Monthly Archives: September 2014

Two Hundred Forty Three: In Labor

“By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be a boss and work twelve hours a day.”  – Robert Frost

Monday, September 1st

I am bah humbug about most American holidays, and I can’t tell whether that has come with living in the United States or with age. Labor Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day…they’re all days when Goodwill offers 50% off, right?

I appreciate appreciating labor and the labor movement, but perhaps not enough to really pay homage to those who fought hard for workers’ rights and to establish unions. I suppose I’m a “brick in the wall” in the sense that I’ve worked most of my life and for the most part haven’t questioned the business owners I’ve worked for who try to pull a fast one on their workers. I’ve always put a lot of effort into my work. To me, work is an existential process – day in and day out, I am spending hours of my life with strangers and expected to reach a goal with them. It is a process that is best done cooperatively, and hopefully with some degree of amity and togetherness.

Of course, it’s hard to think of these soft points of the employment experience when you don’t have basic amenities and living wages. So I tip my hat to the people who fight the good fight and help others in their plight to get more respect and benefits from their workplace.

What do you do on Labor Day?


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Two Hundred Forty Two: Other People Turning 40

“It’s when ordinary people rise above the expectations and seize the opportunity that milestones truly are reached.”  – Mike Huckabee

Sunday, August 31st

The adults I talk to most often through my daughter’s school community are ageless to me. I know some gave birth to their children at a later age, and some look quite young but in the end I lose track of who is how old. So it came as quite a surprise to find out that two friends I see quite often were born within a month of me. I challenged us all to embrace this milestone with forty-tude.

This might sound tacky but I was secretly telling myself that Molly’s birthday party would be the last celebration of my own birthday. I have no shame and will piggyback on other people’s parties. Of course this event that was inevitably a libation-ful party coincided with my internal cleanse. I’d gone a little overboard with the kombucha and fermented drinks and had created an imbalance in my intestinal flora; I was refraining from alcohol, sugars, and junk food. Boy howdy, all three were definitely on the menu for tonight!

Sometimes you have to throw diets and reasonable plans out the window. I ended up sitting with a very lively and interesting couple and it just felt good to share a drink with them. And we were gathered to celebrate Molly. She is a firecracker – a Grade A just do it sort of woman. She speaks her mind and has been a non-judgmental mentor for me since Day One of starting at this school. I didn’t pound the booze, but I had a great evening and ended up closing that party down. And who doesn’t want that on their 40th birthday?

What would be your ultimate birthday celebration for a milestone birthday?



Two Hundred Forty One: Chores. Chores. Chores.

“My favorite way of getting out of doing chores is by acting like I’m asleep. But it never works.”  – Devon Werkheiser

Saturday, August 30th

I thought there was a very good chance this blog would be filled with stories of parachute jumps and wind boarding adventures, but when all is said and done I keep coming back to the riveting world of chores.

They’re always there. Laundry. Dishes. You empty one load and another stack is waiting to be loaded in. It never ends.

About the most zen I can get about it all is to appreciate a warm sink full of water when the dishwasher breaks down. I think the problem is that these daily jobs are mechanized like everything else. When I wash my dishes by hand, there is time for conversation or meditation. When I rake the leaves up outside instead of using a blower, I am inviting people to stop and talk to me instead of blasting through the job.

There is room for me to grow in this department. My cohousing chore team always sneaks up on me and I blast through my work instead of working with my actual team. Getting it done feels more efficient than meeting up to work with others.

How do you get all the mundane things in life done?



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Two Hundred Forty: Holding It Together

“But a mermaid has no tears, and therefore she suffers so much more.”  – Hans Christian Andersen

Friday, August 29th

Friday was another day of volunteering. Stuffing packets full of forms and sheets to go home to parents. We had a critical mass of volunteers and it was actually good fun to converse while doing a remedial task. With 15 minutes to go until the end of my shift, my daughter came in with her arm held straight and complaining of a sore elbow. She’d fallen down the slide while a girl still had a hold of her arm. I figured it was bruised and gave her a snack to keep her mind off of things until she forgot about the injury. These little bruises and bumps happen all the time, and it’s hard to know what’s a tap and what’s a real hard knock.

