Friday, March 17, 2023

Five on Friday: Recent Quips from the Youngest

I remember telling a friend about the antics of my fifth toddler, whose four older siblings did nothing to prepare me for. My friend looked me in the eye and said, "I feel bad for you."

She was serious but it made us both laugh, especially when I answered, "I do too."

The baby is twelve now, not quite as frustrating as she used to be, and definitely growing into her sense of humor (though she's still young enough that sometimes the things she says aren't intentionally humorous but make the adults laugh anyway). 

Here are some recent quips, quotes and antics:

1. "I hate when you say lettuce is just crunchy water. Look at the ingredients."

2. I let her sleep in with a headache and later checked in on her from work. I'm still not sure if she was delirious or messing with me but since a few minutes later she was up, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and telling her father she really wanted to go to school because they were doing a dissection . . . I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

3. "Dad, I'm always concerned when you fart."

4. Recently informed me that the expensive two-week summer camp that she loved last year and is already registered for this year is "just a little too long, I think I want to stay home this summer." When pressed for a reason, said, "I just like my own bed."

I'm not entirely worried (yet) as this was on the heels of her telling me that she "just isn't into sleepovers anymore" but a few days later slept over at a friend's house.

5. And lastly, the birthday card she made for her brother last week:

Alternately entitled: Say you're the fifth kid without saying you're the fifth kid

Friday, March 3, 2023

Five on Friday: Here's My Card

I have on occasion shared ideas for titles of books about my life (as it was in 2014 and 2015). I don't have a 2023 version (yet?) but I have been kicking around some other ideas . . . business cards. 

Hear me out. 

I was thinking about how there used to be these business card machines around when I was in college--both at Rutgers and then when I was on a semester abroad in Spain (!).  At home I didn't use them much but in Spain I made this one:

Oh yes, I thought I was very clever.

That got me thinking about what business cards I might be printing if those machines were around today, and how I hate answering "what do you do?' because let's face it . . .  I do a lot.

Some ideas:

1. Story curator, as I now identify myself on my blog's Facebook page (My husband says I should stop changing that page name. It just took a little while to land on this one and I like it.  It combines my passions of museum curating and storytelling/hosting storytelling!)

I think the rest are self-explanatory. Maybe I'll print them all out and if someone ever asks for my card, I'll just take whichever is at the top of the pile! It'll be a fun surprise for both of us.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Five on Friday: Confessions of a Chronic List Maker

But, Gina, how do you manage to even fit any self-care in on top of everything else you do every day?

The thing is, productivity makes me feel good. I can rest when I'm dead (exception: my near-daily cat naps).  So how do I manage to remember it all and then get it done?

Chronic list making, my friends. 

Sometimes the lists are on paper but these days they are more frequently on the "Notes" on my laptop. These can also be accessed on my phone, which is good, because when you're trying to keep track of as many things as I am, it's easy to forget a paper list at home (but I almost never, ever--knock wood--forget my phone).

Mom as a mermaid as imagined by our oldest daughter, circa 2014

Confessions from this chronic list-maker:

1. Okay, fine, some lists are actually better on paper. I don't know the science behind it but paper is the superior choice for the food shopping list (even though I have forgotten those at home and that sucks so, so much).

2. I should hope that by now everyone knows that it's perfectly acceptable to write things down that you already finished just so you can have the satisfaction of crossing it out and feeling accomplished. If you didn't, now you do.

3. However, that's only really satisfying with paper lists. My suggestion for digital lists is to go ahead and write down mundane stuff you would do anyway. Things like: 

    1. brush teeth
    2. get kids to school
    3. answer emails

I don't write this stuff down every day --who's got time for that? On days when the other tasks are big ones that require more of a time commitment, being able to cross off little things helps me to feel accomplished. 

4. My lists have lists. This is not hyperbole. For example, in the weeks leading up to the MLK Day of Community Service, on my days off from work I'd frequently have MLK work written on my list. When I got to that point, I'd open another list and see which MLK Day-related chores I could do. 

5. Sometimes, I get things off the daily to-do lists by moving them to another day's to-do lists. It's called task management, look it up.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Five on Friday: Self Care Right Now

 Here's what the ever-elusive, (more than) ever-needed "self care" looks like for me lately:

1. Making life for "future me" easier when "current me" has the time:

2. Speaking of food, the warm & cozy comfort variety goes on the winter self-care list for sure.

3. Staying dedicated to my home "gym" habits:

4. Going out with friends, family or to meetings that I feel it's important to attend when it's cold out and I have trouble finding inspiration to go outside when the sun has gone down.  That being said, there's also a balance that needs to be struck and this last example of self-care might be the most important one:

5. Viva the yes moratorium!

Friday, February 3, 2023

Five on Friday: Big Week for the Local History Nerd

Discoveries, graves and awards, oh my!

