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Wednesday, June 30, 2010


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Go ahead, say it out loud a few times.

Ramekin. Ramekin. Ramekin.

Don't you just love the way it feels there in your mouth? It's pretty much my new favorite word. Would you like to know why? Because ramekins bring me happiness.

It all started at the end of last year when a friend shared this link to a much desired recipe for warm, molten chocolate lava cakes. The ingredients were all basic and at hand. The problem? Ramekins.

Who has ramekins? I thought to myself. Not I, I responded. (Because having conversations with yourself is awesome.)

I bookmarked the recipe and eventually forgot about it until about a month ago when I was perusing a neighborhood yard sale and found... say it with me, friends: ramekins!

I walked away with a little white basket filled with fourteen ramekins for a mere three dollars.

When my oldest boy's seventeenth birthday hit I knew that I had the perfect occasion for making these little ramekins-full of chocolatey goodness. I sort of looked over the ingredients, purchased a couple of needed items, and set to work creating these little cakes from heaven.

The end result? Success.

In a ramekin.

If you'd like to see the recipe-making process and experience a bit of heaven in your kitchen you can read about it over on my blog. I'd love the company.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rippin' it Up

Pin It It was my first year as a teacher. As most beginning educators (or teachers in general in any year they’ve taught), I had a very limited budget and looked for ways in which to save money. Because of this, many of my clothes were purchased at the local thrift industry store. I’m all about saving a few dollars here and there, and purchasing an entire outfit for school for fewer than ten dollars was always a screaming deal.

At this point I need to confess that it seems quite awkward using the word ‘outfit’ in any context as a male of the human species, but I digress…

One particular day found me purchasing a pair of pants that were awesome. They were just my size, and though a little worn in the seams, were a great deal for only four dollars. After all there were no stains, the legcuffs weren’t frayed at all, and the pockets didn’t have holes in them. I made my purchase and left the store. Over the next few weeks I wore my new acquisition, and I was relishing in the fact that I’d purchased them for such a great price.

I’m all about screaming deals.

One day, I was working the after-school program and had a group of students outside. I was explaining the rules to the game we’d be playing, and as I squatted down, I felt—as well as heard—the unmistakable sound; funny how you can ‘feel’ a sound isn’t it? I’m sure you know the sound I speak of when I add that the world got an awful lot breezier, too.

I quickly stood and talked even faster so that my students wouldn’t be aware of what had just happened (luckily, they had all been in front of me and none behind). I put my hands behind my back and could feel the rip—completely up the seam all along the backside.

My face reddened slightly as I wondered just how I could get out of this. I was out on the field with two dozen students left to my charge; there was no ready-made solution—I’d have to make it back to the building, unnoticed, and then go home to change.

Now the challenge was finding the way to get there without my rip—a gaping one at that—being observed.

I got the game going as quickly as I could, I put two responsible students in charge and then began backing the entire distance to the school building; I smiled, offered up encouragement, and pretended that everything was okay to the crowd of boys and girls who were playing. Occasionally I had to turn to one side or the other when another group’s student was in close proximity so as not to give them a show. In reality, I must have looked like a dancer twirling this direction and that before covering the distance to the building.

I had never noticed what a long walk it was from the field before…

I reached the building, walking sideways and making sure my backside was to the wall as I passed both teachers and students in the hallway. I breathed out a sign of relief as I reached my classroom sanctuary and began to look for something to cover the tear…there was nothing.

I finally opted for the only thing I could readily find: a girl’s jacket that had been hanging on one of the classroom racks for as long as I could remember. I tied it about my waist and headed to the hallway. In reality, it was pretty hot out and with a girl’s jacket I looked completely ridiculous, raising more than one pair of eyebrows as I walked down the hall.

Undaunted, I made my way to the program coordinator’s office and told her that an emergency had arisen and I’d need to go home.

She asked what was up.

I told her it was personal.

She asked why I had a girl’s jacket tied around my waist.

I had no choice but to explain what had happened.

My boss’ face showed concern. She told me that I was more than welcome to go home to change. She nodded appreciatively and didn’t say anything as I backed toward the door. Then her face split into a huge smile as she broke into uncontrollable laughter.

I guess it’s a good thing that I had a sense of humor, because instead of being even more embarrassed I laughed too.

Since the horrendous day of the I-got-a-huge-rip-right-in-the-seat-of-the-you-know-where I decided to limit my purchases at said thrift store. After all, some deals just aren’t worth the possible costs of embarrassment in days of future passed.

However, the story I got in the end was totally worth it.

Let’s hear it for screaming deals.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Pin It We're here--VA Beach. It's finally that time: Nationals, aka the Junior Olympics, and we are MEGA excited that not only did we just have to drive a few hours down the road (as opposed to flying clear over to California like last year), but we are able to turn the event into a little mini-beach-vacation. And we got to bring Lawson along, although he was a little bummed that he still did not get to take that airplane ride.

