Thursday, December 30, 2010

It's A Wrap

 I stole these questions off my friend Kimberly's blog.  Well, I've never actually met her in the real world, but since she is partners with a very dear friend of mine who I do know in the real world I think it all counts.  Anywho, here we go... 

What did you do in 2010 that you'd never done before? Walked 60 miles in 3 days, plus 250 in training.  'Nuf said.
Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year? Can't remember last years, if I find them I will add them.  Making some for next year, to include regular exercise, keeping my place clean (starting Fly Lady on 1/1/11, again), and embracing work.  I know... boring!!
Did anyone close to you die? Thank God, no.
What countries did you visit? Jamaica.  Yep, very lucky, and there was NO hard work involved.  Yes, I am likely to burn in hell.
What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010? Fun with power tools.  Time to really build that attic bedroom.
What date from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?  Ummm, only thing I can think of is January 4.  It really sucked and I ended up in the ER.
What was your biggest achievement of the year? See Question #1. Plus raised over $3,000 for breast cancer research.
What was your biggest failure? No Christmas cards.  Earth-shattering, eh?  Oh, and terrible with Thank You cards.  That one actually is rather earth shattering :o(
Did you suffer illness or injury? Yeah, another year another injury.  January 4 touched off a month in bed with a pinched nerve in my neck.  Damn sledding.  Couldn't even read because I had to be face down. 
What was the best thing you bought?  A tie, the book Deep Economy and the book Framework
Whose behaviour merited celebration? My son, making tons of gains.  And all his teachers and helpers, and especially his little friends.
Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed? Most Republicans; and lazy, shortsighted Democrats that didn't see the steamrollering coming.  Next year is gonna blow.
Where did most of your money go? Savings!!
What did you get really, really, really excited about?  Our little business maturing and taking off, with new art work to boot from a super cool artist.  Had great times with my family of origin this year too.  Super cool!
What song will always remind you of 2010? Theme music from Battlestar Galactica.  Yes, the series has been done for a few years.  Worth the wait.
What do you wish you'd done more of? Camping and blogging and boating.
Did you fall in love in 2010? My son, again.  Husband a close second.
What did you want and get?  To give back my foster dog to her original owners, and their kids.
What did you want and not get?  A new job.  But coming to terms nicely with the current one.  

So, there it is.  The recap.  Am sure I forgot tons and would write it three more different ways on three other days.  C'est la vie, 2011 is coming fast and better done than perfect.  Bon voyage!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

New Blog Subject- Local Duluth

Duluth, Minnesota is a wonderful place to live.  It has so much to offer it is ridiculous.  This new blog category's aim is to feature all the amazing things about Duluth and the area that are sustaining.  Also exciting, fun,  unique and interesting.  Most things will be cheap, or free, or maybe require some elbow grease or effort.  The idea is to explore and enhance community, to let the roots grow deeper.  Especially in these times of economic drought.

The plan is to feature things like the farmers markets, local farms, the trails and parks, pet and animal goods stuff, and activities for kids.  Plus neighborhood programs, schools, and churches.  Volunteer opportunities, local businesses, and unique citizens.  Food, music, and theater will also likely creep into the mix.  It is all fair game, and hopefully lots of folks will add their two cents.

Inspiration is the key to deep living, let's dive in.

ps Changed my template and merged my blogs.  Tired of feeling bi-polar.  Time to integrate.  Still need to update my side bars, etc.  Wahoo!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Things My Kid Says

It all goes so fast.  I was looking at a blog for my friend with a young pre-schooler and I can barely remember when Alex was that small.  It goes to reason that I will not be able to remember this current age one day soon, too.  I have plenty of pics deep in digital land, but what of the spirit of the age?  I should be writing it all down as soon as it happens, but alas my organizational skills hold me back, so will recreate what I can for Alex, at age 7.

Alex has taken to randomly hugging me, giving me a kiss, and in a whispery little boy voice say, "Mama, you are my best friend."  I'll take that.  I have also watched this lovelyness unfold with his father too.

Halloween night he was skipping and running down the road with his four year old buddy Ben (Alex was Sheriff Woody and Ben was a plush shark) and they were singing the A-B-C song, and then made up a Trick or Treating song together. 

He loves telling stories now, and will tell long ones about the Alphabet, and Word Girl, and the Energy Monster, mostly raided from his favorite learn to read web site.

This past summer we spent many long conversations on, "What would happen if we were driving down the street, and the Red light started blinking?!", and "What if it was windy and rainy, and a tornado came down on our house?!".  Mind you, these things were stated gleefully with only a bit of a worried edge.

And most recently, last night in fact, he told me he hated me.  "Mama, go away, I hate you and I don't love you any more."  I should be devastated but really, I am okay with this.  I did something to piss him off, and he gets it.  And is responding.  What I did was let him know I forgot to sign him up for the swim lessons he wanted, and now it is too late.  Oops.  I feel bad about this, and clearly he does too.  The good news is that I will make it up by taking him to open swim, which will get us in the habit.  Then I will sign up for the next round.  Being only 7 I am hoping his capacity for a grudge will only last a little while.  I want to get quickly back to being his best friend.  Gotta get it in now, before those teenage years hit.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Frickin' Oww

Ow.  OW.  OWWW!  I injured myself in a truly stupid way today, and here I sit with a bag of frozen peas on my head.  Frickin' hell.  Ow.

It all comes from dog trauma.  There is the foster dog.  There is the family dog.  And there has been the tension of when the foster dog will go away to bother our family no more.  How does she bother me?  Let me count the ways...  She barks, all the time.  She digs, like a steam shovel.  She escapes with elan.  She has attacked our neighbor dog, and knocked over our elderly neighbor in the process, after busting out our back door.   She does not listen.  She table surfs during dinner if we are not watching closely.  She does not care about the humans opinions.   She pulls like a badger when on the leash, and runs like the wind when off.  She is aggressive with 80% of female dogs we come in contact with.  We can barely take her out of the house, much less on trails, trips, and camping.  She is not the dog for us.  And, apparently she has very tasty poo.

We have known this for a long time now.  Our good dog has one flaw.  He likes to eat her poo.  This is just about the grossest thing on the planet, and we cannot wait for it to be solved by her departure.  It  cannot come soon enough.  Today we finally got a call from her owner, and it looks like she will be going home by Thanksgiving.  Hallelujah!   That was a wonderful moment.  20 minutes later Jack was in the bath because he had somehow become covered in her poo, head, back, side.  He was a gross and disgusting mess, like never before.  He must have been anticipating her departure too.  That was an infuriating moment.  A frustrating, infuriating, Now-we-have-had-ENOUGH moment.  Makes you want to scream.  I held back quite well, I thought, and barely let out a peep.  I had it all under control, until after dinner.  Our good dog needed to go out, so I had him on the leash, and then the other one was scrambling to get out the door too.  I grabbed her collar, tried to hold him back, and opened the door to reach for the lead outside for her.  In the process, pissed as all hell, I didn't see the metal door catch on the door frame. 

You never really know how fast you are moving, until you hit something.  It is harder to see things when you are pissed as all hell.  And you may never really know how much patience you have until you live with shit eating, barking, pulling, running, digging, attacking dogs.  If I am very lucky, this particular life lesson will be completed around Thanksgiving and my bruise will have faded by then.  Pass the gravy.

ps  I should also reveal that this all came about because I was trying to find another Lucky Dog.  I was trying to make something happen that had happened as a gift.  Ungrateful for what I had, I pushed too hard and came up with Sofie.  Today the saga closed and it looks like Sofie will be going to her home, and today it is two years since I put Lucky down.   I am happy, I am sad, I am ready to be grateful.      Good night.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Holy Cow - Part 2

60 miles.  What exactly does it take to walk 60 miles?  #1, training: if you want to feel good.  #2, friends: if you want to feel happy.  #3, water, Gatorade, and snacks, snacks, snacks: if you want to finish.  #4, sunscreen and a big hat: if you are pasty and paranoid like me.  And it sure helps to have a never ending cheering section, and toilets every hour.  Plus camp at the end of every day for showers, food, and lots of company.  Plus the fact that everyone was on an event high didn't hurt at all.  We were all in it together, and we tried our darnedest to make it a good time.  Follow the jump cut for photos and more....

