1.30.2013

A Flu Shot, Wine, and a Little Compassion, Please

We are not really a flu shot sort of family. But this year, the constant facebook posts telling of friends falling horribly ill, along with the incessant news drumbeat about H3N3, finally scared me. Yesterday, I took the plunge (no pun intended) and succumbed.

After going to three different pharmacies, I ended up at a CVS where I was very well cared for by the pharmacy manager. Got the newfangled, 90% smaller needle, shot, which I was assured might hurt a little more at the moment, but wouldn't provoke a sore arm or swelling. (The fluzone intradermal.) It did hurt a little, and, other than a little itchiness last night, I had no reaction at all. I also talked my mom into getting her shot, the long needle one for her, and she reported no pain and no reaction either .

Today, after school, I took Chloe back to the same CVS.

It was horrible.

My girl didn't want to have the shot all all, but was willing to go along on my advice, despite her anxiety and nerves. I kept assuring her that it would only be uncomfortable for a few seconds and then it would be over. That the worrying about it would be much worse than the actuality. Like ear piercing.

They were busy. The nice manager who helped my mom and I wasn't there. I told the girl at the counter that we wanted the flu shot with the short needle, that I knew insurance wouldn't cover it, but that's the one I wanted because I'd had it. All fine.

Then we waited. And waited.

Finally, I poked my head around the counter and asked how long it would be, and let them know that Chloe was very nervous and we just really wanted to get it over with. Not so politely, they told me they were busy and would get to it when they could.

About ten minutes later, we finally paid, and the counter girl assured me that Barbara would be right out and that we were in good hands with her.

Eventually, Barbara walked over with her flu shot tray and told Chloe that the vaccination wouldn't be fully functional for two weeks, to keep washing her hands and stay away from sick people, and to relax her arm. Then she pulled out a syringe with a LONG needle. I barely had time to register it, and think, uh, that doesn't look like it's supposed to, when Barbara jabbed it, hard, into Chloe's upper arm. My girl's eyes flooded with tears, and she took a deep breath and looked at me with a bit of panic when the medicine went in.

When the needle came out, a big drop of blood welled up, and Chloe's arm turned bright red.

Knowing the answer in my gut, I asked, "Was that the short needle?"

It wasn't. They didn't care. I was told that she was given the "normal one." Clearly a miscommunication between the two women working there had occurred.

Now, torn between tearing their heads off and keeping calm so that I didn't upset Chloe any more than she already was, I tried to navigate the situation and get them to at least run my insurance so that I didn't have to pay out of pocket for something I didn't receive. They proceeded to tell me that "Insurance doesn't cover the short needle shot." And that "The short needle one hurts more and provokes more of a reaction." AAARRRGH.

Did CVS turn into the Twilight Zone without someone telling me?

At this point it's all I can do to hold back my own tears. It's the worst feeling in the world when you know you have failed to protect your child, and Chloe was still upset, teary eyed, and with a sore arm already as well.

An apology would have helped immensely.

Instead, I was told that they were "Sorry I had been inconvenienced." And that she had "told your daughter to keep her arm relaxed, but she didn't, she tensed, and that's why it hurt." With Chloe standing right there, she blamed the problem on her, and not in a kind tone of voice either.

Inconvenienced? You gave my kid the wrong damn shot. You jabbed it into her arm, with no finesse or care. You managed to scare her and upset her and make what should have been a no-big-deal kind of thing into a traumatic experience.

More tears in the car, both of ours, a stop for Ibuprofen at a different drug store because neither of us could stomach giving CVS any of our money, and then I dropped off a still teary girl at her acting class at Studio 24.

Lovely Jackie put her arm around Chloe and led her back to class. We all knew getting her mind off things would be the best thing to do.

After cleaning up my desk at work, I drove to Café Bernado and ordered some dinner and a glass of wine. They were out of wine glasses. I so did not care.