"Maybe next year, buddy," we fake-commiserated, fist-pumping behind his back at our incredible luck in not having to shell out a few hundred more Ben Franklins for the privilege of tucking him into an extremely uncomfortable climate-controlled seat twenty-some thousand feet in the air for a few hours. "We're sorry it didn't work out this time."

This is one of the biggest Nationals ever, we've heard. Over two-thousand competitors in attendance, and who can blame them? It's the beach. Even if it is VA Beach. I haven't been here, even if I do sort of live here, since I was a kid. I have vague memories of jelly fish in the water and the boardwalk, swimming in a pool with floaties and those requisite thirty-minute time-out periods after peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches, chips, and Sunkist soda, and a little carnival. I remember a ground floor hotel room with the toilet in a little room separate from the sink, and an air conditioner with an audible hum and drip that lulled me to sleep at night. I remember a yellow tee-shirt and khaki shorts and waist-length hair with streaks of sun.

We're staying at the Cavalier this time around, one of the oldest and most respected hotels in VA Beach. We have to valet the car, which is annoying, but have a wonderful view of the ocean from our little balcony. The sound of surf is one I never tire of.

We had a free day today before training and competition starts, and naturally spent the morning at the beach and the afternoon at the pool. I started this morning gathering together all of our beach gear and, of course, the first item to go into the bag was the camera. I always turn it on to check the settings before tossing it in.

It wouldn't turn on today.

I looked at it, bewildered. I had just charged the battery before leaving Lynchburg...I distinctly remembered waiting after plugging it into the charger for the light to turn red, indicating that it was charging. I released the battery and popped it back in, turned it off, then back on. Nothing.

I went through I don't know how many fruitless efforts, all without success, to get some response out of my 30D. It is at this point dead as that proverbial doornail. I have visited two different stores and bought a new battery, but neither has a charger to charge it. I'm not giving up, but at this point it's sort of looking like I'm actually going to be on a vacation without a camera.

It's kind of surreal.

As I sat on the beach earlier and pondered this reality, I considered that I needed to take snapshots in a different way--much like the way I did as a child on that long ago trip to this same place. What did I want to remember? There--there was the first snapshot, right in front of me. Autumn: in her brown and white polka dot bikini with its pink ruffled edge dancing at the edge of the pale brown waves. She's so skinny, and the waves are buffeting her, but she's sleek with muscle, too, and she's holding her own. Lawson, right beside her, just got knocked on his butt. He's wearing lime green bermudas, and a black and green board shirt that he refuses to take off. He's already as brown as a little nut. Appropriate, since he is a little nut.

And snapshot two: wide grins and hair slicked close, fingers clutching Tweetie-Bird and Spider-Man boogie boards as Autumn and Lawson belly-ride them in on white foam. Duane in the background, laughing.

Snapshot three: toes, peeking pink through gritty sand.

All of it set to the auditory snapshot of Josh Radin, Hootie and the Blowfish, and Train playing on the Ipod in my earbuds. I miss my camera. It's hard, not having it to capture every little subltety of expression, or shade of smile. I'll make it, though. And perhaps even become a little stronger for the lack of it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

TV Addendum

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The thing that impresses me most about America is the way parents obey their children. ~Edward, Duke of Windsor

I just wanted to add an addendum to last weeks post about addictive T.V. shows. Not necessarily addictive because it’s such good television – but because sometimes you just can’t look away.

The World Champion of “I-can’t-believe-I’m-watching-this-and-why-isn’t-someone-stopping-this?” shows is one I’ve only caught a couple of times called Toddlers and Tiaras. I can’t believe I left it off of last weeks list because it’s just beyond bizarre.

In case you’re not familiar with the show, it’s a behind the scenes look at kiddie beauty pagents. I wish I could tell you that there is some kind of campy appeal to the show. But really I think it’s just kind of a fascinatingly disturbing sociological snapshot – in short it’s just amazing what people will do for and to their children.

Toddlers And Tiaras shows the families and the kids -- mostly the moms and the daughters, since the fathers rarely play into the whole fiasco other than to put on a bewildered expression and shrug helplessly . The show usually highlights three or four contestants -- usually an "old" one (9-11 years old), then one who's around six or eight, and then an actual toddler. They go to a pageant that costs a pile of money and then they either win or do not win a mix of various titles such as “Prettiest Eyes,” “Most Beautiful Face,” “Most Beautiful Hair,” and some variety of Super Supreme something or other with a “Ginormous” crown.

There are some other common factors:

- They are usually from a small town in the South. My apologies to anyone from the South - I'm not trying to pick on y'all. Maybe it's a cultural thing or maybe they're just focusing on pageants in the South.

