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060513spideroutsidea few photos from the past week

It has been an intense week, as they all will be in June. I run a few summer programs and this year many of my trusted instructors have left this transient college town to pursue graduate degrees or for real jobs.

So there have been many evening and weekend meetings and trainings, and more responsibilities that others used to take on. I can’t sleep because I keep running through my head everything I have to do the next day. So, so, so, so many balls in the air. So many moving pieces. I have an excel spreadsheet of everything that needs to be done and for everything that I cross off the list, 3 more things are added.

Some days I feel tired of being at work, and just plain tired, and I want a different job. Some days I feel really excited and proud of what I’m doing.

Here are a few random photos from the few random hours I have been home:

1) Finnegan lying in the sun where he likes to lie.

2) I made this lemon buttermilk bundt cake from shutterbean.com. I don’t have a bundt pan, but I do have a rose cake pan. Delish! This was gone in 24 hours. My family of 4 did not share it with anyone. It was dessert, breakfast, snack and gone.

3) Can you see the spider on the edge of the glass? He was in our dining room. We don’t like to kill spiders in our house. It could have something, or everything, to do with E.B. White’s, “Charlotte’s Web”.

4) A long overdue thank you note to my friend Cathy for the Catherineholm fondu pot and vintage red purse she sent me for my birthday.

My daughter and I may go “up north” this weekend to my husband’s family’s cottage. Sandy beaches, no internet, blue water for as far as you can see, woods…I am both looking forward to it, and also feeling a stomach-churning anxiety about not being here to get more work done. I am trying to ignore my anxiety because my daughter really wants to go. She may not have another opportunity to go for awhile as her summer job starts a week from this Friday and she is taking a stats class. My son’s final exams are next week, so he and my husband are staying home. They will have more opportunities to go up north after this weekend.

I hope that if you also are experiencing stress in your life, that you are able to set aside some time for yourself and your family and that you are also feeling proud of the good work you are doing.

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a day in my life: torturing the pets

photos:
1. Dandelion, trying to escape from the pool
2. Escape attempt 2
3. A rescue? Can you hear him yelling, “hellllllp me!”
4. Finnegan gets upset when I pay attention to Dandelion
5. Finnegan gets upset when he is carried away toward the humiliating new pool
6. Dandelion’s usual pose: A prickly ball.

It was a beautiful Saturday here in Ann Arbor. My husband is staying with his parents this weekend to help care for his mother with Alzheimer’s disease. We will be spending some time there this weekend and sometime at my mother’s house. We are indeed the sandwich generation, but how lucky we are to live close enough to our parents to help if and when they need it.

My son was gone all day at his new job, mowing lawns. He is 15, too young to work most places. Part of me feels like he will have his whole life to work, maybe this is too soon, but I see how proud he is of himself. He seemed pretty happy when he came home, so I guess…

This morning I went for what I call a run, most others would call a trudge. Afterward, I met some friends for lunch at No Thai! (the owner’s name is No). Not my favorite restaurant, but it’s a tradition with this particular group. No Thai! is in Kerrytown, the busiest place in Ann Arbor on Saturday mornings Spring – Fall. It seems as if all of Ann Arbor is at the farmer’s market, and/or Zingerman’s Deli. It felt good sit outside in the sunshine, with friends, in the midst of it all. After that it was home to plant basil, tomatoes and nasturtiums while the pet torturing took place.

I am not the pet torturer. Usually, I am the one being tortured by the pets. My dear doggie, Finnegan, will sit outside the bathroom door and cry as if his heart is broken, never to heal, so full of grief is he at having a closed door between us. You say sweet. I say annoying.

My daughter was the pet torturer today. I recently tried to replace Finnegan’s cracked Tubtrug pool (no, I don’t get reimbursed or sponsored by this or any other product, but I LOVE these Tubtrugs). They only had smaller-sized Tubtrugs at the store, but I was certain Finny would fit. My daughter was dubious. She was right. He sat in it once today and water spilled out along with rolls of his flarb. He looked humiliated, hopped out and would not go near it again….until forced later, by my daughter.

My daughter was cleaning her hedgehog’s cage and thought Dandelion might like a swim. Dandelion does swim, but he did not seem to enjoy it. He doesn’t enjoy much. It was nice to see his face for a change. And his wee little legs and feet!

