Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Curriculum Night


... at Eve's middle school. Those words are enough to strike fear (or frustration or boredom or eye-rolling) into most adults I know. One friend, confiding to me that she wasn't going to her daughter's Curriculum Night, explained that it is essentially an open house where the parents travel from room to room, following the path that their child takes during the day. Not much time for in-depth conversations with teachers or parents of other students. Not all that illuminating.

So why did I bend over backwards to go? Because Eve's school is different than any other school I've ever encountered. For examples of how, you can read this which has two other examples embedded within it. Suffice it to say that I LOVE THIS SCHOOL. So I was interested in what this year would look like for Eve and I moved Heaven and Earth to make sure I could get there.

And while I fully expected a happy ending, I still managed to be surprised at the depth of the presentation. Eve's 6th grade team has got it together! They have designed a curriculum that is integrated across all subjects (yes, music, art, physical education, math, humanities and science included) and speaks to the developmental phase that these girls are in right now. They have taken into account the brain research that shows how 11 and 12 year old girls' brains work, what they are interested in (themselves, mostly), and how best to engage them in the learning process. Each of these instructors stood up and talked about how excited they are about what they are charged with teaching to the girls this year and how important it is that each and every one of the students feels connected and supported and empowered within this community.

Now I understand that cynics' eyes are rolling at this point. Rhetoric. I'll believe it when I see it. But let me tell you that I do believe it. Because I've seen it. Last Thursday, the entire class embarked on a camping trip that was designed for team building. The girls did a ROPES course, rock climbed, and challenged each other and themselves physically, emotionally and mentally, sharing information about their hopes and fears for this school year. Last year, the 5th graders in Eve's class did similar exercises and came together so solidly as a group that when spring basketball signups rolled around, despite the fact that only two of the girls in the class had ever played basketball before, nearly the entire class went out for the team. Despite the fact that they looked more like the Harlem Globetrotters after a couple of bottles of tequila out there on the court, nobody worried about looking silly. They were simply a group of girls having fun playing together. As. A. Team. Let me repeat that: 5th-grade girls not worried about other girls making fun of them for looking silly. Because they trusted each other.

This school year is designed to be all about the girls. Because they are all about themselves right now. The first third of the year is spent exploring how they got to this point. In Art, they are looking at aboriginal art, basic techniques and building blocks. The Humanities teacher has them reading the book "Nation" by Terry Pratchett in an effort to get them to understand society-building. The Music teacher is exploring rhythm and the Science teacher has them building simple machines out of Lego blocks. The Math teacher is making sure everyone has basic skills in mathematical operations and the PE teacher is helping them tell their own stories, physically and verbally. How did I get here? To this point?

The second third of the year asks "Who am I?" Again, each teacher has his or her own way of exploring that question with the girls. For example, the girls will be sketching self-portraits in Art and breaking down the human body into operational systems (digestion, circulation, etc.) in Science.

The last portion of their studies focuses on development. Where are we going from here? They will all work together toward the end of the year for their final culmination ceremony which is a three day bike ride and camping trip on a nearby island. They will push themselves farther emotionally and physically than they ever thought they could, all while using simple machines (bicycles), examining this tribe they have created over the past nine months, and feeling supported.

I caught up with one new parent on our way out last night and she turned to me and exclaimed, "The teachers are all so dynamic! So different from my middle school experience. I wish I could go back to school like this!" I couldn't agree more. I wish every child had the opportunity to be a part of an educational experience like this. I love that Eve's school supports a diverse array of families through scholarships and opens up to kids who wouldn't otherwise get this opportunity, but it still isn't enough. Until we as a society begin demanding this kind of thoughtful, deliberate approach to education, involving the teachers in curriculum creation that excites them and empowers them and giving them the flexibility to utilize things like brain research and outside-the-box thinking, most kids won't ever experience this kind of education. I feel pretty damn lucky that Eve and Lola will and I can only hope that they will find a way to work toward making sure more kids get it, too.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Life Lessons a la Lola's Skateboard Instructor


I love Lola's skateboard instructor. For a kid in his mid-twenties he is surprisingly intuitive about the psyche of a nine year old girl.

Lola is a kamikaze. Sort of. She is very enthusiastic and not fearful of physical challenges. What she is afraid of is looking stupid and there are a lot of opportunities to do that on a skateboard. The first few lessons she took were at a local skate park crawling with boys of all ages skating without pads or helmets (I make her wear both) with wild abandon. They fall, skid, trip, run right off the end of their skateboards and have some of the foulest mouths I've heard in a long time. Most of them are consumed with perfecting their tricks and are constantly showing off for each other.

