Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday 5 - Summer traditions

Anyone who knows me knows that summer is my favorite time of the year.  The days are long and warm, the flowers are pretty, and it's just a happy time.

Alissa over at Clever Compass ( picked the topic of Summer Traditions for this weeks Friday 5.  To limit it to 5 will be tough.....

1.  Fireworks.  On the fourth of July and every other time I can find them.  I am a fireworks junkie (others use a different, not inaccurate word).  I travel for fireworks.  And I never leave until I'm 110% sure they're completely done.

2.  Piggies in the sand.  I love beaches.  Ocean City, NJ is my beach of choice (my kids concur) but really I don't turn down a trip to any beach.  We go shark tooth hunting at Chesapeake Beach.  Any beach is our friend.

3.  The Montgomery County Fair.  We haven't missed one since my kids were born.  And I had been going for years before that.  I miss the pig made of butter but we go every year to see if it returns.  It was at the fair I learned not to slap a cow on the ass.  They don't like that.

4.  Cooking out and catching fireflies.  I love to cook out, though I'm not great at it.  I love to catch fireflies, though it makes me feel guilty.  Now that my kids are older, I don't know that they'll still want to do it but we've done it for years.

5.  Looking for deer and other animals.  Most evenings, I try to make a ride along Sligo Creek Parkway part of our way home.  We count deer, see herons, turtles, foxes if we're lucky and hear woodpeckers.

I love summer.  It's my favorite time of year.

Clever Compass' Friday 5

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Teaching Kindness

What have you done to make a difference to someone today?

That's our new goal.  And it's working.  Let me explain.

I have grown tired of the mean girl crap, the sisterly bickering, the constant "you are (insert insult) !"  I'm tired of it all.  Yelling back didn't work.  Asking them to re-evaluate how they speak to each other didn't work.  Grounding didn't work.  The nastiness continued.  It happens at both my house and their dad's.  We're both tired of it.

Then I was watching the end of the Ellen Degeneres Show.  Yeah, I admit I like Sophia Grace and Rosie.  I can't help it.  Anyway, I digress.  At the end of her show, Ellen says something along the lines of "be nice to people".  That got me thinking.

So I told my girls that from now on, on a daily basis, they are to do something that makes a positive difference to someone.  It's working.  A wonderful transformation is occurring.  Sure, they still bicker and argue.  My kids are normal.  But when I pick them up from school, A will always volunteer the nice deed she did.  Sometimes it's something simple like holding a door open for a teacher whose hands are full or making the lunch lady laugh.  Sometimes it's something more - like standing up for a disabled kid who is getting teased or helping a kindergarten kid with whatever it is they need.  She's proud to tell me what she did - and never fails to ask me what I've done to make a difference in the world.

M isn't so quick to tell me things, which is a little odd to me because she has always been the kid to help everyone.  I don't think she wants to be the only one without a good deed so she makes an effort to do something.  She seemed slightly disappointed that she couldn't double up - do two or three good things on one day and nothing for the next.  Still, she does it.

This has had some wonderful effects.  First, they're proud of their helpful behavior.  Second, they're aware of people around them who need help - the little "me" bubble they lived in has, at least temporarily, burst.  And they make me think about what I do.  We're all now accountable and report in to each other - even on days we don't see each other.

Win-win-win.  Can't beat that.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The importance of cheerleaders

My kids asked to join an after school program called Girls On The Run (GOTR) this spring.  It's been a great experience for them.  Twice a week for an hour after school the girls do self esteem building activities and run.  A lot.  It's been great for them.

Yesterday they participated with about 3000 other girls from all over the county to run 5k at the fairground.  It was a great experience for them - and for me.  I was reminded again how important doing something as simple as saying "great job!" to someone can be.

A asked if I would take one of the signs they made for my walk so I could cheer for them.  It hadn't really occurred to me to do that but it was an easy enough request, so why not.  It was easily the best thing I've done for a while.

The sign I took said "You're awesome!".  As the girls ran past, some said thank you!  Some said Yes, I am!.  Some of the buddy runners (parents) said "See?  People think you're awesome and you can do this!"

I am struck yet again by the value of cheerleading.  I wasn't a crazy, yelling mom that day - far from it.  It's uncomfortable in some ways to cheer on people you don't know.  But seeing their faces, their smiles made me want to cheer for each and every one of those kids.  Cheering for these kids made a difference.  It helped them.

I was thinking that maybe what I need is a cheerleader. Then I realized I already have two.  I'm set.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Friday 5 - Movies!

I like going to the movies but I always forget that I do.  If someone suggests going to a movie, I'll go.  Rarely do I ever say "Hey!  Let's go to the movies!"  I should remember to do that more often.

