Friday, February 27, 2015

TToT66: Gus and the Little Things

It's been snowing again. But it's not been that bad of a week. Nevertheless, I am feeling a bit stuck here as I stare into my laptop.

I'll fall back on Gus's philosophy of the little things (right, Lisa?).

1. And in honor of Gus, I will name buttermilk. Not 'cause I like to drink it but because it does has a positive influence on the flavor and performance of pancakes and waffles, which lend a bit of cheer to late winter snow days.

2. The return of Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright.

And under the category of instant gratification, which has its place and is much appreciated:

     3. Online games

     4. Texts and emails

     5. Recipes

6.  Matthew and Levi, who are not tax collectors, as you might think, but ambitious snow shovelers.

Casting about, casting about...

7. The Dude suggests that I am thankful for my husband cleaning the house so much more often that I don't even notice.

8. Speaking of the The Dude, I don't have to do taxes.

I give up...

9. Beer

10. Chips and salsa

How about your little things? Got any?

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Make New Friends...

I am finally making friends in this area. Maybe.

We moved here in 2012, and I started a blog to make friends, and make online friends I did, though slowly because I am easily overwhelmed, and I wasn't willing to let a lot of people into my life at once (which is weird for a public blog, I know, I know), and because it's just so plain exhausting, this friend-hunting business.

Anyhow, I have known for some time that I really ought to try harder to make some IRL friends. But like in pursuit of work outside the home, my feet have been dizzy (as Maggie would say).

I sing in a choir and often go out to a bar with some of the ladies, and they're fabulously fun. I have a book club, and the people in it are sharp and witty and compelling (though I am somewhat intimidated by being the only one without a JD or  PhD). But I don't have a bud to call up for a drink or a movie date.

And sometimes, just sometimes, when I take a break from my projects and my books and my blogs, I miss that. The thing is, when you're a SAHM in a community where SAHMs are rare, how do you make friends? My friends have usually come from school or work. Your children make lousy friends. And should.

Anyhow, all of sudden, there are four women who clearly want to be friends with me. I'm struck by this: these women are are actively seeking me out for friendship! I am both flattered and terrified.

I have to go on dates with these women and make small talk to see if we can make deeper talk, and this prospect just about brings me to my knees. The anticipation, the awkwardness if it doesn't work or until it does, the anxiety! I'm no good at this kind of thing.

I have emails and texts to answer confirming open dates and possible meeting times, and I just want to ignore them. At this moment it's hard to imagine any loneliness more painful than trying out a friendship in person.

But I will. I will pull my hair out of its hair band and meet for a drink and try to relax and be the realest me I can be. And we'll see. Maybe they will still like me, and it will get more comfortable. Maybe.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

TToT65: Winter, how can you be so obtuse?

Winter, Ivy was kinder than I'm willing to be. Remember her gentle break-up letter? I think maybe the message didn't get through. Therefore, I have two words for you: F*#k off.

I'm so sick of being cold and cleaning up puddles of melted snow and being cooped up and school being out or starting late and hearing nothing but screams and whines and fights from two children who are beyond themselves from being cooped up indoors for too long. I am sick of the necessity of shoes and gloves. I am sick to death of sneezing and runny noses and another empty box of tissues.

In other words, it's time for the TToT.

1. In spite of the fact that I know this thankful will be terribly unoriginal, I would be negligent to omit my great thankfulness to Yvonne for starting 1000 Voices for Compassion, Lizzi for sparking it, the dedicated hosts, and the inspiring contributors, of whose posts I've only read a tiny fraction. My need to write my post and event coincided beautifully, and I am so flattered and touched by the comments I received.

And on to more minor thankfuls:

2. Red beans and rice

3. Beading

4. Free open gym

5. Painting

6. Planning birthday parties with verbal children

7. Lisa's emails

8. No tears last night at bedtime

9. "You mean Leo will keep me company and keep me safe?"

10. And, OK, sledding.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Never Say Never #1000Speak

Lately, I have not been able to shake the memory of someone I once knew. She lurks in my brain, popping out at odd moments when I catch a whiff of Obsession perfume or see one of those early 20th century Coca-Cola advertisements.

I have a vision of this woman in my memory from my childhood: she's sitting in a lawn chair (the kind with a metal frame and seat made from plastic tubing) on a sticky Southeast TX summer evening eating corn on the cob and fried fish from a paper plate. Long legs and bare feet. Drinking sweet tea.

