Thursday, April 30, 2009

One Good Turn Deserves Another

April 30, 2009

The other day I wrote that seeing a teenager doing something nice for someone else was one of the things that makes me happy. Today, my son was the recipient of exactly this brand of kindness. He wasn't exactly a teenager by my estimation, but probably in his early twenties. It still had the same effect.

Nicholas has always loved to hold the door open for others entering a building behind him. Whether it be a man, a woman, a family member, or a complete stranger, he'll hold the door open to let them enter first. Well, today I had all the kids in a shopping center, and we were trying to take care of several errands there. On the corner of the center is a gas station/mini-mart, and I told the kids we could stop in there and grab a drink and a quick snack before we headed home. Since our car was parked at the other end of the center, the girls and I walked back to the van to drive it over to the gas station, but Nicholas said he'd just meet us there. He's beginning to assert his independence, so he wanted to go it alone, and I let him, of course first admonishing him to watch for all the crazy drivers in the parking lot.

We pulled up to the gas station a couple of minutes later, and Nicholas was on his way out of the store, big bottle of Mountain Dew in his hand. I quickly tried to usher him back in the store, since I didn't want the clerk to think he was trying to steal it. Obviously, since I had just gotten there, I hadn't paid for it yet, and I knew Nicholas didn't have any money with him. As I was saying all of this to him and guiding him back in the store, a young man passed us on his way out. Nicholas pointed at him and said, "But he already paid for it!" Confused, I looked at the young man Nicholas was pointing at. He turned to me and said, "It's true. I bought your son's soda for him." He pointed at Nicholas. "That young man held the door for me when I walked in. He was polite, he was respectful. That's a good boy you have there. You're bringing him up right. So I thought it would be nice to pay for his soda. Have a nice day!" Like lots of 12 year old boys, sometimes Nicholas struggles with making good choices, and sometimes he's too impulsive and reactionary, and it can get him into trouble. But today, Nicholas was beaming, and he stood up tall and proud.

Okay, so I know it's silly, but that kind of thing brings a tear to my eye, even writing about it now. Of course, I love to hear positive things about my kids; it does them (and me) a world of good. But also, to have a kid that age go out of his way to acknowledge and even reward that kind of behavior? Well, he didn't have to do it, but I'm glad he did. It shows me once again that in a world of cynicism and pessimism, I am not wrong to continue to believe in and look for the good and kindhearted spirit in others.

Rain Concert

April 30, 2009

Tuesday night we went out with some friends to see the tribute band RAIN. For those of you who don't know, RAIN is a Beatles tribute band, and I have to say, they are really a lot of fun to see in concert. Doug and I took our daughter Brianna, and our friends Jim and Anja brought Jim's daughter Kathryn. Let me tell you, the fifteen year-olds had just as much fun as those of us who grew up listening to the Beatles.

RAIN takes you through the decades and evolution of the Beatles look and sound. They have perfected their looks, mannerisms, and accents, as well as their muscial and vocal nuances. The lighting and video show that interspersed live action shots with old footage of the Beatles concerts and appearances certainly added to the atmosphere. Their "Paul" was the voice of the band for the most part, and he was charming and engaging as the MC who moved the concert along. If that's the way Paul was in concert, it's no wonder all the girls were swooning for him during their heyday.

Besides the concert itself, we really enjoyed the people-watching. There was a huge bald guy, probably in his fifties. He was just throwing himself into the concert with abandon. (We were in the balcony, so we could see across the whole audience.) He was dancing, he was swaying, he was throwing his hands in the air, he was throwing his head back to let the songs come flowing out of him. I loved it! Now THAT'S the way to experience a concert! I thought he was just adorable.

The only thing that I had a problem with was not so much the concert itself, as it is with concerts in general. The obligatory 'encore' at the end of every concert these days is so staged and contrived that it just drives me crazy. It's not really an encore; it's a charade. Every band goes into a concert knowing that they are reserving two or three of their very best, most beloved songs. They aren't part of the concert, because we, the audience, will demand that they come back on stage. When they leave the stage, we pretend to be begging them for more, and they pretend that since we've been such an amazing audience, they'll oblige us. It just seems like an exercise in pre-planned narcissism that we as an audience are happy to participate in. Can't they just play all the songs they are planning to play already? We promise to still clap at the end. The REAL end.

Don't let that last paragraph make you think I didn't enjoy the concert. I really did. That little pet peeve of mine was just a momentary irritation, and the rest of the night was fabulous. I love date nights with hubby, and a night that includes our good friends and our charming teens is just a bonus.

P.S.--For those of you who read my last post, I did, in fact, go buy myself some flowers for my table yesterday. And it made me happy: )

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My Favorite Things

April 28, 2009

I feel like a real blogger now that some one has tagged me in their blog! Fidgeting Gidget posted this meme a couple of days ago, and sent the fun along to me. I actually found her blog by happy accident, and have really enjoyed checking out her stories. If you get a chance, stop by and see what she's up to!

