The GGA Project -- Day #232 "Genre Reading, Take 2"

A few months ago I endeavored to read a book outside of my usual favorite fiction genre--that being straight-up fiction.  The book was a mystery you may have heard of called The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Yeah, that didn't go so well.  I heard it gets really good once you get through the first 30 pages of tedious exposition, but unfortunately I never made it that far.

With this in mind, I was a little reluctant to stray again into the shelves of the unknown, but in the spirit of this project I've decided to take the leap.

Today's New Activity: Delving into Fantasy

There are a couple of reasons I've decided to go with fantasy as my next new genre.  First is that I'm still not ready for sci-fi, and I know I've liked some movies based on fantasy books.  The Neverending Story comes to mind, though there have been others for sure.

But the main thing that appealed to me about George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones series was that a number of people I know are reading and enjoying it, and they range from people who almost exclusively read sci-fi/fantasy, to those who occasionally do or never have outside of this series.  With that kind of broad appeal, I figured it might just grab me too.

I'm two chapters in and was already impressed with how the author established three characters pretty clearly within a page and a half (small-sized mass market format, so a page and a half is not a lot of time).  All three of those characters were dead within the next 8 pages of the book, so this could be a long ride...but still, I appreciated that skill.  And I've been told that there are tons of characters, all well developed in the now 4-book series of tome-like books, so that's a whole lot of people to keep track of.  But I also hear it's fascinating, political, and addictive.  So then, here we go...


The GGA Project -- Day #231 "Purty"

I'm sure there are more to speak of, but when it comes to guilty pleasures, I have two that come immediately to mind.  The first is Facebook.  I can waste a lot of time looking at and commenting on the pictures and other sharings of friends.  But doing so is making connection *of sorts*, especially when it involves people I rarely get to see in person, so I don't consider it totally futile.

My GUILTY guilty pleasure is reading (make that looking through the pictures in) frufru magazines.  My two current subscriptions are to InStyle and People Style Watch.  Basically, they are both full of posed or candid pictures of celebrities and go no deeper than to comment on the clothing, accessory, and makeup choices contained therein.

Though I certainly don't consider myself a fashionista or in any way cutting edge when in comes to style, I *do* --once in a while--make an effort to avoid The Frump that can plague mothers and render them invisible, even to themselves.  Sometimes I really do enjoy putting some thought into my outfits and feeling like a woman, apart from being a Mom.  Looking through these magazines keeps me aware of the world of options out there and somewhat clued into new, cute possibilities.

Lately I've seen a lot of mentions of nude and very light pink nail polishes.  I like the way they blend in a bit and don't call attention to themselves while still lending a little bit of finish and prettiness to the nails.

Today's New Activity: Nurturing Natural Nail Color

What a corny name, huh?  But I loved the shade and picked it from a number of nude/pink options available at Ulta, the superstore of cosmetics.  I'm not real great at applying nail polish, but here are the before and after results anyway, more or less:

I think it's a nice look for summer.

Now I need to find me a pair of nude color high heel strappy sandals and I'll be all set :)


The GGA Project -- Day #230 "On Properly Celebrating [a] Life"

I mentioned last week that a former coworker of mine died suddenly at the tender age of 38.  William was a kind, low-key person with infinite patience (10 years' worth) for every manner of obnoxious customer one can imagine and without a bad word to speak of anybody.  It sent a ripple of shock through the group of friends who knew him to learn of the untimely loss.  And I know many of us were sorry to have missed his funeral and wake, which happened in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week.  We knew some kind of gathering was necessary...for us all to have the chance to get together and remember William--to celebrate his life.

An informal gathering was suggested by my friend Alejandra just the day after his death, and it was pleasantly surprising to see so many people make it out on a Monday night with just a few hours' notice.  We met at TGIF's that night, since that was where so many of our gatherings had taken place, back when Barnes & Noble was still a fun place to work, full of youthful, friendly people who shared a mutual respect and care for one another.

Today's New Activity: Remembering William, Barnes & Noble Style

We planned for a second gathering to take place tonight, since Friday seemed like a more easily accessible day on which to get together.  And a fitting remembrance it was.  Colleen and Will, who met a Barnes & Noble years ago and married a few months back, hosted the gathering at the home where Colleen used to host many a party, back in the day.  Will put together a beautiful slideshow of pictures, and people who hadn't gotten together in years were there to pay tribute.

One thing interesting to me was that I didn't hear a lot of talk about William tonight.  See, here's the thing: William himself didn't talk much.  He was always there, sometimes among the last to leave a get together, but he was very quiet in nature.  Tonight's felt like so many other gatherings at which William was present--even in life he was there more in spirit than in any sort of calling-attention-to-himself way.  I find that beautiful.  And I find it beautiful that--although he was so reserved in life--his loss was felt so deeply and by so many people.

I think about mortality with some frequency.  Perhaps more than average, perhaps not.  But it's been on my mind a lot lately, beginning about 6 weeks ago.  Nothing in particular set me thinking in that way.  It was just part of a cycle of thinking I return to in waves.

I discussed it most recently with Nicole following my attendance at the Pride Parade in San Francisco a few weeks ago.  I was telling her how brave I thought it was for people to live an out-of-the-closet homosexual life.  Despite the lifting of much of the stigma in recent decades, I know there is still plenty of misunderstanding if not downright judgment and hatred toward homosexuals, and I think it takes an amazing strength of spirit for somebody to come out, particularly to their closest friends and family.  Nicole said that she believes people who live in this way have the right thinking about what life is meant to be.  She related it to lucid dreaming--of being able to know you're in a dream and steer the events as you like--to do what you like without fear or reservation.  She related the event of one's death to the waking from such a lucid dream.  The idea was that, for all we know, this lifetime is all we have, and when it's over, our part in the experience of living has been played.  And so many of us play out that part according to the rules and script set forth by others, never taking the chance to orchestrate our own moves in this lucid dream of life.  Nicole really got me thinking with that.

Of course, she was not talking about living a debauched life of moral depravity and disregard for laws or for the feelings of others.  It was just about living fully out loud as the person who is bursting from within you, without worrying about the judgments of others or even the vast majority of social norms.  I love that idea.  I love love love that idea.

William's death, at such a young age and following just a year and a half after the death of his own sister, was just another reminder to me that we could suddenly and unexpectedly wake from this dream at any moment...or not.  There is really NO TIME AT ALL to waste, or to spend steeped in doubt, unhappiness, stress, or despair.  It's the best of The Shawshank Redemption: Time to get busy living or get busy dying.  And since we are all headed toward death anyway, every single day, there really is only one viable option among those two choices.  Living it is, then.

Among those in this group pictured below are some of my favorite people in the whole world, and for a long time running now.  I am so sorry it took the passing of one of them to get us all together again.  And how wonderful it was to be together again...all grown up, the partying and smoking days out of our systems, the benefit of a few years of wisdom and experience in our corners.  And with a freshly renewed appreciation for was a blessing it is to be alive.  Fully alive.