Flash-forward 10 minutes and it was impossible to get her into the car seat. I was becoming increasingly convinced that she needed to go see a doctor. She wouldn’t bend that elbow, and I was afraid that she had some sort of fracture. I called the nurseline from our medical insurance and it was hard to make a firm conclusion given all the indefinite unsure responses from my girl.

We went to the Emergency Room at a local Children’s Hospital. After watching the first 15 minutes of “Babe”, the resident came in for an exam. My daughter was fearful but let the smiling doctor touch her arm. She gently touched each side of her arm ascending from her wrist up to her elbow. My daughter didn’t cry, so the doctor took her elbow and quickly twisted it popping it back into place. It was a dislocated elbow. She’d had this condition a couple of times before when she was a toddler – nursemaid’s elbow – and it is amazing how quickly this simple move changes everything from Oh no to Ho Hum. I was so thankful to see her relaxing, no longer in pain.

Children amaze me. They don’t have the frame of reference to explain what is happening to them when they are in pain; therefore, they brave it through some tough situations.

What can you learn from a child today?


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Two Hundred Thirty Nine: On Fire

“Human beings are born solitary, but everywhere they are in chains – daisy chains – of interactivity. Social actions are makeshift forms, often courageous, sometimes ridiculous, always strange. And in a way, every social action is a negotiation, a compromise between ‘his,’ ‘her’ or ‘their’ wish and yours.”  – Andy Warhol

Thursday, August 28th

The summer was winding down, and the Back-to-School BBQ signaled a change from aimless days to life on a schedule again. It was a struggle getting to know parents and kids last year, but my daughter and I stuck it out and it feels like it is starting to get easier for both of us now. My role as the Garden Liason had not been defined last year, so there weren’t set expectations for my volunteer work just as there was a lack of direction to guide me forward. Now I’d set my own bar from the year before and could move it up or down depending on how engaged I wanted to be.

I guess I was ready to raise that bar up. It was much easier to talk to others about conservation and gardening at the school, and really just talking to people about anything. I am quite socially anxious when I go into a brand new situation without any contacts or context, but if there is some familiarity then I have something to work with. And I’d spent the summer with other people doing other things, so this was actually a breath of fresh air.

It was liberating. I wasn’t the noob in the crowd anymore, and I could help others along that were struggling to find their place at this school as I was. Sheesh. It sounds as if I’m enrolled at the school myself, but the truth is that it really is a social experience I can only liken to my own school experience. I went through a similar shift in the cult of my personality between Grade 9 and 10. I gave up trying to be something for anyone else other than myself, and life became so much easier.

Anxieties, comforts, and wisdoms both come around full circle in our lives. Giving life lessons a second spin helps us learn it a little more sincerely and maybe on a deeper level.

When do you feel the most confident socially?


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Two Hundred Thirty Eight: Job Training

“Train, don’t strain.”  – Arthur Lydiard

Wednesday, August 27th

I had jumped into the interview process for a new garden educator at my daughter’s school, and the next step was to provide a day of training for our new hire. There are so many things that I could pass on…so many nuggets of wisdom gathered over the course of a year. But a year isn’t really that long in the scheme of things, and I was more than happy to take a step back and let the woman who was leaving the position talk straight to the new teacher.

I like to be at the table, but only if I feel that I’ll have something valuable to contribute. Today was a day when I was good for introductions and opening remarks and a polite curtsy out of the conversation so I could go inventory the merchandise hiding out in the closet. Perfectly utilitarian.

Do you need to be center stage, or are you comfortable stepping back into a supporting role?



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Two Hundred Thirty Seven: Useless Calendar

“Even before I had an assistant, my calendar was color-coded and I had all these different e-mail rules for how to prioritize e-mails, so I made it a point years ago to figure all that stuff out because my life was a mess.”  – Chris Hardwick

Tuesday, August 26th

I logged “Make Chickpea Salad” on my calendar for today. The only problem is that the reminder came up when the salad was due at the event. I had time to get to a deli counter at a grocery store and buy a quinoa black bean salad – exactly what someone else had brought five minutes before me. Gahhh, another calendar fail!