1. Mention the person who nominated you. (Check.)

2. List six unimportant things that make you happy.

1. I've got to say, figuring out how to create these links is making me pretty happy. For you old pros, I suppose it seems obvious, but I've never done it before. If I'm right, the links to these blogs I'm tagging should work just fine. Let me know if I'm wrong!

2. I love taking a picture that comes out just right. I'm a big photography nut, but that just means I take lots of pictures--just ask my kids. It doesn't, however, mean that they all come out great. But every once in awhile, one comes out that makes me smile every time I look at it.

3. Diet Pepsi. Seriously. If you had to assess the chemical make-up of my blood, you'd probably find something akin to Diet Pepsi flowing through my veins. Hey, I know it's not good for me, but I figure there are a lot worse addictions I could have. And if I don't have my Diet Pepsi in the morning, I'm not happy, hubby's not happy, the kids are not happy, my students are not happy. I'm just trying to make the world a better place, you know?

4. It really makes my day when a student goes out of his or her way to do something nice for someone else. There's a lot of ugly stuff in the news all the time about teenagers, but there's some pretty great ones around, too.

5. I love it when there are flowers on my kitchen table. It makes my house feel more like home. I made a vow when I got divorced from the kids' dad that I would buy myself flowers every couple of weeks just because, and I did for a long time. I got out of the habit for a while, but I think it's time to start up again!

6. Music also makes me smile. How can you not smile when you're listening to a great 80s playlist? Or "I'm Yours," by Jason Mraz? That song makes me happy every time I hear it.


3. Tag six blogs, state the rules & notify them with a teeny comment on their blog.

1. Jodi at Pistolsandpopcorn--Love the great pictures and commentary!

2. Mom at Life...Exaggerated--Hilarious!

3. Kate at sauciewee--Always makes me smile when I stop by her blog.

4. JennyKate at JennyKate's Spot--Definitely fun to read.

5. Anniebanannie at This Momma's Musings--Beautiful layout!

6. Mrs. C at Next to Heaven--Lots of cool stuff to see on her blog.

These are some of the blogs I've had the pleasure of coming across since I started on this blogging endeavor. I'm sure you'll enjoy them, too!

Have a great day!


Saturday, April 25, 2009

It's the Little Things That Make Us Laugh

April 25, 2009

As some of you may know, I drive one of those ubiquitous silver Honda Odyssey soccer mom mini-vans. They're everywhere. (On a side note, it is NOT my first choice for my main mode of transportation, but I'll save that story for another time.) So at Friday after school pick-up time at the elementary school, I happened to pull up to the curb right behind my van's twin. (Okay, so it was probably cleaner inside, but still.) I watched my kids gather up their belongings and race towards us to get into hop in.

Those of you who know Nicholas know that he doesn't always focus in on the details of his surroundings when he's got a single-minded goal. (You know where this is going already, right?) His goal yesterday was to sit in 'shotgun,' because when he first glanced up and saw the van, he saw that the passenger seat, normally occupied by my oldest, was empty. That, of course, was because he was looking at someone else's van. Bree and I watched from our van while Nicholas ran, full-speed ahead, head down as if he were charging, toward the van in front of us. He slammed his hands against the door to stop himself, yelled at the top of his lungs, 'SHOTGUN'!, opened the door, threw his backpack on the front seat floor, and sat down before he looked up at the probably quite bewildered driver of the other van.

He scrambled back out of the van, sheepishly glancing at the two young girls who were looking at him suspiciously as they were loading their backpacks into the back of their van. In the meantime, once I realized what he was doing I had tried to honk to get his attention, to no avail. Danielle had watched the whole thing, bemused expression on her face, because she, too, had figured out that Nicholas was headed to the wrong car. She just thought it would be funnier to watch her brother do it than to warn him. Huge embarrassed look on his face, Nicholas headed back to our van, and when he opened the door, we all dissolved into fits of laughter, including him. And nothing beats starting off your weekend with a fit of laughter!

Friday, April 24, 2009

And We Wonder Where the Kids Get It....

April 24, 2009

I just got an email from a parent that said, "Whoever came up with this assignment ought to be beaten with a stick." That 'whoever', obviously, is me. Granted, it is a tough assignment, and it requires planning and research. That's what I do--I'm paid to prepare these 17-year-olds to enter college or the work world and be adept at...planning and research. There's also a collaborative effort involved, and although there can sometimes be problems in group dynamics, navigating those group dynamics are also school and workplace skills. We do a disservice to kids if we make them think that they'll never have to work together with classmates or co-workers in their lives. And, by the way, it's cool if you disagree with me on that particular point, but should I be 'beaten with a stick'? And is it okay to teach the kids that that's an acceptable way of articulating one's disagreements?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

If I Go Missing....

