Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hope...


Photo by my dad.

I hate New Year's. There, I said it. I really do. It is a very arbitrary point in time that someone picked to say "this is when we begin counting the new calendar". I am not a night owl either, so the idea of staying up until 12am to say "whoohoo it's a new year" doesn't appeal to me. Even if it were possible, which it isn't.

I also hate resolutions. No, that isn't true. I hate resolving once a year to a bunch of unrealistic ideals. It probably works for some people, but I find that it is better for me to make it an ongoing process and a more positively focused process.

All that being said, because the winter solstice has come, and we have a blue moon for the new year, it is a good time to reflect on how my life is right now, and to launch into the universe my hopes for the near future. Rather than make resolutions to fix things or do things differently, better, whatever, I want to make a list of Hope.

Top of the list is hope for the Bob to experience professional success. Whether that means his real estate ventures becoming a realistic method of earning income and being successful, or finding a software engineer position, or something else entirely, I am hopeful for him to experience success.

I hope to see a relatively uneventful resolution to the "I can't really talk about it" work issue for me.

I would like to visit someplace abroad. Like Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. They are a bit of motherland for me, on both sides of my family, and I would like to visit all of them. Or just one of them. It would be great if it could happen this next calendar year, but I will be happy if it happens within 5 years. See hope number 1.

I hope for continued health for myself and my family, immediate and extended.

I hope for a complete lack of home repair issues. Other than getting the trim painted on the outside of the house this year. It really needs it.

I hope to continue to learn from Cooper, as he grows and learns and allows me to see the world brand new through his eyes, heart and mind.

I hope to read a book from cover to cover in less than 5 months. I LOVE reading, but have found it hard to maintain the focus to finish a book, what with all the dancing and pretend train rides and puzzle doing, playdough playing and drawing I am required to participate in these days. Meh, I will have plenty of time to read when I am the mother of a teenager.

I hope to find a creative spark in my work. I feel I could be better at it, more inspired. I realize that yes, I am talking about financial aid, but still, it has potential!

I hope to bake more pies. I baked that one, and haven't tried again, other than with prebaked crust. I love pie. I should have it in my life more often.

I hope that everyone finds one thing to be hopeful for in 2010, and that they achieve it. Here is to a hopeful and joyful new year.

Update: Because I don't know what the hell I am doing, I posted this with an old date on it, when I began writing it. Now I have reposted it with todays date. So if you see this more than once, so sorry. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas in review

Christmas was a good day. There was a roast chicken and one step son and one happy kid who got a new scooter. Bob got stemless wine glasses, because he keeps knocking over regular stemmed ones. I got cooking stuff: The Cooking Light cook book, a mandoline, and a chopping thing. We watched more Christmas specials this week than I ever knew possible. Someone is decidedly obsessed with Santa. That is not a bad thing.

It is a whopping 17 degrees today, at noon. It was warmer at 6am. We are not leaving the house. Well, Bob is, to show some houses to this client he has been working with. But Cooper and I are staying put.


Me, Christmas Day

TOO MANY STUFFED ANIMALS



The new scooter and helmet


The tree this year

Elf ears from our visit to Santa

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Things I just do not get

Robin Thicke. He is a three time Grammy award winning musician, but I cannot for the life of me figure out why. It is like Tom Jones and Smokey Robinson and Justin Timberlake got blended in a gene splicer. He sings in this weird falsetto, looks like a hairy lounge lizard performer. I just don't get him. He is really the son of Alan Thicke, who is fabulously cheesy and I totally DO get.

Why little boys, or grown up ones for that matter, like Spider Man. I grew up reading my brothers comic books. I know the REAL Batman, not the campy one that George Clooney or Val Kilmer or Michael Keaton portrayed. I read all of the Spider Man comics he had. And cannot understand WHY anyone, Mary Jane especially, put up with that whiney indecisive sorry excuse for a superhero. He has these awesome powers, and yet is all "Oh noooo, someone I love might get huuuurt if I use them" or won't suck it up and tell MJ that he is Spidey, grow a set and tell her he loves her and let HER decide what she is willing to buy into or not. And yet, he is popular. My son has discovered him. It started with some of the boys in the neighborhood dressing up as Spidey for Halloween. Somehow he glommed onto him as interesting and now I can't even take him to Barnes and Noble without him finding EVERY single Spider Man comic, picture book or coloring book in the kids section. It is like he has his own version of Spidey sense.

Brussel sprouts. Tiny cabbages. I am just saying: BLECH.

