Sunday, July 26, 2009

Slow and steady

My younger daughter, The Bug, is a study in how to march to the beat of a different drummer.

She walked at seven months and talked in full sentences before she was two years old. She had the entire soundtrack and most of the dance moves from Cats memorized before she turned five.
At the same time, she didn't potty train until she was nearly three years old, and she was approaching six years old before she finally gave up sucking her thumb. I worried about her delays with these sorts of milestones, but I also saw what she gained by waiting until she was completely ready: From the first time she sat on the potty until she was reliably dry all day was less than a week. Her thumb-sucking was a real worry for me: she was very dependent on that thumb to get to sleep at night, and used it, even at school to deal with stressful situations. We decided together that thumb-sucking would stop the day her first baby tooth fell out (I explained that thumb-sucking could damage her permanent teeth). The day her first tooth fell out, she stopped sucking her thumb. And never did it again. Ever. No tears, no arguments, no bargaining. And no relapses.

So I guess I shouldn't be surprised about her learning to ride a bike. The Bug will be nine in September, and to date has been terrified of her bicycle. Understand that she is nearly five feet tall, so getting a bike with training wheels has not been an options for her. She's had this beautiful 24" Trek mountain bike for nearly a year, and it has remained untouched.

Until today. Today, Daisy Mae got a new bike. Daisy immediately lobbied to go to the ice cream shop, about a mile and a half from the house. The Bug wanted to go too. I told her that she couldn't go on her scooter -- scooters were not street-legal like a bicycle is.

She walked outside, and with Daisy's encouragement, climbed aboard her as-yet-untouched bike.

And she rode. She rode all around the cul-de-sac. She rode to the main road and back. She practiced braking properly as she went around corners.

And less than two hours after she got on that bike and rode for the first time, Daisy and The Bug rode to the ice cream shop.

She takes her time, but once she sets her mind to do something, she does it right. As her mother, the fool who has ever rushed past the angels to dive into new things, knowing that I can catch up with practice later, I could probably take a page or two from her book. We don't all learn the same way, but we all end up where we need to be, in our own way and at our own pace.

Good job, Bug.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Well, I turned down the teaching post today. I talked with Dave, who was extremely apologetic about the tone of Friday's meeting. After making apologies for the extremely candid comments I was about to make, I explained that I had felt a distinct lack of respect from Henry, that I was further appalled by the lack of respect that Henry demonstrated for his students, and that I didn't really see how we could make this work.

He apologized again and explained that Henry was now full-time; this was his only job. Henry is the type of guy that throws himself 100% into a project. Henry perceived that, because I have a full-time day job and I teach this on the side, that I wasn't committed enough to the program.

I reminded Dave that I was the highest-rated 1st-year instructor at the university last year and that I had no interest in putting forth effort to try to prove my level of commitment to Henry. My students are ample evidence of my commitment.

Really, though, It was clear to me that, short of quitting my job and becoming a full-time professor, I wasn't going to change this man's attitude toward me. Dave could tell him to behave and be nice, but really; it won't make a difference. Henry's attitude will be what it is, and he's under contract. I'm not.

So I apologized to Dave (who is the one who will have to pick up the slack), and I told him to call me if and when the environment changes there.

It's all rather an unsatisfying outcome. Dave feels terrible, but is committed and stuck. I am bummed to not be teaching this class. And I really hate having to walk away from a situation because of a personality issue. Makes me feel like I'm back in my 20s. But there you have it. I will have my Monday evenings and Saturday afternoons free this autumn.


Daisy Mae comes home from camp tomorrow. Given the volume of rain that has fallen this week, I suspect we will need to go get pedicures to get her feeling like a girl again. ;)

Monday, July 20, 2009


So I have a dilemma…

Last year, I started team-teaching a course over at the University in technology development and feasibility analysis, a subject I know quite a bit about.

My colleague, “Dave”, and I taught the seminar together last year. Dave is the director of the program, about the same age as I am, and his skill set complements mine well. We played extremely effectively off each other last year, and I think the result was that the students enjoyed the class and learned a lot.

It’s time to re-sign for this year, and I walked into my curriculum planning meeting on Friday full of ideas. I wanted to re-arrange some of the class elements so they built on each other better, and I wanted to add a new section on market segmentation.

By the time I left, I wasn’t so sure I even wanted to do this again this year.

Toward the end of autumn semester last year, Dave hired a new teacher, “Henry” to join the program on a more-time-than-me basis. Henry apparently taught the second class in the series during spring semester. Henry is a retired CEO, late 60s, military haircut, whose first discussion with me centered around his contention that I was full of hooey regarding whether medical method patents can be enforced in the US. I wasn’t wrong, and I very promptly set him, and my at-that-point-confused students, straight.