April 23, 2009

I got to work today, and discovered that most of us are getting pretty significant schedule changes in our class line-ups next year. For me, that probably means losing a World Literature class and picking up another AP class. The thing is, the AP classes write about triple the amount the regular senior classes do (and ALL of them turn in everything, so I can't even count on lessening my reading due to apathy), so I'm afraid I'm going to be buried next year. I have a tough enough time getting through all the AP essays with just one class and giving them all the adequate feedback and input they need to be prepared for the exam. Don't get me wrong; I LOVE my AP class. I'm just afraid I will love another one a little bit less.

The most annoying thing about it all is that admin. asked us all for our requests for schedule for next year, then essentially threw them out the window. I know how hard it is to make a schedule; I was dept. chair for twelve years. But so far, I don't know of anyone whose request has been honored. Fine, but then don't ask like it matters, if it doesn't. The guy whose AP class I'm picking up specifically asked NOT to have to give up his class, and I specifically asked to keep just the one that I currently teach. Since I already have three different classes that I teach, trying to also keep up with the additional paperwork load of double the amount of AP students might just send me over the edge.

If I go missing next school year, try looking under the mountain of papers in my classroom...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Robert Cray

April 22, 2009

Doug and I went to the Robert Cray concert last night. A real date night out, with dinner and everything. : ) It is wonderful to have a fabulous 15 year old daughter who is willing and able to babysit the younger ones so that we can have a night to ourselves. All it took was a little iTunes bribery--small price to pay.

Last week was our anniversary, and we decided when we got married that it would be fun and inspire a little creativity to follow the old anniversary 'traditions': first year=paper, second year=cotton, etc. Doug got me super amazingly soft cotton sheets for our bed this year, and I got him Robert Cray tickets (which I knew he really wanted!) with the promise of a cotton RC t-shirt when we got there. (I know, we're simple folks. It works for us.)

The concert was fantastic. Even though I'm no musician, I can appreciate the amazing talent. He plays so beautifully you can't help but be physically and emotionally drawn into his groove. And his singing voice? Clear, enveloping, mesmerizing. Soulful and powerful. Doug's been a long-time admirer of RC, and I'm so glad I was able to share in that experience with him. I'll be thinking about last night for a long time to come.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Crazy Loud Car-Crushing Trucks

April 20, 2009
We certainly made the social rounds this past weekend. On Friday night, Danielle was invited to a sleepover birthday party, and Brianna met up with about 20 of her friends to see "17 Again" at the theater. (I swear, I can't believe how many friends that girl has--I don't think I even knew that many people when I was her age, let alone that many people I could call good friends. And she is clearly the social director/organizer of the group! We are so blessed that she is such a friendly, good-hearted girl who makes people smile wherever she goes, and that she's got such a strong innate ability to choose positive people with whom to surround herself.) Anyway, that left just Nicholas to hang out with Doug and me after Family Dinner Night, so we decided we would do something that would specifically appeal to the 100% boy in him.

I can't take credit for this idea; it was all Doug's. He texted me early on in the day to let me know that the Monster Truck Races were happening at the fair grounds that night. Naturally, this had escaped my radar, since I don't tend to be on the lookout for the noisy, testoterone-fueled kinds of entertainment. But since he brought it up, I checked it out and discovered that the times coincided nicely with drop-off and pick up time for Bree, and the admissions charge was pretty reasonable. Our fate was sealed, and the plans were made.

We decided it would be fun to surprise Nicholas, so we didn't tell him where we were going. Even as we were pulling up to the fairgrounds, he was trying to guess what we were taking him to that was 'especially for him without the girls.' Star Wars convention? Robotics show? Airplane museum? Some place with really cool Lego creations? As we got closer to the entrance, we could hear the engines booming. A huge grin broke out across his face and excitement danced in his eyes. MONSTER TRUCKS! We had scored big parent points--the boy was beside himself.

I have to admit, attending the thing didn't make a convert out of me. It's just not my cup of tea. It's a little too noisy and dirty for me. Not that I have an aversion to dirt and noise, as anyone who has ever been to my house is well aware; I just prefer the kinds of dirt and noise generated by children, rather than by burly men in big trucks. That being said, it was well worth it to me to see the way Nicholas cheered for his favorite (isn't it interesting how quickly one can attach to a 'favorite'), throwing his fists in the air and his voice to the wind. He was transfixed. Crazy loud, car-crushing trucks for him, memory of the look on his face for me. Definitely a fair trade-off!

