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With Everything That Happened

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I was in Boston last week for a conference (which still went on as planned, and I thank the organizers for that) right after the Boston Marathon.

As you can imagine, it was not the trip I planned. My phone/email/social media channels/in person conversations all focused on how I was and if I was safe, “with everything that happened” to this iconic U.S. city.

Bombings
Shootings
Sirens
Senselss death
Catastrophic injury
Uncertainty
Police every place I went
“Shelter in place” — a new and scary phrase
Vacant streets
Military and FBI presence in common everyday places
Unanswered questions
Answers that don’t cure the heartache

The Kid was not made aware, thank goodness. A few of the week’s tragic events happened a little too close for comfort. Meanwhile the city’s residents remained ever so gracious to us guests. I thank all those who cared enough to check in on me and were worried. Even the airline employees were asking me about my time in Boston. A blog post about these memories seems trite to me, but us writer types feel compelled to write, even when we do not always have the words. Not gonna lie: I was a bit worried during those six days, but I tried to find the balance between not being afraid of the sinister “they” the they who is behind the mayhem and not being unnecessarily risky and naïve that the mayhem couldn’t or wouldn’t spill into my normal thankfully boring life. Some moments, though, the thought of walking nearby to get a Dunkin Donuts coffee outside the perceived safety of our hotel seemed a little iffy.

I am always glad to get back to Colorado, no matter where in the world I travel. In that small way this trip was no different. But then again, it was unlike anything I had experienced. As a waiter told me, “It feels like Gotham City outside.” It was a surreal week, and my heart remains with those who are suffering.

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My Kid Googled Me

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After a long week, I took The Kid and I to one of her favorite places, Red Robin, for dinner. I thought it might be nice to spend some quality time together and not have to do dishes for once. But I forgot that my daughter hates to chitchat during meals; she prefers to sit down and eat quietly, zoning out to the sounds of people chewing their food. This, of course, drives her chitchatty mother absolutely mad because god dammit I am paying for a lovely meal with my daughter and I expect to have a real conversation that includes more than “Can I have a sleepover/Barbie/Dairy Queen/playdate/another cat/soda instead of milk?”

Instead I get this:

How was school today?
GOOD.
How was lunch?
GOOD.
Did you eat lunch today?
YES. WELL MOST OF IT. SOME OF IT.
(chewing chewing chewing chewing)
OK, what else did you do at school today?
AT RECESS WE PLAYED GROUNDIES, AND I WAS A TIGER PRINCESS.
Um, ok then (has no idea what “groundies” is) … what did you LEARN at school today?
(chewing chewing vacant staring chewing chewing)
Hello? Did you hear my question?
WHAT QUESTION?
What kinds of things did you learn about at school today?
OH I DIDN’T HEAR YOU BECAUSE OF ALL OF THE NOISE.
(vacant staring chewing chewing)
So …. what did you learn today at school then?
AT SCHOOL WE ARE DOING REPORTS ABOUT STATES AND GUESS WHICH STATE I CHOSE.
Colorado.
NOPE.
Hawaii.
NO, I STUDIED THAT STATE LAST YEAR, REMEMBER?
Yes, I do remember. Um, Florida?
YES, I WAS BORN THERE BUT NO, NO I AM NOT STUDYING THAT STATE.
Nebraska.
NO.
OK then I don’t know where.
PENNSYLVANIA, WHERE YOU GREW UP.
Oh that’s ni–
AND GUESS WHAT? I GOOGLED YOU. BECAUSE YOU’RE FROM PENNSYLVANIA.
(blinking blinking blinking blinking blinking)
AND GUESS WHAT CAME UP?
(blinking blinking blinking blinking blinking)
DID YOU HEAR WHAT I SAID, MOM? I GOOGLED YOU.
(clears throat) Yea … um …

Now, I tell folks, college students especially, to Google themselves and how you really need to be in charge of and shape your online persona, etc etc etc. So my own words, often spoken in classrooms, rang in my ears when I heard my own offspring tell me she had Googled me. There are just certain things that sounds really weird when they come out of your child’s mouth for the first time. Curse words, for one. Really fancy words they are trying out. Any word you didn’t use when you were their age, like “text” as in “Can you text Paige’s mom to see if you can have a sleepover?”

And here she was, telling me she had Googled me and read things I’ve written and saw photos I posted. Including a photo of her.

I SAW A PHOTO OF THAT TIME I CRASHED MY BIKE AND I SPLIT MY LIP OPEN.
Oh yea?
I CANNOT *BELIEVE* YOU PUT THAT ON THE INTERNET.
Oh yea?
YEA THAT WAS REALLY EMBARRASSING, MOM.
I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to embarrass you.
WHY DID YOU EVEN DO THAT?
Well, I just —
I CANNOT BELIEVE I STILL HAVE A SCAR FROM THAT. IT WAS PRETTY BAD.
I know. But I’m glad you’re OK now.

