Saturday, June 26, 2010

For Audobon Ron

Cooper's class is the older toddler class at school, and it is the class that always hatches some ducks each year. So far we have two ducklings, Jack and Baby Quack. Two more will have been born by Monday, as they had broken through their shells yesterday afternoon.

Ron raises ducks on his property down there in the wilds of Mississippi somewhere. I thought he would appreciate a shout out and a picture of ducklings.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

How you park your car...a window into your soul

From my seat at my desk in my office I can see part of the parking lot behind our building. Which gives me something to look at while pondering the deep and imponderable depths that is college financial aid and other related topics. Like how the federal government is going to define a credit hour and how that impacts life at our college. It is RIVETING over here people. RIVETING.

Anyway, as I stare out the window wondering how to implement the next oh so well thought out financial aid regulation, I notice things like how people park their cars. This time of year I have fewer examples to go by since there are very few students on campus, but sometimes that gives me even MORE information to go by.

It is my theory, and I am sure I am not breaking new ground here, that how you park is a direct reflection of your personal gestalt, your world view and how you view your place in the world.

Most people observe quite nicely the painted lines, the signs that indicate that spot is for handicapped parking only, or for faculty and staff only, or for visitors to campus only, or that a particular spot is, in fact, NOT for parking in at all because that would block the fire lane. These people are also probably the people who share easily and graciously, wave people in front of them at a 4 way stop sign or let the person trying to cross a busy street go before driving through an intersection.

But inevitably, there are those who think that rules are not for them, or that they are merely guidelines which, should they need to, can be ignored. My personal favorite is the person who chooses to park in the aforementioned no parking because people might die when the fire department cannot get past your stupid car spot. There is always one of those each term. Parking there has the added benefit of also blocking in at least two other cars who are legally parked in spots perpendicular to the no parking spot. So someone parking there thinks they are more important than a)leaving the fire lane open and b) the people who are legally parked and might need to get their car out when you are blocking them in.

Then there are the people who decide to park where there is no spot, at the end of a row, despite the fact there are perfectly usable, open spots in the lot, but just further way from the buildings adjoining the lot. Because college students are notoriously unfit and debilitated and cannot possibly be expected to walk an additional 20 feet.

These are the "me first" people. The ones who turn right on red even when the sign says NO TURN ON RED (and usually that sign is there for a reason, like it is a dangerous intersection for doing that) or who zoom around you erratically if they deem you are not going fast enough on the road, or you are waiting too long to make a turn.

Lately though, the most entertaining person in our lot is the person who parks her car, head in, but 5 feet away from the front of the parking spot. So her tail is sticking several feet out of the spot at the back. I know who this person is, and I cannot say that this level of caution combined with cluelessness is surprising. The fact that she is so overly concerned about bumping into something in front of her that she risks her car being bashed into from behind completely aligns with her personality and general approach to life. She has, more than once, made life difficult for me because of her blind devotion to something, and completely disregarding the need to pay attention to something else. She does not work in my department, but we have reason to work together a few times a year and it usually involves me groaning and bashing my head gently on my desk.

It is probably not a surprise to you that I am an observer of most rules. I would not do well in my chosen profession if I wasn't. I park where I am allowed to park, neatly, within the lines, leaving enough room on either side for people to open doors and not smack into the next car. And that pretty much sums up my world view and my view of my place in the world. Play by the rules and no one ends up needing body work. It doesn't always work out that way, but it could, if people would just observe proper parking lot etiquette. A girl can dream.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What to say...

I have been putting off writing this post because the topic is sad, and it is hard to know what to say and it strikes fear into my heart, truth be told.

Katie Granju is a blogger I have come to appreciate through her writings on Babble and at her personal blog. She is a very honest, open writer and blogger and has just experienced a loss that is probably the worst a parent can ever experience, the loss of her oldest son, Henry.

Henry was 18 when he died on Memorial Day. He died as the result of injuries he sustained from a brutal beating during a drug deal gone wrong, and then from the drug overdose he took after the beating. The ordeal is outlined pretty clearly on both of her blogs.

I have cried many times while following her updates after he was hospitalized, and I have been reading her updates regarding the investigation into the beating and drug deal, as well as what she has to say as she revisits Henry's struggle with addiction and how she and the family dealt with it.

It is horrible to lose a child, of that I have no doubt. It is probably terrible no matter what the circumstances, but I can see how she is struggling with the idea that somehow she failed him, that this might have ended differently if they had only found that one thing that worked for him to get him into recovery. He had been through a variety of addiction programs, including two extended stays at residential facilities, and yet within weeks of his return from the last stay, he was using again. It is safe to say that Henry was not at the point where he was ready to let go and let God.