Day 1 started with Opening Ceremonies.  All of us (2,400) squashed into a big holding pen with a stage up front.  Before they opened the gate, however, we dropped off bags, met with friends, got coffee (at least I did), and signed the names of those we'd lost to be lifted up on a flag.  It was early, it was dark, and I was rather nervous.  I was going with veterans, and I wanted to hold up my end of the team.  We strategically made it up towards the front of the pen, so we could start walking soon after the ceremonies were over.  The ceremony was very inspiring and loud, with music, and more flags, and honored survivors.  It put us in the mood to remember everyone touched by breast cancer, and get ready to give it our all with our feet.  As we left the pen we were scanned out, so they would know where each one left and how many were really there.  And we started walking.  And walking.  And walking.  A river of pink through Minneapolis suburbs.
2,400 is a hard number to grasp.
Just think big.
 On day One we quickly made it to the Minneapolis "Lakes", and had a lovely morning of breezes and lake homes.  The going was not tough, and I quickly settled in to enjoy the walk.  I have never been much for super huge events, usually sticking to off beat individual and small group situations.  This was different, but very cool.  Our team had trained on the Lakes, so I was in familiar territory.  I still had some paranoia because Jen had been felled by dehydration on our biggest training weekend, the morning of day two after 21 miles the previous day.  I figured if it could happen to her, it could certainly happen to me.  So I drank my water, and Gatorade too.  If you have never experienced the stuff, you might not know that it makes you pee like a race horse.  I was almost always in need when the next pit stop came into view, especially with my morning coffee habit.  I had tried one big training day without it, and the resulting headache made extra bathroom time seem worth it.  

It really wasn't as bad as this looks (and a good time to stretch).

After the Lakes we made it to our first big Cheering Station.  These are set up by the event as places for your family and friends to come, to reduce too many people stalking the whole event and running over people in the process.  There had been plenty of cheering people anyways, but the station was intense.  People lined both sides of the path with cow bells, signs, clappers, clapping, and candy, candy, candy.  Some were one stop supporters, others we would see again and again.  It was great.  They were a real boost, and the sugar was nice too.  I had been advised to carry very little because the 60 mile buffet would provide, and provide it did.  We got to lunch next, and I should have saved more room.  Too bad they would not let us eat in the Sculpture Garden, but we crossed an artsy bridge and lunch was set at the very nice Loring Park.  Sue's husband Jim brought us an extra special lunch from their home just a few blocks away.  Holly and Pamela joined us and we had a real team lunch.  The innocent looking clouds cut things a bit short by unexpectedly down pouring on us, and all the event walkers got drenched.  There was just no way to keep feet dry, so it was going to be a good test of their toughness.  We got moving in the rain, after many quick thanks to Jim.  It rained all through downtown, and we were splashing through small lakes at times.  Then the clouds rolled away and it got HOT.  Into the 90's with blazing sun.  We squished our way in soggy shoes through downtown, across the U of M campus where Jen and I had been roommates, and on up the Mississippi river.  Memory lane and best forgotten stories kept us all amused, as some around us started limping.  It was a long road along the river, and seemed to all be uphill.  The Pedi-Cure van was kept busy with those needing a lift, and we started looking very forward to the finish of the day.  By the time we hit it at Macalester College in St. Paul, and were scanned once again, we were very ready for the air conditioned buses that whisked us away to camp.  I had a bad brush with pain on the bus when I tried to stretch my quads, and came up with a hamstring cramp that nearly dropped me to my knees.  I drank lots more water and went very slowly before trying that again.  That was the worst of the day, and not a single blister had visited any of our team.

Camp was a trip.  Just imagine well over 2,000 walkers and volunteers bunking for the night.  Showers were set up in the backs of semis.  The dining tent sat thousands.  The line for free massage was way too long, but at least the yoga mats were accessible.  Everyone was just giddy, except the sizable percentage still limping, but they still had many smiles.
This was only a portion of the tents.
After a long day on the road both Jen and Holly were a little goofy.  

Pamela too.
 20 miles down, 40 to go...  Nothing much to think about except, eat, drink, sleep, and smile.

Holy Cow- 60 Miles is a Long Way

One month ago I was at the start of a grand adventure.  60 miles of walking in 3 days.  60 Miles!  It was an incredible.  First off, I have to thank all the people who donated to the cause.  Breast Cancer is an awful, terrible, horrible illness, and it is on the rise.  The whole point of this walk is to save lives.  Period.  "Because everyone deserves a lifetime" is the official motto, and that is so true.  The money raised goes in two directions, breast cancer research and breast cancer awareness.  We raised a ton of cash, and that rocks.   We also raised awareness, and inspiration, which are not measurable but key to the whole deal.  Women power is an awesome thing!  Each woman participating was required to raise over $2,000, and there were well over 2,000 of us.  There were a few men walking too, and boy did they have fun.  They were celebrities.  I think the coolest thing about the whole event was the attitudes of each and every person.  Personal differences were put on hold, the every day grind was forgotten, there was no competition to look good or be the best, no judgment, we were one. And the focus was intense.  One foot in front of the other, and give everyone else all the support you can.  The positive vibe kept us walking on air.  And it was all personal determination, because there was no external pressure to finish.  There were sweep vans cruising the course constantly to help anyone out who was in trouble, and no shame in finishing early.  Because of that we all pushed harder.  Complaints were the exception, not the rule.  And the volunteers and supporters ROCKED.  There were many sad stories, of course, but it wasn't a bummer of an event.  Everyone was remembered and held up, no one was forgotten.

So, what was it like?  Well, let's start with my team.  First there was Jen.  Jen was my college roommate, in my wedding, and my son's god mother.  She lost her mom to breast cancer 15 years ago, and she has done this event every year.  60 miles, seven years in a row.  Amazingly inspiring.  Next there was Sue.  She is friends with Jen, has lost several dear ones to cancer, and is determined to walk as long as there is no true cure.  She started the year after Jen, but then did two walks in one summer a few years back so also had seven walks under her belt.  How could I not do well with such a power house team??  As for me, Jen inspired me to join the team, as well as all the women in my life who are survivors, and those I have known who didn't make it. All together, the walkers and the inspiring, we went together.  Our team also had two crew members who put in countless hours preparing and fund raising, as well as tireless event support over four days.  Pamela was a walker, then was diagnosed herself just before her wedding last year.  She is currently in treatment and I have no idea how she has so much energy.  Holly is a fantastic supporter who has crewed every year that Jen has walked.  There is also a strong support network in the Cities of friends, family, and spouses, who helped fund raise, trained with us, brought food, were drivers for the weekend, and did countless things to help make it all happen.  Thank you all!
Sue, myself, and Jen, all geared up and ready to go.

Holly and Pamela, with their Pedi-Cure Cab.  Prepared to cruise the course and picking up anyone needing a lift.

We were ready.  We had each trained over 250 miles over the summer, we had our gear dialed, we were well hydrated and supplied.  The Pedi-cure van had it's snacks, water for any riders, and the perfect attitude.   And then we started walking!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What I Did With My Summer Vacation

I am busy remembering how to blog.  T'was a crazy summer and the hit list will just have to wait.  Just wanted to jump onto the blog to prime the pump a bit.  I get overwhelmed sometimes (all the time?) and get myself into a tizzy thinking I will be stuck forever going in circles.  I don't have to do it all at once, and everything could be much worse.  Life is actually excellent, everyone is healthy, employed, and moving forward.  I spent my summer vacation in pursuit of a goal, and I accomplished that.  I walked my 60 miles and compiled and gave away over $3,300 in the fight against breast cancer.  Now, as I return to my regularly scheduled life, I can re-organize and prioritize.  Right?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

In His Own Time

I have worried about Alex and his swimming for many years now.  Not a big worry, but a little one that sits in the back of my brain and whispers sweet paranoia to me.  "He's not progressing.",  "He doesn't swim like the other kids.", "Look, he wont even put his head under water.", "Ha, he hates it when you try to teach him to swim... he will never learn.".  Now, I have not put a lot of stock in these whisperings, but I can't deny that they have been there.  Alex went to swim lessons a summer ago and was truly lack luster.  His biggest accomplishment was doing the monkey cling along the deep end, and occasionally getting his chin wet on purpose.  One of his best friends was going all the way under water when she was two, and by now has practically swum the English Channel.  Alex is generally a cling-on, not letting go of me for much of anything.  Yes, that is the summary of his swimming at age 2, and 3, and 4, and 5.  This summer things got a little better, "swimming" in his life jacket, actually enjoying the water, and venturing a bit beyond my shadow from time to time.  He played a shark game at his Aunty Snootz' pool that had him swimming all over in his life jacket, and then last month in Wausau he went under water on purpose and for real for the first hundred times.  He was inspired by his Uncle Craig, Aunt Kathy, and cousins Will and Abby.  Yes, it takes a village to get my kid swimming.  But yesterday we were in Amity Creek, and I couldn't get him to go five inches from me or swim a stroke on his own.  

