Friday, December 27, 2013

Proof that my Ovaries Have Not Totally Shriveled

I'm not having any more kids. Let's get that straight right away. There are reasons I have verbalized, and reasons that I sort of keep to myself (and a few other people), but the issue is decided. There shall be no more children. Heck, I would have been very unlikely to sign on for a second one had The Boy not gone and knocked me up twice at once (to trick me into having two, no doubt).

Now that we have that straight...

A couple of days before Christmas, MA started to tell us that she really wanted Paw Patrol for Christmas. Paw Patrol is a show in Nick, Jr. about six quasi-superhero dogs, but it is a new enough show that there is really no merchandise available (if it were Disney, they'd have half of Kids R Us stocked already). So, we had told her that Santa might not have Paw Patrol, but that she would love whatever he brought her.

On Christmas Eve, The Boy was putting them to bed, and I happened to be right outside of the door listening to the conversation. MA told him "If I don't get Paw Patrol, I won't be upset," and he complemented her on being such a big girl and reminded her that Santa would do his best to bring her things she would really love. Then, LK told him "If we don't like what Santa brings us, we won't cry!" And he reminded her that, while that was true, she would love what Santa brought her because Santa does a great job of trying to make little girls happy.

Next, she asked if Critters get Christmas presents. "Critters" is her word for her stuffed animals, and the most important, most inseparable of the Critters is a bear dressed as a bumble bee who goes by "Bumble Bear". Bumble Bear is about three years old, and has gone EVERYWHERE with her for those three years. And she just couldn't understand why Bumble Bear wouldn't get a present from Santa, and wasn't going to accept his explanation that critters didn't get presents. Which meant that he made the quick decision to re-address one of their presents to be for the critters...

Listening to all of this, which is totally representative of the way that he interacts with the girls, just made me all warm and fuzzy inside, and led me to stand in the hallway with a really ridiculous smile on my face. He is just so good at this. And there, for maybe half a moment, there was a part of me that almost decided to tell him "Get me pregnant again RIGHT NOW!!!"

The mood passed as quickly as it came, but it was definitely there for a second...

I've been silent for a while, but that's not a result of anything bad or really anything noteworthy at all. Girls are great, Munchkin is great...life is, basically, really good. I'll try to be a little more active in the new year...but until then, if I don't check in again, I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas, a very joyous Holiday if you celebrate something else, and that you are ready to tackled the New Year with Gusto!!!

Monday, December 02, 2013

I remember back when I was a blogger...

Have I ever mentioned how much I love stuffing? Were I single, and were it legal and feasible, I would absolutely marry it, and enjoy no other food for the rest of my life.

Now that I have that out of the way...

I hope everyone's Thanksgiving was as nice as mine! Lots of people, lots of food, lots of fun! We had Thanksgiving at The Boy's sister's place, which was nice and didn't require me to do anything other than show up and eat. The Boy was on mashed potato duty again, and he acquitted himself nicely...

Munchkin had a couple of guests for the weekend...Frenchie and her roommate. They were both pretty well impressed at the true depth of American genius: a two-day holiday devoted to nothing but eating! Things between her and Frenchie seemed pretty good, and I think that, without knowing better, a normal observer would have assumed that they were together. He's just a super nice kid, and while they are struggling with being Freshman in college in a long-distance relationship, they just really, really like to be around each other. So, I dunno...I hope they work something out.

Saturday was the now-traditional Thanksgiving Redux at Big Sis' house. For those keeping track, that means that we now have Practice Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving, and the Thanksgiving Redux every year. Because it's worth having three of them! No turkey at this one (or stuffing, sadly), but there are lobsters and other things that sort of remind me of summer, so that's all good:-)

And now...what the fuck...it's Christmas?!?!? Well, that certainly got on us in a hurry. We're gonna get a tree next weekend and do some decorating, and the onslaught of Christmas parties begins this week. That means I have to figure out which ones to go to, which ones to skip, and which ones we may need a sitter for. December takes an awful lot of planning...

Do you know what I really want for Christmas? I want So Midwestern to finally sign up for Match:-). I also want a Maserati, and frankly that seems more likely...feel free to badger her at will, we can break her down eventually!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Practice

Over the years, I have written quite a bit about traditions and rituals and how important it is to me to have things that mark time and signify special relationships with people. Just last night, for example, I had my regular weekly dinner with Munchkin, which we have done basically every week since she moved here, and have continued despite her now living across the river in The People's Republic. Our dining companions may change from week to week, but you can be sure that we'll be together for dinner on Thursday nights if we're both around.

Tomorrow night is another one of my favorite traditions: Practice Thanksgiving! I believe this is the 8th annual (although maybe my fourth?), and it consists mostly of The Boy's softball team and their spouses/boyfriends/girlfriends. Only one of two of them are really what I would call "close friends", but they are a really fun group and it is always a great time. And it is a co-ed team, which saves some of the awkward "Oh, the guys all know each other and the girls know no one..."

It's exactly what it sounds like: a practice run for the big Thanksgiving dinner. As one of the guys explained to me a couple of years ago (also, there is a LOT of booze), "Thanksgiving is simply too important to go into without warming up and working out the kinks. You need a practice run to get your plan in order...don't overdo the appetizers, avoid the garbage like green beans and cranberry sauce, and make sure you allow the appropriate plate and stomach space for stuffing. If you just showed up on Thanksgiving unprepared, you would be tempted to eat too much cocktail shrimp and crab dip, and by the time the bird shows up, you're all tapped out." It's pretty sound reasoning.

So, it is usually 25-30 people, and everyone gets dressed up (which in itself is kinda funny, since these people basically know each other in dirty, sweaty clothing...one of them got married a couple of years ago and a bunch of us were at the wedding, at which one girl on the team exclaimed to another girl on the team "Jenna, you're...pretty!!!") The captain of the team and his wife are the hosts, and they do a turkey and stuffing, and everyone else is in charge of bringing something, including a second turkey.

It's just really, really fun, and I look forward to it every year. We're on mashed potato duty this year (and by "we", I mean "The Boy") and there will be oodles of other food as well. Frankly, for reasons that many of you know, this is probably going to be sort of a tough Thanksgiving, and some of the regular traditions will have to change...but this is a purely fun one that should get the whole Holiday season kicked off right!


Monday, November 04, 2013

The Sad Hopefully-Not-End of the Great Trans-Atlantic Romance of 2008...

Sadly, the love story of the century has run into some complications...

College, as you are all likely aware, is a tough place to maintain a relationship. Especially a long-distance relationship, and especially when you are both super hot and very social. There are just too many attractive people around, too much flirting, too much fun to be had and too much judgment-impairing activities going on.

Not surprising, then, that Munchkin and Frenchie have hit a bit of a rough patch. They are not "broken up", but they are less together than they were two months ago. I would describe it as "struggling to find a balance."

Their original plan was to try and enjoy school without being super-clingy (from 400 miles apart). That sounded great in theory, but it is much harder in practice...which, sparing you the details (which aren't that scandalous, but I will keep them offline...You can email if you are that interested) led to some hurt feelings in both directions. No one did anything terribly regretful, and there was no kind of major blow-up, it has just been harder than they imagined.

I remain amazed at their maturity level...neither of them really blames the other one, or thinks that they did something "wrong" (well, at least she doesn't...I can't speak for him), but neither of them is really happy with the way things are. It seems to me like the options were to double down and basically declare a strict and deep devotion to each other, or to kind of step back and take a bit of a breather. They chose the second one.

I didn't really have any input in that decision, but I am glad that they decided to go that way. I think it gives them the best chance at remaining together in the long run, and I think it will give them both a better idea of how lucky they are to have each other. Nothing gives you an appreciation for a low-drama relationship like starting some high-drama ones:-).

They still have some work to do to figure out where they are now...I think we will see him at Thanksgiving, and she is still tentatively planning on going to Paris over her winter break. And she is not totally 100% happy...she's worried, and for good reason, that they will just not be able to find a happy balance. But she's at peace with their decision, and I am, as always, happy with her thought process and her approach.

So, fingers crossed, I guess. Whatever happens, she will be fine on the other end, but I hope that the other end somehow involves him. She loves him deeply, and he has been very good for her. And I would sort of miss having him around:-)


Monday, October 21, 2013

Am I an Adult?

I mean, that's a stupid question...clearly I am an adult.

But I don't always feel like one. Or, I don't always feel like I always assumed an adult would feel like. More likely, I just always assumed that adults felt more responsible and capable than they really did...

I have no idea what the point of this is, other than it being a thought that crossed my mind yesterday. I'm 31, I am married, I have two(plus) kids and a prestigious graduate degree. As compared to an average American, I make a ton of money and own an extremely valuable home. I am a responsible, voting, tax-paying member of society.

In other words, I can't really argue that I am NOT an adult. It's just that, well, I rarely feel like I am!

I still wonder (often) how on Earth someone let me have children. Do you have any idea how responsible and clear-headed parents have to be??!? How can I possibly be that kind of person? Can someone that responsible get sucked into Real World/Road Rules Challenge Marathons? Of course not!!!

I've known adults all my life...some who were clearly NOT upstanding, tax-paying, productive members of society. But they still seemed a whole lot more mature and serious than I do. My Mother, for example, was a drunk and spent almost her entire adult life on public assistance...and there are a lot of people that are much less productive than even she was. But I bet they can all buy a cucumber without finding it awkward (I can't...sorry!).

Whenever I meet other parents my age, I always think of them as being older than me, and having their shit more together. Other day care parents? Most of them probably are a couple of years older than me, but not dramatically...and yet I assume that they are all just so much more, well, adult than I am. I am fully aware that this is an absurdly illogical idea, but I can't help but think it.