Afterwards, we picked up Bree and continued our family night with a Rock Band concert. Nicholas and Doug are our Rock Star guitar players, and Bree is learning the words to all kinds of songs she's never even heard before. I'm rockin' the drums, though I have to admit that right now I'm the weakest link. I guess taking a couple of months off from my 'skills' was a bit of a set-back.

The next day, we all took in a little sun at Danielle's softball game. By 'took in a little sun,' I mean baked 'til our shoulders and noses were a crispy red. We seemed to jump from the low seventies to the high eighties overnight, and bad mom that I am, I didn't remember the sunscreen. (It's inexplicable to me, that sunscreen seems to be the one item that forever slips into the black hole of my memory whenever I'm trying to be prepared for an outing. Bandaids? Check. Sunglasses? Check. Something to drink? Check. A blanket to sit on? Check. Everything else except the kitchen sink? Check, check, check. Oh yeah....except the dang sunscreen!) Anyway, Danielle had a whole entourage there to watch her get another base hit. I'm a big fan of being a big fan. Though my other children sometimes grumble and complain, we all head out in full force to see whichever one of them happens to be playing, performing, dancing, competing...whatever. I believe we could all use a little cheering section now and then, and with a family,. you've got one built right in. Someday they'll thank me for it. Maybe.
The next day, with the kids off to their dad's, Doug and I had the day to ourselves. We decided to take in a concert by the Clovis Community Band. My good friend Bill Murray was playing a solo, so we were glad we could go see him. (I'm a sucker for a good musician, but that's another blog.) The concert was lovely, especially Bill's solo. Doug and I got to visit with some other old friends who were also in the band. Later, we met up with Doug's nephew Justin and his fiancee Courtney, and we played pool for a few hours. Although Doug plays every week, it had been almost four months since I last played, so it felt good to know that I hadn't totally lost my way around the pool table. Finally, we made our way home. I cooked one of our standby favorites for dinner, and we sank into the couch to watch a little bit of mindless fun on the television. Not a bad way to end our day.

Friday, April 17, 2009

It's Friday!

The last one was a bit of a downer, so this one is all about the good.

Five things that make me happy today:

1. It's Friday! I'm looking forward to the upcoming weekend with my family.

2. It's my choice for family dinner tonight. I'm thinking about maybe Sweet Tomatoes, but that could change in the next six or seven hours.

3. Danielle has a softball game tomorrow, and odds are that it will be much more pleasant weather than the windy Wednesday game.

4. The guys at Doug's work have figured out who hit his truck, so their insurance will handle it. No deductible for us!

5. I got to chat with my friend Allison today, who came in to see what kind of classes she'll be teaching when she comes back next year.


So, I've been trying to figure out for quite sometime now why a particular person's opinion continues to hold such importance to me, and I think I've finally figured out why I've been holding onto a relationship (for lack of a better word) with a ghost from my past. You'd think I might have figured it out before, but no. We were inseperable for a time, but then, without much warning, I was expendable. This happens to all of us at one time or another, I suppose, but because I didn't really know why it happened, it caused me to question my judgment. Did I just think we were close? What did I do (or not do) to cause the rift? What was it about me that made it easy to walk away? Was I not smart enough? Pretty enough? Interesting enough? Just not....enough?

Those questions, I think, have colored who I am. I still question, with most people, if they think of our friendship or relationship in the same way I do. I don't always trust myself to believe that our friendship is as important to them as I think it is. That makes me sound pretty insecure, but the reality is I have a very close circle of safe friends with whom I absolutely believe I've found acceptance and love. And I'm very happy with my life. But every now and then, life takes its natural course and one person turns left while the other continues straight ahead. It happens, and that's okay. But I still find myself trying to prove to myself that I am smart enough, pretty enough, interesting enough. And I sometimes look to others to reassure me that I am. Enough. That's not their job; it's mine.

So, great. I've got it all figured out. Well, the why, anyway. What do to with that information? I don't know. I guess being my own therapist only goes so far.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Our Wedding

April 14, 2009

In honor of our 2nd anniversary, I wanted to share two particularly meaningful pieces of our wedding ceremony. We were honored to have our beautiful and loving friend Carrie not only put these words to paper, but deliver them from her heart when she performed the ceremony. Carrie, we love you--you rock! I can honestly say that ours was the best wedding I've ever attended, and you were an irreplaceable part of that.

The journey to this moment began, about 25 years ago, when Donna’s family moved in across the street from Doug’s family, here in Clovis. They were barely teenagers when they first laid eyes on one another. Both of them have fond memories of hanging out with friends, and family in one driveway or another. Donna remembers a self-assurance in Doug that made him stand out from the other awkward and tongue-tied teenaged boys that she was used to. She found Doug easy to talk to- and he always made her laugh. Doug has a different type of memory, of Donna’s “sparkling eyes” and a certain pair of 80’s style dolphin shorts that she used to wear.

