Thursday, February 28, 2013

CRICKET TACOS

tacos de chapulines - grasshopper/cricket tacos www.cityowls.com

To plan and afford a good trip is often difficult to arrange. Doing so after you've had a kid or two? Preposterous! Because of this, and since becoming a mother, I have been on exactly two trips involving flight--both of which were picked up by another person's tab.

Kids find a way to unpack your suitcase the moment your back is turned, and before you realize it, you don't know what you have and what remains. They do a similar trick with your wallet.

Ella's first night away from mommy was when she was nearly three years old. I took her sister across the map and landed in Grand Rapids. After 12 years of sad and difficult journey, my cousin Lara had at last given birth to her first child, Isabela. Lara's husband, James is a pediatrician who was working 70 hour weeks during the premature term of his daughter's delivery. That, paired with the recent move that the growing family had just accomplished, there was plenty to do. I was glad to help, but I still believe the experiences of family, the landscape, and our priceless discussions were a bigger help to me than I could ever have been to them.

The time before this was nearly three years ago to our Nation's Capital's neighbor: Bethesda. The Metro's were an odd hibernation from the near-perfect climate outdoors in August. It's hard to fathom that my older daughter wouldn't be able to remember even the most significant moments of our new adventure, let alone the minute details that still inhabit my mind today. There were three kids involved that likely remember nothing, two adults that I only assume remember maybe-something, and the remainder typing about it now.

We had every minute of every day accounted for and busy. Even if it was just to rest, to stand in the kitchen and banter, to toast frozen waffles with Trader Joe's cherry preserves, or to sit on the couch and drink, it was all within the confines of "a trip." It was our trip. Our time away from home, an experience that more than likely would never happen again -- and it didn't.

The beauty of having limited travel with kids, is that it's rarity makes it easier to appreciate the event. Think back to your most recent trip from home. Do you remember any of the cracks in the sidewalk? Your first sip of water off the bus? Every meal?

Sure, there are plenty of elements that can make a trip memorable--evolving relationships, losing your possessions, eating unbelievably strange cuisine. But in my experience, the rarity of young-parent travel gives you one more reason to never forget the minutia. It's yours -- and no matter what happens, nothing can ever take it away.



Tuesday, February 26, 2013

HOLDING A GRUDGE



If you google "holding a grudge" it's just going to tell you not to. That it's bad, and that you shouldn't, and that you're going to statistically die a much earlier death than you'd die had you not held the grudge. No kidding. It honestly doesn't take much effort to understand that the life escapes from your body as soon as you remember an insult. The minute you re-live the time that you did that thing that someone took badly.

It's also extremely tempting to keep keep reliving it.

Why? That's a good question. If it wasn't tempting to relive a grudge, than a grudge would not exist.

It wouldn't exist. Think about it. If it wasn't temping to relive, it would only be known as spat, a disagreement, a feud, a quarrel, a distaste or a clashing. But instead we refer to this long-term animosity as a grudge.

Remember in "The Happening" when everyone was self-destructive, reprogrammed-suicidal and everyone blamed it on plants and the environment? I think that's because reality is so close to the film, that no one would want to obscure it with things other than our own actual sense of self-destruction. And because plant-life is an easy target.

Is there any way we could actually be doing this to ourselves?

Think about it, why else would "Emo" be a culture? Why else would "To Write Love on Her Arms" be such a cultural success? We love to hurt ourselves. Otherwise, we'd never be so quick to maintain our act of holding a grudge. In fact, we wouldn't do it at all.

Everyone knows how to forgive. Everyone knows why to forgive, and yet even those so excited at the prospect, don't ultimately do it--even when they're "sure" they're going to or swear they've"already done it."

It certainly is nice to (privately) believe that being fueled by our own righteous indignation would have some effect on another person, but likely it wont. Some unknown man (?) once said "holding a grudge is like drinking poison. And then waiting for the other person to die." True, no? No one truly expects the other person to ultimately say that they're sorry. .. . Right?

Or... maybe they do? Or, not in reality, but how great would it be if that one person had reached out and apologized? How beautiful, and warm, and receptive that would be to encounter that person responding truly remorseful for what they'd done, and how much more beautiful it will have been, the longer we hold our grudge..

And perhaps that is the ultimate reason. We feel like the longer we stay displaced, the more fulfilling the reward when it is finally satisfied.
And that is what makes holding a grudge so appealing to even those who know the rewards of never having held one in the first place. That living a shorter life is a fair tradeoff for (even the possibility of) the elation of redemption.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

YOUR KID HAS A BOO-BOO: & IT'S YOUR FAULT

And we're not talking "abusive parents" here (I'd link a "help site" for those harming their kids, but in my experience, parents that are, truly don't believe beating/neglecting their kids is in anyway harmful).
--
Oh yes, we've been there. You've been there! You turn around too quickly and land on the muted shadow you know as your kid. You don't think your daughter can QUITE reach the stove yet -- but she secretly learned how to use a ladder. You shoot a rubber band across the room and it lands in your toddler's eye (hey, it happens).

