Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Must be Christmas

On Christmas Eve my sister and I would get to sleep together if we wanted.  When we were little we could fit in one bed and as we got bigger, we'd put sleeping bags on the floor. 

I always woke up before she did and then I'd sit and stare at her, trying to will her awake.  Sometimes I'd even take my thumb and pull her eyelid open. 


And when she was finally awake, We'd go wake our parents up.  I loved the feeling of creeping downstairs and knowing that it would look different than the night before.  The tree would have presents underneath with wrapping paper I'd never seen before.  The cookies we'd set out on the mantle for Santa were gone, replaced only by crumbs and a thank-you note.  Long after we no longer believed in Santa Claus, that magic was still there.

My mom would put a Christmas record on and we'd open presents together sitting around the tree.

It is unbelievable to me that now my kids creek downstairs and I sit on the floor with my coffee, watching them open presents wrapped in paper they've never seen before.  That I have a husband who puts music on to listen to while we open presents.  Being a grown-up at Christmas time sure is funny. 

I still feel like that little girl on the left sometimes.  And I wonder what my kids will feel like as they grow up through these traditions.

I love this time of year.  I really do.  Maybe I'll pry Tad's eyelid open one week from tomorrow if I happen to wake before the kids....  Then again, prolly not.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tiny Tim doesn't want your sympathy

A Christmas Carol.  It's a fun book and an entertaining movie for this time of year.

We’ve all seen it.  Ebenezer Scrooge and Bah Humbug and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future….  And Tiny Tim.
I don't generally mix my work and my blog but here it is...I just started thinking about this today.

Tiny Tim is one of the early figures of disability in film.  We see him in A Christmas Carol on his crutches and we feel so sorry for him.  We feel pity. And that’s what Scrooge feels when he finally has his epiphany in the movie.  He feels pity for Tiny Tim and wants to help him. And then Tiny Tim becomes “special” and inspirational

Well I’ll tell you what.

People with disabilities don’t want Pity!  And people with disabilities don’t want to be seen as inspirational either!
Here's my take of the ghosts of past, present, and future and what they have to tell us about Tiny Tim.

The ghost of Tiny Tim’s Christmas Past

Long ago people with disabilities were put in institutions.  They were seen as “less than” as burdensome and not at all part of our society.  There was no expectation of education or career.  Tiny Tim would shake his tiny head at this.  The ghost of Christmas Past wants you to know that Tiny Tim deserves better.  He wants neither your pity nor your reverence. He just wants to go to school and graduate. He wants to get a job and become a contributing member of society.  Tiny Tim wants to be empowered to live a life of full inclusion! 

The ghost of Tiny Tim’s Christmas Present

Today, things are getting better.  Tiny Tim can get a full and inclusive education.  If he’s having trouble finding work or with his Independent Living Skills, he can call on any variety of community organizations that are there to help people with disabilities.  Still there are attitudinal barriers and people might still look with pity or reverence...there are restaurants and shops that are still not accessible to Tim and his family. Schools still sometimes keep him separate from the other kids. He might get bullied.

The ghost of Tiny Tim’s Christmas Future

The ghost of Tiny Tim’s Christmas future is not a scary grim reaper—no.  In my mind this ghost is using a shiny golden power wheelchair.  He’s wearing a lovely robe of velvet green with a crown of poinsettia on his head. And he points his strong, long finger to Tim’s future and this is what he sees:

Tim is working a job that satisfies him.  He is no longer “tiny” because he’s a grown up.  He still has a disability; his crutches are simply assistive devices that help him get around. He has a wife and children and a nice little house in the city.  He is fully included in his community—his favorite restaurant has a ramp so that people of all mobility types can get in the doors.  His daughter put colored tape on his crutches to celebrate the holiday.  No one looks at Tim as he goes into the restaurant with his family because he’s just a man having dinner out.  He pays his bill with the money he earns at his job and no one is amazed that he was able to pay “despite” his disability.  He goes home with his family and falls asleep, satisfied to be in a world where accommodations and accessibility are second nature. And the snow (which will be shoveled first thing in the morning so that everyone can use the sidewalks) falls softly outside.
I really love my job at IndependenceFirst.  I am sure grateful for that. And I hope my imaginary ghost of Christmas Future is right.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Social anxiety attack gone right

This year, as part of the sex ed conference, they offered a bus trip to Rockefeller Center. I signed up thinking that would be a great way to spend a night out of the hotel and utilizing the closeness to the city.

The bus trip was $50.  And I started thinking. Did I want to pay $50 just for a ride to the city? I mean, the hotel has a free shuttle to the train station and the train trip is a quick $4 ride to Penn Station.  But then I thought, well...this is an opportunity to hang out with other people from the conference and not have to worry about public transportation.  That's what people were telling was a price for togetherness and convenience. 

I went downstairs after calling my sister for council--to spend $50 for togetherness and convenience or not...  I got on the bus, thinking I'd just take a deep breath and enjoy not having to think about much and gather the energy from the other travelers.

But everyone on the bus seemed to know each other.  People returned my smile when I got on, but nobody said anything to me.  I took a seat near the back.  More people boarded and seemed to know others...  And then a woman came towards the back and said "Is this where the wine is?" Everyone laughed... and then I thought...  $50 bucks. Everyone knows each other.  The bus wouldn't return until 10:00 pm. What was I going to do in Manhattan by myself for five hours....  I got short of breath.. Grabbed the seat and decided not to panic...Then I got up. "Sorry. Sorry" I said as I got off the bus.  And asked for my money back.

I took the free shuttle to the train station and bought an $8 round trip to New York. I have lived in London, D.C. and Eastern Europe. Public transportation doesn't elude me.  I didn't need to spend $50 for convenience.  The train ride was nothing and I loved just walking around the city by myself.  I ate dinner while I walked, bought from a street vendor.  I felt comfortable navigating my own way to Rockefeller center and not one, but TWO people asked me for directions.

Yep. I had a little social anxiety freak out on the bus..but I had a lovely night in New York City.  Just me.

Oh..and Mickey and Minnie.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Do I have a pleasure/guilt override?

So, this happens every time.

I'm about to leave for a work conference.  I am extremely lucky at my job--I get to travel a lot.  And aside from my career, I also take a trip a year, by myself, to visit with my Peace Corps friends. 

Right now I'm sitting in a hotel room with a king sized bed by myself. I just finished eating dinner-delivered by room service.  The conference activities start in a 1/2 hour. I'll get to learn about all different aspects of sexuality education--my career and something about which I am passionate.  There's morning yoga each day and on Friday night I get to go on a bus trip to Rockefeller Center. 

But in the days leading up to this opportunity, I felt guiltier and guiltier.  And the guiltier I felt, the more my anxiety level rose.  What if the plane crashes and I die?  What if there's a snowstorm on Saturday on my way home and I am delayed by hours, or worse, days?

Last night I was stressed about packing, organizing and being totally patient and present with my kids.  I did none of these three things very well and of course got extremely mad at Lucy who was asking countless unanswerable questions at bedtime....

Lucy: Why did you put me on top of my blanket?
Me: I didn't
Lucy: then WHY am I on top of my blanket?
Me: You got on top of your blanket and covered up with your quilt.
Lucy: WHY?
Me: I saw you get on top. I just thought that's where you wanted to be.
Lucy:Why did you THINK I wanted to be on top of my blanket?

This went on and then I lost my patience with her.  She cried. I felt terrible for making my child cry before I left her for three days...which of course happened because she could surely feel, in my energy, that I was already feeling bad before I put her to bed....  oooooh what a conundrum!

