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Monthly Archives: May 2011

Summer Reading

Nothing makes me happier than curling up in the corner of the couch with a good book.  I give myself bonus happiness/enjoyment points for nobody being home, roaring fire (chilly days), balmy breeze (warm days), having a few chores to do but nothing so pressing that they can’t be ignored for an hour or two.

Here are a few good reads I thought I’d share in case you too find yourself with a pocket of time this summer, whether it be at home, on the beach, or out on a lawn chair.  Enjoy!

Really good:

The Truth About Unicorns, Bonnie Jones Reynolds (1974):  Saw this gem in a catalog I mysteriously began receiving this winter, Bas Bleu.  Set in the 20s, it deals with the occult, red-headed women and small town gossip.  I found it totally engrossing.

The Help, Kathryn Stockett (2009):  Everything you’ve heard about this book is true.  I disappeared into its pages and didn’t come back out to reality until it was done.  Excellent, excellent book.  Note – the author writes a lot of the dialogue phonetically.  The sooner you figure this out and accept, the faster you’ll be drawn in.

In The Woods, Tana French (2007):  Fantastic read.  One of those I read in one sitting, oblivious to everything around me.  Set in Ireland, it’s not only a solid mystery, there are all sorts of interesting bits and pieces of Irish culture.  Also read her others, “The Likeness” and “Faithful Place.”  Can’t wait for her next!

The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown (2009): A follow-up to The DaVinci Code that I really enjoyed.  Fast-paced and compelling.  As good as DaVinci, and better than his other efforts.

Interred With Their Bones, Jennifer Lee Carrell (2007):  Shakespeare lovers, here’s a DaVinci code for you.  Interesting and catchy plot.  I really enjoyed it.  Her latest effort, Haunt Me Still is waiting for me at the library.  I’ll update you once I’ve read it.

China Bayles Series, Susan Wittig Albert (1990s on): Another Bas Bleu find.  Entertaining mystery series that revolves around the owner of an herb store in a small town who used to be a criminal attorney.  Interesting facts about herbs are liberally sprinkled throughout.  Strong writing, good plots.

Amelia Peabody Series, Elizabeth Peters (1970s on):  Set in England and Egypt from the 1880s to the 1920s, this is one of my all time favorite series.  If you’re interested in pharaohs, pyramids and other things Egypt, you’ll love these books.  Great writing, interesting plots, strong characters.

Guilty pleasures:

Troubleshooters Series, Suzanne Brockmann (2000s):  If you ever feel the need to read about super macho Navy SEALs who are completely in touch with their feelings and not afraid to show it, try these books.  Tons of action, implausible plots (especially once you read a few), but somehow I still connect with and care about the characters.   Good for turning off your brain.

Regency Romances, various authors:  My secret guilty pleasure.  Don’t judge me.  Who hasn’t fantasized about a titled gentleman of unlimited means sweeping us  off our feet and giving us everything we’ve ever dreamed of?  I do have some standards – actual plot, snappy, witty dialogue, etc.  Try Julia Quinn, Lisa Kleypas (she writes contemporary fiction as well), Stephanie Laurens (although don’t read two of hers in a row or her template becomes glaringly apparent) or Teresa Medeiros.

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In An Instant, Everything Changes

Those of us who get sucked in and initiated into the cults masquerading as kids activities often refer to their fellow cult members as family.  It’s a way of justifying drinking all that koolaid: “I’m not alone, look who else is here and they spend even more!”

But they truly do become your family.  Their sons become our sons, their daughters our daughters.  We share in the joy of their accomplishments and commiserate when they fall short.  We prop our fellow parents up, too.  More than once I’ve been the hockey mom, because the real mom was at a sibling’s activity.  I cheered his perfect pass or pretty goal – and once risked my unhelmeted head on the bench icing a twisted knee.  I’ve been the dance mom often, once on a competition weekend when the real mom gave birth to a new sibling.  Cheering them all on, while in between numbers doing hair and makeup.  Loved every minute of it.

The family is large and extended.  You meet someone new with a child the same age as one of your own?  Dance, hockey, baseball, soccer?  Nods all around.  Ah, yes.  We know, we know.

