Monday, April 14, 2014

Diva in the House!

Today is Megan's 10th birthday! She is my diva.  While I love her, she makes me glad I have a boy and a girl, because two of her in the house might actually make the walls fall down.  She is full of life and love and tragedy and comedy--all within the space of an hour.  People think I exaggerate that she was a diva from the moment she was born.  I'm not, not at all.

Since I'd had an emergency C-section with Brett, it was always an option with Megan, but my doctor was very supportive, telling me I didn't necessarily need another C-section, but the ultimate decision was based on a number of factors to be assessed very close to my due date.  All was on track for a regular old birth, when my diva shifted, and oh I felt it.  It was in the middle of the night, when I was not quite three weeks from my due date. She shifted completely so she was SIDEWAYS! Butt on my left side, head on my right. They tried lots of turning, nothing.  Went to a chiropractor who said she had good luck with turning babies, nothing. C-section it was. Did I mention DIVA?

Because it was a planned C-section, I have to admit, I was far more energetic afterwards.  Not going through 20 hours of labor first will do that to you.  I was back home within two days, and the fun really began.  I nursed both my kids over a year, so I was pretty prepared (I thought) for the intensity of the next couple weeks. Where Brett had given me longer stretches to sleep, shower, think, Megan was a snack for 10 minutes, then I'll let you know in 20 or 30 minutes when I want to eat again. This went on for weeks. 

Add to the fun, I had a three year old who got up every morning at 5, and a husband who could only take one week off of work to help. Oh, and did I mention she wouldn't sleep in the bassinet? Or in between us in our bed? No, Megan would only sleep on Scott's side of the bed, without him in it.  He started to complain once that I was relegating him to the guest room, when, in my best demon from hell voice, I reminded him it was the ONLY. way. she. slept. and I'd been up for 28 hours straight trying to change her mind. He moved to the then guest room without a backward glance. I was up to three hours of sleep a night! Woo-hoo! I also taught Brett how to turn on the TV in the basement, told him there was a sippy cup of milk and a piece of cheese in the fridge, let mom sleep a little more.  Another hour and a half added!

To sum up, she's been making up follow her lead since she was only a few days old, and it hasn't really stopped. Anytime we go anywhere, she's got them eating out of her hands. I can't count the number of times we've say, gone to the eye doctor, and I'm in with Brett, come out and she's helping the gal check in glasses and put away things. Or the time we were at the VFW for a Girl Scout flag ceremony, I ran to my car for something, and I come back to one of the officers letting her sell the 50/50 raffle tickets. She blows my mind with how she gets people to do things that she wants to do. I'm telling you, we will all be working for her one day.

Friday, April 11, 2014

My Confession

Here's my confession. . . when I look at pictures posted on Facebook, I don't just look at the gap-toothed grins, great dinners that look awesome, or the newest beer find. I'm looking at the backgrounds of pictures, and I'm either happy or sad. 

I find joy in the piles of paper, school assignments that can't be parted with, random cups, bowls, even cleaning products on counters and tables. Squeaky clean countertops as smooth, clear, and expansive enough to land a small plane make me sad. 

I'm a crap house keeper. No, that's not true. I've given up in the presence of those who don't care. I just can't keep up. So when I see others who have even a momentary lapse of cleanliness, my heart soars, and I consider those individuals my people (insert solidarity fist fist bump here). I can't tell you how many pictures I haven't posted or frame because lurking in the background were finished loads of laundry on the table, a crockpot I hadn't gotten around to putting away, or the latest art projects pasted on the walls. Sorry for all you cleanies, but until the kids move out or I finally beat order into them, I'm going to have to consider your ways abnormal and unnatural. It's al about survival, yo, and that starts in the brain.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Life's Lessons

Today's idea came from a Facebook posting a half a world away.  A friend from high school, who was a basketball star (he's going to hate that "was" I put in there, lol) and is now a professional basketball coach in Austrailia posted a message that struck a chord in me today.  He's seen and lot of young men in various states of maturity, including himself, as a high school player, then a college athlete, and now as a coach.  He posted today that coaching is "teaching life lessons through basketball blessings."

As a university teacher, I too see a lot of young people at various stages of maturity.  As a teacher in an urban neighborhood where often life is hard scrabble, getting to the next goal, the next paycheck, the end of the semester, even the next meal or the next bus ride, are more than little mental victories. They are the portrait of survival. Sincere relief is felt in paying the bills and having money left over to buy books, being able to reschedule a job interview so class isn't missed.  Where's the joy, though? It's often found on the basketball courts, where release of problems is absolute, pure, and golden.  Defend your position against an opponent, pass the ball, move down the court, catch the ball, drive for the basket. The activity is removed from the daily struggles, and it helps to leak the toxins of the world out of your pores. It's focused, it's energetic, it's a place where victory has hope each day.