I didn't know her well; she was an adult, and I was a child for most of our relationship, and how well can a child know the mother of her playmate?

Here's what I remember: she was stylish, so stylish, in my young eyes. When I was very young, she had long, straight hair, parted in the center. In the 80s, she had it cut and permed. She wore lipstick and large sunglasses and got her nails done. She let my friend and me dress up on her high heels and off-the-shoulder dresses with crocheted lace trim and dance to Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog on the record player.

When I slept over, she allowed my playmate and me to fill up the tub all the way for our bath and didn't fuss about water on the floor. Later, she would make a pallet on the floor in front of the TV so we could stay up late watching I Love Lucy or Father Goose (her favorites, taped from the TV). She served Spaghetti-O's and chocolate chip cookies sliced from the tube.

I knew their house nearly as well as I knew my own, and I walked in and out of it nearly as freely.

She was artsy and mathematical. At home she crocheted and made stained glass pieces. But at work, she managed the books: first, in a doctor's office and then later at our church (where she was also a member). She wrote notes to herself on Post-It Notes in her large, round, left-slanted handwriting and stuck them to her steering wheel. I read them from the backseat on the way to school.

I saw her nearly daily, and I trusted her implicitly as I did every other parent with whom my parents socialized regularly. She watched me grow up; she watched me try on my hats to find which fit and flattered (with much trial and error); I remember nothing but kindness and generosity and patience (except when I was late for carpool). I do not know if she loved me, but I believe she was probably fond of me. In retrospect, I know I loved her.

I also know, though I denied it vehemently when first told, that she embezzled large sums of money from the church in which I grew up, the church made of up of people as dear to me as she. She stood trial and was convicted. The congregation she deceived was left confused, angry, and deeply hurt.

It is a shock to hear that someone who had a strong, positive presence in your formative years is capable of a serious crime. I accused the first person who told me of spreading nasty rumors because I was so convinced in my heart that it couldn't be true. I wasn't a financial victim, yet I can share with her victims the feelings of hurt and confusion and anger. I have compassion for them, and I can understand how hard it could be to forgive her acts.

But my compassion for her is also great. I know very little of true hardship. I've been relatively financially fortunate in my life with only a small taste of financial insecurity. Here's what I learned from it, though: a lack of safety and security blurs moral lines. The gray area gets wider by necessity; you must take care of yourself and your own.

I am not excusing her crime. I am not. But within it I recognize a desperation that I know might be my own in other circumstances. There, but for the grace of God, go I. I am as human and fallible as she was, and I cannot honestly say I would not do the same as she did if my outlook was bleak.

And from there springs my compassion for her choices. I will probably never understand the circumstances in which she found herself stealing money from her neighbors and fellow congregants. I do not know what worries and difficulty led her to stealing. I do not need to. I know her humanity, and I don't believe her crime negates all the good that she was.

I remember her and will remember her as good. I remember the woman who laughed in a large, feathered cowboy hat at her surprise 30th birthday celebration. The woman who showed me how aloe vera sap can be applied to a cut or burn. The one who took her daughter and me to work with her, let us play with her office supplies, and then took us out for hamburgers. And I remember her crime, but with compassion, because I am no better than she.

1000Speak started with an understanding that even though we might get older, we still all need the metaphorical village around us, and the compassion of others in our lives. Then the sudden thought happened – what if 1000 of us wrote about compassion all at once? From there, the movement has taken on its own life; has burgeoned and grown and spread a whole lot of love and connection and ‘villageyness’.
Spread the love using the hashtag #1000Speak.

Join the 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion group on Facebook.

And join in – together we’re stronger.

On February 20, 2015, United Nations World Day of Social Justice, one thousand bloggers from all over the world will join their voices to speak through their blogs about compassion.

Friday, February 13, 2015

TToT64: Dates with my Daughter

Today has been...odd. I drive straight through one red light and sat at more than one stop sign waiting for the light to change. I turned south when I meant to head north and drove in circles and showed up at businesses before they opened. I stayed busy for hours and accomplished a whole lotta nothin. And last night I grabbed hold of a baking sheet recently in the oven and have the burn on my palm to prove it.

But overall, it's been a good week. I received an entertaining Yiddish primer in the mail and some very necessary encouragement and support regarding facing crowds, cheered my puzzlers on in their puzzling pursuits, and even convinced my picky, picky eater to like 'worms' (shredded Brussels sprouts).