NowThisLife.com - Cafe Bernardo - Wine

Class over, wine enjoyed, we are both just fine. Chloe had a wonderful time with Cody and the kids, and came out laughing and chattering. Ron went to Spaghetti Factory and had Chloe's favorite pasta with mizithra cheese waiting for her when we got home, and a so cute wrapped Barbie present, and cupcakes, too. Daddy of the year.

It's over, and everything is fine.

Except, it isn't. Because those two women, who could have done so much to make the experience a good one, instead used their power in the exact opposite way.

It's a real shame. Each of us, no matter what our jobs, have a tremendous effect on other people, just by the way we choose to act. I wish I could go back to that moment when the big needle came out and yell "Stop!" But I can't.

What I can do though, is remember this. Remember it the next time someone calls on the phone at work and I'm impatient to get to my "real work." Remember to be kind in each encounter. Remember that I never know how much someone might need a smile, or a little moment of compassion. Remember to say, genuinely, "I am sorry" when I am.

Little things, yes. Big things, too. They matter.

P.S. After coming home and researching this, CVS never should have offered the intradermal, short needle, vaccine to my daughter. The US Food and Drug administration has approved it only for adults 18-64. Lovely.



1.29.2013

Thinking on Red

A little photo free association, courtesy of the color red...

Our girl way back when, teething.


Chalk art driveways and squinchy faces.


Daddy induced laughter.


Grandmas.


Perfect hugs.


Four year old curtsies in holiday dresses.


Five year old friends.


Christmases with Gracie.


B Street theatre camps.


Learning to write, Montessori style.


Starbucks Christmas cups.


Cupcakes.


I think Valentine's Day must be almost here. 

1.27.2013

Soon...

Spring is not quite here, but ah, she is on her way...

NowThisLife.com - Daffodils
Now
NowThisLife.com - Daffodils
Soon
NowThisLife.com - Tulip Magnolia in bud
Now
NowThisLife.com - Tulip Magnolia blossoms
Soon
This one though, this one is now.

NowThisLife.com - camellia


Today is day 30 of my 30 Day Blogging Challenge. Which is a good thing, because even I am sick of myself!

Happy Sunday:)

1.26.2013

The Nature of Memory

Nowthislife.com - Journals

After my post about Being Twenty again, I decided to dig through my bin of old journals, looking for the ones that covered my time in Paris. Friday I had lunch with a writer friend, and we talked about those days, and what it all meant. She posted on Facebook later that modeling allowed her to travel the world, filling notebooks with her writing.

After finding, and reading, my Paris journal, I have a feeling Alice's are filled with a much better trove of material!

Sometimes it's better to keep your younger self at a safe distance, filtered by memory. That girl who wrote my diary? I really don't know her. Every page filled with emotional drama about men and relationships. Page after page after page of it. I know there was lots of other great stuff happening in my life, travel and work and books and friends, but all I wrote about was men. And not so kindly, intelligently, or compassionately either. Obviously I was desperately trying to make sense of that part of my life, but if that journal were all you had to go by, I really was quite awful. Luckily I have my memories of the whole of my life, and not just what made it onto the page.

What struck me more than anything was the intensity of all of it. Everything so incredibly important, everything felt so deeply and passionately. I believed that I'd carry those feelings, those decisions, with me forever.

Well, here I am, twenty five years later, and I might as well be a completely different person. I can barely even remember most of the things I wrote about, and the emotional charge is completely gone. It's so strange that my life could have been so wholly centered on someone, or someones, and now, nothing. Just the writing, a few really sweet movies in my head, and some love letters tucked in between the pages remain.

We truly are a series of people throughout our lives. I feel the through line of who I am, the child, the teenager, the young adult, everything leading to the me I am today. But the nature of memory is strange. We remember by replaying the memories in our mind, and each time we do so, they change a bit. It can end up that the memory we hold doesn't bear any resemblance at all to what really happened. I wouldn't believe this if you told me, but there it all is, in my own (unrecognizable now) handwriting.

All of it makes me happy that I am writing this blog. Because it is less personal than my journal, I find myself writing about things I'd never solidify otherwise. I believe that when I look back, years from now, I'm going to be really happy that I recorded a wonderful bike ride, my roses blooming, decisions about where Chloe should go to school, or just how much we loved Gracie, all those little things that make up my life.