At any rate, this happens EVERY time I'm about to go do something that is just for me, and me alone.  In the lead-up to my leaving, I just start to feel guilty.  Who am I to leave for three days?  Tad never gets to do stuff like this...HE should be leaving for three days!

Though last night when I expressed these feelings to Tad he simply said, "I do not want to go to New Jersey!  And it's not that you're LUCKY at work... you seek these opportunities out.  You have worked your way here.  You deserve it. Why can't you enjoy it?"

Why can't I enjoy it?

I mean, as a parent, I CRAVE times like this when I get to be by myself, not responsible for any one but me...and then when I HAVE the opportunity, all I can think about is getting back home to my kids.

So, I guess part of it is being a mom. And my job as ALIE KRIOFSKE MAINELLA is to be true to myself and let myself enjoy time for makes me a better mom....  And part of it is being present. I have to be present now, here in New Jersey at the Sex Ed Conference. And when I get home I have to be present there. At home. With my family.

Be present. Stop feeling guilty. 

That might be the American Mom Dream.  I'll work on it.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I see London

So, I was taking a walk and I happened upon a pair of men's underwear, just a-lyin' in the grass!

And I says to myself, I says, I wonder how a pair of men's undies have just been discarded right here.  And then I walked a few more paces and found yet another pair of underwear, just a yard away!  Women's underwear!

And then I really wondered how such an occurrence could have come to be.  I thought it could be on of a few options:

1. Someone was moving and their box full of underwear opened and two pairs flew out and landed on the grass (like so)
(The grass seen above is on the property of an office moving company...hence the moving scenario, but then I thought that prolly offices don't move their staff underwear, most likely.)
2. Two people were having sex out in public for a cheap thrill and were forced to skedaddle so quickly that they were unable to replace above undergarments.
3. Someone thought it would be a funny deed to place two pairs of undies, men's and women's respectively out in the grass there where anyone could hap upon them and begin to dream up possible scenarios of their whereabouts and whyabouts. 

(When I was a kid I used to go out in the freshly fallen snow and run around in circles and hop on one foot and then fall down on purpose and then go back in, excitedly imagining that someone else would hap by and spend a great deal of time pondering why someone had been running around in circles, only travelling upon one foot, and then falling down... )

So those are my three ideas about whence and wherefore that underwear came to be...

Do you have any thoughts?  We, at Alie's Handbasket, would love to hear them!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Bad day turned better

Yesterday I went to pick my kids up from school and while I was standing there in the dampish cold, hoping they would get bored and want to go home soon, Coen suddenly was crying in my arms.

His classroom (1-3 grade) Guinea Pig, Spot, had died.  Spot was Coen's classroom guinea pig for the past three years. She lived with us for two winter breaks and all last summer.  Coen loved Spot. And Lucy has been telling everyone that she too wants to be in Ms. Wendy's class so she can take Spot home during summer.

I took my sad kids home and of course it was Monday which means (cue extremely foreboding music) homework night. Coen sat hard in his desk and resignedly opened his homework folder while I doled out granola bars.  The writing portion was to write about his worst day ever.

"I'm writing about today!" Coen said.  He wrote:
My friends sat away from me.
I didn't know what to do. I got bored.
I waited too long to do my research.
Then I was out side and I found out my favorite school pet died.

He fought his way through 1/2 of the math and then declared himself to be done for the night.  But then he noticed that the weekly "grace and courtesy" lesson was about animals.  Coen decided to ask our neighbor if we could walk her dog.  She agreed and we took little miniature Schnauzer Lt. Dan for a walk.  Coen walked her, picked up her excrement, had a fabulous time.

"This turned my night around!" He said enthusiastically as Lieutenant Dan ran Coen towards his house.  He went straight back to his homework folder and wrote about it before dinner.

After we ate, the kids decided to make each other Christmas presents and went separately to their rooms and worked behind closed doors.  I hid each of their homemade gifts when they were done and we had a candlelight service for spot before bed.  We sat in the hallway, lights off, candle burning with a picture of Spot on my phone and talked about what a great guinea pig she was.

It's not always easy.  Homework is no fun.  Guinea pigs die far too quickly.  Sometimes our friends don't want to sit with us.  Sometimes our kids don't want to do their homework and complain about  spaghetti for dinner that you already made. 

But sometimes something nice happens.  Sometimes you make something nice happen.  And that makes all the difference.

Both my children went to bed much happier than when they came home.  That was a lovely thing. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Triple Insult Day

So technically, it was a two insult day.  One insult yesterday and two today but triple sounds better in the title, don't you think? And to be fair, none of these things were true insults.  Mostly observations.'ll see.

Yesterday I went to the doctor. I have been putting off going to the doctor because our insurance changed and now I have to pay full price anytime a doctor checks out something that is wrong with me until I reach our deductible...  So I was pretending nothing was wrong with me.  But finally, there were two things wrong with me and that seemed silly to ignore, so I went.

Before I get to the insult, I don't have too much wrong with me. Just canker sores in my mouth which are making life uncomfortable and a terrible rash where my wedding ring once was that is getting worse and worse.  I got a cream for my rash and some mouth rinse and I'm feeling better already today.

But the receptionist, who was very nice and billed my visit as an annual check up so they wouldn't charge me big, was the person who doled out insult number one, though she didn't mean to.  I had been in Whole Foods and I ate a cup of chicken noodle soup right before I headed up to the doctor.  When I sat down to be checked in, she said, "Why sweetie! You smell like a honey ham!"

A honey ham!

I don't know about you, but I'm not sure a ham is the scent I want to be emitting.  Lilacs, sure!  A summer's breeze.  Wait. Is that a douche?  If it is, that's not what I'm going for either.  But you know, cinnamon, chocolate chip cookies even. But a HAM?  I mean, who wants to smell like a ham!  "Sweetie!" She went on, probably reading the badly masked alarm on my face.  "It's a good thing.  You smell like the holidays!"
"Well" I said, probably trying to hide a smirk at this point (I certainly don't want to smell like a ham but I was pretty excited about how funny this would be to tell people) "I did just eat some soup in the deli at Whole Foods."
"Oh" She said smiling "I love that place. 
Grateful to be on a subject other than than my ham smell, I bid her adieu and went to sit in the waiting room.

Today, insults two and three came from my children.  I came home with a new haircut.
"Mommy!" Lucy said coming into the kitchen. "What happened to you!"
"Whoah." said Coen. "Your hair!"
"Well, it won't look like this when I do it myself!" I said.  (Doing it myself will be taking a shower tomorrow and not even combing it after, quite the opposite of salon style)
"Why does it look like THAT?" Coen said.
I laughed, shrugging, and went into the living room.
"I'm not trying to be mean" Lucy said  "But you'd probably look better with that hair if you had brown skin."
I laughed.  "Thank you." I said.
"Mommy!" Lucy said. "Why did you say thank you?"
"I'm just glad you told me how you feel!" I said.

The final insult came, after smelling like ham and what happened to your hair, when I was leaning over after reading to Coen.  I was wearing a loose fitting t-shirt and no bra (sorry for the TMI but it is necessary to the story).
"Mom!" Coen exclaimed. "You look like you have a cow butt."

There. I'll just leave you with that. I will just leave you to think about that one. I know I am.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sometimes there are questions that lead you to many different answers.

I was taking a walk the other day and noticed, as I lapped the geese hanging out in the park for the third time, that some of them had thick necks and some of them had thin necks.  And then I wondered why that was.  I mean, that's strange.  Isn't it? Or maybe it isn't. 

