Thursday, December 31, 2009

Time - Tom Waits

Tom Waits is an acquired taste. Luckily, I acquired the taste some time ago, and while I don't play him often, I do play him when I need to feel: to release, dance a goofy dance or cry a river. Kari said this morning that she just discovered him, so I put all my Waits on play, made pancakes, padded around in my pj's while the boys tinkered downstairs. This song came on, and I began to leak from my eyes. Here's to Time - the good and the bad. Love to all.

2010 - Welcome. Bring it.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Solemn Vow...

JH spends so much time avoiding chores, it's becoming an art form. So I took this video of him promising to clean his room first thing tomorrow morning. He made me vow not to put it on Facebook or Twitter.

But he said nothing about my blog.

So here it is:

I'll let you know how it turns out.

Kitties keep us safe from falling snow

Download now or watch on posterous
IMG_0470.MOV (4761 KB)

Sent from my iPhone

Posted via email from Anne's posterous

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Looking Forward...

2009 saw so many blessings, and I count them all in my heart, I surely do. But it also brought so much loss. Death, divorce, anger, sorrow... they all payed a visit, as they do every year. As I try to keep in perspective that these things are part of life, and we shall all feel sadness sometime, I can't help but hum along with this song.

My New Year's prayer for all of us.

Be kind, 2010

I have a little project

When we lived in Seattle, we loved these commercials with Edgar Martinez. And this morning, as I set out to make my little tv riser and my little desk riser that I got in the ikea used bin, I'll be thinking of Edgar.

I eventually want to make our attic space liveable. So I'm going to start small.

Monday, December 28, 2009


Woke up this morning feeling less shaky about the past days events. My son is in a better mood today too. I let him have unlimited time on the Wii yesterday, just as sort of an experiment. Yeah, it turned out like you'd think. A horrible temper tantrum, and an early bedtime.

He woke up very snuggly this morning, and today there are rules to butt up against, so I think he feels better. Also, he gets to have a friend over today (one that I totally approve of and adore), so I think that sunshine out there is trying to tell me something.

As I said in my post yesterday: feelings are not facts. They come and go. Today is a new day, and I'm keeping this person in my thoughts, feeling less judgmental and more gentle. Hoping she finds the kind of love and support she needs in her real life.

Because as messy and fighty and boring as it can be, nothing beats real life.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Social Media and The Kindness of Strangers

I started blogging to have a creative outlet. I was new to the town I lived in, I missed my friends. I was a mom who used to have a career as an actor, and my audience, while appreciative, was much smaller. I wanted to stretch my creative muscles as a writer. I wanted to reach out and see who else might think the same crazy thoughts as me.

The first person to comment on my blog was my dear pal suttonhoo, she of the gorgeous photos and amazing stories. She had inspired me to try blogging by sending me a link to hers so that I could keep up with her life in Chicago. The second person to comment was someone I didn't know, but she left me such a lovely comment, and I felt so giddy knowing that someone out there had found me and liked what I had to say, and felt, as I did, that this parenting trip was just the most amazing thing on earth.

Over the next three years, I was fortunate enough to develop more of an actual real-life friendship with Amy, and her Dallas Posse, and last spring, my hubby surprised me with a weekend trip to Dallas. Just me. Gulp. I'd meet these people in person, and what if, what if, what if? It turns out these people were the real deal, they were true friends to each other, and the Fabulous Franklin family opened their home and their hearts to me over the weekend. I felt completely at ease and at home and I carry them in my heart every day now.

Once, reading a comment on one of Amy's blog posts, I laughed at something someone said, and asked Amy about the commenter. She said that this person was someone I should know and I should follow her on Twitter. I swore I wouldn't ever join Twitter. And you know how that turned out. Now I'm just a social media addict like that. It's easier than blogging, and since life has gotten more hectic since I started out here: an emotionally demanding job, managing my little family, etc., Twitter has become my default. And Facebook. But mostly for people I know in real life and Bejeweled. Who am I kidding. So, anyway, I began to follow her, and I don't know about you, but I only read about half the stuff on twitter. It sometimes makes me feel like I'm reading People Magazine: like I should get up off my ass and get a life. But I can't stop. I'll go for weeks without posting, or even looking at it. But every once in a while, I'll pop on and say "hi", or leave a link to something interesting, or leave a bit of Joe-Henry wisdom.

Yesterday, I popped on to check on how everyone's holiday's had gone, and report that I had gotten back safely from Costco without having a nervous breakdown, when I read an alarming tweet from Amy's friend. She had taken a bunch of pills with alcohol. She was asking people to find good homes for her cats. My hands went cold and slick with sweat. What? WTF? Goddamn it. I still had to unpack my groceries from Costco. DAMN it. I don't know her. Is she joking? I sent Amy a direct message. No answer. I call Amy, she just read my dm, and she's worried too. She's actually never met this person, but has a cell number and a po box. She lives in New York. I call 911, they link me to Utica, they send me to another county, I tell them, uh, I was on Twitter today and uh, I don't know this person, and she posted some alarming things. I'm feeling like and idiot - it's not like I'm standing on a bridge next to someone ready to jump. The dispatcher I talk to actually takes me seriously, despite the fact that I was using the words "Twitter" and "tweet", and takes all the info I give her. She says they'll try to find her and will get back to me. I apologize and tell her I don't know if it's a hoax, but I'd rather be wrong than feel so hugely responsible for the rest of my life if I'm right. Amy and I call back and forth, she's trying to contact her, trying to reach others she knows who know this person. They are all concerned too. About fifteen minutes go by when the Dispatcher calls me back to tell me that they have located this person and are sending medical to check her out. I think they must have heard from others as well, and luckily they found her in time. She was in the hospital at last report, and was alert. She must have a hell of a headache. I hope she'll be okay. I hope she'll find help for her hurting soul.