With all the infinite wisdom of software developers, couldn’t they code in teaser questions that would remind users to prepare for the event itself? If you enter “Get Married” then it might suggest “Buy a New Outfit” and “Talk to a Caterer”. I’m not holding my breath waiting for my personal assistant to arrive, so I’m looking to you, Technology, to help me out.

Do you find gaps between technology’s convenience and efficiency?


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Two Hundred Thirty Six: Too Long to Remember

“A wedding anniversary is the celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity. The order varies for any given year.”  – Paul Sweeney

Monday, August 25th

My parents married on this day when I was twelve years old. It was a summer wedding in a public park officiated by an older woman who looked like the spiritual lifeguard in the movie “Poltergeist”. Mom wore a gorgeous blue angora dress (yes, on a hot summer’s day) and as the ceremony progressed she had an allergic reaction to the wayward strands of fiber. Everyone was touched by how many tears were rolling down her cheeks. We ate at a nearby burger restaurant known for their Pirate Packs – a burger deluxe served in a folded paper pirate ship with golden chocolate coins hidden below deck. This about sums up the wonderfully wacky romance between my parents.

I called Mom to wish her a happy anniversary and she hadn’t even registered that it was today. My parents are called “The Bobsy Twins” since they are always seen around town together. Their relationship has changed over the years and they are much more reliant on and communicative with one another. I like that. It is more to have a closer daily relationship than a spectacular anniversary celebration once a year.

Do you remember special dates?



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Two Hundred Thirty Five: Forecast

“We often hear of bad weather, but in reality, no weather is bad. It is all delightful, though in different ways. Some weather may be bad for farmers or crops, but for man all kinds are good. Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating. As Ruskin says, ‘There is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather’.” – John Lubbock 

Sunday, August 24th

The 24th was slated to be my day to celebrate my 40th birthday with family. It would be a day of kayaking on a lake and picnicking lakeside. Except the lake that was chosen was smack dab in the middle of a storm. It’s been a long hot summer, so this forecast stung. I felt like that character from the comic strips who is followed by a personal rain cloud. Could I be filled with any more self-pity?

But so is life. If I had my own personal rain cloud, then I needed to step away from it and just find the sunshine. There was plenty of it elsewhere, just not over this particular lake. We changed plans and met at a lake spot that was infinitely closer. It saved us travel time and there was more time to spend doing all the fun things we wanted to. YEAH!

Do you ever find it difficult to get over your own level of self-pity?


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Two Hundred Thirty Four: Festivalian

“You are invited to the festival of this world and your life is blessed.”  – Rabindranath Tagore 

Saturday, August 23rd

My husband had plans to attend an all-day reggae festival as a vendor. He’d be raising funds for his non-profit, but would also take in music from some of his favorite contemporary reggae artists. This was a new festival on the scene and he wasn’t sure what to expect.

I received a text soon after he left, “I have to set up outside the venue. No vendors inside the show at all.” It was going to be a hot day and the festival itself ran from 2 pm to 2 am. The organizer had not alerted vendors to this crucial detail, neither asking them to provide their own tents nor providing access to electricity so they could light up their booths at night. Even in the best of situations, it is a slog to get all your gear into the car and then set it up at a show. Now there were some big gaps in the equation.  From afar, it sounded like this experience was going downhill quickly for him.

I didn’t receive too many updates from that point on. I fed the kids, got them in bed, and then stewed wondering whether he was dreading each moment or making the most of it. I know better. He’s a grown man, and he makes the most of the situations he finds himself in. As it was, he had some great conversations with some of the other vendors and made money for the cause. I struggle with letting go of the worry I have for my friends and family; in the end, it is an issue of just trusting their judgment and wisdom to do the best that they can in the moment.

Do you fret over your loved ones when they are in situations that are out of their control?