Because otherwise, all those moments, they would just disappear.


1.24.2013

To Be Twenty Again

Here's a fun question...

If you could be any age again for one week, what would it be? What would you do?

When I lived as a model, briefly, in Paris, I desperately wanted to go to the South of France. I didn't even know what that meant, or where it was (Southish?) except that it involved mystery and romance, a blue sea and stretches of white sand. Each time I had a plan to take a weekend and go, a booking would come through and I'd cancel my trip. I always thought that there was plenty of time, and that I'd get there. Except, I didn't.

NowThisLife.com - Nice

Ah, to be twenty again, and to make a different choice. I'd pack up my bikini and forget the bookings. Sit on the beach, eat steak frites at a little café along a narrow street, sun myself by the Mediterranean Sea. I'd flirt shamelessly with dark haired beautiful French boys and drink cold beer. I'd take pictures of colorful, sun splashed buildings and do cartwheels on the wet sand. I'd swim in that aquamarine water and shake my long hair free when I walked out onto the beach, looking exactly like Bo Derek in 10, minus the braids. (Hey, this is my fantasy, right?)

Mostly, I'd revel in that twenty year old body. Walk for hours with no worries of my feet hurting. Wear high heels and dance. Sunbathe topless. Not be concerned with hangovers or calories. Have a vacation romance with one of those green eyed men.

In reality, twenty wasn't quite like that. It was subways and cooking in our fifth floor walk up model apartment because there was no money to eat out. It was hours of gin rummy with my roommate and tons of laughter. It was castings, and castings, and more castings, and finally a booking. It was reading and mix tapes filled with Elvis Costello and Billy Joel and being hassled on the street. It was not knowing who I was or what I wanted in my life. But it was also Paris, with a view of the Eiffel Tower from my little balcony to prove it. And discovery, and life, and love.

And it was wonderful, just the way it was.

But I do wish I had taken that one little trip, south.

1.23.2013

Forget Perfect

Last night, Ron and I used his Christmas gift tickets and saw Rock of Ages at the Community Center. This was not a show I really was looking forward to, as I thought it would just be a bunch of 80's heavy metal music. Surprise, it was tons of fun, the music was smile inducing, and we had a great evening. Dinner at Ma Jong's, a little walk around midtown, including a very exciting browse around Office Max (did I mention I like office supplies?) and then the show.

We got home at 11:30 and I had a dilemma...to do my blog post, or not. Day 26 of my 30 Day Blogging Challenge, and so far I'd posted every day. But, oh, that comfy bed was calling me, and I could already hear the 6:30 am alarm clock buzzing in my ear.

Well, thanks to this book I just finished, I decided to let it go and get my sleep.

NowThisLife.com - Forget Perfect

On our thrift store jaunt the other evening, I happily loaded up my arms with a stack of books. Thrift store prices and then 40% off as a bonus. Deal. This one, Forget Perfect, was written in 2001. The technology references are a bit dated but the advice is sound.

I am very much a type A personality...always wanting to make things better, to set goals and achieve them, to fit as much into each day as I possibly can. While this mostly serves me well, it can leave me missing the moment because my focus is on how it could be better. Or, often, how I could be better.

This book reminds us that perfect doesn't make us happy and, most of all, that if somehow we managed to achieve that perfection, no one would like us anyway. We appreciate the flawed, the human. We gravitate toward that authentic person who is fully herself, and who accepts that self with joy.

If you are ready for a book that reminds you that you are just fine the way you are, and that your life is pretty damn good already, get this one. It's a find.

This post inspired by:
Mama’s Losin’ It

1.21.2013

One Today

Driving to the agency today, on quiet roads, I listened to the Inauguration. The poem, the benediction, and Beyonce's soaring National Anthem. First, a lump in my throat, and then, the tears. There's something so intimate about the radio; some of my favorite moments are on that drive to work, just NPR and me. This morning, somehow, suddenly, patriotism. A moment of hoping that we really can, somehow, against the odds, come together. All of us.