1.  The graveyard where I did Graveyard Tours last fall has many missing headstones. We've been told stories of "helpful" folks once clearing the overgrown yard by straight up plowing head and footstones into the woods along with the prickers and bramble bush. We've also heard there was a man who used to take stones for his pet cemetery. I have been searching for the missing stones with no luck, but last week one came right to me! It was donated by a man who's had it in his barn for thirty years, left by the previous owners who had discovered it when excavating for an addition. 

It wasn't just any stone, it was a really special one: the headstone for a man whose footstone had been found in the woods and was the very first interment at Mount Lebanon.

Found, clean and set approximately where we suspect he could be buried last fall.

Discovered & returned . . . to be cleaned, repaired and set in the spring.

2. After thinking for months "I need to get in touch with the Mount Amwell Project to find out more about grave repair," the need became more pressing with the return of this significant but broken stone.  

A friend saw my post about the rediscovered grave and then struck up a conversation with a stranger at a brewpub. This stranger happened to be a vital member of the MAP (and is seen in the video on their website) and gave my friend his number for me. He visited me within a few days and gave lots of good advice and offers of help!

3. Advanced ticket sales for Tipsy History opened on Wednesday and were halfway sold out within a few hours.

4. My ongoing research for Tipsy History led me to a graveyard in Phillipsburg, looking for the final resting place of Margaret Rinehart, who had been exhumed from Mount Lebanon and moved there to be next to her husband. I, in the words of my daughter, "Sherlock Holmes-ed it up" and used a number of clues to determine that two basically illegible stones were the ones I was looking for. The clues were good but I wanted more proof. So after a stealthy stone cleaning and rubbing, I got the final proof I was looking for:
Sure looks like -H-A-R-T to me! I'm satisfied!

5. Lastly and the most exciting: I was just informed that my Associate Curator and I are being honored with an Award of Recognition from the New Jersey Historical Commission for our research on the Carlisle Indian School student Outings to our town (and throughout the state)

We knew as soon as the pieces of this story started coming together that this was tremendously significant. We've been very proud of this work and it's nice to be recognized for it!

Friday, January 27, 2023

Five on Friday: They're Driving Me Crazy But I Like It

 A recent day in the life that apparently I love . . .

1.  After the kids left for school the other day, I found an empty cracker box. It was next to the garbage can. It wasn't entirely empty, actually, it had one cracker in it. No waxy bag inside, just. One. Cracker. 

Next to the garbage can.

So close, yet so far.

2. A little later, I was looking for dried cranberries to make cookies. I found the jar in its usual spot, with ONE LONELY LITTLE DRIED CRANBERRY IN IT. One.

3.  Our 14-year-old son sent me a text soon after he arrived at school that day, asking me to drop off his uniform and sneakers. In his defense:
    a. the news that they'd need their uniforms for a picture that afternoon was only announced as he was arriving at school, and 
    b. He was in a sling and unable to play basketball so didn't have his basketball bag with him.

So even though having to find his stuff and drop it off was slightly annoying, that wasn't the crazy-making part. First there was him asking me to send him a picture to make sure I got the *right* white shoes.

Fine, smarty.

4. I bagged up the uniform and shoes (the sneakers, not the crocs) and left them on the shelf in the high school vestibule where hundreds of kids walk through, as one does when a child forgets something at home.

Here's where the crazy-making really starts: long before he needed these items, a half-day was called due to the weather and they were no longer needed.

I texted him to remind him to grab the bag where, as previously noted, hundreds of kids would be walking and any of them could potentially mess with it. Okay, he said.

Did he remember to grab the bag?

No. No he did not.

(Yes, this is the same kid that wanted to leave his cummerbund on stage until the next day. "Mom, it's fine.")

5. But apparently I like it! I love the chaos. It's actually true and my story for January's Story Slam at Scout's with the theme was Starting Over is proof:

Next Slam is February 24th . . . Under the Influence. See you then!

Friday, January 20, 2023

Five on Friday: MLK Day #20 in the Books

If you've known or been following me twelve months or longer, then you'll already know about the MLK Day of Community Service that I organize. When I started the event in my dining room, I had absolutely no expectations for growth. I certainly didn't think I'd be hosting it in a church hall two decades later.

Honestly, I almost burned out this year but then my passion was rekindled. Read on . . . 