How someone can hear "DO NOT DO XXXX" said in tone that most people who know me, and even some who don't, do not ignore, and ignore it. It has no power over a certain 3 year old sometimes. In fact, he will more likely turn and stand slightly taller and say "NO" to me. In the words of Marvin the Martian "He makes me sooooo angry". But this goes back to that whole burgeoning sense of self and understanding of cause and effect. That he does get. Stand up to The Mama, and you WILL lose that toy, TV time, or get a major time out in your room with no books.

What the hell Ray Liotta was thinking when he took the role in In the Name of the King. He can be such a good bad guy, but WOW this movie was bad. I mean, he attacked Jason Stratham with a bunch of books. BOOKS??? Spinning around him in the room, like a big literary tornado. Then four of them grabbed his arms and legs, one on each, holding him hostage. Seriously, what were they thinking when they wrote this script. "Hmmm, we need some really big, stunning end of the movie battle between Ray and Jason...what WILL we use, what will we use...HEY! The room is full of BOOKS. Let's get them to all fly off the shelves and spin around him in a maelstrom of leather and parchment. THAT IS SO COOL! And FIERCE!"

That is just a smattering of the things I have been pondering these past few days while we have been off. Christmas was great. Cooper totally got it. He was ready on Christmas Eve when I got him up from his nap and he immediately asked if Santa had come. Poor thing had to still go back to bed in four hours and sleep through the night before Santa was going to have come. Then his older brother Nick came over the next day which is always entertaining because Cooper adores him and Nick has no idea what to do with him.

Hope you all had a great holiday.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A rough week for grandparents

If you have grandparents, or elderly parents, give them a hug and tell them how much you appreciate and love them. Unless of course you don't love or appreciate them for some really good reason.

So far, since this weekend, two of my friends/coworkers have had grandparents die. First they fell down and broke a hip. Then they were dead within 48 hours. Both were quite old and had been in assisted living, and one had Alzheimer's. But they went from being alive to not alive quickly.

It is particularly hard to deal with this kind of loss around Christmas. It isn't the same if it happens around the 4th of July. Something about Christmas, the family togetherness, the memories that we have formed over the years, both good and bad, makes this a poignant time of year to begin with. Add in the loss of a family member, no matter how old and infirm they were to begin with, and it is a recipe for increased sadness.

For my one friend this means rather than having to travel down to Long Island for the weekend, her entire family is descending upon her here. This is where her grandfather lived, and was in a home. Up until last night she was not worrying about cleaning her house or vacuuming up dog hair, but rather was just packing a bag and throwing out the perishables from the fridge. Now she has to think about dog hair AND grocery shopping. Maybe I will make a lasagna for her to have to feed people. Something like that. Or offer to vacuum and dehair the house. Merry Christmas, here is a lasagna and a free pass to no dog hair. Hey, put that in MY stocking while you are at it.

So gather your loved ones close, even if they annoy the hell out of you and cannot go for five minutes without making a comment that makes you want to scream and stomp on things. Hug them and appreciate them for all the good things they are. Maybe they are funny, and eventually say something that makes you laugh. Or they bake great cookies and always share. Or they are there for you in your time of need no matter how many times you need them. Most people are good people on some level, and we are blessed for having known them. Tell them you love them and give thanks. You just never know when they won't be there anymore.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Light...





The theme over at the Women's Colony is light today. Some of these pictures have appeared here recently but here they are again.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snowy Sunday


Someone got a little too enthusiastic with the snow blowing today.



We have at least a foot of snow on the ground, and it is still falling. Light, fluffy sparkly snow. If it doesn't rain or get too warm in the next week, we will have a white Christmas.



This is what is going on in my living room today. Happy cozy Sunday.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Very distracted

I am having a hard time focusing on writing something entertaining and witty. Or just factual. There is something brewing at work, which I no longer have much control over and the end result will very much lie in the hands of external parties and their interpretation of events. That is about as specific as I can get. I am not even sure I will ever be able to write about the events that are going down from a legal standpoint.

What I will talk about is people. And relationships. I learned early on in life to make acquaintances fairly easily. I am that person who can talk to a total stranger on a plane for 5 hours and feel like I actually got to know a bit about that person. I can walk into a cocktail party like I did with Bob the other night, a room full of people I don't know, and begin engaging with people about pretty much anything. I don't need to know much about a topic to do that, I just need to be good at asking questions and getting people to engage. And I am good at that. Side note: Got to meet Joe Shortsleeve at this party, who is a local newscaster. He is married to a real estate agent that works in a related office to Bob's. He is ruthless at the Yankee Swap, but a nice guy.