Photo: Yahoo News
"One Today"

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.

My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper --
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives --
to teach geometry, or ring up groceries, as my mother did
for 20 years, so I could write this poem.

All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain
the empty desks of 20 children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day.

One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.

The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind -- our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.

Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across cafe tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello, shalom,
buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me -- in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.

One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.

One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn’t give what you wanted.

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always -- home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country -- all of us --
hope -- a new constellation,
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it -- together.

--Richard Blanco

1.20.2013

Okay, So I'm Easily Amused

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I loved shopping at thrift stores. The bargains, the thrill of the hunt, a way to spend some time when I had too much of it.

These days, I don't have the patience and truly don't need any more stuff.

But, once in awhile, I'll drop in just because. And this time, I took some pictures...because, hey, you gotta grab your fun where you find it!

A tall stack of these CDs available, just in case you want multiples. Love the "Foreward by..."

NowThisLife.com - Funny CD

I'm not really sure what this VHS set might include, but it's definitely going to be unique.

NowThisLife.com - A Unique Experience in Hair Design

Cassette player anyone?

NowThisLife.com - Holy Bible Cassette Set

Just love this, not really sure why.

NowThisLife.com - Awesome Horse Painting

Fancy party coming up? Does it require cleavage and fur? Check.

NowThisLife.com - Cleavage and Fur

This is the exact typewriter model I learned on, back in freshman typing. 90 wpm on that baby, thank you very much.

NowThisLife.com - IBM Typewriter

Somebody's tired. Very tired.

NowThisLife.com - Tired Raggedy Anne

Boobies, Hello Kitty and Angry Birds. Score.

NowThisLife.com - Funny Belts

And a final one to end with. Love this guy. Who else has a husband THIS stylish?

NowThisLife.com - Ron in Heart Shades

Hope some little things made you laugh today, too. Feel free to share:)

This post inspired by:
Mama’s Losin’ It


1.19.2013

A Hidden Gem and an International Pianist

Second Saturday in a row that Chloe's social life has taken her away for the night. Ron wanted to try somewhere new for dinner, and he'd read about a Greek place in Carmichael that was supposed to be terrific. Date night, on.

Off we drove, all the way down Fair Oaks Blvd, to Yianni's. Swanky it is not, but soul? Yes, plenty.

 

Promising we wouldn't be "campers" we were given a great corner booth, right next to the keyboard. Old-timey bar strung with Christmas lights, Greek key crown moulding, plastic covers over the table cloths, red carnations in each glass vase.


The food was delicious, as promised, the staff friendly. But the best part? This guy...


I think he has the absolutely best title I've ever seen, International Pianist. I love that. We got to chatting, and found out that growing up in Greece he learned to play piano by being paid per song. He practiced sixteen hours a day, from a thick stack of sheet music, until the tips of his fingers bled. But it served him well, because he grew up to play all over the world...from Europe to Africa to Sacramento. He'll take any request, and play it for you, no sheet music required. It's all in his head and in his hands.

Ron requested "Yesterday" and I got a little snip of video...

video

And then, as a kindness, he took our picture.


We would have hung out longer, and listened to more songs, but after "Sunrise, Sunset" and a couple of others, our allotted time was up. Our booth needed to go to the folks with the reservations!

Sometimes you do find a gem. We lucked out tonight.


1.18.2013

On Being Gentle With Yourself

A wise woman once told me to picture life as a bicycle wheel. You can either ride around on the tire, up and down and all around, or you can live in the center, where the spokes meet, and see everything from a vantage point of calm.

nowthislife.com - bicycle

Ah, if only I could consistently do that, everything would be so much easier.

Today had some very challenging moments. There are some things I seem to encounter over and over again, and each time they kick me in the gut. And then, instead of being kind to myself, I beat myself up for letting them bother me.