Maybe this is not a bad thing...maybe I am just viewing myself as staying young (says the girl who was in bed by 9:00 both nights this weekend). Or, possibly I am just delusionally clinging to a youth that is long gone. I suppose those are both kind of just different reads on the same thing:-)

Anyway, I have absolutely no point. I guess I just found myself yesterday thinking that I am probably a whole lot older than I think of myself!

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

My next career

I think we can all agree that I have a lot of talents. Some of those are even things I do with my clothes on! I've confirmed, however, that I have one more, which many of your will likely agree is of great value...mother-daughter mediator.

I have quite a bit of practice around this, largely because Munchkin's friends and their mothers often rely on my to broker peace around things like appropriate clothing, acceptable activities and reasonable dating rules.

As mentioned, The Boy and I took the girls to New Hampshire last weekend with five of his friends, their wives and their children. I also mentioned that it was 12 adults, 11 children and one teenager, which is a key part of this story...

The Boy's friend is married to a girl named Susie (no, that's not her real name.) I like Susie a lot, even if some of the other friends find her to be a little overly serious and kind of dour. She's very smart, but she can definitely be a little bit of a buzzkill. Not really the point of the story...

Susie is 37, and she has a 17 year old daughter from a previous relationship. I'll call her Alice. Alice has a serious boyfriend of several months now, and on Friday, she informed her mother that she wanted to go on the pill. When I talked to Susie about this on Saturday, she was legitimately freaking out about this...not entirely sure whether she wanted to lock her in a convent, applaud her maturity and send her to the doctor, or throttle her. She is smart enough (and...um...personally aware enough) to know that she would be a fool NOT to get her the birth control once she asked, but since she doesn't have any other friend with teenage "daughters", she was spilling this on me in case I had any thoughts on how to navigate.

Now...there were a couple of things I kept to myself. Like, Susie is assuming that Alice is considering having sex and planning for it. I would say it is more likely that she already started, but would rather be on the pill than have to keep buying condoms;-). But I didn't think that needed to be verbalized:-D.

I started to tell her to first take a deep breath and relax, because this could be sooooo much worse (like, "Mom, I need you to buy me a pregnancy test..."). Then, in a wonderful bit of timing, Alice happened to walk out of the house onto the patio that we had been sitting on. And in a rare bit of levity, Susie playfully told her "Come on out, we were just talking about your sex life." Which was incredibly awkward for a second, and caused Alice to turn an immediate shade of bright red. But then actually led to a sort of reasonable discussion:-).

My basic take on this is..."Do what you think is right. Do what you are comfortable with because it is what you want to do. Make your own decisions knowing that you have to live with the consequences. And remember, your first time will always be your first time. It is not gonna be magical and romantic like a movie...just try to make sure that, when you look back on this 15 years later, your remember it and the person involved fondly."

Then I talked to Munchkin yesterday, and she told me that she had gotten an email from Alice (who she is friendly with) saying "Your sister is magic. Somehow I had a conversation with my mother about sex and it didn't make me want to jump off a bridge."  I also got a note directly from Susie thanking me and telling me how much better she feels about the whole thing, and about her daughter's decision making process and her own ability to talk to her about it.

So, I felt pretty good about myself. And there you have it...the foundation of my next career: mother-daughter mediator!!!

(Of course, when she forgets to take her pill and ends up pregnant at 19, I am gonna hide!)

Thursday, October 03, 2013

When I grow bigger...

My favorite bit of running commentary from the girls these days is the list of things they can do when they "grow bigger".

It's a lengthy, somewhat random list that includes:

  • Stand in the middle of the swimming pool
  • Drive
  • Drink soda
  • Take things off of counters
  • Use scissors
  • Eat spicy food
  • Sleep in big kid beds
  • Take showers
  • Watch scary shows and movies
  • Go running
 The list is actually quite long, but I have trouble keeping track of everything.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Chaos...

Quick vacation coming up this weekend...with some of The Boy's friends and their wives and children. Grand total? 12 adults, 1 teenager, 11 younger children. 1 House (with 10 bedrooms). I'm expecting it all to be very quiet, orderly and organized, right..?

It should be really fun. They are all fun people, and there should be just enough shenanigans to make us feel young, and then remember in the mornings that we are definitely not...(well, the rest of them, at least...I'm younger than they are!). We are going up to Conway, NH just to hang out and probably go to Storyland, to which I have never been but everyone seems to love. Some of the older kids may go to the alpine slides at Attitash, but I think the girls are probably a little young for that.

It is not quite the peak of the foliage, but it should be starting to turn the magnificent orange/yellow/red that only fall in Northern New England can really create. I'm assuming that there will be some pretty spectacular views to be had...and hopefully some nice weather to enjoy them!

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Backing up a bit, Munchkin made her first trip to Washington, DC to see Frenchie two weeks ago, which went swimmingly well, and he is coming up to see her on Columbus Day weekend. They are definitely both adjusting to college, but they seem to be figuring it out in their own way. It won't be easy for either of them - they are young and they both attract a lot of attention and, well, college... - but I feel like they will figure out some way to make it work.

Somewhat helpfully (maybe) Smoking Hot Roommate and The Rocket Scientist maintained a childhood relationship all the way through college 3,000 miles apart, so Munchkin has at least one guide if she needs it. I don't know of any two people who could maintain a relationship exactly in the way that those two did...but maybe she can offer some guidance, at least.

Munchkin is loving school, though. She likes her classes so far, she has made a million new friends and is just loving the whole atmosphere and the newness of it. We still talk almost every day, and she has something new to be excited about every day. I'm just really, really, really happy for her...she is on top of the world!

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I was traveling last week, which is part of the reason I've been blog-quiet. And I won't tell you specifically where I went, because I will tell you that it is the winter home of Alyson at So Midwestern's somewhat-mysterious non-boyfriend, The Coach. I did not, however, do even one little bit of stalking...although I totally would have if she asked me to!!! I did take advantage of the hotel's spa, though, and I am absolutely going to try and expense that massage and see if someone approves it...hee hee. If I had to fly across the country, it seems like a reasonable accommodation, right? I'm glad you all agree...

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Things that make my heart swell up for no apparent reason: I was out a couple of weeks ago with some girlfriends, and a friend of mine told me that she had seen Munchkin the day before. I asked her where, and she told me that she was near her school for a morning meeting so she called her to meet for lunch. I'm not sure why I find that so adorable...I guess that I just like knowing that other people are looking our for her:-).

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Fall

As it seems to do every year, Fall brings nothing if not a series of really packed weekends! Between catching up with people I haven't seen all summer, back-to-school related things and just general Fall events, the schedule fills up really, really quickly. Some highlights...

Last week started with sending Munchkin off to school, then The Boy left town for a couple of days for a conference, but not wanting to miss the first college-era chicken fingers, I got a babysitter on Thursday so we could go out. Then, since I already had the sitter, I met up with some girlfriends afterwards and probably stayed out too late:-). It was, as always, an interesting conversation about a lot of things, some of which involve parenting and marital issues that I may talk about some more later.

Friday night was a spectacularly relaxing night at home with The Boy that seems like the first in a very, very long time. It may or may not have been led by a series of slightly suggestive text messages, and also may or may not have been just a tad bit mischievous:-). But whatever, the girls went to sleep early, I hadn't seen him pretty much all week and he knows just how to make me feel like the most desirable girl in the world...mischief simply can't be avoided sometimes.


Saturday started with a birthday party and then a trip to bring the girls to see Munchkin's dorm and then an Oktoberfest thing with some of The Boy's friends (after an artificially roundabout drive so that they could get a reasonable nap in the car). For basically being a beer festival, it was surprisingly family-friendly! By the time we got back home, the girls were exhausted and fell right into bed, which is always nice. Then I got a killer foot massage...that may have actually been the highlight of the entire week.

The girls had another birthday party to go to on Sunday, which devolved into a dozen or so three-year olds jumping in a kiddie pool. Fun had by all! After nap time, we met up with some of their day care friends and took a pretty lengthy walk for dinner. All in all, not a bad weekend.

This weekend includes another party at a friend of The Boy's, and swimming lessons (I think...I have to check on that) and dinner plans. Sunday means the beginning of soccer, and a cookout if we can squeeze it in, too. Busy, busy, busy!!!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Empty Nest

OK, so calling my condo and "empty nest" when there is a pair of three-year-olds running around is a bit misleading, but the cruel fact is that the residency level has dropped by 20%...

Last night was Munchkin's first night in her dorm, which makes me a little bit teary. We move most of her stuff earlier this week, and she has been back and forth a bit to meet the kids on her floor, do some orientation stuff and to bring some other stuff over. But last night was the first night she actually slept there...

I'm not quitting her cold turkey, though! She is back for chicken fingers tonight, obviously, and will probably stay at home. He classes don't start until next week, so she may still be back and forth a little bit before she is really there full time. And maybe she will still be back and forth all the time...I'd be totally cool with that!!!

I forgot to mention that we met her roommate when we were in Paris. The roommate assignment process is very detailed, so I have kind of assumed all along that Munchkin's profile of being local and French-fluent would be likely to land her a foreign roommate from a French-speaking country. So, not the least bit surprisingly, he roommate is Ivorian...at least technically. She was born in the Ivory Coast and lived there for maybe half her life, but then re-located with her family to suburban Paris.

In a level of cuteness that makes my heart want to explode, Frenchie actually met her about two weeks before we did...the assignment came, and being relatively close to each other, Future Roommate and Frenchie met for lunch. He approved, which was a good start.

And then we met her when we were there. She seems very serious, but not overly tightly-wound, and she is very personable and her English is just as good as Munchkin's French, so they can get to work on inventing some kind of weird hybrid that only they will know. I think they will get along just fine!