And while I'm glad that I followed through with my instinct, I'm also feeling like it was just too much. Too much responsibility, too much drama. I don't want to be a part of it. What if this person hates me for making that call? Many of the people who know her better are sending her love and hugs, and I am too. But I'm also angry. My opinion of suicide is that it's selfish, dramatic and mean. I know that people sometimes just can't bear the pain. I get that. I do. I have a family member that valiantly struggles with deep depression every day, and he's my hero. And he would never, ever be selfish enough to leave us that way. What a horrible legacy to leave to those who care about you. Even if you're mad at each other. Even if you hate your life. But you know what? Change is possible, but only when you're alive.

Love to all. Hug your family. Even if you're mad at them. Especially if you're mad at them. Feelings are not facts. They come and go, and tomorrow will be a new day. Take care, and love the ones in front of you.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A New Tradition

The other morning, we were rushing like crazy to get out the door to school & work. I was getting crabby, wondering why it's the same EVERY morning. Why it's the same EVERY holiday season? WHY do I feel so much STRESS???!!!! WHY?!!!

Then Joe-Henry started to sing this very silly version of Jingle Bells. I started to sing along. And suddenly the here and now came into focus. I was driving. He was in the backseat. The car was filled with noise and laughter.

And all was right with the world.

Thought I'd share our really silly version of Jingle Bells with you. If you're feeling a little grumpy, sing along. You'll be in the Holiday Spirit in no time!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Joy, Wonder, Delight.

I was getting nervous for the Holiday Season this year, because I thought it might be the year that JH figures it out. I mean, we've already had our first conversation about sex (he asked, and I kept it brief and honest and then he asked if Daddy and I do that and if it's when he's asleep and I said "mind your own beeswax". ). So I figured that this year for sure he'd be asking about Santa.

I was right. And I didn't lie about it, I just said "well, what do you think?" He hemmed and hawed and went on about why do some of his presents have bar codes, etc. But tonight, we looked at this magical book together. Santa brought it to him last year, and he was so overwhelmed with everything else that it got overlooked. But tonight, oh my. We spent a good twenty minutes on the first two pages alone. He was telling me that Santa has a room of his own where he can go and have his own private feelings, even cry if he needs to. (Can you imagine Santa crying?!) I asked why he thought Santa might need to cry, and he said "well, if someone has to get put on the naughty list. He's a person like anyone else. Even though he never dies. But he still can get sad sometimes." Then he went on to tell me that Mrs. Claus was the best person on earth, even more than Santa because she has to make sure he's okay and she's really nice. "She'd have to be. Santa wouldn't have married a mean woman!"

He wants to go see Santa now. And I don't think he wants to ask for toys as much as check in and make sure Santa's okay and ask him questions about how the mail gets to the North Pole, and find out what makes him tick.

I love him so much. His innocence and wonder amaze me. And he makes me feel like an elf.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I'm Thankful for Moments Like These

Joe-Henry: WHY can't I have a tv in my room?
Me: Because I want you to grow up smart. So you could be president, or an astronaut...
Joe-Henry: I just wanna grow up to be a guy who plays video games. (pause) And drives a bus.
Me: aim a little higher, please
Joe-Henry: Don't worry mom. I won't be a hillbilly in a tank top.

Who needs Hallmark, when I've got this kid?

Feeling thankful for conversation and communication. I think I'll make a turkey to celebrate!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

not enough to go around

I love my job. I do. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing a child "get it". Or make unbelievable eye contact. Or manage to contain their behavior to do just one more thing.

And I know I'm going out on a limb here when I write about my job in a public forum. I don't write about it often. But I'm finding myself keeping a lid on things so much that sometimes I feel like this:

And I have a feeling that this is what the kids I work with feel like a good deal of the time. I know it's what they've been feeling lately, because it feels like we spend a good part of our day just putting out fires.

There is a simple reason for this: we do not have enough people to deal with the students in our room. Most of our kids qualify for a one on one staff. But very few have them. Budget cuts, don't you know.

Add to this the absentee rate in the room, and dealing with one new sub after another, and it's gotten to the point where a good day is just a day that isn't horrible. Or a day where someone doesn't get hurt.

Don't get me wrong: the staff we have? ROCKSTARS. But there just aren't enough of us. There just aren't.

And most of today I felt completely on edge and helpless. Like when I saw one (LARGE) student at one end of the playground and another (LARGE) student at the other, both doing something they shouldn't and I'm supposed to be dealing with both of them at the same time. My fear, my deep gut fear is that someone is going to get hurt. Someone that just might be in the way, or a student, or a staff member, or a volunteer. And then it's going to go sideways and I'm going to lose my job, or worse have to live with the fact that I was responsible for the rest of my life.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I Am A Mom

There is an iconic picture of me that Charley took the night we went to the hospital to give birth to Joe-Henry. It's taken by him, and in the picture I'm in the bathroom, drying my hair, and getting ready to become a mom. We both looked high and low for it today, and couldn't find it anywhere. But in the midst of trying to find it, we found all kinds of old photos and were washed with a whole parenting lifetime of memories, as well as dim reminders of lives we had before Joe-Henry. I know. Unfathomable.

