Disneyland Family 5K -2014

Disneyland Family 5K -2014

Monday, December 17, 2012

I'll Be Home for Christmas, if only in my dreams

The holidays are a strange time for me.  I am filled with the wonder and excitement that I felt as a child, but also filled with the stress and worry of gift-giving and time management and wondering how I will get it all done.  Gifts for the kids and their teachers, for the gardener and the pest control man, cookies for the neighbors and crossing guards - and what do you mean I need to get my husband a gift?  It can get very crazy.

Each year, I feel a little tug, a small desire to go back to the "simple" times of sitting down at the dining room table with the big Sears catalog, and making my list for Santa (with the Barbie Dream House at the top.)  Of course, I know that those days are gone - Sears doesn't put out that catalog anymore, I don't think, and Barbie now has a condo- but that doesn't stop me from wishing for them from time to time.  As adults, there is so much more to the holidays than sitting up late waiting for Santa, or the unbridled joy of ripping through all that paper in the morning.  As adults, we grow and we change, circumstances and situations change and life moves on.  Perhaps that is what makes the holidays a struggle for me, even through the happiness and wonder.

Some of my friends know and will remember that I converted to Judaism about 12 years ago.  Up to that point, I had always struggled with religion, wondering how a merciful and loving G-d could take parents away or cause "good" people to get diseases.  The idea of "Hell", quite frankly, scared the Hell out of me.  As a young child, I was often disturbed by sermons in church of a vengeful G-d and had nightmares of war and fire.  I studied religions in school, read the Bible cover-to-cover several times, even attended Catholic mass and still wondered.  In college, I took a course on Islam and found a more peaceful side of religion, but still did not feel that it was right for me.  It was not until I met Rob and began to study Judaism that things clicked into place.  This was a religion that made sense to me.  Someone told me shortly after I converted that she hoped "He was worth it," meaning Rob.  The truth was that he was just the icing on top, that I did not convert for him, but because it made sense to me, for my spiritual journey and on my path to G-d.

As I was going through the classes and conversion process, there was a support group for our class.  Someone who had converted many years before opened her home to a few of us and we talked about the process and how things went.  My biggest concerns and questions had to do with Christmas.  I asked her how difficult it was to let that holiday go.  She said that she took it in pieces and dealt with each aspect on its own, after figuring out what about it she would miss the most.  For example, she loved to bake holiday cookies and decided that she could still do that, and give them to friends or make them for Hanukkah.  She also liked to sing carols, and could continue to do that as well.   As I moved forward on my journey, I began to look at the holidays in that respect, trying to parse out the pieces that were most important to me.

What has become apparent to me over the years, is that the holidays never held very much religious significance to me.  Before you all begin preparations to tar and feather me on this point, I'll ask you to point out where Santa appears in the Bible.  Oh, that's right, he's not there.  So when Santa visited my house, it wasn't because we were religious.  I'll also remind you that the 3 Wise Men supposedly showed up when Jesus was 3, in Egypt, not at the birth in Bethlehem (it took them that long to find him) and that many scholars believe the birth was not even in December.  I believe that the world over the years has taken the story of the birth of Jesus and turned it into what suits them (each respective group) the most.  BUT, again, before you tar and feather me, this blog is not intended to be a theological discussion of the origins of Christmas.  This is about ME (duh.)  As I was saying - for me, I don't recall much religious significance in the holiday.  Yes, we did Christmas Eve services, and yes, we sang carols, and yes, we had a nativity scene.  But those all seemed to get wrapped up into the total package of presents and other things, and the religious side of it (and perhaps, G-d) got lost.

What I did find, in looking back over the years, and considering what the holidays meant to me, was family.  Above all else, family is what I recall about all of those holidays over the years.  My dad was one of 11 kids, the 2nd oldest, and my mom the oldest of 6 kids.  All have married over the years and most have kids.  I was the 4th oldest of 26 (I think) grandkids, just on one side.  Many of my aunts and uncles stayed local to Jefferson Ohio, which means that Grandma's house was packed to the gills for holiday dinners.  Yes, there were a ton of gifts when we were kids, but the things I remember most are the smell of Grandma's house, and the sound of all of those people - the sound of silverware clanking on plates, dishes being washed, and feet running up and down the stairs.  (Oh, and of course, all of the red stockings hanging up and down the sides of the staircase in the basement.)  Those are the things I remember, and those are the things I miss the most.

Before you ask why I can't still have the family connection, I will say that I can, but it is much more difficult.  I moved across the country for graduate school and in doing so, removed myself from much of my extended family.  Rob's family is small, both of his parents are only children, and so holiday gatherings much smaller and quieter and more reserved.  In celebrating with his family, I have come to realize how different those celebrations are (all religion aside) and find myself more and more missing those moments in a warm house, packed with people, all talking and eating at once.  I did have a moment, last Saturday, at my in-laws house, during Hanukkah dinner.  There were 12 of us there, I think, along with the girls and my nephew Arthur (who is 9 months.)  At a random point in the evening, I looked around and saw chaos - the girls were out of their seats and running around and Arthur was chattering away, the adults having several different conversations and plates and silverware clanking.  I stopped for a minute and just smiled.  For that briefest of moments, I was back in the middle of Grandma Wolf's house at Christmas and it made me smile.

I still find ways to celebrate, in my own small way.  I put up holiday lights on my house, although they are blue and white lights (traditional Jewish and Israeli colors) and lit bears holding "Happy Hanukkah" signs.  I still have candles in my windows, but they are in a menorah.  I still play Christmas music (check out my list below) and I still put up some decorations.  (With small kids, how can you not?)  I have all of the santa ornaments that Aunt Sue has painted, and they go up across my mantle every year.  And I bake cookies.  A lot of cookies.  Some day, I may even venture into the world of "Hanukkah bushes" but for now, I'm contenting myself with Winnie the Pooh's winter village on my dining room table.

And now for some lighter fare - one of my most vivid holiday memories is from my senior year of high school.  The year before, we had spent several hours of Christmas Eve at a friend's house down the street from my mom's house, playing board games and just being kids.  My senior year, we were back for a bit of the same.  At the end of the evening (well past midnight,) we left our friend's house to wander back up the street to our house.  We came outside and it had snowed.  The street was covered (there were no cars around at that hour) and everything was white.  It was beautiful.

Some more random, lighter, holiday banter.  My favorite holiday songs?  I'll give you the top 3:  (1) I'll be Home for Christmas (duh.) (2) All I want for Christmas is You, and (3) O Holy Night.  (Seriously, I don't care what you celebrate, Mariah Carey's version of this song is just beautiful.  Straight no Chaser has a pretty good version as well.)  Honorable mention - I'm dreaming of a White Christmas - particularly the intro that is not even in most versions, about the sun shining and the grass green and orange and palm trees sway.  Yes, I still listen to Christmas music.  I have it on my iPod and my car radio is tuned to the Sirius holiday station.  It does not make me any less Jewish to listen to Christmas music.  Especially the one about something being stuck in the chimney, or the Redneck 12 Days of Christmas.  Those just make me smile.

A few of you asked me last year around this time (probably in response to a post about the holidays then), what some of the differences were between Hanukkah and Christmas.  I promise I will get that posted here soon (maybe even before this Christmas.)

Regardless of what you are celebrating, I wish you the joy of family this season, and peace.  I hope you all have a warm and dry place to sleep and someone to snuggle with (whether 2 legs or 4) and I wish you all a very happy holiday season.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Thanksgiving Holiday

As this long 4-day weekend rolls to a close, I find myself tucked under a blanket on my couch, catching up on some old television.  The weekend was a busy one, so this "quiet time" to myself is good to get ready for the crazy week ahead.  As I decompress, my thoughts wander back over this weekend, and others like it over the years.

Oddly, as I was driving home from work on Tuesday, I felt a letdown similar to what I feel at the end of most holiday seasons. I found myself almost wishing that the holiday season was over and had to remind myself that it had not even started yet.  I blame that on the saturation of holiday decorations and music in the stores before Halloween was even over. 

While watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, I remembered as a kid spending the night before Thanksgiving at Aunt Helen and Uncle Rick's house.  We'd get up in the morning and watch the parade and then Mom or Dad would pick us up before heading to Grandma Norton's house.  Watching the parade this year with my girls got me all choked up a few times, like when they both got so excited over the Hello Kitty balloon and K had to "boop" Kitty's nose.  I can only hope that they remember these times and in another 25 years or so, they will get up on Thanksgiving morning and watch the parade with their kids.

Our Thanksgiving feast was the usual array of too much food - turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberries and pie.  Lots and lots of pie.  There was something new at our feast this year as well - two people who were dieting.  Yes, I said "dieting."  First, before I continue with this story, I will preface my comments with the caveat that I make no judgments of these people or of their choices.  I merely comment on them here to add some "depth" to my discussion of my turkey weekend.  As I was saying, they are dieting, under their physician's supervision, and have a specific goal weight that they are working towards.  The diet includes a process that cuts out all sugars for a period of time.  They basically eat protein (eggs and meat) and vegetables at every meal.  No dairy or fruit (sugars).  The Thanksgiving feast was an interesting one for them, as they focused on the turkey and had some green salad as well.  The challenge came when dessert was laid out.  As I said before, pies, pies and more pies.

