Sunday, June 28, 2009

Summer. It's official.

Do you remember when you were a kid, and summer days went on forever? There wasn't a time to wake up or go to sleep and days unfolded with a delicious, lazy richness? That's how our last couple days have gone. Charley was off yesterday and wanted to paint one of his kilts. He had a serious wild hair, wanting to have everyone in the family contribute to it, making up a sort of family tartan. I couldn't really picture it, but I trusted his idea and went along for the ride. It was a balmy, breezy eighty some-thing degree day, and we had a blast being all crafty. You can see the results of it here.

Then we needed to catch a bite to eat, so we hopped in the car and headed for our favorite local burger joint, Burgerville, and there, standing in line was my brother! He'd taken a bike ride and was going to call us but had forgotten his cell phone.

So we convinced him to ride down to our picnic spot: across from Pearson Air Field.

It was a gorgeous summer evening, and there was a run going on,

so we ate our burgers and then cheered on those who were chugging along in the heat.

Charley headed back to work today, and JH has a friend over for a playdate/sleepover. I was cleaning out my closet, when I happened to look out the window at our garden. The raspberry bush looked like it was on fire, there was so much fruit!

So after I snapped a few pics, I grabbed a bowl and filled it up with a bumper crop of ripe, juicy raspberries.

Now, I guess it's back to the bedroom to finish the project I started. But I just had to share. If you ever happen to make it to Vancouver, USA, meet me here,

and we'll have a picnic! I'll bring the raspberries!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Farm Boy

The Farm Boy
Originally uploaded by anniemcq
road trip. road food. smackdab in between Vancouver, WA (where we are) and Seattle, WA. It's right off I-5 in Littlerock, WA. The atmosphere is authentic 70's chic, with posters of kittens and a mural of some foresty looking place. There's a giant American Flag flying outside, and inside you'll see locals having lunch. They could be props in their John Deere caps and overalls, but I'm pretty sure they're just hungry guys who work really hard and then reward themselves with a handformed burger and honesttogod milkshake.

It's the real deal. And if I didn't have such great friends in Seattle, I'd come up with other reasons to take the trip, just so's we could stop here for lunch on the way.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day 2009

Love you madly, sweetheart. You're the best Dad our boy could ever have.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Love You All

Thank you all for your kind words. It helps so much to know that there is such goodness in the world. I'm so grateful to all of you, many of whom are going through so much right now. I was thinking recently that Death is no mystery. It's as certain as Sunrise - even more so. It's LIFE that can be so damned confounding.

I heard this song today on a cd I had burned for Annie to listen to during her chemo treatments, and I thought, that's just the plain truth. We're all in this together. Sometimes we're not that wild about all of our traveling companions through this world, but if we're lucky we meet a few like minded souls who make the trip fly by.

Thank you again for sharing your love, for sending healing thoughts to my friend and her family. I know that it meant a great deal to her.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Good Fight

Our amazing, brilliant, beautiful friend Annie passed last night. We were able to see her on Wednesday, to hold her and tell her we love her, and we shared both tears and laughter. She fought this battle with everything she had, and loved her life so much. She was fierce and glorious in her fight to stay with her family.

She had so many gifts - she was a talented actress; a generous, wise friend; a homeopathic physician; a loving wife to her partner Anita; a caring, devoted daughter and sister, and one of the best moms I've ever met.

I'm so grateful to have known her. And I'm so thankful her weary body is finally done with the pain.

My throat is tight with tears that can't come right now. I want to cry. I need to. I just don't think I can wrap my brain around the bigness of this loss.

As Anita said to Charley recently, "Love is all".

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Accept No Substitutes.

Well, there are actually one or two substitutes who have worked in our room who are really, really good. But this past week has seen two subs who should just do something else entirely.

Let me start by saying that the room I'm working in is a zoo. Loud noises, crying, and things can get physical when someone escalates. And that's just the other staff members! Ba-dump-bump. But seriously folks...

Most of the kids I work with have an autism diagnosis. Many of them are non-verbal (but very vocal!), some of them are very verbal and therein lies THAT particular challenge, and all of them get frustrated with their challenges. Can you imagine trying to communicate something as simple as "I need to pee" or "I'm thirsty" and not having anyone understand? Not to mention "Man, I wish you'd just SHUT UP AND STOP BOSSING ME AROUND!"

Many of our kids work with one person only, some are in small groups, and a couple spend some time in general ed every day. So here's the math: there are fifteen kids + twelve staff assistants + two teachers = a daily dose of "what's gonna happen next?!" But for all the chaos, there is such a level of commitment and trust and we're-all-in-this-togetherness that going to work every day is a gift. Sometimes, I won't lie, it takes more than coffee to get my ass out the door and in to work. No, I don't put anything IN my coffee, I mean I have to give myself a pep talk. But most of the time, it's a joy to walk into the school and greet our kids and see the faces of the amazing staff that I work with.