One of the first things her teacher (I'll call him Sam) did was to change Lola's lesson time to morning when the teenage boys are still in bed and she can have the venue to herself. But even before that he amazed me. One of his first goals was to get her to go down the biggest hill in the park. They worked for a bit on stance and balance (she's "goofy-footed" like me which means that her opposite foot goes in the front - unusual) and then he walked her to the top of the hill. On my beach towel in the grass, I was too far away to hear what they said, but they talked for a minute, he steadied her on the board and then let her take her time deciding when to go. After about 60 seconds of hesitation, he called to her and waved his hand so she would join him in a different area of the park. Without going down the hill. They worked on some smaller hills for a bit, practiced turning, and then went back to the big hill. Another hesitation of about 45 seconds and he waved her off again.

During each of these mini-sessions, Sam challenged her and high-fived her when she conquered a task. I could see her proud grin from across the park. After four or five attempts at doing the hill, I figured out what Sam was doing. He had somehow concluded that Lola was psyching herself out by thinking too much about skating down the hill and he knew that the longer she stood there, the more fearful she would be. By waving her off, he was letting her know that it was no great disappointment that she hadn't gone down the hill and he was redirecting her attention to something she could do. He was letting her be successful and building her confidence. Gradually, throughout the lesson, Lola came to trust Sam. She grew to believe that he wasn't going to ask her to do anything she was not comfortable doing and she trusted that he wanted her to be successful as much as she wanted to succeed. She built a bond with him and ultimately she decided she wanted to go down that hill for herself and for him.

Before we left that first day, Lola flew down that hill twice on her board. Twice. She did it on her own terms without feeling as though she had to in order to prove herself, but the beautiful thing is that she did prove something to herself and to Sam. She showed that when you are given space and time to believe in your own abilities without judging yourself, you can soar. And Sam reminded me that overthinking things leads to fear. Often the best thing we can do for ourselves when we're intimidated by something is to go bolster our own self-confidence by excelling at something smaller or less frightening. And then when we are ready, it is easy to tackle the bigger task without too much angst.

I love Lola's skateboard instructor.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Losing My Brother


(Alternately titled "The Fourth, Part Two). Here is part one of this story.

After a year, Cameron is taken away. All of the new clothes my parents have bought him are packed away in the small suitcase he came with and he walks solemnly behind some woman out the front door of our house. His smile is gone, but it hasn’t been around as much lately, anyway. His head is down, looking at the orange shag carpet in the living room and he doesn’t turn around to say good-bye. I can’t say anything. I can’t breathe. I follow them onto the grey cement steps of our porch and hold on to the black iron rail so I won’t sit down hard.

I watch the door of the white van shut and the lady get in the front seat. The van sat in our driveway, engine chugging the entire time. Someone knew he would be packed already. Someone knew he would be ready to go when they got here. I can see Cameron’s one cloudy eye watching me. I can feel the thick ball in my throat as the van backs up into the street. I watch the smoke from the back of the van curl up past his window and make it hard to see him anymore. I can’t look. I have to close my eyes. I can’t go inside. I’m just standing here in the springtime sunshine feeling cold and little.

Finally someone tells me to come inside.

“Can I write him letters?” I ask my mother and my voice sounds high and whiny. She shakes her head and her eyes are full of tears.

I don’t understand. My big brother shrugs his shoulders to say he doesn’t know anything, either. My sister is too little to know anything. All I know is that Dad didn’t like Cameron very much and now he’s gone. Dad doesn’t like my little sister very much, either. And he is trying all the time to make my brother tougher. He was really pissed that Cameron could play soccer better than my brother could. Dad’s the coach and his own son ought to be the star player.

It takes a while but the cold ball in my throat finally settles in my stomach. I’d better be really good from now on.

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This was the "scene" from my perspective as an eight-year old girl who knew that something was wrong. I knew that my parents were fighting a lot and things were not easy at home. Mom was unhappy and the kids were all walking on eggshells. This incident proved to me that it wouldn't take much for our family to simply disintegrate. Indeed, it was shortly after this that my father moved out and they announced they were getting a divorce, although I don't recall any of the specifics. Within six months, my father had accepted a job transfer in another state and I was even more certain that, one by one, we would all be picked off, our ties as family members dissolving as easily as the translucent rice paper wrapper on that Chinese candy we got at the store sometimes. From that moment on, I made it my mission to keep my brother and sister as close to me as possible and never do anything wrong. I didn't want to be next.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tempting Fate

I am always amazed when I read childhood memoirs. Not only at the vast array of experiences in people's lives and the way children interpret things with their developing minds, but at the ability of the storyteller to conjure up such rich, detailed images of things that happened so many years (often decades) ago.