As we were putting things together and onto the table, one of the people dieting made the comment "you guys are killing me, here!" or something to that effect.  I responded with "what they don't know..." (meaning the doctor) and someone else commented "but they will know" (meaning the dieters.)  So here is my question.  One piece of pie won't kill you, right?  I understand the part about willpower and wanting to continue to work towards your goal.  I understand that if you "cheat," the doctor may not know but you will and you have to live with yourself.  I have seen many, many seasons of the Biggest Loser and I understand that people must be ever vigilant against the things that got them into trouble in the first place.  At the same time, the dieters from our dinner were not "large" by any means.  They have commented about struggles with weight over the years but I would not consider them overweight and I don't know that they really have that much to lose.  (Which isn't to say that they don't look great!)   So again, I ask the question (without judgment or even an idea of an answer) of whether a piece of pie would do that much damage. 

For myself, I am o.k. with eating the pie.  I recognize my weaknesses and sometimes indulge, particularly on holidays.  If I know that a big pie-eating day is coming up, perhaps I will ease off on other sweets on the days leading up to it in order to get ready.  Some things, I can take or leave.  When there is a pie in the house (pumpkin, of course) I might eat a piece each night until it is gone.  But if there is no pie in the house, I don't go out of my way to track it down, or buy it or make it.  I guess that is just how I am wired.  Maybe that is why I have trouble understanding another person's seeming inability to eat just one piece of pie on Thanksgiving and get back to "business" the next day.  But, as I said, I make no judgments and I certainly applaud them for their steadfast approach to their dieting.

On to the shopping!  Many of my friends commented on Facebook about the stores opening on Thanksgiving and that they planned to boycott those stores because they (my friends) believed that even employees of big box stores deserved to have some time.  Some of my friends mapped out their route and got started late Thanksgiving evening/ early Friday morning.  Me?  I needed sleep and did not see anything in the fliers worth crawling out of bed that early for.  Over the past few years, there have sometimes been things worth running for, but not this year.  Mom and I chose to make a leisurely 6 a.m. appearance at Target, which was the closest store to my house on our route.  The parking lot was at least 1/2 empty.  I found a spot in the row closest to the doors - I don't even park that close on a regular Saturday!  Where was everyone???  As we walked into the store, not only were there carts, but there were no lines of people waiting to check out.  There were no hoards of people crowding the entertainment section.   And there was NO LINE AT STARBUCKS!  WHAT?!?!?!?!  We ended up spending almost an hour in Target, only because Mom did some of her "every day" shopping and we went in circles a few times, and I managed to get in line behind the one person that did not seem to have her stuff together, so of course it took longer.  

We found a similar situation at other stores.  Heading into JoAnns at 7:30, with it opening at 6, we found a line to have fabric cut, but no lines of people checking out and no masses of people clambering for the good deals. (Although I'm not too sure that there were that many deals at JoAnns.)  Last year, the line to check out at Kohls wrapped around to the back of the store.  This year - no line.  Where was everyone?

The mall, where we found ourselves later, was a bit busier, but even there we only had to wait a 1/2 hour to be seated for lunch at Lucille's.  I'm not sure if people were choosing to wait until Cyber Monday, or if they were just skipping the entire weekend's worth of shopping experience as some news sources had suggested, but wherever they were, they were not between me and my shopping.  Which was kind of nice.

At the end of the day, we survived Thanksgiving without too much overeating and we survived shopping on Friday without any injuries or spending too much money, but still managing to find some nice gifts.  We spent time with our families and got to snuggle up on the couch with the girls. (But seriously, how many times can one person watch a single episode of Phineas and Ferb.  I think my head was going to explode!)

This week, it's on to B's birthday and next week, Winter Book Fair at school and then Hanukkah.  WHAT?  Where did the year go?  You mean it's December already? I guess I better get myself in gear before I blink away the New Year too! 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Mental Meanderings for Your Friday Afternoon

Ah, Friday.  I have been waiting for you all week and finally, you have arrived, bringing with you some sunshine to chase away the rain and the still-chilly temperatures of fall that we have been missing.  What would I do without you and a glass of wine to end the week?

I checked our our Valley's new 99 Cents Only store this morning.  Holy crap, what a zoo!  I think the store opened earlier this week and you would think that these people have never seen one of these stores!  (In case they, or you, are wondering, there is one over on Lyons Avenue, just a hop, skip and a jump away.)  Maybe it is because the carts are new and therefore all wheels pull in the direction they are supposed to.  Maybe it's because it is the holidays and all of the low priced decorations and wrapping paper are out.  Maybe it is because this store seems to have an expanded grocery section.  I'm not sure what it is, but people are out in droves and they are all crazy!  It's been ages since I've been personally rear-ended with a shopping cart and it happened twice today.  Fun stuff.  I think I'll wait a few weeks and let the excitement die down before I head back there to bargain shop.

The election is finally over.  Whew!  We made it.  I had to laugh at a few posts on Facebook on Wednesday, comments with pictures of women about "stopping that" and nipping things in the bud.  It's interesting how the media is wondering why Obama pulled off that "last minute" surge, and I have to say that if women make up 51% of the population and Romney's ticket was identified with those anti-women statements, you don't have to look very far or do much math to figure it out.  That is just my take on it, who knows what the real reasons are.  I will say that I was a bit troubled by some of the post-election-results posts of some friends.  I saw one that said "Not my President!" and another one that made a joke (I think) about moving to Canada.  I don't understand how people can say things like that.  I recognize that the party of their choice did not win.  I recognize that they may not be happy with the current administration or the economy or things in general.  But it seems to me that he is still "their" President, because they are American citizens and he is the President of the US.  Am I missing something?  No, you may not have voted for him, which is your right, as a citizen, but he is your President.  Maybe I'm looking at things a little too simply.   I saw another post that I really liked and I wish that I would have thought to save it somehow.  A friend shared someone else's blog, and in the blog the writer spoke about living in Russia just a few years ago and not knowing if there was going to bread to eat that day and worrying about being shot or harmed just for seeking out basic human rights.  The writer felt blessed to be living in a country where we can choose which person we want to run our country, and where we can voice our displeasure when things aren't going our way.  We should all remember to feel so blessed, even when it seems to some that the "wrong" person won.

Fashion - I had a run-in with my jeans the other day.  They are nice and soft, a little stretchy and I washed them.  Which means that when I went to put them on, they didn't quite fit the way that they were supposed to.  I'll admit it, I'm a size 10.  I'm not quite the size 8 that I once was, but I'm working on it and have lots of clothes waiting for me in my closet when I get around to it.  But in the meantime, why are my current clothes taking it out on me?  Really!  Is it too much to ask that my jeans fit when I take them out of the dryer, without my having to go through the "breaking in" process all over again?  I remind myself (alot) that Marilyn Monroe was curvy and supposedly a size 12.  (And I'll ignore the fact that sizes have changed a bit since then and the 12 that she was probably isn't quite as big as a 12 is today.)  But seriously.    The same day that I fought with my jeans, I read an article on TMZ or some other trashy news site that the Victoria's Secret models are supposedly fairly small chested.  Some, the article claims are a mere 33A or 34B.  Um, right.  sure.  And if you believe that, I've got a bridge I'd like to sell you.  The article linked to photos of some of the models and gave their measurements (but not cup size, so I hesitate to believe the claim.)  The interesting note (aside from which celebrity they were dating, married to or recently split from) was that all of their waist measurements were 24 or 25, and many of them were 5'10 or 5'11". Yikes!  I haven't had a waist that small since I was in college!  Maybe I should have chucked it all and found a way to get a modeling gig with Vickies.  I guess that wouldn't be too bad - maybe I'd be dating Adam Levine right now.  (Yum!)  Ah well.. as fate would have it, my waistline expanded (having kids will do that to you) and despite my height and my seemingly "average" chest size, as far as Vickie's goes, my waist is much to big, so I will have to content myself with my current lot in life.

I wanted to mention something about kids at a young age being rude.  I'm sure that the thought stemmed from a conversation I had with B, but now I don't remember the details.  She is funny sometimes.  She listens to conversations all around her and picks and chooses parts that she wants to add to her own vocabulary.  Sometimes it is words, sometimes a tone or facial expression.  Unfortunately, she doesn't quite "get" sarcasm, and sometimes she just sounds mean or rude.  I'm sure all kids go through this (at least, I hope they do and that mine is not singularly nuts) and we just have to work with her on it.   I hope.