But what I want to write about is my girl. In the last month, we have had two dates, and I need to record and remember how important these are to our relationship. We need to do this regularly.

Maggie uses her lips to speak in a way I have never seen in another person. I don't notice this usually. But when it's just the two of us, and she's telling me about school or reminding me of an event in a book we know, I notice how her jaws make them rotate around the circumference of her words.

When she shares a memory or an event, her eyes shine. They widen with excitement. That, with the mouth movement present a charmingly animated physiognomy.

She and I love ice cream. On our date earlier this month, we ate ice cream before lunch (because we crazy like that). On our date this week, we stayed up extra late to indulge. Coffee for me, chocolate-chocolate chip for her.

Hamburgers, too. With cheese. Not cheeseburgers (holding two hands out vertically, palms out, fingers straight on the left hand, slightly curved on the right); hamburgers with cheese.

On our first date, we went to the bookstore, parked ourselves on the floor of the children's section and read every book she brought me. We read until my tailbone was sore, and I could barely stand. And then we took Stuck home. It's a great one. The Dark was a runner up. It's an odd and fabulous book about a child confronting his fear of the dark. Check it out.

On our second date, we went to Disney on Ice, which is so not my cup of tea (crowds), but you know what? when your daughter turns to you five minutes in and says, "I like this!" it makes it worthwhile. Even if you have to answer, "Where is Woody?" 500 times in the second act.

And when we walked back to the Metro, hand in hand, we had this exchange:
I love my mommy.
I love my Maggie.
I like my mommy.
I like my Maggie.
And so I am thankful.

Are you?

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Placed Out

My very-soon-to-be-three-year-old placed out of speech services yesterday. And not even by a smidge like I'd worried he would. He scored a solid average in expressive language (which had been his weak area). He made 26 months of expressive language progress in 12 months.

I can't even light on an emotion. I've got 'em all. It's a strange thing, this placing out. It's not common in our circles. My daughter earned her special needs title when she was one, and she's now in a Kindergarten class with other children with special needs whose parents, like me, abandoned any for how long? thoughts long ago. The play group I've been attending with my son is full of toddlers who will be in the system for years.

I should be happy, right?

But I'm worried. I'm worried I'm missing something. I'm worried that he still parallel plays (is that normal?) or that he is still not what you'd call talkative (but maybe that's just his personality). I'm worried that I'm not advocating (that elusive skill I'm supposed to master) enough (though for what I'm not sure since his scores are all solid (see previous)).

The thing is, I'm comfortable in the world of families with children with special needs. I've made my home there, and I've discovered the invisible, unbreakable bond I have with the other parents in that group. It's safe; it's comfy. I don't really want to leave it, and I feel guilty about leaving it.

I can too, too easily imagine how the other parents feel to hear my son no longer qualifies for the county-sponsored play group. I'd be envious, I admit. Not because I think my child with special needs is lacking or less than, but because I'm jealous of the option of dropping all that baggage. All of a sudden, less preparation, less explanation, less paperwork.

And I am happy to place his special needs notebook on a storage shelf instead of the commonly used shelf next to my daughter's notebook and my sewing machine instruction manual. I'm pleased to have one fewer appointment to juggle. I'm thrilled he no longer carries a label other than his name.

But I can't seem to get happy. Maybe it's because I'm floundering without a home. I'm so used to special education being a reality for both my children, I can't adjust to it not. I've had the dickens of a time trying to figure out my feelings well enough to construct a coherent blog post.

I don't want to be told that this is a good thing because it sounds too much like my son has just jumped a hurdle and was previously lacking.

And I don't want my worries to be encouraged because...worries.

This one time I was confused and adrift because my child was no longer a special needs child. Of all the ironic things.

Hosts Kristi and Jennifer

Friday, February 6, 2015

TToT63: Two Birds*

I am thankful for two people at this moment. One is my sister because you know what? I like her. And I don't get to see her often enough. And she's driving herself and her two boys to visit us this weekend, and we will have a grand time.

Secondly, I am thankful for Lisa and her quest to make me like Brussels sprouts. She sent me a bunch of recipes over a year ago, and I pinned some of them. I happen to have an overload of Brussels sprouts from the CSA so I dug back through my veggie recipes and gave this one a try. Let me tell you, it was delicious! And super-duper easy.