And then came this evening.  This evening was jackpot time.  First, Lake Superior was warm.  Not tolerable, not just-less-than-freeze-your-butt-off, but actually bath water warm.  Last week it was frigid.  I didn't really want to go tonight but figured it would be a nice quick trip.  Oh, how wrong I was, and happy to say so.  It was warm, warm, warm.  We swam out to the rock, climbed the rock, and Alex jumped from ankle deep into a deep spot (with life jacket on) after announcing, "To infinity and beyond!".  He also watched the high school boys swim deep and bring up big rocks.  It made an impression because when I made him come into the shallows he started trying to pick up rocks.  After working hard at swimming with his face in the water.  I could barely believe what I was seeing.  I was happy.  I was ready to head home for dinner.  I took his life jacket off so he could pick up a few rocks and we could go.  To my great surprise and delight he dunked under water, and stayed under, and SWAM under water, popping up with ease and starting all over again.  And again, and again.  He did not go over his head, but he did not have to.  He swam, and swam, and swam.  He cruised the shore line at about 3 feet deep, checking out rocks, staying parallel, turning back if he went to far or turned a little towards the deeps.  He did not do it because a teacher asked him to.  He did not do it because I begged, or threatened, or bribed.  He did it because he wanted to.  Because it delighted him.  Because it was fun.  He swam, and twirled,  floated, and snuck up and grabbed my foot under water.  He even swam between my legs when I was talking with a friend who showed up.  That made us both laugh really hard so he did it another five times.   He swam and swam, we were late for dinner, and he assured me that he very much wants to do it again tomorrow. 

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Still Walking

Wow, I can't believe I have not posted since June.  I was walking then, and still walking now.  I had just completed my first nine mile walk, now I am up to 18 miles at a pop.  Every week, two days a week, long walks back to back with ever increasing mileage.  That 18 miles took me 5 hours of walking, and over an hour of fluff.  You know, bathroom breaks, stretching, snacking, and chatting.  I have run across an old friend named Jackson who was on the Lakewalk from Hawaii, our amazing speech therapist Tahirih on Park Point by the Lift Bridge, her daughter the next week at their house on the other end of the Point, a nice author named Carol in town to lecture (Go Fill A Bucket), a guy from Ireland on a cross country bike trip, my buddy Sally who lives two hours away, and an interesting veteran with a cool walking stick.  All accidental meetings throughout the weeks. I have also seen an eagle on a garage roof (huge), two different spike bucks in velvet, a fawn, squirrels, bunnies, a fox, a turkey vulture akimbo at the top of a white pine on a hot day, and about a million lbb's (little brown birds).  Plus the Loch Ness Monster down in the Cities.  I am set to see her a lot this weekend as I go down for my big training weekend.  Forty two miles to walk, and about a zillion trips around the Lakes.  I am sure to see her on Lake Calhoun where she hangs out.  And I might even see the Troll that has a little house in a tree down there.  I hopefully wont pass out from the heat.  I am pretty sure I can make the miles since I have now walked all of Skyline Parkway (26 miles).  I have found that it keeps me very amused to be able to check out different houses and yards and gardens, plus the occasional detour into a park.  I need to train on pavement so I have only hiked the zillion trails in town occasionally.   I have discovered many favorite sites in town, and know all the best bathroom stops with water.  Block by block there is a lot of scenery change.  And I found I like to walk one hour before stopping for a bagel and coffee to go.  There are conveniently two bagel/coffee shops in two different directions exactly 3 miles each from my house.  Who knew?  The world looks a lot different when you are walking, and even more different when you are walking alone for five hours.  I thought I would have to resort to electronic entertainment such as MP3 or radio or borrowed iPod, but I made it just fine.  I guess I am more amuseable than I thought.  I will have to wait for another post to consider what profound things I have learned from this portion of the experience, next I have my big training weekend and in two more weeks the Walk itself.  It's all Team time from here on out and I guess I will miss my solitude a little, but not too much.  Cheers.

More Good News

What a great summer.  Alex has been at "summer camp" Mondays through Thursdays since June.  I was worried because there is no assistant, but it is the preschool program he attended for a year, and his teacher is still there.  She and the rest of the staff assured me they could handle him, and boy were they right.  He has been coming home and teaching me new games and new songs.  I have learned all about Toilet Tag and Fishy Fishy Cross My Ocean, as well as Flag Flag Firecracker.  He is doing all the things this summer of six that I hoped he would be doing back in his five year old pre-school year.  He is interacting with kids, following complicated verbal directions from teachers, coming up with new and interesting things to say and do, and generally being a kid in a pre-school program.  He does not have bad behaviors because he does not understand and cannot communicate in the typical way.  No more rolling on peers as a way to interact, or pulling hair as a worse way to interact.  No more blank stares when asked what he did that day.  He does not need someone to sit right next to him to keep him on task, or even remaining in the circle.  He does still flap his hands when excited, and talk in a mostly routine way about the things He wants to talk about (storms, tornados, lightening, and red lights), but he is willing to change the subject when led that way.  And he is happy.  Truly happy, smiling, and having fun.  He even teases the teachers a little.  We still need to work on in- depth interaction with peers, but it is good enough for the moment that he is all about the games, and songs, and even art projects.  Plus they hike to about two playgrounds a day and sometimes even get to take the bus to outdoor kid shows.  He has embraced it all.  I know we will continue to have attention problems once it is school work mixed in with the fun, but I don't really care.  We'll get there, and I am a very happy camper.  I felt guilty about having him gone so much, but I knew I could not give him the consistent kid exposure and routine he needed.  Plus we have had marvelous adventures Friday - Sunday, with swimming, kayaking, travel, and just swinging in the yard.  Ahhhhh, sweet summer. 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Days of Pooh

I have loved my son since the day he was born.  Loved him so deeply and fiercely that sometimes it takes my breath away.  Every day in so many ways, it continues to amaze me.  He is always changing.  I remember when he was just a tiny baby at two months old.  That was him.  I could not conceptualize that he would ever change, and when a savvy co-worker gave me 12months and 2T outfits for a shower I panicked.  Those clothes were so big and foreign.  Would he still be adorable?  Would he be a stranger?  How could he ever change so much?  How would I ever know enough to handle such a giant?  Granted I was sleep deprived at the time and rather fragile, but the concerns were real even if the fears were over the top.  

Drop in six odd years later and I have come to terms with a few things.  My son will grow, and change, and still be magic in my eyes.  Some time frames will be good, some time frames will be bad, and we will get through it all with love and life in tact.  That said I am feeling a bit of that old panic tonight.

Tonight was golden.  The evening of Father's Day.  I worked all day and the boys had some marvelous adventures.  When I got home I took our son off Daddy's hands, and took him for a river swim.  We met up with boating friends who all managed to spawn at the same time.  All of different ages, situations, and locales, four families ended up with kiddos traveling the same grade, and we meet up every season or more for various adventures.  Tonight it was taking the kids "swimming" at a bend in the Knife River, a quiet Northwoods spot, not well traveled or much disturbed.  It was the perfect spot for a kindergarten adventure.  They do not need to go far to find adventure.  Being out of sight of the car, and away from the trail is a thrill.  Crossing calf deep water running mildly down rapids was enough for each of them to cling and squeal.  Once we got to the pool with some currant at the far side I took to ferrying the little tykes across a six foot section of chest deep water (for them) so each could scramble up near the cliff wall.  They would stand dripping and proud, looking about with big eyes, deciding if they wanted to jump back into my arms or just take a hand and try to flounder across.  It was exciting and heart pounding, for kids and adults.  I found myself counting them over and over as we all spread out a bit, making sure the ducklings were safe.  They are still small enough to need that, and they stay close enough for it to be possible.  Not a one strong enough or confident enough to really swim or duck dive in the four feet deep moving water.  Moving lazily in the pool, but still moving, and absolutely impossible to see through.  All my old lifeguard skills perked up.  And I was busy with fun too.

There was much ferrying, but also spins through the water, assisted jumps straight out of the water, traverses below mini-rapids, and piggybacks across the stones.  The little ones are still so tactile.  There was Alex, his best buddy from school Lily, Carver a little blondie, and Elaina the peanut.  Too excited to talk, mostly they would just flounder over and point or gesture where, or what.  They are not quite up to my chest, so my height was a big advantage for their swimming experience.  Plus I was one of the first parents in so I didn't mind getting soaked in the play.  We caught the last of the afternoon sun as we got in the first river swim of the year.  Alex loved it, and I see lots of potential for river or creek swims yet this summer.  Tomorrow is the solstice, and we are just getting started.