William, I hope to encounter you again, someday, somewhere.  And I hope someone is there with us to tell the sheep joke for old time's sake :)


The GGA Project -- Day #229 "Salsa in the Daytime"

I was just starting to get on a roll again at the gym before I set out on vacay.  I knew better than to pretend I'd be doing any working out on the trip, so it was high on my list of priorities to get there today.

But I wanted a change of pace.

Today's New Activity: Zumba!

Now, I did take another Zumba class once upon a time, but that was at a different gym, with a different instructor.  Since the class is all about the songs the instructor chooses (usually Latin rhythms) and the steps he or she makes up to go with them, there as many options for what type of experience it could be as there are instructors out there.

When today's instructor walked in I thought for sure she'd wandered into the wrong room.  She was a tiny woman who looked like she'd been through something.  Like 30 years' worth of something, which may have involved illicit drugs but certainly involved heavy smoking and maybe even a transient stint.

But man this woman had energy!  She was quite a little fireball, and she kicked all of our asses.  In a good way.  It's been a long time since I've taken an aerobics-type class at the gym, and it felt really good to be out there doing something that felt like dancing.

The class was a little crowded for my taste, but the number of people just ensured that those of all skill and coordination levels were represented, thereby making it easier to blend it and blow it off whenever I lost step. Which was quite a bit this first time around.


The GGA Project -- Day #228 "How Many Northern Californians Does it Take to Screw in a Lightbulb?"

Because here's the thing, people:

The only thing more wonderful than being on the road is returning home, right?

And I have come to realize that, although I love all the places I've lived for different reasons, Northern California is the place that I have really come to think of as home.  It's been more than 12 years since I moved here, and I can hardly imagine living anywhere else.

In honor of recognizing this feeling and in the spirit of celebrating it, I decided to go ahead and represent.

Today's New Activity: Buying My First Ever Bumper Sticker

I'm sort of philosophically opposed to bumper stickers.  The idea of trying to tell who I am and what I'm about via bumper sticker is really annoying to me.  And yet...

I love the whole Nor*Cal thing.  If you're not from the area, you're probably not aware of the way in which Northern Californians have come to identify themselves or the chosen symbol, which is a nautical star.

As proof of how NorCal I truly am, I've dropped the "the" from in front of the freeway numbers (SO SoCal to say "The 101" and "The 880"), and I've even let a certain word slip into my vernacular every now and then...a very special and unique and yes, ridiculous word, which can be THE ONLY POSSIBLE ANSWER to the question that makes up this post's title.

So then...how many Northern Californians does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Answer:  Hella.

Of course.


The GGA Project -- Day #227 "The Scenic Route"

I had one thing to do today.

I had to get us (the Monkey and me) from Phoenix, AZ to San Pedro, CA.  We'd be spending the night at my Aunt's house and heading home tomorrow, leaving us all day to get from A to B.  Thankfully that is only actually a 6-hour drive, so I figured we'd get there in plenty of time and maybe even sneak in a surprise visit to my bro at work (though we'd also planned to see him on the way out of SoCal tomorrow).

After packing the car up in the morning, we were able to get out on the road by 10am, which was the goal of sorts.  Any later than that I was afraid I'd feel it was already late morning, practically afternoon/evening....why not stay another day?  And it's a good thing I snuck out when I did...

Today's New Activity: First Ever Mama/Son Road Trip Day

Folks, I really did want to stay.  Another week at least.  Two perhaps.  As I got onto the freeway and headed west, I could only lament my departure and curse the American corporate work structure for its heaviness on the work part and severe dearth of vacation time.  I was thinking to myself, 'Phoenix, I'm not done with you.  I'll be back for you.  I have unfinished business here...somehow.'

I had a lot on my mind as I saw the cities in the rear view mirror gradually get smaller in population and infrastructure, until there were just tiny towns and miles and miles and miles of desert in between.  I thought of my son, so sweet and calm and mellow in the back seat.  I thought of the turns our lives have taken...ALL of our lives--my son and me, the friends I visited with yesterday and those who couldn't be there, the family I love.

And I thought of how fitting it was to be on the road today.  Looking back, I realized it was a pattern I'd established long ago and that I'd perhaps repeated not-so-subconsciously again.  I thought about other times in my life when I'd just crested the hill of a difficult period and I realized that I'd always taken to the road in those moments.  Not only that, the very roads I'd traveled in this trip had been involved before too.

I found myself full of emotion...cathartic, cleansing emotion.  I was full of sorrow and joy all at once, looking backward to where I'd come from and forward to the wide open prospects, all at once.  And full of questions about the numerous different paths I could have taken and the ones I would chose going forward.

And of course, there was music.  I put the iPod on shuffle for a while, just for the thrill of what's-gonna-come-next?, but had to revisit an old Dave Matthews Band album that had helped me through some very tough times before and which was full of we're-all-gonna-die-so-get-busy-living messages.  That was a good call.  Also, because this was a road trip after all, the Grateful Dead were invited along, and it made my heart sing to see Monkey in the back seat, drumming his little hands along and digging it well and truly.

And a couple of hours in, during stops in at multiple shops in the podunk town of Quartzsite, I found myself relaxing into the idea that we had no reason to hurry this trip, no time obligation or deadline, and no plans whatsoever.  So we took it slowly and made lots of stops and really and truly enjoyed the ride.  Monkey took a long and super conked-out nap for a few hours and didn't even stir when I transferred him to his stroller at a taco joint in Indio, CA, where I stopped for lunch.

Watching him rest so peacefully, there at the restaurant and again when he continued sleeping in the car afterward, I was filled with peace myself.  By the time we reached the outskirts of L.A., passing through two of my childhood cities and into the fast-moving, cramped up freeways of my youth, I knew in my heart that all was well.  All was well in all that ever was and was to be.  All is well, all is well.

All is well.


The GGA Project -- Day #226 "Poets Revisited"

For a long time I hardly thought of Arizona.  If I remembered it at all, my memories were mostly weather related.  Just the feeling of being uncomfortable--either too hot outside or too cold in the air-conditioned insides of every last place you could go.  Thoughts of middle school or high school inevitably brought Phoenix to mind, but I wouldn't say I had any special feelings about the place itself...just the people I knew there.

That's changed in recent years, as I've come to appreciate the beauty of the desert and the joy of having an *anyplace* that held special memories.  I've felt a draw to the state in general and Phoenix specifically more and more often of late.  I finally came to see that the desert holds its own unique kind of magic and beauty, and I am grateful to every chance I have to immerse myself in it.  On our road trip, I even told Nicole that I would like to do a multi-day hike/camping trip in the desert, to which she replied "have fun with that."  Eh, maybe not such a good idea, but it sounded romantic at the time.

