Monday, August 29, 2011

10 vs. 44

Today was the first day of school. Traditionally it's a day of mixed emotion - the end of summer, the start of homework, seeing friends, an earlier bedtime. It's all part of the deal of learning.

For one of my kids, it's a high anxiety time. I don't want to be in fifth grade, she told me. I don't want to be a big kid. I want to stay small. Oh, I understand that feeling quite well. I often feel that way. I don't want responsibility, demands on my time, expectations of me. I want to feel free. I didn't have the heart to tell her that her life as she knows it will disappear. She knows it's happening.

Many of her anxieties at 10 are the same I feel at 44. It amazes me how much I understand this kid - the one who isn't quite like me. But she's becoming more like me daily, which is a scary thing.

M: I want to look good on the first day which means I must wear this outfit.

Me: I want my kids to look good on the first day of school which means their outfits must be CLEAN.

M: I want my hair to be straightened when I go to school.

Me: I want my kids to look like their brushed their hair.

M: Mom, I must wear those shoes today!

Me: Your shoes must match each other.

M: I’m afraid of who will sit next to me in school.

Me: I really hope this teacher lets her BFF sit next to her this year.

M: I hope my friends play with me at recess.

Me: God, I hope the nice kids play with her at recess.

It never ends and it never really changes. I had the same anxieties when I was little. I have them now. I knew exactly what was happening to her yesterday when, out with her grandmother and some friends, she announced “mommy, I don’t feel so well. There are butterflies in my tummy.” Butterfly villages live in my tummy. I get it.

“Do as I say, not as I do” comes to mind here. Do not be like me. Relax. Learn to enjoy the good things that happened to you today. Breathe. Don’t be like me.

Enjoy your today. That is my new mantra. ENJOY YOUR TODAY. I will enjoy my today….or try to.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What's in a name?

My given name is Judith Ann Rockhill. Yet, I’m called by many different names.

Judi, by most folks.

Judi Ann by my 8th grade science teacher and grandmother, both deceased now so no one calls me this any more.

Judith Ann by my former bosses in OCNJ and my mom but only when I’m in trouble.

Mom, Mommy, Maman, MOTHER!, Ima by my children, depending on their mood.

That interpreter by some of my clients.

AnjaandMikaela’smom by the kids at the playground.

Mom of the twins by the parents at the playground who can’t remember my name.

Miss Judi by the kids in the mental hospital where I worked (and some of my kids’ friends).

Bitch by my best friend from high school (and that’s totally fine).

Rockhill by some of my friends.

Hey or You by strangers.

Ma’am by young people who want me to smack them.

Miss by smart folks at the store.

Mrs. Rockhill by people who don’t know what name to use (this is the correct one).

Ms. Prien by the unknowing folks in my kids’ school.

The ex by my ex.

They’ve all been correct at some point in my life.

Friday, August 19, 2011


Trust does not come easy for me. It never has. I don't mistrust people, exactly. I just don't trust them 100 percent to start. Folks have to earn my trust. And even then, it's doled out in small amounts.

I am practicing this right now. I am trusting my children to go on the boardwalk unattended. I am trusting they will not lose their money, go off the boards, talk to strangers (except to say hello or order something), and they will come back in the two hour time frame I gave them. This is hard.

My mom trusted me when I was their age - and I was alone. But things were different then. I didn't get into as much trouble and I had good common sense. Truth be told, I think they have good common sense (most of the time).

Here's my bet:
1. they will taste every sample of junk food they can find.
2. they will waste money in the arcade but have fun doing it.
3. they will come home with another hermit crab.
4. they will eat/drink things I would never let them have. Then they confess this to me later.
5. they will have fun.

M dolled herself up before going out, which surprised me. "I don't want to look like an 8 1/2 year old with a purse. I want to look like an 11 year old. I'm short. I don't want people to mistake me for a little kid." Uh huh.

This is a test for me. And for them. I hope we both pass.

UPDATE: I was right and wrong. They came back a few minutes early. They did not eat junk food or buy soda. They did not go to the arcade. They did buy a hermit crab. They did have fun. We all passed the test.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Where is home?



a : a familiar or usual setting : congenial environment; also :the focus of one's domestic attention <home is where the heart is>

at home

1 : relaxed and comfortable : at ease at home on the stage>

2 : in harmony with the surroundings

3 : on familiar ground : knowledgeable at homein their subject fields>

I don’t often feel at home. I’m okay in my house – it’s full of my stuff and sometimes my family, which is comforting. But it’s not me. That will change soon, though.

When I say I’m going home, I usually mean Lansdale, PA. That’s where I grew up, though I wasn’t born there. I was born in Boston and spent the first five years of my life in Chelmsford. A nice place, sure, but it’s not home.

I couldn’t wait to get out of Lansdale. Now sometimes I can’t wait to go home, even though my “home” there is now the Marriott Courtyard hotel.