And then there is Pooh.  Alex likes to say, "Oh, bother.", when something does not go right, and he often talks about Pooh, and Piglet, and Eeyore.   He wants to know what will happen if he gets blown by the wind when holding onto a string, or if there are Woozles or Heffalumps under the bed.  Sometimes he even says, "Tiddley pom", or "Tut tut, looks like rain.".   Often he says, "Mama, I am rumbly in my tumbly."  And his little friends are right there too.  They are in the age of discovery, wondering at the Hundred Acre Woods.  Innocent as Pooh, scared as Piglet, brave as Tigger.  I saw it in their faces on the river.  Their joy at being there, their dawning realization of the wider world.  Excitement at the splash of water and miracle of swimming skills.  And their exhaustion at the end of the short adventure.  The help needed with wet suits and tired emotions.  The little hands seeking out mom or dad, needing steadiness and strength, wanting warmth and security.  The adventure wrapped up with kids bouncing about in their orbits, and parents making plans.  Then we all parted ways and it was me and my Alex.  My wonderful, innocent, Pooh loving Alex.  And this is where the panic comes in.  I love this age so much I fear the future, where he will not have Pooh as his hero.  When he leaves behind Piglet and takes up with Mario, or a Power Ranger, or something worse.  I wonder if I am destined to be always missing the Age of Pooh.  I wonder if he will change into something totally different as he grows.  I wonder if the real world will tarnish him in a way the Hundred Acre Woods never could.  I wonder if I will be able to keep him safe once he's too big to need to hold my hand.  That is exactly when the world gets it's most dangerous.

But for now he is still in my safe keeping.  I keep a weather eye on him, as do all the other good big people in his life.  I am loving all our adventures, and really do look forward to him growing up so we can go further, and faster, with just as much fun.  Maybe I will get lucky.  Maybe he will always have a soft spot for the silly old bear.  Maybe the world will keep him as safe as I want him to be.  Maybe he will have more good judgment than I ever had.  Maybe the older me will discover like the younger one did, this panic too shall pass.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Walking on Sunshine

So, I am off a running.  Well, not actually running, or even half-assed running.  I am into my training schedule for walking.  Just completed a nine mile walk along Lake Superior.  Actually reversed the marathon route that will be clogged with runner types in two days.  A nice cool and windy morning with some actual sun, all is going well so far.  This is my biggest day, I did six miles yesterday.  Next week I will do nine miles and nine miles back to back.  I was out for three hours, and this is where the real work begins.  For an hour or two I can amuse myself with my own brain, and my feet and joints don't protest too much.  Past two hours, however, it all becomes a bit more challenging.  I become bored with myself and whatever I am mulling over, and my feets and joints start to comment on things.  Plus I did it all on pavement today.  Pound, pound, pound.  My team that I am walking with at the big event in August are all in the Cities, and I am not great at pre-planning to get friends out there with me.  So I better get more friendly with myself, or prepare for some good fights between my will power and my whining brain.  I suppose this is the time to learn to use the MP3 player.   Overall it is going well.  Four weeks of training down, eight to go.  The final goal is the Three Day Breast Cancer Walk, for sixty total miles.  Guess I'm on my way!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Summer's On

Best day ever on Sunday.  Kayaked with Alex and Lily, the girl who swears she will marry him.  Kevin paddled them down the Louie in the duckie, a four hour whitewater run.  The rest of us parents played safety boaters and photographers.  Oh for the day they paddle on their own!  My love affair with rivers continues and I am totally pumped and energized, even two days later.  Ahhhhhh, back to the river... what could be finer?  And now we have the ducky I can take anyone who wants to come!  Any takers???

Friday, May 21, 2010


Wow, just did a mega post on the other site.  I sat down at 7:45 to do a quick update and now it is 9:20.  Dang.  But that cleared up some space in my brain so it was worth it.  This spring has been rolling along rather fast, but it is almost all good.  No, not ALL good, but if it was I'd be a liar.  How boring is that?  Yesterday was stone cold gorgeous up here.  Sun all day, not too hot.  I went for a run, cleared more of the house, and went out with a friend I do not get to see much.  We attended the opening of an amazing art exhibit and roller bladed along Lake Superior into the sunset.  I am going to pay with aches and pains for the next few days, but it was worth it.  I hope the summer is just like yesterday, sunny and a little bit cool.  I have the gardens under way.  The veggie one is cleared and ready to plant.  The side one desperately needs weeding, and the lawn needs mowing again.  I listed all the house projects we need to do and almost collapsed in despair, but then made a list of what we have done in 11 years and was pleasantly surprised.  Not such the slackers, but a long way to go.  I guess that means we can't die any time soon. 

Well, that is all I am going to ramble about.  That's it.  I am good, my brain is clear, time to sort and haul the final keepers from the attic to the basement.  -Cheers

The Talk, The Dinner Table, and Drama

There has been lots of drama around here lately.  So much that I am very far behind in posting and will try to catch up.  But where to start?

Drama is a good place to start.  Love triangles and lions.  Late nights and sell offs.  It has been quite a spring.  Alex was in the school play.  I signed up for this last fall, with no real clue of the involvement.  My kid is in kindergarten, how bad could it be?  Well, it was bad timing.  And bad hours.  And bad days at school.  But, overall it was very good.  Alex got very tired.  Very tired indeed, and was hard to handle at school and home for about 10 days.  The hours of practice for his non-speaking part were late and long.  6-8pm for an entire week.  This would be more acceptable if his bedtime was not 6:30.  I had a plan to only attend some of the practices, and then only stay for part of each, but I ended up having to work.  A lot.  Like the entire week.  So Kevin took over and he powered on through with full practices.  It was crazy, but perhaps ended up for the good.  Alex got chaos training and endurance for the performance days.  It was also the week of our garage sale, so there was lots of other work to be done.   So, between the practices and performances, amping up to clear out our house and make a small bit of cash, and working a ton, it is all a bit of a blur.  And my mom came up.  We love seeing Grandma, and she loved the play and helped with the sale, but it was a whirlwind indeed.  Alex was an elephant, had a multi-layered costume and full face paint, and three scenes on stage.  He put up with it all like a trooper.  The cast was huge at 90, but the other kids really looked out for him.  Sometimes I get the feeling he is like the school mascot, in a good way.  He had a 6pm performance on Saturday May 1st, also Sale day, and a 2pm performance Sunday May 2.  I know this for sure, the rest is a but fuzzy.  He had no bad behavior in specific during this time frame, like tantrums or blow ups (we have left those behind) but he was resistant and pokey at home and school, and more handsy and pincy with kids.  There were three kindergarten elephants and the mama in fifth grade.  The other two little ones, who Alex calls The Twins, were both girls from his class.  They were adorable together.    One of them, a cute redhead named Lydia, got her hand stepped on pretty bad during school by a disregulated Alex.  I asked her mom about how she felt during play practice and she said, "Oh, she forgave him right away.  She said that he didn't really mean it and just has a hard time controlling himself sometimes."  I asked Lydia about it too, and she said essentially the same thing, while smiling and gazing at Alex.  I heard through the grapevine she has declared her intention to marry him.

So, we survived the play weekend.  The garage sale had also concluded a 21 day Financial Fast where we quit all spending and shopping, except for groceries, bills, and gas.  That was a really cool experience, and tied in nicely with clearing out for the garage sale and focusing on selling off and donating unneeded things.  The house got much clearer and we are ready to head towards a summer of building in the attic.  As we got into May we began to revamp our dinner menu.  We started a plan back in March of a weekly dinner menu.  With school and all we had gotten into the bad habit of just feeding Alex pasta, toast, and bagels for dinner.  It was all he wanted.  Butter on all, and maybe cheese sauce or peanut butter for variety.  We have lamented his limited diet forever, he is a plain carbs kind of kid.  No meat, no beans, no veggies.  Not even tomato sauce.  If anything new is introduced he shuts down, either panicking, shutting down, or both.  We have been through the food clinic and made progress there, but made little further progress.  It started as a motor planning thing, and poor ability to distinguish textures and move food around.  Then it became habit and phobia.  I knew this, but was stuck.  I didn't seem to have it in me to do creative taste picnics like the therapist, and work step by step to make it exciting and fun to eat progressively more difficult foods.  That meant making a taste picnic time plan and having a specifically planned graduated menu, cooking it all, and fitting in these extra fun sessions into a regular time slot.  Yikes.  But finally all the carbs got to me.  It was too much and he was showing signs of readiness and branching out a tiny bit in his eating.  It was time to go for it.  So I devised and weekly dinner menu.  The same thing every week, at the same time.  Real dinner, with plates, napkins, utensils, and all family present.  We posted the menu and Alex immediately got in the habit of asking what was for dinner.  It was very basic with some fun things like jello and pudding thrown in for some desserts.  He totally got into making those.  And Kevin got into it to.  With a set menu to go off and shop for there was no more agonizing, or making separate meals for mom and dad.  I usually cook when I am home, but Kevin is a champion cooker too.  We have rarely ditched the menu and gone for pasta or toast.  Except for play week, all bets were off then.  But we are back on the regular schedule and it has worked.  Some of the biggies he now eats are soup, and tomato sauce on his pasta.  Still can't get him to eat a chicken nugget, but maybe that is for the best.  He is totally into mashed potatoes, and eats his cooked veggies.  We just did a 7 week revamp and dropped out some of the failures (the nuggets and hamburgers), kept favorites (soup, pizza, and ONE pasta meal a week), and the great success of the new menu was that my son at tofu.  Tofu.  And liked it a lot.  "Mama, I like this white cake.  It is yummy!".  And yes, marketing is important.  Tofu has become White Cake tofu, and quiche is Eggy Pie.  Total failure on the quiche as he grabbed it too fast and burnt his mouth on melted cheese, but hope to get over that.  This current menu will run for another 6 weeks before we revamp it again.   And this time I will start blending in and hiding small amount of healthy stuff in his mashed potatoes and other places.  As they say, youth and enthusiasm will always be overcome by age and treachery.