Anyway, as much as I'd revisited the state in person (which was infrequently) and in my mind's eye (which was often) I'd yet to pay visits to those friends who'd made my time in high school so memorable in the first place.  Renee has moved away to Colorado, so I'd have to go there to see her anyway, or time a trip for when she was in AZ visiting her own family.  And since Nicole and Kelsi live in CA now too, that pretty much left Karla and Francisco as my dearest friends/former gooftroop partners in upstanding citizenry.  Nicole and I decided to make sure a visit with them happened during my brief stay in Phoenix.

Today's New Activity: Ten Year High School Reunion, Five Years Late

Tonight Nika and I met with Francisco, Karla and families at the Tempe Marketplace, where our kiddies could all jump around in an outdoor water thingy and we could try our best to catch up while keeping lookout for territorial clashes, soaking wet diapers (as I realized Monkey'd outgrown the swim diapers I brought for him!), and all other manner of toddler disturbance.

How can I put this most plainly?

I came to realize, in that brief 3 hours or so we spent together, that the friends you make in high school are really some of the strongest and best friendships to be found (if you choose well that is, and thankfully all of us were drawn to each other, if only just because there was no other quite-right-fit for our particular brand of silly, innocent, aberrant interests and senses of humor).  I couldn't believe how easy it was to fall into conversation as if no time had passed, even though I hadn't seen either Karla or Francisco in close to 15 years.

How on earth did all that time slip slide through our fingers so fast?

And speaking of innocence, I feel like that childlike wonder and intrigue that was a feature of all of our highschool years (even the more rebellious among us...ahem, Kelsi) has remained enough in all of us to keep us young at heart.  I swear my friends age better than anybody I know.  Though there's a responsible adult and parent in every one of them, and a maturity to their faces that wasn't there before, there is not a jaded, tore up bone in their bodies.  And still paramount to all them: laughter and creativity.  How can you age with these as your main pasatiempos?

I was very sad that my stay in Phoenix was so short and that I couldn't spend more time catching up with those beautiful people.  We have pledged to not let another 15 years pass before we can all get together, and also to make sure Renee is in town the next time around.

Any chance we can start planning that now?

Nicole, Karla and Francisco: I will always love and cherish all of you for bringing so much joy to my life and keeping me on a good, happy path in our youths.  I hope all of your lives will be continually blessed and beautiful.  And this message is for Kelsi and Renee as well, forever and always.

One more thing:  Panocha!!


The GGA Project -- Day #225 "Do-Over: Part 2"

I have encountered very few magical places in my life.  In fact, I can only count three.  One was San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico and the nearby village of Moises Gandhi.  One was an alleyway opening up to a small courtyard on a cobblestone street that ran alongside a church in Barcelona, Spain.  One was Flagstaff, Arizona, USA.

I suspect that my feelings about all three of these places had more, in fact, to do with my place in life when I encountered them than any magic emitted from the places themselves.  Then again, you never know...

I moved away from Arizona just weeks after graduating from high school in 1995.  In doing so, I forfeited a scholarship offered by the state and found myself working two crappy jobs outside of Cleveland, Ohio.  That got old pretty quickly, and in spring of the following year I was able to claim my scholarship after all, and I roomed with Nicole, who'd been there a semester by then and was able to show me the ropes.  I stayed one semester and then returned to Ohio with every plan to come back again in the fall.  By I got waylaid, sidetracked, and I guess--to sum it up--my then 17-year-old self was in need of a little more time in the nest.

Buuuuutttt, a single winter in Ohio was enough to turn all that around.  And one day I just jumped on a plane and headed for LA, where I knew there was sunshine and family, both of which I was counting on to lift me out of the fog I'd meandered into.

No such luck.  LA was not the place to get happy.  And yet still, slowly, bit by bit, I DID get happier there.  And when I'd shaken the gloom of Ohio completely, I got into my Nissan Pulsar and headed to Flagstaff, where Nicole still lived, now with our mutual friend Kelsi.  And *that* was when I discovered the magic that little mountain town held.

I'd only been there a couple of months when--full of the promise of endless possibility and the faith in all encounters happening in just the right timing and with just the right people--we hatched the plan to head to Mexico to serve as human rights observers in Chiapas.  The 6 months I spent in Flagstaff and Chiapas combined for one of the most formative experiences of my life, and I will be forever grateful to both places and to the wonderful women with whom I shared it.

This is how I'd thought of Flagstaff, when I did, in all the intervening years.

Unfortunately when I passed through Flagstaff most recently, a few years back, the experience was memorable for completely different reasons, none of which were pleasant.  It's bothered me that my last memory of a town I'd so cherished and adored could have been so completely tainted.  It doesn't seem like it should be possible--and perhaps I shouldn't have let it--but these things are easier said than done.

Even better than ignoring the troublesome memory anyway, was to have another go at it...another chance to take in the town of my dreams.

Today's New Activity: Memory Overwrite--Flagstaff, AZ

Of course I do recognize that memories cannot be overwritten like CDs or bad tattoos.  And it's probably for the best.  The sweet would not be so sweet if not for the sour interludes.  But it was appealing to me to have the chance to replace my most recent, sad memories of Flagstaff with some more pleasant ones.

Mission accomplished.  Monkey was so happy I could believe he'd somehow been there before.  Maybe he visited it in a dream or somehow plugged into mine.  He watched the hippies doing Jiu Jitsu and playing with hacky sacks.  Then he ran around with Sureya and Maya on the campus of NAU on the grass across from our old dorm room at Cowden Hall.  He looked as happy and free as I felt.

We also paid a visit to the Downtown Diner, a place that held some special memories for us, and Nicole and I both scored some cute wearables at the Animas Trading Company.

We weren't able to stay long, since we were due at Nika's Mama's house in Phoenix in the evening, but it was long enough for me to breathe the fresh, wonderful mountain air, and to remember that Flagstaff was still the magical place I held in my memory.  And I hope it always will be now.


The GGA Project -- Day #224 "Giant Bathtub"

Until my cousins moved to Lake Havasu City a few years ago, I didn't even realize the place existed outside of the week of Spring Break, when high school and college-aged kids from all over the state went to party it up and become poster children for the don't-drink-and-watersport movement.  But I've been there twice now and I can say that it is a legitimate, charming town with down-to-earth residents and the cleanest Wal*Mart I think ever built.

My cousin's husband JD has family there, which is what brought them that way in the first place...but it would be a nice place to raise a family regardless.  Housing is affordable and the streets are wide enough, the traffic slow-moving enough that kids can still play like kids without the fears of big city life.  You just have to make sure they're well hydrated!

One of the main things to do with leisure time is, of course, to go to the lake itself.  Today Erin and JD planned a little BBQ lakeside, and after we hauled half the backyard down there with us, we were set for some fun in the sun.

Today's New Activity: Recreation Time at Lake Havasu

I wasn't sure how Monkey would like the lake.  A few weeks ago when we went to the lake up in Arnold he didn't even venture in past his ankles.  That water was, of course, freezing cold.  So I suppose that wasn't much of a surprise.