This past spring has been more challenging than ever, though. One of our two amazing teachers is on maternity leave, so we have a long-term substitute (who is amazing) AND a student teacher, who has had to learn things so quickly on her feet, not just about teaching kids with lots of challenges, but about managing and juggling a staff as huge as ours. It is no easy task, and I don't think there is another program in our district as large as ours. Our other teacher has stepped back a great deal to let the student teacher have at it, and most of the time it goes smoothly, but there are days when it's just a clusterf*ck. People snip at each other, nerves are frayed and everyone is so ready to put this year to bed and get back to normal.

On Friday, we had four staff out. FOUR. On the same day. Luckily, we got three substitutes. I say luckily with great amazement and a slight tinge of sarcasm, because finding subs who will work in our room is not the easiest thing in the world, but trickier still is finding subs that we will allow to come back. Our checklist of do's and dont's is long and strange:
Do be quick on your feet.
Don't wear a dress and heels. Or anything you care about getting dirty or torn.
Do have a good sense of humor.
Don't wear too much perfume.
Do ask questions of other staff.
Don't ask questions of other staff when they are running down the hallway after a student.

The list goes on, and luckily we actually do have a few subs that we are always happy to see. They meet all the above criteria and more. In fact it's more likely that we will get the good than the bad. But in the last two working days we have seen two for the record books.

On Friday, one of the subs fell asleep. On her feet. While nearly two dozen people sang and danced around her. I'm not making this up. All the staff silently looked at one another with alarm on our faces, worried that she might topple over at any moment. Apparently she was on medication. So here's another for our list:

Do not take medication that makes you fall asleep on the job.

And yesterday we had a substitute who didn't meet the most basic criteria:
Do have a heart.
After silently following her student all morning (a student, I will add, that is easy and fun), she announced at the lunch table in the cafeteria that she was leaving at lunch time because she was told the job was learning support, and she NEVER would have accepted it if she'd known she had to work with "THIS classroom." The words came out with such disdain, I'm surprise she didn't spit on someone. One of my co-workers told her "well you should leave now, then. Not everyone has what it takes to work with these kids."

And don't let the door hit you on the way out. Bitch. Her loss.

My co-workers are the most amazing group of people, and the kids we work with are full of so much heart and courage, it is an honor to go there every day. Even on the hard days. Especially on the hard days.

UPDATE 6/9/09:
As I walked into school today, I saw Sleepy (as she has come to be known in my head) walking out with an orange safety vest and flag. SHE WAS BACK subbing in another part of the school, where I'm told, she sharpened pencils and did nothing else.

Except draw a paycheck.


Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Good Life

Our dear friend Annie has been moved to Bailey Boushay house in Seattle for palliative care. They are doing their utmost to keep her pain under control, and to love and uphold her and her family during this time.

We so want to be with them, but physically that may not be possible. We don't want to intrude on this precious time, but we are with them in our every breath and thought.

I've been thinking about this recently. I've been feeling overwhelmed with love for this life of mine. It's not perfect, it's not what I expected, it's sometimes challenging or annoying. But it's the only one I have and it's beautiful to me.

Here are my essentials: I have good people around me. People I love. People who are as imperfect as I am, but who attempt every day to do their best, to give the world the love that is inside them. To channel goodness, to laugh at the way the world sometimes works, to challenge untruth and to let go of the rest. I love them with everything I have.

I have good strong love to give. I do my best to give it freely, without condition. I don't always succeed. Sometimes I am judgmental and I mutter in my soul. And in my car. I am working on this.

I have work that I love. The people I work with are challenged in many ways. They may not be able to process or communicate the way the rest of the world does, but there is so much light in their eyes and hearts, and I'm honored to be with them.

I have the most amazing family. The family I was born to, and the family I have chosen. My brothers and sister are dearer to me with every day that passes. My love for my husband goes so deep and we are so connected. I am grateful to have this life with him. It's not perfect, but it's the imperfections that make me treasure him and our marriage all the more.

My son. I look at him now and wonder how we wound up with him. He's listening to headbanging rock music and he loves hockey and he's sometimes sassy and disobedient and lazy. He's also kind and brave and silly and beautiful and whipsmart and wiser than most forty year old people I know. He's only eight. I treasure seeing his darkness as well as his light. I honor who he is, and realize my hopes for him need only be these: that he is as happy in his life, that he is a good, kind person, and that he contributes his best self to the world. Of this last, I have no doubt that he will.

My goal is to see just some of it come to fruition. I have no idea what the future holds, or if I will meet that goal. But I know in my heart that he carries my love for him like a force and a shield, and I believe that is the best thing I have ever done with my life.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


I don't even know where to begin. My friend Annie has been moved to hospice. Please keep her and her beautiful family in your thoughts and prayers.