Saturday, December 31, 2016

Welcome

"Tap your heels together three times and think to yourself, 'There's no place like home, there's no place like home.'" - Glinda the Good Witch

Please join me in welcoming our new girl to her forever home. We have decided to call her Glinda. Grover is in love and they get along famously.

We are adopting her from Boxer Rescue.  She is between two and three years of age. She came from a neglect situation but has been in a wonderful foster home for the past few weeks. Glinda is very friendly and sweet. We adore her already!

New Year's Eve, it seems, is the perfect time to tap your heels together three times and find yourself at home. Welcome home, Glinda!



Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas

I can't begin to tell you how many times I've sat down to write in recent weeks. I only managed to spit out two measly blog entries in December. December was a rough month. We never dreamed that we'd lose both of our dogs in 2016, and we are still reeling from Gretchen's death. I also lost my aunt Maureen at the very end of November. She lived in Texas so of course I didn't see her frequently, but she was a wonderful person and I'm so sorry her light has gone out.

So, I have had lots to say, most if it being downright pedestrian in nature, but the words haven't come. I can't let Christmas go by without a mention, though!

We've been pretty busy in recent weeks. We just fostered our first dog for our local humane society. I attended an orientation at the end of November and was asked to take an eight-week-old puppy the same day. We had her for three weeks and now she has been spayed and adopted. Lucy was a sassy little lass, and I'm so glad we got to be a part of her journey . . . even though her journey did include pooping behind our recliner. Grover was glad to have a little friend for a few weeks. We are hoping to adopt a companion for him very soon.

My mom visited in early December. We hadn't had a visit from her in a few years so it was nice to have her here. She even made treats for two bakes sales that came up while she was visiting (one for my church and one for German Shepherd Rescue). Most importantly, she was here for her granddaughter's big choir concert. After the concert, my mom and I went out for Indian food. My husband and daughter would not dream of putting anything other than pasta or pizza in their mouths, so I knew I had to go with a willing participant while I had the chance.

Most of my time over the past few weeks has been occupied with shopping/wrapping/shipping. It's the American way, ya'll.  I got everything shipped out on time and heaved a sigh of relief. As for my daughter, her list was surprisingly short this year. She asked for a bike, a keyboard (the musical kind), an iTunes gift card (those songs with inappropriate lyrics don't just download themselves, you know), and a power strip. No lie - a power strip.

My best friend had a guitar she wasn't using and offered to send it for the kid's use. I can't tell you how grateful I am for that.  It arrived a few days ago and I promptly hid it in the basement. I ordered the bike online a few weeks ago and then Mr. M put it together one day while our daughter was at a friend's house. It's really for the best that she didn't have to hear all the cussing about screwdrivers that were perpetually the wrong size. My sisters went in on the keyboard (plus a stand and headphones). I hid that stuff in the basement, too.  We have a storage area that the kid has always been afraid to enter. So, I put everything in that room and then unscrewed the light bulb just in case she decided to try any funny stuff.

My mom brought gifts for us when she came - she made a nightgown and robe for the kid, and got me a calendar, a wine glass, and a bunch of other fun stuff. My dad and stepmom also sent some gifts: Utz Barbecue chips (for me) and a hand-knit headband (also for me). The kid received gloves, a scarf, and a hat - also hand-knit.

In addition to the bike, the mister and I also got the kid a TV for her room. Oh, and guitar lessons that start on January 4th. And yes, we got her a power strip! Plus some clothes and pajamas and whatnot. One great thing about the kid getting a little older - Christmas doesn't involve as much packaging. She gets fewer (but more expensive) gifts than she received when she was little, but they're not as brutal as the toddler gifts. It wasn't too long ago that we spent the entire morning on Christmas just trying to liberate Barbie's microscopic shoes from their packaging. And trying to free Barbie's hair, which was always sewn into the box somehow. Whew! Glad to have those days behind us, though we look back on them wistfully, too.

This year, it was our turn to host brunch for our "in-town" family. I made chocolate chip pancakes and yeast rolls, and I bought some fruit salad because chopping stuff is way too much work. The other families brought casseroles, too. It was great to spend the afternoon with family. Even Grover was on his best behavior (he can be really fearful around strangers, but he did very well today).

If you're wondering what Mr. M got me for Christmas . . . well, I gave the boy a list. He got me some nice stuff (from my list): Vionic slippers, OOFOS flip-flops, wine, a yoga ball (Grover popped the last one - grrrr), and some soap. Funny story about the soap. I specifically wanted some nag champa-scented soap from Perennial Soaps. I gave him a link directly to that bar of soap. All he had to do was to put it in his virtual cart and check out. Instead, he got me every scent except for the one I wanted:

I mean, don't get me wrong here - I appreciate the soaps. I really do. I just need someone to explain to me how boys' brains work.