The Friday 5's theme this week is movies.  My mind is racing!  But it's funny because M just asked me yesterday what my favorite movie was.  I couldn't come up with one.  I have a few:

1.  The Rocky Horror Picture Show - not because it's a great movie but because it shaped my life so much.  The experience of going - of fitting in! - was amazing.  I loved the freakiness of it all.  I still do!

2.  Rear Window - I wanted to be Grace Kelly.  She was beautiful, wore fabulous clothes - she was perfect.  I wanted Jimmy Stewart to rescue me.  I love this movie.

3.  The Sound of Music -  I wanted my mom to marry Christopher Plummer.  He was gorgeous - he had a bristle-ish exterior but then he melted and realized he loved Maria.....exactly as a fairy tale should be.

Also, I wanted to be Liesl.  I just didn't like her taste in boys.

4.  An Affair to Remember - I love whoever was the costume designer for this movie.  Deborah Kerr was beautiful.  I didn't quite get her reluctance to tell Cary Grant what happened - to let him go - but it was all beautiful.  Maybe I was born in the wrong time period.

5.  Casablanca - This is a perfect movie.  Everything about it.  It. Is. Perfect.  And it makes me want to eat Moroccan food.

There are other honorable mentions:

Willy Wonka.  I wanted to marry Gene Wilder.  And crash through a glass ceiling.  And punish people like Veruka Salt.

Shawn of the Dead - this is a new one for me.  I had never even heard of it before.  I watched it recently - now I'm hooked on Zombies!

A Dirty Shame.  This is a John Waters Movie.  'Nuff said.  Apparently if you like sex, you end up with a concussion.

Casino Royale - with Daniel Craig.  I'm new to the Bond franchise.  Oh, what have I been missing?  Yum!

Wow, I didn't know I liked so many movies.  I might need to watch one or two tonight.

Clever Compass' Friday 5

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

It never gets old

During some point in my marathon walk training, I complained that I couldn't walk with my kids because they wanted to hold my hands when we walked and I couldn't do that during training.  A friend of mine remarked how lucky I was to have kids - almost age 11 - who still want to hold my hand while walking.  That comment has stayed with me and made me realize how lucky I am.

My kids still want to be tucked in at night.  The ritual is always the same.  I sit on the edge of the bed (they have bunk beds but want to sleep together in the same bed).  I tell them I love them.  They tell me they love me.  They ask "Mommy, what should I dream about tonight?"  If I'm in an ornery mood the answer might be cicadas (something that creeps M out) or homework.  Usually it's something like butterflies, the beach, or something related to our day.  I tickle them a bit and we laugh before going to sleep.

Waking has its own rituals, at least on school days.  I sit on the side of their bed and tell them it's time to wake up.  M pretends not to hear me.  A mumbles something along the lines of "I love you Mommy" which is code for give me ten more minutes of sleep please.  I try to steal blankets.  I bug them a little, which always cracks me up (but not them so much).  It's what we do.

Some time before we leave for the bus or school, A will say "I need a hug".  My response is to hug her, of course, and then to ask:

"Will you want hugs from me when you're 18?"

Of course, Mommy.  I will always want hugs from you.

"Will you want hugs from me when you're 25?"

Of course, Mommy.  I will never be too old for hugs.

"Will you want hugs from me when you're a Mommy?"

Yes, Mommy.  You will always be my Mommy.  That doesn't stop.

No, it doesn't.  For that I am grateful.

There was a book we used to read when they were young.  I think the title is "I'll love you for always".  We made a song out of it.

I'll like you for always
I'll love you forever
As long as I'm living
My baby you'll be

That never gets old.

An older picture but one of my favorites.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Being a daughter and a mother

Clever Compass' Friday 5

Being a daughter and a mother makes me feel like the fluffy stuff in an Oreo.  I've written lots about my kids and some about the frustrations I experience being the daughter of my mother.  It wasn't always frustrating.  I grew up intensely proud of her.  I'm not sure she knows that.

I had the only single mom I knew for most of my life.  No one else had a parent who died.  No one else had just a mom.  Certainly no one had a mom like mine.

Before my mother was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, she was a force to be reckoned with. She left home when she was young - Allentown, PA didn't hold much of a future for her and she didn't want to be married off to someone and stay there for the rest of her life.  So she didn't.  She took correspondence courses to learn about the airline industry.  Then she lied to her parents and told them she had a job in New York City and off she went.  But she didn't have a job.  She went to the airline that had promised her a job but when they found out she was under age 21, the offer was rescinded.  Eventually American Airlines gave her a chance.  She stayed at the Y until she met the roommates who almost 60 years later remain her friends.  She worked her way up, becoming the first female manager on the ticket counter.  The stories she used to tell me about her travels, the NYC parties, the men she dated - I thought she was a cool mom.

