Sunday, March 26, 2017

A Tale of Two Concerts

I attended two concerts in the past week. This is a rare occurrence because I'm usually too cheap to pay the scandalous "convenience" fees that always seem to come along with concert tickets. On Wednesday night, I went to see the English Beat in concert. The concert venue is over two hours away and I had to be at work the next morning, but I really wanted to go. My friend Karen agreed to go with me and even agreed to drive. This was pretty heroic of her because although she is aware of the band, she's not what you'd call a rabid fan. I appreciated her willingness to drive (and to explore some music that wasn't super familiar to her). The last time she and I went to a concert (Gossip), I drove and got a tickie on the way home.

The concert was great. A local ska band opened for them. They were a lot o fun, too, and I'd definitely enjoy seeing them live again. Shortly after their set was done, Dave Wakeling and company took the stage. The current incarnation of the Beat is basically Dave Wakeling and some other musicians that were not part of the original band. That's okay with me, though. As long as they know the songs and do them justice, I have no complaints.

The concert venue was not a large one. There were a few chairs upstairs but the main level was a standing-room only situation. I'd been there to see Fountains of Wayne a few years ago so I knew what to expect. I didn't mind standing one bit because I was too excited to sit down anyway. I had a couple of vodka cranberries on board so I even *gasp* danced a little. Being just yards away from Dave Wakeling . . . for a minute there, I felt like I was 15 again. I listened to the English Beat and General Public relentlessly when I was a teenager. In short, seeing him live was just what I needed in the middle of a very rough, very hard week.

A few days later, I took my daughter to see Daya live. I was only vaguely aware of Daya myself, but the concert was happening in our town and the tickets were reasonable ($25 each). On our way to the concert, I was given some pretty specific instructions about not dancing and not doing anything deemed to be embarrassing in general.

I did as I was told, and dutifully sat in my seat. This was the kid's first "real" concert so I was eager to see her reaction.  There was an opening act - a singer who appeared to be about 14. That's how you know you are getting old - everyone looks 14. Daya took the stage at around 8:30. Her whole band is comprised of young women which, I think, is inspiring for a theater full of teen and pre-teen girls. In fact, her whole message is a good one for young women like my daughter.

For the encore, Daya sang "Sit Still Look Pretty," which is one of her biggest hits to date.

Oh, I don't know what you've been told
But this gal right here's gonna rule the world
Yeah, that is where I'm gonna be, because I wanna be
No, I don't wanna sit still, look pretty


I bought my own empowered kid a $25 tee shirt that she can't wait to wear to school tomorrow. Oh, and I didn't do anything embarrassing.


Friday, March 17, 2017

Life with the Tween

As my reader may have noticed, I'm writing fewer blog entries these days. I think the main reason that I'm less productive and prolific these days is that my daughter is getting older now. I owe it to her to respect her privacy - at least somewhat. Here's hoping she never finds all those old posts about the times she pooped herself back in the potty training days.

These days, I assume that she poops but it is not a regular topic of conversation. Instead, we mostly talk about missing assignments for school.  When questioned about missing assignments, she typically bursts into tears and blames: her teachers, the concept of time, the bus driver, and her locker.  I have to say that I won't be too sad when the school year is over.  The first year of middle school is rough, yo. In many ways, she's done great. She has made lots of friends (though they seem to vary by the day of the week - it'll be interesting to see who she invites to her birthday party next month) and has participated in a lot of activities.  She had show choir in the fall, the musical in the winter, and now the talent show in the spring. I am very proud of her. She was one of the few vocal soloists to get into the talent show when auditions were held a couple weeks ago.

Her grades are pretty good, but she struggles in science, math, and reading. The reading grade, in particular, causes me pain right down to my soul. I started teaching that kid to read before she was walking. Her teachers all assure me that she is very bright and is fully capable of handling the material. It's the homework. She was missing one particular worksheet for reading. She assured me that she did not have it and could not remember to ask for a new one. I finally emptied her entire backpack (which weighs about as much as she does) and found the worksheet at the bottom. It looked like it had been run over by the school bus (which, incidentally, she missed last week because that villainous bus driver refused to let her on, dontcha know). The kid is in an accelerated math class but again, unfinished assignments are causing problems. I need to send her to one of those new age-y schools that doesn't assign homework.

