. Better late than never, I guess.

When we got home from work on Monday, the mister and I had a lot of words for our wayward child. She burst into tears. Because drama. She is full of reasons why she can't stay on top of her assignments. She claims that the teachers write the assignments on the board and then cover them up with other things. I find that hard to believe - I think her teachers legitimately want her to succeed so I really doubt they are playing "Guess the assignment" with her.

I am now checking the parent portal daily - sometimes several times a day. This way, I can bug her about missed assignments as soon as they show up as late.  I just wish she wasn't so dramatic about everything. It really is a tough transition - I get it.  I am hopeful that she'll get the hang of it.  The unexcused tardies were incurred when she was late getting from gym to science. I know that three minutes is not a lot of time and I know that changing in/out of gym clothes does take extra time. However, other kids are obviously pulling it off so mine has to make it work, too.

At home, her electronics turn off automatically after school so that she can get her homework done. However, that doesn't stop her from rolling around on the floor with Grover or finding other ways to stall and waste time. There are days when I wonder if she does have a touch of ADD.

I'm hopeful that she'll figure it all out in time. It's just hard to watch her struggle. She's never been an organized kid.  On a more positive note, she is making lots of friends and is doing well in show choir.

When she makes the transition again as a freshman in three years, I am for sure getting my own apartment at that point. That's all I'm sayin'.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Meet Me in St Louis, Louis

The kid and I just got back from a long weekend in St. Louis. It was our first visit to the city.  We journeyed there (8-hour drive) to spend time with my sister and her family. They drove up from Oklahoma for a dirt bike race. My brother-in-law and my nephews compete in such things.

The kid and I left town on Thursday evening. I wanted to leave earlier but had to wait for her to be done with show choir rehearsal. Other than stopping for a quick dinner at Noodles and to get some gas in the middle of nowhere, we basically drove straight through.  We arrived at our hotel room at about 10:15 and quickly tucked ourselves in for the night. Well, not before fighting over the TV for a bit, because you know how I love watching tween shows over and over.

On Friday morning, we got up and made plans to drive into the city (we were about an hour and half away from St. Louis). The kid had breakfast at the hotel, but I was holding out for something better. It was pouring rain when we hit the road. We were supposed to meet my sister and her family for breakfast but she sent me a text to say they were running late. So, I quickly formulated a Plan B. I found a spot called SweetArt that features vegan/vegetarian food. I had a dish called Banh Mi. I need to start cooking with sriracha, I think. It was so good. We also got some desserts to go. I bought cupcakes for my sister and my kid, and I picked up a fudge brownie for myself. I ate that brownie later that day and it seriously made all of my dreams come true. I see that they actually ship the damn things and I am seriously considering it. I have gotten pretty good at certain vegan cookies but brownies? Not so much.

We still had time to kill after breakfast, so we decided to visit the Gateway Arch. I hadn't planned to visit it but hey, when in Rome and all. I won't even tell you how long I drove around just trying to get close to the bleeping thing. There was construction everywhere. I finally pulled into a pre-pay parking lot and asked the nice toothless man to take pity on me. He collected my cash and then told me how to get tickets for the arch, which direction to walk, etc (it was about a 15-minute walk, which was totally acceptable to me at that point).

I have to admit that I knew very little about the arch other than 1) it exists and 2) it's in St. Louis. I didn't even know you could go up in the thing until my friend Kathy mentioned it the day before. I wondered how an elevator would work with the whole curve thing (maybe it's like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the elevator can just go in any direction?) I quickly realized that there was a more practical answer: trams. There are something like 16 trams (small pods seating five people each) that take visitors up and down the legs of the arch. Don't go if you are claustrophobic. Just trust me on this one.

We took photos at the top and then went right back down. We got some fun shots, despite the rain. Now we can say that we went to St. Louis and indeed we saw the arch. It's kind of funny to me that people have bothered to leave bad Google reviews about the arch. "Oh, John from Cleveland does not approve of the arch. Better tear it down ASAP."