This water was wonderful.  I could have spent all day there and I think Monkey could have too!  I wish I'd gotten some pictures of us out there in the water, him all water-winged up...but not having a waterproof camera I was a little leery.  He did have a great time, though...chasing down Maya in the water and splashing around.  Here's Nika and the girls, venturing in:

When we were done with that we ate our BBQ dinner under the semi-cover of semi-shade.  It was great, but over way too fast.

Extra bonus though: my cousins invited along one of Erin's coworkers, who's a physical therapist.  I was able to ask him about Monkey's newly developed habit of walking on his tippy toes, which I'd been a little concerned about.  Just in case any other parents out there have this issue: he said I should monitor it and if it doesn't go away on its own in a few years it could be problematic for his muscle development and cause him some pain...thankfully, however, he said it's an easy therapy to undergo if it gets to that point.  Whew.  So *that* was a relief.

Anyway, Nicole and I decided we would really like to make a yearly trek to Lake Havasu.  Not only for the lovely change of scenery and pace, but for the amazing hospitality of Erin and JD, for the cuteness of seeing all our kids play together, for the joy of reconnecting with family as we all melt together in the gorgeous Arizona sun :)

Thanks for a great weekend, "Bug"!


The GGA Project -- Day #223 "Get Your Kicks..."

Last night Nicole and I commenced our first ever roadtrip together as Moms.  Nika and I have done a lot of traveling together, and I can scarcely imagine a better road partner.  We used to have this master plan to be team truckers together, traipsing all over the U.S. together and getting paid for it.  We had it all figured out.

But then settling down happened, and boyfriends and marriages and kids, and while I don't really think we ever would have been truckers, I was looking to recapture a bit of that freewheeling on-the-road spirit we embodied back in the day.  The question was whether or not we could do it with the kiddos.  Nicole has taken her girls on long drives to and from Arizona, and I also took Monkey (with my Mom and Aunt) out to AZ last year, but those were just direct trips...not extended days on the road.  This would be interesting...

We set out late last night in Nicole's car (since it seats 7 and the two carseats took up the entire middle bench) and landed early this morning in Bakersfield, CA, where we stayed the night.  The babies slept a good part of that trip and also slept well in the hotel, but it was yet to be seen how they'd fair for the 5-hours it would take us to get to my cousin Erin & JD's house in Lake Havasu City today.

Today's New Activity: Driving, Driving, Stop Off on Route 66, Driving, Driving

I've done plenty of driving from California to Arizona and vice-versa, but not along highway 58, which turned out to be a really nice drive.  It turned into highway 40 near Barstow, and *that* was a familiar route, but the whole trip was made different and special because of the kids.  We stopped at a super podunk little town called Something Springs (forgive me, Something Springs...I can't remember your full name and I tried to look you up but (bless your heart) you're not even on the map!) for lunch and a break, but for the most part they weathered that 5 straight hours incredibly well, with no crying or fighting or even protesting of any kind.  Maya was a super trooper, sitting in the way back and entertaining herself, too.

When we got to Erin's, the kids and Erin & JD's son Mason all got down to their diapers and cooled off in a little pool in their backyard.  They were instant buddies and formed the sweetest little Getalong Gang.

JD whipped up an awesome dinner out of nowhere, while we watched the kids play.  And I got the chance to catch up with my cousins into the wee hours.  It was a fantastic start to a week on the road!


The GGA Project -- Day #222 "Polish Booty"

As I've mentioned before, my friend Nicole is a brilliant all-around artist.  She is the queen of making something cool out of the least likely materials, and she is forever adding new tricks to her repertoire.

One thing she does pretty frequently is to participate in swaps organized by various bloggers she follows, most of them artists.  For example, a few months ago she participated in a vintage sheet swap, wherein each participant collected a few vintage sheets and then cut them into quilt-sized squares.  They all sent them to the organizers, who split them up such that each participant received, in return, a large variety of quilt squares to use in quilting (duh) or whatever else their agile, artistic minds could dream up.

A lot of times the swaps involve paper goods, which is perfect since Nicole does a lot of art journaling and papercrafting.  A swap she mentioned a couple of months ago intrigued me and made me want to try it out for the first time, too.  So I e-mailed the organizer of this swap to get in on the action.  The theme was International ephemera.  You were to gather various pamphlets, ads, newspapers, etc, from your home town and swap them with somebody in another country.  Nevermind the why...artsy people think of things to do with this stuff.  I just thought it would be cool to receive a package from another country full of stuff printed in another language.  The woman I was matched with, Michelle, is from Poland (check out her blog, full of a variety of cool projects!).  We agreed on a time to swap the goods, and two weeks ago I sent off a package full of everything I could collect that seemed cool enough to send overseas.

Today's New Activity: Swap Circle Complete

Today, I received Michelle's package in the mail.

I wish I could read the newspapers included, because I would love to know what the man on the front page of this one has been accused of, but no matter...it's still interesting to look at.  And I especially like the vintage-looking country map she included.

We also agreed to swap one homemade thing, so I sent along a pendant I made and she sent me this little fabric doll who came in her own little sleeping bag-type pouch.

I'll probably end up giving all the paper goods to Nicole since I know she can make good use of it, but I definitely would like to participate in another swap in the future.  It was fun to spend the month thinking about this unknown person in another country and collecting things to send her, all the while wondering what would come my way from her.  Thanks for letting me in on this, Nika!!


The GGA Project -- Day #221 "Tiny Squareful of Happy"

Despite the fact that my sickness goes on and has made my voice sound like I imagine sea urchins would sound if they talked, I had a full and satisfying day.  Unfortunately (for the purposes of this project), none of it was new to me.

First, I took my Ma on a belated birthday outing to Crown & Crumpet, a tea room in Ghirardelli Square, which I visited with my friend Colleen as part of a GGA playdate a few months back.  The pastries and other goodies were every bit as uniquely wonderful as I remember, but the teas we chose were not as memorable to me as those Colleen and I sampled when we were there.

In the evening I watched Casablanca with a group of friends, which was in follow-up to a Facebook conversation on the subject.  I really do love that movie.  But anyway, that was also not new to me.

Just one small thing then for

Today's New Activity: Sweet Caramel Square

In the early evening I stopped by Starbucks for a coffee pick-me-up and was, for the first time ever, drawn to this little bit of magic:

It was just the right mixture of sweet, salty, chewy and crunchy.  Super tasty.  But also super rich--so even though it's pretty small I thought it best to save half for tomorrow; I'm sure to be on the prowl for a sweet reprieve when my afternoon shift grows long.

I just want to say that today's post finds me very happy and in a holistically good mental space.  I can say it's been a while since I felt good about every single area of my life.  Today is one such day...so I go to sleep with a deep feeling of gratitude.  I hope this finds you the same...