The other day the hockey family was shaken by the news of a young man’s death.  His name was Ian Jenkins and he was 15 years old – a goalie.  I didn’t know the family personally, but #2 played against him back in squirts (that’s 5th grade for you non-hockey people).  Ian was  hanging out with a friend, doing what boys do.  He jumped or fell off the back of a moving pick up truck and hit his head on the pavement, causing massive brain swelling.  Emergency surgery didn’t help, and after a couple of days he was removed from life support.  The end came, and his parents generously donated the gift of his organs.

All because of a silly decision.  One instant that changed lives forever.  Who among us didn’t make some really dumb decisions at that age?  I know I did.  Rode my horse without a helmet and took a pretty bad fall.  Walked away with only a concussion, but never rode without a helmet again.  Also rode around in the back of a pick up truck.  Drove my car way to fast.  And once, raced a train to an intersection.  I vividly remember looking up as I crossed the tracks and the train was RIGHT THERE.  Never, ever did I do that again.  Just an instant in time that I ended up on the right side of.  But for others, that instant goes the wrong way.  The terrible way.  And it scares me because I have a son exactly that age.  Please God, do not let him fail in that instant.  Keep him safe.

I tear up just writing this.  What an absolutely gut wrenching, horrific thing for a family to go through.  In one second you lose a son and brother.  Everything changes.  How do you go on from that?  How do you find a reason to get up in the morning?  My heart goes out to the Jenkins family, and I find some peace in knowing that they not only have each other, but also the entire hockey family who has rallied around them.  A memorial game has already been planned for Ian, and his teammates plan to wear a patch on their jerseys next year in his memory.

I leave you with the following, which his father posted to his Facebook page shortly after Ian’s death:

News Regarding our Beloved Son…Ian Patrick Jenkins

Monday, May 23, 2011 at 1:42pm

As most of you now Ian battles HARD for EVERYTHING he does. He never gives up and pushes others to reach higher. He lives by the motto of H.A.P. (Have A Purpose) and has no patience for negativity. He believed that things were not over until it was over. He also believed life was special and that God gave him gifts to be great. Believe it or not it wasn’t all about hockey. He was not jaded and believed his gift was his wonderful soul. Ian cared about people that have beautiful souls and that ALL people need help in some special way. He has blessed many people and taught them that life is GRAND. He gave me a gift on the date of his accident (5-19-11…his sister’s birthday and btw if you add the numbers it equals 35) and that gift was his usual words when we got off the phone that ill fated afternoon. After our brief conversation about what time I was picking him up he said “I love you Dad!”. Those where his last words to me…’thank you Ian for that treasured gift.’  I would ask all of you to treat each other the way Ian treated people and that was with extreme kindness and not to judge harshly. If we ALL could lead our busy lives the way Ian did the world’s problems would disappear over-night. So with a broken heart I need to let you all know the final buzzer sounded for Ian at 7:54 this morning. He gave his hand to God and let the blessed surgeons harvest his organs to allow others to continue to experience the world he loved and cherished. Please reach out to my other three beautiful children (Lester Lancaster, Garrett and Cassidy) and let them know you love them and that they are not alone in their suffering.

God Bless, Ian’s Dad

At Least They’re Honest

This was left on the counter for us. How very reassuring.

When I Grow Up

#2 was having a crisis awhile back.  While we were talking it through, he exploded, “I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up!”  Although it was my first reaction, I knew better than to laugh.  Instead, I tried to reassure him that as a high school sophomore he had all the time in the world to decide what he wanted to do with his life.  Hardly anyone knows what they want to be when they’re only 15.

My reassurances were only partly successful.  He’s at a crossroads right now, all part of growing up, and will come out on the other side eventually – stronger, more mature, more thoughtful.  The childhood dream of playing professional hockey is still there, but I think he’s beginning to worry it may only be a dream and considering other options.  In some ways this is heartbreaking for me.  He has always been happiest on the ice – confident in his abilities and a natural leader.  This confidence is not as evident off the ice – I don’t know why.  He’s not a one sport kid either, but the other ones are only activities, serving as a distraction until he can return to the ice.