Me: "I'd like a single bar of soap in this specific scent that I love."
Him: "Nope, I'm going to spend five times as much to get you five soaps that aren't the scent you wanted."

Maybe you guys can think about it and let me know.

What did I get him? A Kindle Fire (he had an old one that wasn't charging properly anymore), one of those Harry's Shave Club kits, an alarm clock that can be used to charge other devices, Apple earbuds (because he left his out and Grover chewed them up), pajamas, a football calendar, a stormtrooper ornament, and a Marvel Comics trivia box. Our niece quizzed him on a bunch of questions from the box and he basically knew every answer - even to questions that seemed super obscure. I'm either really proud or really embarrassed. I'll give it some thought and let you know.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Our foster pooch



"Just hand me the other (expletive deleted) screwdriver!"

Our little Christmas tradition - we visit these old-timey displays every year.

Performance at a nursing home last week.





Monday, December 19, 2016

Read carefully, because I'll only say this once

A few weeks ago, the three of us packed up and headed out of town right after Thanksgiving. We had made plans to meet some friends (and their three kids) at a water park resort. Our families have been friends for a long time and in fact we are planning a 20th wedding anniversary trip with them in the summer. They got married just a few weeks after we did.

Our rooms at the resort were not yet ready when we arrived on Saturday. However, we were informed that in addition to the water park passes we would receive, our Groupon package included free passes to the indoor amusement park just down the hall. We decided to go to the amusement park first and kill some time until our rooms were ready. The first ride I spotted was a huge Ferris wheel. I don't think I'd ever seen an indoor Ferris wheel. I mentioned to my family that I wanted to ride the Ferris wheel at some point. I was also interested in the go-karts.

Most of the members of our group decided to hit a ropes course first. When I'd gotten dressed that morning, I'd put on my swimsuit under my clothes. My look-how-prepared-I-am plan backfired when our itinerary for the day changed. Without the proper "lift and support" that a chick like me needs and requires from a bra, I decided not to climb the ropes course. It just felt like a bad idea. I sat it out and took some photos of my daughter as she climbed higher and higher. After that, the eight of us filed into a small theater containing a virtual shooting game.  You probably won't be surprised to learn that I came in dead last (this is what happens when you are raised by pacifists and don't learn to shoot). Next, the kids got in line for a trio of climbing walls. While we waited, the four adults took turns paying a buck to sit in a massage chair that either felt really good or hurt like a sumbitch, depending on your perception.

Soon, we received text messages that our rooms were ready. We quickly formulated a plan to haul our luggage from our cars to our rooms, head to the water park, and then come back to the amusement park that night.  We figured we'd be all swimmed out but would be up for more fun. "We can do the Ferris wheel and go-carts when we come back," I said to my husband.

We spent a fun afternoon at the watermark. We bobbed around in the wave pool and rode all of the slides we could find (the place is massive). The grown ups shared a couple of overpriced adult beverages. The kids had a blast.

Later, we headed back to our rooms to shower and all that jazz. Our friends went out to dinner but we weren't that hungry so we just stayed in our room and had some snacks. Once they were done eating, we met them at the amusement park.  We rode the go-karts first.  What a colossal waste of time.  The go-karts were run by Goober Pyle and his cousin Gomer. I mean, it was just unreal. They couldn't seem to keep the cars moving around the track. My daughter wasn't tall enough to drive on her own so she rode with me. Our car wouldn't go faster than walking speed. "Let's not do THAT again," she said as we climbed out of our craptacular vehicle.

The kids all had game cards with cash on them and wanted to play arcade games. The games in the arcade area can only be played by using one of these cards. I played a couple of games with my daughter. However, my feet were starting to hurt.  Walking barefoot on concrete at the water park all day had not been kind to my stupid bone spurs and plantar fasciitis. "Hey, I'm going to sit down over by the Ferris wheel," I said. "I'll just find a bench somewhere around there."  That way, the rest of the group could come and find me when it was time for all of us to climb aboard.

I couldn't find a bench directly next to the Ferris wheel, but eventually I did find one that was unoccupied. It was a bit farther away than I had anticipated but not outrageously so.  And so I sat.  I watched people being flung around on the crazy ride that was directly in front of me. I played Words with Friends on my phone.  I checked Facebook. Eventually, my kid ran up to me and flung down some junk on the seat next to me.  It was her winnings from the games, the kind of trinkets that kids love and parents hate. Like miniature slinkies that always seem to come pre-tangled. She then turned and ran back towards the arcade. I assumed she was going to play more games.  "Just how much money was on those pre-paid game cards?" I thought.  I continued to sit on the bench, taking in all of the people and goings-on around me.

Finally, I saw our whole group headed in my direction. I gathered my kid's crap (I mean winnings) and jumped up from the bench. "Can we ride the Ferris wheel now?" I asked.