I have never smoked pot, or taken any illegal, controlled substances. It just scared the crap out of me to consider doing it as a child/young adult, and as an adult I came to recognize that my own chemistry was not one that mixed well with certain kinds of drugs. I also come from a family with a history of addiction. Katie's story is one that hits close to home, and makes me stop and wonder how things will go for Cooper.

I don't question at all how Katie and her husband and ex-husband handled the situation with Henry. It is not for any of us to judge. When you are dealing with addiction, you are up against a tornado and quicksand covered in fog and slime. It is a life out of control, and only at the point a person says "I am helpless against this" can they begin to heal. Sometimes it doesn't happen soon enough. I cannot imagine the pain that Katie and her family feel.

This is where all of my fears about parenting crystalize. Now that Cooper is in my life, the idea of losing him, in any way, or of him being hurt by his own hand or by others, is just nauseating, potentially paralyzing. Can you even protect them enough, and yet allow them the freedom to be their own person, learn about life and grow? How do you educate them about the dangers of drugs - and I will say this out loud here - POT IS DANGEROUS. Specifically if you are an addict. The problem is that people often try pot before they ever know if that is an issue for them. It is the way they found out they are an addictive personality. Sure there are some people for whom it is nothing. They try it, they move on. But for many, it is a dangerous and slippery slope.

Dealing with the question of drug use, experimentation, alcohol use, etc. is something that we, his parents will learn to navigate I guess, as he grows. Bob has been down this path with mixed results with his older children. Ultimately though, no matter what, you have very little control and that is where the anxiety lives.

I pray for Katie and her family, hoping that by writing his story she finds some solace, and brings more awareness to the issue of drug addiction and treatment.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The one in which I eavesdrop on a yoga class and see a better world...

As I have mentioned before, I am taking yoga again. In exchange for one class a week, I do a few things for the studio, including checking in for our class, and maintaining the Facebook page for the studio. I wrote this note on the FB page this week after taking class.

I usually take the Wednesday night 5:15 class, and because I handle check in for that class, I try to be early. This means that I am there when the class before ours is ending. This is a class for young girls, taught by Christyn S. As I stood in the foyer yesterday (it was rainy and cold otherwise I would have been outside on the steps) I could hear her walking the girls through a pose that involved partners. I didn't peak in to see what they were doing, but it sounded like one person was being supported in a position by the other person.

I could hear her telling them what to do, and then I could tell they were doing the pose, and there was a lot of "Whoo hooo!" and "Yes, that's IT" and general sense of accomplishment going on in there. After they had switched and done the pose with the other person being supported, Christyn said something that I thought was fabulous. She congratulated them all on doing the pose and doing it really well, and she was proud of them because she saw that not once did the person being supported in the pose ever seem to expect to just be supported, that that person worked just as hard to maintain the pose as the person who was providing the support. The pose was about team work, and in all the cases, she saw each girl working together with her partner to do the pose well, as a team and she was so proud of them for working so well together.

I don't recall if I have said this here before, but I sort of loath partner poses. I am a Yankee born and bred, and I like my personal space and I REALLY don't like touching other people, other sweaty people, or having them touch my sweaty person. I mean, I don't KNOW most of the people in our class nearly well enough to, you know, TOUCH them other than to maybe shake hands. I am being a bit dramatic, but that is what my brain says when any instructor - JUSTINE - suggests we do a partner pose. I really do get a bit weirded out when someone stands too close to me, or, heaven help me, hugs me and I am not prepared for it.

But as I stood outside of that class yesterday, I thought what if I had had the opportunity to do yoga when I was 8, 9 or 12 years old, and had gotten used to doing things like partner poses early on, and how would my personal outlook on life have been altered if someone had in such a positive and encouraging manner praised teamwork at that age, you know, outside of my parents who did a great job, making sure I knew how to share with my brother and friends? I am a pretty good team player, but I am also 45 and have had 20+ years of working life to get good at that.

These days it seems the message we get from the world is ME ME ME and ME first. We have seen first hand what that kind of self centered approach has gotten us as a society - a credit crisis that has us looking at the worst unemployment numbers since the Depression, companies closing after decades of being in business, and an oil spill in the Gulf that is threatening to ruin the environment and way of life for fisherman and coastal communities for a very long time, to name a few.

The fact that Christyn was, in such a positive and enthusiastic manner, encouraging and reinforcing the concept that teamwork is good, that all parties have to put out effort to make something work right, to me is awesome. I don't know if in the moment those girls heard the message the way I did, but I assume that this is probably a normal part of how she teaches class, and I hope that because these girls are taking this class, and might continue to take classes after this one ends, that they hear that message, and it sinks in and sticks. Because I truly believe they will be better citizens of the world for it.