 

What does it all mean? It means The Kid knows about things like Facebook, the Internet, Googling people, texting, and that I write and post pictures online and sometimes it’s about her, about us. Like I’m doing RIGHT NOW. Is this how generations before me felt about rock n’ roll? About tattoos? About other new fandangled things that don’t make any sense and feel kind of scary and unknown when put into the hands of our children? And will one day she blog/Facebook/Instagram/insert new fandangled social media outlet here about me?

It’s just weird. #holdme

It Was Her Idea To Volunteer (But Maybe It Should Have Been Mine)

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This is my sweet girl. See how happy she is?

Sometime after the holidays, we were driving past the Longmont Humane Society on I’m sure was one of my errand running days which The Kid tolerates/loathes, when she speaks up from the back seat:

MOM, I WANT TO VOLUNTEER AT THE ANIMAL SHELTER,
AND I WANT YOU TO VOLUNTEER WITH ME.

After my heart stopped exploding into a million little pieces because I so love this child, I told her sure. Even though volunteering, period, isn’t exactly on my to-do list these days, let alone with animals, I looked up the next volunteer training, signed us up, paid the training fee, borrowed The Kid on her dad’s weekend (thank you, Ex Husband), and in a group of other wannabe volunteers we learned about all the different kinds of volunteer opportunities at the Humane Society:

dogs
cats
small animals
foster
thrift store
events
fundraising
etc etc etc

Then we learned in order to work with the animals, you had to sign up for ANOTHER training the following weekend. The Kid of course was psyched to work in the Feline Friends program. We were given purple volunteer T-shirts (The Kid put hers on right away even though I had to gently remind her we were only in training and would not be working with animals that day) and then walked through the details of a volunteer shift (walk in, sign into a computer system, enter the kitty corral, see which kitties need visiting that day on a chart, take the cat out of its cage and hold its little body under your arm so it can’t escape, and take it to a visitation room and, well, visit).

These 15 or more minute visits might be the only time all day that a shelter cat gets out of its cage. Heartbreak.

Not gonna lie, I am a little nervous around animals I don’t know. And here I was walking around an animal shelter, with deathly allergies and a doubtful heart wondering if this was even a good idea. But we walked around and trying to decide which needy kitty needed human contact the most, we decided to first visit Sprinkles.
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Sprinkles was a little rough around the edges.

One eye, one and a half ears. Crazy wild coarse fur. Dandruff. Seven years old.
But she was so.sweet.and.friendly.and.curious.
She was my favorite.
And she was still there at the shelter the following week, and we visited with her again.
We love you, Sprinkles!
(The Kid has already decided if there a way to adopt you,
she would name you Mittens
because you remind her of the cat in the movie BOLT.)

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We visited with three cats our first day. The shelter likes volunteers to spend two hours per weekly shift, at least 15 minutes with an animal (but you could spend your entire shift with an animal). The point is not to play, but to get the cat comfortable around humans by talking and petting so it is used to your touch and voice and movement. The goal is to get the little guy or gal to want to sit in your lap. How adorable is that?

The Kid took this very, very seriously. (How adorable is that?)

Despite coming home covered in cat hair and feeling itchy/sneezy/stuffy every weekend now and wondering if there’s even time some weekends, I love that The Kid had this idea and that she wanted me to tag along. I had told someone that I felt at first like, erm, maybe I as the parent should have been the one to suggest to we volunteer. Not exactly feeling like Mom of the Year. But this friend said that it was better this way because I was not dragging her down or into my interests, but The Kid was inviting me on her path.

This was all about her, who she is and who she is becoming. And that definitely made it 10 times more awesome. Kid of the Year, for sure.

Three Things

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- When I need to reach things on the top shelves of my kitchen, I take the spaghetti spoon and use it to knock the thing off and into my arms below. I learned this from my grandmother Donna, who may have been even shorter than me. Sometimes, once in a great while when I am not paying attention or in a rush, yes, things hit me in the face. Luckily it’s usually the little and light things, like cupcake wrappers and not a jar of Crisco.

- I recently started drinking hot tea. This is to combat my hot cocoa habit (which began as a way to combat my nightly bowl of cereal before bedtime habit). I’m a diehard coffee drinker and used to think that tea didn’t fit my personality (silly, I know). But I was turned onto tea by my new hair salon, which provides free hot tea by Aveda while you wait. And I found myself two cups deep and wanting to brew some at home. I could have waited for my next hair appointment, but instead I found a tea at the new Longmont Sprouts that I actually look forward to drinking every night — Yogi Egyptian Licorice. Warm and spicy sweet (moi?).

