Tuesday, January 16, 2018

In between...

Having a 10 and 12 year old in the house means we are basically always in-between something and often, on edge. And I'm not just talking about being between the activities we are running to and from.

For starters, I'm trying to grow independent children. I need them to be able to care for themselves at some point, and at a later point, care for me. One of the things they take on themselves is scheduling their own entertainment. They call their friends, their friends come over, they leave the house to go see friends, etc. And while they are generally very good about asking me before they make these calls or disappear, they ask with an urgency that means "CAN I, AT THIS EXACT MOMENT, HANG OUT WITH MY FRIENDS". And sometimes, often, I am in the middle of my own thoughts figuring out how I am going to stack my errands into the day ahead, and it hurts my brain to switch and think about their friends. But not only am I interrupted once, which generally comes with me mentally restacking my day so that I can be home if friends are coming over, I am often interrupted two or three times because they get on the phone and must negotiate the timing of their hanging out. Before they had this independence, I would attend to the task of asking their friends' parents if they could come over when I was ready, and the parent almost never answered at the moment of the ask, so it was a long, deliberate, process.

We are also in between being annoyed by the existence of parents and being grateful for the existence of parents. We used to lean hard toward the latter, and we're creeping towards the former. I remember the days of arguing who had the privilege of sitting next to me. Now, I am sometimes greeted with eye rolls. However, the 12 year old will also dance a silly dance as the 10 year old plays violin and we all wait for dinner to cook. We share hand dances in the car, laughter over the Simpsons, and can still run around the house being a little crazy. Guessing all of that stuff will come to an end at some point, but 12 and 10 are still firmly planted in both worlds.

The thing about both of these balancing act - time with friends  / time with family; time being silly / time being annoyed - is that I sometimes feel like I'm getting whiplash as my brain does a little ping pong dance between all these states.

So this morning, when my running partner and I ran across a little creek, I said "you must have so much fun with your children here". And, yes, she agreed, this was a magical spot. A spot where rocks splashed in the stream, leaves floated along, and everyone enjoyed the outdoors. Her children are much younger than mine. I kind of miss the days of knowing where everyone was.


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Roy Moore Can Suck It

Dear Helen,

Two days ago, Roy Moore barely lost an election to represent Alabama in the Senate. Roy Moore is a man who has spent his life being as nasty as possible. It's like he wakes up each day and rather than deciding how he can add value in the world for a lot of people, decides who he's going to take a crap on in order to preserve his circle of white men, who at least used to provide him a solid wall of protection. Roy Moore was defeated because black women voted in record numbers and almost none of them voted for him. I wish I could say the same thing about my white sisters, who did vote for him. Shame on them.

Here are just a sampling of things that might persuade reasonable people to know that Roy Moore is not fit to serve in any place that comes into contact with the public. He has declared that Muslims ought not be allowed to serve in Congress. He believes the last time America was great was when slavery existed. A number of credible women have come forward to report on his predatory behavior when they were teens (and this one was the one where I could almost taste my own vomit, because it brought up the related stories that there are a fair number of people who practice fundamentalist strains of "religion" TODAY and they are not been kind to women - believing it's OK for older men to find very young teens to groom to be their perfect mates). Yes, people think that way. He was removed as Alabama's chief justice for defying an order to remove the Ten Commandments statue from the rotunda of the Alabama judicial building. He believes we ought to kill gay people in the name of protecting their kids. And that our country would be better with only the first 10 amendments. Yes, that means he thinks we shouldn't be able to vote. He does all this in the name of religion.

And now, two days later, he's refusing to concede he lost the election. To borrow a term from my youth, this makes him a class-A a**hole. (And no, I do not know the distinctions between other types of a**holes, but I still find this expression funny.)

Why do I bring this up? Because I had high hopes that you, my daughter, would live in a world that was freer from discrimination and harassment than those who came before you. Maybe you will, but I'm never certain. Just when things seem to be turning around, a man like this runs and gets so close to being elected that my heart stops. Just absolutely stops beating. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. He should've lost 100 to 0.