- Their mothers are split 50/50 between being incredibly poor, and having to borrow money to pay the thousands of dollars it takes to participate in this “hobby”, or being incredibly rich and doing it more or less out of boredom. The mother's also seem to be split 50/50 between those that seem to pour all of their efforts into their daughter's appearance and absolutely none into their own and mom's that give their little ones a run for their money on layers of lip-liner and some big 'ol hair.

- There usually seems to be is one jaded contestent who has been on the pageant circuit for her entire young life, has a wall full of crowns to prove it, and behaves like Varouka Salt from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Then there always seems to be one girl who is utterly miserable and just wants to go home.

You understand that many of these kids are four years old or under, and some of them clearly have no idea what or why they are doing what they're doing. The mothers often stand in the audience making sexy poses and dancing through their child’s choreography hoping that their little beauty will see and emulate them on stage. If I were actually attending the pageant I’m pretty sure the parental performances would trump the contestant performances every time (they should have a special “best imitation of a toddler by their mother” crown for the moms).

Proponants would probably argue that pageants give their children confidence and the opportunity to earn money for their futures. I’m all for self-confident kids and, as I’ve mentioned in the past, I was involved with my kids in the world of ballroom dance so I’ve seen my fair share of stage-mothers not to mention kids wearing make-up and spray tan. But this show is stage-mothers on steroids with an extra 6 pack of Red Bull on top of that. And don’t even get me started on the sexualization of children.

Confidence or not, I'm going to have to agree with Ebay's assessment when he caught a few minutes of the show with me one evening.

"Wow," He said. " This is really creepy."

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Swimsuit Edition

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Not quite THIS modest, but still...

Today's delayed (and almost skipped!) post is brought to you by:


Can I just say... SEVEN HOURS is not a normal amount of time to have to search the clothing racks for acceptable swimsuits for my teenage daughters.

And by "acceptable" I simply mean modest and un-trashy. I like my girls to look like girls, not prostitutes.

That is all.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I Was An Almost Hero...

Pin It I was sitting at the dinner table with my longtime friend, Hazen, and his three boys. As we were eating the steak grilled just a few minutes before in the backyard, Tanner, the resident 5th grader and eldest mancub of the brood, sat next to me. The boy chatted away about this, that, and the other.

“I’m on a soccer team…”
“I’m raising a sheep for 4H and am going to make a lot of money when I sell it…”
“I can ride a size 80 motorcycle…”
“I got a trophy for baseball last year…”

I listened to each pronouncement and proud accomplishment of this eleven year-old boy. But suddenly, the consistent chatter unexpectedly came to a stop. I was surprised and glanced over at Tanner who suddenly began to pound both hands on the table like a Pentecostal preacher at a holy revival.

What was going on with him?

I caught a glimpse of Tanner’s face, panic-stricken with round eyes. I reached for the pitcher of lemonade to pour some into his glass because it looked like he’d just eaten something far too hot; that’s when I noticed his glass was still filled to the rim.

It was at this moment the boy started pointing to his throat—eyes watering.

Instantaneously, my Scout training flew back to memory just as if I’d just learned it yesterday—all of the first aid instruction about what to do when somebody was choking—also, the scene from What About Bob when Dr. Marvin begins to choke flashed through my head.

I started to stand and made ready to administer the slaps on the back, or begin the Heimlich maneuver as Tanner began to cough, and up came the slightly too-large chunk of masticated steak.

The boy coughed a few more times and leaned back in his chair.

“Are you okay?” I asked, lightly patting his back.

Tanner’s eyes were watering like a fountain. “Yeah, I just couldn’t breathe.” He wheezed—voice filled with relief.

Tanner’s dad, after checking that his son was really okay, said, “Tanner, you know the universal sign for choking is to do this,” he demonstrated the sign with both hands.

Tanner nodded in that fifthgradian way which indicated that he already knew absolutely everything there was to know about anything and everything.

“I know that,” he said, cutting a much smaller piece of meat this time.

“Then why didn’t you do it?” asked his dad. “We were all confused. It looked like you had eaten something too hot.”

There was silence.

So much for fifth-grade knowitallness.

Patted Tanner on the back again and asked, “Hey, why didn’t you let me save you by doing the Heimlich Maneuver? You know, I could have saved your life and then blogged about it afterward…you realize that you kept me from being a hero, right?

The boy shrugged and returned to his dinner. A few minutes later he asked, “Are you still going to blog about it?”

I winked at him. “Heck yes…”

“Good. Hey, did you know that I…”

I listened again to the incessant chatter of my friend’s son. I was glad to see that the choking didn’t inhibit the fifth grade ability to talk. I’m glad that he’s not dead. I’m glad that I was almost able to save his life.

