Thursday, March 31, 2011

Trading Notes

I love Violet’s pics from the last post (here's one more), but I almost deleted the ones of me. When I see how tired I look and my hair - don’t get me started about my hair – hello trying times. I should say goodbye trying times.

I don’t think any of my challenges are more significant than anyone else’s. Everyone’s got struggle at some point. I also believe that sharing is like joining a study group; it has to be better than laboring solo in a stale library corner. There are advantages to trading notes.

Last September to January was all stress in my life. It was the worry cherry to four years of stress sundae. A scoop of Violet’s babyhood struggle with asthma after we lost the family health insurance. A scoop of work politics gone terribly wrong swirled with Violet’s continuing asthma crisis. A scoop of unemployment, all gooey with ribbons of discouraging job searching and failed endeavors. And on top, generous dollops of the house that had to be yanked apart violently and rebuilt noisily by a team of people that made private life public for a year. And don’t forget a generous pinch of relationship troubles.

It was the three months after my ex and I separated, when we still lived together, that the stress pinnacled. When I moved out in December, I had no business getting my own apartment. I did not have the long term job to afford it, but the only choice I was left with at the time was to keep moving forward.

Over the last few months, I found peace. Lovely, relieving, relaxing peace. My blood pressure dropped. I wasn’t working much. I ate well, breathed, exercised, contemplated, caught up on TV. Heaven.

And as I relaxed, my body crashed. My hair fell out. I couldn’t sleep. There were flashes of anger. I was no longer angry with anyone in particular; I was just angry. I’m not a fan of profanity, but so fucking what. I went to the doctor about my hair and learned there’s a name for temporary hair loss a couple months after trauma has passed.

I’m a bit embarrassed to say trauma, but that’s my truth. All I can do is speak mine; you do yours. As of a few months ago, my career, marriage, family life, home, and finances were leveled. And let’s not even get into self-esteem, hopes, and dreams. There was some serious shit going down.

I posted Violet’s candid mama pics because I want to remember this time. It fascinates me that a body can hold it together physically until it knows it's safe. I also see my strength in those pics. I mean, the list of things that can stress me out these days is short. Helping my cause are baths, sleep, friends, oil-change-reminder texts from my mother (not really, Mom), vitamin c, eggs, greens, humor, children, fulltime work, shopping (a little), music, family, speaking up, and gentleness.

And yes, I want to cuss but crave gentleness. You can’t relate?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Our Monday as Sunday, According to Violet

Today's list went something like this: early wake up, no coffee, kid prodding, lunch packing, Violet conflict, Daisy school, coffee stop, Violet speech therapy, housework, groceries, Violet scooter, laundromat, dog walk, laundromat, Daisy pick up, hill drive, kid snack, work calls, Grandma, mani/pedi, eyebrows, beanbag search, vacuum purchase, dinner, return hill drive, kids scooter, kids homework, kids bath, kids bed.

Sounds boring, right? Violet didn't think so. She was on photo safari ALL DAY. Not used to having the camera turned on me, but I'll be a good sport for obvious reasons.

Violet's pictures pleasantly surprised me, especially after a demon possessed her soul at bedtime . . . my four year old's head started to spin before her eyeballs popped out sideways. There was venom spraying between her fangs, and I could only get her to bed by pinning her down while reading from the Bible and clenching a bulb of garlic in one sweaty fist.

I have to say I am proud of her pretty pics, though there might be one or two I could do without.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Earth Hour is not Earth Day, Quinn

Earth Hour last year.

Earth Hour this year.

This morning brought my worst rain commute yet. I was all about my Earth Hour bath plan. Only mentioned it to one co-worker before I made a note to self: remember, don’t talk about baths with new work acquaintances. Apparently, I’m still learning about private and public thoughts, completely flexible in my ability to neglect to speak up or belt out something in the better-left-unsaid category . . . doh!