But I did want to highlight a lovely experience I had yesterday juxtaposed against all of this. I'm on a National Academies professional panel studying an issue I'm interested in right now. We had our first convening meeting and there were two women (one of whom is leading the panel) who are at least 20 years older than me - and do you know what they did when they were introduced? They not only shared why they were part of the panel, but they made a point of highlighting research from me and other younger women in the room, that they had found so helpful. It was obvious to me what they were doing. They were laying down a little mark for everyone in the room that I was supposed to be there, despite not having spent as many years focused on the issue. It was a kind gesture. And it wasn't lost on me that my male colleague to the right of me and several others blathered on about how great they were, without a single nod to anyone else. Women are building coalitions focused on holding each other up.

I mention this, because I am completely convinced that the way women will lead the next revolution (and I do believe it's coming, but I don't know when!) by building other women up. And so I invited two young women in another center in my own organization to submit a proposal with me to fund some work they are interested in doing.

I know that I have been very lucky in my career to have women mentors and bosses who, when the rubber meets the road, will defer to my opinion as appropriate. I have had bosses who, recognizing that I'm unlikely to have a big fight in a staff meeting, will come to my office after the meeting to get my side of the issue - and then acting on that. I cannot imagine how devastating crossing paths with a Roy Moore must have been for so many.

Roy Moore, and others like him, are the reason that when you come home and tell me you were asked to transcribe numbers for a boy in your class I'm mad. Because I know that this is just a subtle message to you that you're good enough to be the recorder, but might not be good enough to do the actual work - which is just not true. Lucky for you, your homeroom teacher agreed immediately and stopped the practice (which was occurring in another class).

So I guess this is a long-winded way of saying - no matter what happens in your life, please look to other women to get your back, and please be willing to get the backs of others. We are all in this together. And while my generation may have failed yours (and I will never be able to express how deeply I regret this), in the end, maybe your daughter will grow up in the world I imagined could be yours - if we just stick together.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017


It seems as if I have, once again, let this blog fall to the wastelands. The quick update is:

I ran the marathon, only a little bit injured, and came in barely under 4:15, making it my slowest marathon yet. It was hot. I melted. But I realized once again how lucky I am to have met my running friends. They are truly the best people in the world.

I spoke at a local school board meeting, attended more office hours with Connor, and it all came to what feels like a very positive head a week ago. The school board took a full hour to discuss the option of putting intensified classes in the middle school - something I've been working on as part of a committee for a few years now. With fingers crossed, there might even be the option of a pilot next year. But surely, surely, we'll get this win before Helen hits middle school.

Last night, Connor volunteered at the school system's hour of code. At first, he was assigned a job attending a craft table, and this about broke him. Unfortunately for him, I was in the midst of what can only be considered the most dramatic moment of my entire career, and I just did not have the capacity to step in and try to solve this problem. So I told him - email them back, tell them what job you would prefer, and see what they say. He crafted a polite note, ran it by me, and sent it. And guess what? He got the assignment he wanted. How's that for self-advocacy? And more than that, one of the school board members he had visited and had a robust conversation with saw him there, came up to Connor, and said "hello". Little dude was thrilled enough to text me.

Helen's school musical will be performed Thursday and Friday. It's been another great experience and hopefully the school will continue the collaboration. If not, it's been a wonderful ride. I had hoped to pass off my role as parent liaison to another parent next year, but the parent who volunteered isn't sure she'll be here next year (job change for her partner), so I'm back to square one looking for a new volunteer.

Odyssey teams are up and running. That is a drama I would love to avoid in the future - so I announced I'm quitting my role as coordinator effective at the end of this season. I was supposed to have help recruiting, but a few days before the meeting, the person who had volunteered to help became unavailable. It snowballed downward from there.

Professionally, my life was devastated when a giant tax cut that gives almost no help to low- and middle-income families made its way through the House and Senate. Time to breathe deep and regroup.