So back at my computer, I Googled "Goose necks" 
And Google said, "Did you mean Goosenecks?"
Which I thought was weird. 
So in the search area, I typed, "No I did not mean goosenecks"
Then the first thing in the list was a review for a trailer hitch called a Gooseneck trailer hitch. And apparently there is just no other trailer hitch that's better.  So, if you're looking for a hitch for your trailer, Gooseneck Hitch by B & W Trailer Hitches is a good one.

But anyway, that was way in the wrong direction so I went back one page and saw that apparently there's a state park in Utah called Goosenecks State Park. Because it's all long like a goose neck. But also it looks windy (not windy like the wind is blowing but it's winding around a lot.  maybe windy isn't really a word the way I mean it.  Windish?  Windingy?  Anyway.)  It's pretty.  See?

But, pretty though it is, that did not answer my question at all.  So I Googled "thick v thin goose necks"
So Google asked me "did you mean thick or thin goose necks?"
I thought Google was being a little too concerned about semantics.
The first search under that was for a goose neck repair kit, and I wondered if it was a kit for a real broken goose neck.  But I imagine if a goose breaks his neck he's well...doomed.  gone like a goose.  (Or is it loose as a goose...) Dead meat.  (sorry, geese, that was a little unfeeling of me.)  But if you click on it, you see it is a PDF file and I couldn't really tell what exactly the kit was repairing.  There were nuts, bolts and washers and serial numbers.  I paged back.  The third in the search was titled "Confusing Domestic Geese."
I liked the sound of that.
It called to mind a bunch of geese in someone's yard playing keep-away with a kid who couldn't figure out which goose had his hat. 
But it was a long boring article about all the different kind of geese there are. I stopped reading after the first few sentences but there were a lot of pictures. I imagined different things for these pictures. See?

Heh heh heh.  She'll never figure out where I put that frog.

Hey! Hey! Honk!  Come back here, Margaret!  You bring that back!

Now listen Jim, we're getting mighty tired of this. You said it would five minutes FIVE minutes ago.

Anyway, finally I went to my tried and true form of Googling which is to Google the entire question that I want to ask.  I Googled "Why are some goose necks thick and some thin?"
And right away, on Yahoo Answers, someone had asked almost that exact question.  And Michelle, apparently, had the best answer.   So in case you're wondering, according to Michelle there are just different breeds of geese. Simple as that!  You can even go to and look them all up. 

I'll tell ya. I'll rest a lot easier tonight knowing the answer to THAT question.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Awkwardness Alternatives

So, I can be kind of awkward.  I can't really do small talk. I don't like idle chit chat at all.  I mean, what do you say?  And every time I find myself in a situation where I don't know someone that well, my awkward feelings grow enormously and I can't wait for it to be over. 
Once I arrived early to a party thing where I was meeting my sister and I hid in the bathroom until she texted:
Where are you?
So I wouldn't have to feel awkward just standing around not talking to people  Of course, when I emerged from the one stall bathroom to find several people waiting, I did feel a little awkward then.
Today, TWICE I found myself in this situation. Once with my intern. I'd asked her if she wanted to join us for lunch but I don't know her that well.  We got there before everyone and I was painfully aware of the fact that I 1. couldn't think of anything interesting to say to her and 2. once people I knew got there, she would see my weirdness change immediately into entertainingness.  And then again when I walked into work with a coworker and we silently walked towards the place where we would finally part when he went down towards his office and I, thankfully, toward my cubicle.  He mentioned the weather.  I responded with more weather.  But HONESTLY! Who cares about the weather? Why do we ALWAYS talk about the weather when we don't know each other. I mean for christsakes! We all have been outside. We KNOW about the weather. 
So I have come up with this list of TEN things I could say when I'm quietly and awkwardly sitting or walking beside someone I don't know very well.  Are you as awkward as I am?  You can try it too!
1.  I was thinking, I would be a horrible referee!  People would argue with me and I'd be like "I'M SORRY! DON'T BE MAD AT ME. You ALL WIN!!!!!"  How would you be as a referee?
2. I think it's funny how everyone says you should 'stop and smell the roses'. What are you supposed to smell in the winter?  What do you stop and smell?  Could you stop and smell the melons?  Melons don't really have a smell unless they're getting rotten.  You could stop and smell the air vent outside the bakery.  You can smell those in the winter.
3. Have you ever eaten and under ripe banana? What about an overripe one? If you could only eat under ripe and overripe bananas forever, which would you choose?
4. So, I have the Punky Brewster theme song in my head.  I can sing it to you. 
(then start singing )  This one, of course, runs the risk of things getting even more awkward, but you could pick a TV theme song that you think that the person with whom you are sitting, talking or walking would like... This also might save you from future time alone together.
5.  Knock knock.  (they would say, hopefully "who's there") and you would say Banana (followed by them saying "Banana who?) Knock knock (who's there) banana (banana who) and you could keep doing this until you get to your destination or other people show up. Then when you do you can say one last time Knock knock! (and they would say who's there) and you would say ORANGE! (and they would be so relieved and say "Orange who?") and you would say "Aren't you glad I didn't say banana?  And then you could laugh hysterically and like number 4, they would probably try not to be stuck alone with you anymore which would solve the problem.
6. If you could freeze time, for one hour, what would you get done during that hour RIGHT NOW?
7. Wouldn't it be funny if it were raining asparagus stalks right now?  If they make a face, or don't answer, then you could say, what do think it would be funnier if it were raining?
8. Oooh, is there a vote today? Shoot! What time do the polls close?  Who are you voting for?
9. I had a dream last night that (fill in name of coworker here) fell and broke his leg, but that the SAME coworker was also the only one there to get help!  Wouldn't that be strange?  I mean, how long would you be stuck on that before you actually went and called for help?
10. Also, you could just trip and fall down on purpose. Then you could spend the rest of your time either laughing, or convincing them you're okay, or having a much more adequate reason to feel awkward. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

This morning might have been some kind of record...

6:47 a.m.  I awake with a start to realize that it is 47 minutes after we usually wake up and we have over slept.  I wake Tad up (mostly by gasping loudly) and tell him to get in the shower and I'll get the kids up.

6:50 a.m. I have made coffee and am upstairs rousing two extremely sleeping children.  After they wake, I announce that if they can get up and dressed real fast that they can have a Pop Tart for breakfast (don't judge me.)

7:00 a.m. I am downstairs with two fully dressed children. Coen is immediately at the piano playing the Dr. Who theme song as I toss his shoes toward him.  Lucy is putting her shoes on sitting on the playroom floor. asking if they are on the right foot, reminding me of our Pop Tart options. (again, no judging)

7:10 a.m.  I am getting dressed in my room while Tad gets the kids' lunches and hats and mittens together before they leave. Coen and Lucy come into my room, coats on and Coen says something like "Wow mom, you're still not dressed?!" 
"Pshaaw!" I say to him.

7:18 a.m. I am packed up, coffee in hand, and on my way out the door, waving good bye to my family who is already pulling away in the minivan.

7:47 a.m.  Exactly one hour after waking up, I am walking into my sex ed classroom (WITH DOUGHNUTS, as promised --well deserved after last week's putting condoms on fake penises lesson) ON TIME for my class.  The only evidence of my morning is that my hair is still damp.

I have to say, I'm pretty impressed with myself.

Happy Monday.

Friday, November 15, 2013


Yesterday I got up, took the kids to school, went to run a girls support group, got a bunch of kids to do holiday themed paintings for a holiday card opportunity through work, went to teach a sex ed class to a group of adults with developmental disabilities, went grocery shopping, came home, dropped my car off for an oil change, replied to emails and calls for work, picked up my car, dropped the holiday paintings off at work, did some data entry for the groups and classes I'd done earlier, drove to my kids school and crammed in a 20 minute walk, and went to pick them up, breathing a sigh of relief that for the first time that week, I could just bring them home and spend TIME with them.