I've never really tried meditation seriously, but I do remember a great quote from a workshop I took on how to meditate. The instructor said that everyone expects meditation to be quiet, that the goal is for your mind to be still. And then, of course, when that doesn't happen and the thoughts are running through like racehorses, you feel like you have failed. She said that all you do at that moment is gently bring yourself back. Back to your breath, back to your center. And when it happens again, just do the same thing again. And again. That's meditation. That the stillness, the oneness, the enlightenment, those moments may or may not come. Your job is to show up, and to gently lead yourself back.

That is where I am today. Remembering that I need to be gentle with myself. That sensitivity is a gift, that it makes me human, that it means I have an open heart.

When something kicks you in the gut..breathe, be kind, and gently lead yourself back to center.

Again. And again. And again.

This post inspired by:
Mama’s Losin’ It




1.17.2013

Dinner Inspiration, Blogger Style | Tortellini Soup

PrettyYummyFoods.com - Melissa Vanni - Tortellini Soup
PrettyYummyFoods.com
I do like cooking. I just don't enjoy HAVING to cook. Which, unless I want to eat out every night or have my family subsist on frozen pizza, I pretty much need to do. One thing that helps immensely is having new recipes to try out, and it's such a bonus when they turn out to be delicious too.

Food blogs are a great source of ideas, and I absolutely love the step-by-step instructions, complete with beautiful photos at each step. It adds that little dollop of creativity to my evening that makes everything better.

In the sea of food blogs out there, I come back again and again to Pretty Yummy Foods. It's written by Melissa Vanni, who just happens to be one of our models at Cast Images. The beautiful mom of four, yes four, sons, she writes about the food she cooks for her family, adds wonderful little stories to accompany each recipe, and takes gorgeous photographs to boot. Everything is accessible and appealing.

Melissa stopped by the agency to take some digitals today for a client, and we got to chatting about her Tortellini Soup recipe. I mentioned that I really wanted to make it, but needed to buy spinach, and she suggested kale instead. Well, that I already had in the fridge, so Tortellini Soup it was for dinner tonight. I added in some cooked chopped up sweet potato instead of the mushrooms, because I'm the only one in the house who likes mushrooms, and squeezed in two Meyer lemons because, well, I need to use them up.

And, delish.

As a bonus, the house smells like I've been cooking all day.

Thanks, Melissa.


1.16.2013

Just In Case You Didn't Listen to Oprah... | Wild, by Cheryl Strayed

"It was my life--like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me.

How wild it was, to let it be."

--Cheryl Strayed, Wild


I know I am late to the party on this one. Oprah is already on to her next book, and probably everyone has read this already. But if, like me, you haven't somehow, do. I think I held off because I figured it couldn't possibly live up to the hype, that I'd be disappointed. But it does, and I'm not.

Give yourself a gift. Curl up with some tea, in front of a fireplace, and read a spell. Relish it. You'll be so glad you did.



1.15.2013

Missing Summer

January 15th. The days are getting a bit longer, the sun has been lovely. But, oh, it's cold. I am so tired of winter. Every year, January and February are tough. Everything feels more difficult, evenings I just want to sit by the fire and read mindless stuff, and I'm hungry all the time. And grumpy. Did I mention grumpy?

Just missing summer. I am not a cold weather kind of girl...give me the sunshine on my face, please. Or better yet, the shade under our gazebo, or on the front porch, with my iced tea beside me. A book, roses, the birds at the feeder. My own private heaven.

How much longer?

I'm not sure if I can stand the wait.

NowThisLife.com - Summer


1.14.2013

Got Lemons? Make Soup.

NowThisLife.com - Meyer Lemons

An abundance of lemons. Madly searching for ways to use them up and tonight I came up with this. I always order Avgolemono soup at Greek restaurants but haven't ever tried making it myself. It turned out wonderfully, lemony and bright, full of chicken and rice and carrots. My photo of it, though, not so beautiful. So you'll have to use your imagination. One lemon down, forty six to go...


Greek Lemon Chicken Soup

serves 4 (easily doubled!)