Why, you might ask, were we so determined to find this one particular photo? Because we took a very similar photo today.

I'm not pregnant, but it's a side view, in the bathroom, and I've got my hands in my hair. But for very different reasons. This time, there is no mistaking: I am DEFINITELY a mom.

For those of you perhaps unfamiliar with Star Wars toys, this is the Republic Gunship that flies by remote control. That we got him. For his birthday. That landed in my hair and had to be cut out.

The end.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Secret Agent Birthday Party

Joe-Henry turns NINE tomorrow, and because we just had a huge trip, we decided to keep his birthday costs down by doing it at home. I was nervous about it because last year we went to the super cool bowling alley arcade, and he kept saying initially he thought it might be - what was the word he used? Oh yes - STUPID. But I planned and plotted and schemed and it turned out to be a truly memorable, hugely fun, and most important - COOL party. I had to come up with something that both boys and girls would like, and we had kids ranging in age from 4 to 6th grade, so I wanted everyone to feel good about being here.

We decided on a "Secret Agent" Theme. The invitations went out inviting friends to help with a secret mission. And instead of giving out goody bags at the end, we gave them at the beginning of the party because they had things they might need to complete the mission - black sunglasses, little magnifying glasses, notebooks and pencils, compasses and whistles and tiny flashlights. I just used plain brown lunch bags and found these cool little clipboard notes at The Dollar Tree. All the goody bag stuff I got at either Oriental Trading Company, Dollar Tree or Office Max.

The kids were given a password (NINE), and then taken into Joe-Henry's room where they could choose a disguise if they wanted one. They all loved dressing up in all kinds of stuff - a witches hat, a football shirt, an apron, etc. I had downloaded a bunch of "spy" music: Theme from James Bond, Get Smart, Mission Impossible, etc. which played throughout the party. Then I took them all into the living room, where they were told they were on a mission to help with a birthday mystery. We would be doing several "training exercises" before we could look for clues. The first exercise was to help their powers of deduction. They were all given a secret identity taped to their backs and had to figure out who they were by asking a partner questions.

Then we did a memory boosting training exercise. They took out their notebooks and pens, and looked at fifteen items on a tray for 30 seconds. They then had to write down as many as they could remember in two minutes or less.

The next exercise was "pin the sunglasses on the secret agent". I had drawn an outline of Joe-Henry on a big piece of paper and cut out black paper sunglasses. They all had to put on a blindfold and who ever got closest won. Later on they could write messages to Joe-Henry on the outline.

Then we went to the backyard to do a disguise relay. The kids were divided into two teams and each team was given a backpack with a disguise (a big t-shirt, a hat, gloves, glasses, and a lei), a nerf gun and darts. Each person had to put on the disguise, run to the line and shoot a dart at the targets, run back, repack the bag for the next person, who would do the same thing, the first team done wins.

Then my FABULOUS niece Heather, who had been helping the WHOLE TIME (and truly, the list for all the things I owe her for is so long I don't know how I'll ever pay her back) donned her black trench coat and sunglasses and delivered a secret message for Agent McQuary. It was the first clue in a scavenger hunt to find all the goodies for a birthday party. The last clue was next door at the neighbors, and it was my brother's cellphone number. They had to call and tell Bugsy to "deliver the package". He had parked across the street with two dozen Krispy Kreme donuts. We have the best family EVER.

After they were all jacked up on donuts, we played one last game called "Diffuse the bomb". Two people with one badminton racket each had to take a black balloon to the next two people who had to carry the balloon between them without using their hands or arms to the last person who was in charge of the diffusing box (a box with toothpicks sticking up inside it). When they closed the box the balloon popped. We went through lots of balloons and they got lots of that sugar out of their systems on that game!

They then had just under a half hour to just play, and it was so much fun to hear them laughing and screaming. It was even more fun to hear how quiet the house got when all the parents showed up to take them home! But it was such a blast and for some of the kids I think it was the first time they went to a party without their parents. Judging by the smiles and how disappointed they were when their parents came, I think it was a success.

After it was all over, we let JH open a present from his Aunt, because we knew it was a video game he desperately wanted. And then Charley and I took a big, drooooooly nap.

Happy Birthday, Joe-Henry. You're my favorite secret agent ever.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Rickie Lee Jones - Stewart's Coat

I walked down the aisle to this song in April, 1994. Charley just found the cd and went on a Rickie Lee binge, brought it into the living room, where we danced with each other and Joe-Henry joined in. Such a rainy day, and our house filled with so much love.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Your First Wife

I dreamt that I read your obituary
while sitting in my father's recliner
in the house I grew up in.

You were celebrated in bold face type,
you would be missed.
And they spoke of your first wife,
from whom you had been separated
"it was amicable" they said.

You had been living the life you were "supposed to live"
when you passed,
(but they gave our marriage the first long paragraph)
They quoted a statement you had made
regarding our marriage:
"It was good to be known"

I put down the paper and wept
having only just learned you were gone,
and that we were no longer married.
I buttoned my grey wool coat to the top
opened the rickety screen door of my father's house
to go sit under the Hawthorn tree

"It was good to be known"

Like a cup to catch my tears
it was oddly useful and practical
but not enough to hold my sorrow

Then your voice cut through the dream
like groggy thunder
muttering at the cat
"Bosco, stop"
I squirted him with the bottle
to keep him from scratching at the raindrops
sliding down the windowpane
and touched your sleeping shoulder.

It is good to be known.