After leaving the arch, we made the trek back to our car and then headed over to the City Museum. We heard this was a good place to let kids get their ya-ya's out. We were supposed to meet my sister and her family there. They were still running a little bit late and had some parking challenges but they joined us at around 2:00. Can I just tell you how happy I was to see my wee baby sister? I love my sisters beyond measure and jump at any chance to see them. After hugs were exchanged (I was slightly hesitant to hug my brother-in-law because he is just getting over the chicken pox  . . . which is no joking matter in adults - he ended up in the emergency room last week), the four kids ran off to explore.  I'm not sure how to describe the City Museum except to say that it's like a children's museum but much wilder. There are a gazillion things to climb in, over, and around.

Once the kids were all sweaty and at least two of them were bleeding, we decided to head out.  We had made plans to stay at the same hotel in Festus, which is just south of the city. My sister and I had fun talking about our upcoming stay in Festus, Misery. After getting checked in, we headed back out into the rain for dinner at a nearby restaurant. My sister and I were able to get some pasta with vegetables (in a marinara sauce) and the kids all ordered meals that they barely ate. I was glad to see I'm not the only person throwing away money on kids' meals at restaurants.

After dinner, we all went swimming (except my brother-in-law, because of his cooties and all). It was great to see my kid having so much fun with her cousins. We all live so far apart that these get-togethers are very few and far between. Later, we hung out in our hotel room for a bit and had some snacks while the kids took turns shoving each other off the bed.

On Saturday morning, we headed down to Park Hills.  The races were scheduled for the next day at St. Joe's State Park. I offered to take one of my nephews in my car while my sister and her family drove their truck down. Also, they had to make a stop so I opted to drive down separately vs. following them. Big mistake. It turned out that despite what the event flyer had stated, the event was not being held at the main park. It was being held at an area called The Mines which, as far as I could tell, is fully imaginary. I couldn't seem to find it on Google, on my Garmin GPS, or on Apple maps. I got so lost.  I was frustrated beyond belief. I actually started to think it might just be easiest to adopt my nephew and simply head back home.

I found it eventually, though. I'm still not even sure how. Lots of people were arriving for the race(s) and were setting up to camp overnight. My kid and I were just hanging out for the day, though. We had to leave the next morning to drive back home. I had to be at a mandatory choir meeting at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday so I knew I had no choice but to get up early and just get it done.

We had a fun afternoon at the race site. The kids dug in the dirt. It was nice to spend more time with my sister. I learned a tiny bit about dirt bike racing. My brother-in-law and the boys were not competing this time around. It was their first national race so he just signed up to work as a volunteer instead. The kids started fighting at one point so I took one of my nephews for a walk around the grounds. We decided to see how many different state license plates we could find. A surprising number of people traveled pretty darned far for this thing: Georgia, Florida, California, Virginia, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Oklahoma.

Finally, at about 6:00, I knew we'd better head out so that we could check into our hotel room and get ready for the long drive the next day. I was sorry to say good-bye to my sister, though. I miss her already. I did sneak in one more "big city" meal before checking into the hotel. We ate at a hip place called Tree House. It was so hip, in fact, that I had to hold the votive from the table up to the menu so that I could read it. You know you're getting old when a dimly-lit restaurant and microscopic print combine to do you in. Anyway, I squinted at the menu long enough to select wild mushroom ravioli, which was excellent. I didn't even try to read the wine menu - I just asked for a glass of Malbec.

After an unventful evening at the hotel, we hit the road early Sunday morning. The drive home was uneventful. I listened to the first season of Serial to occupy my brain. I made it to that meeting at 4:01, so . . . yay me.

Here are some photos from the trip:

Yes, I took a photo of a quote I saw inside a bathroom.

I miss you, brownies. XOXO

The same face on two different people.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Last Saturday, my family and I attended a fundraiser for Boxer Rescue. It was the 16th annual Boxer Bash, and I had worked at the first 15. My friend Vicki and I first dreamed up the event back in 2001 (she founded the rescue and then the two of us got it up and running more formally). A Boxer Rescue organization in a neighboring state hosted a similar event, so we took their idea and put our own spin on it. It was our first big fundraiser. Over the years, the event has grown considerably, sometimes generating as much as $20,000 in revenue.