The rest of the week had  of similar days, taking the kids to the dentist, dealing with new insurance issues and waiting on hold only to be told that my husband is the only person who can access this information, never mind the fact that he teaches children all day and isn't available during customer service hours of any kind to do ANY THING!!!!  I had to work one night, went out one night, had a migraine one night......

And the week prior was full of a death of a friend, volunteering at school 2 days, working one night and a whole week full of daytime hours of work, not to mention a weekend that consisted of three birthday parties.

So when I showed up at school, and was reminded that I had an executive committee of the board of directors meeting, it was all I could do to not slump in childlike disappointment.

The meeting was fine but it became clear to me that as board secretary, I would have a lot more responsibilities than I realized.

Suddenly I found myself fighting back tears.  I tried with all my might to get out of the school building before they fell, but alas, I had to get my kids and find Tad and ran into the former board secretary and my friend on the way out and out they spilled.  She was wonderful about it but I thought, what kind of board of directors secretary am I if I can't even keep it together for the first meeting at which my duties are called upon?  

Obviously the answer to that is "a fine board secretary who just happens to be overwhelmed."

I'll be fine.  But man, dashing from a building in tears is not among the things a person wants to be doing in a person's adult, professional life.

Here's to a better week next week.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Here we go.

Oh boy.  Here it comes.

'Tis the season for spending ten thousand more hours in the morning getting ready to get out of the house.

Lucy came bounding downstairs this morning requesting her snow pants.


She declared then, after her shoes were put in her backpack and her snow things laid out (for an effing eighth inch of snow, I might add) that she didn't like the color.

"Those snow pants are too gray!"
"Ohh" Tad said, thinking fast, "But they'll change color in the snow and get more black!"
She hmphed in disagreement.
Lucy put her boots on first, taking an extraordinary amount of time getting them on and Tad requesting that I cut the laces shorter and then coaching me, whilst I did it, about how short they should be.


After Lucy struggled into her boots, she announced loudly, "OH! I have to put my snow pants on first!" And proceeded to struggle them back off.  Then she stared angrily at her too gray snow pants. I tried my best to ignore her.  After she had them halfway on, she remembered something I was hoping she would not remember.

"Mommy! Where's that snow suit I got?"

She got a full body snowsuit from a friend of hers but honestly, an EIGHTH inch of snow! Why do we have to start this charade with only an eighth inch?

She went and got that and spend another long time struggling into it.  Meanwhile I grumbled in the kitchen about my future few months and Coen walked past me and said, "I don't think it's necessary to wear snow pants yet. Does that make you happy Mommy?"

I looked at him and smiled and he went on, "I'm not doing it to make you happy but it's nice if it does."

Finally she got the suit on but then flopped all over the ground in frustration about the straps that went under her feet....the straps that when they went under her feet, it made it impossible to get her boots on.  "It's all SCRUNCHED!!!" She wailed.

Finally we figured out that the straps go on the outside under her boots and out she marched, happy as a winter clam. 

I, on the other hand, sat in my car, seething at the cold and the fanfare that goes along with snow and stupid winter.

Tad got out of his car and came to mine and I thought, yay! he's going to say something warm and encouraging...

"Where's Lucy's breakfast?" He asked, sounding annoyed.


I pointed him to it...well actually Lucy did, loudly "It's right HERE!!"  I don't know why she hadn't done that when he was looking for it, but who wants to make sense?  That would be boring.

Anyway, it's here.  And I shall have to take a deep breath and go with it, I suppose.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Lucy f-f-f-faces

Lucy turned six today.

Technically, she is officially six five minutes before I began writing this post. 

She was born at 8:35 p.m. after a fast, hard, painful labor.  She nursed immediately and as she did, I whispered to Tad, "Put some music on."  He put on Lavender Diamond and the room was filled with warmth and music and love.

After we were in my room Tad spoon fed me Jello while I held our new daughter and that moment is burned in my that I can go back to whenever I want...and I do.

She is not an easy child.  She is demanding and wild, particular and fussy.  But she is also intelligent beyond her years and strong and powerful and brave.  I know that now our fights over exactly WHAT COLOR IS YELLOW!!! And WHAT COMES AFTER TWENTY NINE! And how she would like the sleeves or the tag or the bottom cut off her shirt because they're "scritchy"... all that will give way to a young woman who knows what she wants, how to get it and how to take care of herself.  That's magic right there.

And she is so funny.  She makes faces that the most stoic among us crack up about and she understands the most sophisticated of humor and, of course, the importance of silliness.

Today my baby girl is six. Suddenly our house has no need for baby spoons and hooded towels.  Diapers are a thing of the past.  Booster seats and sippy cups are long gone.  I have two big kids. 

I'm not sure how it happened or when it happened.  But it happened. And you know, though sometimes Coen's mention of the day he drives or Lucy asking how old I'll be when she's thirty gives me momentary pause, a wish to make time stop moving...really, I'm glad they're growing up.

I like them both more and more every day and every year and I am so excited to see the human into which my big, loud, bold, wild child continues to evolve.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Oh, metaphors.

This morning I was driving to work and I was feeling a bit anxious to get there. I knew I only had about an hour before my day full of meetings and wanted some time to get something done (Isn't that funny how in the nonprofit world, meetings are often the opposite of getting something done...but that's another blog entirely).  So I was a bit impatient to get there.  As I drove towards my turn toward the highway, I saw that a woman was biking beside me.  She was going just slow enough that I had to slow down but just fast enough that I couldn't' turn in front of her.  And in my impatience, I sped up and found that I had to go right past my turn. 
As I drove up and down strange one-way streets, trying to get back where I was going, I realized that my impatience actually cost me much more time than would patiently waiting for her to pass had been.
And then I yelled out loud, alone in my car.  DAMMIT! That was a METAPHOR!!!
What I realized is this:
My biggest fault is my impatience.   Impatience while driving leads me to dumb moves like that.  Impatience with my kids causes me to miss out on possibly lovely moments of connection.  Impatience at work causes me to ignore certain emails or spend meetings with my insides trying to crawl out my eyeballs because I just want it to be over....
That's no good.
So thank you woman on the bike this morning for making me think about this.  I need to slow down, take deep breaths and just spend car rides and meetings and watching my daughter spend twenty five minutes putting on an effing sock (oh sorry; did I say that?) breathing and being appreciative that I AM ALIVE.  And I have it pretty good.  I know that's not always possible. I'm not ever going to be the mom who has the time and patience to allow her children to smell every frickin' daisy in the driveway (well, I don't even have a driveway).   But. I can be more patient.  I can remember that all there is... is THIS.  NOW.  That's all I have.  And whether now is a meeting or a commute or a seemingly mundane domestic moment with my kids or a party or a concert or a plate of spaghetti or thirty uninterrupted seconds to talk to my partner... that's what I have.
And I need to be more patient with that.  And with myself.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Karen Avery

This weekend I went to the funeral of my friend and mentor, Karen Avery.

For two straight hours people went up to the front of the room and talked about the ways in which she'd changed their lives for the better. 

It is because of Karen Avery, that I am where I am in my career right now.

She hired me as a Trinity Fellow (grad school intern) at IndependenceFirst.  She supervised me for two years and I loved being supervised and mentored by her.  She taught me about advocacy and the spirit of inclusion and about the disability rights movement. She gave me freedom and trust to run with my passions and therein I begin taking leaps and trying things that made my job so cool.  And when I wanted to stay at my job after I graduated, she encouraged me to create a position and then pester our executive director until he gave me a job. 