Perhaps the biggest event of the spring was our talk with Alex's class.  Big mentally.  We had his spring IEP, which was a dream.  Love his staff, all of them, and they are really on target in terms of assessing him and planning to help him move forward.  They are even instituting and new program for August to help him prepare for the next school year.  As we wound down this year I tentatively wondered if it would be good to talk to his class about his autism.  The enthusiasm was overwhelming.  It overwhelmed my urge to run, forget about the whole thing, and pretend he us just an average kid.  No luck there.  It is good, I suppose, that he has some very visible signs of autism.  He still flaps when excited, gets overstimulated by too much noise and excitement and runs out the door or grabs kids inappropriately, and it is easier for him to avoid social contact.  But he loves his little friends too, and reaches out all the time in many different ways.  And the kids notice all of this, and that he gets to leave class with his aide, and he does not always have the same rules as they do.  Since they really seem to love him too it was time to come clean with them. 

We debated about using the word autism.  Are they too young to understand?  Will they use the label as a weapon?  Will it make them turn on him, or act differently than they would without the label??  But you can't erase the truth and understanding combats fear.  The truth is there are quite a few notable differences with Alex, and these kids will encounter many other kids with autism in there lives.  Maybe by knowing all about Alex, while they love him as they do, then that will help the others.  The talk was short, about 10 minutes.  Alex was out of the room, as well as the other little boy in their class with autism.  Teacher had them gather around us on the carpet, 20 some little eager faces.  We talked about how Alex is different, both the bad and the good, we talked about autism and how he was born with it, we talked about their observations.  Lydia sat right next to me, and when I said nervously that Alex had a thing called autism she raised her hand with a big smile and said her mom had told her that.  I didn't even know her mom knew, but of course she did.  The signs are all there for someone to see.  I was surprised and delighted, score one for the truth.  Why delighted?  Because Lydia was smiling, and Lydia wants to marry Alex too.  I really got that these kids, these kids who have been with him all year, really want to be his friends.  They are not just tolerating him, they are pursuing him.  And even though he is not able to fully connect with or play with them on the same complicated level they are at, they don't care.  They see him as a peer and friend, and tolerate the negative while celebrating the positive.  They know about his good memory, and his sense of humor, his ability to memorize schedules and sequences, and know the rules.  They like his smile and celebrate his opening up and joining their clan of kiddom bit by bit.  Yes, the talk went well and we will do it again next year, but even earlier.  Like October.  And of course we ended with treats.  Always bring good treats.  Alex joined us and it was not weird.  He was thrown by his parents being in class, but the other kids loved us and begged us to sit at all their tables.  It was lovely.

There are only two weeks left of school.  Alex's new 1st grade teacher joined out talk for a bit.  He gets to keep his aide.  She started out sharing two kids then moved to only Alex.  She is staying on for another year to work one day a week with him.  His other aide has worked with the other kiddo in class and will be with Alex instead next year, Monday through Thursday.  She is great too.  We have a full summer planned.  My greatest dream is that Alex continues to connect with his peers, grow and learn to live in  the regular world.  He will always have his Planet Jellybean to retreat to, hopefully he will need it less and less. 

I didn't really mean for this to be a mega post, but sometimes these things just happen.  There has been more this spring but it will have to wait.  I hit on all the biggies.  Oh, except for the love triangles.  Alex has two girls that have openly declared their love for him and intention to marry him.  Lily actually had him in a headlock the last time she trumpeted her plan to Kevin.  And Alex has proposed to two women so far, Melani who is a beautiful young lady in her 20's that I work with, and myself.  Yes, he proposed to her first.  That was last year.  Just recently he declared that he will marry Lussi, a third girl from his class.  She was in the play too, and dressed as an exotic bird.  She is a peanut, but very much a strong little pixie.  But alas, she has declared her love for Aiden.  And so the world turns...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Talk

Today we talk to Alex's class about Autism.  He will be out of the room, and we will sit down with his little friends for a chat and a thank you for being such great friends to Alex.  I am nervous, and excited too.  It may take a few days to get to a review of the whole thing, but I will post it when I can.  Off I go!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Change sucks

I'm just saying.  Really, is there anything more to say?  I've been working on changing bad habits and it just sucks.  I had those habits for a reason, and the reason was they worked for me.  Ignoring my finances worked for me.  It took no time, and no effort.  And that is my type of living. 

Yeah, sometimes I am up for the challenge, and sometimes change just sucks.  That's all, gotta go to work.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Financial Heaven

Turns out A "Financial Fast" is heaven for me.  It is done, and I loved it.  I loved not spending money, I loved not shopping, window shopping, or even thinking about shopping.  I have been anti-shopping for most of my adult life, and I like it fine that way.  Not that I don't go on the occasional spending spree or have my spending weaknesses, but overall I do just fine without it.  It gave me fewer things to think about and make decisions about.  I like not spending and also saving.  We saved a ton of money, I do not even know how much yet, but it was close to $1000.  Some of that was selling off unused stuff, some of it was extra work, and some of it was just stopping all spending for 21 days.  Of course that last one will result in some extra spending as we get back to it, just not too much I hope.

So, we fasted.  And we cleaned.  Or actually we cleared.  Cleaning will come next.  But we are still finishing up the clearing.  Wow can a tiny house hold loads of junk.  LOADS.  More on that another time.  There are a few things left in the Fast.  We are following the next step by writing down all of our purchases for the next month, down to the gumball.  I need to balance our accounts for last month, and tweek the system so we can keep track in real time, rather than ignoring finances until they shout to be heard.  I need to pass the book on so it can be used by another (and another, and another).  I have a dream of leading a group of folks in a Financial fast next year, and then leading Financial Peace University, too.  It is a very good thing, and would be fun to lead and hear other peoples experiences.  Since I am an avid NPR listener I do feel a bit guilty since I am doing nothing to help the economy right now, but that is really just a great rationalization for unnecessary spending anyways.  I always like a good rationalization.   

Unfortunately my whole life is not heaven at the moment, but at least I have one little corner of it.

Peace Out.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Disaster Zone

AAARRRGGGHHH!  This is one of those days.  A disaster zone day.  I can't help but look around and see all the failures in my house.  Mess, upon mess, upon mess.  Half trained dogs.  Untrained cat.  Detrained me.  Or is that derailed??  Went for a run and whined to myself through the whole thing.  Cleaned 1/8 of my dresser top and used up all my free time.  Still need to shower.  Laundry piled up.  Sunny out and I am in.

I did run.  And I grocery shopped.  And I even put the groceries away.  But I have not cleaned the whole house top to bottom.  Or gotten my garage sale fodder all in the attic and all the rest tucked away in the basement.  Nor have I cleaned all the dog poop from the yard.  Yet to sort through the new load of clothing that arrived from Pittsburgh.  But I do have a paycheck to deposit in the new joint bank account.  And I have not broken my fast today.  For all and all it is one step forward and a few back, yet I suppose there is progress.  But I still feel like junk, am barely coherent, and hope to have a better day tomorrow.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Week 1- Financial Fast

So far, so good.  Actually really good.  I will do this again in the future.  So far we have saved $500 and the outcome from the garage sale may put us over the $1000 mark for the month's savings.  I have not been perfect, and have had two big cheats and one small one.  The big ones were pre-planned, because I was not going to cancel my hosting of book club, or the play Rent.  I did spend about half what I usually do for book club, and managed a great meal.  I generally put on the Ritz for the event, going all out with imported things (like $15 cheese) and fine wine.  This time around we had Cheeze Whiz (super fun) and beer, hard lemonade, and hard cider.  Plus I fed 10 with my meatloaf and mashed potato casserole, with three meatloaves left over.  I did not worry at all about tanking my Entertainment envelope for the $25 for Rent, because there is no other entertainment to pay for.  And it has not been painful.  It just simply is not on the radar to run out and rent something, or go out to the movies.  The things I have done include going with my boys all over town on the Gallery Hop, my first time ever.  I have wanted to go for Years.  I debated if it was a cheat or not since we were in "stores", but I called it looking at art and getting inspiration instead.  Plus the trolley was free.  We met up with a ton of friends and their kids at my favorite gallery, and when one parent decided on the spur of the moment to buy a $145 necklace I did not have the tiniest bit of jealousy.  Usually I might have, cuz who doesn't like to treat themself, but instead I felt very content.  Very.  This friend makes a big salary, and has a beautiful house in the woods, and I have been jealous of her family in the past, but maybe part of that was just feeling they had everything together and we didn't.  Now we are getting ourselves in order and I know we will make our mark in a good way.  Plus we got really good news at that gallery,  a local artist has agreed to make a new logo for us for barter.  It's gonna be sweet. 