The GGA Project -- Day #220 "Rewiring"

Gah!  This week is just full of new things I can't really share.  Perhaps it's because they are so significant to my state of mind and personal well being that to share them right now just seems too intimate.  But anyway, thanks for reading :)


The GGA Project -- Day #219 "What a Difference a Word Makes"

Unfortunately, today is one of those days where I can't really write about my new activity because of privacy concerns.  It's good though...and maybe I'll write about it one day.


The GGA Project -- Day #218 "Heartbreaking Loss/Heartwarming Win, Heartbreaking Loss"

Still sick, I had to cancel plans with my friend Alex to participate in the AIDS walk in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.  I was really sad to do this.  Not only was I looking forward to the 6-mile walk (great exercise), I was excited because it's a family friendly event that I planned to bring Monkey along to.  It was sure to be a nice time.  But it's been cold lately, and I knew we needed to rest up and get better before we leave on vacation next week.  I also didn't want to get anyone else sick.  So yeah, we skipped it.

I managed to sleep in a bit, which almost never happens, so while I didn't feel any better this morning, I also didn't feel any worse.  And having planned to be home for the day, I was able to sit in for

Today's New Activity: Watching the FIFA Women's World Cup Finals

I'll admit I'm a bandwagon soccer fan.  I didn't grow up watching or playing soccer, so I have no emotional connection to the sport.  I like it when I watch it, but I usually only do that during the World Cup--and only the Men's World Cup at that.  But I've been paying enough attention to know that the US Women's team has done an amazing job during this tournament, and I definitely wanted to catch their chance at the finals, versus Japan.

There was a lot of talk about how Japan was the sentimental favorite, given the tragedy of March's earthquake and tsunami and all the deaths that came as a result.  Nobody would have been upset to see them win; quite the contrary is probably true.

So although it was tough to see the US team miss so many goal opportunities and lose a close one in penalty kicks after an overtime, it was heartwarming to see the Japanese women take this emotional win back to their country...an added measure of pride and hope for all the people back home.  Yes, that was nice to see.

That was the end of the nice reportings for the day.

A few hours after the game I received a shocking text from my friend Nessa that our mutual friend and (former for me, current for her) coworker William had died in his sleep earlier this afternoon.  William was recently diagnosed with cancer, but he'd started treatment and by all accounts was doing well.  He'd reported feeling good and being in good spirits lately, and had only hours earlier posted a comic strip on his Facebook page.

A call from Alex (with whom I was supposed to do the walk this morning)--who'd visited William just yesterday--revealed that William's sister came home this afternoon and found him unresponsive after apparently having just laid down for a nap, and attempts to revive him had failed.

William was 37.  It's such a terribly tragedy for the family, made worse by the fact that his sister, also under 40, had died suddenly of complications related to a heart condition just two years ago.

It was such a terrible shock, and I know the group of friends who knew William is reeling from it.  We don't know yet the cause of death, and the thought that he could just go to sleep one afternoon and not wake up is as sobering as it is upsetting.  I've experienced the deaths of people I know--older people who I knew would pass before me.  But the death of a coworker and peer is new, sad territory.

And this is the thought too, whenever I hear about a death and have the time to really think about it:  Where is William now?  Where is he?  Where did the entity, the person we knew as "William" go to?  Just like that.  He was here and then he was gone.  And to where?

I know that people who are members of most religions would say they know the answer to this question.  Or at least they could narrow it down to a few choices.  But I'm not convinced.  I still don't know how anyone living could really know what happens after we die.  Or even if some people do somehow have an idea of the "what," for sure nobody has a clue about the "how"... the how it feels, the what it looks like, the who else is there, the how long it takes to get to the next step.  Oh my gosh...when I really think about it?  Really and truly?  I'm terrified.

The idea of nothingness to follow is terrifying.  The idea of eternity is equally terrifying to me.  And it's that final moment I think about the most: the moment when what we know of a person switches over from "here" to... where/what/nowhere/nothing (?)

Today I understand why people try to communicate with the deceased.  All afternoon and evening I was having these thoughts: 'William, where are you now?  Can you just send a little sign and especially let me know if you know what's going on down here?  That people down here are sorry to hear of your passing?  Are missing you?  Can you let us in on the secret?'

But I know that is not possible.  I know that the mystery of death is that it remains a mystery to all of us until it is our turn.  And writing about this...I'm really, really sad that William's turn came so soon.


The GGA Project -- Day #217 "Siiiiiiiiiick"

Not siiiiiiick as in awesome, siiiiiiiick as in sick.  For real sick.  Yuck.

I started work at 9 this morning.  And was gone by 10:15.

Today's New Activity: The Stop/Start Workday

There was nothing exciting about this; it was just different.

The only thing that kept me from calling in sick today was that I was the only person at opening and there's a responsibility I have at closing time most days that only I'm allowed to do.  I asked my boss if I could leave and come back later, and thankfully she agreed.  I'd been having a really hard time standing and trying to smile at people.

So I took off and rested for the majority of the open hours and came back close to closing time just to finish up and take care of the thing I have to do, thereby skipping most of the standing and talking and smiling part.  It didn't cure me of the sick of course, but it cured me of the other type of nausea, which comes from a result of faking happy all day long.  I appreciated that.


The GGA Project -- Day # 216 "Not-So-Blue-Collar Beverage"

Just after the MLB All-Star break, I'd yet to go to a baseball game this season!  It's not like I've been a regular attendee these past few years, up here and so far from my beloved (bankrupted) Dodgers, but I now live SO close to my 2nd favorite team--the Oakland A's--that it's ridiculous I hadn't traveled the 4 stops up Bart to see them yet.

A few weeks ago my friend Brian and I started planning to get to a game, and tonight's game against the (so-called) Los Angeles Angels was the chosen one.  A short drive to his house and we're then only a 3-minute walk and only two Bart stops away from the Coliseum.  I LOVE being able to take public transportation to sporting events!  I got there and we chilled for a little while, then headed out the door and were walking through the stadium gates within 20 minutes.  Perfect!

It was Bring Your Dog to the Game day, so there were tons of adorable mutts trotting around with various types of A's gear on.  So cute!

One thing that I love about the A's is that they are still a blue-collar team.  Ticket prices are still affordable (made even more so by a 2-for-1 voucher), as is food.  And while I'm all for keeping to ballpark food at the ballpark, my vegetarian diet limits that to the choice of nachos or other snacks, but I hadn't had dinner.  So I went for a pretty decent veggie dog, which is--I suppose--as close as I'll ever get again to a true ballpark meal.

A few innings later I lost a bet on racing dots on the big screen to Brian with a round of beers at stake.  Here is where the sticking-to-ballpark-fare takes a turn and wherein comes

Today's New Activity: Plastic Cup o Widmer

Our tickets were pretty close to a loungy, enclosed restaurant area that featured a full bar.  Not only was the wait much shorter than that for the regular concessions, there were more beers on tap to choose from.  A true purest would have gone for Bud at the ballpark, but I prefer to drink decent beer whenever possible.  I'd never tried Widmer (which has the option of being served with a lemon, though I skipped that), but Brian described it as light and wheaty, so I went for it.

