Friday, April 16, 2021

Five on Friday: Goodbye to My Childhood Home

My parents have sold my childhood home and I feel fine.

No, really, I do. I even went for one last walk-around and didn't cry at all. I think we're all really ready for it, for a number of reasons, like:

1. My parents are what you might call . . . collectors. My sisters and I have long dreaded having to one day clean out their home and property (with various greenhouses and sheds, all filled with . . . "collections" of items) for them. We never imagined the possibility of them doing it themselves! I'm really proud of my parents for purging so much. Also, I'm super relieved.

2. You may have noticed I said "greenhouses" above . . . if you didn't know, my parents owned a nursery. It was really time for my Dad to retire but that absolutely meant moving. He can't be there and not work, so it was time.

3. They got an offer on their house very quickly and we emptied out most of the furniture back in November. But then there were a series of unexpected delays so my poor parents were living not only in pandemic forcing them to spend most of their time at home but then their home was stripped down to the bare basics. It's been a long winter for them.

4. Ultimately, though, the timing worked out really well because they hadn't been having any luck finding the right new home for themselves. If they had moved out in November, they would have been bouncing around for awhile. Now they've found a great place that we're all excited to see them settle into.

5. I had a great childhood there and they've stayed there so long that my children have all gotten to know the house and property as well. If my parents sold the house before I had kids, I think it would have been more upsetting. Instead it just feels like the timing is right and the natural progression of life.

But wait! 

That wasn't supposed to be what my Five on Friday list was! It was supposed to be all pictures from my last visit there the other day. Lucky you, that means this week's list is a double feature! 

1. I grew up answering the phone saying "New Horizon Plant Farm!" and this is the sign that hung up by the road.

2. Check out the inside of my closet that I painted at age 15.

That is so deep.

3. I spent hours and hours playing in the backyard in my little playhouse, most of the time in droopy 70s halter top hand-me-downs that would have my family telling me that my "bubulas" were showing (that's what it sounded like they were saying but--what? Who says that? That's a Yiddish word for a baby. Is using it this way a New Jersey thing? A 'my family' thing??). 

Anyway, the back yard hasn't looked like that for years and my playhouse is long gone, so nothing to be sad about with my parents moving at this point. 

4. How cute is this? My Dad has labeled what some of the plants are for the next owner.

Though honestly, my dude? Good luck reading my Dad's handwriting.

5. I used to pretend this rock was a chaise lounge. I gave it one last go.

I'm only smiling because I'm thinking god, I was dumb, this is not comfortable at all.

*Edited to add:

I ended up stopping over just one more time to pick up something my Mom left behind. I realized the sign was still there so it accidentally ended up in my car. I am not sure if my parents want it or not but I'm just saying it might belong somewhere in my dining room  to go with my apparent "old local business signs with suns on them" collection:

Friday, April 9, 2021

Five on Friday: Holiday Highlights

I’ll admit, I had a bad attitude about the kids’ spring break. It wasn’t just me, though. Even my 7th grader was asking, “Why do we even have spring break this year? I’d rather just be done with school a week earlier!”


I don’t know why a late-stage* pandemic spring break seemed daunting, it’s not like we ever travel this week anyway. I think it may have to do with the fact that we still had some winter doldrums to shake off because let me tell you . . . the weather this past week has been glorious and it just made everything better.


So in spite of having zero plans and a bad attitude, we had amazing weather and a very pleasant holiday week. I think my son and I both even realized that maybe a little break from hybrid school and homework was just what we needed.


Here are some highlights:


1. You thought I had a bad attitude about spring break, you don’t want to know what I though about Easter! Ha! Just kidding . . . sort of. Last Easter was our very first pandemic holiday and our first chaotic attempt at having a zoom call with extended family. There was so much that felt scary and wrong and unknown. I spent the day fighting back the tears. 


This year my oldest two children weren't home which might make you think I'd be crying again but honestly, I felt fine. After they were stuck at home for the last two semesters, I'm genuinely thrilled for them to be on campus.


Traditionally, we go to my parents first and then my in-laws' later in the day. Part of the earlier celebration includes an outdoor egg hunt. This year, I did some last minute scurrying to make an egg hunt in our own yard (with some added rules by Mom and sneaky spots by Dad that made it occupy the kids for a good twenty minutes!) The weather was perfect for an outdoor brunch with my parents and a then dinner with my husband's side of the family.

Eggs weren't the only thing to find this year; my clever and creative husband hid some little bottles of wine around the house for me.