Other than the family stories that have been told and retold and a few snapshots that I have seen hundreds of times, I have no memories of my childhood before 5th grade. I can recite the story of my first day in Kindergarten where I was too short to hang my coat up on the hooks mounted in the hallway and was rescued by a classmate who would become a treasured friend. I can't tell you what the hallway looked like or what color my coat was or what the weather was like outside. I also couldn't tell you what the rest of the day was like, or even if I attended full day or half day Kindergarten classes. That story came from my mother.

I have several other "memories" like that - that were witnessed by others in my family but resonate with me no more than they would with you if you heard the story several times. I know the names of my first and second grade teachers, couldn't tell you who my third grade teacher was if my life depended on it and am only marginally certain who my fourth grade teacher was because there were only two to choose from in the entire school and I think I got the mean one. Or was that my brother?

For most of my life, I thought that was normal. I didn't realize that other people had vivid memories of times in their childhoods and it wasn't until I had my first flashback nearly sixteen years ago that it occurred to me that there was a reason I didn't know anything about my life as a child. I don't even know if I can properly call what I had a "flashback." It was more of a still photo than anything else. From that memory came a clear knowledge that there was a song associated with that period in my life - the period during which my sister and I were repeatedly sexually assaulted by the teenage son of the woman who watched my sister after school until I could come get her and take her home.

The only other clear memory I have is of the day when our adopted brother was taken away from us. I have searched and searched for the post that completes the story I began with the above link and it appears I never did. I guess I know what my next post will be. I have to finish that story now that I feel as though I have more memories of it. Sorry - stay tuned for that one and in the meantime, go back and read the first half so you'll be up to speed when I post the finale, as it were.

For the last several years in therapy, I have examined the themes and patterns in my fears and anxieties and have found them to be mostly related to abandonment issues, control issues and not feeling as though I am worthy of unconditional love. I have often questioned where these strong issues come from and, several times, have wished I had more concrete information about my childhood. That wish is very quickly followed up by a resolute slamming of that door in my head. No f*ing way! Stay out of there. It could undo you.

Today as I practiced yoga I once again wished for some more clarity about my history. And instead of succumbing to the knee-jerk response that admonished me to Shut.The.Door., I asked myself why. What was it that I was hoping to gain from having these memories? I realized that what I want is to know who to blame. Who can I legitimately be furious with for screwing up my life? I have done a lot of work around forgiving the boy who abused me and feel as though there is a light spot in my heart because I have let go of most of that. And, while that is certainly trauma enough to cause me to lose memories, I know that none of that happened until I was at least in the 3rd or 4th grade. There is more. I know that.

I was so surprised at my ultimate reason for wanting to recover these traumatic memories that I nearly fell out of my side angle pose. Do I really want someone to blame? Yup. And even though I know that I will likely not find any easy answers or any justice, the idea that someone other than myself is to blame for what I experienced is huge. For years I have carried around the notion that I was unlovable, incapable of deserving nurturing attention, the person who blew things out of proportion simply to get attention and I'm tired of that story now. I was a kid. I deserved love and affection and care and comfort. And knowing that someone else should have been responsible for that and dropped the ball lets me off the hook a little bit.

That's not to say I'm not freaking terrified of these memories. And a friend of mine who suffers from PTSD and has had flashbacks has warned me that I have no control over whether or when I might get them back, in any case. Personally, that's the part that turns my knickers inside out. I want to know and I want to know on my terms. But like they say, if you want to make God laugh, tell Her your plans. Still, I feel as though I've tempted fate by simply writing these words and I suspect that I ought to have been more careful what I wished for...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mama's Summer Camp


Summer is one benchmark I use to measure the girls' development. Not only have they just completed another year of school, but they have generally grown an inch or so and matured a wee bit as well. In keeping with their gradual aging, summer is when I add another chore to their respective repertoires. I know. What a way to kill summer enthusiasm, huh? Buzzkill.