It was just that: light and wheaty, and tasty.  The only problem was that I woke up feeling sick Friday morning, which only got worse throughout the day.  I fought through it because I really wanted to get to the game, but I'm not sure I tasted the beer's full flavor as a result.  It was good anyway.

Brian was a great choice of game buddy.  You just never know when you go to a sporting event with somebody.  While it would be boring to sit in silence through a game, no matter how into it you are, it can also be annoying when people feel the need to comment incessantly.  I like a good mix of paying attention to the game and talking with whomever I've come with about matters related or not to the action in front of us.  Brian seemed to be on the same wavelength.  We caught all the important action but also had plenty of time to discuss whatever and just catch up.  I was also able to forget that I was feeling sick during that time.  Mad props for good company!  And then...the A's won.  Woo hoo!!

It was a great night all the way around.


The GGA Project -- Day #215 "Saddest Place on Earth"

A couple of weeks ago a customer came in asking for change for the restaurant where he worked.  It was a falafel place, and I hadn't known there was one nearby.  I stored the information for some future lunch date.

So then.

Today's New Activity: Sad, Sad Lunch at Falafel Korner

First of all, the most prominent thing on the menu here is actually pizza, not falafel, so I'm not sure what happened with the name.  And second of all.  I mean, just look at this place.  From the 100 empty seats...

to the unwatched t.v. in the corner, echoing pathetically through the cafeteria-like dining area,

to the lifeless video games huddled in the corner

to the looks-good-but-tastes-like-fish-scratch-that-burnt-fish falafel sandwich...this was one of the worst eating experiences of my life.  

I hate to be so harsh.  The two employees (one of whom was--I'm guessing--the owner) were nice and helpful.  But the food.  Oh my god, the food.  How do you mess up ranch dressing?  And the sandwich did not have any hot sauce or tahini but hummus rather.  I like hummus.  Good hummus, that is.  Oh, it's making me sad all over again thinking about it :(

It's funny, because on the way into the parking lot I spotted Taco Bravo (which I didn't know was a chain), which features some of the most disgusting so-called Mexican food I've ever encountered.  And yet after eating the bit I could of this I was wishing I'd gone there instead!

And now I'm seriously starting to wonder if I may have even gotten food poisoning from this joint.  Not feeling good at all....

So I almost never do this sort of thing, especially not in a public way, but I would strongly discourage anybody I love from eating at Falafel Korner in Fremont.  Just sayin'...


The GGA Project -- Day #214 "A Stretch"

Ok, so this is gonna be one of those snoozefest posts.

I went to the movies tonight with my parents (that's not the snoozefest part, haha), and I was hungry on the way in.

Today's New Activity: Unconventional Movie Snack

We had great plans for a fun GGA Playdate today, but they fell through on account of the weather.  So yes, I'm writing about having a cookie at the movie theater for the first time ever.

The cookie was just okay.  Here's hoping for more exciting project days ahead!


The GGA Project -- Day #213 "Better Be Worth it!!"

Recently I've been hearing a lot about a show called Supernatural.  I don't know why I hadn't heard of it before or why it's coming up so much recently, but I decided I wanted to see it.

Today's New Activity: Supernatural Fail

My friend Kenneth sent some episodes my way via dropbox, which was very cool.  Except that when I went to download them (as I had with relative ease many months ago, when he first sent me Glee, thereby introducing me to the amazing and talented Matthew Morrison), my computer told me the four files would be ready to access in juuuust about, oh, 18 hours.  Not exaggerating.

My internet connection has been getting slower and slower over the months, and multiple calls to the help desk at AT&T have done little to remedy the issue.  On advice I decided to reboot the wireless router and (was I not supposed to do this?), the modem as well and successfully broke the internet completely.  FAIL!!!

Ugh.  I decided to put off the sure-to-be-thrilling-and-pain-free call to India until tomorrow, but I'd been planning to watch Supernatural for my project.  What to do but settle for what they had to offer at Hulu, which was 6 episodes from season 6.  Kenneth advised against it when I asked if the episodes were stand-alone (as in Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories...remember that awesome show?!) or if there was a story whose foundation I needed before I could watch.  He said season 6 apparently took some departure from the 5 seasons' worth of established story line, so I figured I might as well just jump right in there.

Yeah.  No.  Not really.  I was none too impressed with the episode I did see, not to mention completely thrown off my the unnaturally low-pitched voices of the main characters, Sam and Dean Winchester.  I don't know, I'm sure this series has a lot to offer (and I'd been looking forward to getting genuinely creeped out), but that episode was definitely a dud.  I don't know...when I learned the series was on the WB I lowered my expectations a bit, but perhaps they were still too high.

I will go back and catch a couple of the earliest episodes, however, just to see if jumping in in season 6 was the problem.  We shall see....


The GGA Project -- Day #212 "Coffee Saves the Day"

I don't know what happened today but in the middle of watching Cars 2 with my folks and Monkey, I was overcome with sleepiness.  I may have even dosed for a second in the theater, but even if not I was definitely itching for a nap when I got home.

The problem was that I really really wanted to get to the gym while my son napped.  I'm on a roll after a multi-month lapse, and I want to continue with it.  What to do?


There's a coffee shop right next to the gym, but I'd never been there before.

Today's New Activity: A Visit to Bodi's Java

It was a cute place with a huge menu full of sweet coffee drinks that hold no interest for me.  But they made a mean Americano!  They also had free wi-fi and what was supposed to be a children's play area, though it was just a small table and a shelf of children's books.  No matter, I wasn't looking to go to a playground.  It was refreshingly quiet for a coffee shop, in fact.  And it gave me the pick-me-up I needed to follow with a better-than-normal workout.

Double win.

And that is all :)


The GGA Project -- Day #211 "The Treasure Hunt"

For some reason, nobody told me my Uncle Paul and cousin Matt were going to be spending the night at my house last night and hanging out for the day before they headed back home to Texas (they were out here for a bike ride in Tahoe and stopped at our place for just a night).  I was really happy when I found out because I never ever get to see these relatives and even when I do, it's usually at some huge gathering where there isn't much opportunity for one-on-one conversation.

How lucky I was to get in a little GGA playdate with Matt, who is a fan of and active member in the community of

Today's New Activity: Geocaching!

If you've never heard of geocaching (and I hadn't until last year when my Mom related the story of Matt's unforgettable geocache (more on that later)), I'll break it down.  Basically it's something of a geographical treasure hunt.  People hide mini-capsules all over the place (literally, like all over the world), input the treasure's coordinates on one of many websites devoted to this (we used Geocaching.com), and then other people try to find them.  If you're out geocaching, you've either uploaded a cache's coordinates into a GPS device, or you've got a mobile phone app that functions as one.  We went for the former, though either was a bit of a crapshoot, given the spotty reception in my neck of the woods.