And finally.... a topic that I've discussed here before, but have a new take on.  I am calling this part "My Disneyland, covered in dust."   Some of my faithful readers may remember from posts long-ago, that someone who did not like me very much came into my home, spent some time, and then left to make disparaging remarks about my decor and my housekeeping, and she said it looked like "Disneyland covered in dust.".  At various times it has come back to haunt me, only from the standpoint that I felt like I never got the chance to defend myself and because of what was going on at the time.  A few weeks ago, I was cleaning up the house to get ready for K's birthday party and found myself dusting off a set of shelves.  As I wiped away the dust, I was struck by the memories that sat there on those shelves, reminding me of things and people that have come and gone.  On the top shelf, a photo of Rob and I on our wedding day, in a frame made by my best friend.  On the side of one shelve, several painted ornaments made by my aunt, and next to those, a paper piecing picture that same aunt made for me when I was just a year old.  The shelf below holds two tiki carvings from our honeymoon.  One I purchased for Rob and I, and the other I purchased for my great-aunt Kay.  When she passed several years ago, I got it back.  Another shelf holds a Pooh Bear dressed as a London Bobby and Mickey Mouse dressed as a Palace guard.  Both were from my first trip to London.  Another shelve holds a family of nesting dolls with Pooh and Friends on them, that Rob got for me on a trip to Europe which included a trip to Turkey.

As I dusted these shelves and these things, I realized (maybe a bit late?) that the shelves in my home hold mementos of memories and tie me to the people I love and the adventures we've had.  The reason they are dusty is because we are busy living and enjoying (and because I have kids.)  I also realized that I don't need to feel defensive about her comments, because I am pretty sure that any house or apartment she might have is empty of such memories and quite possibly, love.  What she saw and commented on was on the surface.  If she had taken any time at all to get to know me, she would have seen so much more.  Fortunately for me, she is long gone from my life and won't be coming back. But I've still got my memories and my Mickeys and Pooh Bears and Figment (from my first trip to Disney World) and crystal Snoopy to remind me of friends and family and adventures.  And yes, they are most likely still a bit dusty, just the way I like them.

Monday, November 5, 2012

This Crazy, Mixed-Up World.

I spent a few minutes this morning, snuggled on the couch with K, who was wrapped up in her "Blankie" and sucking her thumb.  We were watching Good Morning America, which is on ABC and which was participating in the "Day of Giving" to raise money for the Red Cross to benefit victims of Storm Sandy.

Just a short 1/2 hour of television and so much emotion and thoughts going through my head.  Sometimes it is difficult living inside my head, so funny to try and make sense of everything swirling around in there. (Rob sometimes shakes his head at me when I switch subjects, wondering how I get from one to the other.)  But I digress.  Wait, what was I talking about?

During one of the commercials, they ran one of my all-time favorite holiday commercials - the Hershey Kiss one, where they are set out in the shape of a tree and the one red one does the extra ringing at the end and then says "phew!" as it wipes its brow.  Truly, one of my favorites and makes me smile every time.  But as I was watching, my second thought was "huh?"  It's November 5 and they are running holiday commercials already.  Why?  I realize that the stores have been decorated (except for Nordstrom, but more on that later) since weeks before Halloween, when they started clearing out the Halloween decor, but why would broadcasters (or merchants) run those commercials now?  Do we really need a kick start to the holiday shopping that early?

Election coverage - one story on GMA was about the First Lady and Ann Romney doing some last minute stumping.  It never fails to amaze me at what people consider news.  Part of the "hook" for the article was something about why the ladies were so emotional.  But the story never actually got around to telling me why.  I am left to ponder.  On the flip side of that coin, the candidates themselves.  While I have promised myself and others (even on this blog) to remain apolitical in an effort to maintain friendships, I am truly confused by some of the things that I read on friends' pages.  Whether it is comments from others that they share, pictures that they "like" or status updates of their own thoughts and feelings, I can't help but wonder at what drives these friends of mine, and what the basis is for their positions, on both sides of the aisle.  I don't mean this in a facetious way, or to be in any way demeaning.  I am really curious about it, and at some point might like to sit down and discuss it.  Not because I think they would convince me to change my views, or that I would try to change theirs, but more because I would like to know if I am missing something or only have half information on these topics. 

To give one big example, female friends of mine have professed support for the Republican party and Romney as the candidate.  Some of the comments that I see discuss the economy and jobs and it looks like those are the reasons for the support.  I think others may just be fairly conservative in their approach to politics which is more in line with the Republican philosophy.  I myself considered Reagan to have been a great president (although, I was in elementary school when he was in office, so it did not have the same effect on me as the presidency does now.)  Here is where my confusion sets in.  Romney's running mate, Ryan has gone on the record as saying that he wants to do away with a woman's right to have an abortion.  He has even spent some time running around with his foot in his mouth, after that crazy comment about pregnancies resulting from rape.  (If you are curious, Google it.)  Republicans normally (I think) take a more conservative approach to the "Pro Life/ Pro Choice" debate, but this year's presidential slate seems to be taking such a harder line, wanting to challenge (or even get rid of ?) Roe v. Wade.  So much so, that I have to wonder how any woman could consider voting for someone who wants to take away their right to control their own bodies.  Yes, the economy and foreign policy and those other things that make up a platform are important.  But I simply cannot get past giving up a fundamental right to decide what happens to my own body - particularly on a topic that is driven by men - who can never truly understand how a woman's body works.  I understand that there is a religious component to this issue, but at the same time, I cannot get past the idea of a man trying to tell me what to do with my body. 

I'll give you a real life example.  After B was born, I had post-eclamptic seizures.  The doctors were baffled as to why it happened following a "textbook" pregnancy, but everything seemed to resolve itself and B and I were both fine.  When I got pregnant with K, the doctors kept a closer eye on me, but for the most part, the pregnancy was normal.  7 days after K was born, I had post-eclamptic seizures again.  My doctor sat down with me in the hospital and said "no more children."  While we have taken steps to follow the doctor's advice and don't plan to have any more children, strange things happen and you never know.   VP candidate Ryan would have us believe that if I got pregnant, it would be for a "reason" (i.e.: G-d wanted it to happen) and therefore I should not be able to choose whether or not to continue to be pregnant, therein having to choose between my own life and that of an unborn child (but essentially taking away my choice.)  What would be better, that another child might be brought into this world (running the risks of problems stemming from my own health issues) or choosing to end the pregnancy and save my life, so that my 2 already living children could continue to have a mother and my husband continues to have a wife.  No one should have to make that choice, but why should someone in politics who has never met me or my family get to make that choice for me?

I did not intend this post to become political, but as I wrote, I realized that this is an issue that I feel very strongly about, partially because I do potentially have health issues that would affect a pregnancy and my ability to have another child.  I just don't believe that anyone else should be allowed to tell me how to handle that situation.  And I won't even get started on the issue of what overturning Roe v. Wade would do in increasing "back alley" abortions.  I shudder to think.  But back to some less-heavy stuff.

As I mentioned, ABC is having a Day of Giving, taking calls from people donating. (You can text "Redcross" to 90999 to donate $10 on your phone!)  During one piece, the camera panned the phone banks and Grover was taking calls!  (Yes, Grover from Sesame Street.)  Sitting here typing this, I think I should have called to see if Grover would talk to K - that would have been fun this morning.  Grover made me smile.  All of the Muppets and Sesame Street pals never fail to make me smile, which is a good thing, because at one point, I found myself almost tearing up.  Pictures of the devastation and destruction of the storm break my heart.  Pictures of the signs that people have made, both to Sandy and to people passing by, melt my heart.  I sometimes feel so helpless and wonder if there is more that I should or could be doing, beyond donating a few dollars here and there.  It is a tough time of year, and I typically "adopt" a family or children locally for the holidays, but at the same time, I wonder how families in New York and New Jersey will get through this holiday season and the cold weather that is on its way.   There are stories from the aftermath of Katrina, of student groups that went to New Orleans and helped clear trash and debris and helped rebuild.  Somewhere in my mind, I wonder if I could have done that.  I have to hope that there are groups even now helping the victims of this storm.  I have to hope that my few dollars goes to help someone buy a child a new toy or buy someone warm clothes or pay for a place to sleep.  In the midst of it all, I have to have hope.

I did not start this post with a thought towards the serious, but it seems to have ventured that way all on its own.  I hope that if nothing else, we all stop to think for just a moment.  Whether it is about the election and who you might vote for (Regardless of who, get out and VOTE - especially all of you ladies), or about how you can help someone in need, just think for a moment outside of your usual sphere of influence.  That's all, just think.