Whatever. My kids are not growing up without ever having had to lift a finger to help out around the house. And, since summer is devoid of homework, rigid bedtime schedules and sports/piano/guitar/horseback lessons, I figure they have all the time in the world to master this new skill, right? Usually when I introduce another chore I simply explain it, model it, tell them my expectations for how often it needs to be done, and consider it done. Given that they are already responsible for feeding the pets, taking out the garbage/recycle/compost, folding the laundry, and setting and clearing the dinner table, I was working a bit to come up with new chores. So I asked them what they thought. Suckers.

Eve decided she would like to try doing the dinner dishes.
Lola said laundry.

The month of July was reserved for housework immersion summer camp. Mama-style. The first night, I showed Eve my method for rinsing the dishes, stacking them in the dishwasher, separating the hand-wash only things out and scrubbing and rinsing them, and wiping down the counters. She was also responsible for emptying the dishwasher in the morning and putting everything away. Unfortunately for her, I love cooking and cook dinner at home from scratch nearly every night.

Lola was schooled on how to separate delicates from colors from linens from whites from handwashables and how to put each of these groups of laundry through the washer and dryer. Suspiciously, our dry cleaning bill skyrocketed in July when Bubba learned who would be responsible for caring for his work clothes.

My plan was to have the girls be solely responsible for these two tasks during the month of July. In August, they had Harry Potter camp and we were out of town for a week, so we would have to play it by ear. As soon as school started, they would only be responsible for these tasks on the weekends, leaving their weeknights free for practices and homework and family time.

Can I just say that I was terribly relieved when August 1 came? It was all I could do not to look over the girls' shoulders and chew on my bottom lip. I offered Eve advice when it seemed as though she was rinsing more than necessary or if there was a more efficient way to get things done, but she would have none of it. I don't blame her. I had to remind myself that she would learn more if she made her own mistakes. I wasn't willing to let Lola make mistakes with my clothes, though, so I gave a bit more input there. Still, their timelines weren't the same as mine.

Eve knew she had to clean the kitchen as soon as dinner was over. The problem came the following morning. Lola and I get up at the crack of dawn and my routine is to come downstairs, empty the dishwasher, make my latte and read the news. Eve discovered the joy of sleeping in this summer which meant that the dishwasher often didn't get emptied until well after Lola and I had eaten breakfast. Which meant dirty dishes stacked in the sink. Waiting for Eve to get out of bed. Driving me nuts. Every day.

Lola's job was much more cyclical. Not having my perspective and ability to look ahead and anticipate who would run out of underwear when or need to wear her "favorite skirt," she quickly fell into a habit of only doing laundry when I told her to. Despite my continued warnings, she often started a load of wash and left it in there to molder for a few hours before remembering it needed to go in the dryer. She eschewed the laundry basket, preferring instead to gather up as many of the warm, dry clothes as she could in her (short, 9-year-old) arms and carry them to the couch, leaving a trail of clean items behind her in the dog and cat-hair tumbleweeds on the floor in the hall.

I spent far too much time ruminating on my frustrations - trying desperately to recall how I learned to do dishes and laundry the way I do them. I know for a fact that my mother would accept no jobs half-done, but I can't recall any specific lessons on how to do things the way she wanted. I resigned myself to letting the girls work out their own systems and, by the end of the month, they had both learned some valuable lessons about how to be more efficient with their respective chores. That being said, on August 1st, it was an enormous relief to get back to doing the dinner dishes my own way. As for the laundry, Bubba has mysteriously decided that his clothes are safe to be washed at home once again. It was not all in vain though. At one point Eve said to me (her arms up to the elbow in dishsoapy water), "Mom, this is a lot of work. Every night after dinner, I'll rinse my own plate and put it in the dishwasher for you. I promise."

I'd like to say Lola had a similar revelation, but since her laundry accounts for the smallest portion in the house - given that she thinks being clean is vastly over-rated - and the fact that running large machinery combined with pouring chemicals is a dream generally reserved for her sleeping hours, she won't likely come up with any gems. She is still more than willing to drop a load of laundry in the washer or dryer for me at my request.

Overall, it was a good experiment and it's nice to know I can rely on the girls to help out when asked, but I am more than a little embarrassed to say that I don't relish giving up my dominion over the kitchen or the laundry room again anytime soon.


Thursday, September 08, 2011

Writing: The World's Oldest Profession?


"When I look on you a moment, then I can speak no more, but my tongue falls silent, and at once a delicate flame courses beneath my skin, and with my eyes I see nothing, and my ears hum, and a wet sweat bathes me, and a trembling seizes me all over." Sappho, Ancient Greek poet, 610-580BC

Despite the beauty of the words, what struck me first about this quote as I first saw it were the dates during which this poet lived. Nearly 2,500 years ago. There was written language. Like this.