During our meetings together we would talk for ten minutes about the work I was doing and then spend the rest of our time just chatting. She taught me so much about enthusiasm and passion and about being a mom.  She was the first person to tell me that it is okay to have a day that you just don't feel like being a parent.  I never knew that until she told me.  And that we can love our kids with our whole hearts but sometimes we just want to be just us and that is okay.

She told me about Highland Community School, where her grandson Xavier was attending and her other grandson Caleb would be attending when he was three.  I bought her Highland Community School fundraiser coffee and then checked it out for myself and fell in love.  And now Highland Community School is our second home, both my kids going there and Tad teaching there.  And Coen has a best buddy in Caleb. 

My life is better because of Karen Avery and I feel a huge loss in her absence.   But.....  as AA Milne Said in Winnie the Pooh (one of Karen's favorites) "The most important thing is, even if we're apart...I'll always be with you."  I sat in Karen's office the morning of her funeral and I felt her there.  She'll be carried along in the work and life of those who loved her.

Be giving of yourself
Be present for the people who love you
Fight for justice
Be kind.

Thanks Karen.

Found this on Karen's Facebook Page.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What comes after 29?

So this is an actual conversation that took place betwixt myself and my clearly very tired daughter (She is in bed. Her lights are out):

Lucy: What comes after 29?

(Now here, just let me insert that my child asks me questions to which there are often no right answers. We can go round and round all day long and I can never give a right answer. So when she asked this question, you see, I was very excited. Finally a question that has a concrete answer! I can't go wrong!
Or can I?

Lucy: What comes after 30?
Me: 30!
Lucy: No! I already counted 30.  What comes after 29?!
Me: Ummm.... 30?
Lucy: No! No! I already counted 30!
Me: Lucy, honey.  I don't know what to tell you.  30 comes after 29.
Lucy: It didn't yesterday!!
Me: It didn't?
Lucy: (silent head shake) I already counted 30.  So..what comes after 29?

(Holy balls.)

Me: Sweetheart.  30 comes after 29. Look. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30.  See?
Lucy: I already counted 30!
Me: Okay, well 31 32 33---
Lucy: NO! I already counted 30. I already counted 40!
Me: Well, why don't you start from 50?
Lucy: I counted 50, then I counted 60! What comes after 29?!!  (completely crying by this point. I am trying not to laugh.)
Me: Maybe I should go ask Daddy. He's good at math.

(I go downstairs just trying to buy some time. Actually I'm hoping she'll just fall asleep. Tad's in the bathroom and unavailable to tell me what else might, aside from 30, come after 29.  I go back upstairs.)

Me: Hi honey. I talked to Daddy. He said that 30 comes after 29.
Lucy: (Frustrated) Look!  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9  10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30.  Yesterday I didn't count 30!
Me: Well, could you start from 30?
Lucy: I already DID!  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9  10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32.... (I am trying to suppress a smile.  Obviously I brought this on myself by counting in the first place. Meanwhile, she is still counting very angrily and loudly)....45 46 47 48 49 50! (then she cries)
Me: Oh, honey, it's okay. Sometimes you get lost in counting.
Lucy: No you DON'T!!
Me:  Sweetie.  I think maybe we should stop talking about this.  Do you still want Daddy to come check on you?
Lucy: I want you to!
Me: Okay, I'll be happy to.  I'll come check on you in five minutes.
Lucy: Okay.  What do you count to for five minutes?

Oh boy.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Yep. Buying condoms is still embarrassing.

So, I have a sexuality education class to teach today.  In this particular session, the students get to put a condom on a penis model to make sure they are doing it correctly.  Because, when condoms are used correctly they are 99.9% effective. And average use (the kind of use that may or may not be correct, or done in a hurry) is only 87%. Still better than nothing, but you may as well learn how to do it right!

At any rate, I ran out of the condoms I had for my classes, that I got from Planned Parenthood as part of my sex ed instruction materials. It's a lot of fun to buy condoms and even penis models when you're obviously doing it for work.


My class it today and I don't have time to go to the health center, so I took a trip to the pharmacy.

The windows were all darkened at Walgreens so I headed next door to the grocery store.  I went in and checked the health aisle. Nothing. Then the feminine hygiene aisle. What the heck! Where are all the condoms?  I realized...I'd have to ask.


I wandered around and found two grocery store workers standing against the meat counter. How appropriate.  I wanted to say "I'm teaching sex ed!" But I figured, I'm teaching my kids to do this, I should be able to do it to.

"Hello." I said.
"Hello." The gentleman who worked there said. He was about sixty something, moustache. White hair.  I did not want to ask this man where the condoms were.  "Can I help you find something?"
"Yeah..." I said. "Do you guys sell condoms?"
"Behind the service desk." He said.
I walked away and made faces of gleeful embarrassment as I walked back down aisle nine.

No one was at the service counter.


A bakery staff walked by. "You need something from the service desk? It doesn't open until eight."
"Oh." I said, disappointed.
"You need cigarettes?" She said. "Lottery tickets?"
I was going to have to say it out loud again.
"Condoms actually."
"Oh!" Well, he can get them for you. Just get in line there." She said, pointing to the checkout area.

I was going to have to ask again.  I looked at the clerk. He was maybe my age, rather awkward looking.


"Hi." I said when it was my turn. "Can you get me something from behind the service counter?"
"Oh. I don't think we have those back there."
"The man by the meat area *smirk* told me they were."
He went to check.  Digging around the cupboards, he didn't' appear to be having any luck. Then another clerk walked out. A young twenty-something woman.  His ears turned instantly red while he explained what he was looking for.
She looked over at me. "We can check the health aisle."
"Oh, that's okay." I said. "I already did."
The original clerk held up a box.  "This is all we have."  His whole face was red now, and I suspect mine might have been becoming so too.
The box read
"Oh, it's fine. There's not enough in there.  I need like twenty. Thanks for checking." I said. And got out of there as fast as I could.

Whooo.  Buying condoms is still embarrassing. I can't wait to tell my students about this experience.

Walgreens was open by the time that I left the grocery store.

Friday, October 25, 2013


Sometimes I think about how we're all just walking around with these universes inside us, just rotating around and floating there, free for the jumping in...and I'm blown away.

I just had a walk with a friend (to say friend sounds so simple, she's human being who I feel connected with completely...)  And we were talking about just the search for someone else who has a universe that they want to share.

Some people are so alive and I am just looking for those people to have in my life to connect to and be kindred and alive with.....

It's like we recognize each other, people who are alive or awake or open in the same way as we are.  We walk around in the world full of millions and millions and then there's a burst of technicolor, an exchanged smile in which you are saying, with your eyes: Hello. I know you. I recognize you. I see your universe and it is beautiful.

What a wonderful thing that is.

At work we have two women visiting from Argentina.  And yesterday I had lunch with them and just for the few hours we were together, the first time we've ever spoken...I felt so at home with them.  Because they wanted to jump in with me and be alive and talk about life and how lovely and difficult and strange it is...  We recognized each other.  Just think.  That was just a chance meeting... how many other people are there across the world that I could connect with the same way.  Wow.

I walk around all the time, just looking people right in the eye and smiling... And for all the people who think I'm just weird or odd or crazy....  for the few that look back at me and we recognize each other...we really SEE each other.... that's completely worth it.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


I love fall for the leaf piles and the gorgeous sunrises that I get to see. I love fall for Halloween and crisp weather. I love fall for the melancholy it somehow brings every year over times past.  I love fall for zucchini and squash and pumpkins, soup and apple cider. 