Beautiful idea though - I highly recommend making yourself spend an hour in a bath. I brought mineral water and a pot of coffee, a mug, mags, my phone, my camera, 23 candles, and a lighter. But mostly I let my thoughts pass. Good times. And all it took was a helpful text from the tub to get Quinn and her dad to drink their wine in the dark.

What a difference a bath can make. Not much relaxation and exercise for me these days. That's so before fulltime job. A whole month. I was practically twitching from stress when I walked through the door this evening. Well, part of the twitching came from my Eminem-wannabe downstairs neighbor. I’ve been listening to 8 Mile for a few months now. Last night was the party debut of his recordings, right here beneath my apartment. The floor thumping was in full effect when I returned from work tonight, but by some Earth Hour miracle, disappeared just when I settled into the bath. (Because I find him annoying, he'll probably be on some show like American Idol or Best Hiphop Artist Ever. I better instruct him on the importance of a solid backup plan.)

Now, more work and cleaning. When the kids aren’t here, it's like my parents just let me out of their home. Don’t clean up anything except coffee accessories. Stack to-go containers on the stove. Don't make the bed. Never put the laundry in the hamper. Then, when the kids are due back, I’m madly sorting and shining everything up, clipping recipes, and tying on my imaginary apron.The kids would probably prefer that I let the cleaning slide when they’re with me. But, you know, they bug me too sometimes.


Friday, March 25, 2011

Earth Hour 2011

Earth Hour is 8:30 p.m. your time on Saturday, March 26th. Scroll down to see all the landmarks and new countries that will be participating this year.

I was considering how the kids and I were going to spend it before I realized I was solo. Now my plan is to make it home from work in time to spend the entire hour in the bath. Probably the most fun I can have on my own.

And Tabitha, I know you're checking the blog . . . just because you're in Spain doesn't mean you get to skip Earth Hour. Remember to do it for the FULL and OFFICIAL hour and NO TV. You'll love yourself when you're done. Trust me.

Here are the Earth Hour mascots to get you in the mood . . .

And in case you're wondering what's an hour with the lights off going to do, go here to pledge what you're going to do after Earth Hour for positive planet action and see other pledges from around the world. I'll be mulling over my pledge in the bath. But that's not the only thing I'll be doing there.

I'll also be relaxing and texting . . . what did you think I meant? Oh and if you're open to the idea, let's send healing thoughts to Japan and wherever else they might be needed. I think positive energy flows better in the dark anyway.

from . . .

Record participation with 4 days until the world unites for Earth Hour

131 countries and territories, iconic landmarks, public figures and hundreds of millions across the globe prepare to come together and switch off the lights, celebrating action for the planet.

Tuesday 22nd March: Just four days out from the global lights-out event, Earth Hour 2011 has reached record participation, with 131 countries and territories registered to take part, on all seven continents, with all G20 countries, thousands of cities, and iconic landmarks and public figures set to join with hundreds of millions across the world to celebrate action for the planet.

This Saturday, 26 March, at 8:30pm local time iconic landmarks across the globe will go dark for Earth Hour including:

• The world’s tallest building – Burj Khalifa, Dubai

• The Empire State Building, New York

• Times Square, New York

• Christ the Redeemer statue, Brazil

• National Monument, Indonesia

• London Eye

• Eiffel Tower, Paris

• India Gate, Delhi

• The Alhambra, Spain

• National Mausoleum, Pakistan

• Boudhanath Stupa, Nepal

• Table Mountain, South Africa

• Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

• The Obelisk, Argentina

• Milad Tower, Tehran

• Duomo, Milan

• Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque, the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates

• Davis Station, in Antarctica

• Jet d’Eau, Geneva, Switzerland

• Opera House, Sydney

• Presidential Palace, Lima - world heritage site

• Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

• Parliament Palace in Bucharest, Romania

• Queen’s Palace, Madagascar

• Government House, Hong Kong

• Royal Castle, Sweden

• Denmark’s Kronborg Castle

• Santa Maria del Mar Basilica, Spain

• Royal Palace, Thailand

• China World Trade Centre Tower 3 (the tallest building in Beijing).