Friday, October 23, 2009

from one day to the next, or a few questions

do you suppose
that the falling leaves
fight the inevitable
as much as we do?

and should I feel
ashamed of how much
I appreciate their beauty
as they flutter to their end?

I wonder if anyone
will appreciate
"her delicate grace"
when I meet my demise?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Full Circle

Last night I was "helping" Joe-Henry with his piano lessons. I put it in quotation marks because it's only my perspective. From his perspective, it's more like torture. I make him go back and try things again when he doesn't get the timing right. My note reading abilities are rusty (lucky for him), but DAMN I'm good with a beat.

We were about ten minutes in when we got to the part where he had to write a four measure song, so I was going to help him by getting the notes down in the book. I asked him a question about what the first note was, and this is what he did:

He turned very slowly to look at me, sighed, and said in a very patronizing tone"Mom that's not it, why don't you just let me do my work?"

Then he sadly shook his head. AND ROLLED HIS EYES.

Being the grown up that I am, I took it well. I raised my voice a couple octaves and curtly squeaked out "fine. I have lots of other things I can be doing. you can just finish this by yourself." Then I quickly walked off IN A HUFF and got the laundry.

He came to find me slamming wet clothes in the dryer and apologized for hurting my feelings, and I hugged him tight and said it was okay.

But somewhere my parents are nodding and smiling at the sweet feeling of payback.

I wonder if revenge is allowed in heaven?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

How To Throw Your Back Out: An Instructional Manual

So you heard (and saw) all about our trip - the highlights. There were many, many highlights. But you haven't yet heard the tale of How Charley Strained His Back and Started Mooing Like An Angry Angry Cow. There is also a lot of grunting and hissing.

It started in Edinburgh, our first day. We'd had a lovely time in Glasgow, spending an extra day there because it was so much fun. But Charley had been helping Joe-Henry with his backpack, because he's a great dad. He was carrying his own backpack, and taking the weight off of JH's so we could hike the several blocks to our hotel in Glasgow. Oh, and of course there's attempting to sleep on an airplane in seats with no leg room. Anyway, in the middle of the night our first night in Edinburgh, Charley had a back spasm. He didn't sleep well, but we didn't know it (how I'm not sure - we were all three sleeping in the same bed due to a lack of rooms at our hotel). He managed to get some ibuprofen in him, and we took a long tour (12 hours) of the Central Highlands that day and he did okay. It seemed to be getting better.

But then we had to travel home. And here is where it got nasty. Our flight out of London was an hour late, and we had an hour and a half layover in Philly. So basically we had an eight hour flight, where limited leg room was even more limited by the people in front of us who put their seats back the entire way for the whole flight. I hated them by the end of the flight. I would rattle their seats a lot when I had to get up to go to the bathroom.

We landed in Philly, and we were the last people off the plane. We were met at the end of a long hallway by people at a table who were yelling "if you have connecting flights in less than an hour COME HERE". So we did. They had hotel vouchers and meal vouchers and new boarding passes for a flight in the morning. "if you DON'T make your flight, you can use these. " But we were determined to make that flight. Never mind that we had to go through customs and security. Never mind that the security guy who was dealing with Charley was a very mean, tiny man of Foreign descent who wanted nothing more than to piss Charley off by making him go through every pocket of his utilikilt (of which there are many) and made JH go through THREE times and take his shoes off (getting shoes off and on my boy is not one of the easiest things on the planet) before we could pass through. Never mind that our gate was the equivalent of a mile away. Charley picked up his backpack AND Joe-Henry's and we all three sprinted (it must have been hysterical to see). Joe-Henry had one shoe on and was carrying the other, running his heart out. We got to the gate and the gate agent told us they had just. closed. the doors.

Sweaty. Pissed. Out of breath. I was taking over at this point because Charley didn't have any words at his disposal that didn't blow your hair back. I was doing my best polite but firm Lutheran Sunday School Teacher (Missouri Synod!!) to talk to the gate agent, and later the customer service gentleman who looked a bit afraid that Charley might come unglued and begin to rip some of those airport seats right out of the ground.

There was nothing to be done except catch our breath and go to the hotel and get Joe-Henry one of the coolest Philly's Jerseys we could find. But as we were walking past our gate, I noticed that it still had the Portland flight listed. It was at least 20 minutes past when we had tried to board - what was the hold up? The gate agent motioned us over and said they were still on the ground and having an issue with one of the bathrooms, we might be able to board after all!


So we did. We weren't seated together at first. Then we were. So we joined the very crowded passenger list and buckled up and waited for the plane to take off.

And then we waited a few more minutes.

The captain then came over the intercom and told us that we would all have to get off the plane because the problem with the bathroom couldn't be fixed and they were going to try to get us a new plane. At that point we gave up. We made sure we could board the plane the next morning and went over to the Hilton where they generously put us up and fed us and were nice to us, and we talked baseball with the waitstaff and then slept for 5 hours like the dead.

We came home and were catching up on sleep, we all went back to work and school and then in the middle of the night a few nights ago, Charley woke up with back spasms again. He's been to the chiropractor and the doctor, and has about a three hour window with the drugs where he doesn't sound like a dinosaur giving birth. We're hoping he can truly recover this weekend. He's gone through most of his sick time. He's worried about missing work. Joe-Henry cries every time he sees his Daddy in so much pain.

But still, even with all of that, we are still basking in the glow of the trip (although he basks better on drugs). And it was so, so worth it.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Highland Fling

My man had a birthday. And he took us to Scotland to celebrate.