Because we were not running over to the candy shop to buy Alex some Swedish Fish, or to the ice cream shop for some instant bliss, instead the kids all played on an outdoor banister for a good half an hour.  Going down, squishing each other, rolling out of the pile up, running up the stairs to do it again.  Then we all went over to the beach and the kids threw rocks in the lake for another half an hour.  And I had no deep need to run over to the coffee shop and miss part of the action, like I have in the past.  It was bliss.  We also had our friends stay over night this weekend and I did not run out and buy a ton of groceries like I usually do, yet we still ate crepes with strawberries and chocolate for breakfast.  Partly inspired by the fast I picked up a double this week I would have usually passed on, so there are 200 more dollars to throw on the pile.  But that does lead to my other minor cheat.  When I was on the double I charged my lunch, and a glass of tea, and then threw all caution to the wind at change of shift and bought three pieces of chocolate at the gift shop.  I call it all one cheat since it all snowballed off itself.  To top off the week, I went for a run.  Oh, and I started to learn to surf, but that is another story.

So there.  The first week of the financial fast, and my cheat confessions.  That is the fast so far.  I have not kept an actual journal, as the book suggests, and have not completed my budget or net worth statement, but I have time.  Two more weeks of no cash spending, I am psyched!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Day 1- Financial Fast

So far so good.  Started the Financial Fast today.  Not a penny has passed from my hands.  Went to work, then came home and had a lovely evening with the boys.  Hasn't been hard at all, yet.  Just no temptation to run out to the video store after wee one is in bed.  Instead I looked forward to calling my mom, and also had a nice bath, and did my needed neck stretches.  And still have plenty of time before bed.

We have been on the envelope system forever for food expenses, and incidentals, and entertainment, and trips, and whatnot.  This means I go to the bank twice a month and take out our planned amount of cash, put it in the designated envelopes (grocery, eating out, pets, trips, blow fund: which means blow it any way you want, gas, entertainment, clothing, etc.) and when the money is gone, it is gone.  No cheats, no stealing, no credit.  Theoretically.  We have actually been pretty good overall, but have had our weak areas.  For this fast I am hoping to do the whole month on only one cash run, and put the rest in savings.  It should be fairly easy since whole envelopes (eating out, blow fund, entertainment, clothing) wont be touched.  Our whole budget has always been quite limited anyways, but this will give us even more awareness.

What I am already much more aware of is how much of spending is purely entertainment.  How often I will go and do things mostly for the kick of spending and for something to do.  That walk to the ice cream store.  A last minute run to the video store when there is nothing in particular I want to watch.  Perusing at the consignment store when I really don't need any more clothes.  There is a no window or catalog shopping rule too, so it was a little odd not to look at the print ads from the Sunday paper at work.  I usually check out building supplies, appliances, and Best Buy to dream a little, but not today.  I saw the ads sitting there and just looked away, aware but not upset.  Oh, the marketers don't want to hear about this for sure.  I did sneak a peek on my way home at the fun prom dresses in my consignment shop window, but only as we drove by.  I don't think it truly counts as cheating.  No, not yet.  I'm sure that will come, in fact I have two cheats planned, but overall it was a good start to the fast.  And I am actually excited to see how it unfolds.  1 down, 20 to go.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Just Mites

Our house is filled with Just Mites.  We are overrun.  We are infested.  I am going to get rid of them.

We are having a huge garage sale in 3 weeks.  All of the Just Mites are going in it.  If I look at something and say, "Hmmmm, I just might use this one day...", then I know exactly which pile to put it it.

For Sale.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Half Assed Running

Went for a run this morning.  I really did not want to, and am really glad that I did.  I did not get out much over the last two weeks, so my motivation has dropped and the whine factor increased.  That always happens to me when I get out of my routine.  It becomes painful to think about spending my energy working out, and that means I have slipped into the danger zone.  Fortunately I have a good base now, so I can get back into the swing of things pretty easily.  It wasn't always that way. 

It all started back in January '06 when I had my upcoming 20th class reunion.  I was feeling a bit out of shape due to baby poundage and no working out at all.  I switched my work routine and determined that if I was to survive working seven days in a row consistently I would need to build in stress relief.  I got a gym membership where I work and started going three of those seven days, just before work, so it was all quite smooth.  I got extra time to myself (Alex was two) and extra endorphins.  Oh how I need endorphins, and I will even take them from an indoor track if I have to.  I prefer my kayak, or rock climbing, or mountain biking, but those take either loads of time, or a specific time of year, or both.  So I went with the always available gym and was able to stick with it.  Well, the reunion came summer '06 and I felt pretty fit, which was nice.  And I was hooked on workouts, so I just kept it up.  Summer '07 I decided I should be able to run a 5km race.  I had mostly been lifting weighs up to that point, with a little warm up run of 10 minutes 3 times a week.  Since a 5 km takes about 30 minutes I figured I was already ready.  Well, I ran the race and got my ass kicked all over the place.  Mostly by me.  I thought I could go really fast and almost killed myself.  My sprint lasted about 3 minutes, and the next 30 were walking, limping, and then slowly running with an inspiring friend.  I made it, and ate my humble pie at the finish.  Then I got pissed, at myself, and decided to do something totally radical that I had never done before in my 30 odd years... train.  Actually train and practice for something.  I had always been more of a jump-in-and-do-it kind of a gal.  No wonder I never made it to the pros.  Oh well.  So, I started training for running, at a pace I could manage.  I ran so slowly at first that the walkers on the track would pass me.  That was embarrassing but I kept at it.  The endorphins kept me going, and I made slow gains.  Very slow.   But gains none the less.  I was running three times a week for 30 minutes a session.   I was not making the mileage because I ran so slow, but I decided on time as my main focus.  I didn't always make my 3 times a week, but when I hit it I felt really good.  And by the next spring ('08) I did indeed complete my first fully running 5km.  At the back, but I didn't walk, or almost kill myself.   I actually completed three races that year, two 5km and a 10km.  I decided that for general fitness I would like to participate in four races a year.  One per season.  Three running and one cross country skiing.   I haven't made the skiing race yet, hopefully next year.  I will race the Mother's Day Breast Cancer race in May if I am not working.  Or I will find another one.

The races are a riot.  Who knew??  All those runners aren't just crazy or stupid, as I always assumed.  There is a great energy out there at the races, and competition where I seed is minimal, we all just cheer each other on.  Gives me a nice training motivation too.  I have bumped up my program goal to 45 minutes of running, three times a week.  I have not hit it lately, but will get there soon.  It gives me so much energy, and cuts down on my whining so much, that I just have to do it.  Plus it gets me outside and enjoying the unfolding seasons. 

So, I didn't want to run, but off I went.  Glad I did, and gotta keep it up.  The endorphins are calling my name.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Break Those Chains

I am starting a 21 Day Financial Fast on Sunday.  21 days of spending NOTHING, except groceries and gas.  No videos, no movies, no eating out, no chocolate on my way in to work, not even a gumball.  Bills are exempt.  That's about it.  And store pizza has to be pondered as a need or a want...  Oh, and no shopping.  None.  No window shopping, garage sailing, no catalog looking, no Craig's List on the internet, no Sunday ads, nothing.  Oh, this is going to be fun!!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

More On Money

Holy crap, we did it.  Paid off my student loan.  Paid it off early, and paid it off with our very own money.  It feels absolutely amazing.  Really, really good.  And believe you me, I know all about feeling good.  I have chased that feeling all over the world.  I started early, at 16 I was sky diving.  By 22 I was regularly whitewater kayaking, rock climbing, and had even bungee jumped.  In fact, I almost got a job as a bungee jumping tech.  I knew I would get to test the equipment every day.  Yahoo.  And that would feel great.  Finishing a difficult rapid feels great.  Climbing a 5.9 rock face and topping out feels great.  Leaping off a 212 foot bridge after a helicopter ride into the bush of New Zealand feels Great.  But man, paying off those student loans feels really GREAT too. 