- Sugar, our Flame Point Siamese diva, is so pretty that he’s often called a she. And every month or so, I take him to the groomers to help keep his dander down (so I don’t die from asthma and allergies), and he comes back wearing an adorable bandana. “She did great!” the groomer always says. LOLz.

Games People Play

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We have started Family Game Night at the house on the weekends. As a way to actually engage and interact with each other, turn off the various screens vying for facetime, and talk G-rated trash to each other.

We are fans of Life, UNO, and Connect4. The Kid wants the new Monopoly because now there’s a cat token (catlady 4evah). We scored a few new games over Christmas we still need to try like Jenga.

Confession: I’ve never played Apples to Apples. It feels like everyone has.

What family board games do you like to play? Growing up my brother and I loved to play Trouble and Guess Who (I’d love to find a Guess Who circa 1987 that isn’t branded with Dora or Star Wars or Harry Potter).

Bread and Wine, Body and Blood, Peanut Butter and Honey

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The Kid received her First Holy Communion this weekend.

It was really wonderful. Friends and family traveled from out of state to see the little miss partake in the Catholic tradition.

 

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The Kid received an array of gifts, both in person and by mail, from those who love her. We will start on the thank you cards right away. I think she was quite charmed that all this hullabaloo was for her.

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I am thankful for the parent volunteers who help teach the religious education classes at our church. I especially love our instructor, she is lovely and patient and firm. Also, a gaggle of girls in white dresses and veils is incredibly precious to see in person. Even if *one* girl AHEM happen to somehow break her veil into two pieces, oh, in the 40 minutes between dropping her off in the church basement and before walking in the church procession.

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The Kid wore a dress I bought from … Forever 21. I know, right? The irony. I stopped at the mall last weekend and saw one dress in a fancypants department store that was $100. Well that was not, could not happen. So while being brave and perusing F21 for myself, I picked up a pair of coral sandals for $8 for me and in the girls section, who knew?, I spied a white dress with a black ribbon sash for $17. Buh-bye, black ribbon, hello symbol of purity.

(My dress was a last minute impulse buy from the Longmont Super Target. I paired it with my F21 sandals and some red lipstick, an orange vintage belt and a black cardi. Perhaps a little vampy for church, but it was either this or work clothes. Confession: I am not a planny plannerton, so things like hosting and locating the camera and figuring out what-am-I-going-to-wear and where-will-everyone-sleep just doesn’t cross my mind as essentials. These things just work themselves out in the end.

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Godmother Cara and Godfudder Neal attended. These are some of my very best friends from college. They are the perfect people to be The Kid’s Godparents. Cara loves fancy fun clothes, cats, baking cakes, books, and dancing. Cara got The Kid the book “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.” Neal loves swimming pools, fast food, drawing, and Thundercats. Neal got The Kid a DVD of the 1980s cartoon classis Jem.

The Kid loves all of these things, and she loves Cara and Neal.

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My godmother FGM also attended. One night she made her hubby’s famous burgers, which included onion, eggs, BBQ sauce, and peanut butter. The next night, after the Mass, we went to Oskar Blues brewery in Longmont. I had the Trustafarian burger with arugula, goat cheese, and honey. Both burgers were culinary adventurous for me and both were suprisingly good. I will be ordering the Trustafarian again soon. (Have you ever had a weird burger like these?)

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The Kid requested a cake. A tiger cake for her First Communion. Of course. What doesn’t scream blessed sacrament like a cake shaped like a wild animal? The godparents helped The Kid turn a simple round cake with two cupcakes into this:

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It was just a lovely time. I tried to hold on to the good feelings as long as possible. When the last of our guests left today, The Kid said “I hate when visitors leave, especially when they are a part of your family.” Agreed.
What I really liked hearing at the Mass, in an attempt to prevent the parental papparazzi from spilling into the aisles during Mass, was the vocalist’s gentle reminder to the congregation that we were here not for the perfect photo opp but to be present in the moment when simple bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus Christ. And whatever your feelings are about JC, I think it was nice, it was needed, to hear and live that task of “being present in the moment” because it does not happen enough.  This weekend had a lot of great moments.

Are you a good host? I hope I was, even though admittedly I was winging it. But I think everyone had a good time, enough food and blankets, and I am so happy they were here.

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#Reverb11: Childhood

Heathens

Learn about #Reverb11 here.

December 9. Childhood: Tell a funny story about you from your
childhood. You know, the one that is always shared at family gatherings or when
your family meets your significant other.