We are headed to the beach for the last weekend of the summer, which makes me so incredibly sad. I am very much a creature of summer, and while I like Fall just fine, I hate Winter so much that its impending arrival actually makes me kinda hate Fall, too. I suppose I will get over it...

I guess that's it. I am just going to go on pretending that I am not a complete emotional basket-case over the growing up of my sister:-)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Being Adventurous

Hi there...yea, remember me? I'm the girl that used to blog here every once in a while...

Please, just ignore my two week absence, and pretend like nothing really happened (I mean, OBVIOUSLY you all noticed, right?) In my defense, I have been otherwise occupied with things that were simply too much fun to take time out to blog...

The trip was absolutely fantastic...I loved every minute of it! Munchkin had a great time, Frenchie's family are super great hosts, and MA did absolutely awesome. She had one super meltdown on about Day 7 because she was tired and missed her Daddy and Sissie, but a little Skype and an early bedtime took care of that and she was back to 100% the next day. Frenchie's Mom kept encouraging me to leave her so that she could babysit:-)

I'm gonna spare you the day-by-day details, but I am going to give you two stories about being an "adventurous traveler". I don't mean this in the sense of doing crazy things, but more in the sense of making an effort to meet people and do things that might be considered socially awkward.

We arrived on Thursday, and Frenchie's Dad, who always looks out for me;-), informed me that he had asked two younger women that he works with if they would be willing to take me out on Saturday night, and they had enthusiastically agreed. Hang out with people I have never met who may or may not speak much English? Sure...why not...I told him I was game, and asked him to find out what I should wear:-). The answer came back "Club clothes"...

So, come Saturday, I tucked MA into bed, hopped in a cab and went to some random apartment to meet two random girls for the night. They had a couple more friends over (because the French pre-game just like we do!) so we hung out for a bit, had a couple of drinks and then headed to a ridiculously Euro-trashy thump-thump dance club. They, and their friends, were really nice, and found the whole situation as ridiculously awesome as I did. From their perspective: "Our boss' boss' boss randomly dropped by, told us that his son's girlfriend was visiting from the States with her older sister in her late 20's (he even lied about my age!!!) and asking if we had any weekend plans could she come with us. What's not to love?"

Never mind that I didn't understand a single word that anyone said to either me or anyone else while we were at the club, and I was exhausted all day on Sunday...it was super fun, and just the kind of thing that I love to do. I mean, when am I ever gonna do that again? And now, I have my own Parisian friends...win!

Skip ahead four days now, and we were spending our first day on the beach in Nice. MA was walking around exploring and I was following her, just kind of enjoying the day. We came across two girls, slightly younger than me, one of whom had on a super cute bikini. Being the overly-social creature that I am, I asked them if they spoke English, which they did, and then told her I liked her bathing suit and we just started talking. Before MA got away, they told me that they were going to be at a certain bar for cocktails and that I should meet them there.

So I did, along with another girl and two boys that they were with. Kind of a weird group, very much of the "nation-less European aristocracy". As best as I could tell, they were basically Italian and Spanish, but there also seemed to be a lot of talk of residences in Switzerland and Germany and France. There did not appear to be much talk of having jobs, or the need to have jobs. But they all seemed to like the idea of having an American around, and while the word "arrogant" would not be inappropriate, they were pretty fun and I had a good time with them.

And then I mentioned that I was hoping to go to Monaco, they all jumped on board immediately, and an adventure was born! Fast forward a day, and miraculously there appeared a black stretch Mercedes and we rolled in our best movie-star style. The Casino was, frankly, a disappointment...at least as a casino. It's a spectacular building and worthy of looking at, but it is a whole lot smaller and emptier than the Vegas casinos, and is positively dwarfed by the Connecticut casinos.

We stayed there for a little bit because one of the boys wanted to play some roulette, and then we had dinner, some more drinks, danced a bit and just basically hung out. I probably drank too much, but it didn't get too out of control;-). The company was fun, even if it was a little "different" (you'll definitely want to ask me in private for the rest of this:-)).

The moral of of the story is, I guess, when traveling, do random shit. Everyone knows where the museums are, but the stuff you will really remember comes from meeting people that you can only meet if you get a little bit socially adventurous!


Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Choosing Children

Stephen Colbert suggests that we all pick a favorite child, but not tell our children which one it is. That will keep them guessing...

I may not have picked a favorite child, but I did have to pick one to bring to France with us, and LoriS-C asked me how I made that choice. Which means someone else probably wondered, too, so here's the answer...

It's a combination of things. LK needs less sleep, and she is much better when skipping a nap or taking a short nap. She can also concentrate longer, so she'd be better on the plane...she can color or read books quietly for longer stretches. She is also smaller, by about 3 pounds, which makes her easier to carry when need be.

But she is also a little more high-strung...and more a creature of habit. MA kind of rolls with things, and I feel like she will just be a little bit easier to have away from home for that long. LK has also gotten into a bit of a habit of throwing tantrums over what amounts to essentially nothing, and I would rather not deal with that!

So, MA gets the prize and gets to come with us! And LK gets her Daddy all to herself, which she will enjoy very much. I'd be pretty surprised if she slept in her own bed more than half the time:-). I think The Boy is looking forward to it quite a bit...they may have a dinner date every single night...

It's the first time they have been apart for this long, so I have no idea how they will react. It will probably be weirder for LK, because she will still be at school with her friends and teachers, but no sister. For MA, everything will be so different that not having her sister may not be as notable. They will definitely miss each other, that's for sure!

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Some Bad, Some Good...

Busy stretch around here, filled with all kinds of highs and lows....

I'll back up to last week, when The Boy's Uncle died, somewhat suddenly. He had a heart attack a couple of weeks ago, and the initial prognosis was actually quite good, but then he developed an infection and his kidneys stopped working, and then there were a couple of weeks where he seemed like he was getting better, only to deteriorate. Finally, it was simply too many things at once, which probably combined with his deep longing for his wife, deceased five years ago to take him.

That made for an emotional week, not at all helped by what proves to be a somewhat messy situation between his two sons. They don't get along at all, and while they are very different, they are both, in different ways, totally self-absorbed. Also, son #2 has a son and an ex-wife that complicate things...but probably not how you would guess. I'll spare you the details (they aren't secret...I'll happily tell you if you are curious, but they are long!) but there is a little bit of money, and two houses and no will. It could be very simple, or it could be very complicated, depending on whether the sons choose to make it so. And as something of the resident family expert on such matters, The Boy may end up getting dragged into it.

But, for the love of God, people...write a will. It's not that hard, and it's not that expensive.

So, the funeral was Friday, and it got worse from there! Papa Bear's adorable, beloved golden retriever died on Sunday:-(. She's been around for longer than I've been around these parts, and she was just the best dog in the world:-). The girls loved her, and have been very good about giving her gentle hugs and head pats all summer long because they knew that she didn't feel good.

She was very healthy until earlier this summer, when she seemingly hurt her hips and had trouble walking. But it turned out that she hadn't hurt her legs at all, but had actually gotten a very fast-growing tumor in her stomach that just basically sapped all of her energy. She never seemed to be in any discomfort, but she got very lethargic and lost her appetite, and within the last week and a half she couldn't stand up on her own (she could still walk...she just needed help getting upright!) and stopped eating entirely.

Papa Bear had already decided as of Saturday night that he was going to have to have her put down on Monday morning when the vet opened, but she died peacefully with several people around her on Sunday afternoon. And yes, I am crying writing this:-).

I told the girls that she was very, very sick, and that she had to leave us to go to Heaven, but that she would be with her doggy Mommy and doggy Daddy. We had been preparing them for that for a couple of days;-). They were a little sad, but didn't seem too phased by it...they asked who came to pick her up to take her there:-)

Enough with the sad news, and on to the good stuff...Great Euro Trip 2013 kicks off on Thursday!!! Munchkin, MA and I leaving for Paris for about five days, and then Nice for the rest of the following week, returning on Sunday. I doubt I'll blog, but I will have my laptop, so maybe I will...

Until then, though,

Au Revoir!


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Treinta y Uno

I notice that none of you remembered my birthday...ahem. In the words of Homer Simpson, I hope you are all baking me a giant chocolate apology cake right now!!!

How'd I spend my birthday? Funny you ask...

The day started out wonderfully...the girls had cards for me, and The Boy informed me that we were headed out to dinner to celebrate, and a babysitter was coming over to watch the girls after work. Then, I got to work, and they had a cake for me...so, until 9:30 or so, everything was going pretty darn well...

Then, it all got out of hand really quickly. Boss Foxy gave me mission...the kind of unusual people-management issue that I always get assigned, and a couple hours later, I was in Memphis, TN. Mostly, I was there for the purpose of helping someone realize that they really DID want to move their family from their comfy life in Memphis to New York City for the purposes of taking the COO job at a portfolio company of ours.

As ridiculous as that was, and sparing you the details, it was basically a cause after my own heart, and was not unlike a somewhat similar incident from my own kinda-distant past. And I happen to be in a pretty good position to address the concerns they had, so it wasn't real hard to make the pitch.

So, one night in Memphis, another meeting in the morning and then back home by early afternoon. And then a nap, which I woke up from when the girls came home and ran in to get me.