As I said in my earlier post, I have been a terrible money manager.  I have behaved as if money grew on trees, and it was always harvest time.  A few years ago I made up a little ledger sheet called "Gifts and Loans of our Marriage".  That was a reality check.  We got very far on a fabulous family, student loans, and generous associates.  And some dumb luck too.  We found our house through our outdoor network, and the seller was very easy on us.  Nice old rust buckets with plenty of life left in them have fallen into our laps.  Even appliances have turned up when we really needed them.  Okay, we had needed a new stove for awhile, the bungee cord we used to keep it closed was starting to fray.  But still, a three year old stove for $50.  How does that happen?  Dumb luck, and a dirtbag willingness to wait.  Yes, we have lived frugally, but when push came to shove we got some really big loans and gifts too.

No more.  No more loans.  No more counting on gifts.  And no more ignoring the big things like budgeting the money we earn, a real emergency fund,  repairs for the house, retirement, a college education for Alex, and real investments.  We are doing a Total Money Makeover, ala Dave Ramsey, and working the Steps.  This is not a cult, but it is counter cultural.  We are giving up totally on credit.  No cards.  No payments.  No 0% interest and "no money down".  We are going back to the old ways, if we don't have the money, we don't buy it.  And learning to save for what we need.  And learning invest as well.  Step, by step, by step.  ALL of our personal debts are now paid, and we wont be running out for a student loan or new car.  I have personally been tempted, with all the great car offers out there now, but I think I passed the test.  Instead I am focused on filling up that emergency fund, having $12,000 for rainy days.  Not for cars, or repairs, or trips, or other things we will budget for for, but for emergency's.  For the big "What if's" and real general security.  Once we have that lump sum (and we are 1/4 of the way there) then we will crank up the retirement fund.

The real key to all of this is controlling people.  In specific, the people in the mirror.  Along with the the "Loans and Gifts" sheet I toted up all of the income Kevin and I have earned.  It is actually more than all the gifts and loans.  Whew.  That was good to see, and inspiring.  Kind of sad, wondering where the hell it all went, but ultimately inspiring.  Helped kick us into gear, and really commit to this Total Money Makeover.  Now we are running with it, and feeling great.  GREAT!  I realize now the cost of avoidance.  And the freedom of the fight.  It is all doable, and it is ALL GOOD.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Alex Report

I know I was supposed to blog more about Jamaica, but first I need to put out another Alex Report.  It has been far too long.  Plus I have a blogging announcement for the end.

As I put Alex on the bus this morning I considered how far we have come.  The Spring Concert at school rolled through my head, where Alex had a Maraca solo.  He is in Kindergarten now, and we are living the dream.  The dream my favorite autism books talk about, where your child is fully integrated into a regular classroom, with pull out time to work on the skills he needs.  That is what we have, and the school is fantastic.  They have bent over backwards to accommodate Alex, and had fun doing it.  He has an aide to die for.  She was a elementary school teacher for many years, had had time off due to illness, and decided to work another year in the classroom.  She is the most loving and invested person we could ask for.  She has read every book I recommended, and fully immersed herself in learning autism.  We have tea every month or so, and she has been a delight and a comfort.  His teacher is also a beautiful soul, she knows young kids, and has made a perfect learning environment.  She is very structured, and predictable, but also builds in super creative days and projects.  Alex loves her, and was imitating her within a week of being in her class.  He was also terrified of her, because she is somewhat intimidating (a Nordic goddess in Kevin's words), so he played hard to get for the first few months.  She has been great at insisting on eye contact.  And then there is the special education staff.  They are all hard working, super invested, and cool people.  And all there, on site.  No traveling to other schools.  No leaving the adorable country school, with it's woods and trails, gardens and greenhouse, and multiple playgrounds.

So, it is all going great, but of course I still worry.  I worry that I have not been working with him enough at home.  Worry that we let him veg out on the computer for half an hour after school, sometimes even 45 minutes.  Worry that his hand writing is atrocious and he hates writing.  Worry that his bus ride is an hour each way, and he is not learning or socializing, just stimming.  Worry that this is as close to the norm as he will ever get.

The kids at school seem to love him.  He has his favorites, all girls of course.  He likes the boys too, and there is one little one that keeps asking if he can give Alex his phone number.  Next time I will say yes.  There is a mean one too, and Alex bit him a few weeks ago.  I was not too sad about that and I suspect the staff really wasn't either.  Alex is talking a lot about feelings and trying to understand what others are feeling.  He will ask, "Was she sad?" or, "What did my teacher feel when I squished Isaac?".  He talks about sitting on, rolling on, and hitting kids, but the teacher reports he is very well behaved and only grabs kids sometimes or pinches a little when excited.  Maybe he is thinking about sitting on them??  He can now tell a story from beginning to middle, and sometimes even the end.  We have made lots of progress, but sometimes it seems we are still very far off the mark.  When I get too worried, however, I pull out a recent cherished memory.  One of the most popular, smart, and sweet girls in his class wants to marry him.  Lily Brown told my husband this when they were having a play date over a month ago.  I guess we are doing okay.

Blogging announcement-  I have started another blog.  I felt like I wanted this blog to reflect Family matters and Autism more than anything.  My other blog is all the random musings I am sometimes prone to.  Feel free to visit, I have been rambling there for a while now.  Cheers!

Monday, March 15, 2010

In my Pajamas

I'm in my pajamas at 2:30 in the afternoon, Central Standard Time.

Just thought I'd mention it.


It Really Happened

I still can't quite believe that Kevin and I went to Jamaica.  An amazing late winter trip, just us, while our son stayed home in Minnesota and went to school.  One of the perks of being an adult I suppose.  It was a truly incredible trip, from the frozen North to a tropical paradise.  We stayed at a resort just for couples that was "all inclusive".  No need for money while there, not for the activities or the abundant and delicious food and drinks, or even the top notch service.  I felt like a princess.  And it was like a time machine back to dating.  All exterior pressures were on hold for one glorious week.  We missed our son like crazy, and I don't know that we can ever leave him behind like that again, but it was a nice bit of heaven.  Here are a few pics to start the story, I will post more as I get them processed and ordered.
It turned out to be windy for the entire time we were there, so we took advantage of the waves and learned to boogie board.  It was fun, and exhilarating, exhausting, and a pure riot.  We got out once or twice almost every day.

We were on the western tip of Jamaica, along a beautiful beach, at a resort called Couples Negril.  I have never stayed at such a place.  More of a Low Budget kind of traveler, this was a style that was not difficult to get used to.  The Jamaican staff were lovely and perfect, the food to die for, and the resort itself was built into the site like a residence in  the Garden of Eden.  Every need was anticipated, from food to drink, to entertainment, to down time.  We feasted and experimented.  I ate curried goat and smoked marlin.... both delicious.  Sorry PETA, I have really surrendered my card now.

Oh yeah, and there was this guy I used to know.  I think I married him awhile back, but with the pressures of child raising, Autism, business, house holding, day jobs, infertility, and a generally wild schedule our marriage had been on the back burner for quite awhile.  This trip was the Honeymoon we never had, and the 10 wedding anniversary trip we didn't take.  We have been married over 11 years now, and this retreat together was fully appreciated and celebrated.  

And like a fairy tale.  A resort to tend to all of our needs, built like a palace, filled with interesting people.  I was not sure what the guests would be like, and they were super.  Many other appreciative folks, taking a break from their busy schedules and enjoying a bit of paradise.  The staff were great too, and having worked in the tourism and guest services industries, including house keeping, I did not feel too bad taking advantage of their hard work and expert attention.  I was a bit like non-stop theater, with the staff as the actors and the guests as the interactive audience.  It was a well directed and well  preformed, Broadway quality for sure.  

More to come....

Friday, March 12, 2010

Money Honey

WARNING:  Much X Rated Adult material about that most naked of subjects....Finance.  Read at your own peril, this is a bare all kind of discussion. 

I have been the world's worst money manager.  Thank goodness I was given a lot in my lifetime, or I would have been forced to turn to prostitution, drug dealing, or cat burglary.  I traveled all those years ago on a surprise inheritance, not on any super savvy money ethic of my own.  I never even had a job until after my sophomore year in college.  Every big trip I ever took was either a gift, or a gift.  I'd like to believe I earned those trips through charm and being a good person, but that is more bull shit than I can handle.  Just damn lucky I guess.