Ingredients

4 cups chicken broth
Juice from 1 Meyer Lemon
1/4 cup chopped carrots
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/8 cup butter, melted
1/8 cup flour
2 cups cooked white rice
1 cup diced cooked chicken breast
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

Directions

In a stock pot, combine chicken broth, lemon juice, carrots, onion and several grinds of 
pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer 20 minutes.

Blend the flour and the butter together, cook briefly in a frying pan, and then add, slowly to the soup. Stir with a wire whisk until incorporated. Simmer for 10 more minutes, stirring frequently.

Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks until they are a light yellow color. Gradually add some of the hot soup broth to the eggs, whisking constantly. Return the egg mixture to the soup pot and heat through. Add the rice and chicken, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve in soup bowls with Italian parsley sprinkled on top.

(Great with Pita Bread and Trader Joe's Reduced Guilt Spinach and Kale Greek Yogurt Dip.)

1.13.2013

Tonight's YouTube Gratitude List

Challenging evening.

Exhausted daughter from her sleepover last night, who may or may not be getting sick, but for sure is not her happiest self. Dog with ears full of nasty gack, which I had the pleasure of cleaning out with about twenty q-tips. House not prepped for Monday. And I'd really rather be reading Entertainment Weekly (and eating peppermint Jo Jos with a big glass of milk) than writing.

But, when these moments strike, the best cure I have is a gratitude list. And sometimes that list just has to include YouTube videos.

Today...

Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell on the Golden Globes.

A fresh pedicure. That's always a good thing--not so much the pedicure itself, which I pretty much hate as I'm super ticklish, but the week or so after when you get to look at your toes and smile cuz they look so cared for and shiny.

Sunshine. Ah, yes, I am always grateful for that.

Kayla, pre ear-issue, curled up in the middle of Chloe's Barbie-house-on-the-blanket, with her head nestled right between my yellow plastic Barbie lounge chair, circa 1972, and Chloe's mod pink coffee table. She reminds me of Godzilla come to stomp out Tokyo.



And then, this video. Because dogs will always make me happy. (And if you would like a bit of a darker laugh, watch this cat video right after.)

I feel a bit better already. No cookies necessary.

1.12.2013

Saturdays

I love Saturdays. Especially Saturdays with an unexpected date night thrown in. Not to mention a lemon harvest. And camellias.

NowThisLife.com - Boulevard Bistro Elk Grove

NowThisLife.com - lemon harvest

NowThisLife.com - camellia blossom

Happy weekend.

1.11.2013

Book Trances and Written Treasures | The End of Your Life Book Club


Ah, books. My great friends. What better moment is there than opening the cover to that very first page, that opening sentence? All possibility lies ahead. A world beckons. Bliss.

Tonight, The End of Your Life Book Club. About half way through, I had to physically stop myself from continuing lest I drown. That happens to me often, that all encompassing trance. Only my complaining lower back pulls me out.

Today, also, Notes from a Dragon Mom, by Emily Rapp. So heartbreaking, and so beautiful. The lovely Alice Anderson, luminous writer herself, shared this New York Times essay on Facebook, following another post last night spreading love and light for the author and her son, Ronan. May the soon to be released The Still Point of the Turning World spread Ronan's spirit wide and far. I so look forward to reading their story.

I truly cannot imagine my life without books, without writers, without their written worlds. They are my never ending treasures.


1.10.2013

A Village of Women

Tonight my mom had a little dessert get together...angel food cake, berries, real whipped cream. Wine, coffee, the fireplace, a cat to pet. Two girls laughing and screeching. Six women sharing stories of lives lived, children raised, grandbabies birthed. A village.

At 9:00 Chloe and I climbed in our car, bedtime on a school night beckoning. She was very sad to leave the warm circle by the fire, and the stories. Buckling in, with all the drama her ten year old self could muster, she asked, "Do you know how hard it is to be an extrovert in our house of introverts?" Big sigh.

Here's to friends, and family, and stories.