I've had a lot of young men come through my classes, many who needed a push or a kick in the pants, just like I know my friend does on the court.  Even more, though, need to be taught focus, follow through, being the leader instead of the follower, and how to make their skills work for them, not against them.  My friend does that on the court, too.  He's handing out those life lessons where they want to be. I hope they appreciate him, along with those lessons.

Monday, April 7, 2014

I Like Old People

I know there are many who are uncomfortable with old people, even though we're all inching closer and closer to that age. They say they're unfocused, can be grumpy, want to do what they want to do when they want to do it, are apt to fall asleep at any moment, and they smell funny.  I could be describing myself, so maybe that's why I like them, just kidding, a little bit.

Maybe it's because I'm an only child who was dragged along to everything.  It's easy to drag one kid along, and it works.  That's the real reason only children are precocious.  They've seen it all, but they're at the same time kind of invisible.  Adults ease up around them, don't even see them after a brief introduction, start drinking their drinks, using bad words, gossiping about the neighbors.  I had a blast playing with my Barbies close by to the card games my mom and her friends had, half listening, then falling asleep on the couch.  Maybe it was the close relationship I had with my grandma that makes me like old people. The fuzzy Velamints in the bottom of her purse, the running upstairs to grab her "good" lipstick to go out, the scent of Channel #5 only used for grown up events, feeling someone lean over and whisper softly "I know her husband's name, but what is hers again" and whispering the answer back, having a hand in the crook of my arm while crossing the street, I'm comfortable with it. I get old people, and I love their stories.

Brett's got a school assignment where he's got to interview someone who lived during the Great Depression (they may want to rethink this assignment, as those individuals are fewer and farther between). Luckily, we've got at church a former educator who loves kids, runs our community spelling bee, and is 86 years old.  Brett asked to interview him, and he will next week.  The great thing is, it got us to talking about things in the past. I knew the stories my grandma told me about the Depression, and he talked about being 17 and having to use ration coupons at the grocery store. That got us to talking about how making meals, making things stretch, was a lost art. He talked about the can of bacon grease that still sits on his stove. It's weird, but things like that, memories of my grandparents' home, make me tear up.

I had the best 20 minutes just talking with him the other day, and I can't wait until Brett actually interviews him for the project.  Yeah, they may be grumpy sometimes, but I'm grumpy too.  I say go listen to an old person. They're better than just about anything.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

That One Took Me a While

I'm not one to believe in coincidence.  I think the Universe or God or ghosts or whatever way you want to think about it, sees us and drops us little things in our paths to make us feel closer and more in tune to the symphony that is the world and those we've lost.

Megan has, since she was less than two, named every single doll, bear, stuffy with a variation of the name "Rose." We've got them all, Rose, Rosie, Rosalinda, Rosamund, Rosalie, many twice and three times over.  It gets confusing. While we've talked her into a few different names, just for our sanity in knowing which precious she's referring to, she keeps coming back to Rose. Even now that she writes stories, at least one character is named Rose.

We've long pondered where it came from. Does she have a new friend named this? Is there a new character on the show of choice who's named this? We never could figure it out. But I think I did today, and it made me cry. I was putting lotion on, and without any real frame of reference, Megan said she liked my tattoo.  I have a tattoo of a rose with a very specific color on my calf for my grandma. I worried the guy to death, because I said it HAD to match the photograph of a rose on my wall exactly.

My grandma grew things. She grew orchids and geraniums and vegetables, but she loved roses.  Tropicana, Hope, Queen Elizabeth, Lucerne, were only some of the varieties that graced her yard.  Her absolute favorite, though, was the Doctor rose.  My grandfather was a doctor, and she had her neighbor, a photographer by trade, come and take a picture of it in full bloom. It was blown up, and it's hung in every place I've lived since she passed away. Megan's middle name is Frances, for my grandma. It makes perfect sense that she would whisper in Megan's ear, influence her, and always try to be with her, just as she's with me every day.

So even though knowing where our Rose avalanche comes from made me cry, it also warmed me to think Megan always has my grandma with her.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Brett's birthday is coming!