In this case, "my neck of the woods" can be used literally, as we were out on a trail behind the house that is thick with huge trees and animal tracks, not to mention (as my Uncle would later tell us) poison oak.

We were looking for 3 different caches, whose locations as told by the GPS were off the trail, but not by much.

The first was the toughest to find.  The heavy rains from a few weeks back made it seem likely the object would have moved from its original spot, and the only clue we had to go on was "not in the hole."  We could only assume this meant a hole in the trunk of a tree, but which holed tree trunk we were talking about (not) finding it in was undetermined.  But that was part of the fun.

Matt is ridiculously good at this part, by the way.  All three times, I knew he'd found the cache because he'd say "oh," and then let me have the chance to see it for myself, but I think I had to ask him to point it out every time.  One problem was that I didn't know exactly what I was looking for, but then neither did he.  The hidden items ranged in appearance and size:

But he was very good at listening to his instincts and was able to lead us to them every time.  "Well, he did a GPS," you say?  Yes, but that only gets you in the ballpark...there is still a lot of terrain and plenty of variables involved, so I think it was pretty cool that he was able to find them all.

And I'm actually very impressed that Matt even still does this.  Last May he and his friends had about the worst experience you can imagine when they were out geocaching behind the wooded entry sign to a suburban housing tract in his town and discovered (I swear I am not kidding) a dead body.  Yes.  Body.  Dead.  He was a junior in high school at the time.  The woman had not been there long, as evidenced by the fact that it was 100 degree weather in Texas and the body hadn't decomposed yet.  He said they weren't even sure she was dead.  It was pretty clearly a staged so-called suicide scene--her body was littered with medication and beer bottles and a man mysteriously drove up while they were out there waiting for the police, offering to "help them find their dog" and responding with a much-too-casual "that's sketchy" when they told him they'd found a freaking DEAD BODY.  Creepy stuff.  I'm pretty sure that experience would turn me off to the whole thing for good, but I'm glad he didn't because it's a pretty cool thing to do.

Luckily, the only evidence of dead things we found was the hair and skull of a goat.  Still a little creepy, but nothing in comparison!

One thing I like about the whole activity is the community aspect of it.  You can go looking for caches alone or with other people, so that part does not necessarily always have a community aspect to it, but every person who has found a cache previously signs a log contained within (using handles they've created).  So you can see who was there and when, and it's just interesting to think that other people also visited the same remote site for the same purpose.

A motto associated with the movement is "Cache in, trash out."  The idea is that you can leave a little souvenir in the cache for another to find later,

but that you should take with you any garbage you find nearby, which is also nice.  Since much of these hidden objects are out in nature, it's good to think that the people out there doing this are conscious of their imprint and intent on preserving the surroundings.

The geocaching was a great new experience, and something I am happy to have been clued into.  It will be fun to try and find some of these on my own or with Monkey in the future.  But the real joy of the day was having the chance to spend some time with a cousin I almost never see and whom I've definitely not had the chance to speak with much.  Matt is polite, easy to talk to, fun, intelligent, and sure to do great things as he moves into his college years.  I couldn't help but think--as I spent time with him--that I hope I can manage to do whatever good things my Aunt Ginny and Uncle Paul have done over the years, so that my own son will turn out like him :)

The GGA Project -- Day #210 "You Know You're Having Fun When..."

Well, basically, you know you're having fun when it doesn't occur to you that you've yet to put a placeholder post up and it's past midnight.  That's what my friend Kenneth's birthday party last night offered -- a real chance to just enjoy the evening and to forget about the big and the little things, including self-imposed blog deadlines.

A few weeks ago Kenneth mentioned a party theme that piqued my interest.  ABC, as it was called, referred to "Anything But Clothes."  Which is not to say that it was a big birthday suit kind of birthday part.  That would be called a nudist party.  The idea here was that you had to make an outfit yourself using things not traditionally thought of as clothing.

Today's New Activity: Homemade Party Dress

I've been thinking about how to participate in this theme since Kenneth made the call to have this kind of party for his birthday.  All of the things that interested me seemed to fragile to be considered clothing.  The eureka moment happened when I remembered the easy-to-use, affordable laminating machine option available at the teacher supply store.

I taped together a bunch of full-pages magazine ads and photographs and laminated them in long strips.  I then lined each row on top and bottom with black duct tape and attached them together.  The final step was creating a seam up the back and some darts in front to make a little bit of shape in what would otherwise have just been a big, noisy tube dress.  It was still pretty much that, with a clutch to match, but it was sturdy and secure and would work for the night, as long as I didn't plan to dance or sit down much :)

I love dressing up in costumes.  I rarely do it, when when I do I like to do it right -- no half-assed sheet-over the head ghost Halloween costumes.  I wish more parties had themes with a requirement to exercise some creativity.  I wouldn't *always* be down to participate, but most of the time I probably would.  It's fun to step outside of your everyday clothes and personae and be something completely different, even if it means just wearing something completely different.

The party was great.  A super ton of people were there, lots of old friends and new alike, and a lot of my favorite people ever!  There were a lot of togas, but also Nessa's dress and hair adornment, made of ivy, Peter's leiderhosen made of duct tape, some great garbage bag super heroes, Jeanette's flag dress, Jay's awesome candy vest, made of bags still full of candy you could grab out, and Brian's super cute pants/coveralls made from contact paper.  Kenneth rocked his Twister outfit pretty hard, too.

Happy birthday Kenneth (and hi Sarah cutie pie!), to a great friend and very decent person, genuinely trying to be even better.  I like you how you are, but I also wish you the best on your quest and am happy to be here, your friend on the journey.


The GGA Project -- Day #209 "Little Hillside Farm"

At the co-parenting group I attended a few months back, there were times when the administrator asked us if we'd done anything of note with our kids that week.  One place a Dad in the group shared caught my ear and I'd been thinking of taking Monkey there ever since.

Today's New Activity: Moo Cow up Close at Tilden Park

Tilden Park is a sprawling recreational area in the Berkeley hills.  You drive through a beautiful neighborhood full of million-dollar homes to get there, winding all the way to the top until you reach a sign indicating multiple lakes, park areas, and the clincher, which we'd come for:

Oh my, what a lovely place for animals to hang out.  There were cows,


and a little barn full of chicken, roosters, geese, and ducks, which had the most amazing, totally uninhabited spider webs I'd ever seen

Monkey, my Mom and I walked all around the little farm to the very top, where the view is just amazing.  The whole scene looked like something out of a painting.  Or maybe those kinds of paintings are based on places like this :)

Monkey was just cracking up watching the animals.  The cow swatting flies with his tail was like a Three Stooges episode in his book.  He was a little scared when we'd get up close, but by the end of our visit he was willing to help me feed a cow a celery stick.  His little heart was racing and he panted like he'd just seen a monster (which I guess it may as well have been) when throughout, clinging tight to me with what seemed like genuine relief.

This was a super kid-friendly place, and it was wonderfully uncrowded since it was a weekday.  Bonuses: parking and park entrance both free!  We'll be back.