I’m glad I was almost a hero.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Things You Ponder on I-81

Pin It I was headed to Tennessee, enjoying the plush leather solitude of my rented Buick Enclave with its uber-quiet interior, enhanced as it was by the plug-in for my IPod and minus the sounds of any bickering offspring (bless their hearts). Suddenly an errant thought hit me, and I picked up my cell phone to call my husband.

"Has the mama bird come home yet?" I asked him.


I could understand his confusion--after all, that's how I had initiated the conversation--exactly as the thought had struck my mind. No social "hey, how are yous, what are you doing, blah blah blahs." Just right to the point. I repeated myself, not seeing the value in lengthy explanations. He'd get it eventually. "Has the mama bird come back to her nest?"

"What are you talking about?" Or maybe he wouldn't.

"The. Mama. Bird. The nest on our porch. You know. Whenever we've walked outside today, the baby birds have hollered something fierce because they're hungry. I haven't seen Mama Bird all day long. I was just wondering if she had come back."

"How would I know?" I expelled a breath of exasperation.

"You're supposed to know these things! You're, like, the king of all things Nature, husband."

"Well, no, I don't know if the mama bird is there or not."

I waited politely, as in: could you go check out the situation, please, but he sort of missed his nonverbal cue because there was just a long pause on the line. And then, impatiently, "Are we done?"

"Well, no! I thought if she wasn't there, you could take the whole planter thing out in the middle of that shady spot in the yard where I have the bird feeders and set it there and maybe some other birds would hear the baby birds hollering and would adopt them. Sort of. You know."

Long pause. "You're kidding, right?"

Okay. So I know it's a bit on the naive side. But stranger things have happened and I can't just let them DIE!!! (for hyperbole's sake). They're babies. It's pitiful. "Well...no. It could happen. I think I've seen something like it somewhere...in National Geographic or something...." I trailed off.

Duane laughed. At me, not with me. It's a cruel world when your better half laughs at you, people. "Uh, yeah. That's not happening. I'm already halfway to Richmond."

I sat in silence for a minute, pondering. Then Duane spoke again. "Is this seriously the crap you think about while you're driving down the road?" I stared at the traffic flashing by on the opposite side of the highway, at the pines that lined the road at intermittent intervals, at the license plate of the car in front of me that had been bugging me for the last three miles.

Seriously? "Well, yeah." Isn't this the kind of thing everyone thinks about?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Background T.V.

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They say that ninety percent of TV is junk. But, ninety percent of everything is junk. ~Gene Roddenberry

I’ve never been a big fan of reality TV. I don’t mean to be a T.V. snob about it really and I’m not one of those “I’m-too-smart-for-T.V. kind of folks. I mean, I’ve spent more than my fair share of time in front of the tube watching everything from the most intellectually stimulating PBS Masterpiece Theater to reruns of I Dream of Jeanie, or even better Bewitched. But I have a hard time with reality T.V. I don’t like the contest shows like Survivor or The Apprentice. And I just can’t get behind any of the “hook up” shows like The Bachelor or Bachlorette. And I don’t really even like American Idol all that much. I suppose it’s because I don’t want reality, I only want the fantasy.

But with all the homework I’m having to do during this phase of my life, I spend a lot of time sitting and staring at my computer…which can get kind of boring. So most of the time I have the T.V. on in the background just to help me not nod off while I’m trying to study statistics. While I don’t really have a particular show that I wait for all week long right now, I have come across a few shows that I’m kind of liking. “Background shows” I like to call them ‘cause I can have them on in the background without being too distracting. Anyway, I’m kind of getting totally addicted to a few of these shows - and they’re actually reality shows too – well as reality as these shows ever are.

One of them is called Cake Boss. It’s about a guy who runs a Bakery that was founded by his father in New Jersey. The show just kind of shows how the bakery runs in the course of a day – they’re a loud Italian family so they like to play up the drama there. But the cool thing is that they make the most amazing cakes! Wedding cakes with these amazing edible flowers. Birthday cakes with every kind of theme you can imagine from shop-a-holic to sweet 16. They had a cake in the shape of a building on fire with cake fire trucks and actual smoke (well water vapor) coming out of the windows. There was the Leaning Tower of Pisa wedding cake with the wedding couple at the bottom on one of those little Vespa scooters. The solar system cake. The fish tank cake with coral, sharks, tropical fish and an actual fish tank behind it. And they even made an aircraft carrier cake. It’s really very cool and creative stuff and makes me wish that I could go to work there.