Dandi’s swimming adventure only lasted a minute. My daughter will stick to bathing him in the sink in warmer water, which he still hates.

Next she decided to try Finny in his new pool again. Do you see the look he was giving me over her shoulder as she carried him to the too-small pool? The same one Dandi was giving me when he was being lifted out of the cold water, “Help me!”

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I’m not sure where this week went. You know exactly what I’m talking about. It was just Friday and here is Friday again, and a holiday weekend.

“Boo” to time going so fast; “Hooray” for the holiday weekend.

Some things, in addition to a holiday weekend, that are making me happy this week:

1. Hats by Pooka Queen, to rival any worn by princesses at royal weddings.
This California based artist is an Ann Arbor girl making a name for herself in the west coast fashion world, and soon the rest of the world. It is hard to say which is more beautiful, the art or the artist.
Visit her web site and etsy site for more exquisite pieces including hats, jewelry and accessories.
http://www.etsy.com/shop/pookaqueen
http://www.pookaqueen.com

2. I hate shopping for pants. I even hate the word, “pants”. That whiny short “a” sound. It’s grating.
It’s difficult for me to get a good fit and one that doesn’t emphasize features that I would like to de-emphasize. BUT, this is the happy part, these Banana Republic Sloan Fit slim ankle pants work for me. I ordered them in a long so they are just slightly longer than those in the image above (I’m 5’9″). I wondered about returning them for ankle length, but my daughter says no, the longs make my legs look very long, so I’m keeping them.

3. I don’t have a lot of time for watching television, but, Arrested Development – SUNDAY! I am nearly giddy about it. (If you don’t watch, this where to find the never nude)

4. I had dinner with my former mother’s of daughter’s group this week. The group was put together by a clinical social worker, who led the monthly discussion of parenting daughter issues and eventually grew into parenting of daughters and sons and marriage therapy and personal therapy…whatever we need to talk about. This group, these women, made me a much calmer (I didn’t say “calm” I said “calmER”), better parent and helped me through some very difficult situations. I started attending when my, now 19 year old, daughter was 5. We stopped meeting a few years ago when most of the daughters had graduated from high school. Oh how I miss this group!

5. Convos With My 2 year Old video on youtube. I’m looking forward to more. Funny…and creepy.

Happy weekend to you!

back in the hammock

May 15, 2013

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We have had a hammock in our backyard forever. I think it started as a first father’s day gift to my husband, which is a mean joke since he is the person in our family who uses it least.

We usually have to buy a new hammock each year, as the squirrels have a great fondness for chewing the rope to bits. Our current hammock is up for the season and is going on its third summer. Haha squirrels! One point for the humans! (Though it’s likely the squirrels may be avoiding it because it’s made from some unknown toxic substance so maybe, Haha humans!)

I cannot stand to just lie in a hammock, and say, nap, or read. I am not wired that way. I used to give my kids terror rides in it when they were little, which they have loved. (I am wired that way.)

Every now and then, over the years, someone says to another, “Want to go lie in the hammock?” And on warm summer night at midnight, they lie in the hammock, side by side holding hands, or head to foot, always complaining of the foot, listening to far off sirens and dogs barking and doors closing in our little town, trying to see stars through the heavy canopy of the giant maple that hold one end of the hammock.

Usually the two in the hammock would be my daughter and me.

Last August, on a very emotional morning when she said goodbye to her little bedroom, house, backyard, town and family for her first year away from home, the last thing we did before she left was to lie together in the hammock, side by side, holding hands.
That was hard. She was so sad and so uncertain.

And look at her now. She conquered her freshman year and all of the challenges it threw at her, which were many. She made the dean’s list both semesters. She sang, studied science, made new friends and learned what it’s like to attend a very small college (1,200) in a very small town.

And now she is home.

And we are back in the hammock. Side by side.

catching up

May 14, 2013

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photos:
1) the best birthday package
2) birthday heart from my 15 year old son, clean kitchen included
3) My dear mom and my dear sister Jen

Back from my blogging hiatus. I hope. Something had to go. I have been away from most of the past 4 weekends.

My dear sister from Seattle was here for a too short visit. Our family spent a weekend with my daughter for her birthday at the end of April. I had my final exam for my photography class. You roll your eyes, but there was a great amount of technical information to learn, such as the electromagnetic scale and length of the color waves that is viewable to the human eyes (400 – 700 nanometers in case you were wondering).