The stories, oh, the stories.

The massacre of Glencoe. The battle of Killiecrankie. The true meaning of The Bonnie banks of Loch Lomond that our tour guide Dan told us with his beautiful lilting brogue...

The people are the warmest, friendliest, truest people. And when they talk, you feel instantly as though you are hearing the language sung rather than spoken. I felt at home at once. And I even liked Haggis.

Here is a big, fat, juicy slideshow of our trip. I'm not kidding - it takes a while to watch, so if you have the time, lovely, if not be warned.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hope For The Best, Prepare For The Worst....

.....or pack for a trip abroad with an eight year old. We are heading out on a trip to Scotland to celebrate my fantastic, sexy, amazing husband's "significant" birthday, and I spent the whole day packing. And while I was packing, Joe-Henry seemed to sound more miserable, more stuffed up, and then, oh no, he actually took a nap.

Which is shorthand for "he's sick".

So - hubby stays home from work with him tomorrow to take him to the doctor - his throat is so swollen and bright red, and he's running a slight fever, and feels "heavy". The hope is that he gets it out of his system before we go.

In the meantime, I have packed all the "remedies". I've followed my list to the letter, and I'm drinking Emergen-C until it's coming out my ears.

"No cold approach, no altered mien,
Just what would make suspicion start;
No pause the dire extremes between,
He made me blest-and broke my heart.?

Robert Burns

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

An Enigma Wrapped In A Riddle

Joe-Henry has been asking us to download music he hears onto his iPhone (my old phone minus the phone part, lest you think we're spoiling him rotten.) We have a deal with him: for every song he downloads, he must play 30 minutes of music on piano, drums, guitar.... so yeah, we're bribing him, basically.

So far the music he's chosen has been stuff he's heard on Madden 09 (heading banging rock, with some rap thrown in for good measure). We listen to it first to make sure there are no bad words, which is really his rule as much as ours. But the other day, he asked for two songs. I loved how different they were, and I loved that I discovered some new music through my boy. I'd heard of Joe Satriani before, but hadn't ever listened to his music. This was his choice, which I dub to be "awesome" (and he rolls his eyes at me every time I say it):

The other song he wanted was this:

Oh, and a ps: remember his "girlfriend"? Last night at dinner, after really hearing nothing about her for a long time, he said "Oh, and Jordan broke up with me at recess today. She said if I didn't play with her for at least 10 minutes every recess, 'we were through'*. It's okay though, because I always had to be the "daddy". Ugh. Girls play weird."

*he actually used air quotes here.

I love that I never know what's coming next.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Beautiful Protest

I miss the 60's. There was so much to protest, and people sang about it.

Thanks so much, Mary. Your passion and voice made the ugly truth go down so much easier.

Monday, September 14, 2009

It Explains So Much

From the New York Times article "Thousands Rally in Capital to Protest Big Government":
"The atmosphere was rowdy at times, with signs and images casting Mr. Obama in a demeaning light. One sign called him the “parasite in chief.” Others likened him to Hitler. Several people held up preprinted signs saying, “Bury Obama Care with Kennedy,” a reference to the Massachusetts senator whose body passed by the Capitol two weeks earlier to be memorialized."

From President Obama's speech:
"Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma. And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education. We have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation. And half of the students who begin college never finish."

There is much work to be done.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

An Open Letter To My President

Dear Mr. President,
I am writing you today because I read something that made me fear for the soul of our country. I'm writing because I felt that if I didn't, my silence would be one more nail in the coffin of this amazing country of ours.

You inherited a country situated squarely in the crosshairs of disaster from so many sources: the economy, war, health care. You were elected for your ability to speak sensibly. So many of us were thrilled just to hear a president speak in full sentences again, but the fact that you seemed to have common sense, and better yet, common DECENCY made many, myself included, feel hope stirring in our dormant souls. You made us believe that we could once again be great, that we would be heard. You made us feel that even dissenters would be listened to.

Mr. President, there are those who would put fear into our hearts about healthcare reform. But when I read this on the front page of the New York Times today, my blood went cold. If this isn't call for reform, then we have lost all hope. Here is a portion of the article, because I know you're a very busy man:

The bankers plan to buy “life settlements,” life insurance policies that ill and elderly people sell for cash — $400,000 for a $1 million policy, say, depending on the life expectancy of the insured person. Then they plan to “securitize” these policies, in Wall Street jargon, by packaging hundreds or thousands together into bonds. They will then resell those bonds to investors, like big pension funds, who will receive the payouts when people with the insurance die.

The earlier the policyholder dies, the bigger the return — though if people live longer than expected, investors could get poor returns or even lose money.

Either way, Wall Street would profit by pocketing sizable fees for creating the bonds, reselling them and subsequently trading them. But some who have studied life settlements warn that insurers might have to raise premiums in the short term if they end up having to pay out more death claims than they had anticipated.

If this doesn't call for health care reform, or doesn't at least call into question both the banking and insurance industries, then what? This ghoulish idea reminds me of the old B movie "Soylent Green". Billions would be made from the deaths of our fellow citizens. To simplify even further: Death = Profit.

We didn't elect you for politics as usual. We elected you because we believed that you would do the right thing, not just the thing that would get you elected next time. Please, Mr. President. Shake us up, bitch slap us out of our zombie-like state and LEAD us.

