Friday, February 23, 2018

Five On Friday: Are You an Activist, Too?

So many ideas for a Five on Friday post this week, but nothing felt right.

The shooting last week was bad enough but the reactions this week--mocking teen activists, claiming they are crisis actors (if that were really a thing, how would I apply?), suggesting more guns are the solution--made all of my ideas for a list seem pointless.

I kept finding inspiration in the teenagers that are speaking out. Maybe I could do a post of the top five quotes, tweets or video clips? Perhaps a playlist of five kick-ass songs to encourage and support them? What about my opinion on guns as a human, as a feminist, as the survivor of a violent crime and/or as the mother of children of color in public school?

No, no, no. Nothing was right or complete.

I took a walk in the rain yesterday morning, considering all this when I got a text from my teenager. She and I had talked about the pros and cons of a student walk-out protest, what some alternatives could be and what organizations or individuals at school might want to team up on this project. Her text message let me know that a fellow student had already scheduled a meeting with the High School Principal and she and some other friends were going to work with them.

I wasn't surprised to hear which young woman initiated the meeting--her mother and I have worked on a few social justice initiatives together. I texted Mom saying, "Mom activists=kid activists!"

She admitted that she's still getting used to referring to herself as one. This is a person who, among other things, has recently worked to pass an Anti-Hate Resolutions in her town and is helping bring it to my neighboring township. But I get it, I struggled with calling myself as an Activist for a long time, too.

I think most of my friends would feel the same but when I look at the various ways they let their voices be heard, I consider them all to be Activists right along with me.

Are you an Activist too? Maybe you can't organize a March or speak in front of hundreds of people, but I'm willing to argue that if you have done any of these things, you're right here with us:

1. Marched. Donated time or money to a cause your believe in. Joined a community of like-minded individuals. Signed a petition. Volunteered.

2. Watched a movie that taught you something about a marginalized community. Bonus points if you discussed it with someone afterwards.

3. Ever gone out of your way to be nice to stand up for someone else. Smiled or been extra friendly to someone that you suspect other people aren't always nice to.

4. Had a discussion with someone who disagreed with you politically, even if you walked away from it feeling frustrated.
5. Talked to any children in your life about biases, why people might exhibit them, what we can do about them. Involved them in rally or supported them in protest.

So have you?

Welcome to the Resistance.

My daughter's poster from the Woman's March '17 on display in an art exhibit

Friday, February 16, 2018

Five on Friday: The Optimist Gives it a Shot

I’ve had a little bit of a rough week.

It started with several dumb little annoyances and worked its way up to an upsetting incident affecting one my children at school (and it’s killing my oversharing self to not share but it’s not time yet, maybe won’t ever be).  

And all of that was before the news of yet another school shooting. It's no surprise that my heart’s heavy and feeling a little bruised. 

But if you know me at all, you know I'm an optimist who loves to look around for the things I am grateful for, particularly in times when I'm feeling low.  Aren't I lucky* that I can find more than fit on this list? Here are the top five:

1. My 12-year-old car broke down three weeks ago and ended up costing way too much to justify fixing. It basically just stopped driving on the highway--but luckily my permitted daughter wasn't driving, I wasn't hurt, and I had Overkill Jones to use in the meantime.  On Monday I was very happy to get a new car! It's an 11-year-old car and it’s a hybrid with a sunroof and a CASSETTE PLAYER. I love it. I named it John Stamos (Maybe he's been around the block a few times, so to speak, but my baby still look gooood)

The resemblance is uncanny.

2.  My oldest daughter got her driving license! Of course there was nothing for her to drive at first but now John Stamos has saved the day. I'm happy she now has the freedom to take silly little jaunts like a run to the new supermarket with her brother just because they can. But what I'm really excited about is the fact that I can have some help in shuffling younger kids to or from activities. Woo-hoo!!

3. Homemade Valentines---this year's top two. The top one was made by my youngest for her biggest brother.  The bottom one was made by my son's friend who makes the very best cards every year.

Good thing I didn't say "beautiful fairy" because that is Gandalf.

Outside of the card
Inside . . . ball humor. I can't.
      4. Even though I'm really upset about what happened to my child at school this week, the staff's response has been above and beyond my expectations. I'm very grateful.

    5. Some very good news that some children in my community will be reunited with their siblings as they should have been over a year ago. This one made me cry tears of joy. 

      I hope you're able to find some joy this week, too. It's been a rough one for all of us.