In the end, an unusual birthday, and if I simply cut out the 24 or so hours in transit...it started and finished really well!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Odds and Ends

I survived my solo-mothering stint unharmed, and the girls were none the worse for wear. If I didn't already have a serious appreciation for single parents, I certainly do now...it's exhausting! And I was a little surprised to find out that it's apparently not that uncommon to have never been alone with the kid(s) for a couple of days in a row at that age. Nor was it unusual to be a little apprehensive. Once again, the blog world made me feel better:-)

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Moving on...it's been a very summery summer around here...hot, humid and oppressive. Perfect weather to escape to the beach every weekend, indeed, which we have managed to do quite a bit. My love of The Beach House is pretty well documented at this point, and it seems to get stronger all the time...especially in these really prime July weekends where the house seems to be bursting with people every weekend. It was jammed on July 4th, and busy last weekend, and this weekend it will be really busy again.

This is the start of Smoking Hot Roommate's Mom's Family week at the beach (which really ends up stretching closer to two and a half weeks:-P). It continues to be one of my favorite traditions, and I think I can speak for Papa Bear, SHR and Big Sis in saying that it is one of theirs as well. It's like equal parts beach party, family reunion and celebration of their Mom. Always a good time!

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And...I'm going to France, and I think we're going to bring one of the girls with us. It will be a long time to be away from home for her (probably LK...but that's TBD) but I think it'll be fun. Frenchie's Mom was a very strong proponent of this idea:-). Munchkin has an orientation at the very end of July, and we are planning on going right after that, probably for 10 days or so. Same as the last couple of trips...we'll split the time between Paris and Nice without any real agenda. We'll play it by ear!

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The girls have graduated to a new classroom...they are in pre-school, which will be their home for maybe a year, and then pre-K and two years from September, they will start Kindergarten...almost can't can believe I am even thinking about that yet! We haven't actually decided on where to send them to school...there are a couple of options, all of which have pluses and minuses. (Also, all of which are grossly expensive, but there is nothing I can do about that, other than move to the...shiver...suburbs.)

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Anyone have anything interesting going on this summer? I feel like ours has been sort of unexciting, but really fun. Not a bad way to do it:-)

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Embarrassing motherhood admissions

I've never totally felt like I am entirely, 100% comfortable as a mother. I suppose I am not sure that anyone is, but it seems to come much more naturally to a lot of women than it does to me. Which, I suppose, is sort of odd, since I have more experience at it than just about all first-time Moms do...even if that experience is more with teenagers than with toddlers.

Which brings me to kind of an off confession, and one that is frankly even a little hard for me to believe. The Boy has to travel for a couple of days, and with Munchkin at the beach and Smoking Hot Roommate also out of town...I think this is the first time I have ever been solely responsible for them for this long.

I know, right? Kind of ridiculous...but every time he's been away, either Munchkin or SHR or my mother-in-law have been with me. I think there was a day when I took them to the beach by myself, but The Boy probably joined us the next day (or maybe late that night...) but I am like 99% sure that I have never actually been alone in charge of them for two whole days and nights in a row.

[Which is also a gross misrepresentation since they will be in Day Care all day both days]

Obviously, this shouldn't bother me...I mean, they are over three years old, and I am perfectly capable of feeding, bathing and dressing them, getting them to bed and getting them to school. I do that pretty much every morning anyway. I've managed to get them to this point in their lives without any major hiccups, so clearly I can handle two days of single-motherhood. And saying that I was "scared" would be an overstatement, too. I'm not actually concerned that something will go wrong.

But...um...yea...I'm also not totally and completely un-nervous, either.

So, um, yea, that is my confession for the day. My kids are over three years old and I have never actually been alone with them for two days at a time.

I'm hoping you won't need to wish me luck.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Who doesn't love a four day weekend?

Quick check in, because I will be gone all weekend so not writing today would mean likely a LONG time between posts...

Munchkin's preposterously large, completely over-the-top graduation party was last weekend, and it was a smashing success. It included:

  • a Tent
  • a LOT of people (maybe 300 at one point or another during the day?)
  • Surprisingly good weather - the forecast said overcast, maybe some rain...it was sunny and hot!
  • One adorable French boy who is now here for another week
  • Copious amounts of BBQ - ribs, brisket, chicken, cornbread, coleslaw, baked beans, corn and oh, so very much pie!
  • Several of the Chicago folks
  • An awful lot of beer

Munchkin felt loved, which was kind of the whole point, and as I told So Midwestern yesterday, she does very well as the center of attention. That actually sounds bad...I don't mean to imply that she seeks or demands attention, just that her reaction to something like this is an overwhelming joy at having so many people around that she cares about.

And many, many thanks to Big Sis who did the vast majority of the work to pull this together. It was her house, and she took care of the food and the tent and everything else. I really only had to deal with inviting everyone and delivering the guest of honor:-).

She and Frenchie have been at the beach all week, and the rest of us are headed down tomorrow (except for The Boy, who is headed down with his friend on his friend's new boat...one of the three worst ideas I have ever heard;-)). Should be a great weekend! The house will be packed, the weather looks good, and it's a full four days long. How can that possibly not be awesome?

I'm going to leave you with a question that I have sort of asked before, and which is prompted by observations of parents and later-teenaged children at the same party:

How did you parents treat alcohol around you at almost-drinking age? And how do you (or do you plan to) treat it with your kids? If you are at the same place, and not traveling anywhere, would your parents let you drink...a little? A lot? Strictly forbidden?

My observational analysis says that this is all over the place, so I'd like to hear what you think!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

On Nelson Mandela, George Washington and Greatness

Nelson Mandela appears to be gravely ill, and tributes are beginning pour out from all corners of the world. Clearly, I am in no position to say anything special that won't be said elsewhere, but that isn't going to stop me from postponing work this morning for a couple of minutes while I give you my thoughts.

I think we have established that I am not an overly sentimental person, nor do I tend to overtly idolize people I don't know (although I have maybe been known to be a little bit hyperbolic). I also tend to be pretty hard on elected leaders and public officials. But you know what I am going to throw out there today? For all of the praise heaped upon Mr. Mandela, I actually think he is somewhat under-appreciated as a historical figure.

I'm sure that seems a little strange to say about someone who is pretty universally adored and rarely, if ever, criticized. So, let's examine the whole story...

Mention Mandela, and almost immediately the thoughts of most listeners go to his achievements in leading the fight to overturn Apartheid. And indeed, he led a revolution from a political prison, laboring tirelessly under extreme oppression to push a consistent message of equality and democracy. Ultimately, his revolution came peacefully, through negotiation and election.

But that, to me, is only a small piece of the story. History is littered with revolutionaries, many of whom suffered similarly to throw off horribly oppressive regimes. What there are very few of, however, are revolutionaries that transitioned seamlessly into effective governors. In fact, there is a much longer list of revolutionaries who became absolute monsters - Mao, Pol Pot, Castro, Amin, the Ayatollahs...

Mandela joins only a small list of people who led a revolution, but then became a nation-builder. He served as the first democratically elected leader of the post-apartheid South Africa, and his government was marked by inclusion, openness and development...never once with feelings of revenge or retribution. He spent 27 years in prison for demanding equality, but from the day he was released, his entire focus was on moving forward, not on delivering punishment for the past.

There is, as far as I can see, only one real historical parallel to Mandela: George Washington. While they led very different types of revolutions, both were the unquestioned leaders of their struggles. After winning their prize, though, both instantly became effective executives firmly devoted to the business of governing and to the principles of democracy and self-rule.

And most importantly...the truly remarkable, unmatched historical event...they both voluntarily ceded power. After the American Revolution, Washington appeared before Congress to return to them the commission as Commander in Chief that they had bestowed upon him early in the war.  He ignored the likely temptation to use his status as head of the army to install himself King, and established the principal that no man is bigger than the nation, and that the military answers to civilians. It was this act that led George III to say "If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world."

Just to drive the point home, Washington did the same thing again after he was called out of "retirement" to serve as President. After serving two terms, and guaranteed of an easy, landslide election for as long as he cared to serve, he voluntarily chose to step down and once again established a standard (now a law) that no person should hold the Presidency for longer than two terms.

Nelson Mandela did the same. He served one term as President, establishing a forward-looking, conciliatory tone for the new South Africa, and then turned down the opportunity to be President for life, with an unlimited ability to expand his own power.

And that, more than leading a revolution, is why I think he is under-appreciated. He stands, in all of recorded history, on the smallest and tallest of pedestals reserved only for those immune to the corrupting influence of power.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Things that Entertain Me

Last night was the JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge in Boston...a massive (like 12,000 people) race from Boston Common, through the Back Bay and back.

I didn't run, but a handful of guys from our company did (also, The Boy did, so I stayed home with the girls instead of walking, which I could have done).

Two relevant facts about the guys I work with... First, they are hyper-competitive. It is totally normal for lunch to turn into a sandwich-eating contest, and they can turn almost any activity into some kind of a game. Also, they can wager on it...

Second, they are largely ex-athletes, with a focus on the "ex". None of them are quite in the shape that they were 10 or so years ago...but their desire to beat each other remains very strong.

The result? I would describe the office today as looking something like a scene out of The Walking Dead, only the zombies are all wearing suits... And there is a lot of groaning and grimacing...

I assume that my job, obviously, is to think of reasons why they will need to carry things, bend over and pick them up, or reach onto shelves to take this down or put them away...I appreciate any ideas you may have!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ummm...

How did nobody tell me that the Bruins are playing the Blackhawks for the Stanley Cup? I'm going to have some pretty serious rooting conflicts here...

Monday, June 10, 2013

OK, OK, no more Munchkin bragging...after this last one...


I am full aware that I have written nothing of late other than stories about how awesome my sister is, and how much everyone loves her, me included. And I absolutely promise to stop, as I am sure that it is not the least bit interesting for most of you.

After this one more:-) And I will warn you right up front, this is incredibly stupid, and largely reads like a bad subplot in a John Hughes movie. But, it's my blog, I will write whatever I want!