OOPS!  I almost forgot - Nordstrom.... someone posted a picture on Facebook the other day, of the Nordstrom sign saying that they would not be decorating their stores until after Thanksgiving, and that they believe it appropriate to celebrate one holiday at a time.  This is from the past few years and so far, I haven't been able to find anything for 2012 on it, but I'm guessing they will continue with that same idea this year.  An interesting thought, when all others have been decorating since September.  A random story - I remember when I first moved here to LA, I got a job in a Halloween store that was fairly popular in the area.  The store did a crazy amount of Halloween business, with rentals for props and costumes and such.  It was the day after Halloween that killed us - all of the Halloween had to come down and all of the holiday went up, virtually overnight.  The store owner used to say that "everyone else has had Christmas up for 2 weeks, I've got to catch up!"  I don't remember it being that big of a thing then, but now I notice it more often.  Of course, I've been listening to Christmas music here and there for a few weeks and have already bought a few presents, but that's just my own craziness.

One last note, to my friends who are doing a 30-days of gratitude project of some kind (I have seen several), I commend you.  I always think about it after the fact, but maybe I'll get it rolling right here.  (1) I am thankful that Rob and I have created some great friendships out of business connections.  (2) I am grateful that I can freely go to Temple and worship as I choose.  (3) I am grateful for old friends.  (4) I am grateful that the kids slept in just a bit with their extra hour. (5) I am grateful that Grandma Trudy is on the mend and getting better everyday, and that my girls get to know her and spend time with her.   (Today is a double helping!)

On that note, I will leave you.  VOTE tomorrow.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bunch of savages in this town...

Happy All Saints Day!  Have you recovered from your sugar high yet?  I'm still cruising along on mine, at least for another week or two, I think.

A few tidbits from this most recent "holiday"....

"Please, take 1" and "Please take 2 pieces."  As we wandered my brother and sister-in-law's neighborhood last night, we came upon several houses with bowls or cauldrons placed on chairs or on the porch, with a sign for trick-or-treaters to just "take 1."  Sadly, when B got to many of the bowls, they were empty.  While I do not know how much candy was in the bowl when the evening started, I do know that we weren't out that late and while I saw several roving bands of ghosts and goblins, there were by no means huge masses of kids.  So where did the candy go?  My guess is that it went directly into the bags of a few select hooligans, who opted to just take the entire bowl and the rest of the kids be damned.  Cynical?  Yes, probably.  But I believe that the homeowners who left the bowls did so with the best of intentions and were instead taken advantage of by a few select ne'er do wells who decided to steal from others. 

"You're a Blockhead, Charlie Brown!"  A few days ago, I shared an article on my Facebook page that mentioned a blog where a parent lamented the viewing of "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" and asked if it was not time to retire the show.  He claimed that the bullying by the other kids of Good ol' Charlie Brown was not appropriate in today's society and that it had no redeeming qualities for kids.  I heartily disagree.  I think that the show is a perfect opportunity for parents to teach their children what is right and wrong, and also to simply enjoy a tiny slice of their own childhood.  I still believe that parenting needs to start at home, and parents need to stop asking society to do their jobs, by removing any trace of violence or unpleasantness from the television.  That dad needs a several reality check if he believes that his children are not already fully aware of how the world works.  It is up to him to help them parse through the details and figure out the right and wrong of things.  Circling back to my candy thieves above, where were the parents on this one?  I wonder - if your child is old enough to go out trick or treating without you, are they too old to trick or treat?  An interesting thought to ponder.  I have to assume that any kids dumping large handfuls of candy into their bags from a bowl left unattended would likely be doing so without parental supervision.  Unless the parents were the ones grabbing the candy.

Then there was the guy roaming through the neighborhood in his golf cart, full of self-importance.  But I don't think I'll go there today.

In the meantime, just 21 days until we sit around the table and stuff ourselves with turkey and all of the trimmings, only to run it off that night, beginning at midnight or 2 a.m. or 4 a.m. in our quest for the perfect gift.  In case you are wondering, yes, I am already listening to holiday music.  Yes, I have already started my holiday shopping and have toys on layaway for the girls.  Yes, I stuff myself on Thanksgiving with way too much food and even more pie and dessert.  Yes, I shop on Black Friday, although I do love my sleep and tend not to go out too early in the morning, unless there is something I absolutely can't live without.  This year though, I'll be trying to do a little shopping for those less fortunate, at the same time. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

"It is a tale told by an Idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

I just have to get this off my chest.  When it comes to name-calling, I can hold my own with the best of them.  I curse other drivers from the safety and comfort of my own car, expounding their respective virtues as morons or a**holes or other appropriate monikers depending on the level of severity of their driving crime.  I've been in arguments where people have called me names, some worse than others, some very comical.  Despite this, I do not believe that my work ethic, my intelligence or my honesty in my career has ever been challenged.  Until now.

On Monday, I returned a call from an attorney on a case I recently filed for a client.  While speaking to this attorney, another man's voice piped into the conversation.  When I asked why I heard 2 voices, one responded by admitting that he was also in the room and telling me his name.  Within just a few short moments, he called me unethical.  When I asked him to repeat the statement, his partner - the man I had started the conversation with - backtracked and tried to smooth things over by saying something along the lines of "well, we're not sure there is any basis for the complaint, and we're not sure how you get to those damages."  Something to that effect.  I was not really listening, because I was still stuck on being called "unethical."

A few moments later in the conversation, the Bonehead (see, I can call people names too,) got very hot under the collar and called me an idiot.  I backtracked, again, and asked him to confirm that he had in fact, called me both "unethical" and an "idiot."  Needless to say, the conversation went south from there and did not last much longer.

Merriam-Webster defines the word "idiot" as "a person affected with extreme mental retardation" or "a foolish or stupid person."  I do not believe that I fall into either of those categories, but I doubt this attorney would care to know the actual meaning of the words he throws around.  (Interesting side note, one of the synonyms listed for "idiot" is "airhead," which I have been called many times.  Given the context of this particular incident, however, I'm not as quick to brush it off, and never did really believe that I was an "airhead" either.)

Following the conversation with Bonehead and his partner, I passed the information on to my partners who have been involved in the case and know what is going on.  Both of them assured me that Bonehead is a hothead (and several other more colorful things) and counseled me to ignore him.  When Bonehead followed up the conversation with an email in which he quoted to me a section of the Canon of Legal Ethics, one of my partners assured me that it would do no good to respond directly to him.

Somewhere in my head, I know he's right.  But at the same time, my heart and the other part of my head that does not take insults well really wants to strike back at him.  I know deep down that it would do no good to engage this a**hole in a conversation and try to set him straight (about the case or about my intelligence and ethical standards) but it sure would feel good to be able to respond.  Of course, for someone to attack a person they have never met on such a personal level takes a special kind of individual, one that I'm pretty sure I don't want to have further dealings with.

The problem that I have with this whole situation is how it has made me feel over the past few days.  First, it has made me not want to check my email or answer my phone or even go to work.  Those of you who know me in the professional arena know that I am one of those strange people that love what I do.  I love being an attorney and I love coming to work.  This week, not so much.  In those moments of thinking about looking at my email or answering the phone, there is a moment of dread, a moment of worry that Bonehead is on the other end, ready to spew more vitriol in my direction.  Worse even than the drop in the pit of my stomach is the doubt.  Bonehead made me question my own belief in my client's case (which I am sure he wanted me to do from the outset) and made me question my own ethics in taking the case.  Perhaps that is was is most troubling to me - this idea that maybe my client's case is not all that it is cracked up to be.

In the end, this will blow over (at least, for me.)  The litigation will continue and I am sure I will have more dealings with that firm (although if it is anything like other firms, I will probably deal with an associate of the lower order and the "big guns" will only come in for things like hearings on motions, mediation and trial - if we get that far.)   If I feel so inclined (and right now, I do) I might even tell the litigation partner to keep Bonehead out of the mix.  For now, I comfort myself with the idea that Bonehead is not litigation counsel and that if I am lucky, I will deal with his peons for the foreseeable future.  In the meantime, I will be boning up on insults in my own right, so that next time I will have a fighting chance.   (One more sidebar - I found this guy's bio on the firm website, complete with photo and I swear, he could give Nick Nolte's mug shots a run for their money!)

And one final sidebar - if I have suffered this much indigestion and worry over a rude comment made by someone in a business setting, insults that I truly know are not correct, can you imagine how much hurt others must feel when they are picked on for how they look or talk or a physical impairment they might have?  Just something to think about, as you go out and face the day.  But if you do feel the need to insult someone's driving, make sure that your windows are rolled up and that your kids are not in the car (because you know they are going to repeat whatever you say!)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Birthday Wishes, No Cake and wait - you're Jewish?

So much birthday love on my Facebook page and alot of it before 8 a.m.!  Thank you!

When I was a kid, I would have to wait until I got home from school to see what cards were in the mail before I knew if anyone remembered my day.  These days, with the internet and Facebook and "my calendar" applications, people are easier to reach out and touch.  It may seem like a small and  bit impersonal thing, but when you wake up on your birthday and find 30 messages in your inbox, it feels good.  (I do still like to get "snail mail" cards also.  Doesn't everyone like to get "real" mail?)