• Presidential Palace, Indonesia

• Niagara Falls, Canada

• Hanoi Opera House, Vietnam

• Rembrandt Square, Amsterdam

• The Merlion, Singapore

In 2010 hundreds of millions of people across the world, in 4,616 cities, in 128 countries and territories took part in Earth Hour, but switching off the lights was only the beginning. This year Earth Hour asks people to go beyond the hour, and use Earth Hour to commit to an action, big or small, that they will sustain for the future of our planet.

“Earth Hour is a chance for people and communities across the globe to join together with the common purpose of a sustainable future for our planet,” said Andy Ridley, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Earth Hour. “This year Earth Hour asks people to commit to an action, big or small, for the coming year, taking Earth Hour beyond the hour.”

Among the thousands of cities taking part in Earth Hour 2011, many have already committed to taking action beyond the hour for Earth Hour including:

• Sydney, Australia where actions include switching to LED lights in parks and streets

• Medellin, Colombia where long term water protection and tree planting initiatives form part of a commitment that goes “beyond 60 minutes”

• Shenyang, China where 38,000 hectares of land will be reforested

Also supporting Earth Hour 2011, and committing to taking action beyond the hour, are the following high profile ambassadors:

• Model Miranda Kerr, who has committed to buying local, organic produce to reduce her ecological footprint

• Wasim Akram, a Pakistan cricket legend, who has made a commitment to stop using plastic bags, recycle and reuse, and use his high profile to promote and encourage the same behaviour throughout Pakistan and the rest of the world

• Pocoyo, an animated TV series that will reach out to its millions of preschool-aged fans across the globe over the next year, to inform children about environmental issues

• Li Bingbing, the Chinese acting/singing sensation, who has committed to being vegetarian for 100 days this year

• Actor Verne Troyer who will go beyond the hour this year by replacing all the light bulbs in his home with energy efficient lighting

An online platform has been launched, that captures and allows individuals, governments and organisations across the globe to share their actions, acting as a tool to showcase and inspire commitments to protect the one thing we all have in common – the planet.

Earth Hour 2011 will take place at 8.30pm, Saturday, 26 March, 2011.

Countries and territories that are participating in Earth Hour officially for the first time include:

• Jamaica

• Uganda

• Swaziland

• Iran

• Tajikistan

• Chad

• Azerbaijan

• Gibraltar

• Palestine

• Suriname

• Uzbekistan

• Trinidad & Tobago

• Lesotho

About Earth Hour

Earth Hour is a global initiative in partnership with WWF. Individuals, businesses, governments and communities are invited to turn out their lights for one hour on Saturday March 26, 2011 at 8:30 PM to show their support for environmentally sustainable action. The event began in Sydney in 2007, through a partnership between WWF Australia, Leo Burnett and Fairfax Media, when 2 million people in one city switched off their lights. By 2010, Earth Hour had created history as the largest voluntary action ever witnessed with participation across 128 countries and territories and every continent, including the world’s most recognized man-made marvels and natural wonders in a landmark environmental action.

About WWF

WWF is one of the world's largest and most experienced independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global Network active in more than 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the planet's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mathilda's Pics

We said goodbye to my brother and Mathilda this morning. They're heading back to Germany tomorrow. And just in time too. Those two ragers wore me out. Here are some of Mathilda's pics from the trip, which is why she does not appear in them.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Preschooler on Aquarium

Middle Bro and Mathilda are visiting from Germany after moving there a year ago. Extended fam went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium today. Violet was a little too whiny until she saw the albatross, then she knew, "Give me the camera." I handed it over out of desperation, but really, it brought out the best of a four-year-old on aquarium tour. I admire her perspective.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Backup Plan

Several years ago, there was a student at the alternative school for at-risk teenagers that I made the mistake of accepting. At the time, students had to pass an interview process I supervised as the assistant principal. Soon after this particular student was enrolled, a problem became evident. The student had bigger issues than our small school could handle. These issues led to a crisis over several months that had the potential to take us down as a school. We survived, but I wouldn’t say unscathed; the relations among the staff were permanently damaged and there were health issues.