We've also fought an unrelated battle regarding the availability of vegetarian food in the cafeteria.  80 emails later, I think we have that one settled. It's a challenge, because she doesn't want to stick out or be different in any way (which is typical behavior in middle school, I think). So, she doesn't want to say, "I NEED THE VEGGIE BURGER THAT IS LISTED ON THE MENU BUT IS NOWHERE TO BE FOUND."  I had to get all mama bear and wage that battle on her behalf.

Middle school romance is another interesting topic. Needless to say, my daughter is not allowed to have a boyfriend and is not allowed to "date." Her dad and I haven't set an exact age for that, but 11 is definitely not the age.  I think mid-30s would be a good time for her to interact with boys. However, that doesn't stop her from having crushes on various lads at school, which is fine.  Back in the fall, there was a boy who was head over heels for my daughter. She seemed to like him, too - at first.  I check her phone regularly and saw the texts he sent her. "Good night, my star" he wrote. There were lots of mushy gushy emojis, too. Eventually, she felt uncomfortable with the intensity of his affection. "He's just not chill about ANYthing," she told me.  She broke it off with him. More recently, she's had her eye on a different boy. This boy does seem to like her. However, his best friend also likes her and was laying it on pretty thick. She told him she didn't like him "that way." He sent back a broken-heart emoji.  My kid is breaking hearts all over the sixth grade, man.

As for me, I'm an anxiety-ridden mess as usual, but maybe I'll write about that some other time.

In the meantime, here is my songbird. This is not the song she is singing in the talent show, but I never get tired of hearing her voice. And no, I don't know why I didn't turn the phone the other way. Me not smart.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Those People

The circus came to town this weekend. There was a peaceful protest scheduled for all performances. I joined the protest Friday evening and Saturday afternoon. I got a lot savvier with my sign this year - I invested in a nice foam core poster board (my sign was too flimsy last year and did not hold up against winter weather).

My daughter decided to join me for the protest on Friday. I gave her a rundown of what the protest would be like so that she knew what to expect. Initially, I was a bit torn about bringing my daughter. When I was a student at George Mason University in the early 90s, I remember seeing a man dragging a large wooden cross around the quad. I think maybe he handed out leaflets - I don't specifically recall. What I do remember is spotting his young children with him once or twice. I recall thinking that maybe young children shouldn't be indoctrinated into anything. So, I've always been careful with my daughter and what I say to her. I take her to church with me, but I tell her that she'll be free to choose her own religion when she grows up. I have raised her on a vegetarian diet, but I've told her she'll be free to choose her diet, too. She's almost 12, though, so I felt like she's old enough to decide how she feels about the circus.  So, we bundled up (it was around 19 degrees) and headed over to the arena. We parked in the same lot as the circus-goers, grabbed our sign, and walked to the intersection we'd need to cross to get to the arena. Surrounded by families headed for the circus, we waited patiently for the light to change. We could see the protestors starting to assemble on the sidewalk across the street.

"Those protestors are so stupid," said the woman in front of me. I looked down and noticed that her daughter was wearing sandals. In 19-degree weather.

"I'll be the judge of who's stupid in this scenario," I thought to myself.

My daughter and I crossed the street and joined the other protestors.  There is a specific area where we are allowed to stand, and we have to be careful that we are not blocking the flow of foot traffic into the arena.  The circus is hosted by the Shriners and they will find any excuse to call the police on the protestors. (Side note: money from ticket sales does not benefit Shriners' Hospitals for children.) We do not shout at the circus attendees. We simply stand there with our signs.