Please. Please.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

You CAN Go Home Again

I spent so much of my growing up time tapping my foot, waiting to blow the small town dust off my britches, and then spent the NEXT twenty years looking over my shoulder heaving a sigh of relief that I HAD escaped. Last weekend, I roadtripped with my sister and Joe-Henry back to the old stompin' grounds to hang with my brother, his daughter and her sweet family, and to catch up on the lives of friends, some of whom I hadn't seen in at least 30 years. And I realized how much I had missed it - this town where I grew up. It seems more beautiful to me each time I visit.

We packed baseball gloves and ice cold pops and I took my camera. I burned some cd's for the road, and both coming and going we sang and soaked in the gorgeous scenery. The Columbia Gorge is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and just outside the Dalles, we saw a herd of Big Horn sheep grazing the narrow rock wall above us. There was no stopping to take pictures, the road was too narrow, but suffice to say that we were all in awe. I did manage to get some pics once we hit the Palouse, but mostly the camera was used to take shots of sweet Isaac, my nieces two year old boy.

Joe-Henry fell in love with Isaac, and although they'd met before, Isaac is more mobile and talkative now, and Joe-Henry really relished being like an older brother. It's a role he'd be very, very good at, and I loved seeing him have the opportunity to be a good role model. He also wore out all of our arms playing catch, and one evening he was just so close to driving me crazy that my brother suggested a drive. I took my camera, and we went up to a big ball field and while Joe-Henry and my brother and sister played and JH ran and ran and ran, I managed to get some shots of the most amazing sunset I've ever seen. The hills surrounding the valley I grew up in are so luscious and voluptuous. I never saw them that way before, but this time they just took my breath away.

We played a killer game of Monopoly, and now I'm convinced that my fairly quiet, sweet brother has a secret cave of money somewhere. He truly has a killer instinct at that game, and should he ever decide to do so, he'd be an EXCELLENT land baron! We also laughed so hard we all leaked from somewhere. Drooling, weeping, peeing - we did it all. My stomach hurt the next day from laughing so hard.

Our last night there, Joe-henry and my sister watched Isaac while my brother went to his Fantasy Football meeting and I went to have dinner with friends I hadn't seen in forever. These were the people that started me on the path to the Theater, people that even all these years later I feel completely comfortable with and truly love being around. We met doing Babes In Arms at Lewiston Civic Theater in 1977, and even though the years have taken us all in different directions, it took no time at all to feel as though no time had passed. It filled up my heart to the brim and over just to sit around the table and tell stories and laugh. My fondest hope is that it won't be another 30 years before I see them again!

Coming home that night, I was swinging on a star, and I guess Joe-Henry was a big help to my sister, because as you can see, Isaac pooped out before his mom came to get him!

We made the drive back the next day, taking our time stopping to stretch and take in the charms of the small farm towns along the way, marveling at the changes in the scenery, what with the wind turbines and the millions of wineries populating what used to be miles and miles of nothing.

But the best part of going away is always coming home, and my husband, who should win some sort of prize just for being a sexy kilt-wearing beast, surprised me by painting the dining room while we were gone. He had two whole days to himself, and he chose one of those days to do something he knew would make me smile. I love that man to the moon and back again.

And now the countdown to our next trip begins. Less than a month to go, then SCOTLAND! My traveling shoes are so happy.

O Captain, My Captain.

Yesterday, JH was trying his best to entertain himself while I attempted to file away months worth of crap on my desk. He decided to put on his nice jacket, shirt and tie (which he's nearly outgrown!) and his captains hat, and walk sentry in front of the house with his nerfgun. After he did this for a while, he went to his computer downstairs and just did some typing while he "took orders" from an imaginary leader.

I used a sepia treatment on this one because it was sort of blown out, exposure-wise, but I loved how serious he was. It looks like he's my great-great grandfather who was in the Russian Army.

Eight years old is really, really fun.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Road Trip!

Heading to my home town with Joe-Henry and my sister today. Charley can't make it because he has to work, but will get two glorious do-nothing quiet days in the house to play guitar and watch entire seasons of Battlestar Galactica.

I love taking the drive, and I love seeing my brother and his daughter and her sweet family.

I'll bring back lots of stories, and pictures I'm sure!

Until then: love your life, sing your song!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

things I love

things I love
Originally uploaded by anniemcq
my boy; his big finger; his thoughtfulness; his feet; his rub-on tattoos; the way he curls up into a little snuggly ball in the morning; the little octagonal window that casts an octagonal beam of light onto our beat to crap wooden floors. My heart is full. To bursting.

That popping sound you hear? Now you know what it is.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Summer 2009 - free association



Thursday, August 13, 2009

Heaven's New Guitar

This was in 2006 when he was 91. Thanks, Les. You changed the world of music, and we are richer for it.

You MUST Check Out This Blog

Last night at baseball practice, a mom friend mentioned this blog. It's by a local mom, one I see every day at the school I work at. I LOVE this blog. During these tough times, when stress seems to be a constant companion, it's a gift to see someone looking at the brightside. I'll be visiting daily:

See for yourself

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Taking It Literally

The title of my blog, that is. Man, I've been lazy about posting. Probably because I'm too addicted busy playing Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook. But it's been down since yesterday, so, hey, why not catch you up on the insanity fun here at our house.