Fast-forward to present day. I see a list of the most popular internet search words of the day, and a name I thought I would always associate with stress is hanging out, right there in the middle of the list. No, it couldn’t be . . . click. What the? Problem Student is on American Idol.

I flashed to one of the hours Problem Student and I sat together in his mandated class of one. I was attempting to design a writing program for him, inquiring about his interests. He had big dreams. He either wanted to be a professional wrestler or a rock star. I was frustrated with the amount of staff time the kid was sucking up like soda. His dreams annoyed me. I was dreaming that he would be a fully functional adult with a job and an apartment. What I said to him was: you might want a backup plan.

I don’t keep up with American Idol, but I catch Problem Student when I can. Except now, he’s more like Best Singer Ever. At least that’s what the judges seem to be saying whenever I see the show. And yeah, he’s really good. Not necessarily my kind of music but talent you can’t deny. I cried the first time I watched him perform, only because I’m really happy for him. He’s the survivor of formidable challenges, the poster child for you-really-never-know. Funny that I was the one in need of a backup plan at the exact time Best Singer Ever followed his dream.

Next week, I would have officially run out of funds to afford the apartment without a full-time job. Next week is my first paycheck from my new full-time job. I could be making plans to move in with my parents, sending my daughters and extended family into chaos. I did not realize just how close it was. Strangely, there have been so many other things to worry about, I forgot about losing the apartment. Things can work out just in time. Sometimes, hope is the backup plan.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Japan Fundraiser in NYC

This is where I'd be Thursday night if I was on that other coast. It's actually a weekly reggae thing. I got to check out a similar event on my New York trip a while back. I have to say it was really fun. And I don't even like going to clubs. I don't dance. I've never been a dedicated reggae fan. It's a wonder I have any friends at all. But I loved the music and the mix of people. I would go again for sure.

Especially this Thursday. It's a special fundraiser for Japan Red Cross. My long time friend BT has somehow put this together in one week. The kid has high standards, so I know it will be good. And I think we can all agree that it's important to do something for the cause. Not only are there people who could use our help, doing something about it is like taking an antidote to news-induced stress disorder. I mean, there are humanitarian crises throughout the world, but the unimaginable severity of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan makes this one especially urgent.

Please share with anyone who might be interested, especially if s/he lives in the New York metropolitan area.


And if you have an event or project to share for Japan tsunami and earthquake relief, please do.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Our friend Neighbor Kid is looking to define his role within our family. When he reunited with the girls on Sunday, he maintained that he had been hoping the girls had been missing him. They were solemn when they agreed they had been. Today, NK invited himself when Violet and I were on our way to pick up Daisy from school. He was so excited to ride along, “I canNOT believe it! I’ve waited for this a whole school year.” We’ve known you for about a month. “Exactly.”

When we got to school, I pulled up to the line of cars looping through the pickup area. Something caught my eye in the back. It was NK, seatbelt free, standing with his head out the window, “Daisy! Over here! Do you see me? I’m in your car!” NK-get-back-in-your-seat-right-now! “Oh sorry.” The kid can use an apology to his advantage. Unlike my kids, who straight up deny my direction, going into immediate confrontation, NK apologizes and agrees . . . until I realize HE STILL DOESN’T HAVE HIS SEATBELT ON. NK! “Sorry. Sorry. Tell her I snuck in the car and you didn't even know. What's up with this line . . . we can see her, and she can't get to us? Does she know I'm here? Did she say something about me? This is so cool!” Way to bring the enthusiasm, Kid.