Now, after all of these years and a lot of life between them, they have been reunited and have developed a much deeper connection, that I will try to pass on- using some of their own words, about one another.

Donna, Doug describes you as: Smart, Funny, Optimistic, Playful, and Girly.
He respects the dedication and love you have for your profession. He also admires your “mom skillz.” He feels that spending time with you and your family has transformed him into a better person.

Doug, Donna describes you as: Charming, Intelligent, Funny, Talented, and Affectionate.
She respects your loyalty, generosity, and your caring and protective nature when it comes to those you love and care about. Your easy-going, boyish charm that she first saw all those years ago, still draws her to you today. She loves the way you make her feel beautiful when she is with you.

You both describe each other as your best friend, and together- you enjoy three simple pleasures in life: Love, Laughter, and Family.

A soul mate is someone who has locks that fit our keys, and keys to fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; we can be loved for who we are and not for who we're pretending to be. Each unveils the best part of the other. No matter what else goes wrong around us, with that one person we're safe in our own paradise. Our soul mate is someone who shares our deepest longings, our sense of direction. When we're two balloons, and together our direction is up, chances are we've found the right person. Our soul mate is the one who makes life come to life.

Spring Break

April 14, 2009

While some of my school teacher friends are just now getting out for spring break, I am coming back from mine, returning to the real world of work and students and grading papers. As always, spring break came at a time when a respite was not only welcome, but necessary. It's a strategic recharging of the batteries before we head into the home stretch of the school year. I think I'm ready. I think.

Luckily, spring break usually means getting to see my sister and her girls. We traveled down south to Corona for five days of relaxation (as much as one can have with six children around) and fun. As soon as we arrived, we got to see a show put on by my nieces. They had recently auditioned for a school talent show, and were eager to share their routines. Devin and Bailey did a pop-dance number, Taylor did a tap number, and Devin belted out an impressive song selection. You've just gotta love that kind of welcome!

The next day was pretty mellow. Lisa's girls were still in school last week, so they had to head out early while my darlins got to sleep in. When they got home from school, we took the girls to their karate class, and then all headed out for a Target excursion.

Friday while the girls were still at school, Lisa, my kids, and I all decided to take a tour of the UC Irvine campus, which isn't too much of a drive from Lisa's house. Brianna, my 15 year old, is beginning the process of figuring out where she wants to go to college. There are lots of aspects to consider, including cost, potential for scholarships, location, major offerings, housing, etc. Since Lisa graduated from UCI and I did my graduate work there, we figured that was a good place to start. For all three of my kids, this was their first up-close-and-personal look at a college campus. We talked to them about the parking passes (a novel idea for kids who've never had to pay to park anywhere), and showed them the cafeterias, the various 'schools' within the school, the bookstore, and the library. We were even fortunate enough to meet up with a former student of mine who was willing to show us around her dorm.

As it turns out, once we started looking into the major offerings, we discovered that UCI is probably not the best choice for Bree, since there are schools out there with stronger Public Relations majors, which is the interest she is most leaning toward as a focus of her studies. However, Nicholas was absolutely enamored of the school (the library in particular held him in awe), and since he's interested right now in something in the field of engineering, UCI would be a great fit for him. We've got a lot of time before he's ready to move out on his own and start college (he's only in sixth grade), but in the meantime, I'm thrilled to have given him a concrete visual of the kind of place he could end up after he graduates from high school. Even Danielle (my 4th grader) was asking questions about her interests and what kinds of schools they might lead her to. Since I had never even stepped foot onto a college campus before I registered for my first semester, I am really excited about beginning these conversations with the kids now. Over the course of the next year and a half, I plan to take several more trips to visit college campuses, and although some of those will be just mother-daughter trips for Bree and me, I want to take Nicholas and Danielle on some of them, too, just so they can see what's out there.

After the big college outing, we headed to a local park to let the kids burn off some energy. There's nothing else like playing on the swings to make you feel free. The kids also decided to sail across the slider on the monkeybars with their feet up in the air, a la the coolest ninjas ever.

Saturday, Lisa had to work so I took the kids to see a movie. More specifically, my 15 year old, good sport that she is, agreed to take all the little girls to see Hannah Montana while I took Nicholas to see Monsters Vs. Aliens. I thought it would be cruel to subject Nicholas to the Hannah Montana experience, and I wasn't much more excited about it than he was. While I thought Monsters Vs. Aliens was no cinematic masterpiece, I think I got the better end of that deal. Afterward we headed to a nearby Barnes and Noble (my idea of heaven, and luckily, my childrens' too) to pick out some new books.