Growing up, my birthday would sometimes fall on days marked "Rosh Hashana" or "Yom Kippur" on the calendar.  I had no idea what those days were, but always thought that it was "cool" or "neat" that my birthday fell on a holiday.  It was not until I began studying Judaism that I realized how "cool" or "neat" it really was.  My 30th was particularly interesting, as it fell on Yom Kippur which is a fast day.  That means that I did not get to eat anything, all day long, until after sundown.  This birthday will be an interesting one because it is Kol Nidre - pretty much the holiest date of the Jewish year.  I get to eat until sundown, so I'll be sure to cram as much cake and ice cream in before then as I can, and that should help me get through the following 25 or so hours of not eating anything at all.

As I get closer and closer to 40, and as my friends and family get to and pass 40 (don't worry, I won't name names), I find myself spending more time looking back and considering where my life is and where it is going.  No, I won't bore you with the details.  Suffice to say that I think it has been pretty good and I'm looking forward to where it is going.  Skydiving, anyone? 

I read a blog post a few months ago by someone who made a list of things she wanted to do before a big birthday.  I tried to make a list of 40 before 40, and found that many of the things I would have put on the list (such as visit London or go on a cruise) were already checked off.  So my list is around 20 things and some of them may not get crossed off before 40 - we'll see.  As of today, I have exactly 2 years, or 730 days.  I'll keep you posted on my progress.

In any event, my celebration this year will be put on hold for a few days of personal reflection and atonement (the purpose behind Yom Kippur) and my annual efforts to be sealed in the Book of Life.  A friend's post on her facebook page today rang particularly true.  She said "As I take a few minutes before Kol Nidre tonight and a day of repenting and looking within myself...I want to ask all of those that I may not be able to talk to/see before Yom Kippur is over for forgiveness...I sincerely apologize for anything I may have done to hurt you this year, intentionally or unintentionally. I also want to tell those who may have done the same to me...all if forgiven. G'mar Chatimah Tovah - may we all be written in the book of life!"  (Thanks Stephanie, I hope you don't mind I borrowed your words - very well said.)

To my fellow Members of the Tribe (of Israel), I wish you an easy fast.  Have a piece of cake before sundown for me in celebration.  For my friends who are not "MOT" - have a piece of cake for me (throw some ice cream on top if you dare!) and celebrate something - your family, your health, anything worth smiling about.  As for me, I am hanging on for the weekend, which will find me sitting under an umbrella on a beach, with a drink in my hand and an umbrella in my drink.

Now if only my Dodgers could pull out a few more wins and clinch a Wildcard spot.... is that too much to wish for on "my" day?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Because I'm a Woman, you Nit-Wit!

I was recently told by someone (a man) that sometimes when he communicated with me, he got the impression that he was bothering me or that I did not want to talk to him.  In discussing this with a friend (male), he said that he knew a few others (2 men) who could see where the first man was coming from.  Then he asked if we hadn't previously discussed the possibility that I might need to "soften up" in the business world.  (A conversation that I do not remember.)

Are you kidding me?

First, let's put aside the fact that the man I was communicating with sent me a one word email.  Yup, that's it.  One. Word.  Can you say "cryptic"?  I can.  Cryptic.  Let's also set aside the fact that his email came at 10 a.m. on a SATURDAY.   Yes, I am an attorney.  No, I do not practice criminal law, therefore I do not take calls from clients, associates, or anyone else business related on the weekends (unless they've eaten dinner in my house, in which case I consider them a friend and it's o.k.)  I am also not a nurse or an ER doctor or any other manner of career choice which would lead to a requirement of 24-7 availability.   I am also a wife and a mother of two young children who do not always understand the idea of "business" versus "personal" and will do their damnedest to get my attention when I'm on the phone, no matter who I'm talking to.  So I tend to try and limit my business calls to normal business hours.  This man has no such boundaries in his life and apparently expects all around him to conform to his style.

Second, let's clarify something.  We (the man and I) were communicating via email.  There was no "tone" or "inflection" or even a "voice."  It was words, typed on a small hand-held device, albeit briefly, sent over the waves of communication, to his small, hand-held device.  It always amazes me when people forget that they are reading plain words on a machine and try to imply some sort of tone in my writing.  I am not in front of them, speaking to them, so how can they possibly know what I am thinking or feeling at the time I am typing it and then read that into my message.  It is simply not possible.  What made this even more amusing is that when we (the man and I) discussed this situation the following Monday morning, he acknowledged that "we have to be careful with emails".  I would say "DUH!" but would that be condescending?

Finally, let's discuss this idea that I need to "soften up."  When did it become necessary for me to change who I am because I make men uncomfortable?  This is not a new thing, that some men are threatened by strong women.  It is also not a new thing that in some businesses, a woman who is tough, takes a stand and refuses to take crap from anyone is viewed as a "bitch" or another 4-letter word that starts with "c" and rhymes with "runt."  I hear it myself from some men, when talking about opposing counsel on cases who are women.  9 out of 10 times, they will say that she is a "bitch" or use the other word, then turn to me and say "no offense."  Oh, none taken, really.

The simple fact is that I am who I am. (Insert  Popeye voice here.)  I get along well with clients (both male and female) and some of my clients even go so far as to tell me that they LOVE me or prefer to work with me over the men in the office.  As far as I know, I have never had a client complain that I was unapproachable or acted like I did not want to work with them.  Until that time, I think I am o.k. sticking with what works for me (and my clients.)

Circling back to men in the office and the man who started this whole conversation - yes, there are times when you contact me that I might seem distracted or frazzled or frustrated or just plain pissed off.  First, do not take it personally.  Unless I am cursing your name to your face, odds are good that I am distracted by something else, or pissed off at someone else.  You (men) tend to operate in black and white.  Women (at least the ones I know well), as a general rule tend to operate in several shades of gray (or pink, purple or red, you pick.)  Nothing is ever as cut and dry as you would like. 

Perhaps when you asked me to look at that document, I just got off the phone from a fifteen minute conversation with a court clerk that accomplished nothing.  Perhaps just as you walked into my office, my computer crashed and I lost an hour's worth of work.  Maybe I was up all night with a sick toddler and am trying to function on a few hours of sleep.  To quote a familiar "chick flick" - "Maybe she's praying because the elastic's shot in her pantyhose."  You just never know what it is that set us off. 

And you cannot have it both ways.  As men, "women problems" freak you out, so you do not want to know what is bothering us.  You expect us to leave our personal lives (and female emotions) at home.  Womens' tears are your kryptonite and you do not want breakdowns or screaming or *gasp* PMS in the workplace.  You (men) expect us to be professional and not to come to work covered in spit up or smelling like yesterday's dirty diapers.  We come to work with debilitating headaches and cramps and yet we still function.  These are the things that you do not want to (or can't) see.  In order to do that, we must become tough as nails and leave the "soft" stuff at home.

It would seem then, that the choice is ultimately up to you.  If you prefer that I "soften up," I'm sure I can do that.  But with that softening comes a reduction in productivity for at least one week each month when I've got cramps and a headache that could drop a rhino in its tracks.  I will be reduced to tears at least once a week when I get a run in my stockings or break a nail, or any other trite thing happens, just because my hormones are out of whack.  I will smile sweetly when you walk into my office, but the walls will be covered with my babies' artwork (scribbles in bright colors) and my suit will probably be wrinkled and have some strange substance stuck on it from the little one's breakfast.  My hair may not be brushed either, or it will be strangely styled because I played "salon" with my 6 year old.  

Or, I can come to work looking "together" and keeping it all inside.  You won't know when I have a headache, other than when you look closely and see the pain behind my eyes.  You won't be troubled when I have PMS, although my responses to your questions might be a little shorter or snappier than usual.  I will continue to get my work done in a professional manner and won't bore you with the details of the latest flu bug to circle the elementary school.  You will have an employee/associate/partner who is businesslike in manner and who gets the work done (and done well) and who the clients like.

And I won't cry in front of you at the office.  Probably.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Healthy Dose of Mommy Guilt... and my Penance

As parents, we hope that we will always have the appropriate answer at the right time.  We want to be there for our kids, always striving to maintain "hero" status, able to resolve all conflicts, fix all broken toys, answer all questions and dry all tears.   Sometimes, we fall short.

Sometimes, in the heat of the moment we forget ourselves, and only do the best we can, with what we have on hand, and hope to pick up the pieces when things calm down.  Last night was one of those times.  I didn't know it before (who ever does?) but it was the perfect storm of heat, ice cream, water, dehydration and a cough.  Only now, 16 hours later, do I think I have most of it figured out.  But I still feel guilty about how some of it when down.

My weekly basketball game in the Burbank league played out as usual at 4 p.m. in an incredibly hot gym.  Rob and the girls came because the team and families were planning to go out to dinner afterward.  They sat with me for about 15 minutes before game time and Rob had enough.  He decided to take them to find some ice cream, anything to cool off and escape the sauna in the gym.  I played, we won and my family returned towards the end to take me to dinner.  B ran up and down the court one or two times and Kensi wandered around a bit as well.