Don’t get me wrong; he’s a smart guy. He knows a lot about how a run a business. I think he’s probably a great advisor for start-up companies. But he’s a terrible teacher. Like, I had every one of his students in my office last semester complaining about his lack of skill and preparation (there was no syllabus published until week 8 of the semester), subjectivity of his grading, and his overall very demeaning attitude toward his students. I did, in fact, suggest to two of them that a call to the ombudsman’s office was probably an appropriate next step.

(There is no real correlation between this post and this picture, except that it made me laugh when I saw it.)

Friday, I learned that I have to teach this class, not with Dave, but with Henry. And I have to say, the rest of the meeting on Friday didn’t raise my opinion of Henry a bit. He treated me like someone he clearly doesn't respect, and even made a couple of flippant remarks about – of all things – my being left-handed. (To which I replied, “Why Henry, how very 19th century!”). At one point, he got under my skin so bad, I turned to him, laughing, and said, "Henry, seriously; you and I are about five minute from going to the mat."

So now I’m torn. I love teaching this class. Love the subject matter. Love the students. But I don’t love this guy. I’m at that point in my life where I don’t necessarily feel like I have to be respected by everyone – if you think I’m a dork, I’m OK with that. But I’m also at a point in my like where I don’t have to choose to hang around with people who treat me like a dork.


And I was really looking forward to this.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


I was privileged to attend a 25th Anniversary picnic for a couple S and I have known for all of our adult lives. Their marriage is a beautiful thing, a true match between equals. They have had their struggles, to be certain, but they are wise and kind people and they have consistently come through each challenge and each rough spot with grace and love. And they've shared a lot of laughs along the way.

I also got to visit with many, many friends who have shaped most of my adult life, and share their stories about jobs and homes, joys and heartaches, parents and kids. We're the sandwich generation, and we all spend entirely too much time living for others. I was proud to show off BOTH my girls to old friends, who loved K as always, and welcomed Daisy with open arms. But mostly we shared stories about Mike and Joyce and their 25 years of showing us what a marriage should be.

I've come to value these milestones more as I've gotten older. I find it both strange and comforting to watch my friends enter their late 40s and 50s and in some cases, 60s. Seeing all of them having fun, still finding them vital -- and, yes, beautiful -- as they age reminds me once again that age is a relative thing. Your friends and contemporaries are always "young" and your parents are always "old". Your kids and your friends' kids never know anything, until they graduate from college, and then they all are brilliant and bound to be successful. I used to find these generalizations horrible cliche, but now I find them comfortable. Maybe 45 really is the new black.

I was also tickled beyond happiness to watch my two girls spend their day exploring the riverbanks in the Metroparks, catching dragonflies and toads and crayfish, poking along the paths and even finding an old homestead site. They disappeared into the woods for an hour at a time, periodically running back to show me what treasures they'd unearthed. It was incredibly normal and happy, and unusual for us until now. My family is becoming more complete on a daily basis and it makes me deeply happy.

It was a wonderful day, and I feel deeply blessed.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Thought for today

I think, really, that I should be awarded some sort of prize package every time I refrain from saying "Oh for f*ck's sake!" at work.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Lest I take myself too seriously

Yeah, nothing brings you back to Earth like having to scream out the back door, "Girls! TELL me you are not naked in that pool! There will be NO skinny-dipping! You hear me???"

Followed by the guys next door yelling, "Aw, Maaaaaan!"

Oy. And vey.

Damn sneaky emotions...can't have anything nice

This change in our status, from a one-child household to a two-child household, has been a positive one overall. The girls seem to be getting along well, there has been a 70% increase in daily giggling, chores are getting done, beds are (sometimes) made, and so far no one has engaged in fisticuffs of any sort. I’m calling it a victory so far. Yay for us. ;)

Watching K engage with a sister for the first time has unearthed a few of my own demons, however, and I’m faced with having to decide what to do next.

My sister, T, has not communicated with any member of our family for nearly six years now. (Actually, I should amend that – when my mother broke her leg about two years ago, I called her cell phone. She did not answer it, of course, but did call me back later. Once she ascertained that Mom was not going to die and that I had things under control, she hung up. The conversation lasted five minutes. I haven’t heard a word since, despite repeated attempts to call and write her.)

T has some powerful demons. I sometimes – often, actually – wish she would let us help her fight them, but those offers have been left on the table, untouched.