My husband gave me an odd look and quickly responded, "We just rode it."

The ride that was between me and the Ferris wheel had blocked me from seeing that everyone got on the ride without me. When my daughter had brought me all of her stuff, apparently she was supposed to ask me if I wanted to ride the Ferris wheel, too. You know, the ride that I had mentioned multiple times during the course of the day.

I know that my reaction would not seem "normal" to most people. I immediately felt like I might cry.  My daughter realized that she had made a mistake and apologized.  I couldn't seem to reset myself, though. As a mom, I sometimes feel like I am forever "taking one for the team."  I know that not everything is about me, but can't something be about me? Ever? It was the one bleeping thing I had wanted to do!

I turned and walked back down the long hallway towards our room. Everyone else stayed behind - I'm not sure if they played more games or what happened after that.  Later, both families gathered in our friends' room for games. I didn't want to give the appearance of being a jerk, so I went over and sat down for a few minutes before retreating back to our room. Honestly, at that point I kinda wanted my own room.

Here is what I think most people would think if they were left out of an activity: "No biggie. I'll ride it next time."

Here is what I thought: "I feel unloved every day of my life. This just proves that no one thinks I'm even worth the trouble to make sure I am included."

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

I'm going to tell you my secret now.  There are reasons why I am much more fragile than I want to be. I am generally pretty honest about the fact that I have vitiligo. It's hard to hide. However, what I generally don't mention is that I've also been battling alopecia areata for about four decades now. That's the fun thing about auto-immune disorders - you seldom get just one. Here's hoping for lupus and diabetes!

Why do I keep it a secret? (Well, as much as I can, anyway?) It's hard to articulate. Other than a few close friends and a brief mention of it at church one time, I generally just keep it to myself. When I talk to someone, I don't want them scanning my head and wondering what they can or cannot see. I don't want anyone suggesting a wig to me or telling me about their cousin who has it. And I mostly definitely don't want to hear "it's only hair." If you don't think it matters, pull out some big chunks of yours and see how that works out for you. I know that sounds mean-spirited, but that's just how I've internalized this stuff. What I do know, and what I can articulate, is the lasting effect these conditions have had on my self-esteem. 

I don't know what it's like to be carefree and ride around with my windows open.  Windy days drive my anxiety to a whole new level. Swimming in a public pool or water park is challenging at best. The only reason I do it is so that my daughter doesn't have to miss out on fun times just because of me. The reason I didn't start going to yoga until I was 40, despite years of curiosity about it, was that I couldn't bear the thought of having to hang my head upside down in front of other people. I guess the good thing about middle age is that you start to realize that people aren't looking at you as much as you'd feared they were.

If you've ever looked at me and thought my hair looked something-close-to-normal, it is only because I have had four decades of practice. My outward appearance is all smoke and mirrors and voodoo and black magic. I don't know what it's like to be wash-n-go (I'm sure jealous of the people who are, though). Getting ready to leave my house takes forEVER.

About a year ago, all of the eyelashes fell out on my left eye and grew back in with no pigment (thanks to the vitiligo). So, mascara went from being a decorative tool to a necessity.

I have to make sure I am never in a position where someone might need to touch my hair for some reason.  When I was in elementary school and the school nurse came through to check all the kids for lice, my mom made sure that the nurse took me into a separate room before poking at my hair with a tongue depressor.

When I get out of the pool, I have to wear a hat. I have to be careful about how frequently I wash my hair and have to keep wear and tear to a minimum as much as I can.

The list goes on and on.

I'll never know what it's like to have some cute haircut. I've had the same haircut all my life because it's the only option. I wrote a blog entry a few years ago about growing my bangs out. It wasn't entirely true. They fell out so I had to come up with a workaround (no bangs).  Eventually, enough of my hair grew back that I was able to have bangs again. Which was good, because no one should have to be subjected to my forehead.

Over the years, I have seen countless dermatologists. I have endured cortisone injections into my skull, time and time again.  Nothing really works well.  I know more than I want to about the growth cycles of human hair follicles. If hair starts growing again, it may take 90 days.  So, if it does grow back, one can never be sure if it was the treatment or if it would have happened without intervention. It's a constant process of grasping at straws and being met with shrugging shoulders and "well, I guess we could try . . . " from doctors.

At Kohl's a few weeks ago, I complimented the cashier on her hair. It was long and black and shiny. And it looked like she had about a bajillion strands. I compliment people's hair all the time. It's genuine, but it's also because I'm just straight-up jealous. My kid has hair that some people would sell their soul to get.

When I was a little girl, I understood that I was different and that being different was bad. Different is ugly. I learned that for girls, beauty and hair are tightly intertwined. I became hyper-sensitive to any comment about my appearance. I still am.  When I was a teenager, I would look at myself in the mirror and think, "No one will ever love you enough to marry you."  I was proven wrong, though, because someone DID marry me (sucka!) But, he can't understand the depths of my insecurity and pain.