As mentioned, Munchkin has a good boy friend from Generic Suburb, and she went to the Generic Suburban High School Prom with one of his friends last Friday night. She probably has half a dozen "good friends" from this school through this friend and through a girl in her previous class that is also a good friend (and was also at the same prom with another boy from the same group of friends.)

Munchkin's date, who I will call Billy for absolutely no reason, is a cute, sort of shy boy that she has known for a few years. He also has something of a crush on another girl in his class, who I will call Rachel for similar non-reasons. Billy wanted to ask Rachel to the prom, but he chickened out, waited too long and didn't ask her before another boy did...a boy who has been described to me only as "a douche."

During the prom, Munchkin was talking to Rachel, who she also knows through all of these kids, and was asked if she and Billy were dating at all. Munchkin told her that no, and that Billy probably would have much rather come with her. Rachel admitted that she was hoping Billy would ask her, and was disappointed that he never did...but didn't really know if that was because he really wanted to go with and had already asked Munchkin, or if it was something else.

So, Munchkin, playing Matchmaker, told Billy that he should ask Rachel to dance, and that he should tell her that he really wanted to ask her, and that he feels like an idiot because he waited so long. And not to be afraid to tell her that it was because he was nervous because he really likes her. And then maybe to kiss her, too:-).

Which he did, which led to Rachel ditching her douche of a date and heading out for the weekend with Billy and Munchkin and friends. And explains why Munchkin was so happy about her date leaving her for another girl:-)

Yea, I know that's a stupid story, but I found it cute!


Thursday, June 06, 2013

Promming

In addition to her speech writing skills, Munchkin is an enormously in-demand socialite. This is always a busy time of year for her (I'd be pretty surprised if anyone in America has gone to more proms than her) and this year is particularly full. If possible, next year will be worse...since she has more friends from her original class (who are now juniors) than her graduating class. But, for your enjoyment, here is her schedule for this weekend. The next two weekends look pretty similar. You will notice a common dynamic: the kids in her class have school friends, but they also come from a variety of different places, and they all have "home friends" as well. That leads to a lot of different circles of friends.

Tonight, she is going to the senior prom of a town not far from here...one of her good friends at school lives there, and both that friend and Munchkin are going with friends of hers. For simplicity's sake, I will refer to this as "Group A". After the prom, the kids in Group A are staying at someone's house for the night, and then they are heading to  the Cape for the weekend tomorrow.

Munchkin is staying over with them tonight, but coming back home tomorrow so that she can go to another prom tomorrow night. In this case, the High School is in the home town of a boy in her class, and she is going with one of his friends (the boy from her class is going as well). I will call this "Group B", and their agenda is similar to Group A. She is staying with them tomorrow night, but then catching up with Group A on Saturday.

On Sunday, when Group A heads back home, she is going back to Group B, and then coming back home on Monday. She is headed to a graduation on Monday night for another friend ( the best friend of a girl in her class).

Those kids, whom I dub "Group C", are going North to New Hampshire for a couple of days after graduation, and she is going to go with them. Part of the reason for this is that she had to skip their prom despite her deep adoration for the boy who asked her, because it conflicted with, of course, yet another prom with an entirely different group of people.

Common question...what does she wear to all of these proms?  Answer: almost always black, and almost always from one of her pretend sisters' closets. She re-wears dresses a lot.

She doesn't get her hair done for every one of these, does she? No. She does it herself or has me or a friend help. Honestly, when you look like she does in a black dress and heels, there isn't much needed beyond pinning it into any kind of an updo. Throw in a stray curl here and there, and you're gonna be the best looking girl at the party...

Makeup? Same...she isn't one to wear much makeup (unless someone else gets ahold of her), and never does much extra for things like this. I think she gets this from me:-).

Wow, she sure does make an impression on a lot of boys, doesn't she? Sigh... In fairness, most of these are not boys trying to impress her romantically. I'm not sure she would go with someone that she thought had a real interest in her like that.  Usually, they are boys that are friends and friends-of-friends that she has known for a couple of years. Tonight is a good example...through her friend from school, she has a lot of good friends at this High School, and they are all kind of going together. The actual boy she is going with probably asked her partially because his girl and guy friends wanted Munchkin to come with them all, and he appreciates being able to bring someone that is fun, will know other people and makes friends fast. And looks great in the pictures, too:-).

So there you have it...the life and times of a young socialite...

She looks good in pictures, too:-)

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Munchkin's graduation speech

Munchkin's speech, as written. I feel like she made some changes when she delivered it, but this is the written version.

Keep in mind, she graduated with 25 other kids, so it is a small group that knows everything about everyone, and she was definitely speaking to her friends and their families as such.

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Fellow students, principal X, staff members, guests, our wonderful teachers and our parents. Thank you all for joining us today. Every one of you has contributed to making our time at [School Name] everything that it was, and celebrating our graduation wouldn't be the same without you.

In preparation for this, I asked most of my classmates what graduation meant to them. I got two answers. First, that graduation was an end. An ending to this stage of our lives and our education. An ending to childhood, to dependence, and to our time living at home and seeing everyone at our wonderful little school every day.

The other answer I heard was that graduation is a beginning. A beginning to growing up, and to adulthood. To the next stage of our lives. To moving away, meeting new people, seeing new places and studying new things.

But everyone agreed that it is a celebration. A celebration of an achievement, and of a milestone. More than that, I'd like to think of it as a celebration of people. Of all of us, and all of you who helped us get here, and will help us with our next adventures.

I joined you partway through our journey, and my experience was always unusual. I came from a different place in a different world, and some might say that it was a result of some bad luck. But I caught two amazing breaks. First, I am blessed to have what I am sure you all agree, without exaggerating, is the very best big sister in the whole world.

(Then I got an ovation:-) Hee hee, bragging again! This is also probably where I lost complete control of myself.)

And wonderful friends who have treated us both a family since we came here. Second, I was blessed to end up here, at this school with all of you. I found myself dropped not just into classmates who welcomed me and a group of teachers who have been great role models to us all, but into all of your families, as well. Families that treated me, as they have treated all of us, as one of their own children.

It is important that we remember that we are not here just because of our own families. We are here because of everyone in our community: parents and teachers and brothers and sisters and friends.  Parents who drove their own and other kids to soccer games, and to movie theaters. Parents who took other kids on vacation with them. Older brothers and sisters who chaperoned our dances and came on field trips and helped us all with homework. Friends who brought us to things outside of our own small circle here.

In four months, we will be scattered across the country, but we will carry with us the relationships we made here and the memories of our time growing up together. I hope that what we remember is the way we treated each other, the way our parents treated us, the way our teachers treated us, and the way they have taught us to treat others.  I hope that we remember how important this little world has been to all of us...this perfect, welcoming, caring, doting, loving little world. Whatever you do, and whoever you become will be in part because of the wonderful people that have surrounded us through our years here.

Since we can't agree on whether this is a beginning or an end, let's just agree that it is a moment. A moment made possible because of the amazing group of people that we are lucky enough to share it with. And a moment to celebrate everything they have meant to us, and everything we can all mean to each other forever.


Monday, June 03, 2013

Graduation

I've been a terrible blogger lately...basically nothing for like a week and a half. Short version...stayed home Memorial Day, went to New York for two days, which was...interesting...then graduation, then a weekend of graduation-related things. I'll skip the details.

And then I was all prepared to post Munchkin's speech, and even brought a copy of the text with me to transcribe here. Of course, I got a third of the way through and found myself crying uncontrollably in my office...so that is going to have to wait;-). I'll get through it, but it will take a while!!!

Synopsis: she was awesome. poised and calm and grown-up, and she absolutely killed it. Papa Bear did a little bit of wordsmithing for her (and warned me that it was gonna cause me to cry an awful lot - I didn't wear eye makeup), but she wrote the whole thing herself.

I may or may not have gotten an ovation, too...but I'd have loved it even without the need to feed my own ego!!!

We had an impromptu dinner celebration for her on Friday, which was a blast. Twin Sister took the girls for the night, and the whole pretend family was there...plus three of our cousins from Chicago who came out for the graduation. Then there was a long stream of visitors who dropped by to say congratulations and wish her well. Just a really, really good time.

She had a bunch of parties to go to on Saturday and Sunday (hers isn't for a few weeks yet), and I went to a couple of them with her for a little bit. In between that, there was a trip to the splash park with the girls and some other assorted mischief.

I'm still dying for a trip to the beach, but this was a pretty good alternative:-)



Friday, May 24, 2013

Unraveling

The plan, as usual, was for a great long weekend at the beach, leaving as early as possible today. enjoying Saturday and Sunday and then waiting as long a possible on Monday to come home. In my little world, that is pretty much an ideal weekend.

Oh, how quickly things can unravel. First, the weather didn't cooperate. Today, tomorrow and Sunday, all projected to have high temperatures somewhere in the high 50's, and plenty of rain. Not exactly beach weather...and not the kind of weather that makes me want to lug two toddlers all the way to the house to sit inside for.

Then, work decided to throw cold water on my already dieing fire...I have to go to New York for a couple days next week, which means leaving either Monday night or super-early Tuesday morning. Neither of those lends itself to stretching out the last day of the long weekend (which, also, is the only one that may have some actual sunshine.)

And then Munchkin decided that she was bagging the weekend because of the weather, too. She has a couple of parties to go to (obviously:-)) that she was going to skip, but doesn't want to if the weather sucks. The net result is the very sad decision to scrap the beach trip this weekend.

There is good news in this...first, I will probably get a new car tomorrow:-). And second, there are lots of beach weekends ahead! But still, I love Memorial Day, and I am very, very angry at this Nature bitch for ruining it!!!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Odds and Ends

Some thoughts before I do any work this week...