Back to my thoughts: What is harder is making friends. People I consider trustworthy and worth the time and energy it takes to build a relationship. Moving as much as we did when I grew up, I learned it was hard to leave those friendships behind, so I became even more selective about the people I call friend.

Over the 20 years of my professional life I have met people that I call friends. Some of them I have known for almost the entire time I have been doing this work. For the most part these are people I would trust with almost anything. We have seen each other through marriages, divorces, dating, second marriages, children, loss and joy, you name it. They are part of my life and for that I am grateful.

That is what I have to say. These people are friends and I am a better person for that in many cases.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Maybe I'll Get Voted Off the Island

In a week we will be off for the holidays. My college very kindly closes between Christmas Eve and New Years Day as does Cooper's day care center. So every year I get roughly 10-14 days depending on when the holidays fall to be home. With my child and husband. And three dogs. 24 hours a day of blissful togetherness.

Please come get me. Please. Even for just one day.

If the weather is OK and we can get outside, it might not be so bad, but holy cat poop on a cracker, the age of three is beginning to wear me out.

Contrarian: a person who takes a contrary (opposite or incompatible with another) position or attitude. See COOPER.

Todays' list of things we didn't agree with included but is not limited to:

Getting out of bed when Mom said it was time; the amount of time it took for either parent to get Pinky and the Brain loaded into the DVD player; where the tree skirt for the Christmas tree should be; sitting vs. standing on the couch; getting dressed to go to school; the shirt mom picked out to wear to school; going to school vs. staying home and watching Pinky and the Brain all day; getting into the car seat in a timely manner; walking into school while holding mommy's hand in the parking lot; walking not running up the ramp to the door; going IN the door; walking down the steps to our room; stopping at our cubby to put our stuff away; going into our room; staying in our room and not running around the halls like a mad man.

I got to the office and wondered if anyone would notice if I began drinking Bailey's in my coffee.

I love my son. I do, I really really do. And I love when he tells me, completely spontaneously that he loves me. With a big grin and a hug. But I really really really hate arguing with someone all day. I hate negotiating EVERY little thing. I get this is all about control, and establishing and testing boundaries and his little burgeoning sense of self. I don't want to squash that, but I also don't want to feel mentally beat up at the end of the day. I don't want to keep watching the clock and calculating how long we have until nap or bedtime. I want to ENJOY the time I have with him, not count it down.

So we are going to find things to do that week we are all off. Play dates with friends. Maybe a trip to the Children's Museum or the Science Museum downtown. Because I really do want to enjoy and treasure this time, when he still wants to hang out with mom and dad and gives us hugs and thinks we are funny. Soon enough he will be a teenager and oh dear god in heaven I am too old NOW to be the mom of a teenager. I still have 10 years to go before he officially is one. Whimper.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ho ho ho


Cooper's visit to Santa went really well this year. We went as soon as the mall was open, and we only had 5 people in front of us. Cooper could barely wait to get to Santa. He was sitting on the bench before Santa was done saying goodbye to the kid before us. And when asked what he would like for Christmas, Cooper told him "Toys" and then "A dinosaur."

When I asked him earlier this week, his answer was "New stuff." I guess that used stuff needs to go back.

Our tree is finally up too. Happy Holidays!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tis the season...

It is that time of year. It is a time of great excitement and just a little anxiety. The employees of United States Postal Service are among the most popular people on the planet at this time of the year. In their delivery bags they carry some of the most precious and highly anticipated mail of the year: The college acceptance/denial letter.

Get the big packet, you are IN! Get the thin, number 10 sized envelope, you are not.

High school seniors around the country are waiting. They are waiting for the answer that leads to the next Big Step in their lives.

I have been in the business of higher education for over 20 years. I have worked at almost every kind of college there is with the exception of a for-profit like the University of Phoenix. I have seen students successfully navigate the years of hard work, tests, reports, extracurricular activities and social ups and downs at a community college, a 4 year state college, a very selective and competitive 4 year private college, and a few in between 4 year privates. Here is what I have to say about college:

You can have a good time, and be academically successful, and then become a productive citizen with a job by going to ANY college. Sure some colleges do some things better than others. If you have a yen (and the talent) to be a doctor, you should definitely go to a college as an undergraduate that will give you the undergraduate degree and experience that will lead to getting into medical school. Do not go and be a philosophy major, unless you plan on getting a PhD and not an MD. If you want to be an astronaut, go to a school which offers a good engineering or aerospace program. Do not become a History major.

But aside from programs that are very specialized and require certain skill sets and talents, most college students will succeed not because of the college they attend, but because of what they bring to the college.