Finally, it was time for the big event that all of the kids had been anticipating: the dyeing of the Easter eggs. We picked Lisa up from work, and got busy boiling the eggs. Actually, Devin took charge and got all the prep work done, including dividing up the eggs evenly among the cousins. Lisa and I put on some great 70s and 80s tunes to belt out while the kids got to work on the eggs. (Egg-dyeing should never go on without much singing and dancing!) True to their individual personalities, there were varying degrees of 'splash-and-go' and meticulous crafting of the final egg products. If you know the kids, it isn't hard to guess which kids fell at which end of the spectrum. Ah, of my strongest memories of Easter from when I was a kid is getting all dressed up in Easter finery to go to church on Sunday morning, whilst simultaneously sporting livid shades of blue, purple, and green up to my mid- forearms. Devin and Danielle did their best to recreate that memory for me. I think Danielle still has hints of the dye on her hands today.

Dancing and dyeing done, we began the Herculean task of getting five excited children off to bed so the Easter bunny could pay his visit. (I say five because the sixth, the 15 year old, is of course in on the gig, so we didn't feel the need to usher her off to bed.) Then began the filling of the plastic eggs and the baskets (with a little taste of chocolate now and then for the Easter bunnies). We fell into bed way too late, knowing how early all the kids would be up.

They were, in fact, up awfully early, ready to begin the trading of goods in the baskets. With a breakfast of pure sugar coursing through their veins, they were off to hunt down the hidden eggs. (Okay, so don't judge; I always had a breakfast of pure sugar on Easter Sunday when I was growing up, and look how I turned out! One day a year doesn't kill them.) The Easter bunny had to get quite creative to hide the amount of eggs he had garnered, since Lisa's backyard is pretty small and is mostly taken up with a swimming pool. In short order, the kids managed to find all 175 treasures (what were we thinking?) and settled into a second round of bartering before we had to head out on our way home.

Kids snoozing in the backseat, the trip home was quiet and uneventful. Much as I love visiting and being with Lisa and the girls, I was grateful to finally get back home to Doug, to my own home, and to my own bed. I slept very soundly Sunday night: )

Monday, April 13, 2009

What's the Point?

I'm feeling a little humbled and low today. Is this all just an exercise in vanity, throwing all of my random thoughts out into cyberspace? I guess there is an element to that in most writing. But if I'm only speaking to myself--if my purpose is not to change the world or to discuss the grander issues at large in the world--maybe I should just keep the voices inside my head inside, where they belong.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


April 11, 2009

One of the best gifts I've ever gotten was my GPS. My husband got it for me for Christmas a couple of years ago. He was so happy with his gift of choice that it prompted my sister to ask him why he thought it was such a perfect choice. His response was, "If you had ever gotten a phone call from your wife, crying because she was lost and didn't know how to get found again, you would just know."

Yup, he's absolutely right. I wasn't blessed with a good sense of direction. As a matter of fact, I'd say that my sense of direction is downright counter-productive most of the time. And yes, my primary reaction to the frustration of being lost (among other things) is crying. I'm not proud of it, and I know it doesn't do much to solve the situation, but it is what it is.

What Doug managed to give me with that gift was not just a new gadget. What he gave me was the freedom to move outside my comfort zone with a safety net. The worrisome part of traveling before was not so much checking out my new surroundings, but the very real concern that I might not be able to get back to where I started. Mapquest was a lifesaver when that first became available, but it didn't provide for a couple of fairly important possibilities. The first shortcoming was that it couldn't account for a wrong turn on my part, or a missed freeway exit, which, I'll admit, happens more often than I'd like. Because north, south, east, and west are more vague concepts to me than useful navigational tools, once I'd gone astray, getting back onto the right freeway in the right direction could sometimes prove more challenging than what I was up for. The second thing Mapquest couldn't predict was road closures or detours. Those could throw me into an utter tailspin, and soon the tears would come, unbidden but predictable nonetheless. Let's not even talk about the fact that said wrong turns or detours always seemed to come like clockwork when I was in desperate need of finding the closest restroom because I drank a huge Diet Pepsi on the trip, adding to the tears and frustration.

These days, however, my faithful friend Elizabeth (the name my kids have bestowed upon my GPS) accompanies me on all of my journeys. While I am visiting my sister in southern California, if I need a post office, Elizabeth can find one for me. If I need to take her girls to their karate class while my sister is at work, I just punch in the address and Elizabeth leads me there. When I want to find the nearest Target, Elizabeth knows how to direct me. No matter where I go, I can get there, but more importantly, I can get back. There are still times when I miss the exit, or a road closure requires an alternate route, but in such instances, Elizabeth recalculates, and I'm off and running again. Instead of seeing these wrong turns as potential disasters, I calmly (and without tears), take in my surroundings and make my way to my destination, with the certainty that I can get where I'm going, wherever that may be, and will eventually get back home again.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Beliefs and Values

April 6, 2009

When we are very young, we get our belief systems and values, whatever they may be, imparted to us through our parents or other influential adults in our lives. We see what they do, and how they behave, and hear what they speak. For some of us, the teaching is direct, and for others of us, the teaching is more through example, or experience.