I remember sitting in the hospital bed hours after Ella was born, listening to the nurses and trying desperately to absorb every blessed point. Impossible. But I will never forget a young mom-physician coming in and explaining "now make sure you only clip her finger nails when she's asleep. You wont be able to do it when she's awake - trust me." She went on to explain how she tried to clip her son's nails awake, and the ensuing pain and blood made sure that she never would again. I tried to keep this in mind.

She was the first, but not the only parent to ever convey "oh my gosh....I thought I was going to jail."

Yesterday, Ella was being her usual, defiant 3-year-old self (special, for mommy of course.)
"Please don't say that, Ella."
"stop that, mommy!"
"Go to your room."

This while I was changing her tired sister's diaper. It was a battle to get Ella upstairs - but eventually she did, up to her room and I sat with Rory on the couch, trying and coax her to sleep. Ella came out of her room almost immediately, and I carried Rory upstairs. Ella darted into our room, then ignoring my demands, attempted to run down the stairs. I, with Rory in my arms, did what I've done a number of times -- took my only available limb, caught Ella's defiant self by the arm (headed down the stairs her hand may have wiggled free, and I didn't want her to fall.) She continued to cry and protest, but I got her into her room.

I took Rory downstairs, who immediately fell asleep. I went upstairs and heard Ella going on about her arm hurting. Naturally, I thought she was just joshing me. There's no way her arm could possibly hurt.

But she wasn't bending it. Uh oh.

"You're gonna go to jail," Danny said jokingly to me after I called him at work.

I tried a couple of different calming techniques, but by the slight inflammation and refusal to bend, I knew I was looking at Nurse-maid elbow. Drat. I knew how to manually fix this subluxation, but I didn't dare (nor would she let me touch it). And so, fearful of "what they will think" I called her doctor. Luckily, I was almost magically transferred to a nurse I've spoken to dozens of times, Sharron--and bless her heart. She was almost laughing, telling me, it really is very common, and "please don't be hard on yourself--you could have done that dozens of times without even the slightest injury, then suddenly she's misaligned." It only made me feel moderately better.

Of course, the Urgent Care nurses didn't know me the way Sharron did, and were a bit more suspicious. Oddly, the older gentleman doctor didn't seem at all bothered and said "here, if it happens again, you can adjust her yourself, but we're happy to do it for you if you'd like."

I spent the rest of the night assuring Ella "I didn't mean to hurt you, baby," to which she was practicing her annoyed, laughing-at-mommy look and saying "I feel fine!"

Tonight, Danny held Rory after a good, warm bath. She was dressed, diapered, and pedicure-ready. Danny grabbed the brand new pair of clippers and witnessed relative disaster while I blow-dried her sister's hair. Rory's poor pinky-finger was pouring ounces. And it wasn't long after that my poor husband's eyes were equally damp.

Being a parent is hard -- being an involved, caring parent attempting to keep your kids mind and body's in one piece? Impossible. There will be broken pieces (even as I say it, I want to deny it's true), but it's about how you rectify the situation that really makes you you -- the caring and involved parent that jails still want nothing to do with.

Friday, February 8, 2013

I LOVE A GOOD CLOUD: THOUGHTS ON THE GOOGLE CHROMEBOOK

To be clear, I'm no tech-genius. This is a pretty incomplete yet honest review on my thoughts on the Samsung Google Chromebook. Keep in mind, I've had it less than a month.

A Screenshot of my Chromebook Desktop

I'm enjoying the Chromebook. It is so user friendly, it's hard to have any questions about it, but the good thing is that a quick Google-search and the online Google-mothership is ready to answer your question. The "feedback" option after their advice is even convenient: just a slide-bar after the answer--you don't even need to open a new window or answer multiple questions.

The app/extension cluster you can access at the bottom of your screen (on the toolbar) is also super easy to navigate and very helpful. Much like the phone gadgets, if you can dream it, there's an app for that. I guess I do wish there was a button on the apps bubble that would lead me right to the download-new-extensions page. It's not so hard to find, but a button next to all the installed apps would be handier.

Built-in web cam? Pretty standard, but still a score.

I like the "clean look" of the desktop. I like that I don't have the option to be temped to clutter up my desktop with icon after icon. I also appreciate that I can still use the Microsoft shortcuts that I've become so fond of... control+c, control+v, control+x, etc, etc. Right clicking's just too much drudgery.

I like that I can close my Chromebook and then not have to wait increasingly longer amounts of time for my machine to boot up. Pretty instant gratification. I also like that I can use the mouse-touch-pad like a Mac. While we're on the subject of Macs, I do like the tidiness of Chromebook --- the, dare I say, prettiness. The keys feel good underneath my fingers, but I do wish that the keyboard had a backlight. I often type in relative darkness.