I see nothing wrong with encouraging his dreams.  I’ve told him I completely believe in him – that if he wants it badly enough and is willing to work his butt off there is no limit to how far he can go.  What’s the point of having dreams if you don’t try and pursue them?  I caution him though:  “Believing in you does not mean a blank check for you to screw around in juniors until you’re 30.  In any sport, you’re one bad injury away from being done.  Hopefully it won’t be your brain, and you’ll be able to enjoy a long productive life.  Make sure you put just as much work into your brain as you do the rest of your training so it can support you later.”

I don’t know how much of this did sink in.  Time will tell.  I can only hope that whatever he ends up doing, he’ll have good enough insurance to pay for therapy.

I know I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to be at 15.  No, wait.  I lie.  I wanted to be a veterinarian – had wanted to be that most of my life.  Then I took a couple of advanced biology classes – yes, dissections – and the dream was over.  I was also taking psychology at the time, and that became my new goal.  I entered college as a psych major, but it only lasted a semester or two.  I was also an MIS major, secondary education major, something else I’ve since forgotten but I know there were five, and finally, a communications major.  And that was probably because I was running out of time and had to graduate with something.

Pretty fickle, eh?  And not horribly atypical.  Lots of my friends changed majors, or even changed careers.  After working in marketing for several years I went back to school and picked up a secondary teaching certificate.  Actually taught for a bit.  Got a better offer back in the corporate world (or so it seemed at the time, but that’s another post) and changed yet again.  My husband, in contrast, went to college as a co-op student and has worked more or less for the same company since he graduated.  My best friend in elementary school announced as a 9-year-old that she would be a nurse, and she still is.

What does this mean for #2?  We all find our way in life.  Sometimes the path is fairly straight, sometimes it meanders all over.  What matters is, in the end, you enjoyed the journey.

15 there’s still time for you
Time to buy and time to choose
Hey 15, there’s never a wish better than this
When you only got 100 years to live

~from 100 Years, Five for Fighting~

Pretty in Pink

Watched Pretty in Pink the other night with #3.   Takeaways:

  • James Spader – wow
  • #3: “Hey, that girl (Molly Ringwald) is on Secret Life of American Teenager.  She’s old.”  Me: “Wha-???  She’s MY age.”  #3: smiles
  • Andrew McCarthy has a tiny mouth and does not move it when he talks.
  • Note to self:  show #3 pictures of James Spader from Pretty in Pink AND from Boston Legal.  Discuss.
  •  Me, to #3 and #2 who has walked in: “You recognize Ducky, don’t you?  Well, don’t you?  He sounds exactly the same.”  #2 and #3, after listening and watching intently: “We give up.”  Me: “He’s on Two and a Half Men – Charlie Sheen’s brother.”  #2 and #3:  “No, that’s not him.”
  • #3: “Mom, tell me everyone in this movie that’s in the bratty bunch.”  Me:  “You mean the brat pack.”  #3:  “Whatever, same thing.”
  • What is up with the creepy stare Andrew McCarthy does when he’s being intense?  Is that some kind of method acting?
  • Loving the music!  Kids are unimpressed.  I tell them I had this TAPE and listened to it non-stop.  Even less impressed.
  • Still a classic!

They Kill Vampires, Don’t They?

I have always been fortunate in that when I’ve needed a job, something has always worked out.  This year though my luck has run out, and I’ve found myself dedicating many hours a day to THE JOB SEARCH.

It hasn’t been completely fruitless.  I’ve had quite a few interviews, been really close a couple of times, and was a finalist for what would have been my dream job (that one hurt).  Now that the SEARCH has dragged on to the end of the school year, I’m admittedly not pursuing leads quite as hard – it will be kind of nice to have the summer off.  Still looking, but not frantically tweaking cover letters and resumes at the same pace as I was.

It’s not just the nicer weather, though.  I need the mental break.  As anyone in a similar position can attest, it’s so very stressful to be looking for a job.  Everyday I’m thankful that my husband is the primary breadwinner and the loss of my income is not a make it or break it deal.  Not that we don’t miss it, but we’re ok.

But it’s hard hearing the same questions over and over again, and trying not to sound like a robot in answering them. The temptation to make a list of top 5 questions asked and record myself answering them was strong.  Just send it along with your resume and save everyone some time.

It’s hard summoning enthusiasm for each and every phone interview, and each and every in-person interview – even for jobs I’m sincerely and seriously interested in.