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What's with the massive volume of spam comments lately that are not getting caught by Blogger's spam filters? I feel like I get 3-4 a day, and I know I have seen a bunch of other people note the same thing.

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Is there any child-entertainment invention better than the bouncy house? Not only does it entertain and thoroughly exhaust, but it provides two days worth of good behavior just by invoking the slight chance that it can be cancelled. We went to two separate bouncy-house birthday parties this weekend, which is basically toddler heaven. Also, sort of Daddy heaven, too:-)

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I didn't win the lottery. So, that was kind of a bummer.

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Munchkin has three exams today and tomorrow and then she is...wait for it...done with school. Her graduation is a week from Thursday. I don't even want to guess how much crying I am going to do between now and then, but it's going to be a lot.

Also, since she is the likely valedictorian (bragging), she is speaking, as well. Which she is super nervous about, and which I find adorable because she basically never gets nervous about anything. She is adamant that she wants no help at all, but she has designated Papa Bear as the one person who gets to hear it first and provide feedback...the rest of us have to wait until show time:-)

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Strongly considering going to France with her again this summer, maybe with one of the girls. I hadn't really thought much about it, but Belle Vierge wrote a little love letter to Paris last week that sort of planted the idea in my head. So, we'll see...I am not sure that I am serious about this.

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In other sister news, Tinkerbelle is coming out for TWO WEEKS this summer:-). She is totally a petulant teenager, and I am sure I will want to strangle her at some point...but it will be awesome. Frankly, I think she is kind of a handful these days, and her Mom is hoping that some time away from home will help her a bit. I still don't see her nearly as much as I'd like, but she still listens to me (a little) so maybe I can contribute to making her less of a teenager.

More likely, Munchkin will handle it...she definitely listens to her!

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In the middle of last week, I was given an unusual work task...to go to a conference for a day, and try to find someone to hire at one of our portfolio companies. This is the sort of thing I am good at...getting the attendee list, doing some stalking ahead of time to pick out a handful of people, then finding them and conducting an on-the-spot interview that they don't know is an interview. Net result, four prospects...not a bad haul. Lunch, however, was mediocre:-)

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House hunting? Ugh. Never mind. Unless you have a whole bunch of money I can borrow. And by "borrow", I mean "have".

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Long weekend? Don't mind if I do... Headed to the beach to kick off the summer season, and very much looking forward to it. Anyone who has been around here for any length of time knows my affection for "The Beach House". And as much of a pain as it can be to lug the kids all the way down there, I still look forward to spending my weekends there all summer!

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Finally, officially retiring my car and getting a new one. I've had it for nearly 9 years now, and it's time to upgrade. As little as I drive, I will miss her:-). It's the only car I have ever owned, and we have been through a lot together!!!

Not sure on what to get next...taking suggestions:-)

Friday, May 10, 2013

A very NyQuil week...

Being sick is the worst, and I've had a doozy of a cold this week. Actually, that's only partially true...having sick kids is the worst, and being sick with sick kids is really THE WORST.

LK came down with a cold on Saturday, and in the way that toddlers often do, she wanted to be held a lot. Which meant that she spent a lot of time coughing on me:-). She had a little fever, and a runny nose and a cough...and she had trouble sleeping and wanted to sleep in the bed with me. On Sunday afternoon, I could tell that I was coming down with something...and under the theory of "I am already infected", I slept in the bed with her again on Sunday and Monday nights.

By Tuesday, she was all better, but I was a mess. On Wednesday, I felt a little better, but also had sort of a NyQuil daze going on, and a wicked sinus congestion headache. I came back to work yesterday but didn't get a whole lot done all day. I feel better today, but I am still a little bit out of it and very congested.

In the category of TMI: the volume of mucus, phlegm and snot that has come out of my head this morning is truly staggering. I suppose that is a good sign, but it's been pretty horrible.

Hopefully I can get a good night's sleep and be back to myself tomorrow. Not a terribly busy weekend on tap, so I should be able to get some rest. Maybe that's what I will ask for for Mother's Day!

I did take the girls to the doctor this morning for their (belated) three-year appointment. They are both exactly 39 inches tall, which is quite tall for their age (clearly not a trait they get from their mother). Skinny little LK weighs 33.7 pounds, and MA is my chunky monkey, she weighs 37.7. But they are in great health, and were very good little girls at the doctor.

Not a whole lot else going on. Munchkin has ONE WEEK of school left and then some exams. If my unofficial count is correct, she has been invited to 487 proms, 298 of which she is attending (I am kidding, it only seems like that many) and many of which involved a couple of days away afterwards. So, she is going to be an awfully busy butterfly for the next month or so.

That is not going to stop me from throwing her the biggest graduation party that has ever been thrown in the history of graduation parties. There will be a tent. There will be BBQ. And there will be lots and lots of people. Like, everyone she has ever met, maybe:-).

As for my "state department clearance" joke from a couple of weeks ago...all clear. The party will be at Big Sis' house, with the tent out in front of the house.  Setting up a tent like that, along with having the BBQ pit wheeled in, requires a permit. And since Big Sis' neighbor happens to be our new Secretary of State, the Police Department had to check in with the State Department to ensure that there was no compelling reason why we couldn't have the party before the issued the permit.

So yes, technically, it required State Department approval. I'm not messing around... (incidentally, he is more than welcome to come:-) I'll make sure he gets an invite!)

Anyway, it's gonna be a bender in every sense of the word! And she deserves it!

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Who do I want to be?

Oh, well Hi there, blog. It's been a while, no?

It has been a busy couple of weeks, and I haven't had anything that was dying to get out of my head and onto (virtual) paper, which means I haven't been here in a while. This could be why I am getting so many emails and comments from people offering to provide content for me;-)

So, let's see...where were we?

We have been doing a little bit of house hunting, but not making much progress at all. If you need any reason why, you can take a quick look at this brand new listing that is kind of indicative of what we would be looking for: a good-sized (but quite vertical) four-bedroom townhouse.  It has, obviously, one pretty obvious flaw. Or, 2.4 million of them, I suppose. I'm also pretty sure that it does not have any parking, either...

And yes, I am fully aware that this is an entirely self-imposed problem...we could buy ourselves a giant, lovely home in any one of a number of lovely suburbs. Suburbs that have some of the country's best public schools and rank as some of the most desirable places in the country for families. But you know what? I don't want to!!! (This could be where my daughters learned to have tantrums:-))

The Boy's friends (who seems to be drawn back to his hometown...which is one of those very lovely suburbs) and some of my friends all seem to be giving us the hard sell on the 'burbs. On lovely places like Belmont and Wellesley and Needham. And on slightly less 'burby-feeling places like Newton or Brookline. Or even more 'burby ones like Concord and Weston and Lexington and Andover. All of which make me want to gag just a little bit.

[That's not totally true...I could live in at least a small part of Brookline. Long-time readers may remember that my original plan when Munchkin was coming here was to move to Brookline because of it's close proximity to the city but excellent public schools. It also happens to be Smoking Hot Roommate's hometown. I will grant that anyone who lives in Coolidge Corner or inbound can still reasonably claim to live "in the city". But that's it.]

I am not sure that my disinterest in living outside of the city makes a lot of sense. It certainly doesn't make any sense to most parents of small children;-). I get a lot of really strange look from friends with little kids, or parents of the girls' friends. The most common question is usually something along the lines of  "But don't you want a house?" And no, I don't want a house, and it's not just because I can't stand the idea of doing yard work (although that is a big part of it!).

Most people will tell you that they wants some privacy and some space and the quiet that comes from having a buffer between you and your neighbors. But that's not who I am...I like being surrounded by people and noise and commotion. I like having people above and below me, or next to me. I like having people walk by our front door at all hours or the day. I'm a city kid, and I always have been and I always will be. I like the noise and commotion. The smells of restaurants (yea, I know, there are other smells, too). I hate...HATE...having to drive places.

Maybe I should say that again. I DESPISE having to get in the car for anything other than a long trip. I abhor it. Loathe it. Despise it. I wish I had a bigger vocabulary to get this point across;-)


The second question is always "But what about school?" and that one is a lot more reasonable. School is a problem, and living here almost certainly means private school. There are some good elementary schools, and some charter schools as well, but Boston has an absolutely absurd method of allocating seats in its schools (it's a long story....there were riots) that makes it an almost unworkable solution in many cases. Most reasonable best-case would be private school through sixth grade and then hope they can get into Boston Latin School. Or shell out the much larger dollars for private high school. Or, finally make the dreaded move to the 'burbs:-)

But we're willing to live with that. I'm not sure that The Boy is as adamantly opposed to leaving the city as I am, but he isn't in any kind of hurry, either. And he has a little more complete experience to speak from than I do...

Am I irrational? Of course I am...there are towns that would cost less to live in, and be quieter and safer and more kid-friendly, and where the girls would go to the same excellent schools with the same group of kids from ages 5-18. And they would play soccer and little league with those same kids. But I also feel like they'd be missing out on a lot. There is a lot to be said for raising your kids in a sheltered place with a lot of people just like them.

But, there is also a lot to be said for raising hip city kids, too.  Kids who may go to school in a bubble, but learn to make friends and build relationships with people from all kinds of places literal and figurative. Kids who simply can't ignore the world around them with all of its wonders and, yes, all of its tragedy.

Which usually leads to a thought that I keep to myself. "Don't you worry about raising your kids in a city environment?"

You know, as if I haven't done this before:-)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Home - A love note

I think it goes without saying that it has been a crazy week around here. Everyone is a little bit on edge, there is still a big part of the city shut down, there are periodic blasts of sirens and then explosive waves of rumors that seem to sweep, almost physically, across the city. I hope to never get used to seeing security forces carrying machine guns around town regularly.