1. I tried to start planning earlier this year. I really did. I literally wrote "MLK IS EARLY THIS YEAR" on my calendar. 

Would you like to know what date I put that on?

(Actual dates I started planning: in the week after Christmas.)

2. It always just seems so daunting to get started. I'll admit, I even had a fleeting thought that maybe this year would be my last one. As the plans very easily began to fall into place (which frankly does not encourage me to listen to myself about starting early) I reconsidered. I told my husband what I was thinking and he very easily convinced me to continue on for another five years. Twenty-five would be a fine time to hand the reins over to someone else and by then our youngest will be eighteen-- meaning all the kids will have grown up with this annual family community event.

3. In all honesty, I feel like I cut a few corners this year. First in-person event since 2020 and unsure of what the community response would be, starting the planning late and with the thought that it might be my last event . . . I don't know. I can't say my heart was completely in it. But then my Facebook memories began to include photos from previous events (including how we managed to pull it off "drive-through" style TWICE!) and my community donated more money than I asked for to buy supplies and my enthusiasm began returning.

And then the day came and along with it, the reminders of what matters the most about it:

4. The way MLK Day has now become synonymous with community. Children (not just mine) are growing up with the tradition of celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King by giving back. The day itself is part reunion (where folks who only see each other once a year at this event get to catch up while assembling toiletry kits to distribute at the homeless shelter) and part an opportunity to meet new neighbors (while helping children make valentines for seniors and veterans).

5. Most importantly, the impact on the larger community is undeniably positive. Over $6,000 in gift cards and boxes of donations for two local food shelters and a veterans' housing facility collected, activity kits for pediatric hospital patients and homebound seniors created, new baby care kits decorated and assembled for local families, Meals on Wheels bags decorated and more and more and more . . . 
Here's to at least five more years. Big thanks to my family (particularly my co-organizing mother and husband and my children who are the reason I started and continue doing this but roll their eyes and ask, "Do I have to go this year?"), everyone who donated money so I could buy supplies and all the volunteers who set up tables, ran activities, moved boxes, cleaned up, brought donations and participated! Thank you for helping us to make it a Day On, Not a Day Off  in our little corner of the county for twenty years now!

Friday, January 13, 2023

Five on Friday: Finally Figured Out What This Thing From IA Is!

A phrase that really ages me is, "One time in IA . . .  " (IA=Industrial Arts, more commonly known as wood shop.)

They don't really do middle school wood shop around here anymore. Nor have they for quite awhile, so the idea is very foreign to my children. If I do somehow refer to IA to them, I then further horrify them by reminiscing about how the Ethel Hoppock Middle School playground primarily consisted of a large cement pipe, surely leftover from some local road construction, that was painted by kids. It was taking the 70s environmental movement's idea of repurposing old tires as playground equipment to its pinnacle.

But I digress.

So how would IA even ever come up in conversation? Let me tell you a little story in five parts . . . 

1. One time, as an adult, I was shopping at the church basement thrift shop near my parents' home (where I grew up). I found this . . . thing.

2. Even thought I wasn't sure what exactly this . . . thing . . . was, I thought it looked oddly familiar. I picked it up, turned it over and nearly died of embarrassment. 
Not just written, but stamped into the wood and then covered with red sharpie.

3. Oh right! This was a . . . well, I still don't know what to call it. It was a thing to sit on top of your dresser and hold stuff. A catch-all I guess? They couldn't call it a jewelry box or the boys wouldn't like it. It definitely had another part that was now missing but I don't know what it was.

Of course I had to purchase it and bring it home. I didn't want it per se but COME ON.  I could not leave JAMMIN' GINA there for someone else to see! (In case you were wondering, Mom swears she doesn't know how it got there. Must have been when Dad just scooped up a bunch of stuff from the basement and dropped it off.)

But what to do with it? My youngest daughter thought it could be a dresser for doll clothes but it never really worked out the way she wanted it to. 

4. With no purpose, it ended up just sitting in our oldest daughter's primarily unused bedroom, where I recently set myself up for a zoom call. I needed something to prop my laptop up on, looked around and realized . . . 

Ta-da! It's the exact right size for my laptop!

5. Not only does it fit perfectly, it also has:
A drawer for cords!

Or, if you need to plug in, a little spot for the cord to go through!

Little stoppers to keep it from sliding off the back!

So maybe it was weird as a non-jewelry-box-catchall and didn't work as doll dresser.  Could  Mr. Randall have somehow predicted a future need for this object? Or maybe . . . just maybe . . . Ethel Hoppock Middle School's 70s spirit of repurposing really influenced me.