It’s hard trying not to be insulted when the hiring manager tells me she doesn’t think I’m up to the demands of this particular job because it’s full-time,  requires a lot of attention to detail and the ability to prioritize and juggle many ongoing, simultaneous projects.  What came out of my mouth was, “I’m sure I’m up to the challenge.”  And I smiled.  What was raging in my head was, “Well, eff you, lady.  If doing the same job previously (although part-time), while running a household with three very busy teenagers – all with different activities and schedules – AND volunteering for said different activities, AND managing my own freelance business doesn’t qualify as able to handle full-time, you can shove it.  Frankly, full-time would be a vacation.”  *sigh*  Cross that one off my list and no thank you/follow-up email for you!

It’s hard trying to stand out when the economy has forced so much competition for every single stinking job posting.

It’s hard not to just scream, “Hire me!  I promise to work hard and reward your faith in me.  Just pick me already!!!”

It’s hard seeing/hearing/answering the same trendy/current terms over and over and over again.  For example, stakeholder.  No, not a new term per se, but sure getting a lot more use than it probably needs.  Recently an interviewer asked me how I would keep company stakeholders updated and informed.  The next several questions also dealt with answering to stakeholders.  After hearing the word stakeholder 10 times in 10 minutes, my brain went poof.  All I could think was, stakeholders?  What do stakeholders have to do with anything?  They kill vampires, don’t they?

And I knew it was probably time to take a little break.

Ballet Saved My Life

No, those aren't my feet. Well, maybe in my dreams!

It’s true.  It started with relevés and pliés, battements and tendus, then progressed to cabrioles and tour jetés.  My hour – sometimes hour and a half – all for me.  No kids, no husband, no pets – just the class.  For more than ten years, every Tuesday evening I put on my leotard, tights and slippers and – at least in my head – I was a ballerina.  As long as I didn’t look in the mirrors too closely I believed I looked just as beautiful and graceful as our instructor.  Certainly I thought my leg was extended straight behind me and easily at a 90° angle.  Or at least 45°.

I owe it all to a friend.  Staying home with three kids under the age of 5, I was drowning.  Not that I didn’t love it most minutes of most days of most weeks.  But one day I read a Christmas letter from a friend, also a stay-at-home mom, who said she had fulfilled a lifelong dream by signing up for aikido classes.  A light bulb went off.  I could do that!  Well, not aikido – really not an ambition of mine.  But something else.  My secret lifelong dream was to be a ballerina.

I let it stew for a few months.  Too much time, too much money, nervousness, etc.  But one day I picked up the yellow pages and called around.  Hi, do you have adult ballet classes?  A few scoffed.  How many years have you studied?  None? (always said on a rising pitch, incredulous that I would even consider such a thing).  A few offered to let me try something else.  Hip hop is very popular right now, we have that for adults.  Then one, practically right down the street, said the magic words.  Sure, we have a class.  There’s one tonight – come try!  I hemmed and hawed.  I don’t have a leotard, no shoes.  She was undeterred.  Just try!

So I did.  It was love at first plié.  There were only a few in the class in the early years.  One, the charter member as we called her, had three kids at the studio.  One day she asked the owners if they’d ever considered an adult class.  Next thing you know she was it – with the two owners standing on either side of her so that she always had someone to follow.  I actually preceded my daughter at the studio by several months, but that’s how most of us started, following in our daughters’ footsteps.  So much fun!  Always supporting each other and laughing at ourselves.  Trading envious glances when the teacher did a stretch that none of us would ever reach.  And the best part – the dancing.  Landing my first pirouette, and even better, nailing my first double.  The first time my jeté looked more like a leap than a hurdle.  Being able to touch the floor on a cambré.  The Santa Polka at Christmas.  Taking time off over the summer, then coming back in the fall and listening to every joint pop and crack that first time back at the barre.  Joking that NEXT year we’d be good enough for recital.  Joking further that we’d need long sleeved, long skirted costumes, and our dance would be only 16 counts long because that’s as much as we’d be able to remember.  It was wonderful.

But I stopped going this past fall.  It seemed time.  The studio had changed hands.  Our teacher was moving on.  It had been 11 years.  I’ll try something else, I promised myself.  But every Tuesday I’d find myself looking at the clock, figuring out when I had to get ready.  I think I’ll be going back.  It seems time.