1.09.2013

School Choice, From the Trenches


This is one of my favorite quotes. One I return to over and over when I start beating myself up about not being a good enough mother. I do find motherhood challenging. (Lots of other wonderful things too, but challenging is always in the first sentence!) One of the things I've found the most arduous, in a way I never even thought of while worrying about all the things I might not be good at as a mom, is school.

School, with all of its strong memories and baggage from my own childhood, is fraught. Fraught with relationships with teachers and other children, with different learning styles, with the fact that children spend such an incredible amount of time there.

Which school is the best one? This is one of those problems I am blessed to have, as I realize completely that the majority of parents have no options in this realm, and have to go with whatever their neighborhood school is, good or not. But, given that I do have a choice, I feel a ton of pressure to make the best choice that I can.

When Chloe was ready to start preschool, beyond the mommy-and-me (or in her case, Grandma and me!) classes, I made the rounds of the local options. Frankly, I was a bit horrified. Loud, messy, overwhelming, and chaotic were the words that flooded my brain. I found nowhere I could imagine leaving my three year old. Then, thanks to serendipity, I found Montessori Country Academy in Elk Grove. 

My mom had met a little girl and her dad at Borders one day, and we subsequently became friends with their family. That super extroverted dad ran into the owners of MCA at a coffee shop, learned a ton, and then told us about it. I didn't know anything about Montessori at that point, but was willing to take a look.

It was love at first tour. Children quietly doing "jobs" with all kinds of beautiful materials, sitting on rugs on the floor, in light filled classrooms. I was in heaven and signed Chloe up immediately. She stayed at that school through kindergarden and did wonderfully.

When it was time for first grade, we had always planned on switching to public school. Which we did. For three weeks. Chloe complained of being bored and I just told her that things needed to settle in. Luckily, my mom, who volunteered once a week in class, suggested that I should go and observe as she thought Chloe might not be in the right place. Within the first fifteen minutes of sitting in that classroom, folding construction paper for some project the teacher assigned me, I knew that we needed a change. Now.

The engaged, interested child I knew was gone, replaced by a zoned out girl with a zombie face. It made me sick to my stomach. Some of the children seemed just fine, the ones that were exactly on grade level. Others, like Chloe, who already knew the lessons, were completely bored, and the ones who couldn't follow were squirming miserably. Coupled with the fact that the teacher kept telling them all not to fidget and to keep their eyes on her at all times (or they'd get their names on the bad-kid list), it wasn't the best environment for teaching six year olds. And this school is considered a great Elk Grove school, with a highly regarded teacher. The whole thing just made me ill. I know that plenty of children do thrive in traditional schools, but Chloe just wasn't one of them. 

I started looking around for alternatives and ended up at Bergamo Montessori. Somewhere I hadn't considered because of the drive and the uniforms (I'm not a fan) suddenly seemed like a possibility. And as soon as I walked in for my school tour with Sylvia, I immediately exhaled. It felt like coming home. Here, once again, were children engaged in their learning. Working on long butcher paper timelines of the history of the earth at a table. Sitting on the floor doing projects with those beautiful wooden materials that fill Montessori classrooms. Talking quietly, moving around, working independently. It is child led and child centered learning, the complete opposite of teaching everyone the same thing, or teaching to the test. Such a difference. 

Bergamo has been wonderful, and Chloe is now in the fifth grade. And, once again, I'm looking at a choice of where she should go to school.

This time it's whether to keep her at Bergamo for sixth grade and junior high, or to have her move to a performing arts based, though still traditional, school. To keep her in the school I know, in the Montessori method I so believe in, or to have her spread her wings and try a larger, more expansive environment with more opportunities to focus on the arts that she so gravitates toward?

There are applications to fill out, a school tour day to delve into, and auditions to attend. There are the not-so-great odds to overcome just to get into the school. There are pros and cons to weigh...drive time, homework, traditional vs Montessori. And then, finally, there is the decision. Which way to go?

And all I can do is trust that my girl, and my gut, will lead the way. That I will breathe easily or not. And that whatever way we decide, Chloe will end up exactly where she needs to be. Because I do believe that things happen the way they are supposed to, if only I listen.


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