On the way back from school, the boy had a breakthrough, “Hey girls! I have an idea. I could be the brother!” Daisy and Violet were silent, unimpressed. I think they had other plans for him. NK addressed me, “Because you don’t have a brother . . . and you could really use one . . . and I could be him.” My girls remained silent. Two minutes later, NK sounded happy with the way things were progressing, “I really like being the brother of this family.”

Later, I asked the girls what they thought of NK trying to be the brother. Violet fielded the question, “It’s a . . . you know what? . . if he’s da broder . . . it wealwy wouldn’t be a good idea. You know why? Broders live wid da famwy. He’d have da live with da famwy all da time . . . and den . . . “ Daisy interrupted, “Yeah, he’s the friend. He stays in his own house.” Fair enough.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


The kids and I ate lunch at the harbor today. It's still busier than normal. People checking out the muddy harbor and damaged boats. As we ate, we could hear the phone ring every few minutes. The waitress was exasperated . . . everyone wanted to know if they were open "after the tsunami came through there." Usually not the most popular restaurant, there were extra tables set out, mostly filled.

After lunch, we sat and watched an otter at the edge of the harbor until a boy threw a rock at it . . . who does that? The otter looked pissed and gave everyone a solid stare-down, from one end of the crowd to the other. Sea otters tend to be little pricks. If you don't believe me, read this.

The beach was wiped clean. Almost no shells, seaweed, seaglass. We stared at the water and talked about the tsunami. The kids are convinced it happened here. I told them about Japan, but I couldn't figure out how to explain it in a meaningful way for them. Daisy announced the Boardwalk had been hit hard.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tsunami Surge

I woke up to Tabitha's text this morning . . . u heard about tsunami, right? Yes in Japan. She texted back . . . here! they said on radio people evac your town. Is that why I've been dreaming about helicopters? There are at least five helicopters circling overheard even now.

My mom called to say my town was on the news. I turned on the TV and flipped through channels until I found footage of the harbor about a mile from my apartment. Apparently, there was a tsunami surge and evacuation was optional. I decided to go check it out with the other idiots.

I think some of the locals misinterpreted this sign.

It was a scene.

The waves weren't extremely large but they moved strangely. Just before crashing, it looked as if they were being unzipped to release the frothy whitewater. You could also see vertical stripes of strong undertows.

I ran into a friend, and we stood and watched the surge of water running into the harbor. A boat was overturned. A seal whipped by in the current. There was some debris and the murky water rose considerably. The docks started to groan and the people who were trying to secure the boats ran.

But it had nothing to do with the terror in Japan.

When I was a kid, I had a dream that I was walking on the beach at night with my aunt and we died in a tsunami. I can still vividly remember the moment just before the wave hit. I've been afraid of dying that way ever since.

I used to read everything I could find about tsunamis. In January 1700, a 9.0 earthquake shook what is now Northern California up to British Columbia. A tsunami from that quake destroyed villages in Japan. Before that time, there's evidence of an ancient monster wave so large that it hit the redwoods in the mountains behind my town. Then there was the story I will never forget from the 2006 Java tsunami involving a mother who was forced to choose which of her children to hold onto when they were swept up.

I was glued to the news about the Japan earthquake last night. During the tsunami footage on CNN, they had on their banner something about the yen taking a dive in value 20 minutes after the earthquake struck. I found the instant nature of that info disturbing in its callousness. Everything is so overwhelmingly connected these days.

And not just socially and economically but geologically. If you live on the Pacific Rim, there is cause for concern. Earthquakes happen in clusters. Not just aftershocks either. As I was writing this, an announcement was made that another earthquake had just occurred in Japan but probably at a different epicenter.

I think about the children and the adults responsible for children who have endured this disaster. Blessings to those who have feared for their lives and to those who have tried to protect others. Blessings to those who have been injured and to those who have died. It's not much, but you can text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. I did.