My mom was always baking. One time, however, she made her famous sugar cookie dough and put a lid on the bowl and then put it in the fridge to chill. Just like all the other times. She and my Grandma Mensch were going to bake these drop sugar cookies the following day. Now, when your mother has a sweet tooth and bakes often, her children who inherited her sweet tooth often get to lick the wooden mixing spoon or maybe even the mixing beaters. Maybe even get a spoonful of cookie dough. And I’m sure we did that day. But for whatever reason, that time my brother and I were on that mixing bowl of uncooked goodness as soon as the adults were out of sight. And over the course of the next 24 hours, we ate that entire bowl of cookie dough. Spoonful by sneaky spoonful. We ate the whole bowl of cookie dough. All but one spoonful, enough to make one measley, lonely cookie. We secretly hoped Mom and Grandma Mensch wouldn’t notice and we were too chickenshit to finish off the bowl entirely and just own our gluttony. I’m sure our little brains thought At least they could make one cookie …

Kind of reminds me of that Hyperbole and a Half post, The God of Cake. Except I am not nearly as funny and don’t have any drawings. Damn.

The next day, I was in my bedroom, which was adjacent to the kitchen, when I heard the collective *GASP* of Mom and Grandma Mensch removing the lid to see one tiny sad ball of cookie dough. If I could have disappeared into thin air at that moment, I would have. Of course, they brought us both into the kitchen and so began the inquisition. They asked us if we ate it. And of course, being awful horrible beastly children, we lied, LIED, through our dough-encrusted teeth (I’m sure they could smell the sugar on our breath). We lied to their faces. Usually my brother and I fought like cats and dogs. We threw each other the bus regularly. We tattled on each other regularly. But not that day. Oh no. We were criminals and co-conspirators. We feigned complete ignorance. We shrugged our lying little shoulders. We stood in that kitchen and told them we had no idea what happened.

The whole scene was so absurd, my Mom and Grandma didn’t know what to do. They wanted to be stern with us, but they kept laughing and crying. My brother and I thought there was chance we might live after all. I think Mom and Grandma were awed, baffled and slightly horrorifed we had done such a thing. All that sugar. All those raw eggs. Looking back, I think we were not punished simply because of Mom Guilt; they didn’t catch us in the act. I also think they were so very thankful they didn’t have a pukefest on their hands.

What’s a great story about you from your childhood?

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#Reverb11: Home

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Learn about Reverb11 here.

December 8. Home: Name one thing you like about where you live.

Colorado. I’m a cliche. I love Colorado. It’s just so great here. I moved here because of a job I found on the Internet from the sugary beaches of Southwest Florida. I did not love Florida. I wanted to. But I knew myself, and I needed seasons. I needed the transition. I needed trees to bud, to bloom, to change color, and be bare. I needed snow and rain and wind as much as I needed sunshine. I needed mountains and plains more than ocean waves. I didn’t know all this was here when I moved to Colorado in 2004. I never skied or biked or ran or camped here. I had a one day interview where I spent most of the day inside a newsroom being grilled by potential employers, all who were very very good at asking hard questions. Lucky I had answers they liked. I got lucky. I got a job. That job got me a home. I can get the city life of Denver, the college town fun of Boulder and Fort Collins, the small town charm of all the little communities in between, and escape to the nearby Rocky Mountains when needed. I’m one of those people who love Colorado for all the reasons people move here in the first place — people are educated, happy, fit, foodies, social, techy. Which is just nice to feel comfortable. Nice to feel like my truest self.

Story: When I went home to NEPA recently, I got to talking with some friends of an old high school friend of mine. They asked what I liked to do for fun in Colorado. I told them I recently got into mountain biking and running, but I like camping when I can. Oh, he said, we don’t do that at all. We are more into the city life – New York, Boston, Philly. Oh cool, I replied. Yeah, Denver is a great little city. People really like the microbreweries. Oh, he said, yuck. We don’t like those kinds of beer. Give me Bud Light any day. Then I smiled because I didn’t have much to offer the nice man in ways of conversation. Oh, I thought, I don’t really belong to NEPA any more; don’t get me wrong. I love to go back. But I feel the pull to go west. I am from Colorado.

 

 

 

#Reverb11: Time

time

Learn about #Reverb11 here.

December 6. Tick Tock: What is your favorite time of the day and why?

My mom says I have always been a night owl. Even as a baby, she would check on me in my crib, where she would find me wide awake. I never wanted to miss a thing, she says.

I really do love dusk in Colorado. I love the colors of the sky here. Oranges, reds, pinks, purples. I have yet to tire of it. Which is why my commute between Boulder and Longmont, at least on the way home, ain’t so bad. I loved arriving home to go hang out with the neighbors on their patio as night fell. I feel more alive after 10p.m. Insomnia is no treat, and I’ve had bouts of it since high school. Most Some nights I am still awake, yet very very tired, at 2 a.m. My mind races. My heart worries. I try to put those restless hours to good use though. I write. I read. I clean. I explore Pinterest on my iPhone. I check in on my own babe, who like her dad sleeps like the dead and talks in her sleep. At least one of us is dreaming.

What is your favorite time of day and why?

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