That's the quick rundown so when my children look back, they have a tiny sense of what happened in this gap.


Friday, October 6, 2017

Running update

I have Achilles' Tendonapathy. As far as I can tell, that means a PT has free reign to massage the every-living-crap out my leg, causing me to limp around for a while, and then a few hours later - feel magically better.

I will not break myself while running, as far as the PT and the massage therapist can tell.

I'm cleared to do everything but speed work. My ankle is weak, I can't push off, this makes me slow.

But...I have three weeks to get the ankle in line, so now, I take full advantage of my standing desk and do leg lifts a few times a day, hoping to strengthen the little booger.

So...I still consider a 3:50 on the very edge of my abilities. It's likely to be a hot day (not good), but my Tuesday running partner is going to run the bulk of the race with me (cue choirs of angels here). She has a fascinating job, which crosses all sorts of interests for me, and it really isn't much of a stretch to think she could come up with 3+ hours of stories to keep my mind off what will surely be a very painful run.

My parents will also see me run, which will be a huge lift. (Hopefully they will not blink and miss me. That would be a huge bummer.) They'll probably see me one or two times in the first 15 miles, and then they'll head off to Helen's soccer game, or Ed will decide the crowds are just too much to bear for another glimpse. I totally understand this, of course.

I have promised myself when I pass my friend Erin, who always comes out to cheer, that I will not give her a huge thumbs down like a did last year. I immediately regretted my bad attitude, but by the time I saw her on her bike, my dreams of qualifying for Boston were over. I was hot. I was tired. I had let the day get the best of me.

And, so help me, if I make it through this race and get my BQ,  and then my running partner qualifies for Boston a few weeks later at her race, I'm definitely paying for the hotel room and dinner.

Because no way will I cross that line anywhere close to in time without her.

Send your ankle strengthening vibes my way!


Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Dinner Parent

I've been rereading all of these wonderful blog posts that have spoken to me through the years. I love the "gatekeeper" post as much as I love discussing the "invisible burden". I have been known to forward tidbits like these to Ed, mostly hoping for some empathy. Also, I wouldn't mind a little recognition sometimes.

I've been stuck with the job of gatekeeper and person who notices everything because my brain works like that.

And nobody else's in my house does.

Or they hide it.

Just last night, Connor needed his Boy Scout uniform. I do my very best not to involve myself AT ALL with Boy Scouts. I don't get the emails, I don't check in about what's going on. I show up, as needed, if given enough notice.

The number of times I have worn Connor's uniform? 0.

The number of badges that anyone else in this house has gotten put on Connor's uniform? Also 0.

So I guess that means I don't really ignore Scouts. I make sure the grunt work gets done.

But last night, Connor assured Ed and me he knew where his uniform was, and even though we were unable to attend some ceremony because Ed had scheduled something else, he would be fine. Of course. He had no idea where the little thing that goes on his scarf was, so I retrieved it from the basement, next to the washing machine.

Did I mention I'm the laundry queen around here?

But to the point of this post, two years ago, I went back to work mostly full-time. I still have pay periods where I'm charging annual leave because I can't squeeze all my hours in, but I'm pretty close to full-time. That first year, we spent a lot of time balancing who would stay at work late each evening, who would be home for the kids, etc. It was complicated, but pretty fair.

Last year, we switched it up and I became the evening parent. Which is to say, I haven't packed more than a handful of lunches in the past year plus, because I leave for work before Helen comes downstairs most mornings, and I'm running or preparing for work when Connor is readying himself.

But I am home for almost every dinner.

And while that is, in and of itself, a bit burdensome. It has also been the source of great joy.

You see, my children are old enough now to have theoretical discussions brought on by incidents they observe in life or in the news. Last year, we discussed all sorts of policy. I try very hard to balance my instinct to quash contrary arguments, and instead work to talk  through them allowing my children to share their views. We iterate through topics multiple times  until some resolution is reached. For now.