For most of us, the teenage years are a process of beginning to question those core value systems. Some question those values in a loud and vehement demonstration that rejects all authority, some do it in a quiet, introspective way. There's lots of in-between, too. There's no question that that's why the teen years can be such difficult ones to traverse, both for the teen in question and the parents involved.

Now, admittedly, there are some who never delve much into questioning their parents, and there are some who do a complete 180 just to spite their parents, rather than through a conscious choice to adhere to a particular belief set. But for most of us, at that age when we are starting to come into our own and are beginning to navigate the waters of adulthood, we begin to see that, "Because Mom and Dad say so" is not a strong enough basis for a belief system. We want to know WHY. We begin to weigh the merits of this belief over that one, and why we should choose to behave in a particular manner and not in another. We decide what makes sense to us, and what perhaps needs a little rethinking in our own minds to sit comfortably in our own psyches.

Some of us ultimately come back to a values set that is remarkably similar to our parents' and some of us stray about as far as we can go. More often than not, though, it is a middle ground where we find ourselves, adapting to a new era, a new generation, a new social set of circumstances. What I find interesting, though, and not just a little disturbing, is the view that because I believe a particular thing (about religion, about philosophy, about social policies, about politics, etc.) that may be different than someone else's belief, it must be because I am blindly following someone else's values set (my parents'?) and not my own.

I am my own person with beliefs that I have wrestled through and considered deeply. I have asked the questions why? and why not? I have questioned the way in which I was raised, and the impact it had on me as a human being, as a person with a tiny place in this grand universe. And yet, I do not claim to have all of the answers. I do not claim that anyone who believes differently than I do is wrong, or is blindly ignorant, or worse yet, stupid. I can recognize that if someone's view of the world is different than mine is, there can be merit to that viewpoint. As long as one's beliefs don't infringe on the freedoms or well-beings of other individuals, I am open to hearing those viewpoints. If, ultimately, I disagree, it doesn't mean that I think that person is, by default, a blindly following sheep. I can respect their line of thinking--I can respect them as a person--without having to agree with their world view.

Ironically, I am not always met with the same open-mindedness. I resent the implication that because I don't hold exactly the same belief set as someone else, it must be because I am not intelligent enough to have considered the 'right' answer. There are those who say with derision (or worse, pity) that I have derived my beliefs from my parents and the way I was raised. It's amazing to me to think they believe they are not influenced by their upbringing--it is impossible to objectively dissociate one's self from one's childhood; of course we are all influenced by it. There are those who say because I hold this belief or that I am an ignorant follower--and yet they want me to, without question, follow their lead, because they have the 'right' answer? I welcome questions, I welcome intelligent discussion, and I welcome dynamic interaction that leads us all to a greater understanding of where we are all coming from. This is how we define and redefine why and how we believe what we believe. These conversations cannot be held if one side is only interested in mocking the other. It's interesting (and sad) to me that those who often claim to be the most 'open-minded' because of their 'progressive and unique views' (shared by many, often including their own parents) are the ones least interested in engaging in real discussion.

Like most parents, I hope to show my children what I believe about religion, philosophy, social policies, politics, etc. Even more than that, I hope to show them why I believe such things. Part of that why will be because I believe that no human being has all the 'right' answers, and that by being truly open to others' ideas, we all continue to grow and gain new insights. I don't want my children to blindly follow my lead, or anyone else's. I want them to know that it's okay to question why, and as a matter of fact, I want them to question why. Most importantly, I want them to know that when they have beliefs and values that sometimes come into conflict with mine, as I know they will, that I welcome an open, honest, and intelligent discussion with them that does not belittle or demean either of our viewpoints. There are too many other people in the world who want to make life's discussions a battlefield.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Morvern Caverns Field Trip

April 5, 2009
On Tuesday I had the opportunity to take a fieldtrip with Danielle to Morvern Caverns. Although I dislike being out of my classroom, I love that my job gives me the flexibility to go on out-of-town trips with my kids.

Honestly, the best part of the trip came very early on in the day. As we jumped in the van bright and early to head to the school, I asked Danielle which one of her friends she was hoping to sit with on the bus. She looked at me quizzically, and then said, "I'm sitting next to you, Mommy!" I told her that was very sweet, but that I didn't mind at all if she wanted to sit next to one of her friends; I told her that I'd be alright, and that I could sit with one of the other mommies. "No!" she said. I was excited about you going on this fieldtrip with me because I want to spend the day with YOU. You HAVE to sit with me!" Oh my goodness--how cute is that? One day, when my little ten year old has turned sixteen, she might be less inclined to hold me so close in her world, but for now, I'll revel in it.