So, when I was left off of that ride, it brought up every painful feeling I've ever had about myself. It felt like a confirmation of what I'd always suspected, silly as I know that sounds.  I've been feeling a little bit down ever since, but I'm working through it. I know that my husband and daughter were not being intentionally unkind. 

The good news, if any can be found, is that I've worked pretty hard to make sure my daughter doesn't pick up on this stuff. She thinks she's awesome (no lie: the word "awesome" is usually part of her user name on her apps and games). I just need to make sure she stays that way.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

G'Night, Gretchie-Goo


We lost our Gretchie girl today. She had been sick for a while and we just couldn't bear to let it go on any longer. By the time she died, she hadn't eaten in days and just looked miserable. I bought her a fluffy new pillow from Costco a couple weeks ago and she had scarcely left the pillow for days.

When we adopted Gretchen nearly eight years ago, she was skin and bones. She had been abandoned in a house and had not had a proper meal in a long time. Determined to make up for lost time, she promptly got chubby. We affectionately called her Fat Gretchen and sang, "Whoa fat Gretchen, bam-a-lam" to the tune of "Black Betty." Later, she slimmed down a bit but the nickname mostly stuck.

Gretchen was around two when we adopted her, and I had high hopes of competing in obedience and agility with her. I took her to lots of classes and her main response was: "No." She just wasn't having it. She did earn a CGC (Canine Good Citizen) certificate, but only by the skin of her teeth. The tester was a friend of mine so she may have even thrown us a figurative bone on that one.

Gretchen was technically my daughter's dog, so I know my baby will be hurting for a while. She sent me a heartbreaking text from school earlier: "Is she already gone?" Fortunately, my daughter is old enough to understand that we simply could not let Gretchen suffer any longer. As far as what took our sassy brindle Boxer down, we are assuming it was cancer (and the vet agrees that this is a likely scenario). She was tentatively diagnosed with pancreatitis and we did treat her for that, spending hundreds of dollars and trying to make her eat prescription food. After a while, my husband and I recognized the futility of it. We knew it was something more ominous than pancreatitis. Just getting the meds into her started to feel like an act of violence. I had to force them down her throat - and this was a dog who happily ate ANYthing, including poop. It struck me today how she had come full circle, in a sad and terrible way. She was, once again, skin and bones. I like to think that the years in between were good ones, though.  We sure loved her. She had the "fastest nub wag in the midwest" and even this afternoon, her nub still vibrated when I looked into her eyes and said, "You were a good girl, Gretchie-goo."

Our Fetchin' Gretchen was feisty but sweet. She threatened every dog in our neighborhood with physical violence, but she was always a devoted companion to her people. I think she was the only Boxer we've had so far that didn't have some degree of separation anxiety. She would happily follow a treat into her crate and not cause a ruckus once she was in there. I have so many good memories of her . . . like the time I stupidly took her to the dog park and she pinned a beagle within seconds of our arrival. Okay, maybe that's not a "good" memory but it was just how she rolled. She loved our annual trip to the cabin, a place where she was allowed to lay on the couch and got to spend long, lazy days with her people. It won't be the same without her.

I hope you are well and whole again, Gretchie. We miss you already.

She barely got to wear her new holiday collar. :-(

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving

I'm so full that I can barely find room for the vodka-cranberry that's sitting in front of me. Where there's a will, there's a way, though.

We had a quiet Thanksgiving with just the three of us. The kid and I took Grover to a Turkey Trot this morning. We signed up for the two-mile "Dog Jog." (They also had a five-mile run.) He pulled on his leash like some deranged Husky on the Iditarod, but I think it helped to wear him out a bit. Later, my husband took him out for a run. I think Grover laughs at our futile attempts to wear him out.

As far me, I cooked all day once I got home from having my arms pulled out of the sockets. I generally enjoy cooking, so I didn't mind. I got a little over-zealous with my menu, but I did manage to make everything on my list:
  • Tofurky
  • Mashed potatoes and gravy
  • Cashew mac & cheese
  • Green bean casserole
  • Cornbread dressing
  • Yeast rolls
  • Two different desserts

Everything was vegan, of course.  My husband is not vegan so I did pick up a few slices of turkey for him. The kid mostly just ate the rolls. She seemed to like the dressing at least somewhat. Her dad said "No electronics at the dinner table" so she watched a show on her iPad while playing a game on her phone. She's a good listener. He's a good disciplinarian.