But I'm also thankful for Lisa's gift (sort of) of this Bloggy Sisterhood Award, and I'm gonna finish up this TToT with my answers. Thank you, Lisa! It always feels good to be liked!

1. What is one of your favorite habits you have?
I'm always working on some sort of creative project involving my hands. I like to sew, build, glue, cut, paint, bead, and more, but I don't like to do the same project more than once (if I can help it). Making something I've never made before is fun.
2. Would you prefer to travel by plane, train, or automobile? Why?
Automobile. I love maps, and I like to choose the route. Being behind the wheel feeds my need to be in control.
3. What's the first thing you notice about people?
Whether the person is male or female. Stole that from from Katherine Hepburn.

 4. If you could throw any kind of party, what would it be like and what would it be for?
If given a choice, I'm highly unlikely to throw any kind of party. I find hosting stressful. So let's say a low-maintenance party with only people who make me feel completely comfortable and alcohol to keep me relaxed. And good cheese...because cheese.
5. What was the first thing you bought with your own money?
Probably a candy bar. I've always had a sweet tooth. My first major purchase with a real salary was a fabulous green couch that we still own but that has been relegated to the basement because it's showing its age. Still super comfortable, though.
6. What was your favorite activity in gym class?
I always hated gym. I can't remember anything remotely positive about it. Except giant parachute day. I looked forward to that all year long.
7. If someone asked you to give them a random piece of advice, what would you say?
There's no one right way. Find your own right way.
8. What's your favorite part about today so far?
My two year old is taking a nap for the first time in days.
9. If you were a type of animal, what would you be and why?
I'd like to be a bird of prey. I want to be fierce, and I want to be able to fly.
10. What story does your family always tell about you?
This is a good story when told orally. Not sure how it will translate, but it is the story that gets told about me the most often.
One summer when I was two-ish, my parents, older brother, and I took my three older cousins to visit their mother in Houston, TX. You may or may not have visited Houston in the summer, but I'm sure you can imagine the heat and humidity. Misery.
And then the car overheated. 
According to my cousins, my father's mood was both visible and nearly tangible. Everyone in the car was miserably hot (I was fortunately asleep at the time), but no one was uttering a word because no one wanted to set of the ticking temper bomb in driver's seat. And then I woke up and said, "Ti-im, I'm ho-ot." (Try to picture the accent.)
And that's the story that gets told about me. Partly because I was the baby cousin for four years and kind of a whiny one; partly because even to this day I hate being hot and sweaty. Hate it.
The better line from that story came later (or before (I'm fuzzy on the details)). Aside from the car overheating and spewing steam and having to be pushed (I have a vague recollection of sitting in the shade of a pine tree watching others push), there was a tow truck whose business had taken it to same vicinity as we were in, and the driver, coming to the logical conclusion that we might be in need of his services, was slowly circling, disappearing and reappearing while he waited for my father to throw in the towel. Little did he know that each reappearance solidified my father's resolve. Finally, my father shook his fist at him and shouted, "I'm not dead yet, you buzzard!"
The tow truck left. And we somehow made it to our destination.
The story tells a lot about me aside from my hatred of sweat. I inherited from my father a short temper, great stubbornness, and a tendency to resist any kind of hint or advice (as well as many other positive traits, Dad). Don't tell me what to do because I'll do the opposite.

I'm sure you can find eight more thankfuls in those answers.

Since I'm incorporating these questions into my TToT (and Lizzi and Lisa have taken most of the bloggers in our circle already), I'll just award my questions (following) to the third, sixth, tenth, eleventh, fifteenth, and seventeenth people to link up this weekend. And those lucky recipients are: Erin, Lisa, Romi, Ivy, Clark, and Val. And here are your questions that you may choose to answer:

1. What do you think you could eat for the longest number of days without getting sick of it?
2. How often do you shower and wash your hair?
3. What actor or actress would you like to play you in a movie about your life?
4. Name something you wish you had never thrown away. Explain.
5. Are you a good dancer? What makes you good (or bad)?
6. What fictional character would you like to have dinner with tonight? Why?
7. What do you plan to purchase next? Why?
8. Look up at this very moment. What do you see?
9. Tell about a favorite childhood toy.
10. What is something you do every single day without fail?

*I swear I wrote this title before Ivy published hers. I'm sticking with it.

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