Dinner was at a burger joint, nothing too out of the ordinary.  Kensi did not seem too interested in the food or juice and mostly sat in her chair.  Brooklyn ate everything.  As we were finishing up, Rob said his stomach was bothering him.  A short while later, we made a brief stop just a few minutes from dinner because his stomach was still bothering him.  Back on the road and believing all was right with the world, we headed home, air conditioning blasting.

Trouble started about 2/3 of the way home, when B started to quietly cry in the back seat.  Asking what was wrong, we learned that she was hot.  We didn't understand because we were both a little chilly in the front seat.  We adjusted the air and she started to cool off.  She asked to take her shoes off and I said "no," since we weren't that far from home.

Just off the freeway and heading to our neighborhood, B make a strange noise.  Rob turned and looked (I was driving) to find that she had started to throw up.  She caught some of it in her hands.  I think at one point, she may have even asked "what do I do?"  (Just a warning, the faint of heart or queasy of stomach may want to skip down a few lines, or turn away for a few minutes.)  Driving and not being able to see what was going on behind me, my first thought was to keep driving and drive faster.  We weren't that far from home.  I heard another wave of cookies being tossed, but having witnessed B get sick a few times before, I thought it might just be more sound than substance.

Kensi had started to cry shortly after B got sick, whether from the smell or because B was crying, I don't know.  Skipping the red lights at the left turns, I kept going straight, thinking only to keep the car in motion.  I knew I had to make a left at some point, but kept hoping that the light would be green when I got there.  A few minutes of crying, a few green lights (but no left turns) later and Kensi started to cough, and then - projectile vomit. 

I now had two little ones in the back seat, crying and throwing up.  It was a scene straight out of Poltergeist, the only thing missing was the spinning heads. (Do I have the right movie image?)  Worried that Kensi would choke on something, because of the angle of her car seat or because she wouldn't understand or know to spit, I decided to pull into the parking lot of a park and get her calmed down.   As I then realized, you never realize what you might need in an emergency situation, until there is one.

When the girls were babies, I always had extra clothes, burp cloths and wipes handy.  As they got older, I stopped carrying so much around, and even now, as Kensi gets close to age 2, I have stripped down the diaper bag and pretty much just have diapers and wipes. (Hey, my camera has to go somewhere, right?)   Normally, this would not be a problem, but when you have a daughter that managed to drink several bottles of water in the course of the afternoon, and had lunch and dinner and ice cream, and more water.... and then threw it all up, you find yourself wishing for a clean shirt and a towel or two... or three.

After those few moments of panic, my brain finally kicked back in.  I remembered the wipes in the diaper bag and we started to use those to clean the girls hands and faces up.  Brooklyn still literally had hands and a lap full of "yuck" and so as Rob opened her door, he had her turn and try to dump everything out as she hopped out.  Remembering my towel and extra shirt in my gym bag, I directed Rob to those to help B clean up.  I also got her out of her dirty shirt and put her into my old jersey.  He moved her booster seat only to find a pool (yes, a pool) of liquid sitting on the seat.  (Thank goodness for leather seats!)  Kensi had not stopped crying since B first got sick and just continued to cry and hiccup while I tried to clean her up.

Once we got them as clean as we could, we drove the last 5 minutes home, finally having to make that left turn and Rob begging me to run the light (I didn't.)   We stripped them down in the service porch and filled the tubs.  While washing Kensi off, I started to rethink my actions and immediately felt guilty (see title above.)  It seems to me that the smart thing to do when B started to get sick would have been to pull over and open her door and let her get sick outside of the car.  Unfortunately, caught up in the moment, the "smart" thing did not occur to me and my little girl was sitting there holding her.. o.k., well, you get the picture.  I still feel guilty, even this morning for not thinking to pull over.   Strangely, just before she went to sleep, B apologized to me for getting sick in my car.  Just about broke my heart.

So, my penance... Kensi decided that last night would be a perfect time to not want to go to sleep.  We weren't sure if she got sick because she had some of the ice cream that Rob and B had (if that is what caused B to get sick) or because she smelled B's mess, or if she got sick for some other reason.  Regardless of her reasoning, she was inconsolable.  Rob and I tag-teamed for several hours, trying to get her to relax and go to sleep.  She seemed fine when we let her sit on the couch with us, or in the recliner, or wander around my office - but the minute we tried to put her down to sleep, she would cry.  At some point after 1 a.m., that switched to her sleeping, but waking up and crying when she saw that we were out of the room.  Around 1:30 a.m., I thought I had her down and started to creep out.  I made it 1/2 way down the hall before she started up again.  I then dozed off sitting next to her crib until she finally fell asleep around 2 this morning.

Up again at 8 and crying, we decided to take her to the doctor.  Turns out, she may have croup, which the doctor said would explain the weird hiccuping sound when she cries and the barking cough.  Doc also said that the crying leads to coughing and sometimes leads to throwing up, which may be what caused her to get sick last night.

As I said, it was a perfect storm of way too much coincidence and weird stuff that ended with the car seat and booster seat covers in the washer, girls in the tub, Rob and I in the shower and my car badly in need of a shampoo and wash.  (It doesn't help that it's about 90 outside again today and my car is currently sitting in the sun baking while I'm at the office.)

Just when we think we've got it all figured out, just when we think that as parents, we are doing a pretty good job and things are going pretty smoothly, those crazy kids throw us a curve ball or two, just to keep us on our toes.  From now on, barf bags in the back seat and a roll of paper towels hidden somewhere in the car.  I'll have to work on the guilt I feel for not pulling over, but a few hugs from my girls should be a step in the right direction.  Until the next small disaster hits...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Few Thoughts on the Upcoming Election

The election is still 2 months away and already I'm sick of it.  Just as the new fall season of all of my favorite shows starts up, I will have to endure 60 second sound bites of why one guy sucks at his job and why the other one should take over instead of the usual fare of commercials about the aging process and men's erectile dysfunction.

By the way, can someone tell me if there is a way to hide from some of my friends on Facebook?  Really, I love them to death, but I don't think that I can stand another two months of posts about why one party is better than the other, why the current President has messed things up so terribly and why the opponent is the country's savior.  If there was a way that I could just hide their posts until after the election, I'd be happy.  Better yet, save them all somewhere in a cache of sorts and after the election, whichever side lost, I can then pull those friends' posts out and wave them in their faces.  O.k., so I wouldn't do that.  But I would like to hide the comments for a few months.  No, really.  Hide them.  I'd much rather hear that your cat did a flip off the couch or look at pictures of your kids at Disneyland.  Trust me on this.  Besides - no matter what you think or what you say, I will not change my own political position based solely on your 150 character post.

Separation of Church and State- this is a good one lately.  It seems that Romney's running mate has a particular position on abortion and conception.  I would guess that his position is based, at least in part, on his religion.  So, if we allow Congress to legislate abortion when the positions of those voting would be a result of their religious beliefs, wouldn't that be allowing Church to influence State, and isn't that a bad thing?  Yes, our money says "In God we Trust," but at the same time, I don't think I want a Bible-belt fundamentalist telling me what I can do with my body.  I had to laugh today - a friend was posting her political views following the DNC events last night, cataloging the list of Democratic wrongs.  Whether or not she is correct, I have no idea - I don't have the time (or inclination) to do that type of research.  What struck me as funny, was the comment of one of her other friends, that while the information she posted may have been correct regarding the state of the economy, this friend could never side with the Republicans unless and until they got out of her "Vaj-j-j."  I paraphrased a bit, forgive me. 

I am a Democrat.  I would have voted for Hillary had she not caved and acquiesced to Obama, and he was not my first choice, but there you have it.  Oddly enough, I remember thinking that Reagen was a great man and a good President.  Could be that I was too young to be cognizant of the economy and other things that affect a presidency, but I recall thinking that I liked him.  I also liked Clinton, despite his peccadilloes.  Where was I?  Oh yes - I am Democrat, mostly because there are a few things that the Republicans stand for that I cannot support, most importantly my right to choose whether or not to have a child.  I won't get into the vagaries of other topical Republican issues, suffice to say that when you lead in with the right to choose and my control over my own body, I don't have to go much further, regardless of the state of the economy.

I digress.  My reason for this post was to pose some questions to some of my friends who have such vehement views on politics these days and feel it necessary to vilify the current President in their posts (following the media, Romney and others of the right-wing bent.)   First, do you honestly think that the problems of this nation were created overnight (or in 4 years?)  If not, why do you think that they could be or should have been solved overnight (or in 4 years)?   Wasn't the previous President a Republican?  Have we already forgotten the slew of problems that he left in his wake?  Also, do any of you remember anything of your civics classes in junior high and of your government class in high school?  I continue to be baffled as to why the President is paraded out as the bad guy, when Congress is just as involved in the process.  I seem to recall something called.... what was it?  Oh yes!  "Checks and balances."  That meant that the President was never so powerful that he couldn't be held in check by another branch of the government.  If that's the case, and he's being "checked and balanced," then why is all blame being placed at his feet?  If you truly feel that strongly about policy, why don't you get on the phone with your Senators and Representatives and ask them what they have been doing for you in Washington.