Be prepared to do the work. No one hands you your grades. You are the only person responsible for how well or poorly you do in your classes. Sure, some professors are better than others, but if you apply yourself and figure out how to do the work they way the instructor needs you to do it, you will succeed.

Be prepared to participate. Join a group, a team, become part of the community. Build sets or be part of the cast for a play. Sing in the chorus. Join student government. Do something that gets you out of your room and involves you in the life of the college. The friends and connections you make there will last a lifetime.

Work. Get a job on campus. Studies are clear - students who engage on campus as a work study student do better academically, persist and graduate on time, and build a network of relationships with staff and faculty that last well beyond the four or so years they spend at college and enrich their lives. I have personally been a reference for at least 5 of my work study students for either jobs after college or for grad school applications. Those connections are invaluable.

Don't stress about your major, unless you are ready to specialize out of the gate. I changed my major once as an undergrad, and then never did work in the field I got my degree in. I had to get a masters degree, but that is OK. I worked that out as I went along. Very few people figure out at age 17 or 18, or even 40 sometimes, what they want to be when they grow up. Start by taking your core classes and maybe a few major specific classes to figure out whether that is the right direction for you if you don't know.

Money. If you get offered some money to go to college, GREAT! Good for you. But you cannot count on getting enough to pay for all of it. You just can't. As the economy continues to be in the toilet, and people are still being laid off or losing income, colleges are being challenged to stretch their own limited resources even further to assist students with the cost of an education. At my college we offer quite a bit of money to our students, over 16 million this year for 1500 students in just institutional aid. But many of our students still borrow to pay for college. Be prepared and educated about your options for paying for school, and be prepared to make the hard choice. If a college is just out of your reach financially, it may not be the right decision to go there. You might have to finance too much and come out with too much debt in the end. Maybe some other college, with a similar program or offerings that costs you less is going to meet your needs just as well.

Consider commuting or going to a local community or state school for a year or two and then transfer to a bigger or more selective college for your final years. You might be delaying your ultimate dream for a bit, but in the end, you still get a diploma with that last college's name on it, and you still have the opportunities you were looking for, for less money.

Choices. It is all about the choices. You need to own this decision and be educated about your options. In the end, it is you the student who makes the biggest difference in how you experience college. What do you bring to the table, how much do you invest of yourself and how hard do you work. Where you go is not nearly as important.

Here is hoping that you all have fat envelopes in your mailboxes and nothing but exciting options to weigh.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My dog is trying to kill himself...

We have three dogs. Buster the Beagle - a pain in the ass dog who sheds everywhere, breaks into the garbage regularly despite all attempts to prevent it. He is like Houdini, only he is an expert at breaking INTO things instead of out. Gus the Elder Schnauzer - he was my first dog, and is gay. No really. He is the Liberace of Schnauzers. I used to put fun coats on him in the winter and he would prance like he was in a Pride parade. Then there is Poncho. Poncho is also a Schnauzer, and is Gus' brother, but they are from litters two years apart. Where Gus is sensitive and cuddly, Poncho is all growls and yapping and a spaz. He is also trying to kill himself.

Two summers ago, we were sitting in the dining room eating breakfast with Cooper, back when he would sit in a high chair and actually eat food, when we heard Chad, our neighbor at the time, yell our names. Bob went to the back yard and found Poncho flailing around in the pool. He had somehow fallen in. Who knows how, but he did. Now he could have just walked out of the pool, there are steps that were two feet from where he was scrabbling at the wall, but none of the dogs have figured this out. We put them in the pool every summer to try and teach them how to get out without our help, but they all just go directly to the wall and flail. So Bob fished him out. He was soggy but fine. Thank goodness Chad had been in his own back yard with his dogs and had seen him in the pool or we could have had a very wet and very dead dog.

Two nights ago I was upstairs putting Cooper to bed when I hear Bob arguing with Poncho, and then he says he needs me. I get down there to hear him say Poncho has a wine cork stuck in his throat. Cooper had been playing with about 5 corks earlier, sorting them in tupperware. I guess Poncho got one and began chewing on it when Bob tried to take it from him. Poncho refused to let go of it, and then in a split second, got it turned the long way in his mouth and it moved down to the top of his throat, threatening to put a plug in his esophagus and suffocate him. I picked Poncho up, turned him face down to the floor and shook. The cork fell down into his mouth, but Poncho locked onto it again instead of dropping it. This thing almost killed him, but he had to hang onto it. I said "Bring me The Spray." We keep spray bottles with vinegar and water in them, for cleaning counters or spills and for spraying the dogs when they are misbehaving. They hate it, and it doesn't hurt them, although they do end up smelling like salad dressing. I got right up in his face with the spray and gave him a snoot full. He dropped the cork.