A family streamed by me and I saw that one of the children, a girl of about nine, was wearing a crop top. Her bare stomach was turning pink against the cold wind. "Maybe they should go sit with the sandal family," I thought. Again, to myself.

Families continued to flow through us and around us. I saw fathers enveloped in clouds of cigarette smoke, dropping f-bombs in front of their kids (not aimed at us, just as a part of normal conversation). One woman looked at our group's "pro animal" posters and said flatly, "Well, it's a good thing I don't care about animals." Her male companion laughed loudly.

Since this is the Midwest, the vast majority of the circus-goers were polite. They walked by without speaking.  The adults looked down or away, but many of the kids read our signs. Once the 6:30 p.m. show had started, we packed up and headed home. I couldn't feel my toes anymore at that point. I made a mental note to wear thicker socks the next day.

On Saturday morning, I watched a documentary on Netflix as I was getting my act together. It's called Accidental Courtesy in case you want to check it out.  The program follows the travels of a man named Daryl Davis. Daryl Davis is a black man (and fairly well-known musician) who believes that there is value in meeting with KKK members one by one. If they can sit down together and find some common ground, maybe they can build a friendship. Sure enough, many Klan members have had a change of heart and have actually given their hoods and robes to Mr. Davis. He has around 25 of them so far, in addition to other KKK trinkets like pins.  His work has put him at odds with the Black Lives Matter movement, but I do think there is merit in his overall theory: don't be so quick to condemn your adversaries. Look a little deeper.

I thought about that documentary a lot on Saturday as I took my post in front of the arena for the 1:30 show. While I do think that we (the protestors) are on the right side of history, I knew I needed to be less judgemental of the circus attendees. After all, there was a time when I routinely ate a quarter pounder with cheese without thinking twice about it. Granted, that was almost 30 years ago, but still . . . an awakening of conscience causes one to see everything in a new light.

So, I held my sign and chatted with my friend who organizes the protests each year. My daughter opted not to join me this time - partly because she had just slept 12 hours straight and hadn't even gotten dressed when it was time for me to leave.

At the Saturday show, not too many people shouted at us, fortunately. One person did yell, "Don't you have pets?!"

Heidi responded, "Yes, I do, but I don't train them with bull hooks."

Another guy said, "You aren't doing anybody any good." I wasn't sure what his main beef was: was he simply annoyed that we weren't using our time wisely, in his opinion?

Another circus-goer confessed, "I'm totally with you guys - I am just doing this for my kids."  I have some hope for that guy!

I invest most of my hope in the kids. The ones who are old enough to read do read the signs as their parents are whisking them past us. Maybe in a few years they will look into how baby elephants are actually trained and will tell their parents, "Nah, I don't want to go." I'm counting on my daughter's generation to end this crap once and for all.

Monday, February 20, 2017

If only the magic carpet took kids to rehearsals


After months of rehearsals, our daughter finally had her chance to perform on stage in Aladdin last week. She played a couple of roles - she was a Harem girl and an attendant to one of the princes. She was also in Genie's chorus, which included a very impressive tap dancing number. There were four performances in total: one for students and three for the public. I volunteered to work concessions at the Friday night performance but still got to see most of the show. P and I attended the Saturday afternoon performance together. We brought the kid a rose to congratulate her on a job well done.

We were in the front row at the Saturday show, and she looked right at us a couple of times - DURING the performance. I made a mental note to remind her about not breaking the fourth wall (which may be the one and only thing I remember from the drama class I took in high school). The show was very enjoyable and perfectly cast. My daughter did want to play Jasmine but as an 11-year-old with little theater experience, that type of role would have been a bit much for her. The girl who played Jasmine was outstanding. It wasn't hard to see how much work the kids, director, stage crews, etc. put into the production. I mean, for a middle school musical, it was really outstanding! You could tell it was a middle school production because about half the cast had braces, including Iago, the parrot.