2. I got some super cute sewing projects done! My clothespin bag was falling apart and as I had gotten my hands on some vintage baby clothes, I decided to get crafting. I only meant to make two but . . . I made three. (Bonus: this sewing was done on our only cool and rainy morning and by the time I was done, the sun was coming out!)

3.  After beginning to annoy even myself with my constant "Should I cut my hair or not?" questioning, I decided to text-whine to my older daughter about it.


"Why can't someone just tell me what to do?"


"Cut it. Summer's coming, you like your curls better when your hair is shorter, it'll be a symbolic cutting off of the past year."


So I handed my best friend a pair of scissors and have zero regrets. (Though one day when my hairdresser sister gets her hands on my head again, she surely will.)


4. We got our annual Earth Day Month neighborhood clean-up done, to the soundtrack of birds chirping and my children whining, "UGH, why do we even have to do this??" 


There was also some groaning when I realized I was wearing just one green gardening glove and tried to declare myself the Earth Day Michael Jackson. 

"Oh my god, Mom. No." I cracked myself up later in the walk, too.

5. All the promise of new life makes spring feel eternally hopeful.

This year more than ever . . . as my husband and I, along with so many of our family and friends, are at least half vaccinated. A few loved ones that were sick with COVID are improving by the day. My parents, who have been  living in a state of housing semi-limbo, finally have a closing date on their home and will soon have one on the home they are buying. 


But the very best news of all is that a very wonderful person whom I love dearly had her last radiation treatment!! We celebrated on the patio with pizza, leftover Easter candy and the season's first fire in the chiminea!


 Best spring break ever.






*Feels sort of hopeful and potentially foolish to refer to the present time this way. Oh, please, please let us be nearing the end of this.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Five on Friday: What I'd Like You to be Aware of in Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Are you aware of sexual assault? Cool, I guess we can assign some obscure cancer to April’s awareness goals now.

That was fresh. I know they don’t mean “do you know sexual assault exists?” I think it means “Did you know about these aspects of/resources for/nuances about/prevention tips for/little-known facts about/myths surrounding the cause of the month?”

And the truth is, I made a pact with myself long ago to never be silent about my status as a survivor of sexual assault . . . so I should really be glad for the opportunity to talk about it, particularly now when I haven’t had the chance to write, speak or perform on the topic much in the past year or two.

So, what does this survivor  want you to be “aware” of about sexual assault?

1. I personally always have and always will use humor as a coping mechanism. Sometimes it falls flat (see opening sentences, above). Sometimes it makes other people really uncomfortable, which is something I’m always okay with. #sorrynotsorry

2. To every single person who ever told me any variation of “It will be the first thing you think about in the morning and the last thing you think about at night for the rest of your life” . . . this has never been true for me. I hope in the past twenty-five plus years, you’ve realized this is not a good thing to say.

3. I look fine. I act fine. I am fine. But sometimes I still get really scared in ways that I was never scared before I was raped.

4. When my fear is done scaring me, it usually makes me angry (see last line above). The anger aftershocks do seem to be subsiding a little as I approach my third decade (!) of this affecting me for the rest of my life. (That's something else I was warned about.)

5. Now for the most important one: You. Know. Survivors. You have met, live next door to, work with, casually know, intimately know and even love survivors of all manners of sexual assault. You might not know this about them, because there is stigma and pain and suppression and secrecy that survivors of other violent crimes do not experience. 

Oh. Right. I guess that's why we need this month, as a free pass for opening up conversation. For permission to normalize talking about sexual assault. Because nearly every time I put myself out there, publicly, as a survivor, I get stealthy requests to talk to another survivor who hasn't told anyone. Who wants to talk, who wants support, who is afraid to ask for it. Who wants to know how to one day move on, to love and enjoy life again. 

Silent survivors: I see you, I believe you, I know you exist in droves. I'm always going to be one of the vocal ones until the day things feel safer for you, even if that means continuing to live in silence of your own choosing.


Friday, March 26, 2021

Five on Friday: Cringiest Moments From My Childhood

Back in the spring days before COVID, I spent a lot of time giving historic site tours to grade school students. When you repeat the same tour over and over again, you start forgetting if you've mentioned certain facts to your current group or if that was only to the group before them.

The same thing happens at home with my kids, starting with when I couldn't remember if I ever taught the baby numbers or colors or animal sounds (though I've never been sure why the latter is is often put on the same level of importance with the previous two). I'd already taught those things at least four times before, so it became hard to keep track.

For some reason lately,  I've been remembering a lot of funny stories from my childhood, mostly of the embarrassing variety. It occurred to me that I might not have told all my "cringiest" (their word) childhood stories to my younger kids! They might be in middle (& high) school now and completely ignorant of what sound horses, make but they won't live another day without knowing that I once walked barefoot through our horse stall when I was a kid!