Ocean City, NJ is probably the place where I feel the most at home. Now, after not being here regularly for so many years, it’s a little less like home, a little less familiar. I still love it. It still brings me peace. I walk into Marty’s or Henry’s or the Old Salt and I recognize the people who work there. Many of them were working here when I started working.

I got my first job when I was 14. It was in an odd store that sold all sorts of stuff – jewelry, doll house furniture, kites, stuffed animals – everything. I told the owner I was 16. He told me I was magically 17 (the legal age for me to work then) and poof, I had a job. On Sundays, because of blue laws, the store would open for a few hours at midnight. There I was, a 14 year old pretending to be 16, told I was now 17 but still scared inside walking by myself on the boardwalk at 2am.

I learned all I know about gems and jewelry (and it’s a lot) from Henry’s. Ask enough questions over a number of years and you start to learn things. They eventually hired me and taught me more. I loved that job.

OC is an odd place. It’s a dry town so there are no bars, no liquor stores. It’s billed as “America’s Greatest Family Resort”. I’ll buy that. Every year we walk and drive around the island looking for what stayed the same for another year and what changed. Sometimes the changes are good. Sometimes they make me sad. But I always notice them.

I don’t get lost here. I’m here once a year at most and can still get around perfectly. I know which streets have traffic lights, where stores are, how to get around traffic without thinking about it. It’s IN me.

I live in Silver Spring, MD now. I’ve been there 18 years. I was supposed to stay 3 months (for an internship). I didn’t call it home until I’d been living there for nearly 10 years. While I’m comfortable there, am raising my children there, and have more friends there than I do in PA, I’m only now starting to realize that it really might be my home.

When I leave here, I’m going home (to Silver Spring). Then I’ll want to go home (to Lansdale). Then I’ll be being here (at home in OC).

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A day at the fair

I love the Montgomery County fair. It brings out the freaks and families, all to one place. The pig made out of butter has been replaced by a cheese wheel (now that’s disappointing). But there were baby ducks and ponies. And we were blessed by some guy at the pig races who declared #14 the Pig Queen and then said God Bless You All! That was odd.

My kids were asked to say the Pledge of Allegiance for a prize. They could only do it in French but they still got the prize. They answered questions about rain-scaping and won sponges. Where else does this happen but at the fair?

I love the sights and sounds of the fair. The lights are magical. People are happy. People eat fried butter and oreos. I guess it’s a good thing all the EMTs, fire and police personnel are there. I wonder how many heart attacks occur there.

People are happy at the fair. The vendors want to sell you something. The exhibitors bring candy and gizmos for you to bring home. People give stuff away. The Methodists (apparently famous for their pot-luck dinners) feed thousands at the food booths. The politicians are there, too, putting elephant or donkey stickers on kids. (NO elephants on my kids, thank you very much) Inside the buildings are crafts that county folks have made and monstrous veggies they’ve grown. You don’t see this side of people every day.

I don’t think about the rides but my kids do. I like the way they light up but I can’t help but think of all the urban legends regarding deaths of celebrities at fairs and small amusement parks. I grew up near West Point Park in Lansdale and clearly remember hearing that the boy from the tv show “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” died while standing on the roller coaster (he’s still alive and well, thank you very much). I know they aren’t real stories but when some ride is flinging my kids up in the air, that’s what I think of. He also was said to have died from eating poprocks and soda together. Poor guy.

I have many happy memories at this fair. I remember going before I was married. In fact, I think I’ve been to nearly every fair since I moved to MD. It’s THAT big of a deal in my world. One that stands out above others is of my then-father-in-law, unable to communicate from Alzheimer’s, walking hand in hand with my girls around the animals. They all loved seeing the animals and didn’t need words to express it.

In addition to pig races, there are demolition derbies, concerts by little know singers, animal barns and my favorites: the baby animals. I would like a duck, please.

Friday, August 12, 2011

He wasn't my dad

In 8th grade, I had a strange man as a science teacher. His name was Mr. Aiken. He left mid-year to go on sabbatical so he could go to the Olympics in Lake Placid, NY. One day while sitting in class (I can't remember who his substitute was), the teacher handed me a card. It was a post card. From Mr. Aiken to me. I was the only one who got one. I still remember sitting there, the teacher handing it to me and all the kids looking at me. I felt special.

I wasn't a good student in his class. I was grateful for the C he gave me. I didn't really deserve it.

He wasn't a very good teacher. He didn't care much about teaching at that point and thankfully he retired a few years later. For whatever reason, we connected. I can remember visiting him after I went to high school and talking to him about my frustrations with my home situation. He always supported my mother but he also let me talk.

I graduated. He came to my graduation party.

Somewhere in there, he got engaged. I went to his engagement party and wedding.