After the show, we waited for our daughter in the crowded hallway outside the theater. When we found her, she informed us that it's tradition for the cast to go to Culver's while still in stage make-up (but sans costumes). We agreed to take her. We handed her ten bucks and dropped her off. It's a weird feeling, knowing that your kid is old enough to hang out without you. I figured a group of theater kids couldn't get into TOO much trouble and I assumed a few parents would stay, too.

As far as what we'll do with our spare time now that the mister and I don't have to drive the kid back and forth to rehearsals five days a week? Well, fret not. She still has choir on Sundays (with Tuesday rehearsals being added soon) and guitar on Wednesdays. Later this month, she plans to audition for the talent show at school.  I'm assuming there will be a rehearsal or two for that (if she gets in).  Then, in the fall we can start the process all over again: show choir, musical, talent show, and city choir.  I sometimes joke that it's a good thing we only have one kid - a second kid surely would have run away by now, purely out of sheer neglect.

Needless to say, though, I am one proud mama.





Monday, February 6, 2017

Hello, Gecko

It finally happened. My daughter got a reptile.

In exchange for the kid volunteering in a reptile education area at an annual pet expo for the past several years, my friend Cindy told me that when we were ready, she would hook us up with a Crested Gecko. A Crested Gecko is considered to be a good "starter" animal for reptile hobbyists. There is a commercially-available powder that is specifically formulated for them (just mix with water). I'm just not sure that we were ready to share our lives with someone who must eat live mice to survive.

My daughter had rehearsal for the upcoming musical all day on Saturday, so I drove to the expo by myself to pick up our new friend. It's about two hours away. I stayed at my friend Kathy's house the night before so that we could drink wine and act uncivilized. I headed to the expo Saturday morning. (With a bonus trip to Trader Joe's on the way.) This is a HUGE expo - thousands of people attend every year. I pulled into the vendor parking lot because I needed to get the cage that Cindy was giving me. As I was waiting in line to pay for parking, I spotted a red truck in front of me. Then I noticed the Pantera sticker on the back. And a blonde driver. In an incredible stroke of luck, Cindy was directly in front of me. I was able to park next to her and get the cage and stand. She told me I didn't have to pay for the stuff but I slipped her some cash anyway.

Inside the expo, I was able to talk to the breeder from whom Cindy had obtained the gecko. Interestingly, Crested Geckos were almost extinct and it was the pet trade that essentially brought them back. I wanted to get a gecko from Cindy and her peeps because I felt like it would be a better/safer source than a pet store. Of course, I had about a million questions about feeding, how much water to give, etc.

I did some shopping at the expo and then looped back to the reptile education area to pick up the little dude (he/she hasn't been sexed so I guess we're just calling it "he" until someone tells us otherwise). He was in a small plastic travel case.  One good thing about these little guys is that they are not super sensitive with temperature and don't need a heat lamp. It's not like you have to keep them between 74 and 76 degrees or something. However, temperature is still a big concern. He shouldn't be in an environment lower than 60 degrees or higher than 80. If the air hits 80 degrees, he's probably a goner. Needless to say, it's wintertime and well below 60 degrees outside.  So, not knowing what else to do, I took off my coat, wrapped it around the plastic cage, and then hoofed it waaaaaaaaaaay across the snowy parking lot to my car. I'm sure I looked super cool, gingerly carrying my coat out in front of me like that.

On the long drive back home, I kept the heat on to make sure he didn't get chilled. It's kind of funny to think of going to all these lengths for someone who's so tiny that you can't really even feel him when he walks on your arm. I have to say he is very cool, though. His "sticky" feet allow him to climb just about anything. He jumps pretty far distances. The reptile people at the expo told me that even if he falls/jumps from a significant height, he is unlikely to get hurt. The other random tidbit: it's fairly common for a Crested Gecko's tail to fall off. In the wild, this is a defense against predators. However, it happens in captivity, too. Two different people told me that if the tail does come off, it will twitch for a while after that happens. That's good to know because if I hadn't been made aware and the tail fell off later  . . . well, that's the stuff of nightmares, I think.