So kudos to Christyn, and thank you too, for helping in your way, to make a difference in this world, one yoga pose at a time.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Hello Universe, it's me, Midlifemama...

So yeaaaaaaah, after that week with the auditors and blahblahblah, I had another week where I felt like every time I turned around, I was doing something wrong. Turns out some of that was PMS. Whee. But the other part was me, kind of being distracted and doing stupid stuff. Awesome.

Then on Monday we got word that The Bob's mother was admitted to the hospital with funky heart stuff. She had a mild heart attack, and what had previously been diagnosed as "a touch of emphysema" was probably full blown emphysema, and now might be more than that. He went up Thursday, and Cooper and I went up Saturday. She is in a rehab facility now, trying to work toward a point where she could go home again. But she has to be able to take care of herself, which is starting to look iffy. Whee.

Cooper refused to sleep by himself in the second bedroom in her apartment. Which meant he ended up sleeping with me in the other bedroom. Where the cat was. 4:30am and Cooper is awake announcing to me that the CAT! She's in the WINDOW!! KITTY!

Did I say Whee already?

The good news was we didn't hit any real traffic going up or coming back. She lives in Lewiston Maine, which is a hotbed of activity. If by activity you mean they had a tornado touch down in the town next door, and you too can have dinner at Dudley's at the Ramada Inn where they have a buffet with 30 senior citizens. We know how to have a GOOD TIME. But we realized that dinner buffets are perfect when trying to dine with a 3.5 year old whose idea of eating out is "how fast can you get in and out of any dining establishment".

Speaking of dining out with Cooper, my friend Harvey the jazz man performed at Ryles Jazz brunch a week ago, and invited me to sing with him. Below is a 1 minute segment of me doing Summertime. I had never performed this song with him other than in rehearsal before. I was a bit nervous. Harvey has invited myself and Matt, the bass player from our college group to work with him as a trio to perform out in the big wide world. This is an exciting and nauseating prospect. More about that another time. Let's leave it at Midlifemama is trying to find her bliss where she can and taking whatever opportunities the universe offers her to stretch her wings and not think about financial aid for a few minutes. One of the most gratifying moments of my life recently was Harvey's face when we were done with this song and I knew he was proud of me. He told me later it was a very professional performance. Which is a high compliment coming from Harv.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Can anyone say LIFE COACH?

Oh HEY there! Long time no post. It was a horrible no good very bad week here in MidLifeMama land. Summer is supposed to be a carefree, lazy, floating in the pool staring at the clouds time of life, right? Not so much. I think I want to move to Australia.

Side note: I must say that a lot - not so much. Because the other day we offered Cooper a sampling of a new cereal, Chocolate Cheerios, which The Bob seemed fond of, I am kind of on the fence about. He took a bite, and handed me the bowl. I asked him if he liked them. "Not so much" was his response. That kid makes me laugh.

Which is a good thing, because I need all the laughter and happiness a soul can get these days.

Thursday was the breaking point. I had spent all of my time at work working on two huge and very stressful things, one is the evil thing I cannot talk about, and the other is the annual audit of our office. The audit is stressful because this is an outside agency who comes in to make sure you are doing your job correctly, and there are reports to run, files to pull, trees to kill by printing pages and pages of screen shots because they cannot see the information they need. Then you get to the point where they are done, and you get to hear about the mistakes you made. This year went pretty well, but the one thing they found was a process issue, and resolving it means closer coordination with the student accounts office, and after the week I had had, I sort of broke down. In front of the auditor. Which was AMAZING. She is a very nice person and not at all trying to make me miserable, and had it been JUST her or JUST the other evil thing, I probably would been OK. But I wasn't. There was crying. Whee.

So I got home, and ordered pizza because I was NOT going to be in charge of one more damn thing that day. The Bob was all "OK" and I was all "The Mama's armor has some fractures, do NOT ask me to make any decisions beyond pepperoni or black olives."

When it came to Tubby Time as we call Cooper's bath, Cooper did what he has begun doing at bath time, Naked Dancing to Music by Nightlight. I don't know exactly what this says about his future extracurricular activities in the teen years, but he likes to get naked, turn out all the lights, get some music going on the radio and dance before he gets in the tub. This particular evening we found some quieter music, and he sat in my lap with his hairbrush microphone, and he sang along with the music and it was MAGICAL. He didn't know the songs, but he has an ear for music, and was humming along pretty much in tune most of the time.

By the end of tubby time, I felt worlds better. I am still stressed, but eventually it will all be over. But in all seriousness, this has made me stop and wonder what OTHER career could I embark on at the age of almost 46 that would not involve going back to school, and I could support my family doing? I am coming up el blanko.