I’m also getting totally addicted to Say Yes to the Dress. It’s about what is apparently a famous wedding dress store in Chicago and it features 3 or 4 brides-to-be per show coming in to pick their wedding dress. Sounds totally boring doesn’t it? Well it is, except that somehow it isn’t at the same time. Perhaps I’m just fascinated by the human drama and the amount of interest and energy that these women ( and the entourages that accompany them) put into the dress choice. But I think it’s mostly the amount of money that these people are spending on a gown. The low end seems to be around $3,000 which is a lot by itself. But there have been some that have sold for as has high as $15,000 - $20,000! That’s like buying a car for heaven’s sake – and a pretty good car at that. I just can’t imagine how much money I would have to have to be comfortable spending that much money on a dress – even one for such a special occasion.

And finally I’m also totally into Clean House. It’s pretty much what it sounds like. The host and her crew of a professional organizer, fix-it dude and designer come into these houses that are completely inundated with clutter. Boxes and boxes piled high in every room filled with who knows what. The deal is that the “crew" comes in and pulls everything out of the house, pretty much forces the homeowner to have a garage sale and get rid of their junk then re-designs and organizes the house while the family goes to a resort hotel for a couple of days. I have to admit that I have at least one room in my house that could use this treatment and I’m a little jealous.

So if you come across these shows in your channel surfing, give them a try and let me know what you think. It's not Masterpiece Theater or even American idol, but there's cake, cleaning and bridezilla's...it's all good.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Chocolate Makes Everything Better

Pin It I worry much too much. I know it is not good for me but I just can not help myself sometimes. Some things worry me so much that I turn into a weepy beast which spews words from its mouth before thinking them through. I have no explanation for this behavior, I only know that worry exacerbates my emotions and turns me into an unthinking, unrealistic monster.

A couple of days ago, the worry monster surfaced and my poor family had to suffer her wrath. I promptly ordered myself to take two chocolates and go to bed.

I pulled out the bag of Dove Chocolates with Almonds that were gifted to me at camp last week and unwrapped the first morsel. As is standard, I read the message printed inside the wrapper as I popped the goodness into my mouth:

As it turns out, I didn't need the second chocolate. I only needed the message of the first (and some time to do some research... and some good, solid sleep).

Thank you Susan of New York, NY. You are so right.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

This Blog Has no Title

Pin It just words and a mood.

A boy stood at the turntable watching the sleek, charcoal record turning around and around. The blackened disk glinted in the light from the window as the happy, as well as the Sad, Songs poured from the speakers like a Funeral for a Friend. The small rainbow on the center of the record—MCA’s trademarked logo—turned in an endless Circle of Life as he moved to the rhythm, just a Tiny Dancer, being only five or six years old.

As I’ve looked down through the conduit of years, the songs from one particular artist have become an anthem of my childhood, adolescence, and adultness—a sort of Crocodile Rock playing as a soundtrack as I’ve grown older. To me it seems that music carries within it the power unlock the past moments of our lives, as seen through brown or Blue Eyes of memory. In reality it’s a mixed bag - after all, you'll never know just what images might be spurned up by those familiar notes, but I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues sometimes.

In fact, it was just the other day that I was just listening to my iPod when one of these songs came on. All at once I found myself transported back into another time and place. The best way I could explain it was being akin to the opening of a door and the invitation to step inside. I—for just a moment—had become a Rocket Man; a visitor breaking from the confines of his life. But then suddenly, the moment of Harmony ended—blown out Like a Candle in the Wind—and suddenly it was Goodbye Yellow Brick Road as I found that I was back in the moment I'd started; however, I’m Still Standing.

Odd that this type of thing can happen, isn’t it?

In writing this post, it finds me posing the question: Just what song is your favorite? You know, Your Song? The One by this amazing artist that takes you back? Now, I know that some of you might be prone to not want to answer but I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That. After all, deep inside you is a love this songwriter's music as well...Can You Feel the Love Tonight? Or this morning/afternoon? Would you be willing to share it with the rest of us? After all, it’s no Sacrifice, just a simple word; so Don’t go Breaking My Heart on this one.

But in the end there’s really no pressure to answer this question. If you can’t think of your favorite song just realize that it’s all Hakuna Matata; but if you feel so inclined, go right on ahead and answer, you Honky Cat you.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mending Fences

Pin It It was several weeks ago, as I remember it, that I had the dream. I shared it the following day with my friend Barbara, calling her up to do so and feeling just a little silly, but knowing if I didn't verbalize it that my dream would have no validation.

It's not the first time, you see, that I've woken from a dream knowing that it was a message of sorts.

Doodoo doodoo doodoo doodooo. That's the theme to the Twilight Zone, in case you were wondering. I'm serious, though. It's that deja vu sensation...that this is more than just a dream feeling but I can't quite put my finger on it. Usually I either write them down or I tell someone about them when they occur. More often than not, I forget all about them. Last night, I dreamed about twins. I'm telling you about this now, so that when I wind up having twins in ten years, someone will remember this blog post and say OMG. She's psychic. And not OMG. She's looneytunes.