Forgive me for being terribly consumed by the age in which I live - the age of high speed internet and bluetooth cellular capability and routine air travel via jumbo jet. When I look back at my own life (nearly forty years long) and realize that most of these things haven't been around that long - heck I started out life with rotary dial phones and didn't get my first computer until I was a junior in college - I am astonished at what remains. In the last hundred years, automobiles were invented, rail travel was perfected, the telegraph came in to being. I often take for granted that our world changes drastically in small increments from generation to generation. I have seen movies go from reel-to-reel to beta to VHS tape to DVD. Phones go from rotary dial to push-button to cordless to cellular to smart phones. I will not be surprised in the least to look back on my life from my 80s to discover that something I thought impossible as a child has come to fruition.

But to be struck with the notion that over thousands and thousands of years, one thing in particular has remained for humankind, I truly did feel shocked. Communication. From the beginning of humankind, we have felt the need to converse with each other, tell each other stories, find a way to express ourselves. Before written language, there were oral histories, songs, musical instruments, sign language. And although written language has changed dramatically, from handwritten letters between two individuals to digitized e-books, the ultimate purpose remains. Communication. Sharing our ideas and needs and knowledge with each other.

Families with non-verbal members have long struggled to find ways to communicate among themselves. Technology has afforded many of these families with the ability to better understand each other, by circumventing the spoken language with keyboards and iPads.

Upon completing my first manuscript, I began to worry that the publishing industry would go the way of the dodo and I would be left scrambling to find a way to share my work. I needn't have broken a sweat. The simple fact is, human beings are who we are because of our need to communicate with each other. We will always find ways to accomplish this - radio, blogs, ebooks, rallies, pamphlets, songs, things I am sure I haven't yet considered. As a writer, I am heartened to realize that what I do fulfills such an integral need of humanity. Not everyone will read my words, and not all who read them will agree on their accuracy or importance, but the simple knowledge that language and discourse has stood the test of time and will find its way through like a weed in the sidewalk grounds me.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

I Love Aging!


No, really. I do. It almost sounds cliche (or maybe it's closer than "almost") to say this, but dang, I feel pretty good. Despite the fact that I'm 40 days away from turning 40, I can say that the revelations I've had in the past decade are what have made me appreciate being exactly where I am in life.

I was having lunch with a girlfriend the other day and we were lamenting the fact that both of our tween daughters are asking about wearing makeup. I distinctly recall seventh grade as the "magic" year for me - I started shaving my legs, had my first period, and was allowed to wear deep blue eyeshadow and Debbie Gibson-brand mascara to school. All of those things sound horrific to me now. Each and every damn one of them. But back then, I was thrilled. And Eve, entering sixth grade this year, is convinced that she ought to be able to start wearing a little makeup as well. She did make a fairly keen observation, though.

"When I am allowed to wear makeup, who is going to teach me how to put it on the right way? You don't know how to wear it, do you?"

I could have considered that an insult. But she's right. Somewhere around the age of 19 or 20, I realized that I was trading sleep for makeup application time. Working two jobs and going to college full-time meant that sleep was at a premium. One of my jobs started at 4:30am and required me to care for the animals who had stayed the night at the local veterinary clinic - administering their medications, taking the dogs out to pee and stretch their legs, and cleaning the kennels before the office opened for the day. Those guys certainly couldn't care less if I had mascara on. Generally, I finished just in time for my 8:00 class, so makeup lost the battle there.

I did retain the habit of wearing a little mascara and some blush for special occasions, but by the time my wedding day rolled around, I had to go out and specifically purchase makeup for the day since the stuff I had had been rattling around in a drawer for several years.

There have been times throughout the years where I have felt bad about myself, especially as I became more sedentary upon entering the workforce and again after having the girls. I have a closet with clothing that ranges in size from 6 to 12 and I am acutely aware of which of those clothes fit me comfortably. The difference now is that I won't force myself to wear the smaller ones because of the number on the waistband. I am much more forgiving of myself and much less tolerant of tight, uncomfortable clothes. I prefer to spend my days feeling good.