Then it was my birthday. Guess what was in the package from my amazing friend Cathy? A vintage red purse and a Catherineholm fondu pot! As I told her, I hugged them to my chest when I opened them! That woman! I have to be careful about what I post on my blog!

The night of my birthday my husband and I went to the simulcast of “Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me!” a nerdy NPR radio show that we love and have seen live several times. I came home to a giant chocolate chip heart-shaped cookie/birthday cake, made by my 15 year old son. Even more of a gift– he cleaned the kitchen when he was finished! Yes, my son cleaned the kitchen after baking. What?! Who is that manchild?!

The next day it was back to my daughter in Wisconsin to pack up her dorm room. Before leaving Ann Arbor, I went to pick up a rental van and was asked if I remembered to renew my driver’s license, which expired on my birthday, the day before. No van for me. Still haven’t renewed that license. Yikes. So we packed up my Prius, and what couldn’t fit we had packed and ready to go for my husband, who (new plan) would now be renting a van midweek, when he had planned to travel to get her anyway (after her last exams). While in Wisconsin my daughter and I drove an hour to meet my friend Cathy for lunch. I wish I could see her every weekend.

Back to Ann Arbor. The photography class ended. (A on the final, A- in the class. Gah! A MINUS?!) Two days later my daughter returned home. Hooray! My mother got in a car accident, not her fault. Her dear car which was old but low miles and pristine condition was totaled. Airbags deployed and she is fine.

Then it was mother’s day which included too short of an overnight with my mom, and too quick a visit with too few siblings and their families, shopping for teenager clothes (gah!), taking the dog to the vet, and a too short visit with my mother in law. Mother’s day weekend also included– white steamed pudding with raspberry sauce (made by husband), a peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake (made by mom), blueberry pie (made by husband) and lilacs— which are finally out and smell like the start of summer.

The last month also included nights volunteering at the Ark, an attempt to exercise more and oh yes, work— my busiest time of the year at work. I won’t sleep well again until my summer programs end on June 28.

Next up? Renewing my driver’s license. Helping my daughter find a summer job, and helping my son decide on how he wants to spend his summer (in addition to his volunteering at a zoo). Helping my mom get a new car—a team effort with her and my siblings. Putting my dog on a diet. Working on my flower beds. Exercising more. Maybe I’ll clean my house and do laundry one of these days! Oh yes, then there’s work…

In the spaces in between, I plan to blog…though it may be about how to get my whites whiter and how to get a pug to lose weight…That’s my life. And I’ll keep it, but I’ll understand if you need to move on in order to stay awake…

lockdown

February 23, 2013

lockdown

Yesterday we learned via robo call that our daughter’s college had an emergency and it was on lockdown. I don’t even have to describe the images that came into my head. You know the images.

I texted her, “Please call me when you can.”

She replied, “I can’t. I’m so scared.”

With no additional information, we, and she, and her fellow students and professor, had no idea what was going on. They only knew it involved a gun.

The incident turned out to be less threatening than we were all imagining. Someone just a block off campus, not a college student, had threatened to shoot another and was locked in his apartment. The police were trying to get him to come out, which he eventually did.

While I think I did pretty well in crisis mode, I felt like wailing and gnashing afterward. How do I protect my daughter, and my son, in this crazy world? How can I care and comfort her in such a situation from so far away? I wanted her home. I wanted her here where I could protect her. I wanted to impose my own lockdown.

But even at home, I can’t protect her from these situations. When she was a freshman in high school we had another robo call about her school being in lockdown. This was not at some college in another state, but at her sweet little high school in downtown Ann Arbor, just a 10 minute walk from my office, in a relatively safe and comfortable community.

A robber who was holding up a jewelry store downtown had run from police toward the area of the school. That time we received good information throughout the crisis via more robo calls. We knew what the situation was. We knew the police were immediately inside the school with tracking dogs (the police station is about 3 blocks from the school) and we knew when the lockdown was lifted when they found no robber.

We also learned after the lockdown was lifted, first via text from our daughter, that someone in a dance class noticed a man’s feet sticking out from behind the curtain of a storage area. As the teacher tried to get the students out of the room, the robber realized he had been discovered and yelled, “I don’t want to hurt anyone, I just want to get out of here.” The students stood aside as he bolted from the classroom and the building. (He was found shortly after hiding, wrapped in insulation, under the porch of a home.)