My brother went away to college when I was 9.  That left a lot of years for just us to do fun things.  We used to go to NYC for the weekend, often at Christmas.  She took me to Broadway shows.  We went to Texas for the weekend because that's what she wanted to do.  She let me go into the city (Philly) alone (well, with a friend) from the age of 10 on.  She taught me to be smart.  And it worked.  I have no fear of cities.  In fact, I love them.  I love doing things with my kids.  I suck at house keeping and most domestic things - but I rock at having fun.  That is a learned behavior.

I have so many memories about my mom.  I remember her walking so fast on the beach and I just dawdled behind her, looking at the shells.  I remember many antique shows, yard sales, treasure seeking adventures.  I miss those days.  I miss having a mom who I knew would take care of me.  Now I take care of her.  But it's okay.  She taught me well.

Monday, May 7, 2012

I did it.

This is going to be a long one.  Go get a drink first.  I have lots to say and I want to get it all out before I forget things.

First, I did it.  Wow.  I was really afraid there for a while I'd have to say I tried but didn't do it.  So this is a relief.  But what a journey this has been.

When I started this, I had all sorts of thoughts and delusions about it.  I thought I would walk 39.3 miles and everything would be okay.  I thought Ruth would be there with Mike and the girls and all would be fine.  Before we signed on, Amanda asked if I would be able to do this if Ruth didn't live to see it.  Yes, of course I would (because she wasn't going to die, but I didn't say that).  Then she died. And I was the only one who was surprised.

Still, I walked.  I thought walking would make it all okay.  It didn't.  It gave me purpose, a goal, but it didn't make everything okay.  I'm really not sure why I thought it would.

I had a lot of money to raise.  People who never met me donated.  Lots of Ruth's friends and family donated, which was not a total surprise.  But friends from high school, coworkers, acquaintances - they donated, too.  Each donation made me excited and scared.  These people believed in me even when I didn't.

So, fast forward to walk eve.  The girls and I went to the hotel to meet Amanda and register.  There was excitement in the air.  The girls were fascinated - the big chandeliers in the hotel, the huge bouquets of flowers in the lobby, the vendors selling anything and everything with pink ribbons on it - it was overwhelming!  But it was also exciting.

Mike and the girls made Amanda and me shirts.  The both said Signs of Hope - our team name.  Mine had a picture of Ruth on the back (which made me cry).  Amanda's had the list of family members she's lost.  We both got teary eyed at that.

The Marriott downtown is a nice hotel, certainly nicer than most places I stay.  I was sitting in the window (not leaning on the glass and tempting fate!) watching the theater goers walk down the street, the drunk girls woo-hooing out the sunroof of limos - the general energy of the city.  I don't often stay in the city so this was nice and very comforting to me.  Still, I couldn't sleep.  I was really afraid of not being able to do this.

We had to be on the shuttle at 5:30 in the morning!!  I still don't know why this was true.  The opening ceremonies started around 6:30 or 7.  It was .4 miles away.  But whatever, rules are rules. And we followed those rules.  We put our luggage on the bus so it could drive us to our destination.  As we got off the bus, some of the youth crew was there cheering for us.  I really didn't understand how important the cheering would be until later but it was a great way to start the day.

It's a very different thing to say there are X number of people who are fighting/surviving/supporting people with breast cancer and having all those folks in one place.  It's kind of overwhelming - especially seeing the survivors.  There were inflatable pillars welcoming us that people signed as they got to the staging area.  We each took our turn signing the "wall" and as I turned to look at the stage, I saw they were running text messages that people were texting in to be played on the screen.  All I saw was A & M's names.  That was awesome.  Mike texted it in again so we could both see it. 

That was a great start to the day.  After opening ceremonies, we were off.  We walked around the tidal basin, past the MLK monument (I hadn't seen that before so that was cool), up the mall to Capitol Hill.  I knew it was going to be a rough day by the humidity and the grumpiness of walkers at the first pit stop.  

This was more of a struggle than I expected.  First, I didn't know I couldn't use my ipod - no headphones.  I really wouldn't inflict my playlist on the other walkers - they'd beat me up for the stuff I listen to.  I also hadn't trained in humidity.  That was enough to kill me.  By mile 5 I knew I was in trouble.  From mile 5-13, I thought I was going to throw up.  I didn't know that was a sign of dehydration.  I don't normally drink much so having bottle after bottle of water and Propel seemed like overkill to me.  It wasn't.  It wasn't enough.  