But.  Fall is also when I get migraines.  Fall is when we have to pull out coats, find they're too small and make plans to buy new ones.  Fall is when my kids get used to having hats and mittens again in the morning and come home having lost them. 

The fun-filled hayrides are balanced by the battle over whether to turn the heat on before November.

The jack-o-lanterns are offset by the putting up of storm windows.

The caramel apples are balanced by the sudden search for tights and socks and the putting away of sandals.

It's a veritable teeter totter of a season.

This morning I sat at a red light and felt the teeter-totter within me.  The sunrise was gorgeous and I was listening to a sad Remy Zero song.  I started to miss my friend Harald who died almost a year and half ago and I thought of the box of letters I have from him that I should read again.  And feeling sad feels so good sometimes because it fills you up.  Feeling bone-deep sad sometimes makes me feel so wide awake.  I like that.  It's fall and part of the world is going to sleep for the winter and it makes me want to try a little harder to be alive.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

It's probably for the best

I just returned from a tremendously wonderful trip to San Francisco during which I ate at an open air food vendor park, a farmers market and a really good Italian restaurant, and saw four of my Peace Corps friends, and laughed so hard my stomach hurt and rode a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge.

My friend Rebecca, who travelled with me, had her apartment broken into this month and they took everything she had of value which wasn't all that much and it was very sad for her.  But she had a sense of humor about it and told us that her mom said, of the situation, "It's probably for the best."

No to be fair to her mom, my friend had said that first because she figured at least without her computer she'd watch less TV at night and her mom must have heard second-hand that she'd said that, but still!

So over the weekend we were all together, "It's probably for the best" became a catch phrase for everything.
Crap! I spilled my coffee everywhere!
It's probably for the best.

Oh, man, they're all out of squash.
It's probably for the best.

We saw a guy fall off his bike onto the trolley tracks!
It's probably for the best.

And we laughed about that all weekend.  As a group, we are so interested in silliness and amusement and just poking fun at everything so that on Ryan's birthday, he said, "For my birthday I just want to tell you guys something without being interrupted, made fun of or mocked!" 
"Good f#cking luck!" said Rebecca and we all doubled over laughing.
No. But we gave him five minutes actually.  And we mocked the person in the story he was telling, by not Ryan.  I think we did a good job.

As always, it was wonderful to laugh so hard and talk so much and be together.  It was hard to have to say goodbye again for another year or so.
It's probably for the best.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Energy fields.

I got up at 5:30 this morning to go for a walk with a friend.

Now not too long ago, she was just a neighbor.  Just someone I saw walking around the block with her dog on a leash and her little girl in a front carrier...and I thought that she looked cool.  I wanted to be friends with her. 

But it was before we ever even exchanged a word.  It wasn't just because she looked cool...was it?  I mean, I've seen plenty of people who look cool and have no interest in being friends with them...  I've been around people who are completely aesthetically pleasing to me in the way they dress, wear their hair, concert t-shirts proudly proclaiming bands that I too like.  But there's no connection there, no kindred spirit.  But that's the thing, isn't it.  It's about connection.  And every person walking around, however they look or dress or present themselves...they have an energy about them. We all have this energy field around us and some energy fields are compatible with others and some are not.

And it's interesting to me...I mean, we caution teenagers and have to get to know someone over time before you know if they're truly a friend or someone you want to date.. but sometimes.. you just know.  Don't you?  When I met Tad for the first time...I didn't want to date him but I knew, I knew that he was a kindred spirit after just a 1/2 hour of talking.  In fact, every time I'd ever met someone new, I always sort of imagined myself inside my own head, on a ladder, looking out through a telescope.  Keeping a safe distance.  And then.  With Tad, it was like I got off the ladder, and came down to see him through my own two eyes.  It's like that with some people.  You can come down off the ladder and just look at them, eye to eye.

I just find it fascinating.  I see it play out with my kids too; I mean, there are kids on the playground whose parents I like and I want them to be friends with my kids...  But my kids choose their own friends based on their own energy field connections and when I watch them play together, it's like I can see it!  I can see their energies sort of dancing together and I think, yeah, that makes sense..they are connecting...  

I just think it's really cool.  And it's a good reminder that we are way beyond our hair and skin--our molecules and atoms.  We're way beyond the clothes we choose and our hair color and tattoos.  We're just force fields of energy walking around inside of bodies.  And finding each other in the places where we match.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Going to a party and staying for all of it

I know I've written a lot of introvert/extrovert in love posts....  So you probably know that when it comes to parties, Tad and I experience them our excitement levels to go them, in our desire to stay or leave and at what time...and our next-day feelings about it.

We went to a party on Saturday night. 

When I first received the invite to this party, I presented it to Tad.

"I really want to go to this party." I said. "And I want all of us to go, but more than anything I want to go the WHOLE thing. I don't want to be the first people to leave. I don't even want to be the second people to leave.  So we could all go, or I could just go with the kids.  It's up to you. But I want to go to the whole thing."

We all went.

And Tad made it clear that he was going to the party with me and that he understood I would most likely not want to leave. Ever.  Or until everyone was gone and we were being ushered towards the door. 

I had a lovely time and laughed and talked and ate chili and chocolate cake and squash and quinoa salad...  My kids all but disappeared with their friends. 

And about the time of night when I'm usually beginning to hide on Tad so he can't make eye contact with me and tell me its time to go, I found him on the porch happily engaged in conversation.

And we weren't the first to leave. Or even the second. In fact, we were among the last, all leaving together out into the cricket chirping, post-rain, almost ten o' clock, autumn night.

When the kids were buckled in and Tad shut his door, I reached over and grabbed his face and kissed him.  And said, "Thank you."

Going to a party and staying for all of it makes me very, very happy.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

It's complicated.

Last night I went to a meeting--a steering committee I'm on. And I was listening to everyone talk and throw out ideas for this conference we were planning.  I thought all the different stuff that goes on in cities and towns...  All the different non-profits doing similarly aligned things, all the different places serving youth, or people with disabilities, or elders or people of different racial and cultural and religious backgrounds... and it just hit me how very strange it is how most of us humans just want to be healthy and safe and want our friends and family to be healthy and safe...  But how we all disagree so much on how to do it...Or we're doing things working toward the same goals or missions yet not working together.  So many non-profits or government agencies are doing things that serve the same purpose but doing them in opposition to each other or in competition with each other and my sad that is.
And then on the way to work this morning, I listened to NPR and the news of the government shut-down and saw on Facebook how my friend Patti (and so many others are) now without work or pay and the people in the middle of needing government help at a standstill...until the shutdown shuts up.  And sometimes I'm just overwhelmed about how complicated it all is, all these SYSTEMS that have muddled and confused and mucked up just the very simple idea of humans (and animals, and our planet) being healthy and safe. 

I know it's all a lot more complicated than that...but we've made it so, haven't we?  I wonder what the answer is...

Monday, September 30, 2013

The line between respect and indulgence...

Effing picture day. 

If you recall, last year at picture day, they almost had to call me to come and help at school because Lucy was having a picture day breakdown.  The photographer said, "Smile!" And Lucy felt that she did smile.  But she was urged, cajoled and asked again and again to smile.  Resulting in her breaking down into tears and her teacher jumping to her aide.  At the end of the whole thing, it resulted in the above photo once they got to the group shot.  Which I will treasure forever.

So, leading up to this year's picture day, Lucy has been pretty high anxiety, asking, "What if they tell me to smile and then they don't think my smile is big enough."  I told Lucy that it was her picture and that her daddy and I are paying for it and we're fine with whatever face she wants to make.