I've noticed some web-sites and their programs don't yet support the Chromebook operating system, (Skype didn't work, but Google-hangouts are better anyhow. H&R Block didn't work, but Danny's got a Mac). It's not a terrible inconvenience yet, and I'm also confident that this won't be the case in another year or so (given the current success and world-take-over of Google).

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

TALENT NEVER DIES (but we do)

I went to campus today at Southern New Hampshire University.
My 3 year old came along, and so it's a wonder that I got even a small conversation in without her skipping down the hall from me.

A man was in the bookstore whom I remembered. My last memory of him was 5 years ago receiving and sizing my cap and gown. He told me at the time that I was "a tall drink of water," and I smirked because it had been ages since I'd heard that phrase.

I doubt today he had remembered that long-since conversation, but found a way to initiate another as I left the store and entered the rest of the Student Center. To be frank, I don't exactly remember how it started, but as quickly as we needed to carry a conversation (remember the child?), we somehow got to the subject of writing. I mentioned casually that I had admired the new look of our current location, how the lights overhead, the overall feel successfully emitted a certain joie de vivre. People were there! And "it just kind of, worked" (as my new friend described).

He asked me what I'd been writing, so fast in fact, that I had actually forgotten that I had even mentioned ever writing at all. I stammered a little, but told him I used to write, in college (and maybe before), but that I'm mostly writing online (I secretly loath the term "blog") and just to keep from stopping. I've had a few people in my life suggest I do as much. He seemed like it wasn't even new information when I mentioned I'd also previously written for the SNHU Paper.

"I'm not a religious man," he started, almost out of nowhere "but my late father was a painter, and I would write. He always said to me 'talent never dies!' And so, if God-given talent is really talent, then you can get rusty at something, but it's still there. It never goes away." This was the second time in two visits that an essential stranger had mentioned to me about God, unaware I'd ever even heard of the guy.

This was something I (and maybe you?) needed to hear, I guess. You see, I had been lamenting lately about how my writing is not what it used to be, and maybe never will be again. Now I'll have moments of lucidity, of course, but then think that maybe I really have just lost my knack for writing. Depressing, no?

His father died, but left a legacy in the form of his son. And maybe he painted a likeness of this man, but the legacy his father left is clearly more than just works and paint--it's his input, his know-how, his joie de vivre (if you will.)

So even if you don't always score that homerun work-of-art that you were searching for, keep trying, it's ok. Because today someone told me that talent never dies, but we do.


Monday, February 4, 2013

FOOD STAMPS: A VICTORY AND A DEFEAT

That's the way I felt in June 2011 when we finally completed the food stamps apply-and -receive process for the very first time.

I grew up hearing on more than one occasion "I qualified for food stamps, but would never accept them." And so, obviously, if Mom was too proud to take food when she (presumably) needed it, obviously there was never a REAL need for food assistance. You're only hungry if you're too lazy to work.

Sounds harsh, and might not have been what she meant, but regardless, that's what was interpreted.

My husband and I lived through 2010 in someone else's home, in someone else's bed with our brand new baby girl. Food was never a concern for her, as solids never seemed to appeal, and mommy never had a lack of The Good Stuff.  On the other hand, her mommy and daddy spent days and weeks on two meals of mac and cheese and grilled cheese and nothing more.

The beginning of 2011, we lived with a pastor's family. One bedroom , Danny, Ella, Me and unborn baby girl (Rory). This family had more food than I had ever seen. We were never hungry or without well-rounded meals. I felt guilty, but at least it was under the gaze of sympathetic eyes and never breached the confines of understanding hands.

June 2011 we were finally living on our own! Danny had been given a full-time gig at Southern New Hampshire University (that's a Blog in itself, and if you're reading this, thank you). I went through the obnoxiously thorough yet necessary process of applying and receiving food stamps. It was amazing - to have money to pay for food. It was humiliating, handing each cashier my Benefits Card. It was a whole other thing to feel the urge to thank each person in line for paying their taxes to help me feed my family.

But you do what you need to, when you know you've put in an honest days' work. When your kids barely recognize your husband because he spends every free moment working or looking for more work. When you realize you haven't left the house in days because even if you had a car that your husband wasn't using, you wouldn't have the gasoline to get there.

It was 18 months of happy food and stressful shopping for it. Luckily, blessedly, and after a great deal of work, we no longer qualify for food stamps. To those of you out there on assistance, reading this, remembering the last time you eagerly awaited for the 5th of the month, but then stressfully waited until the 6th (you just KNOW that everyone's looking at you and know you're using their taxes), hang in there. It's not forever. Pride can be a wonderful thing, it's a motivator! It spurs the advances of finance! It's what makes this whole thing "only temporary." But never let it overcome or infringe upon your life- cause, well, it's only temporary.