I can’t protect her from everything. If she is going to live in the world, if she is going to do meaningful work in the world, if she is going to change the world for the better, then she will have to live, LIVE! in this sometimes-dangerous world. Keeping her under my wing safe from all that is scary and hard would just make for a miserable person who is unable to cope as an adult. So, no home lockdowns.

My comfort in these lockdown situations is that in both cases she was not alone; she was with friends and with kind strangers. Some of the strangers are now her friends. Yesterday she and her classmates were in it together. They shared information; she shared her jolly ranchers. They tried to make each other laugh. They took care of and comforted each other.

Our children are not alone and it’s best for them, and for us, to learn that they can find strength, comfort and compassion in the people around them, and in themselves. All of the love and safety we have provided them when they were young, they can find and cultivate in others as they get older.

I will always drop everything to try to comfort and to be with my children when they are facing a crisis, now and 40 years from now. But I am learning that I will be part of a bigger support team, with members who will be right by my children’s side much more quickly than I can be.

don’t get a pug

February 20, 2013

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Photos:
1. Finny and his boy, winter 2002
2. Finny and his girl, summer 2002
3. Finny helping to pack up Christmas decorations, Jan 2013

Don’t ever get a pug. No matter how cute they are, no matter how loyal they are, no matter how are cuddly they are, no matter how tolerant they are of all forms of degrading attire, taunting and tricks. No matter that they don’t have an aggressive bone in their bodies, and that even at 11 years old they look and often act like puppies. Don’t do it.

If you live with a pug, you and your house will be covered in dog hair forever and always. The dog will shed his body weight in hair daily.

He will cry at the side of your bed because he doesn’t feel like jumping onto it. And when you get up in the cold and dark to lift him onto the bed, he will walk away from you down the hall, because he really wants food. And when you pick him up and bring him to bed, that will be okay with him because he was just checking about the food, just in case. Or, when you decide you will no longer walk down the hall after him, he will come back and cry and scream at your bedside you will ignore him with a little bit of sadistic satisfaction because you will think at that moment that you are the boss. So he will trot over to your husband’s side of the bed and cry. And your husband will get out of bed and follow him down the hall and pick him up and bring him back to bed…every time. Your husband will understand who is boss.

Your pug will rub up against you so vigorously you will laugh and think it’s funny and cute and then you will remember that he is just cleaning the goop out of his eyes. You will never learn.

Because his bark is actually a scream that sounds like the screech of old train brakes, your new neighbor Sam will ask in his strong eastern European accent, “How old is your leetle dog? I think he cannot bark any more.” And you will say “Yes, he is eleven” instead of explaining that he never could.

Your pug will be obsessed with all food, but mostly chocolate. And before you leave town for a work meeting you will throw all of the purchases for your daughter’s upcoming birthday party, including the pound bag of m&ms, into the back of your closet and then you will leave town. Your husband will take the kids out for a bike ride and when they return they will wonder where that empty pound bag of m&ms came from. At 2am your husband will be awaken to the sound and smell of your pug puking and pooping chocolate on the bed next to him. He will wake up the kids and get everyone into the car to go to the emergency vet and he will make sure your pug is okay. He will come home, get the kids to bed, clean up the 12 piles of chocolate mess around the house. A few hours later he will get the kids to school and himself to work and when you call the next evening to let him know you are fogged in at LaGuardia you will wonder why he sounds like he is going to cry.

You will spend thousands of dollars, that could be going to college saving’s accounts or to pay off a car, on pug eye surgery at a huge, fancy special doggy surgery hospital in another town, so that his eyelashes no longer scrape and irritate his bulging eyes.

When you go to sleep with your pug at the foot of your bed, you will wake up with his furry head on the pillow next to yours and his fishy dog breath in your face.

And even though this pug will make you laugh every day, will bring out a tenderness in your huge, teenage son that will make your heart surge, will sometimes be the only comfort that can reach your teenage daughter dealing with the complex passage into adulthood, and whose every cell of his little loaf-of-bread body expresses absolute joy at your return home at the end of the day…I really mean it, Don’t get a pug.