After a three hour bus ride, we arrived at our picnic lunch site. Danielle and I sat with a group of her girlfriends, and we enjoyed perfect weather and clean fresh air. When we finished, we headed out on a nature walk with the class. Her teacher, Mrs. Olson, stopped frequently to point out various indigenous plants and give us a little background on the history of the area. It was a lovely walk, and Danielle and I both stopped frequently to take pictures.

Once we had circled back to our starting point, it was time to visit the big attraction of the day--Morvern Cavern. (It's also called the Moaning Cavern, because of the echos it produces.) Our guide was a funny and interesting guy. He gave us a little historical background before we headed down into the depths. The first 65 feet of the path into the tunnel was down an incredibly narrow and steep set of stairs. A couple of the girls got a little nervous, so they made sure to stay close to an adult. Danielle, who is quite a little daredevil, didn't seem at all affected by the claustrophobia, fear of heights, or fear of darkness that seemed to bother some of her classmates.

We reached the platform at 65 feet, and our guide stopped to point out some of the more unique formations. Kids identified stalagtites and stalagmites, and learned about the ways in which the various shapes came into being. Our guide also showed us shapes that suggested outlines of miner's faces, gorillas, and mushrooms. It was all very cool.

Then we began our spiral descent down the last 100 feet into the depths. The enclosed spiral staircase was made entirely out of the metal from a WWI battleship, and it was so narrow that we had to traverse it in single file. The kids (and many of the parents, I think) were in awe. Once we reached the platform, we got a little more of a history lesson from our guide, and were shown that the only way to get down any further was by rappelling. Some of the kids were disappointed that we weren't going to be sliding down on ropes, but I think many of them were pretty relieved. The highlight before we headed back up the staircase was when our guide shut out all the lights, and showed us what pitch dark looked like when the miners lost their lights or candles. It was fascinating for the minute the lights were out, but made me profoundly aware of the utter hopelessness some of those miners back in time must have experienced when they realized without any kind of light to guide them back out of the caverns, they could be lost in there forever.

We, however, weren't lost in there forever. The lights returned, and we made our way back up the staircase. Once we emerged from the cavern, each of the kids was given a bag of sand, and they got to pan for gems using the sluices set up for visitors to the site. Each of the kids came away with several beautiful stones as souvenirs. Finally, it was time to pile back onto the bus and head home.

The bus ride home was a quiet one, many of the kids taking naps on the way. My little one curled up on her seat and put her head on my shoulder, and fell asleep, the sound of her gentle breathing in my ear. Yes, I missed my students in my class that day, but this time with Danielle, one-on-one, I wouldn't have missed for the world.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


Don't you just hate it when you have a bad dream and wake up carrying that sense of fear or dread or frustration with you? Sometimes dreams are so vivid that you feel like you actually experienced them in real life. That's pretty great when they're good dreams, like, say you got to meet and hang out for the day with Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, or you dreamed that you were lying on a sunny beach in Cancun, cabana boy bringing you drinks to your heart's content. When they're dreams of the not-so-pleasant variety, though, sometimes that unsettling feeling you wake up with can be hard to shake for the rest of the day. I'm going to need to do something interesting today to switch my mental gears.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Here's a headline that caught my eye from today's news: "Surgeons Save Man Who Accidentally Swallowed Scissors." Really? I've done a lot of accidental things over the course of my 41 years, but nothing that even remotely approaches inadvertently ingesting large sharp objects. How does one get into such a situation where swallowing scissors is a potential outcome? Good thing he wasn't running, too. That could have been really bad.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fool's Day

I consider myself to have a pretty good sense of humor, but I've never been a big fan of April Fool's Day. I like jokes, and can certainly laugh at myself (I do on a regular basis), but it seems to me that the vast majority of people use this day as an excuse to be mean to others. If you just say "April Fools!" afterward, it supposedly makes it all okay. Perhaps because I spend my days with adolescents I have a skewed view of the way people 'celebrate' this day, but the reality is that manufacturing a scheme to make someone else look or feel foolish just seems mean-spirited and wrong. We spend most of the year teaching our kids that laughing at someone else's misfortune is in poor character, and then on this one sanctioned day out of the year, all bets are off and they are celebrated for the most elaborate and clever tricks they can devise.

I had a girl in class one year who had an incredible crush on a popular boy. The boy thought it would be funny to ask her out on April 1st as a joke, knowing how thrilled she would be to get such attention from him. That is not mere tomfoolery, people; it's plain cruelty. When I pointed that out, I was chastised for taking things too seriously. I don't get it. If that means that I spend each April 1st being accused of somehow lacking a sense of humor, so be it.