I am going to do a little bit of Black Friday shopping in the morning. Gretchen is sick (pancreatitis) . . . to the tune of $236.00 and counting. So, I can't get too crazy.  I bought a newspaper so that I could check out the ads. I may order some stuff on Amazon, too. I emailed one of my nephews about a week ago to ask him what he wants for Christmas. He didn't respond, so I told my sister to tell him that he's getting socks and underwear since he didn't have a preference. 30 seconds later, I received an email: "I want a nerf gun."  Easy enough! If a boy needs to shoot his brothers at close range with a foam bullet, who am I to stand in the way?

Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving to you and your people!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

A Star is Born

Most of my friends have heard this story about 50 times, but I still like to tell it. When the kid was two or three, I pulled her to our neighborhood park in her wagon one sunny afternoon. It's about a 15-minute walk. As we rounded the corner for the final stretch towards the park, my daughter spotted some people on the playground.

"Oh, good," she said. "People will see me."

When we attended one of her show choir concerts last week, I was struck by how comfortable she looked on stage (and keep in mind that show choir involves singing and dancing). The auditorium was packed, as it was a choir invitational with lots of groups performing. As I watched her singing her heart out and executing the dance moves with confidence, I thought, "Oh good, people can see her."

I have noticed how much her confidence has grown after a year in the city choir and a season in show choir. She even helped to lead a hymn at church last week!

She was a nervous wreck while awaiting the results of the Aladdin audition, however. I know she really wanted the part of Jasmine or Genie. However, she also knew that she was competing against 7th and 8th graders with more experience. I mean, there's a big difference between an 11-year-old and a 14-year-old.  I reminded her that she should be glad to get any part and that being in a play would be a great learning experience for her. 80+ kids auditioned so the competition was pretty tough.

The results were posted Friday morning. She sent me a text right away: "I'm in Genie's Chorus!"  She sent me a screen shot of her name on the cast list. I was so relieved.  Later, I learned that her part is actually a little bigger than she realized initially. She's a Harem Girl, in the chorus, and is an "Attendant."  I do not know what some of this means, but I am currently sorting through the 16-page document that the director sent. It looks like my kid will be on stage a lot. So yeah, people will see her.

If you're starting to think, "Is this blog post just one big brag about her kid?" Um . . . maybe? Anyway, if you need me for the next three months, I'll be driving someone back and forth to rehearsals.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Good, The Bad, and The Whatever

See this knucklehead?  The one who's chewing on the lid of his toy box? He got kicked out of doggie fun camp yesterday.


Yep, kicked out. Or, more accurately, not allowed in. I had this big idea to start taking him to doggie daycare so that he can run around with other canines and wear his ass out. You see, now that it's dark when I get home from work, I'm much less inclined to walk him than I was during the summer months. Meanwhile, Grover's trotting around the house, scanning every surface for shit he can get into. He's started pushing open the garbage can lid and fishing out whatever he can find. He was pretty disappointed this morning when his big prize was an empty bag of frozen vegetables. Joke's on you, sucka!

Anyway, he's just a handful at this age so I thought it would be good idea to get his ya-ya's out. I mean, even if I could walk him at night, I'd have to walk him to clear to Israel before he'd be even a tiny bit worn out. So, I thought doggie fun camp was the answer. I made an appointment to bring him on Tuesday. I knew he had to pass a test first, and I was 100% confident he would pass. The test was an evaluation of how he would behave with other dogs.

My friend (who works at the joint) called me at work later that morning and told me that Grovie did not pass. He went after four other dogs. I know she really tried because she knows Grover and wanted to give him every chance. I guess it was just too many dogs for him. Honestly, I don't know what I could have done differently. I have taken him to classes since we brought him home as a pup (three rounds of training classes thus far), I have taken him to Petco to socialize him with strangers and dogs. I have taken him to the dog park, where I took great care to make sure that all of his dog-to-dog interactions there were positive. So, if he's a dick . . . it's on him.

I called my mom to tell her that her grandson got kicked out of doggie daycare. "Oh, can he go back?" she asked.

"Nope, he's done. Not welcome back."  So much shame he has brought upon our family!

In other news, the kid had her Aladdin audition on Monday. I left work early to drive her and one of her friends to the school. When it was my daughter's turn, I crept up to the closed door and leaned in. I wasn't sure if such a thing was obnoxious or what. I could hear my girl singing, though, and I think she rocked it! Callbacks are tomorrow and then I guess we'll find out who's in the cast sometime thereafter. A's friend also has a nice voice so I'm hoping both girls get in. I also have a Christmas surprise for my songbird. My bestie from New Jersey is sending me a guitar she's not using. I signed the kid up for guitar lessons starting in January. I just hope the first song she learns is not Hot Cross Buns. God knows I had more than enough of that when she was learning to play the recorder.

Last weekend, we went to a mother-daughter weekend with a friend and her daughter. It was so nice to get away and not have ANYTHING I had to do. I even colored in my grown-up coloring book. I did fit in one small errand, which was a consultation for a tattoo.  P thinks I've lost my mind and maybe I have. I think it's going to be amazeballs, though. I probably won't book the session until sometime after the first of the year. I'm not sure if this is one that can be done in one session. It might take a couple.