This turned into her making a lot of pretty crazy practice faces, leading into the picture day.  I started to worry--will she roll her eyes?  Will she stick out her tongue?  I mean, I really am fine with whatever face she makes, but I don't want her to seem disrespectful either...   I told her that I talked to her teacher, wrote on the picture order envelope that she can smile however she likes...  She talked about picture day all day yesterday and into the night.  Obviously her anxiety around this is real.

But I wondered, am I indulging too much. I mean, when it comes down to it, it does seem a little ridiculous. Who cares?! Just smile for the picture for crying outside!  But my girl has boundaries and while she is a loving, smart, funny kid, she does NOT do things that don't feel right to her. 

This morning, she chose a red velvet Christmas dress to wear in her picture.  Then she asked me to cut the white fleece Santa Clause cuffs off the arms.  Fine with me.  She even brought a brush downstairs and asked me to help her comb her hair.  Then off we went to school.  As soon as we got to her coat hook, her friend came up and said, "Lucy! I don't understand why you don't just smile pretty in the picture like I'm going to!"  Tears immediately sprang to her eyes.

Obviously this is a big deal to her.  I kind of wanted to just agree with her friend, but I also was just beside myself that we had finally made it to picture day, she was feeling fine...and now we were in tears again.

Anyway, I got her situated in her room, and she clung to me and didn't want me to leave.  I knelt down by her and held her hands and looked into her eyes and told her that everything was fine and that picture day would be fine and that I'd come back and get her at the end of the day and she could tell me all about it.  In the end, her teacher had to come and hold her arm so she would stop clinging to me and I could leave.

Man, it's hard to be a mom sometimes.

And I had to wonder....where is the line between indulging her and respecting her very real and very powerful feelings of anxiety?

I know that people would have opinions about this from one end to the other.

But the truth is, I'm Lucy's mom. And I'm doing my best.  And I can only hope I'm doing right by her, respecting her fears, feelings and wishes...and pushing her to do her own thing.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Communication, force fields and marriage.

I wrote a blog post last month called working on my introvert care skills and I really have been.  Working hard on them.  That is.

Since my introvert partner is a teacher, I know that he has to spend his energy on at least thirty other people all day long. And then come home to be a parent to two more people and a partner to one.  Since I'm one of the only adults in this scenario, I try to make sure that when his energy reads of inwardness to me, that means he wants to listen to music or watch sports or read without me and my rays of loud energy that want constant reverb, playback, trampoline it what you will....So, I've been going into our room to read when he's on the couch clearly relaxing.  I've been trying not to take it personally when he just wants a little quiet and peace in the house. Event though I might want some togetherness and noise.   It's been going well...leading us to more understanding I think.


The other night, Tad sat on the couch, turned on music and seemed like he wanted to talk.  So I came in to join him. 
"SO!" I said. 
"I'm just turning some music on here." He said, smiling. 
So I joined him and started talking about my day.
Like this...

And he was listening as he drank his tea, relaxing, and the music played but I just got mad.  I didn't want him to listen to me with his eyes closed. I wanted him to lean forward in rapt attention! I wanted him to ask me really interesting and probing questions.  I wanted him to not look tired.  Or even be tired. I wanted him to find me so fascinating and enthralling, that it was like he wasn't even teaching all day long without any breaks! 
And frankly, I was very impatient. I didn't even wait more than thirty seconds into telling about my day before I sort of stormed off..  I was imagining the scene more like this:

Exploding onto Tad's force field of calm and tranquility. 

So when I went into the porch area to get some sewing supplies together and then knocked fifty drumsticks on to the ground with a lot of loud clattering and then walked back through the living room without looking at him, he said, "Hey. What are you doing?"

Turns out, he did want to sit and talk.  He did miss me.  He was just tired and happy to sink into the couch and relax while we reconnected.  Perhaps he could have opened his eyes and looked at me. But he didn't know how important that was to me.  Perhaps I could have waited thirty seconds longer and he would have reacted more how I wanted him to. But I didn't know that he actually did want to hang out. 

So funny how with just a little more communication...
Like if Tad had said, "Hey! I want to hang out with you tonight"
Or if I had said, "Do you want to hang out, or should I give you some space?"

We would have had a situation much more like this:

Like, I think, we both wanted in the first place.
Ah, what a lovely bunch of life lessons marriage can give us.
That's the sound of me making a loud, obnoxious noise.  

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Tonight at dinner Lucy was expressing concern about what one of her classmates said.
"She said I'm weird." Lucy said. "And she said I'm gross."

Tad and I immediately jumped to her aid and defense.
"You're not gross!" 
Tad got up and hugged her.
"But you are weird."

Lucy started to protest.

"That just means you're not like everybody else." Tad said. "You're weird.  I'm weird.  Your brother's weird!"

"Yeah!" Coen chimed in.  "Me and my friends are like some of the weirdest kids in the school!  At least that's what we're trying to be."

"Tell me about it." Tad said.

Lucy still looked a little unsure.

"Your mommy's the weirdest woman I ever met!" Tad went on. "Kids in high school used to tell me that I was weird when I was just walking around the halls, doing nothing!"

"Lucy" I said, taking her little hand, "It's wonderful to be weird.  You're wonderful and weird. And we love you."

Tad picked her up and tipped her upside-down. "You're a wonderful, weird girl!"

Lucy started to laugh.  

"We're all weird."

And this is where we belong.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Terrified...or how I just want everyone to feel good all the time.

We had four boys overnight this weekend for Coen's birthday.  This brought me a lot of anxiety.  First of all, Coen chose four boys for this endeavor.  I kept suggesting other boys to invite because, I worried, their feelings would be hurt were they not invited.  Coen wanted only four.  He's an introvert, like his Daddy, and he knows the number that will work for him.

"But it's an uneven number!" I said to Tad, still rallying for an extra kid.  "Uneven numbers are trouble."
"Maybe for girls." Tad said, "But for boys, you're fine as long as you have three or more. Three is the magic number."
"Man." I said. "Three girls at a sleepover spells DISASTER!"

But Saturday came and Coen's four friends arrived.  I could barely contain my buzzing nerves.  I was endlessly thankful that Tad is my partner. Tad, who is a teacher and handles 28 kids (more than half of them boys) every day.  Tad who is really really good at talking to kids reasonably, taking into account that they are human beings, but still getting them to do what he wants them to do.  Tad who is entirely even tempered and can laugh thirty seconds after reprimanding someone for saying "Shut up." to someone suggesting, that a person could--if shutting up were their aim--just ask the other person nicely to stop talking...

The other thing that stressed me out was that our neighbors were over when the party started and I was just so incredibly freaked out about hurting the feelings of the kid who was not invited to sleep over, though he joined us for dinner and left after.  I wanted to go knock on the door of his house and talk with his parents for thirty minutes about how much we like him and how much I am worried that his feelings were hurt...  Tad suggested that might be unnecessary. 

Tad and I stood in the kitchen talking while the boys ran up and down the stairs, laughed with each other, talking and playing...
"I'm like...terrified of them."  I admitted.  "What's wrong with me? I feel so incapable!"
"You're not incapable." Tad laughed. "It's a bunch of boys.  It's just boys.  Anyway. I'm just doing my part. I mean, you almost fainted when I mailed a letter the other day.  You do plenty around here.  I can handle this."
I thought about that.  That was true.  I spent the day prior cleaning out the basement, taking stuff to goodwill, trimming all the weeds and errant saplings around our yard.  I manage our household.  And for heaven's sake, I teach teenagers about sex for my job. 