Not to say I haven't gotten better over time.   I actually have worked for a living for many years now.  I don't bounce checks or use an overdraft "line of credit" or pile up interest that I never tally anymore.  My hubby and I settled in a reasonable town, bought a super cheap house, and almost live within our means, including supporting a munchkin.  I've gotten better, but am about to take it to the next level.

Total Money Makeover.  I started this process back 2002.  We started using cash for all the little stuff and got on the "envelope system" to make that work.  We stopped using credit, and Kevin shot the last credit card back in 2007.  We have Health Insurance, Life Insurance, and are close to a real will.  Now we are about to take our Tax refunds and jump into the deep end of the pool.  Spend it all by paying off ALL of our personal debts, including my student loan.  Start building a real emergency fund (aiming at $12,000), and see how fast we can do it.  Then we really get into the nitty gritty of The Plan from there.  We are selling things off, tightening our belts, and finding ways to increase our income.  We will be having a big garage sale in May.  All big purchases, all the "I wants" are on hold.  The truck is gone as of yesterday.  The scooter sold last month.  We are again a one car family, and will stay that way until our budget stabilizes.    We are officially nuts, and this is fun.

No really, I swear.  This is fun!  I am so excited and pumped.  The thought of money no longer makes me nauseous.  I work my budgeting sheets into the dark of night, because I WANT to.  I am finally figuring out things that were a total mystery to me.  Like how compound interest works, and what the heck a "nest egg" really is.  Perhaps the strangest thing is the thought of working is also exciting.  Weird, but true. 

I am off and running.  There is more to ramble on about, but this is a good start.  I dream of teaching a class on finance in a year or so.  Just a little one, no new degree needed.  For now I will head off to work to see my peeps.  Especially those who have already joined me in the She Woman Debt Haters Club that was formed a few years back.  Ciao.

New Tricks

On my big trip I learned that I like scuba, and can pass a basic resort course.  I also learned how to operate my new idiot proof camera, never did learn the old digital beyond point and shoot.  After the trip I am learning to edit, size, save, and post my own pictures.  Am very slow but I did this picture and my new facebook pictures all by myself.

I have gotten a bit lazy as an old married lady, and let my husband do certain things like learning how to use digital cameras.  I am going to knock that shit off.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

40 Something

I remember a TV show from the 80's called 30 Something.  At that time 30 seemed so old I could barely imagine it.  My sister thought it was great.  It was all about relationships, and kids, and jobs.  I was not set on a future like that.  I did not know what I wanted, but I knew I wanted to be "different".  Well, I am not sure if I wanted that or if I just was, so I might as well embrace it.  I was not a cheerleader in school.  Nor was I popular, or a pretty girl.  I was mostly ignored and fully aware of it.  Not too different to be picked on or hounded, just relegated to the way less than elite.  I, however, did not want to be elite anyways, so there.  When I learn how to use the new scanner at home I will post a few choice photos.  Perhaps my favorite is wearing my short hair in a sea of mall bangs, with my brown psuedo-military outfit with the belt that wrapped two times around and over my shoulder.  It had silver bars on it, reminiscent of those big guns whose names elude me right now.  Not that I was about to join the Sandinista guerrilla fighters, I just liked the look.  I wish I could say I was into hard core punk, but I listened to WIFC like everyone else.  Me and Tears for Fears were buds.  I did know the one guy in school who put a safety pin in his ear.  And, I had a rat tail.

Yes, I was different and did not know were that would take me.  Away from Wausau, Wisconsin, that was for sure.  I escaped to college, and into the heart of Minneapolis.  I went everywhere, partied downtown often, and lived the big city life.  Eventually Minneapolis was too mundane, or at least my corner of it, and I tired of urban living.  My best friend, who came through it all with me, from kindergarten to sophomore year of college, had similar feelings.  She thrived on the urban part, however, and moved to Los Angeles.  By 1992 she was settled with a real job, a soul mate, and a baby.  I was terrified by this and went off to see the world.  Or at least to get as far away as possible from the Mid-West and even the US.

We were in the Gulf War at the time, and I wanted nothing to do with that.  I was not a patriot, thought the "war" was a bad move, and could not wait to get out.  I hated Bush, had hated Reagan, and was ready to be far, far away.  I had vague ideas about falling in love with a man from a foreign country and becoming and ex-pat.  This may have been more realistic if men actually looked at me as more than a friend or fun tom boy.  Or if I had ever had a relationship that lasted more than two weeks in real time, not counting endless crushes.  I had the dream, but it never quite worked out the way I wanted.  I spent a few years in New Zealand, which were glorious and grand and worthy.  There were men, of course, and I had a few crushes, and was crushed by them.  I did have one boyfriend, but since he was totally into me I determined he was not worth having.  I did get to keep his best friend, but that story is better saved for another post.  Yes, I had a marvelous time abroad, but I did not fall in love.  And I did not stay. 

All that was still as a 20 Something.  And now, here I am, blogging at 41.  How did I get here? is a question that has popped up a lot lately.  I am back in a town with a very similar feel to the one I escaped from at 17.  I have a husband, a job, and a child.  A house, and pets, and lots of stuff.  I lived for years out of a VW Rabbit, owning no more than the hatchback could hold.  Sometimes I feel really old.  Don't get me wrong, I do love my life.  It is filled with love, and loved ones.  That is the most important part.  It is also filled with the outdoors and adventures.  Smaller adventures than in the past, but adventures still.  I love my life, it is just way closer to the show 30 Something than I ever expected.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Or Roar

Ready to take on Scuba Diving in Jamaica last week.

I Am Woman - Hear Me Ramble

This is it, time to split my blogs.

It occurred to me while I was running through the damp and fog today, that I generally do two kinds of post on my current blog.  I post about my family-my son-and autism, and I post about ME.  I feel guilty about posting about me much of the time, because if people want to read about Alex, the fam, or Autism, then I am a minor player.  But I am often driven to post about me, since it is the thing I know most about, and sometimes least.  I have been with me from the beginning, as far as I can tell, and there is much to say.  Plus blogging about myself  is more a meditative enterprise than anything, and I do not wish to inflict that on the general public.  And sometimes I wish to go PG-13, and that feels weird where I talk about my son so much.  

Thus, this new blog is born.  I hope to be whitty and amusing, insightful and occasionally teach-y, reminiscent and go-girl-power. Also I am sort of on the back side of a mid-life crisis, so I feel more comfortable talking about that here.  Just returned from a fabulous experience in Jamaica, so am feeling all empowered.  That's it for the explanations, as far as I understand them myself.  I am having delusions of adequacy as a writer, so bear with me and feel free to comment.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Winter Fun

Alex, Jack, and I went skiing today.  It was Alex's third time on cross country skis this year, and the best outing yet.  Blue skies, gorgeous white snow, and warm temperatures.  He is so cute on his little skis, chugging along.  We have discovered a dog/ski trail at the end of our neighborhood, on a nice wooded golf course.  It is not too steep, not too curvy, and not too long.  We have yet to make a full circuit (about 5km) but may get there by the end of the year.

I have had to lay down the law about a few things.  Thou shalt get up on your own, is the big one and was instituted on his last trip.  Thou shalt not whine, another key commandment, was begun on this trip.  And Thou shalt wear sunglasses, will be started on his next outing.  Getting up on his own saves my back, no whining saves my sanity, and wearing sunglasses will be good for him directly.  He looked so cute rolling around on his back trying to figure out how to get his skis back under him.  I think it is excellent problem solving practice.

My motivational techniques sometimes are carrots and sometimes are sticks.  For the first two laws, sticks were in order.  But maybe not your normal sticks.  I threatened him with having to take his skis off and walk.  It went like this...  "Fwuump", down he went in a small heap.  "Mama, mama, pull me up!", from somewhere at snow level.  "Nope, you get yourself up or we will have to take your skis off and head back to the car."  -pause-  "Okay."  And up he would pop, usually sooner rather than later.  Dang, why didn't I do that the whole time last week?  Oh yeah, we were with friends and their kids, and I wasn't sure if he could get himself up.  By the end of that trip I was a bit fried so gave up on all help, and threatened walking because it was all I could think of.  To my amazement it worked, so I am sticking with it.  This time we were on our own, and my main goal was his independence.  I only gave him the tiniest help two times.  He was down at least two dozen.  Ahhhh, the sweet taste of success.  And he had fun!  And so did I.  Whining was minimized as well, and new techniques were dabbled with.  Like side stepping up the steep stuff, and skiing downhill through three inches of fresh powder.  It was quiet glorious.  I was day dreaming of other, longer ski trips to take in the future.  Visions of hut-to-hut trips in the mountains were dancing in my head.  Maybe a day at a downhill ski area with peaks nearby, and trails, trails, trails.  We could even start with the Upper Peninsula of Michigan before heading out West one day.  The whole snowy world awaits.