That brings up another point.  Congress is not innocent in this whole mess.  If the executive branch is subject to the checks and balances of the Legislative branch, then who is checking them?  Of course, you have the Judicial branch deciding when laws are unconstitutional, but I'm talking about keeping tabs on who has their hands in Congress' pockets - better yet, who is lining Congress' pockets?  We all know it is happening, but we, as a people seem to be powerless to stop it.  Our lawmakers -Democrat or Republican, are controlled by whoever puts the most money into their war chest - Big Tobacco, Oil, Unions - anyone who has enough money to sway our representatives votes.  It is no wonder that our education system is in the toilet and swirling fast - our lawmakers could care less.  They have enough money to send their kids to private school so they can't see first hand what is happening to everyone else, and the teachers and parents don't have enough money to sway anyone back to their court.

I think we need to strip everything down and start over.  Turn back the clock and find a simpler way to do things.  Get the lobbyists out of the government.  Make our representatives go back to their home states and really talk to their people, find out what it is that their states need to function and survive.  Then take that information back to DC and work on it.  Once the dollar sign is taken out of the equation, some real work might get done.  Oh sure, they may claim that they need money for their next election campaign.  But I say that they need to do some work first.  Rather than electing someone based on how much money they can raise, why don't we look at their record.  And while we're at it, let's strip down and simplify the bills being presented.  No more hiding things in 600 pages.  Let's go back to using plain English and if it doesn't fit on 10 pieces of paper, it's out.  If it is that important, present it separately, or take something else out.

As I'm sure you can imagine, I have strong views on other aspects of the economy (pay your freakin' taxes!), the unemployment rate (go out and get a job - I worked at McDonalds, so can you!) and a few other things.  But I won't present them here, lest someone decides upon reading that they want to engage in verbal warfare with me, and I just don't want to or need to do that.  Instead, I'll sit quietly here in my corner and wait for November 6 to come and go, so that we can return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hero Worship in the Modern Era

I wrote this story last Fall, following Rob's first experience at Dodger Camp.  I have refined it a bit over the past few months, but have wanted to "publish" it for awhile.  I am finally getting around to it, with some pictures as well.

Many of you might remember a time when you had a hero.  You wrote letters, you sent cards, you followed a person’s every move.  You might also remember when your illusions of greatness about this person were shattered, when you realized all too painfully that he or she was human, and possessed all of man’s inherent faults.  My day of reckoning came in the third grade.  I had written a letter to President Ronald Reagan and surprisingly got a response.  As I excitedly tore open the letter, I was taken in by the official seal, the bonded paper, the signature.  My excitement was then shattered when someone (a family member) mockingly told me that the letter was a “form letter,” one of probably hundreds or even thousands sent out to school children just like me, all over the country each day, likely prepared and even signed by a staff member.  My image of the President was instantly tainted, and I was suddenly very aware of the fallibility of mere mortals. 

My days of hero worship were pretty much over then, aside from a brief relapse this past year, when I so wrongly believed that a photographer, somewhat of a celebrity in the industry, would take the time to respond to my comments, as one “photog” to the next.  I was quickly returned to reality when I got a short and cryptic email from a staffer and remembered again that our heroes are at the core, human. 

I try not to get too upset as my daughter chooses a hero (most recently, Manny Ramirez) who might let her down, and watch with the rest of the world as many of the younger generations “heroes” and those held in high esteem (Tiger Woods, Roethlisburger) are shown to be quite human, with all the same faults and fallacies.  Certainly, one might think that the days of true hero worship are long past.  In today’s world of internet and the information highway, heroes are felled with a mighty click of the mouse, instantly sending pictures or stories of misdeeds out on the “wire” to the masses.   

Despite the recent onslaught of fallen heroes, there is still a place where true heroes can be found.  While I am sure they are human, with their own faults and lives to live, for one whole week they return to hero status and are exalted by the “common” man.  I am referring to that little patch of dirt in Vero Beach, Florida, lovingly known as “Dodgertown.”  The week is known as “Fantasy Camp.”

For the entire week, men return to the days of their childhood, running and jumping and playing.  Knees creak in protest, backs and arms ache like never before, but they play through the pain, usually with ear-splitting grins plastered across their faces.  To do otherwise would squander the opportunity.  Men who remember the days of O’Malley and the move to L.A. are transported back to the simpler times when the smell of popcorn and a hot dog at the park could wash all of your cares away.  Boys who pumped their fists with Gibby in ’88 run the bases imagining that they too can achieve greatness.  Perhaps even more poignant now, as today’s team struggles in the aftermath of the tumultuous McCourt era and hopes for a little bit of “Magic”, a trip to the past reminds us why we love our Boys in Blue, and why Dodgertown is, and likely always will be, an institution.

They come from all walks of life – policemen, doctors, lawyers, accountants, salesmen, business owners, teachers and so much more, a range of ages among them; the youngest perhaps 32 or 33, the oldest…. well, he just wasn’t going to admit that.  Rookies and veterans alike, they converge, to glory in the presence of their heroes, to walk and play where the great ones have walked and played.

Lockers for players and coaches alike, in the same locker rooms used during Spring Training.

Some might consider it crazy for these men (and a few women) to pay for the opportunity to spend time with these baseball greats (and spend a week playing baseball.)  But for those as steeped in the history of this team as they are, it is an honor, a privilege, a right and even for some, a duty.  As the years tumble forward, the true greats, the names which built a franchise like Pee Wee Reese, Don Drysdale and Duke Snider leave us and it becomes all the more important to squeeze in these moments with those who are left.  These fans, these hero worshipers revel in the greatness, proud and humbled to take the field with those men who dominated the field and their childhoods with baseball.

For the entire week, they eat, sleep and play with the Boys of Summer, some raised on the heroes of ’55 and others of ’63, ’81 and ‘88.  Split up into teams with at least two former Big League players as managers, sharing lockers and showers as if they themselves were in the “show,” they play several games a day, take batting practice, and even share meals.  Meals are filled with laughter and jokes, player-of-the-day awards handed out by managers and an all-around good time.  Memories are made in mere hours or days but will last the rest of their lifetimes.

Rob catching and hitting in the All-Star game on the last day of camp.

Top - Phil pitching in the All-Star game.  Bottom - Dad catching for Phil.

One day a whisper roared through camp.  He’s here.  He’s here!”  Unable to believe their own luck, they sought out more information.  “Where?”  “Will he sign anything?”  Suddenly, a camper ran past some of the others, carrying a baseball, frantic to get through.  “He’s in the trainers’ room and he’s signing autographs!”  The great Sandy Koufax had appeared at camp.  For many raised on Dodger baseball, his is the name and face that defined the team for several generations.  Men became boys again and stood in awe of the greatness.  Koufax, who seemingly shuns the spotlight most days, was magnanimous, signing whatever bat or ball or piece of paper that was reverently handed to him and just as gently taken back, a memento to be treasured and a story to be told to a child or grandchild.  He swapped stories and chatted with the campers, and posed for many pictures.  As his time at camp drew to a close (he was not a coach or manager but had been invited to stop in by an old friend, Tommy Davis) campers were reluctant to turn away, hesitant to allow the moment to end, as they knew it must.
Phil with Sandy Koufax.

But the camaraderie doesn’t end on the field.  For many it extends back to their hometowns, where they might see one of these players at the market or the mall.  The heroes continue in their gallantry, posing for photos and signing autographs for the children they heard so much about at camp.  One named “Brooklyn” drew particular attention from these Boys in Blue.  They remember the campers and while the names might be momentarily elusive, with some help and in a minute or two, it comes back, and they remember a game or a play or a practical joke.

Throughout it all, these players remain humble, almost in awe of those who come to see them, just as the campers are a little bit in awe of being in the presence of these men who played and who filled their childhoods with heroes. 
Tommy Davis signing a ball for a fan during the All-Star game.

And as the week of camp comes to a close, the players are saddened, a little melancholy that playtime is over and they must return to the “real world,” and maybe more than a little hopeful that the stars will align again in a year, that they will be able to return and that the players that they love will return as well.  For in that place at that moment, the heroes have risen once more and all is right with the world.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

But Where Did All the Money Go?

Going to PTA meetings these days can be incredibly depressing.  Most of last school year's meetings were filled with the "doom and gloom" of the impending cuts to 81 of our district's teachers, 6 from our school alone.  PTA Board members and parent volunteers worked their butts off to raise money to cover things that we all took for granted as kids - art, music and phys ed classes, field trips and assemblies.