I think that's about all the news I have to share at the moment. I'm currently planning our Thanksgiving meal. I love digging through recipes and finding new stuff to make. It will be just the three of us for dinner, but if you're reading this, live nearby, and need a place to go, c'mon over. Needless to say, I won't be serving murdered things, so do keep that in mind if eating murdered things is important to you.

Finally, I want to say that while I've gotten over the shock of the election, it is not lost on me that many are devastated on levels that I can't ever know or experience.  After Trump won, I scanned my Facebook feed with a feeling of true dread. I have a few transgender friends. While it did seem like my friends were putting on a brave face, what struck me more is the fear I saw in the posts from their friends. I saw at least one mention of suicide. This shit is scary, people.

You know, I've never been able to decide which is worse: a bigot who hides it or a bigot who doesn't. I still can't decide. I think it probably preferable, though, if we all agree to foster an environment in which such creatures are fully aware that their viewpoint is not accepted by the majority. Now, it seems that they are emboldened, encouraged by the election of a man who spouts crap like, "Look at my African-American over here!" Oh, and let's not forget, "I love Hispanics!" (Because they make kick-ass taco bowls or whatever.)

Just remember: not everyone wants to "get over" the election. For those of you who think we should . . . you're not the boss of us.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Grrrr

Last night, after work, I went to the gym and hit the elliptical. When I came home, I took a shower and watched Netflix. I did not want to see the election results - at all. I peeked at CNN once, saw that Trump was winning, and went to bed. When I woke up this morning, I picked up my phone and checked CNN. "Fuck."

You won't be surprised to know that I voted for Clinton. Was she my first choice? Nope. I was a Bernie supporter. I had actually hoped that Elizabeth Warren would run - I thinks she's amazing. I would have voted for her in a heartbeat.

As is the case with many Americans, my religion does factor into my politics. As a Unitarian Universalist, I affirm (and do my best to adhere to) the Seven Principles, some of which are:
  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person.
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations.
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all
Social justice is very important in my religion. UUs fight for prison reform, support the Black Lives Matter movement, go to bat for immigrants, and support the LGBT community with our own "Standing on the Side of Love" campaign. Simply put, a lot of people that I care about, very deeply, would have been safer under Clinton's watch.

In about a half hour, my daughter's alarm clock will go off. She'll ignore it, because that's how she rolls, but when she does get up, I'll have to inform her that a man who says things like "Grab 'em by the pussy" now holds the highest office in the land. A man who hates women and minorities. You know, as a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, I was not a fan of President Bush (I did like Laura, though, in case I get any points for that). But, even though I disagreed with his politics and most of his decisions, I never felt like he was an inherently evil person.  I felt like he was just another rich white dude in office.

Yes, it is not lost on me that I am affirming a belief in the "worth and dignity of every person" while failing to extend that sentiment to Donald Trump. I am trying. I really am. At this point, all I can do is to hope the has some sensible handlers around him that will keep him from doing too much damage over the next four years.

I have not met one single person in my entire life whose job has been lost to an illegal immigrant. Not one. The irony of a nation of immigrants wanting to kick out immigrants - aaaaaaah, it makes my brain hurt. Make America great again? How far back are we going here? Maybe back 20 years so that I can make less money than my husband and raise my daughter with far fewer opportunities? Let's roll back the advances the LGBT community has made, too, I guess. We're already locking up people of color in outrageous numbers, so we can't really push those folks back any farther than they already are.

Needless to say, I am heartbroken. The hate-speak that was tossed around at Trump rallies makes me lose all faith in America. I mean, the KKK's official newspaper endorsed Trump. Come on!

If you voted for Trump, please don't say "He's just like us." He's not like you and he's not like me. "He is not a politician - he says what's on his mind." What's on his mind is some horrible mix of racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and other fancy words that I can't think of at 5:00 in the morning. I took a quick peek at my Facebook feed this morning and while many of my friends are horrified, I can see the especially keen fear in my friends who are gay or transgender as well as those who fall into any of the groups that have battled disenfranchisement their whole lives. To them I say, "I'm sorry."

I need to go dig out my mourning dress now.




Friday, November 4, 2016

Late October (bonus: no mention of the election)


Many apologies for the lack of blog posts recently. You know how I hate to keep my reader waiting.

My stad visited last week. He flew in from DC and we had a great time. I was eager to show him around town (he hadn't been here before) so I dragged him all over the place: a hockey game, a stadium tour, and an improv festival. Oh, and Red Robin. He was a good sport about the flurry of activity, and even agreed to carve a pumpkin for Halloween. He's flown back home now, but he's got lots of bruises to remind him of the trip. Every time I turned around, Gretchen and Grover were wrestling IN his lap as they fought for a spot.  My stad's visit was the most exciting thing to happen to my dogs in eons.