This is, hands down, my favorite part of parenting.

True, conversations can be tough. We've tackled the existence of god, birth control, and of course, taking a knee. We talk about freedoms my children have that other children do not have, the great wealth of opportunity that surrounds us, and occasionally I share my own despair.

And while being the dinner parent is not for the faint-hearted, and I occasionally worry about screwing up horribly,  I'm humbled daily by the complex thoughts my children are able to share.

I might not enjoy the gatekeeper role much, but I do enjoy being the dinner parent, which could also be called philosopher at large.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Stonyfield's Future Leaders!

As I wrap my head around the leadership of our country these days (or lack thereof), it is easy to get overwhelmed, depressed, worried - and just about every other negative emotion that clutters my thoughts.

Top that off with a gun problem that all we seem to be willing to do is pray about, and it's easy to lose hope.

But, on the flip side, I am gifted with a set of friends who are the activists that will right this ship, and will continue to do good for their communities and other communities in need. Many days, that can be a real lift.

And it has not escaped me that the number of notices I get asking for recommendations for young women who might benefit from a STEM program, an internship,  or another opportunity have increased, of late. My daughter is not *quite* in the age range for most of the opportunities, but it makes me happy they exist.

There is one solid action I think we can all take, and that is finding a way to support young people. We're giving them a mess. They're going to need all the lift they can get.

I've been lucky to be part of Stonyfield's blogger program for several years now. I'm proud to be a tiny part of what appears to be a very concerted effort on their part to improve communities.

It is, with pleasure, that I am announcing my own donation to the Stonyfield effort to prepare #FutureLeaders for work saving the environment. As part of that effort, they're matching up to $125,000 in donations between now and November 6 to send children from Boys & Girls Clubs of America to an AZA accredited zoo. You can donate and learn more here.

True, we could throw up our hands. But I'm not quite ready to do that. I'm going to find places to invest in young people, and this seems like a reasonable effort to me. And given that climate change might be the issue that needs the most attention, I'm all about efforts to inspire young people to care about our planet.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A Little Piece of Paris

I want to live in Paris. I want to wake up surrounded by the kind of beauty that cannot be found in the US. We're just too young a country. I want to see ladies riding their bicycles by me, wearing their long skirts and fashionable tops.

I want to run the Paris marathon, cheer the riders at the end of the Tour de France, and then sit in the park where Hemingway hunted pigeons. I want to know the artists at Monmarte.

I'm not moving any time soon. But a friend up the street visited recently. When I realized how close she was to the Eiffel Tower, I immediately let her know about my all-time favorite chocolate shop, Jean-Paul Hevin, was just around the corner from her. Not only did she go there to get herself a treat. She brought me back the most delicious box of chocolates I have had for a long time.

So each night, when things settle, I eat one of those chocolates and I am instantly transported to Paris.

Thank you.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Run down

I have been training like mad for the third attempt at the Marine Corps Marathon. It might be my one legit chance to qualify for the Boston Marathon, though I've been hopeful before. My secret weapon? I've aged. And yes, this is not normally good for speed - but it does produce TEN extra minutes to run my race. And trust me, 10 minutes in a race that needs to last just under 4 hours is like getting a dog year. I'm psyched.

But I'm also tired. I've been running 5 days a week for 11 weeks, and I can tell it's adding up. One of my toenails has been on the edge of liberating itself from my toe for several weeks, and each morning I look to see if it finally jumped off at night. Another one is loaded up with bruises, which is how the first attempt at toenail liberation started. My arches have newly formed callouses, I've sloughed off more skin than I care to recall, and I have chafing where sun does and doesn't shine.

In other words, this training cycle has been pure glamour.

There's at least one enormous bright spot in the whole thing. My Tuesday running partner thinks she'll be able to run much of the race with me (she makes her own go at qualifying for Boston a few weeks later). She is MUCH faster than me, but also younger, so her qualifying time is something I'd need to use a bicycle to hit. I remember having a pacer for my first half marathon, and it's just such a huge mental lift, that if anything can push me under my BQ time, I know this is it.