It is strange, at this stage of my life, to essentially be an only child again. At times it feels overwhelming. I wonder how to handle things like my mom’s rapidly deteriorating health – I want her to move into our house, so I can help care for her. She insists on staying at her own home, 20 miles away, where there are no first-floor bathrooms. I am at a loss whether to push much harder, for her own good, to bring her here, or if I should let it go for now, with the nagging feeling that eventually a true disaster will strike and she’ll either be here or in a nursing home. I am captive to the multiple push-pulls of caring for two generations and working a job outside the house…which incidentally needs a coat of paint. The house, not my job.

I worry about T, and wonder if I should reach out to her more aggressively. My attempts to reach her have been alternately ignored or slapped away. I wonder if my role is supposed to be to push her hard enough to make her angry, accept the lashing out as a step toward her recovery. And then I worry that, if I push too hard, she'll just go deeper underground and won't reach out to any of us -- ever. I try to just let her know what is happening; to leave emails or voicemails, but there's never a response...I'm not even sure if her email address is still valid.

But if when things go terribly wrong, and mom ends up in trouble, or something happens to another family member, I know I will hear all about how I should have tried harder to let her know what was happening here.

Which leads to a confession: there’s a part of me that is afraid, deep down, that T won’t be there to help even if I DO let her know, and I just don’t want to be disappointed again. Yes; she has her own weight to bear, but her lifetime pattern of exempting herself from any real interaction (at least with her family) is starting to harden me a bit. Honestly, I don’t like feeling that way, but I find I can’t see my way past it.

I used to have a sister who was my best friend. Adolescence was a strain, but there was a part of me that was sure, ultimately, that by the time we were in our forties, we could be sharing cups of coffee on Saturday mornings, and sharing the joys and struggle of our live, and lending a hand to each other when we needed it.

I’m realizing that those Saturday mornings probably won’t ever happen, that the sister I thought I would have again some day has been lost along the way, and like a mother whose son has gone missing in war, I'll have to accept that loss without a chance to grieve it.

It’s taken watching my girls start to become sisters to fully realize what I’ve lost, and I’m not sure how to move forward from here.

I just know I miss my sister.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

No. For anyone who is wondering, no; I am not pregnant. And I will hunt down and kill anyone who, upon reading the title, thought I was pregnant and reacted by clapping their hands with glee. I'm 44 years old, ferchrissakes.

This week, we added a new member to our family.

I've alluded before that we are in the process of becoming foster parents.

We've talked about this for years -- we have a beautiful daughter and were never able to have another. She is a joy and a wonder, but we always felt like we were short-changing her by not giving her someone who would be by her side as we got older, to be there to call when she's 30 and needs to say, "Is it just me, or has our mother finally gone completely off the deep end?"

And yet, something always got in the way of us moving forward. We would provide some respite care from time to time for other friends who are in the system - the screening is less intense for respite care parents. But we suffered from a certain inertia about this process for a long time, for reasons I haven't quite been able to identify.

Then, on Valentine's Day, a young lady entered our lives. And in that moment, everything changed.

"Daisy Mae" (not her real name, obviously) was, at first glance, everything we didn't want in a child. 14 years old, worldly beyond most college students, she has three sisters and a local family with more issues than I care to enumerate here. But this sweet-natured, intelligent, artistically-gifted child stole our hearts from the first time she walked into our home. When we closed the door the first time she left our house, S looked and me and said, "Do you want me to call her caseworker tomorrow?". I burst into tears and said, "yes".

Since then we have gone through nearly 100 hours of classes and screenings, had every inch of this house inspected and prodded, updated, renovated and fire-proofed. Daisy has been here, most weekends and sometimes for a few days during the week, since February. She has formed a fast friendship with K, learned how to tease S and me, re-arranged entire sections of the house, cooked some wonderful meals, and fallen asleep in my arms more than once. And this week, the State finally said she could come and stay here. Forever.

Last night she looked at me and asked, "Are you going to adopt me?"

"Of course we're going to adopt you," I said, "we've already talked about that. Remember?"

"I know. But I just wanted to hear you say it again. Nobody's ever said Yes before."

I love you, Baby. And we can't wait to be your Forever Family.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

I'm still alive. Kind of.

Yeah; I know I haven't blogged in about 6 weeks, and now I'm coming back with...

...a lame meme. Well, this one comes courtesy of Alison, by way of the Winter Palace. So it can't suck too bad, right?

Promise to have real content (and some important news) over the weekend. Stay tuned

The rules:
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.4) Optional extra: Post a comment here, linking to your results.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:
1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile**
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

** OK, it was Alligator. I think it still counts, as 'gators are crocodilians

So I kinda have to laugh when I notice that I have eaten both snake and crocodile, but haven't had a Big Mac meal or Spam. I had to Google several of these (for example, I never thought kaolin was anything but cosmetic clay. ) I have also determined that about 80% of the things I haven't had are things that I don't think I ever want to eat. Ever.