Let's see . . . what else is new? I had some Weight Watchers momentum going for a couple of weeks and then I lost it. I tried teaming up with another member so that we could encourage each other, but it hasn't worked out as well as I'd hoped. Maybe neither of us is really ready. I am still trying to count points as much as I can. I only made it to the gym once last week, so that's not good. On Halloween, I went to yoga in the dark.  They handed out glow bracelets and necklaces and played Halloween music. It was a lot of fun. I should make it a point always to do yoga in the dark - I felt a lot less self-conscious than I usually do.

Speaking of feeling self-conscious . . . I have a crown in my mouth and it recently decided that we should part ways. I could feel it coming loose and quickly shoved it back into place because I did not want to behold whatever sort of horror might be under that thing. I have to tell you a quick back-story.  I have been using the same dentist for many years now. I have had no complaints. However, he seems to have turned into a ghost. When the kid and I had our six-month cleanings over a year ago, I wanted to talk to the dentist about one of A's teeth. This particular tooth is attached directly to the bone. The term is ankylosis, I believe. Anyway, her orthodontist wanted us to look into having this tooth pulled, so I wanted to ask the dentist about it. At that cleaning appointment, he wasn't in. I just thought, "Okay, no biggie. I'll wait until our next appointment in six months and ask again." Six months later we were back. No dentist. By now, I was pretty annoyed. I mean, I don't begrudge the man a vacation, but geez. The dental hygienist looked at the calendar for our next appointments (I usually try to get simultaneous appointments for me and my daughter). She noted that the dentist would be out the week before our next appointment but that he should be in the office when we are there.

After going home and thinking about it some more, I posed the question on Facebook: is it common for a dentist not to examine one's teeth for over a year? I was assured that this is not common practice. So, I'm not sure if my dentist is inching towards retirement or why he is constantly AWOL, but I decided to choose a new dentist. I chose a new practice with several dentists so that, in theory, if "our" dentist is out, another one is there in case I have a question. I have invested a lot of money in my child's teeth and I just want to make sure that nothing happens on my watch. So, I contacted the old dental clinic and advised them that I was leaving and that I would need to transfer our records.

Shortly thereafter, my crown decided to head for greener pastures. Well, shit. I didn't yet have things set up with the new clinic and didn't really want to go back to the old one ("Yeah, I know I kinda just said that I need to break up with you, but could you have a look-see anyway?") I scrambled to get xrays and such sent to the new clinic and filled out the mountain of paperwork they sent me. I was able to get an appointment for the following week. I have to say, I really like the new dentist. I dug him right away. "Hi, I'm Pat," he said. He extended his hand and then crushed my fingers into dust. I got good news from Dr. Pat: the cement had just come loose and all he needed to do was sandblast the crown (to remove old cement) and then glue that mofo right back in my mouth.  All is well. 

On the #choirmom front, A's show choir season is just about over.  She has a big concert next week and then she's done (until next year), I assume. Meanwhile, rehearsals for the touring choir will start increasing as the December concert approaches. My mom is flying in for that. A's next focus will be on the big musical at school.  Auditions are coming up in a couple of weeks.  She's really excited but nervous. I told her that she may not get a big part, but this will be a good learning experience for her.

The musical is Aladdin. Of the bajillion Disney DVDs I bought for her when she was a toddler, I swear to you that Aladdin is the only one we don't have. So, I quickly ordered a copy from ebay and handed it over to the kid for study. She has to sing two songs and run through a bunch of lines. I assume I'll have "A Whole New World" stuck in my head for the next few days (or months if she does get a part).  If she doesn't get a part, she will do stage crew.

I think that's all I have to share at the moment.

Over, sideways, and under, on a magic carpet ride . . . .

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.



#choirmom

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 . . .

Rio

Friday, September 30, 2016

Transition

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

Closure

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.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Unauthorized OJ

The new school year is going about as well as you'd expect . . . assuming that you were expecting mornings replete with screams of "LEAVE ME ALONE!" and evenings filled with "I know it's only the fourth day of school but yes, I forgot my math book."  (And then, "LEAVE ME ALONE! YOU NEVER LISTEN TO ME!") It can only get better, right?  Middle school starts a lot earlier than elementary school, and I knew it was going to be a rocky transition. However, she doesn't really have a choice. It's not like I have the luxury of quitting my job and home-schooling her. She's gotta suck it up.

There are some bright spots, though. I think the kid is learning to be more independent.  She takes a bus to/from school.  However, if she stays late for an after-school activity, she has to catch a city bus. She did that last week for the first time so now we've cleared that hurdle. I'm not really sure how much independence to require from her at this age. I'm fairly certain that if I didn't remind her to take a shower periodically, she'd simply stop showering.