I left the organization last year after 15 years of service. I have to admit that it was a painful time for me. I felt that I had to move on (for lots of reasons) but at the same time, I truly felt lost. The organization had been a part of my life for a very long time. I loved helping dogs. I loved hanging out with my Boxer-loving friends. I loved feeling like I was making a difference for animals in need.

Within any volunteer organization, you'll generally find some challenges when it comes to large groups of volunteers working together. When passionate people come together, it's not always smooth sailing. Some volunteers need lots of recognition and some would be embarrassed by the attention. Some volunteers have the time/inclination to do a lot for the organization and others just have a little time to spare. I always tried to make sure we were appreciative of all volunteers and their efforts. Conflicts arose from time to time, of course. Sometimes I was in the middle of such conflicts, sometimes not. We were all pretty good at "agreeing to disagree" in those times. I know that I'm not always a dream to work with.

Sometime last year, I began to see that there was some writing on the wall that I hadn't noticed before. I felt that I was being given some pretty clear signals my involvement was no longer needed. At the time, I was truly devastated. I don't know if my self-esteem has ever been lower. Thinking back on it now, I am reminded of that song with the line "nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I'll go eat worms."  I'm sure I was just feeling sorry for myself.

In the months after my departure, I was contacted by several of the volunteers. To my surprise, many said that they had enjoyed working with me and would miss my involvement with the rescue. I cried over a lot of those emails. I was just so touched to have people reaching out to me like that.

Ultimately, I came to realize that while a few people may have wanted me to go away, not everyone shared that sentiment. And honestly, maybe it was time for a change anyway. When I get comfortable, I don't leave. I was at my last job for 13 1/2 years and would probably still be there if I hadn't been part of an acquisition 6 1/2 years ago. Sometimes change has to be forced on me, and it's very hard at the time it's happening, but I can usually get some perspective on it later on.

I have found other things to do with my time, of course. I've taken on a board position at my church. I've done some volunteer work for a German Shepherd rescue.  I learned a lot about fundraising and fostering during my years with the Boxers and I still wanted to share it with an organization . . . if they would have me. I've been friends with the lady who runs the German Shepherd Rescue since before I was even involved with Boxer Rescue. So, she lets me help out with the Facebook page and foster from time to time.

As much as I do love German Shepherds, I am still a Boxer girl at heart. As the fall fundraiser for Boxer Rescue rolled around, I was pretty excited about attending as a regular ol' dog lover. I still want to support the rescue. I still want to be a cheerleader from the bleachers. Our family made plans to attend with Grover (Gretchen is too dog-aggressive to take to such events).  Our main goal was to have Grover run the lure course and wear his ass out.

Saturday turned out to be a rainy day. Fortunately, it dried up in the afternoon and they did end up setting up the lure course outside. I was ecstatic. We had driven two hours to wear out our puppy and were determined to do so! While waiting for the lure course to be set up, I bid on silent auction items, bought raffle tickets, and bought some tee shirts (there is a new theme and a new tee shirt every year). I did manage to win a door prize and a gift basket in the auction (bidding was pretty hot and heavy on some of that stuff). There was a painting in the raffle that I really wanted. A friend of mine won it, so now I just have to show up at her house unexpectedly and wait for her to leave me unattended for a few moments.

When the lure course opened for business, Grover was first in line. We got back in line several more times throughout the afternoon. He ran his little brains out.  We let him keep running, chasing the lure (AKA "plastic bag from the grocery store") until his tongue hung out of his mouth. Mission accomplished!  You see, our sweet puppy wakes up at 3 or 4 a.m. if not exercised thoroughly. Tired puppies sleep through the night.

Anyway, it was a great day. I was nervous about going but I'm glad I did. It was great to see the volunteers. I got lots of hugs and felt warmly received. One of the volunteers said, "You helped a lot of dogs, Claudia." I feel really good about that.

Me and my boyfriend Benny (if there was ever a dog I wish I could have adopted myself, it was him.)

Grover getting his ya-ya's out.