My daughter had a sleepover on Saturday so she saw her new friend only briefly before she had to leave. She has decided to name him Geo. The display cage my friend gave me is really beautiful. We are lucky to have it.  I set it up in my daughter's room. Later, I ran to Petco to pick up the powered diet. I also grabbed a bag of crickets (just four small ones).  Crested Geckos fare just fine on the gecko diet but I was told that crickets are good for supplementing. Apparently this particular type of gecko is prone to calcium deficiencies so we just have to keep an eye on his intake. It's common to "dust" the crickets with calcium powder.

Now, this part is a little weird for a vegan to say, but hey - circle of life and all that. My husband and I watched Geo's reaction as I dumped the four crickets into the cage. People at the expo had told me that it was fun to watch, so we wanted to see just how fun it is. The three smallest crickets disappeared into the mossy stuff at the bottom of the cage. The largest one, however, marched across a branch directly towards Geo. Moments later, little Death Wish Cricket's legs were dangling from Geo's lips (I don't know if he actually has lips - just bear with me here).  I'm assuming that the other three crickets surrendered later on.

Anyway . . . so far, so good. My kid finally has the reptile she's always wanted. And, when she leaves for college in 6 1/2 years . . . I guess I'll be the proud owner of a Crested Gecko.

He's in there somewhere . . .

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Birthday Boy

Of the six dogs (Lucy Annabel, Karl Lee, Gideon, Gretchen, Grover, and Glinda) and three cats (Bobby Shafto, Franklin, and Ella Fitzkitty) that have lived with us, we've only known the date of birth for one or two. So, Grover is the rare case in which we didn't have to assign him a birthday. 

Anyway, it was touch-and-go there for a while, but we decided to let Grover live long enough to see his first birthday, which is today. Happy birthday to Grovie! (AKA Grover from Dover, Jerkface, Grovie-Dohvie-Doo, Get-That-Asshole-off-the-Counter, Grovielicious, Groovy Grovie).

He is currently taking more classes through the local kennel club. I still have hopes of getting him into Agility. He stole a muffin off the counter yesterday morning so, as you can see, the training is going just greaaaaat (and yes, he even ate the wrapper). It's a good thing he's so cute.


Monday, January 30, 2017

Some Recent Goings-On

As my reader may recall, my company was acquired back in October. I've been acquired twice now. I lost vacation hours in the transaction both times but hey, I need to be steadily employed and you can't rock the boat too much when you need to make sure you stay that way. This recent acquisition has turned out to be a positive event in most ways (at least for me). I was nervous about working for such a large company, but it hasn't been as daunting as I feared it would be. And then something extra-good happened two weeks ago: I was promoted and got a raise. I knew that I was under-paid by my former employer but again, my bargaining power has been limited. I am glad that the new company recognized that my 21 years in the IT field does count for something and that I am a competent employee. So yay for competence and being paid a fair wage!

In other news, I got a tattoo last week. I'd been planning it for a while. For obvious reasons, I like to make careful decisions about this sort of thing. When I was at the tattoo shop on Saturday, a young woman walked in and asked if she could get a tattoo that day. Tara, the artist, told the young woman that she was all booked up.  I made my appointment back in November. Plus, I attended a consultation meeting weeks beforehand. I guess I just find it odd that someone would get a tattoo on a whim and expect an artist just to be sitting around waiting for them. As a matter of fact, I think that there has been at least one drop-in every time I've been in her shop.

As far as the design I chose, I gave this a lot of thought. I decided to go with a watercolor elephant with the thought that I may add other watercolor animals later on - like maybe a giraffe, bird, or rhino. I chose the elephant for a couple of reasons. The main one is that I think the elephant is probably the most glaring example of the atrocities we commit against animals. I guess the other reason would be that I think they are simply beautiful. I decided to add Ahimsa, in Sanskrit.  Ahimsa is an important tenet of several religions, including Hinduisum and Buddhism, and it essentially means "compassion and non-violence towards all living creatures." I first learned the term in a religion class I took in college.