Amanda wanted to do the full 26.2 on the first day and I wanted that for her.  She took off at the lunch pit stop and I waited to see if my cheering section appeared. Getting up and walking again was tough.

I hate everything about Georgetown.  There was hill after hill.  I knew I looked bad - other walkers and pit stop crew were asking if I was okay.  I couldn't pee.  I was ready to puke.  I wasn't okay.  But there was no way in hell I was getting picked up by the sweep bus so I kept walking.  There were  no cheering people in Georgetown.  A few folks clapped but nothing inspirational.  That was such a hard part of the walk.  Uphill, quiet and feeling sick.  Then I got to Georgetown hospital.  I thought of all the hours I had spent there with various patients.  And I was grateful for the down hill part of the route.  Just past the hospital I saw two people sitting in chairs.  One sort of looked like Mike and one had a pink hat on.  That didn't make sense - he wouldn't come without both girls.  As I approached, I saw the other girl - my girl!  I burst into tears.  They had signs that said I rocked.  I didn't feel very rocking at that moment.  I thought I was ready to end it.  They were just past mile 12 so I knew I didn't have far to go to reach 13.1.  Mike offered to take my backpack and was surprised at the weight of it.  I don't even know what was in it but it weighed at least 20 pounds.  It was so heavy and it hurt.  He took most of the stuff out, leaving only the necessities.  That was awesome.  Lesson learned.  Andrew met us there and walked me to the 13.1 pit stop.  I was done. Thankfully he took me to the Wellness Village (camp site) so I didn't have to go on the bus.

Amanda kept going.  I'm so proud of her.  She texted me a various points - that was so hard for her.  But she rocked it.  Did I mention how proud I am of her?

The Wellness Village was fun.  They had foot/back massager machines for the walkers.  There were drinks, food, places to relax.  I needed to wait for Amanda.  She needed someone to cheer her across the finish line.

Another lesson: pack things for all sorts of weather. It was quite chilly in the evening and I had nothing to wear.  After some discussion, Amanda and I decided I'd be oh so much happier in my own bed. I needed to freak out and didn't want to do that in front of anyone.  Luckily, Mike was taking the girls to a birthday party nearby and could get me.  Being in my bed was good.  I soaked my feet, showered, cried.  And lucky for me I found a replacement for my job on Monday morning at 8:30 am in DC.  Yeah, I was that naive about it all.  But I was able to find a replacement by 6:45 am.  Boo-yah for me!

I got back to the Wellness Village shortly after 7am.  There was no bru-ha-ha, nothing.  Just a standard camp breakfast.  Oh, and cupcakes left over from the evening before.  Score!

Walking on Sunday was better.  There was more downhill than uphill.  The humidity was lower.  I felt better.  I had done it once before so I was pretty sure I could 13.1 again.

The one thing I didn't realize was the importance of the folks who came out to cheer for us.  I hadn't really thought of it before.  There were so many more people out cheering us on Sunday - and it helped so much.  

We walked through embassy row.  That was cool - but we were late (my fault!) so we were booking through it.  Mike and the girls found a spot near the Italian embassy.  It was so comforting to hear my girls chant "Let's beat cancer!  Beat it!" at the walkers.  The walkers were happy to see them and the girls were excited to be part of this.  This walk had a healing affect on us all.

Oh, somewhere on Wisconsin Ave, near Tenley Circle, were lion dancers (the chinese new year dragon looking things) and cheering people all along Wisconsin Avenue.  Once we got to George Washington University, there was a sorority that came to cheer for us.  Lots of places had water, gum, candy - and support.  To hear people say "Thank You!" was awesome.

The people who volunteer to work the walk clearly have a mission.  They cheered us at every stop light.  They were fun.  Most importantly to me, they made me laugh when I needed it most.

So, what did I learn from all of this?  Here's what I've come up with so far:

1.  Setting goals is good.  It's helpful to have a clear idea of reality when setting those goals.  Though if I really knew what I was in for I might not have done it.

2.  Less is more.  No one needs to carry as much crap as I did.  And no one needs "clothing choices" on walk days.  Just pack what you need.

3.  Train better.  Yes, I walked 13 miles before.  But I stopped and smelled a lot of flowers, looked in store windows, got lunch, etc.  I need to walk 13 (or more!) 20 minute miles - without shopping.

4.  Don't think walking will make everything better.  It helps but at the end of the day, things that make you sad will still make you sad.