Let's consider this list of cringy childhood moments as an advanced celebration of my birth month that's coming up. Hard to believe this sweet baby could do anything super embarrassing . . .

So I'll also include these photos, to make it more believable:

Kids, you're welcome.

Top five most embarrassing things that I did as a child 
that I didn't suppress so much that I can't remember them now:

1. I was a young and voracious reader, one of those re-reading the back of the cereal box at breakfast every morning types. This lead me to narrating my life in my head for awhile. One time I was with a friend and said something like, "Let's go outside, Gina said" and then had to act like I did that on purpose to be funny or something.

2. I once tried to break my own leg to get out of doing chores. I was not successful.

3. Mad that my sisters all had "long names" and "short names" and all I had was short name Gina, I decided that I'd come up with my own nickname for people to call me. It was Blueberry Muffin. I was not successful.

Gee, Gina, wonder how you came up with that idea for a nickname?

4. I thought my older sisters looked cool the way they'd get toothpaste lather all over their faces when they brushed their teeth so I started spitting a little out while I was brushing so I, too, could have that super cool "rabid dog with clean teeth" look.

5. Then there was the time I was sledding with the big kids in the yard. I was laying in the snow after happily flying off the sled at the bottom of the hill when I realized I really had to go to the bathroom. That would mean walking all the way to the house and having to take off the many layers of snow gear and, worst of all, miss out on valuable snow play. 

Instead I did what any six-year-old would do: I reasoned that I was already pretty wet, so why not add urine to the mix? It worked out fine in the moment but I totally got busted later.

This tale is the last one for now but I'm sure I could easily whip out another five cringe-worthy stories in a minute, including the time I repeated a slight variation on this last incident but as an adult. (I know, I know, I'm *super* charming!) 

But that, my friends, is for another Friday! Cheers!

Friday, March 19, 2021

Five on Friday: Meet the New Boss . . . A Note to My Younger Three Children on Some Recent Policy Changes

 Too bad you millennials (are you younger kids even millennials or some new generation name?) probably don't even know this song to fill in the next half of that lyric with " . . . same as the old boss."

We may have inaugurated a new President for the nation but around here, I'm still the boss. The only changes here is that the constituents have changed (with the two alleged adults off to college). But that means it's a new chapter for our family and almost feels like a new term for me, if you will.

You may have noticed some recent policy changes! Even though each one seems to be even more wildly unpopular than the next, I am (not) sorry to say they are here to stay. These include:

1. Failure to complete daily list of chores without a legitimate excuse will result in swift and immediate personal electronic removal for as long as I see fit.

2. Because #1 happened the other day, it made me realize how nice afternoons can be. Thereby I do decree that we will be having frequent screen-free afternoons. (Wow, this one is not going to go over well at all!)

3. I (apparently) cannot reiterate this enough: school is your top priority. I know it's not the same. But we've been doing this virtual/hybrid thing for a year now and there are really no excuses for multiple missed assignments anymore. You have all the agendas and tools. You have two parents that are available to assist you. We need you to put in a little more effort now. If this means I have to sit down and watch you do every single assignment so be it. And believe me, this will hurt me way more than it hurts you.

4. You will continue to help choose meals for the upcoming week. We will be easing into our next phase of "Mom cannot freaking think of and make all of the meals for all of these people day in and day out for years upon end" alleviation plan which means you will each be helping to actually prepare the meals you pick. Or sometimes the meals I pick. Hey, I'm the boss after all.

5. The "oh my GOD MOM WHY DO WE HAVE TO" family book club has officially kicked off! Please be sure to read up to chapter three of History Smashers: Women's Right to Vote by tomorrow night. I've got a cold can of soda for one child to have all to themselves for writing a Kahoot! quiz for the rest of the family. Prizes will be awarded to participants. 

Friday, March 12, 2021

Five on Friday: Things a Mom Says, Pandemic Year Two

Recently I've said some things I haven't said in a long time. Just typical things a Mom might say to her kids but that haven't been necessary (or even possible!) in a long time because of the pandemic.


While saying them made me feel like things really are getting back to normal in some ways, I can't claim these to be post-pandemic phrases. Each one of these "feeling sort of normal" statements also has a caveat that made it firmly still part pandemic--year two.


1. Come on! The bus is coming!

(*Caveat: the bus is coming because it’s Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Friday but not Wednesday because the new combined cohort hybrid schedule means you all go together but nobody goes on Wednesdays. Natch.)