And still many more questions than answers.

It is all pretty jarring. I was nowhere near the finish line; I was at work, about a mile and a half away. Like most people in Boston, I know people who were very, very close to the blasts, both as runners and spectators. At least one casual acquaintance was hurt - not seriously - by the second bomb. It's just all a lot to take in, and I find myself unusually emotional over small things as a result.

Mostly, I am angry. There are a lot of people who have spent more time here than I have...people who are much more Bostonian than I am. My closest friends, my husband and his family, most of my coworkers - they are all lifelong Bostonians. But this is home to me, it's home to my Sister, and it's home to my daughters. Technically, I grew up in Chicago, and then in Phoenix...but I've really grown up here.  Eight years now...eight wonderful, fulfilling, rewarding years stuffed with people I love and memories that anyone would be lucky to have. And now someone has gone and made that home seem like a much, much scarier place.

Boston is small, and provincial, and dirty, and expensive and cold and snowy. The people can be mean, and trying to find a parking space is impossible. Nightlife is severely lacking and curtailed by a ridiculously early curfew. But that, as they say, is all part of it's charm. And all of those flaws? Well, they are our flaws, and we take communal pride in them.

There has been a lot written about the marathon, and what the marathon means to the city, and for the most part, it is all accurate. The marathon, and Patriot's Day, with its 10:00am Red Sox game, is an integral piece of civic identity. A holiday that we have all to ourselves (and Mainers, I think:-)). It's hard, though, just through reading, to get an appreciation for what the marathon means to the city.

There are six official "Major" Marathons, all of which are in huge cities or international importance. London, New York, Berlin, Tokyo. Even Chicago, a relative baby in the midst of the other cities, is America's third largest city, and nearly four times Boston's size. And then, there is Boston. A regional capital of less than 50 square miles, and barely 600,000 people. A city with no cultural connection to track and field, to distance running, or to the people who compete in those sports.

It's a hard course...runners will tell you it is the hardest of the Majors. That is made harder by the process required just to get to the starting line - it is a straight line course, starting way out in the Western suburbs. Runners show up at the finish, drop their stuff, and then take buses the entire 26 mile length of the course to the starting line. It is also made harder by the incredibly unpredictable weather in mid-April. This year it was 50 degrees and sunny. Last year it was near 90 and dangerously oppressive. In 2007, it poured all day. In 1967, it snowed. SNOWED!

For all of our Revolutionary war history, world-famous education and leading hospitals, there is nothing that brings more outsiders into Boston than the marathon. For the weekend before the race, a beautiful cacophony of accents coming from people in brightly colored race clothes fills the city. The T bustles with runners and their families, restaurants are packed, and strangely, the locals appreciate the influx. If the weather is really nice, there is...and I mean this sincerely...No. Better. Place. On. Earth.

The race itself is huge...25,000 runners or so. It draws many of the very best runners on the planet, respected by all, and considered by Kenyans to be the most prestigious race of the year. Maybe that is the single salient point about the race itself: a country in East Africa which dominates distance running like no other and turns out more elite distance runners than most other nations combined, reveres above all else a race not from a world capital or financial center, but from our tiny, regional hub.

Many of the runners, though, are charity runners...running with numbers that they were given in exchange for raising $5,000 or more for a charity that applied for and was awarded some of these very coveted numbers. The Dana Farber Institute, which is as close to being the "Official Charity of Boston" as possible, was the first organization to be given entries, and now there are about 35 official charities every year, and some other unofficial ones. These are regular people, running in memory or in tribute to those loved and lost, and completing a physical endeavor of almost unimaginable difficulty. It is a major professional athletic event, but it is very much a people's race.

To the million or so spectators who line the course from beginning to end, it is a celebration of the city, of the region, and of the spirit of the runners. We go to watch because it is a nice thing to do, but also because we consider it to be part of our responsibility as Greater Bostonians...all of those visiting runners have to finish and remember the nonstop cheering and support, or else we didn't do a very good job cheering. They inspire us, and we encourage them.

And it is very much a regional event. The other big marathons are all contested within the city limits of the host. In New York, the course is constructed specifically to touch all five Boroughs, and most of the others are designed to cover as much of the city-proper as possible. The Boston Marathon doesn't even enter the city of Boston until the runners near Mile #25. Over 90% of the race is contested outside of the city, which makes the entire event a race to get to Boston. A race to get home.

Students at Boston College, located along the route near mile 21, at the top of Heartbreak Hill, have a well-earned reputation for providing late race encouragement to exhausted runners (or a beer, if you feel like stopping:-)). About halfway through, students at Wellesley College perpetuate the "Scream Tunnel" a near-mile long stretch of top-of-their-lungs cheering for the duration of the race. They all take their responsibilities very seriously.

The Marathon then, is a quintessentially Boston event. It doesn't entirely make sense (Why do we care so much? Why do we run it in April with such unpredictable weather? Why is it at mid-day, instead of early in the morning?) but it is inseparable from our civic fabric. It's not a part of us, it is us.

This is my home, and I care for it deeply. This race, this day, stands for everything that makes me love my home. As attack on that race, and on that day, and on people that I share this wonderful place with, is emotionally crushing. I don't want to think about my home differently. I don't want to look sideways when I next walk into Abe & Louie's and think about an 8 year-old boy dying while his sister loses her leg, or a Chinese student dying halfway around the world from her family. I don't want to think about any of that, but I just don't see how it will ever really be gone.

As a city, we will recover. We'll be bigger and stronger and better. The race will become and even more important part of the fabric of our city. Next year, the demand for entries will be higher than ever, and the spirit of the runners and spectators will be be stronger. But we will never, ever be quite the same.

Monday, April 15, 2013

OK

An enormous, touching, and heartwarming outpouring of concern from people that I know only through the Internet. I'm OK, as is everyone I know.

I don't have any sense to make of it, but please be aware that the genuine concern coming from all corners of the world really does mean a lot.

-AM

Friday, April 12, 2013

Three

My little girls turn three on Monday, which is unbelievable both because the time has gone so fast, and also so slowly...

Tomorrow, however, is their birthday party:-). I didn't do first or second birthday parties, partly because I am lazy and partly because I have never really seen the point of having birthday parties for kids who don't know what a birthday is. But now, they definitely get it, they definitely love the idea of a party and they are definitely looking forward to it.

So, combine an hour and a half at Gymboree, a lot of pizza, some cake and a whole mess of children, and you have yourself a birthday party. We invited their friends from school, along with some other people we know that have kids their age...many of whom come in pairs;-) I'm sure that much fun will be had by all!

Now, if I can just figure out a way to tire them out tomorrow morning so that they will take naps in time for the party...

After that, we can start to talk about the absolute mother-effin-bender that we are throwing for Munchkin's graduation. It would be completely factual (if highly exaggerated) to report that the party will require the approval of the US State Department...

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

On Finishing. (Sort of)

The small, skinny, 12-year old girl got the news at school. Her teacher excitedly told her that her Grandmother would be coming to get her, and taking her straight to the hospital after school. It was not the first time that the girl's Grandmother had come to get her unexpectedly, but it was probably the first time that the reasons were good.

The girl wondered how she was supposed to pay any attention through her last two periods of the day. How could US History or Chemistry be remotely interesting at a time like this? How could anything else in the whole world matter at a time like this? The minutes crawled by, one by one, until the final bell rang and she was released.

The trip to the hospital was a blur. Her Grandmother talked about the news, but also about school and friends and everything that a Grandmother might talk with her Granddaughter about. But the girl was too excited to answer questions or to listen. The drive seemed interminable, the traffic a cruel joke, and the search for a parking space completely maddening. But finally, after what seemed like weeks, the elevator bell dinged, and they stepped out into a bright hospital hallway. Fighting her desire to run as fast as she could, the girl walked ahead of her Grandmother, counting the rooms one by one until she get to the one she was looking for. Bursting through the door, she saw her stepfather, normally so surly and stern, beaming. Her mother, seven months since her last drink ever, lay in the bed, looking very clearly tired, but the happiest that the girl ever remembered, or would ever remember, seeing her.

And in her arms, swaddled in striped hospital blankets, was the most perfect little baby girl that the World had ever seen. Just a fat little face, and two bright blue eyes barely visible through half-closed lids. The girl fell in love in an instant, and moments later, sitting quietly in a hospital chair holding her new little sister, the girl promised very quietly, to herself, that she would never leave that baby, and that she would never let anyone hurt her.

I did leave her, for a little while. But today, exactly eighteen years after my Grandmother picked me up at school to take me to go meet my new little sister, I think I have done a pretty good job of living up to my promise.

----------

Yup, today is Munchkin's EIGHTEENTH birthday. My little baby sister, who stopped being a baby a long time ago, is now officially an adult by every measure. That little, tiny lump of perfection, with the heart shaped face and the big blue eyes, is now a brilliant, gorgeous, college-bound, globe-trotting adult with a very real place in the world that she is growing to understand by the day.

In addition to being a symbolically important day, it has some very real importance as well. Most obviously, as of today I am no longer her legal guardian, and I am back to just being her plain old sister:-). I filed my last report with the Illinois family courts last month, and am no longer subject to the supervision (or a potential surprise visit!) of the child services authorities in either Illinois or Massachusetts.

And in the event that something really bad were to happen to me, she is no longer subject to a court's ruling on where she can live...she can pick her own spot. So, a week ago, if I got hit by the proverbial beer truck, her guardianship would have been the subject of a legal ruling (with her brother almost certainly being named her guardian). Today, if the same beer truck hits me, she can make up her own mind on who she wants to live with.