5.  Good shoes are important.  The definition of "good shoes" is more important.  Same goes for socks.

6.  When committing to something of this size, realize it affects the entire family.  None of us had any idea what we were really signing up for - and it was tough on everyone.

7.  Don't train with music.  That was tough.  When I walked alone I always had music, which I depended on to get me past the hard times.  Not having it (against Avon Walk rules) was tough.

8.  It's okay to cry.

9.  Having people cheer you on is amazing.  And by amazing, I mean AMAZING!!  I had no idea how important all those facebook comments, private emails and messages and phone calls would mean to me.  I am truly humbled by all the love.

10.  My friends rock.  Amanda is awesome.  My family is amazing.  I am loved.

Thank you all who supported me in so many ways.  

Friday, May 4, 2012

Walk eve....

It's here.  Tomorrow I walk.  It seemed so far away in January.  It was closer than I thought.

I've walked well over 100 miles in training.  I've discovered parts of Silver Spring, Bethesda, DC and all parts in between that I never paid attention to before.  I got a great new friend out of the deal.  Walking has been like therapy - we walk, talk about our week.  It feels strange to know that it'll be over soon.

Reading the posts on facebook, seeing the donations people gave me - it's overwhelming to think of all the support people are giving me.  My heart is happy.

It didn't do the one thing I thought it might:  it didn't make it all better.  I'm still sad at the loss of my mother in law.  I'm still sad and nervous for my friends battling this disease - and there are several of them.  The feeling of loss is still there.

But there are two good things that happened.  I feel like I made a difference.  I raised a boatload of money, which I didn't think would happen.  I also completed a goal.  Well, technically not yet but I'm going so this will happen.  I can't think of many times in my life where I set out to do something and actually did it.

I'm very nervous.  My hands are shaking, which makes it hard to type.  Time to get everything ready.

Friday 5 - People who shaped me

Clever Compass' Friday 5

People who shaped me.....

This is an interesting topic for me.  I have so many folks who contributed to making me who I am - and most of them have no idea.  A few of them did, though, and really did impact my life in ways I didn't understand until much later in my life.

1. My mother.  I write about how she makes me bonkers now but growing up I knew early on she was pretty strong.  My dad died when I was a baby and she raised my brother and me by herself.  She didn't get much help from her family and she would rarely ask anyone for help.  She was always strong, which might be why seeing her now - elderly, disabled and stubborn -is hard for me.  She allowed me to be different from everyone else.  Really, she made me who I am today.

2.  Mr. Aiken - I wrote about him earlier (he wasn't my dad).  He was in many ways the closest thing I had to a dad growing up.  He was a lousy teacher but in our personal lives he was very important to me.  He required me to use respectful language - he wasn't going to be my friend but rather a pseudo-parent.  When I would complain about my mother's rules, he always, ALWAYS took her side.  He worked hard to make sure I didn't ruin the relationship with my mom during the terrible teenage years.  He drove across the country to come to my wedding.  He met my children.  I think he knew how important he was to me but I was never sure.

3.  In my business life I think my brother did the best job at guiding me.  He's ten years older than me and super smart.  He believed in me when I started my first business at the age of 19 (Discovery Records).  He gave me my first computer (the most memorable Christmas morning ever!) and the $250 to start my business.  I remember writing "stock holder" reports to him and the encouragement he gave me.  He guided me through the establishment of CSL.  I can only hope to be half as successful in my business life as he's been in his.

4.  I think several of the people I dated affected me deeply.  One was a Scotsman I met here in MD - we shared the same birthdate, six years apart.  He was a Calvinist.  I always tend to be with men who have strong beliefs - though they've all been different.  I didn't agree with is views on a lot of things but he made me think about things I either hadn't thought of seriously before or just took for granted.  His death a few years after the end of our relationship had a profound effect on me.  He died never knowing how much I cared for him and how he changed me.

5.  Number 5 is a tie.  My daughters, A & M have changed me in ways I could never have imagined.  M makes me appreciate things.  She taught me early on to look at the world as a place of beauty.  She appreciates all the flowers, birds, tall pieces of grass - everything.  A has taught me how to show love in different ways.  She's very much a mini-me.  They are both beautiful girls, on the inside and out.  I've learned patience - okay, I'm still learning patience.  I've learned how important words are.  They teach me every day and fill my world with love.

There are so many others.  The man whose name I never knew but he owned the Smuggler Shop in Ocean City, NJ.  He was my summer dad.  Sam and Jeff at Henry's Jewelry store in OC - they taught me how to be a great sales person and run a business.  Patti Signore, my bff in high school who made me feel it was okay to be different.  So many people had an affect on me.  I think of them often yet I'm sure they have no knowledge of that.