In a few days, I'll have an official TEENAGER in the house! He keeps insisting he's a teen, but I keep telling him it isn't official. Since I've already shared how forever Brett's birthday is linked to the NCAA championship for me, and the games on TV are making me think of it, thought I'd share another memory from my pregnancy with him.

I was probably about six months pregnant or so when I ventured to services at our then local church.  Scott was either at work, or maybe he'd just gotten home from work, in any event, I was by myself. We were still with the Catholics then, so much sitting, standing, kneeling was going on. It was the first time I'd experienced that feeling when kneeling that I might pass out, which is fairly common later in pregnancies, but it freaked me out.  I knelt there thinking, "just let me make it to communion, and I'll slink out." No such luck. The dizzy feeling got worse, and I slipped out to the room where the bathrooms led into. 

As I sat there with my head between my knees, thinking about how it was a real shame I'd left my cell phone in the car, at least three men walked past me to go into the men's washroom. It wasn't until a mom with a small infant came in that things got amped up. She immediately asked what was wrong, and I said I was six months pregnant.  She asked if I'd eaten, and I said yes. She went off in search of a cup for water.

When she returned, she was not alone.  Service had ended, and she'd grabbed the priest--Father Pat--out of the "hi, how are ya" line, who had, in turn, grabbed a parishioner who happened to be an EMT. He looked concerned, because I was stark white apparently, and he called an ambulance. Father Pat asked if my husband was home, wrote down my phone number, and went to call Scott. I later found out he told Scott not to panic, but I was feeling lightheaded, an EMT had looked at me, and he might want to come on over. We lived VERY close to church then, and when Scott came, thinking he'd simply have to drive me home, he saw what he thought was a SECOND set of of ambulance and fire truck turning down the street for the church, and he panicked.

This is when it starts to get amusing.  I'm still feeling kinda crappy, and I'm in a 10x10 room with Father Pat, the EMT member of the congregation, two additional EMTs from the ambulance, and two firefighters who were more curious than anything, since they were called in by someone from their house, not 911.  Assorted fire personnel are talking to Father Pat, who is joking with them saying "look what it takes to get you boys into church" while I'm being assessed. My harried husband walks into this mob scene. EMTs decided it was just the kneeling thing, because my BP was better, and I looked and felt FAR better.

EMTs take the stretcher they'd carried in out to the ambulance, and I walk through the beginning of the next service.  This was an older congregation, and ambulances meant serious business in their world, so every eye was on us as we exited.  I felt like doing a Vanna White wave, but I held myself back.

After that, I skipped the kneeling parts of church, Father Pat never forgot my name, and he always made it a point to ask how I was doing. I also found it a bit karmic that just as we were about to move, he switched parishes too.

In a few days, I'll tell Brett the story of the day he was born again, because he likes to hear it every year, and I'll remember that tiny baby. But I gotta say, the teen he's becoming is so much cooler.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Finding a Voice

In Business Writing, I make them work in groups.  Quite honestly, it's grueling for all of us.  They hate it,a nd I'm only marginally behind.  They're worried--sometimes deservedly so--that their peers aren't pulling their share of the load, and I'm always talking someone off a ledge (or out of the class so they won't screw their group members over). But I find this an important skill for the business writing and in the business world in their near futures.

This assignment is particularly hard for women.  Maybe it's because my classes are overwhelming filled with women at Chicago State that I notice this.  Every semester I see women who don't write up group members who don't contribute.  They think they're "being nice" or "giving someone a break" by not creating a paper trail of lacking work, when they're really only creating a trail of tears for themselves and their group members. Is is because they don't want to screw others over, or is it because they don't want that responsibility on their shoulders? I don't know, but either way, they need to find a voice for themselves in the business world, where others will happily chew them up and spit them out without thinking about it.  More importantly, as women in a society that doesn't value assertive women, and values assertive women of color even less, my students have to hone that assertiveness for a professional venue.

Today, I saw a young woman come into her own.  She's a quiet one in class, but today she informed me how she delegated the work (It's her turn to be the leader), kept detailed records of someone who hasn't submitted and how she plans to write someone up, and I overheard her respectfully tell another always late student who I was a bit worried about in the group setting that she was not accepting the level of work he submitted, and it was up to him to take control of his educational experience, as she wasn't prepared to sacrifice her grade for him.

I was almost bursting with pride! When they learn to follow the process, learn to respectfully tell group members they didn't contribute, so they'll be written up, it's a good thing. She's finding that in the work world, her voice has relevance, and I like it!