Joe-Henry is growing like a weed. A sassy, lazy, back-talking, mood-swinging weed. With gas. I could set my clock by the tantrums he's having. Every day at 5. Whether he's had a day chock full of playdates and fun or he's bored out of his mind. I'm finally catching on that I need to give him a really good snack at 3:30. So his stomach isn't empty for the knock out drops.
He has trouble falling asleep at night, and it's the only time of the day he really wants to talk to me. "mom, wasn't that funny when...." Needless to say, I've been falling asleep on my feet. I miss the newborn days when he cried every hour on the hour, because then I could just pop him on the boob and he'd quiet down and go back to sleep.

Yesterday, I finally met his elusive "girlfriend". I call her elusive because we've been trying to set up playdates that she doesn't show up for. We managed to bring her over to our house yesterday, where she immediately wanted to take him into his room and shut the door. She's six. AND adorable. So, I told them they needed to keep the door open, and while they played in his room, I found it a convenient time to scrape all the caulk from the adjacent bathroom tub. A job I'd been meaning to do, and it's easy to listen in and make sure there's no funny business. But apparently I wasn't hawk-like enough, because JH informed me that there was a kiss, "but just on the cheek". He cannot lie to me, though, because as the words came out of his mouth, his eyes fell to his shoes and he melted into a puddle of goo. "OKAY. It was the lips, but really quick. Not a long kiss. I hardly felt it."

I was really hoping this wouldn't happen until his teenage years.

Anyway, I took a picture and would post it here if he hadn't been explicit in his instructions "OKAY. You can take our picture, but DON'T POST IT ON YOUR BLOG." I will leave you with this visual description: she's a full head shorter than him, she's beaming like a blushing bride, she has her arms around his waist, and he looks like he's about to burst from happiness. Oh, and he also looks about 30.

What else: Charley is continuing to plan like a demon for our Scotland trip in the fall. I have been looking up primary schools in Edindburgh in order to have a class project exchange for JH's third grade class. It should be the trip of a lifetime.

Swimming lessons go along with JH thrashing like he's mad at the water, baseball is a blast (the one shiny bright spot right now for all of us!), and the weather has blessedly cooled down. For about a week it felt like someone left the door to hell wide open. It was in the 90's at night, and we have no airconditioning. You aren't supposed to need it in the Pacific Northwest.

So,that's about all she wrote for now. If you're still reading, I imagine you're yawning from boredom, and I'm starting to twitch, so I'm gonna head over to Facebook and see if Bejeweled Blitz is up and running yet.

Nope. Still down.

Well, I guess I could always do laundry or dishes. MWAH to you all! I'm off to make more scintillating memories!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Dear Sweet Baby Jesus, It's Hot

Triple digits. No air conditioning. Visiting in-laws, who I worry are miserable and wilting in the heat. Trying to figure out how to rectify it.

But... but still there is magic. We went to a Mariners game yesterday in Seattle. It was hot, but our seats were amazing, and in the shade and breezy, and even though the Mariner's played horribly, Joe-Henry, they had a Mariner's jersey giveaway for the kids (sweet!), Joe-Henry got to have cotton candy, and the kids got to run the bases after the game, and we had a great time.

After that we headed to Charley's cousin Sam's house for a mini family reunion. It was amazing - their home is so beautiful and homey, and sitting in their backyard chatting was so relaxed. Some of them we hadn't seen in years, and some I'd never met. Stories told of childhood memories, while our children made memories of their own. Just an incredibly special time.

A bit of sight seeing in Seattle today before we came home to the hottest house on the planet. (Have I mentioned that it's hot here? )

Tomorrow is sort of a relaxed day - JH has swimming lessons, and then tomorrow night we're supposed to go to a Portland Beaver's game, where we have really good seats in the setting sun, where I'm sure we'll be slow roasted like spinning pigs on a spit, but then WEDNESDAY, we go to Astoria, OR, my favorite seaside town in the Northwest to cool off for the day. Wheeeeee.

Then my in-laws will head out on Thursday. At which point the heat spell is supposed to break. I'm sorry, Mom and Dad. If it's not too cold here when you come, it's too hot. I promise we don't arrange it that way on purpose.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Summer Memories

At bedtime the other night I was telling Joe-Henry about things I did during the summer when I was a kid. Every summer we'd go to my Aunt & Uncle's cabin at Hayden Lake, ID. It was a one room affair, with beds stashed in the corner, a sink for doing dishes, a pot bellied stove for warmth (an electric range for cooking), and an outhouse. No shower, no phone, a teeny black and white tv that got crappy reception, and every few days we'd drive to get drinking water from a freshwater spring. (The running water for dishes was pumped directly from the lake) At night, I'd fall asleep on the couch, listening to the adults playing poker and laughing at the crazy names they came up with for each new hand. During the day, we'd swim in the lake, get out on the dock and warm up, and get back in the water again. All day long. If it was too cool or too early to swim, I'd hike around the property (by myself!), or walk the dirt road to my other Aunt & Uncles' cabin half a mile away. At lunch time we'd come up and eat tuna sandwiches and Ruffles potato chips on the porch (there were two, which could both be used for accommodating extra sleepers) and listen to the radio. I remember this song playing a lot one summer, and every time it gets uncomfortably hot, I play this song and remember a time when the heat didn't make me crabby.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Small Town America

Growing up in a small town, there were things I couldn't wait to shake off when I left. The gossip for one. I hated the feeling that people just didn't have anything better to do than talk about everyone else. The conformity for another - the most important thing to be was just like everyone else. The older I got, though, I realized that those things happen in the city, too, just on a bigger scale.