I am also much less likely to beat myself up mentally. I started jogging in June, determined to add some cardio fitness to my yoga regime so that I can keep up with the girls better. While I generally don't like running, I find that it is much more enjoyable if I don't treat myself like a newbie at boot camp. If I miss a day or two, I don't berate myself. Instead, I remember all of the previous days where I ran and tell myself that tomorrow will present another opportunity to run again. I have become capable of telling myself the same thing with regard to having dessert a few days in a row or not being disciplined enough with my writing schedule. Decrying the mistakes has never been motivating for me, but remembering that skipping one workout or sharing a hot fudge sundae with Lola isn't grounds for desertion puts things in perspective.

Saturday, we had planned our first ever family whitewater rafting trip. The girls were old enough to be excited about it and it promised to be 90 degrees out. I was really excited until the guide launched into his safety spiel about what to do when you fall out on a Class 3 or 4 rapid, how to signal that you're okay (or not), and how your paddle should never be out of your hands. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Lola begin to blanch and I knew I had to keep my cool. I couldn't let on that I was nervous, if only to reassure her. By the time the four of us climbed into the raft, Lola had recovered but I was sinking deeper into apprehension. I could see Class 3 rapids right out of the chute and did some quick calculations to determine whether the girls were actually okay to do this. Neither of them even weighs 65 pounds! I envisioned backing out. What would Bubba do? Would it be a relief to one or both of the girls - they could back out, too, and save face? I forced myself to stay put and breathe. I reminded myself that I am a very strong swimmer and I only had to be in this moment right now. Nowhere else. No projections into the future. And then I heard it. That voice inside my head. The angel on my shoulder. She said:

"You do not have to be anything other than you are right now."

What?
Really?
No shit?

So I can be a somewhat-frightened, 39-and-counting mother of two sitting in a raft in the glorious sunshine. And that's okay?

Yup. It is. It doesn't require action on my part. It doesn't mean that I ought to be striving to be anything other/different/better. It will not drastically alter anyone's life for me to be just who I am right now in this moment. It would not make anyone else's life or experience better if I were different. I simply am.

And that, my friends, is the beauty of aging. I finally get to just be who I am and be happy with it. No excuses. No shame.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Versatile Blogger Award


Dee over at Coming Home to Myself just honored my blog by passing on the "Versatile Blogger Award" and naming me as a blog she thinks deserves more readers. Thanks, Dee! I love more readers, if only because it invites more dialogue (read: comments), and that is what my writing is all about - creating conversation.

In keeping with the protocol of this award, I will point you to some other blogs I have recently discovered that I enjoy reading. Check out:


The final requirement is that I share seven unique things about myself. Here goes ---

1. I was a vegetarian for thirteen years, very happily. Then, on a trip to the Canadian Rockies, as I sat down to nurse my then-seven-month-old daughter, Eve, I caught a whiff of the neighboring campsite's bratwurst sausages on the grill. I begged Bubba to get in the car, drive to the nearest town (Banff), and buy me some. Ever the frustrated carnivorous husband, he couldn't get there fast enough. I ate three that night and have loved meat ever since.

2. I have half a tattoo. Luckily it is in a very inconspicuous place. As a freshman in college, I went along with my roommate and her friends to get their tattoos and allowed myself to be peer-pressured in to getting one, too. I finally agreed and then changed my mind halfway through and abandoned the process, telling everyone that it was too painful to continue.

3. I had so many kidney infections as a kid that the doctors thought I would have to get a transplant and be on dialysis. It wasn't until I was in my thirties that I realized the infections "magically" ceased as soon as the neighborhood teenage bully stopped sexually assaulting me on a regular basis.

4. I love cooking dinner so much that I make a weekly menu every Saturday night, shop for groceries on Sunday (and fresh produce and meat again on Wednesday), and cook almost every night of the week.

5. Doing dishes makes me happy. It is this lovely, zen moment where everyone else in the house leaves me alone (they don't want to be recruited to help) and I get to engage in something that has tangible results. Often it is the only project I get to begin and end all in one fell swoop the entire day.

6. My dream car is a 1962 convertible Corvette. Candy-apple red with white interior and a white hard-top. Always has been. Always will be. I got to ride in one once as a Homecoming Princess in high school and haven't forgotten it since.

7. I love the sound of moving water. My favorite place of all time is the beach (any beach, cold or warm water - doesn't matter), but I love lakeshores, babbling brooks, koi ponds with waterfalls and backyard fountains. It somehow brings me to my center.

I'm on one last vacation with Bubba and the kids at a lake this long weekend and right now, I'm sitting at the kitchen table overlooking the water with a sopping wet dog at my feet (he has fetched about 652 sticks so far today) and two girls with their noses stuck in books in the room next to me. I am blissed out. Have a beautiful weekend, all.
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