Over the summer, several of our classrooms were overhauled to make room for more students, as the class size mandate has gone from 25 to 30.  While there were 4 full size 1st grade groups last year, there are now 3 full size second grade groups.  When I was in elementary school, there were usually 30 kids in a class, so I don't think the size itself is as big of an issue.  But we also had art class once a week, music twice a week and phys ed twice a week, in a separate classroom (or gym) led by a separate instructor. (Yes, this was public school.)  The teacher had that break each day to count on.

Initial news at the beginning of this school year is not much better.  As our school continues to struggle to get its fair share of funding and state dollars, more programs are in danger of being cut, due to lack of funds or a lack of volunteers.  Art and music programs, once funded directly through the state and the school districts are now being left up to parents and the PTAs to keep alive.

As school starts this week, just 8 short weeks since the last school year ended, I can't help but wonder what is going on around here.  While understanding that "times they are a'changin'," I can't help but compare my elementary educational experience with the one that my daughter is getting, and can only hope that she will fare o.k.  I already mentioned that we had gym, art and music on a weekly basis.  On top of that, there was no such thing as "minimum days."  We did not have "early dismissal," a week long fall break, or an almost 4 week long holiday break.  We had 1 day of school off during each 1/2 of the year for parent-teacher conferences and another day off for "staff planning day" or "teacher in-service" day, 2 weeks at Christmas and 1 week for Spring Break.  (If we were lucky, we got Snow Days in the winter.) 

Back in "those days," we shopped for our own school supplies too.  Each year when class lists went up, we scrambled for those supply lists and happily went trekking off to KMart or Hills (a mid-west retail Target-type store.)  We brought our own crayons, pencils, pens and glue to school, based on what the teacher said we would need.  In some classrooms, each student brought a box of tissues, which were used throughout the year.

Looking back over that last few paragraphs, it seems as though I'm talking of days "long ago," when in reality, it wasn't that long ago. (Was it?)  I can't be that old, right?  Apparently, I am.

In today's world of budget cuts and economic downturn, of raising taxes and decreasing benefits, it seems that the schools are feeling the pinch more than others.  I can't help but wonder what our elected officials are doing with that money - it has to be going somewhere, right?.  Goodness knows that they aren't spending it on the education system.   Add to that the cuts to the Court systems that have been ongoing over the past 3 years and I think we have a recipe for disaster. 

I don't pretend to have a solution.  I do have questions - lots of questions.  I researched the use of lottery funds a few weeks ago, since that was supposed to help education years ago.  If you are curious, Google it yourself, but the short and quick answer that I found was that the money put out by the lottery is a drop in the bucket compared to the money schools apparently need to run each year, and in some cases is barely noticed.  (By the way, the financials for the LA Unified School District are staggering.)

One question I posed to the school principal (and a few other parents) at the end of last year - why is the school or the teachers purchasing the basic supplies for students to use in class?  I was told by someone that it was a way to maintain uniformity among the supplies.  Another answer I got was that it lessened the likelihood of embarrassment for that student or students who could not afford supplies.  To that I say "Hogwash!"  There is not a valid reason out there that I can think of for our school or the teachers to be spending money on students' supplies that they can just as easily go out and purchase themselves.  At Wal-Mart last week, you could buy a box of 24 crayola crayons for $.50.  A pencil box was going for $.99.  There are low cost options.  And in the limited situations when a student can't afford everything they might need, then the school or teacher could have a small supply on hand to help out that student.  I just do not see the need for the school to go out and purchase 900 bottles of Elmer's glue, when there are other things better suited for those funds.  As a parent volunteer last year, I spent a good 1/2 hour one day (towards the end of the school year) searching for white paper to make copies.  Yes, white-paper-to-make-copies.  There was not any and according to one of the teachers, it was in high demand.  Newsprint for art projects was something else apparently hard to come by.

You have to wonder if the public education system is putting itself out of business.  The economy takes a down-turn and the government raises taxes.  People can't afford to continue living in their neighborhood because of the property values and taxes, so they move, taking their kids with them.  At the same time, the public school systems declare that they cannot afford to pay for art teachers or music programs or gym teachers.  Those same school systems operate an annual budget based largely on the state "ADA" rate (Average Daily Attendance - the school gets paid a per student, per day rate based on attendance.)   Parents, frustrated that their children are not getting the same well-rounded, quality education that they once got, which included art, music and gym, a library that was staffed and had newer books, seek other options - charter schools and private institutions.  Despite the expense, some parents believe that it is worth it to pay for an education that includes those things.  As the enrollment numbers in the public schools drop, so does the money from the state, causing further cuts.  It is a vicious cycle with no end in site - other than possibly the privatization of the entire public school system.

I shudder to think how things are going to look 5 or 10 years from now.  We moved to this area because the schools were supposed to be better than LAUSD and because there were many young families with lots of school-age children here.  We moved to a neighborhood where the school is literally down the block and we can walk our daughter to school.  We heard good things from friends in the area and we have liked things so far.  But I worry as things continue to decline and parents are asked to raise more and more money to cover these programs that are being cut, assemblies, field trips, busing... and the list goes on.

As I said before, I don't have a solution and the search for answers has been difficult. Perhaps the first step is to have people, even those without school-age children, realize what is being cut, to realize what the state is paying for and what parent organizations and volunteers are raising money for.  Then maybe we can start working towards other solutions.  But in the meantime, I also think we, as parents, can step up and pay for some crayons and pencils and glue.  It is a small step, but it could be an important one. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

These Are a Few of my Favorite Things....

Many times over the past few years, I have mentioned something called "Project Life," a way of scrapbooking that was designed by Becky Higgins.  The first year I tried it, in 2010, I wanted to take a picture each day and journal each day.  I won't say that I failed miserably, but there are a few holes in that book.  In 2011, I resolved to do so much better, and I actually did.  With just a few (2 or 3) days when I did not take a picture, I completed the year with photos and I journalled each day.  It was sometimes a bit tedious when I was doing it, but it is fun to look back and see how our year progressed.  2011 was a big year for Kensi, going from 3 months to 15 months and so it is fun just to see her growth through the year.

When 2012 rolled around, I decided that I did not need to do a picture or a journal spot for each day of the year.  Instead, I borrowed an idea that I saw posted on Becky's Blog (www.beckyhiggins.com/blog) from someone who did weekly pages.  So far, that seems to be working for me.  I sit down each Sunday night and think back over the week and journal about what we did, who we saw and life in general.  I sometimes find that I only have pictures from 1 or 2 days in a week, so I fill the pages with those days.  Other weeks, I seem to have more pictures than I know what to do with, so I will go back later and do separate layouts for some of those different events or outtings.

For now, I feel like I'm keeping up with some of the most important times of my husband and my lives - the growth of our girls.  Kensi will be 2 in October and Brooklyn will be 7 in December.  These are the fun times that I want to make sure we capture and are able to look back on later.  They seem to grow so fast and I just want to capture a moment of that.

Now some specifics - Becky has created a number of different layouts that you can use for your pages, should you choose to embrace this journey.  I use her "standard" pages, which have places for 4 horizontal photos (size 4 x 6) or other insert, along with 4 smaller inserts for journalling.  Sometimes I include smaller photos in the smaller spots, sometimes I fill them with journaling.  To mix things up a bit, I also added one of her slightly smaller page sizes, I think it's an 8 x 10 or 8 1/2 x 11 page, but it has places for 2 horizonal and 2 vertical 4x6 pictures, plus 2 smaller spots for journaling cards or photos.

I thought since I had talked about these things before, you,  my faithful few readers, might like to have a quick way to get at them.  (And here is where my shameless plug comes in....)  You can only get Becky's designs at Amazon.com.  So I've included a handy little link on the side of my blog with some of my favorites marked.  Here's the kicker.... if you click on the link and buy her stuff, I get a few pennies!  Yup, that's right.  I know, it sounds incredibly strange and almost like a commercial, but I figured "what the heck, I'll give it a try." 

So now you have the best of both worlds (whatever those "worlds" might be) - you have my blog posts, with pictures of what I've done with Project Life, and you have a quick link to Amazon in case you want to get started on your own Project.

I will add that new products for the 2013 year have been getting added here and there and I have only posted to my favorites those that I can see on Amazon.  As the journaling cards and new albums and other things come out, I'll come back and add those to my favorites as well, so that you can see them.

In the meantime, enjoy some pictures of my efforts with "life".

This is a week from my 2010 book - April, I think.  A picture for each day and journaling.  The arrows point to the appropriate pictures.  Below is another one from 2010.

This next one (below) is a week from this year in February.  We had quite a bit of fun with Valentine's Day, so I did one show side of the week (using the smaller page that I mention above) for the pictures.  I added some stickers on the outside as well.

The last two are more from this year (2012.)  You can see I did less journaling, opting instead to highlight bigger events, rather than the everyday "mundane" things that we have going on.  I also have smaller pictures in some of the spots.

One final note - I don't have pictures of it to show you, but I borrowed another idea from one of Becky's fans and went back and rounded the corners (yup, ALL the corners) of all of my pictures - big and small.  I'm not sure why, but I like the way it looks.