So now I'm a grown-up, and by some circuitous route, I wound up back in a small town. I loved the big city, I miss the big city - the pace, the culture, the friends I made there. But I've fallen for the charms of this little burg we call home. I've got some wonderful family here, and friends that I love, and my son is enjoying the charms of a small town - riding his bike around town, playing baseball, and excelling at a public school where everyone knows his name (and not because he's in trouble!).

Yesterday was one of those perfect days. There was a baseball game, first of all.

He's been playing machine pitch baseball this summer and LOVES it. The first three games there are no outs, they don't keep score, and they keep pitching until the kids get a hit. The coaching staff is fantastic, and the emphasis is on learning, teamwork, and most of all, having FUN. It was the second game yesterday, and the thing I love most about watching these kids is that they are all heart. They cheer for each other from their toes, and it's magic to see the looks on their faces when they get a hit, or catch a ball. The field staff always acknowledge a job well done, a good effort and encourage them when they are struggling.

After the game, there was a nap on a big bed by a breezy window, and then we hopped into a car loaded with instruments and headed for Pop Culture, our little mainstreet soda shop hang out for an open mic.

Joe-Henry hasn't performed at an open mic by himself in almost three years. He's going through a serious perfectionist streak, and it's breaking my heart. But he decided he wanted to perform on his yamaha electric piano. He practiced some songs he composed, and he killed. He had his own cheering section - my brother and his girlfriend came, as did two of our good friends. A kid couldn't feel more supported. But it was the rest of the crowd, the ones he didn't know that really made him feel proud. It was a pretty eclectic group of musicians and they all cheered and high-fived him, and his smile couldn't have been bigger when he was done.

Charley performed two of his original songs, too. His songwriting and performing skills are so amazing, and I love hearing him in front of a crowd.

Afterward we stepped outside to see our little mainstreet packed with people watching beautiful vintage cars "cruising the gut".

It was a step back in time, and it made me remember and appreciate all the truly GREAT things about growing up in a small town.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hello, I Must Be Growing Now

Well, it finally feels like summer here. The temperature is heating up after a lovely, cool, breezy June & early July; swimming lessons & baseball practice have begun; the berries are ripe. And my son is either a) exhausted, b) sobbing, c) screaming, d) hungry, e) bored, f) growing like crazy so all of the above. He is also incredibly sweet and snuggly at times, like this morning. This morning at 3:00. Until 4:20.

Seriously, sometimes I think there must be something wrong with the way I'm parenting. Surely other parents don't have to deal with such an argumentative child when telling them to turn off the tvcomputerWii? Surely other children are eager to help around the house and takeouttherecyclingmaketheirbedpickuptheirtoyscleanoutthecatlitter? Surely these children would be thrilled to playa game or go to a movie and not just want to layhereandwatchtv? (Yes, I'm being facetious. I know other parents go through this.) I feel like if I look closely, I can see everything he's learned melting out through his ears.

But oh, when I step back! I can take in how HUGE he is. His legs are SO long. Which makes me laugh, because my husband and I are not known for our supermodel gams. He has our short-ish torso on top of these STILTS. He doesn't have any growing pains, but his KT leg is giving him more fits than usual, getting tired and heavy. I know that it drags him down at times, but I also know he will use it as an excuse if he doesn't want to do something. Going to the grocery store?! "Mom, my leg gets too tired! I can't!" But he can manage to stand in the outfield playing baseball for an hour and a half just fine.

It doesn't help that he has developed a crazy sweet tooth. Not that I let him have all the sugar he wants - I'm no fool. I know that pouring sugar down his throat when he is going through these growth spurts is the equivalent of pouring a tanker of gasoline on a campfire.

Yesterday, I think I saw the worst of it. It started in the usual way: time to get off the Wii. It's a lesson you'd think he'd have learned - he had to go 5 days without Wii, computer and tv because he was disrespectful and not listening when I told him to stop. He'd been on for over an hour, he was turning into a robot. When I gave him 5 minutes to finish his game and told him to come outside with me and read a book, he went sort of nuts. "MOM - there are BEES out there. WASPS!!! I'm NOT going out there". When he made it outside, he cried like crazy. When we came inside, he cried even more - screaming, yelling, SOBBING. I walked away to the dining room, where I tried to gather myself, stacking the mail, trying to breathe. Charley called, and when I tried to tell him what was going on, he said he'd let me go so I could deal with it. I misunderstood - I thought he was giving me the brushoff instead of actually letting me go so I could deal with it. It was my last straw. As I stood there stacking mail, and JH continued to yell at me from his chair in the living room, I said "I quit". As I turned to head downstairs for some peace and quiety, JH turned up the volume, and the sobbing started in earnest. "MOM!!! I LOVE YOU - YOU CAN'T QUIT! YOU'RE THE BEST MOM EVER!"

You know, that shitty parenting sundae just isn't complete until you top it off with a nice, juicy guilt cherry.

But lest you think I'm wallowing, don't worry. I think we're through the worst of it. We actually had a great afternoon after all the sturm and drang. I think maybe he just needed to let it out. He hasn't really cried like that in a long time. And I've noticed since our friend Annie's memorial service, he's been extra clingy, so I think, in addition to all the crazy growing he's doing, he's processing some pretty huge emotions as well. We all are.

Daddy's off today, so JH will get some quality time with him while I go to work this morning. And hopefully, he'll sleep in. So far, so good.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


In Flight I
Originally uploaded by anniemcq


for dayna

Friday, July 10, 2009

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Raspberry Chapeau

Raspberry Chapeau
Originally uploaded by anniemcq
it's summer. the raspberries are huge. also, I'm going a little nutty.