I was driving, as I frequently do, down a nearby country road. It was dusk, and the fading light struggled to make it past the canopy of summer leaves. I drove with the windows down, wind rushing in, music playing loud on the radio as usual. Nothing new there.

Up ahead, around a bend in a road, I caught sight of an older man peddling a child's red bike. The bike was too small, and the man was struggling. As I came closer, he stopped peddling and sat down on the side of the road. It was then that I saw he was my father.

I parked the car, climbed out and opened the back hatch. "Hey, Dad," I said, hefting the bike up and placing it carefully in the back. "Cimb on in. We'll be home in a minute."

And he did.

End of dream.

Nothing too strange there, right? Not unless you consider that my father and I have barely exchanged three words in close to eight years. Long story, lots of blahblahblah and angstangstansgst, but obviously it has grown roots in my subconscious. In Dad's, too, apparently, because yesterday I received an email from him: Subject: Mending Fences.

He's coming to Virginia in the next couple of weeks with my nephew, whom I haven't seen in ten years, and is it okay? Heck, yeah, it's okay. There are no fences to mend. Those fences have long since been removed. I guess it was kind of hard to see that with me here and you there.

There are only wide open spaces to drink in the sun here, and shady parkways to bike upon when that gets old.

Looneytunes or not, I'm liking my Dad-On-a-Bike dream.

Friday, June 11, 2010

You Go, Boy!


Leslie is the mom of a lovable French Bulldog named Olive, and her 17 kids can be found her in first grade classroom on weekdays. After earning a Master's degree in Psychology, she found happiness in teaching, and it's anyone's guess what comes next. A blissful life of balance is her pursuit; she seeks new adventures, but takes comfort in the familiar. Her castle is a tiny urban condo which is only 400 square feet!

My background in Psychology makes me very sensitive to gender identity issues when dealing with children. It makes me sensitive to every development issue, really. I feel like each word and action those children see and hear from me makes an imprint on who they become in the world, or on who they think they should be. Sometimes, that's too much for me to think about for long, which is why I am undecided about having human children of my own. Canine development seems much more forgiving. Anyway, I do think about these issues often, and I am very deliberate about the words I choose as I talk to my students. All day. Every day. In addition to being positive, supportive, caring, and upifting, I always try to be gender-neutral in my classroom. I address my students as "Scholars" instead of "boys and girls." If they see something and say, "Eewww, no, that's for girls!" or, "That must be a boy. He has short hair!" I say, "No. This is for anyone who likes it. It doesn't have to be for girls or boys!" and "Girls can have short hair. And boys can have long hair!..." And then we have a big discussion about it all.

So often, even though I am so deliberate about these things, many girls are still drawn to stereotypically "girly" things, like pretending their coats are babies in their arms, and many boys seem to be drawn to traditionally "masculine" activities, like making guns out of building blocks, and running around flying toy planes.

Yesterday I was relieved to find evidence that my gender neutrality is a message my students are receiving loud and clear.

I recently bought a bunch of new goodies for my treasure box, and started a new reward policy about how to earn those treasures. (You have to do that this time of year.) It was a big ceremony with lots of pomp and circumstance (I think. Maybe just pomp, though, I don't know. I'm not really sure what pomp is. Or circumstance, in this context, for that matter.). Anyway, I was very dramatic about revealing all the treasures they could choose when they earned a reward. I had foam bookmarks, cool star-shaped sunglasses, dinosaurs, erasers, sparkly pencils, sparkly rings with pretty gemstones, and dice. (Don't worry. They use dice for math games, not craps. At least I hope not craps. Mental note: check to see what those kids do at recess tomorrow over there by the fence.)

Ok. Several of my students won the reward of choosing from the prize bucket on the Friday before Mother's Day. One boy chose a foam bookmark, a girl chose a die, 2 other girls chose rings, and 2 boys chose rings. When one girl chose her ring, she said she was going to give it to her mother for Mother's Day. I said, "Oh, that's so nice! She will love that!" Then the boys who chose rings also said their plan was to give them to their moms.

Today, one of my boys came in wearing the sparkly, fake diamond-like ring on his index finger. I said nothing about it. I heard one or 2 kids say to him that hey thought he was going to give it to his mom. He had no reply, or at least not one I heard.

Hours later, he was still wearing the ring while playing a reading game with the other kids. No one batted an eye. Perfectly normal. As it should be. No contrary opinions, no one made fun of him all day, and he did not seem self-conscious at all wearing the somewhat feminine piece of jewelry. Just at home in his skin. In his happiness, and joyful childhood. It's just what I want for him. It's what I want for all my kids.