2. Who do you want to invite to your birthday?

(*Caveat: Sort of a double birthday party since last year we said "don't worry, we'll just have a do-over in a few weeks." Spoiler: We did not. Also, this party will be held entirely outdoors even though the weather is just on the cusp of being reliably nice enough to do such a thing.)


3. Is there a basketball game today?

(*Caveat: "Do you know if it's going to be live streamed?")

I'd say the dog likes to watch the game but really she just likes to stalk me.

4. Do you have practice after school?

(*Caveat: "Don’t forget you have to show Coach the COVID pre-screening thing on your phone!")


5. I have a meeting tonight.

(*Caveat: "I’ll be up in my room with the door closed on the zoom call, please don’t interrupt me.")

Friday, March 5, 2021

Five on Friday: How it Started, How it's Going (Pandemic Style)

The one-year anniversary of COVID dramatically changing all of our lives is looming on the horizon . . . I know this bearing heavy on everyone's minds lately. The milestones are already happening: this was the day of the first confirmed case in our state, this was our last full week of in-person school last year. Now it's almost our son's early March birthday . . . the second one he won't be able to fully celebrate because of the pandemic.

I had some one-on-one time with our youngest child the other day. We were talking about how even though this last year has been so weird and different . . . it has not been awful for us. None of us got sick with COVID. Nobody in our immediately families died from it. Nobody here lost their job, we always had enough food (and toilet paper!) and a safe place to live.

Of course, that doesn't mean things haven't changed. Here are my pandemic-themed "how it started, how it's going" observations

1. Oh those early days of lockdown! I cooked and cooked and cooked. I like cooking, there were seven people here CONSTANTLY, and not much else for me to do. These days I can find myself a little burnt out on it and have told my children they are allowed to get the free garbage lunch the state has been offering all school children.

2. There are NOT seven people here anymore--two of the adults were able to go off to college in January! And the remaining three children are not packing lunch on the 0-5 days they go in to school (every week is different with these two schools' hybrid schedules!) Now there are days we don't even run the dishwasher!!

3. Last February, my boys were ahead of the pandemic puzzle craze. We had been swapping puzzles in the local library's exchange box for a few weeks before the pandemic started . . . then when the library announced it'd be closing to the public, we stocked up on a few. Suffice it to say, at this point the novelty has worn off.

4. Me, March 2020: "I'm not going to sew any masks for the kids because they're not going to go anywhere."

Me, today: "The bus is coming! Do you have your chromebook? Water bottle? Do you have your mask???"

5. I'm still not back to attending any in-person exercise classes, though, so for now, this part of my life remains pretty much the same:

Friday, February 26, 2021

Five on Friday: Donating Blood in the Time of COVID

 Observations from my recent donation:

1. I’ve read a little about the recommendation of double masking when out in public. I think it’s a fine idea but I never spend an extended amount of time indoors close to people so I haven’t done it. 


As I was waiting to check-in at the blood drive, I had a mini freakout, thinking “okay yeah, maybe hanging out with phlebotomists who travel around and spend time close to and touching lots of strangers would be an instance I should have considered double masking!” It passed quickly, because I’m not good at maintaining that sort of freakout (thankfully) and it was such a warm day yesterday, they had the door wide open and I could feel the fresh air coming in. Don’t tell me any science that would prove that wasn’t enough to help, it made me feel better.


Not only could I feel the breeze, I could even see the open door. That probably means it's twice as good.

2. Upon check-in, I sat at the touchscreen to answer the same questions they always ask. When a new one flashed up on the screen and I saw it but didn’t really process the words yet, I thought maybe it said “Does your nephew have hepatitis?” and I thought that was oddly specific and then I realized that it of course didn't say that. Then I was giggling out loud which is fine because they don’t ask you any questions about your mental health when you donate blood.


3.  I’m not at all sick, but I did have to clear my throat. If everyone wasn't so tense about COVID, I'd have just done it. I tried to just do it a little bit which of course didn’t work and so instead of just having one satisfying throat clearing, I had to do about ten little attempts at stealthy throat clearings under my single layer mask, none of which got the job done. Ugh, now I have to clear my throat again just thinking about it.


4. While I was laying there, I realized the music they had was this something-something-greatest Motown hits album I used to have—pretty sure on cassette (!!). I was having a great time singing along to all the songs (yes, of course out loud. Quietly but out loud. Please refer to the end of #2)

Honestly, they probably couldn't even tell where the singing was coming from since I was wearing my mask.

(Though I did think it was rather unfair when September came on, how are you not supposed to get up and dance to that song??)


5. While there was a lot that was different about donating blood during a pandemic (many extra steps and precautions), some things remain the same: they still insist you have a snack before you leave and they still go completely overboard on the bandaging.