I can't wait to find out what he will do next. This is why I refuse to put tinsel on our Christmas tree. All of our dogs eat the random kleenex or napkin if they can get their paws on them. Then you get to find it later when they poop. They will eat almost anything. Tinsel butt is not my idea of festive holiday decorating.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

On weddings and goggles

The wedding was BEAUTIFUL. The Thayer is a quirky antique hotel with dark wood beams and creepy hallways in the old part of the hotel. I was in the newer part, but the sign in the elevator made me laugh. The buttons go from the basement to the 4th floor, but there are two more floors above that. The instructions say to get to the 5th and 6th floors, press "M" and follow the signs. Then you wander through these hallways to another elevator that takes you up to those floors. I kind of hoped the instructions would say you had to press "M" in combination with either "3" or "4" so you could pass through the space/time continuum to the other dimension where the 5th and 6th floors resided. I don't have any good pictures of my own to show you, since it is hard to get pictures when you are in the wedding, but I have borrowed some from other guests who got busy posting on Facebook. I am standing in between the rabbi and Laura, the lovely bride in this shot. In the event you didn't figure it out, it was a Jewish ceremony. I have never participated in one or attended one before, and found it very meaningful and beautiful. Laura made this wedding happen. She made her own dress, all of the bridesmaids' dresses, bought 4000 candles and all of the glassware to dispay it, designed the table markers etc. Her family put it all together on the day of the wedding. She has four brothers and their assorted significant others to call on, plus her parents. They were like an army making this work. This picture is of the ceremony room beforehand. The room where the cocktail hour took place was a duplicate of this room, with candles all down the windows. She bought out IKEA of every piece of stemware and candles I believe. More candles. The lovely couple during their first dance. You can't truly appreciate this dress, but it was gorgeous. This is what Laura does though, makes dresses. Well, she is a financial aid professional by day, and a Super Seamstress by night. She made my wedding dress and another dress for me once upon a time. It was a great weekend, and I finally feel mostly recovered today. I didn't even stay up that late but it was go go go the whole time we were there.

I am so happy for them. They waited a long time to be together, and had to get through being bicoastal and one of them getting divorced before they could come to this point in their lives. I see a long and happy life together for them. They are each others' ying and yang, both a support and a challenge to each other, helping them grow and become more than they were before they came together.

And that is what I would have written in the guestbook, but I forgot to sign it. So when you read this Laura, you can print it out and put it in the book!

And finally, to make your day complete, a video of my child from yesterday morning, wearing swim goggles to school. He has taken to finding something he wants to take with him to school these days. Last week he brought a saxophone, and his stuffed Rudolph, this week so far it has been swim goggles. He is random and funny and I love it.
video

Friday, December 4, 2009

Congrats to The Bob

So, before I go offline until Sunday (the Thayer Hotel at West Point, built in 1926, does not have WiFi or even access in the rooms, whatEVER) I needed to announce that The Bob is closing on his first real estate deal today. FINALLY!! I am so proud of him for sticking with this and not getting too discouraged. It is not a huge money deal, but that is probably good for a first time deal, so the stress wasn't too overwhelming.

Soon enough there will be The Bob, Real Estate Mogul business cards to be had.

Congratulations my dude. And don't miss me too much while I am away!!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Goats in their glory

Yesterday/today a picture I took was featured on the very funny blog Nannie Goats in Panties. That picture always makes me smile. I am not sure which goat that is at the farm, but she is always there with that Mona Lisa smile.

Earlier this week I picked Cooper up at school, and he had made a paper pumpkin pie, complete with cinnamon flavored sprinkles on it. He announced all the way home that he wanted pumpkin pie. He has never eaten pumpkin pie, but what the heck. I said we didn't have any yet, but since I had left over business from Thanksgiving, we could make a pumpkin pie. Did he want to help me? YES!

We made pie. And my child ATE the pie. Granted, he spit it right back out when he got some of the graham cracker crust along with the filling. The contrast in textures triggerd that gag reflex and suddenly I had a handful of partially masticated pumpkin pie.

But he ate the filling so technically, HE ATE PIE! Whee.

Tomorrow I drive to West Point NY to be in my friends Laura and Shelly's wedding. Not being Jewish nor having been to any Jewish weddings previously, this will be a new experience. Apparently I am to be at one corner of the chuppah, the canopy under which the bride and groom exchange their vows. I am calling myself a Chuppah Girl. I was present for the tasting of the food, so I know what we are in store for and all I can say is YUM.

This means there are a few days of bachelorhood for my men coming. I hope my house is still standing when I return.