I hope someday they don't have to be in a classroom to have that freedom and equality to do what they love, wear what the love, and choose who they love. Without fear. Without isolation. Without marginalization. Without anything at all except what they were meant to have: peace.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bad Luck

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I’ve never really thought of myself as particularly superstitious. I mean, I’ve spilt salt before without taking the precaution of throwing it over my left shoulder. Even now I own a slightly broken mirror that I use to check the back of my hair. And I have come across a number of perfectly respectable black cats in my travels and not felt the compulsion to change direction or run away. On the other hand, I really do make an effort not to walk under a ladder (just good safety sense) and I have to admit that I have been known on occasion to “knock on wood” while ever-so-wittily using my own head as the wood. But for the most part I have looked at superstitions as old fashioned beliefs born in another, less enlightened era and not really something to worry about.
But in this age of internet I find all of my rational non-superstitious thoughts and beliefs are put to the test when I get the “forward-this-email-for-good-luck” messages. You all know the ones I mean. The messages that tell you if you forward it to 10 people something stupendous will happen. Forward to 5 people something merely great will happen. Forward to less than 5 people and….well if that’s the best you can do and all the friends you have in your pitiful life…then it’s possible that you might not be too smitten by the internet gods. BUT if you DON’T pass it on…..whoa unto you and your house yea verily and forever!
When I get these I initially kind of roll my eyes and chuckle to myself in a self-congratulatory tone, secure in the knowledge that I am far too intelligent and sophisticated to perpetuate this type of technological superstition while clicking the mouse to send it to the trash. But then a little while later I realize that I’ve been resting my arm on a pen and all the ink has drained out and left a giant red spot on the sleeve - is the internet jinx starting? Then the important document I distinctly remember saving under a particular name is nowhere to be found – surely that can’t be just my failing memory. So I nonchalantly click on my trash folder…no harm in just reading it one more time right? I mean someone took the time to write this and send it out in the universe – who am I to judge. And what if I am actually denying myself the possibility of something stupendous happening by selfishly trashing the magical email? I should be more open to possibilities right? And I should want to share those possibilities with all my dear friends…and marginal acquaintances in my address book.
I received one such email from one of my “friends” just yesterday. And since I am in no position, emotionally, financially, psychologically or laundarily to further tempt fate I’m forwarding it onto all of you…just in case. There are some very specific instructions and a timeline to follow. Laugh if you will, but I warn you, I too flaunted my own hubris in the face of the wireless deity and ruined a perfectly good shirt. On the bright side, there are some things here that are pretty good advice – I particularly like “don’t judge people by their relatives.” Now if you’ll exuse me, I’ve got to go buy some super-industrial-strength spot remover.

Do not keep this message.

The Lotus Touts must leave your hands in 6 MINUTES. Otherwise you will get a very unpleasant surprise. This is true, even if you are not superstitious, agnostic, or otherwise faith impaired. 

ONE. Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.

TWO. Marry a man/woman you love to talk to. As you get older, their conversational skills will be as important as any other. 

THREE. Don't believe all you hear, spend all you have or sleep all you want. 

FOUR. When you say, 'I love you,' mean it. 

FIVE.. When you say, 'I'm sorry,' look the person in the eye.. 

SIX. Be engaged at least six months before you get married.
SEVEN. Believe in love at first sight. 

EIGHT. Never laugh at anyone's dreams. People who don't have dreams don't have much. 

NINE.... Love deeply and passionately. You might get hurt but it's the only way to live life completely. 

TEN.. In disagreements, fight fairly. No name calling. 

ELEVEN. Don't judge people by their relatives. 

TWELVE. Talk slowly but think quickly. 

THIRTEEN. When someone asks you a question you don't want to answer, smile and ask, 'Why do you want to know?' 

FOURTEEN. Remember that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
FIFTEEN. Say 'bless you' when you hear someone sneeze. 

SIXTEEN. When you lose, don't lose the lesson. 

SEVENTEEN. Remember the three R's: Respect for self; Respect for others; and Responsibility for all your actions. 

EIGHTEEN. Don't let a little dispute injure a great friendship.
NINETEEN. When you realize you've made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it. 

TWENTY. Smile when picking up the phone. The caller will hear it in your voice 

TWENTY- ONE. Spend some time alone. 

Now, here's the FUN part! 

Send this to at least 5 people and your life will improve. 

1-4 people: Your life will improve slightly. 

5-9 people: Your life will improve to your liking. 

9-14 people: You will have at least 5 surprises in the next 3 weeks 

15 and above: Your life will improve drastically and everything you ever dreamed of will begin to take shape. 

A true friend is someone who reaches for your hand and touches your heart. Do not keep this message.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Happy Camper

Pin It As you read this I will be at one of my favorite places on this earth.

Several years now I have had the privilege of attending a week long camp for young women aged 12-18 as one of their leaders. There is something magical about this place where we camp - so magical that I wish I could bottle up the connections I feel with my Maker when I am there and bring some of those feelings back home with me to be remembered later.