I am very happy with the tattoo.  It's a little bigger than what I had envisioned initially, but the size turned out just fine in the end. I had Tara tattoo the elephant on my back (vs. other possible locations) because a) I do have to do the corporate thing and b) it just seemed to be the most logical spot for it (particularly if I want to add other animals later on).

I arrived at the shop on Saturday morning for my appointment. I wasn't too nervous because I've done this before and knew what to expect. Tara had me lie down on the orange table (that also converts into a chair). She chose the ink colors and off we went. I was face-down, of course. The first hour or so wasn't too bad. I listened to music on my phone and did my best to keep my yoga breathing going - I tried counting to four on the inhale and exhale. I also tried to focus on not clenching any muscles. I turned up the music so that I couldn't hear the buzzing of the tattoo machine.

Eventually, I asked if we could take a break so that I could use the bathroom. I looked at the tattoo in the bathroom mirror and saw that we had a long way to go. I quickly washed my hands and submitted to the needle once again, before I had a chance to talk myself out of it. The second hour was rougher than the first, but I was determined to walk out with a completed tattoo. Tara is a talented artist so I also didn't want her to feel rushed. This art will be on my skin for the rest of my life. Noticing that I was getting fidgety, she asked me if I'd like to sit up instead. I figured it was worth a try. She handed me an enormous teddy bear to hug. So, I was hunched over that bear as the buzzing resumed. I checked the weather and played Words with Friends on my phone to distract myself.  I didn't last long with the sitting, though. "I need to lie back down," I said.

As we entered the third hour, I think Tara sensed that I was ready to tap out. She completed the outline of the elephant and told me she would spray some lidocaine on my back. She couldn't apply the local anesthetic prior to that because it would have wiped out the stencil. Now that the tattoo was mostly done, it was safe to lose the stencil. "I'm going to break up your skin," she told me.

"What on earth does that mean?" I asked. It certainly sounded horrifying. She explained that she would use a dry needle to puncture my skin in multiple spots. She would then using a numbing spray on my back. The dry needle bit felt about as good as you'd expect, but when the anesthetic took effect . . . ahhhh.  As she got back to work on my tattoo, the pain was still very real but the edge was taken off. She was able to finish her work without me bitching and moaning. I mean, I think I have a pretty high pain tolerance but three hours is a lot for anyone, I think.

When I finally stood up and viewed the tattoo in its entirety, I loved it right away. Tara is very talented.  Plus, she's an all-around nice person. As I was waiting for the gel bandage to dry, a young woman came in with her mother and her baby. She had an appointment, so her presence was legit. Tara turned around and mouthed the words "Why would they bring a baby?" to me.  Why indeed.

The hour-long drive home was a little rough because, essentially, I had an open wound on my back. I regret nothing, though. Like I said . . . careful decisions.

The only other news of late is that we are fostering a pit bull for the local shelter. Rudy (AKA Rudy-Tooty-Fresh-n-Frooty) has a visit with an applicant on Saturday. That applicant happens to be a friend of mine. I thought it would be a great match. Alas, it turns out that the little goofball gets a little protective when strangers come into the home (we've learned that he does better if the visitor is already there when he comes out of his crate). I have a couple of volunteers from the shelter coming over to help me work with him. It was disappointing because Rudy is such a great dog! He gets along great with my dogs and has always been fine with me, my daughter, and my husband. He does jump up and can get mouthy, but it wasn't a big deal because my dogs jump up on people, too.  The only version of him we'd seen (at least until Saturday) was just pure silly/goofy/knucklehead.  I know there's a home out there for him, though. I just need to convince him that we don't need to be protected from the visitors who enter our home.

So, that's about it for recent happenings. When I'm not at work, I'm driving my kid to guitar lessons, choir practice, or Aladdin rehearsals. It's all worthwhile, though, because she's super grateful and never leaves a single tap shoe at home so that I have to drive across town to deliver it and am 15 minutes late for work.