I continued to visit him. He continued to challenge and push me, though I didn't listen to him. He still loved me.

He wasn't my dad but he was the closest thing I had to one. I thought he'd walk me down the aisle but my brother wanted the job and we were getting along by then.

When he retired he moved to Arizona. He drove across the county to come to my wedding. He stood in the middle of the aisle as I walked up to get married and down after the ceremony - just to get pictures of me.

He was a difficult man in the best of circumstances. But I loved him.

Today, I saw a post on facebook by someone whose name is familiar to me. It was his estranged son. I sent him a message only to find out that the man who wasn't my dad died a few years ago. I haven't seen him in about 6 years, which I regret. I thought he forgot about me. It never occurred to me he might have died.

It's been many, many years since 8th grade. I can still remember sitting in his class, sitting talking with him after class, him being in my home. I never thought there would be a day when he wouldn't be here.

Today is a sad day, indeed.

Now no one will call me Judi Ann. That was reserved for him.

Goodbye, Mr. Aiken. You were very much loved.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

If I had a million dollars......

Oh, I could spend a million dollars. Or at least I think I could. But that's a lot of money so it's probably harder than I think. But I'd like to try.

So what would I do with it? Here are my thoughts:

I'd make sure my mom was set for the remainder of her life.

I'd make sure my kids had a good start on saving for college.

I'd buy a house that's all mine. And I'd get a housekeeper because I suck at it. And my kids would have their own rooms (on a different floor than me).

I would have a kitchen that makes me happy to cook in.

I would have appliances that work (AC, laundry - just the necessities).

I'd go to Prague, Croatia and Yugoslavia. And maybe visit Poland and Hungary because I love both and I'll be in the area - it makes sense. And, of course, Paris. Twice. Once with my kids and once with the guy I want to romance me in that beautiful city.

I want to have a car that doesn't look like I'm a mom.

I want a purse that makes me happy. And a pair of those red-bottomed shoes.

I don't really think that adds up to a million dollars.

So I'd be able to open a house for deaf children in need. I sort of think of it as an orphanage but there's got to be a better name for it. I found a place on the internet a while ago that listed deaf children in need of adoption. I want them all. And a staff with teachers and people who will love them and can communicate with them to take care of everything.

Or maybe I'd continue the work my brother and sister-in-law do in making sure seniors with limited incomes and no families get Christmas gifts and things they need.

There are so many choices. So many wishes. So, how what would you do if you won the lottery or a huge bag of money landed in your yard?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Hello. My name is Judi and I'm an addict.....

I admit it. I'm an addict. That's the first step, right? I need to confess that when I walk through the office supply aisle in a store, that I-want-to-be-organized-and-color-coded part of my brain starts tingling. Back to school time is the best time of the year - but not because my kids are going back to school. All the gadgets and doodads are on sale. I'M MEANT TO BUY IT ALL.

Every year they come up with new stuff. Sometimes it's something simple like different shapes of post-it notes. I mean, who wants square when you can get different shapes! Who wants a yellow highlighter when you could get purple, pink, blue or green?? There are clips, pens, and notebooks - oh my! There are so many things that I might need one day. And they're on sale now! It's a sign. I'm meant to have them.

One of my favorite places to feed this addiction was at a computer trade show event aimed at feds that I interpreted for several years. It was awesome!! I got a year's supply of pens, post-it notes, pencils, mints and a ton of things I didn't even know I needed! Ah.....good times.....

I've had other addictions in the past. My kids would say I have a shoe addiction but that's not really true. They'd also say I have a purse addiction but I think the actual number is somewhere around 10, which does not qualify as an addiction. My sister in law would say I have an addiction to pillow covers (the things that go over a pillow but under the case). I'd say I like them but I'm not addicted to them. I do, however, have plenty right now - I'm just prepared. You never know when you're going to need them.

So, it's time to confess, people. What's you addiction?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

when I grow up....

I just read Alissa Ender's post over at Have Stroller Will Travel about what her son will be when he grows up and it got me thinking. What do I want for my children? I want them to be happy most of all. But I want more than that. I want them to enjoy their life. I don't want them to have a job but rather something they enjoy doing. When I ask them what they want to do when they grow up, the answers vary. So far on the list:

interpreter (french or sign)

The list goes on.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a waitress. I really wanted to be a waitress. The idea has stayed with me all these years - so much so that every time I eat at the Woodside Deli, I want to get up and take orders (no, I don't do it). I also wanted to be a make up artist. I thought I'd be good at that (and still maintain that I would have been good at it). I wasn't allowed to go to vo-tech school, though, so that ended that.

I had a neighbor when I was around 9 who was deaf. My mom bought me a book (Handtalk by Mary Beth Miller) so I could learn a few signs and communicate with him. Apparently at some point I told a friend of my mom's that I wanted to do that when I grew up. And I did.

But I am still trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.