Is it really that I'm afraid of these kids? No, I know each one of these boys, have known most of them since they were three years old.  They are sweet kids.  They are goofy kids.  They're not much different from my kid.  

So what am I afraid of?  What is it that gives me such anxiety, that keeps me from volunteering to take a group of kids in my son's class on an outing? That makes me so glad Tad's there to help during a sleepover? 

I all comes down to this. I don't want anyone to have hurt feelings.  That's why I wish we could have invited everyone in the world overnight so no one was left out.  That's why I felt nervous at the group of them. I mean...what if someone is mean to someone else? What if someone gets bullied?  What if I have to tell someone to stop being mean to someone else and that makes them feel bad? Oh my gosh, it's ridiculous! 

I mean, in my very smart brain I know that sometimes people just have to feel bad. It's a part of life.  To learn how to get through feeling bad and then feel good again.  But I just don't like having to tell someone to stop something or that they can't have something or just saying no to anything at all.  I know. It's completely silly.

I've been working on my practice for YEARS of being really nice to people--without being a doormat.  I totally can do it.  Anyway...that's just the truth about me.  I get nervous about having to do anything that might make someone feel bad in any way..  That's just me! Don't look at me like that!

Oh, I'm sorry! Did I hurt your feelings?  Oh my gosh, I didn't mean to. Here. Have a box of cookies.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Thanks Louis C.K.

Tad and I watched Conan the other night and Louis C.K. gave this wonderful speech about cell phones.  If you don't want to click on it, I'll tell you.  Basically he said that he's not letting his kids (who are 8 and 12) get cell phones.  Because they don't need them yet.  Because why rush the inevitable time when they'll live, not in the moment but in the constant checking and texting and facebooking moments so many of us live in now.  Because his job is not to make them happy, or do things he doesn't believe in for them just so they don't feel weird.  His job is to nurture the adults they are going to become...

I loved his rant.

I'll tell you why.

What he said rang very true to me.  Life is sad.  Life is so incredibly sad. And sometimes you just get hit with the realization or the thought or the feeling that you are just so very alone.  And that is terrifying.  So we text someone or call someone or go on Facebook to see other people so that we don't allow ourselves to feel that sadness. Or feel that loneliness.

Yesterday I had to go to a breakfast event and as I pulled away from my house I realized I had forgotten my phone.  And at first, I was like...should I go back and get it? But I kept driving.  And I parked at work and walked to the breakfast event (about a mile away).  And on my way there, I just looked at the city, coming alive in the sunrise and sort of just felt it breathing.  It made me want to yell "GOOD MORNING!"  And I was wearing my tennies, my fancy shoes tucked inside my purse to put on when I got there.  That made me feel like a real business lady!  I smiled most of the way there.

And had I remembered my phone, I would not have felt anywhere near that alive.  Because I would have called someone...or texted someone...or just looked at it to remind myself that I could connect with someone...anyone else.  But instead I connected with me.

And then, after the breakfast event ended, because it was supposed to rain, my coworker offered me a ride home.  I looked out the window as we left and said, "No. It looks like it's not raining yet. Thanks! I'll walk back."  And then I got outside and it was raining.  I guess looking out the window into an enclosed courtyard is not a good indication of whether or not it is indeed precipitating.  At any rate, I walked.  And I kind of grinned at people around me and not once but TWICE different business men offered space under their umbrellas at the corners.  And finally it was just me, walking in the drizzling rain and feeling wide awake and happy. I smiled at everyone I passed (and people either smiled back or avoided eye contact with me--really a pretty sane response either way!) 

I stopped and took a picture of my city, glistening wet in the rain and waking up.

And you know, I've done that before,  walked like that, only when I was feeling sad and let that feeling wash over me too. And I have cried like a big buffoon, just cried my eyes out for no good reason at all except that I just felt so tremendously overwhelmingly sad.  It it felt lovely.  How good it feels to feel!  So thanks Louis C.K. for the sentiment.  I want to crash through all the joy and grief and pain and love in my life and really let it in.

And I want to teach my kids to do that too. And I would change one thing about what you said.  I would say that I am nurturing not just the adults that my kids will become but simply the human beings that they are now, from whom they have grown and that they will be.  And do my best to teach them how to be alive.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The earth went around the sun ten times: Coen

 I went in for pre-op testing in January of 2003, the day before my ear surgery. 

"Any chance you're pregnant?" The nurse asked me.

"Absolutely not." I said. I was using birth control. I had returned from the Peace Corps only eight months prior.  Tad had just moved back to Milwaukee.  We were in love and just finally in the same country again.  Both of us making roughly $12 an hour.  Things were in flux.

That night, Tad and I watched a movie, trying to calm my nerves before my operation.  Then the phone rang.  I picked up. It was my ear surgeon.

"Alie." He said. "I am sorry but I can't do surgery on you tomorrow."

"What?!! Why?" I said in alarm.

"You're pregnant."

I fell to my knees.

After I got of the phone, Tad joined me on the floor, next to the phone.  I looked up at him.

"I'm pregnant."

The rest, as they say, is history.

Well, we called my parents for council and they came over and talked us through our panic, our alarm, our shock.  And they left telling us they would support whatever we chose to do.  I am not ready for this. I kept saying in my head.  But I looked at Tad who was remarkably calm and assured.

"We would have done this eventually." he said with a wry smile.

I called my parents back.

"Congratulations." I said. "You're going to be grandparents." 

And ten years later, I have this boy.  He is sensitive and wise and hilarious.  He can sing perfectly on pitch and hit a home run in one swing and draw the most amazing pictures that come from his own mind. 

He spontaneously grabs my arm and kisses it, looking up at me with his warm, hazel eyes, saying "love."  He changed my whole life around in the one, tiny, unexpected spark of his existence and I am so glad he did.

Coen.  Happy birthday.  This kid was meant to be, and I believe he'll make his mark on this world.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Joan Baez, music, and longing...

Three years ago I wrote this blog post about Joan Baez. 

Last night Tad and I were looking for a documentary to watch and he suggested the Joan Baez documentary that inspired the above blog post.  I told him no.  "I feel a terrible longing when I watch that one and I don't feel like feeling like that." I said.
Tad looked at me.  And wisely said, "Well if it's that strong, then you should do something about it."

Damn it.   I know he's right.

So here's the thing.  If you don't feel like reading the above link... I thought I'd be a singer and an activist in much larger fashion than I am currently.  But what I am, larger than life, is a mom.  And I have absolutely no regrets about that.  And my career has taken me down a path that is amazing and exciting and suddenly I'm a sexuality educator for young (and not so young) people with disabilities.  And I am honored and thrilled to be doing that.  But I'm still not making music.  Since I wrote that blog post and declared I needed to go to an open mic night, I have performed exactly once.  At a farmer's market.  So what gives?

If playing music makes me happier than almost anything, why am I not doing it? 

What is it that makes YOU feel wildly alive and full of joy?  Do you do it as often as you would like?

What keeps us from doing things that make us blissful?

I have an incredible job out in the world at IndependenceFirst.   I have an incredible job at home raising Coen and Lucy.  I'm very's just that something's missing.   
I still get out my guitar twice a month or so and play by myself or for my family.
But I feel like a I lack a community of people who want to gather and make music together...though I know I could create it if I tried or find it if I looked....

So how to find those people and get them together....

I know I need to do this. Tad's right.  If I can't watch Joan Baez without aching for a regular experience making music with others...then I need to do something about it.

Now, I just have to do it so I don't re-read this in three years and realize I didn't.