The GGA Project -- Day #208 "The Standoff: Part 2"

My son is getting to that age.  You know, *that* age.  I was reading the other day that the so-called Terrible Twos can start months earlier than 2.  Really?  I hadn't noticed. ;) Not that I'm going to call them that.  We've already made a deal in this house that they are going to be the Terrific Twos!  Right?  Right?!?!

I think that rather than this phase of toddlerhood being marked by any specific common behaviors among kids this age, it is more of a common stance, a universal test, a 'tude (although tantruming and the word "no" are common across the board I think).

This evening at dinner, he was shouting "no no no" to all the things I was trying to offer him that were dinner appropriate.  Instead of eating, he wanted to just suck down juice for 20 minutes.  At one point, I decided it was enough juice and that he needed food.  So I told him this much, moving to take the cup from his hands (which he's always been cool with before) and he yanked it back from me, yelling "no" and batting at my arm.  It was not crazy behavior for a child his age, but I was taken a little aback.  I started out okay, telling him that it wasn't nice to talk to his Mama that way and reminding him that I told him no more juice and he continued to be rude about it.  What's more, he wouldn't look at me when I was trying to deliver my message.

Luckily, my Mom was sitting there at the table.  She always reminds my son, when he tries to get away with stuff with her, that "this is not Nana's first rodeo."  And tonight I was really in need of a seasoned cowgirl.

Today's New Activity: Watch and Learn, the Mama Edition

I know that it is really easy to let stuff like this go.  It wasn't SUCH a big deal, and the ordeal would be over as soon as I let him have his juice back.  But as a Mom you just *recognize* when a moment seems crucial and when letting it go seems like exactly the wrong thing to do.  Still, having recognized that, I was at a loss. I said to my Mama, "what do I do now?"

She looked directly at my son and said in make-no-bones-about-it voice I remember from my own childhood: "____________, that is not a nice way to treat your Mama.  You say you're sorry to your Mama."  Monkey paused and looked thoughtfully for a moment, then repeated "no."  It seemed we were at an impasse.

Here's the thing: I know that every interaction like tonight's will color the way my son responds to discipline in the coming years.  Every time I warn him and don't follow through, every time I let things go without correcting him, and every time I am tested and give in, I send the message that I don't mean what I say and that he is actually the one in charge.  Jeeze, this parenting business is tough.  I have always said that my worst parenting nightmare would be to raise a brat, and we are right here in the thick of when whether or not I will come to live that nightmare is being determined on a daily basis.  It's not time to get lazy.

Still, it is very hard to discipline.  Though as an adult I have had dozens of experiences (especially working in retail) when I witnessed parents going too easy on their bratty kids and wished they'd Mom-up a bit, I now understand all the reasons why it's one of the hardest things to do.  It is most unpleasant to do anything that makes your children feel unhappy.  It REALLY IS harder on the parents than on the children to see them in any kind of distress, especially distress caused my the parents themselves.

But I had to go with my Mom on this.  As children my brother and I were always praised for our polite behavior, and I know that came as a result of my Mom never giving up in moments like these.  How she managed to know the right thing to do when in her early 20's herself back then, I will never know.  But I can learn from it.

I was almost ready to let the whole hitting-Mama-and-yelling-"no" thing go and hand over the juice at that moment, but my Mom was right.  What if it weren't me but some other person he was treating like that?  I why should it be okay with me either?!

"________," I reinforced, "you do not talk to your Mama that way.  You say you're sorry to Mama."

Silence.  "________, look at me."


I took his head in my hands and turned him toward me, looking him in the eyes with my best Mama Means Business look.  "________, that was not nice to hit your Mama.  You say you're sorry to Mama."

Biggest, cutest doe eyes ever in the history of the planet.

"Sorry Mama," followed by a ridiculously sweet smile.

I swear I want to weep just writing that.  It is the biggest, most amazing sense of relief to have your child do the right thing, especially when a standoff is involved.  Every moment like this, when he cleans up his toys as requested or has a food-throwing do-over and skips the throwing the second time around (for example), feels like a tiny "meets standards" in the performance review of 18+ year job.

I have a huge sense of gratitude for the parental role models I find in my parents--especially my Mom, since she takes care of my son while I'm working.  Although my parents are both full of grandparental love and have super squishy soft spots in their hearts for my boy, they are not push-overs and they never undermine my parenting wishes.  And more than that, they can see ahead to how the disciplining decisions made now will affect my son's future, so they are willing to do the hard stuff even when I'm feeling lazy or overwhelmed.  I think it would be such a gift if all children could have this extra set of love and also tough love around in their young lives.


The GGA Project -- Day #207 "Slow Food, Kinda Fast"

What a great day.  I got an early start at the gym before Monkey woke up and then managed to have us both out of the house in time to catch a 10am movie in Dublin.  The only thing that could possibly motivate me to get us to the movies by 10am is the fact that tickets were $1.  Yes, that is ONE DOLLAR, folks!  Of course, knowing that this theater is offering this $1 series on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings this summer, every other parent in the surrounding area was there as well.  No matter, Monkey, Nicole, Maya, Sureya and I still managed to grab seats for Despicable Me, a really cute movie that actually made me cry in the end.  It was very sweet.

We were all pretty hungry when we got out of the theater, so we headed straight for a little cafe-type restaurant I'd seen and been curious about.

Today's New Activity: Lunch at the Red Tractor

Red Tractor's website is pretty sparse, but from what I gleaned in the restaurant their aim is to bring some down-home cooking to fast-ish food.  The set up is pretty quaint...like maltshop meets barn.

I took the occasion to order a meal worthy of a Paula Deen episode.  I think I was answering the "how much starch can you pack onto a single plate?" question with this one:

While it was *pretty* good, I wouldn't say any of the single side dishes here were anything to write home about.  Nicole really liked the burger she ordered, but I'm thinking a hot summer day just wasn't ideal for this comfort food extravaganza.  Or maybe I just wasn't in need of comfort today :)

And I wasn't.  I was having one of those days where everything looked beautiful to me.  It seemed that any direction I glanced in gave me a peek into some tiny bit of wonder--an exchange between two people, the look on someone's face, the light through the trees, the whole mess of it.

This continued through the afternoon, as the kids played on the Slip n' Slide in the backyard and Nicole took super cute and charming pictures of them using her Retro Camera app for Android.  It continued into the evening, while I enjoyed some alone time over, first: pizza, then: coffee.  Winning combo.

I think it's important to strike while the iron is hot on days like this.  These are the days when I feel life is one big, wide open opportunity for love and laughter and success and failure and joy and pain and all of it feeding into a big ocean of experience that IS our existence.  And since I have no proof whatsoever that anything exists outside of this one lifetime, I'm just going to ride all the waves this ocean sends my way the best I can--navigate the ebbs and the flows and sometimes take to the surfboard, toes forward, arms out, head back and sun on my face....all the way to shore.