I have also logged many, many miles with friends - even though I've been half delirious for some of these. Yesterday morning at the track, I was full of focus trying to hit a particular pace. One of my all-time best friends, who is not normally a runner, was there. I didn't even know she ever came to the track - so when in the dark she waved to me, I absolutely did not recognize her. I thought she was waving at me because I was staring at her awesome shirt.

Turns out, we were out that evening, and she mentioned she saw me. I was, naturally, completely dumbfounded. Then, I asked her if she'd noticed the woman in the awesome shirt. Her reply? "That was me!".

Today is a rest day, which I'm filling with lots of water drinking in preparation for tomorrow's 24 mile run. And I am desperately hoping for one of those awesome "I DID IT!" kind of feelings after that run. Because I think it will make me less tired.

And I'll feel a little less run down.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

I scream, you scream, we all scream for (simple) ice cream!

A couple of weeks ago, my family spent the week in Minnesota with my childhood friend and her family. My friend is the antithesis of a helicopter mom, and this worked out fantastically for my family. We were in the perfect spot for some freedom finding, and while it may not have been the smartest idea to let four children aged 9 - 11 figure out how to relight a fire that had not been put out properly by some teens the night before, wow did they have fun. And, in our defense, we were not that far away when this mission was going down, and they were right by the lake and it was pretty wet - so odds were there wasn't going to be anything randomly lightly ablaze outside the fire ring.

Besides letting her children run wild with my children, my friend has also mastered the art of "just do it" parenting. Want a grilled cheese? She'd answer a few questions, and then her kid would make a grilled cheese sandwich. They're not at all intimidated by the stovetop, and failure is just part of learning. That's all kind of a side bar (and a reminder that I'd like to eventually post about this trip) to the real point - I want my kids to be more independent in the kitchen.

In pursuit of kitchen independence, I've been letting the kids make boxed mixes of cookies. And though a little part of me dies at not carefully measuring high quality vanilla into a bowl of other high quality ingredients - they're learning to cook - and that's good.

Helen moved onto ice cream a few days ago. In the name of simplification, I took Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk up on their offer of a free can of their product, went to their website and found a recipe for vanilla ice cream and voila - ice cream ready to be frozen in less than 10 minutes - all created by Helen.

Combine the three ingredients and either put in the freezer like the recipe recommends or do what we did, and stick it in the ice cream maker.
  • 4 cup (2 pts.) half-and-half or light cream
  • 1 (14 oz.) can Eagle Brand® Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 2 tablespoon vanilla extract
The ice cream tastes about as close to Dairy Queen's vanilla as I've ever had. And because I am from Kansas, I love DQ (we don't really have it out here, a pity).

Easy and delicious! And I see more in our future!


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Group Bike Ride

Connor commuted by bike for the entire school year. A friend started biking with him pretty early on, and despite a few bike wrecks (one of which ended in a broken tooth!), they pretty much made it to school by themselves every day. Occasionally his friend's mom or Ed would drive them, and then Connor would either walk home or take the school bus.

As a result of his daily biking, he became quite proficient. His ride to school is over a couple of rolling hills. In the past few days, Ed and I both noticed he could charge up and down them with ease. He's also learned to see the value of biking. He wanted to put his pokemon in a nearby gym, so he hopped on his bike and did the deed. Independence!

Saturday afternoon, the local bike store was having a group ride that was family friendly. Best of all, it ended with two scoops of gelato at the store next door. This seemed like a win-win. Connor and I biked to the start, biked the route with the group, had our gelato, and biked home. (And every time we eat gelato, we remind ourselves how much we love it and say "Grandma Carlene loves gelato, too!", and Saturday was no different.

Round trip, our ride was only about 5 miles. Connor could've gone much further, and perhaps we'll try a longer ride this week since Helen is gone (she's good for about 5 miles, but the lack of gears on her bike means our neighborhood hills can be a bit much).