I am probably going to keep an eye out for any beer truck today, just to be safe, but I would be lying if I told you that I hadn't always had a little nagging worry that something would happen to me and she would get swept back to Chicago. I never did get her brother to completely promise to move out here and keep her where she is. But today, none of that matters, because I have a full-fledged adult on my hands!

(Well, except for her education Trust, which she doesn't get control of until she turns 25...hee hee:-))

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Happy Thursday

Monday, March 25, 2013

Well, that got out of hand...

It started pretty innocently...

I didn't really feel like working on Friday, so the invitation from the boys in the office to knock off early and go watch basketball seemed like a great idea. I should note that they were planning a trip to Vegas for this weekend (that is what they were being nice to us about last month...they were planning on abandoning the office en masse for three days) that never materialized...that isn't really material to this story, it is just background...

So, we ate lunch, had a couple beers and enjoyed some rare day-drinking. Around about 3:30, I got a text from Smoking Hot Roommate asking if I was around, because she and the guys she works with were knocking off to do the same thing...so, I convinced her to bring them to come and meet us.

Another unimportant note: she works in an office full of almost entirely super-smart, incredibly driven guys. I also work in an office full of super-smart, incredibly driven guys (the three women I work with are actually more than the one that she works with). However, they are remarkably different...mine are alpha male investment banker types...lots of former athletes. Hers are much super-science-geeks... Basically, she works at an office of MIT and CalTech alums, and I work at an office of Wharton and HBS alums.

Back to my story, though...at some point, SHR and her workmates convinced me that I should go to Foxwoods with them on Saturday. I am not sure that there was any sort of an occasion, I think they were just headed down to gamble a bit, drink to much and try to cause some trouble. The Boy is going away in a couple of weeks for a few days, so he was happy to let me go (not that there is an official scorecard of "nights you abandoned me with the children", but, well, there is probably an unofficial scorecard...)

With that, SHR and I packed up on Saturday morning and made for scenic, historic rural Connecticut (seriously, some day I will tell you all about Connecticut;-)). Frankly, this was probably not my best idea ever...the massages were a great idea, but the amount of drinking, eating, gambling and dancing that we did was probably more than was really necessary. And the not sleeping...

I am, as it turns out, not as young as I used to be!

Good news, I won a couple hundred bucks playing craps, so that was good. I am not really sure that I know how to play craps, but I was sure good at it on Saturday...

Bad news, I slept for maybe three hours, so I am dragging pretty badly still. I am gonna need a couple of weeks off before I do that again...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Two weeks

Does anyone know what is exactly two weeks from today? It's kinda of a big deal...I will likely have much to say.

Winter's back, which is sort of weird. We had some nice weather about two weeks ago, but this week has been cold, snowy, icy and just very wintery. Today may be the first day of spring, but that isn't going to help anyone who had to de-ice the locks on their car this morning, or who slipped on the sidewalk and fell.

For the record, I did neither of those things, but I have already heard stories.

I don't think I mentioned it, but Munchkin is conveniently away for all of this, doing her oh-so-normal week in Paris. Ho hum. I remember when that seemed like kind of a big deal three years ago... 

Then she gets back and begins her last two months of high school. She is basically on cruise control now...the real academic heavy-lifting is over, everyone knows where they are going to college and they are just really enjoying being at a totally carefree stage of life. There seem to be a million proms, parties, banquets and other events going on, along with the lacrosse season and a few other things. I'm not totally sure that I have my head around this just yet. There will be much crying...

Her summer plans are a little bit more fluid than they have been in years past...I think she is planning on being back and forth a little bit more than she has previously. She wants to be at the beach, and wants to work there and see all of her summer friends, but she is also aware that this is a very special time for her and her city friends, too, and she doesn't want to be totally out of touch all summer. As a result, I think she will spend a lot of time commuting, but she is long past the point where she needs to clear all of that with me ahead of time;-)

The girls are doing great, and I can't believe how fast they keep growing. They're gonna be three next month!!! Yikes...I think we are going to have a birthday party for them and their school friends, since they all seem to be getting to an age when they appreciate those things. But nothing terribly fancy...I am generally not a huge fan of little kid birthday parties.

They will be happy when they can spend more time outside again, for sure. They ask to go to the park whenever I ask them what they want to do! Or they ask to go to the grocery store, which is kinda weird...

My favorite thing about them now is that they can talk about what they did all day at day care. They can recount who they played with, where they went, what their teachers talked about, what they had for lunch and what they want to do tomorrow. And they very often wake up in the morning with the very same thought that they went to bed with...like "You need to go to bed now, but you can finish coloring in the morning," and then the very first groggy words after she lifts her head off the pillow are "Mommy, I can finish coloring now?"

Also, MA refers to herself in the third person. For reals. 


Monday, March 18, 2013

Terrible Television

I have a painful confession to make, and it may alarm some of you.

I absolutely hate Girls.

I hate it because it purports to be "gritty and raw and realistic" despite being about a group of entirely white twenty-somethings in Brooklyn, none of whom has a job that looks anything like the very real group of people that I actually know.

And because I would never associate with a single person in that show for more than ten minutes. Whiny, entitled Hannah, with her sely-pitying faux self-esteem issues? Or sniveling Marnie, the "art gallery assistant" who has no ability to identify herself by anything other than who she is dating? Or the anti-social hermit boyfriend of Hannah's? The others..."bohemian" Jessa and idiotic Shoshanna, and a bunch of personality-less guys in suits are the kinds of shallow stereotypes that an 8th grader could write.

Oh, and let's add a black Republican for Hannah to date. Oh my God, that will be like, so diversity!

Mostly, I dislike it because the people bear no resemblance to the real people of that age, despite purporting to do exactly that. You know what most 25 year olds are like? Most of them are happy most of the time. Sure, they have issues and concerns and worries, but the vast majority of their interactions with friends involve laughing. Why else would they be your friends?Most people choose to hang around people who make them feel good.

Instead, we get a bunch of perma-angry self-loathers, and a wave of middle-aged media critics telling us that this is the voice of a new generation.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Empathy

When I sit at my desk in the morning, checking my Google Reader is on of my first activities...it takes a couple of minutes, keeps me updated on my blog-friends, and allows me to prepare to start working (other activities...checking personal email, the news and the stock market). Often, I am spurred to respond and leave Reader to leave a comment on a post somewhere.

(Occasionally, I will leave a witty, sarcastic comment that badly misses the mark on the sarcasm and requires some explaining;-) Like this one.)

So, this morning, I read this from Alana Margaret at Runaway Bunny. I'm not entirely sure how I found her blog, but I added it maybe four months ago and have been reading ever since, even after a change in address. She is, by any measure, a very thoughtful blogger, but I don't know her at all beyond what she has written publicly.  (Let's be honest...the fact that she is a baker/ice cream maker/pastry chef makes me want to be best friends with her). This morning's post made me go back and read some of the archives, which has revealed that we have somewhat similar backgrounds...or at least some key life events that are similar.

Then a weird thing happened, though...I couldn't respond. I just didn't know exactly what to say or how to say it. I kinda knew what I felt, but it wasn't coming out of my head and onto the screen at all. At least not in a way that didn't make me look like a colossal bitch. Which is actually making me think that maybe I am a colossal bitch (keep reading...there is more evidence to support this).

On and off for about four hours, I tried to formulate my thoughts into a coherent response...which seemed to be turning into a twelve paragraph ramble of inconsistent thoughts and somewhat counter-productive anger. Whatever I wrote, I just felt really small and bitter, and I felt like I wasn't getting out what I wanted to say.

I was struck by how differently we viewed a subject, in this case addiction, that we seem to have had similar exposure to. She starts (I am paraphrasing...and hope I am not mis-characterizing) by almost apologizing for having such a deep empathy for people suffering from addiction, for being blessed to not be afflicted with addiction herself, and for not having more time to volunteer with those that are afflicted.

It is, to me, a remarkable sentiment that indicates a humanity that we should all aspire to. And a level of humanity that I, for one, am not remotely close to.

She once wrote, of her mother's long-ago addiction "It never occurred to me that I needed to forgive my mother." That breaks my heart a little bit...not because it is sad - her magnanimity is, in fact, incredibly uplifting - but because it makes me sad that I am so far from being in that place. I don't know that I have forgiven my mother entirely, or if I ever will, and I can't even imagine being in a place where I don't think that what she did to me endowed me with the right to grant or withhold that forgiveness.

Is that petty of me? Yes, it probably is. But that just sounds "fair" to me, despite fair having nothing to do with anything. I never got any say in whether or not to live with a raging alcoholic, and she never chose to listen to my pleas to stop...and as compensation for that, I get the sole and unimpeachable right to decide when, and if, to grant forgiveness. This is not, I know, my most endearing side...

It's a weakness that I am aware of: I am not a very empathetic person (that extends to subjects far beyond substance abuse). If the subject is something that I, maybe arbitrarily, find to be unimportant whining, then I am a terrible listener. I have a frighteningly low tolerance for complaints that I deem to be trivial, or for problems that I think are self-inflicted. For much of my life, I have had very real problems that took up all of my attention, and there was often little help in solving those problems.

I don't have nearly the same kinds of problems these days, but I don't feel like I have ever emotionally opened up the space to care about other peoples' problems in a way that is balanced and healthy. Often, I am unreasonably cynical and dismissive of personal "sob stories," and my snap judgements go to the things that the affected could have done to make his or her life better instead of the unfairness that caused their troubles.

It probably doesn't take a genius to figure out how I got here, or even to figure out some of the reasons that Alana and I may think about this particular subject differently. That, however, is neither here nor there, really. The relevant point is that she seems to see this through a much more humane lens than I do.

And I wish I was more like her.