But now, today, I am living it.

If you're interested in reading some great posts, check out the guest posts over at my personal blog this week.

See you next Wednesday!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Blogging vs. Real Life

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I received an email recently from someone. You see, I decided to have an impromptu get-together with a few blogging friends whom I’ve never before met. I opened it up to the world at large, and waited to see what would happen.

Several people declined.

Though many of their reasonings were justifiable, I tended to note that there was a common thread lying betwixt many of the ‘locals’ decision not to attend; this seemed to stem from a sense of self-imposed inadequacy. In other words, not feeling that their true selves would measure up with others’ imagined expectations.

Through the medium of blogging we’re permitted to expose ourselves to the world. Well, those portions we feel comfortable enough sharing with the world at large—a group of strangers we feel a bit of a connection to, even though we’ve never met them in real life. We feel this because we know them—or part of them—the part they are willing to share.

Those who read our blogs and that actually know us outside of the matrix we tend to feel no reservation at taking part in an activity with, yet many of these same people balk at the idea of dropping the curtain to the strangers and allowing them to see the great and powerful Wizard of Oz as he truly is—weaknesses and all.

We’re all human.

Many of you follow Courtney Kendrick—better known as cjane in the realms of bloggers. In blogdom people seem to rise to a celebrity status and we find ourselves comparing ourselves to them because of how many comments they get, how many followers they have, and from the sheer brilliance of some of their posts.

This is not the way it should be.

Is Courtney amazing? Heck yes. We worked together a few years ago—BC (Before Chup). We went on camping trips with 50+ kids from our school together, she helped out in my classroom on a regular basis—dressing up as many a fanciful character, and even today I still head up to visit her from time to time as she only lives a few miles away.

Is she perfect?

Heck no.

Is she awesome?


Is she human?


I worry that many of us balk at the idea of exposing who we really are because we are so busy comparing ourselves with others and are afraid of letting them—our ourselves—down. Life is much too short to worry about the expectations of others, their thoughts, and worrying about how somebody may—or may not—react.

I still plan on heading up to Texas Roadhouse (as it appears to be winning on the poll) and I would love it if there were a couple dozen people brave enough to attend. If not, that’s okay, too. I can enjoy a cut of steak whether or not I have a group of friends to eat with.

However, let us remember not be too critical of ourselves, or let ourselves hold us back.

Sometimes, we’re our own worse enemy.

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Quiet Drama

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Trying to keep on my toes as I deal simultaneously with potty training, chronically ill children and a graduating Senior, all while attempting to breathe through my nose and knit a sweater.

Waiting in the E.R. is boring. Most of the time when I take my 4-year-old son we don't have to wait. It's a small sort of blessing; my son’s rare metabolic condition usually means we are zipped through triage straight to treatment. However, about a year ago I found myself in the E.R., waiting for my son to be seen- as a matter of caution, not emergency.

On that particular E.R. visit the only other occupants of the waiting room were two brothers, one about 16- 17 years old and the other about 12. They caught my attention, not only because they were there without adults, but because the older brother looked incredibly green and was sitting with his head bowed, as still as a statue. I half expected him to faint. The younger brother radiated nervous energy and, though vibrating, kept to his seat.

After about 20 minutes of utter silence a large man, an older version of the brothers, entered the waiting room. He looked muscular and tough and particularly grim. In fact he looked like the kind of man that Robin in the movie 6 Days 7 Nights said you could, "send them out in the woods with a q-tip and a pocket knife and they build you a shopping mall."

The waiting room was small; there was no way I could avoid witnessing what passed next. The man went and sat in front of the older boy, placing himself so that their knees touched. The man was silent for a moment and then said, "Son, first I want you to know that it is serious, but your brother is going to be okay." The older boy didn't move. The man paused, then said gently, "Look at me." The boy slowly raised his eyes.

"I want you to know that it wasn't your fault." At that the older boy seemed to start breathing for the first time all evening. The man continued, "I'm sorry if I appeared angry, I was really worried about getting here in time- but I was not angry with you. These kind of things just happen."

At this point I remember them hugging, but in retrospect the hugging may be a wishful embellishment of my imagination. They probably simply slapped each other on the back. I do remember vividly how the older brother’s face was transformed with relief, and how the younger brother immediately relaxed out of vibration-mode.

The three left to visit their injured family member, and my son was called for his chest x-ray. I never ran into the boys or their father again, nor did I ever hear the whole story.

The experience made me ponder how my face often looks grim when I'm worried and how my own children sometimes misinterpret that. I marveled at what a great dad this man appeared to be; he communicated his love through eye contact, physical contact, and loving words. That's what everyone waiting in any E.R. needs. In fact, that's simply what every child needs from their parents, every day.

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