On the second day of school, my little songbird auditioned for her middle school's show choir. We were on pins and needles for several days but when the list was posted, her name was on it! We had heard about good singers not getting in (in prior years), so we were nervous. I was so proud of her when she made it, though. Rehearsals started immediately - and boy, are they frequent. In looking at the schedule, she will need to be at rehearsals several days a week (after school) for the next few months. Fortunately, the city choir (of which she is also a member) rehearses on Sunday evenings so they shouldn't conflict. So yeah, she will be singing. A lot. And her dad and I will be driving her around. A lot.  I can't begin to tell you how glad I am that she doesn't play sports. She indicated an interest in running cross country, but I just felt like it would be too much. We may revisit the idea when the track and field season kicks off in the spring. She's actually a very fast runner. I haven't been able to beat her since she was two or so. And even then it was just by a hair.

The other challenge we've faced is with her lunch money. I guess she either forgot that I can see what she buys with her lunch card or she just thought I wouldn't look. But yeah, I looked.  It turns out that someone sure likes orange juice and ice cream. I don't know if drinking a regular ol' Capri-Sun is just not cool now that she's in middle school? The agreement we have is that she will buy lunch a couple days a week and bring lunch from home on the other days. According to the usage report, she buys lunch just about every day and also sips a daily orange juice (to the tune of $1.25 every day).  So, she blew through $21.25 in just a handful of days. Needless to say, I won't be replenishing her lunch fund right away.

If she keeps this up, I'm going to buy her a Dora the Explorer lunch box and make her take that to school. 



Sunday, September 4, 2016

Parenting: Funnier Than You'd Think

If you're a parent, have you ever had one of those moments when you think, "Wow, I am kicking ass at this parenting thing!"? Granted, such moments are few and far between, but I had one earlier.

My daughter and I have had a rough couple of days. She went to a sleepover Friday night. Her dad was scheduled to pick her up Saturday morning. He told her repeatedly that he would pick her up at 11. However, he could not remember the exact address.  He called her, texted her, and even attempted to Facetime with her. I tried those things, too. She was not answering. He drove over to pick her up and could not find the house. He gave up and came home. Meanwhile, she persisted in not responding to any of our attempts to reach her. Finally, I logged into her iCloud account and used the "find my phone" feature to send a ping to her phone (which apparently works even if the phone is set to vibrate). She heard it and called. By that time, her dad and I were livid. She said she "didn't know" we were trying to reach her.  I should add that the number one rule, when she received the phone, was that she had to respond to us if we tried to contact her.

She lost access to all electronics for the weekend.

There are so many days when I feel like, "Crap, this is not the kind of mom I wanted to be." We are different. I nag and cajole. I am neat, she is messy. I'm an early riser, she's a night owl. I like to get shit done and she, um, doesn't. She leaves her shit everywhere and then when the puppy starts chewing on said shit, she acts all exasperated. I hear myself saying, "If you'd picked it up like I told you . . . "  Lately it seems like we are clashing at every turn.

This is not to say that she doesn't have other characteristics of which I'm immensely proud. I can listen to my kid sing all day and all night. I never get tired of hearing her sing. I love how she makes friends left and right. I love a million things about her.

I particularly love that she has a great sense of humor. I feel like I want to take at least partial credit for it. I appreciate a good sense of humor almost more than anything else.

Earlier this evening, she was taking a bath. Her hair is always a project and sometimes she calls me into the bathroom to help get a comb through those unruly curls. She is also in this weird stage where she cares very much about her appearance but, as far as I can tell, that fact is in no way tied to hygiene. She doesn't usually take a shower until her dad and I have basically shamed her into it. So, earlier this afternoon, I found myself kneeling next to the tub, working a comb through the jungle (which had not been washed in several days). "Hang on a second," I said. "I have to evict the family of small rodents that's been living in there."

"C'mon out, you guys!" I whispered in a goofy voice. 

She reached back around her neck, poked her index finger through her hair, and wiggled the end of her finger. In a squeaky voice she said, "We're not going anywhere!"

I have not laughed that hard in weeks.

So yeah, I might be turning a messy marvin out into the world but hey, she can sing and she's funny. So, there's that.




Thursday, September 1, 2016

Middle School

Miss Rolls-Out-of-Bed-at-Noon got up at 5:30 this morning.  She's starting a whole new adventure in middle school, and has to catch a bus before 7. We went to the school's open house on Tuesday and walked the full route she'll need to take from class to class. I confess I am a little worried about her time management skills - she has just three minutes to get from class to class, some of which are fairly far apart. It's an exciting time, though. She's anxious to meet new friends, track down old ones, and join some activities.

My main question is: when, exactly, will my little peanut grow into her backpack?