  *there I go being an optimist again

Friday, February 9, 2018

Five On Friday: What I'll Miss

I have long been steadfast in my belief that I will not miss the things older parents insist that I will one day--oh you know, things like the dirt and noise of children. I know what they are telling me, that the lack of muddy sneakers means the lack of children in the house and they miss their little kids.

While some sorts of filth (like finger smudges on the walls) are a thousand times more charming than other sorts (unflushed poop in the toilet),  I firmly maintain I won't miss any sort of grime.

Lest you think I'm just being totally stubborn, I assure you I already sometimes miss my kids and they still live here. But I find sometimes I miss the babies and toddlers they used to be. I miss the actual children and the nice things like their chubby hands caressing my face. I do not miss the dirty diapers and being woken up repeatedly overnight. At. All.

I do know there are things about these days that I will miss, too, and these are some of them that I will surely miss tremendously:

1. Yard full of kids. After school, five is never enough. Most days it's seven but can be up to eleven. I adore being the house the kids come to.

2. Dress for dinner nights . . . randomly selected evenings where we come to the dinner table in disguise. Last time we did this was in the fall--I liked the bearded lady costume I came up with so much, I might use it next Halloween.

3. Making up and playing games together. On Monday, our 7-year-old made this one completely on her own: she took twenty squares of paper and wrote instructions on them. She then placed them all around the house. The rest of us had 5 minutes to find them and complete the tasks. My favorite was "take a short rest."

4.  Steady supply of original artwork:

5. Together time in so many forms: all of us at the dinner table and the ridiculous conversations we have, snuggle time in Mommy and Daddy's bed on Sunday mornings, family movie nights, countless card games, road trips . . .  I've got to stop now as this list is starting to make me really depressed. I think I'm going to go grab a kid and play a game of Uno.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Five on Friday: One Month Done!

Somehow one month of the new year has already passed . . . so how are those resolutions going? I understand the backlash against resolution-making; too many people choose unrealistic goals and then unsurprisingly give up on them. 

As this sign in front of the High School says, a goal properly set is halfway reached. It also says that if you believe you can you're halfway there! We've been debating if that means all you have to do to realize your dreams is set a proper goal and then believe you can do it.

I tend to set little goals for myself throughout the year as needed. When the year is brand-new and the weeks of holiday craziness are finally over, it always seems like a good time to make a few more. So I guess that makes me a resolution maker.

But then, you know, life gets in the way. We started the month with the kids barely in school (holiday, snow, ice, holiday . . . ) and not having a normal routine seems to make everything harder to maintain.  To combat this, I've been trying to check in with myself to see how I'm doing. I'm going to try to make a monthly Five on Friday list to hold myself accountable to my goals and today's the first one.  I've focused on five areas with "properly set" goals:

1. Health: Meh, last year was annoying for me, health-wise. Nothing serious, just a bunch of time and money spent to more or less conclude that this is me as a middle-aged woman and that I'm going to have to make some adjustments. Weekly goals in this department include meal planning and flossing. It's going pretty well, now I just need to get the kids to floss, too. Oh and I need to make our dentist appointments. That will be February's goal.

2. Relationships: With such a large family and so much keeping us busy all the time, it's hard to get valuable time in with one another. It's idiotic to not prioritize this, life is too short not to. I can't spend one-on-one time with everyone I'd like to every single month (properly set goals!!) but I'm trying to make sure I get on dates with my husband, spend quality family time together, see friends and extended family . . . 

3. Self-Care: Closely tied to 1 & 2. Exercise, naps, seeing friends, doing my nails, etc. I had a massage yesterday and I am sure the masseuse was appalled by the tight and knotty state of my upper back. In February I aim to horrify a nail technician with my rough winter feet.

4. Creativity: I hadn't been writing much recently but something clicked the other day and I was happy to get out an essay I feel good about it. February goals include some more writing and finishing the family video of 2017.

5. Community: January's an easy one in this department because of Martin Luther King Day. Other months won't be such massive undertakings . . . however, because of this year's MLK Day, I've made some new partnerships with other groups and individuals that would like to do more community service events. I'm also planning a Sexual Assault Awareness Month event with my social justice theatre troupe. That won't be held until April but the planning of it might fulfill this goal for February.

Anyone else out there make any resolutions that they're still holding strong to? Remember, believe you can and you're halfway there!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Five on Friday: Good Morning, Sunshine!

Yesterday sure was a day.  You know know the kind of day I mean. The kind that started off with a wet bed and a car breaking down on the highway  . . .


. . .  and ended with me yelling at the kid (the one who had been the least annoying one  of the day, no less) for kick-kick-kicking the counter which resulted in both of us crying.

Just . . . a day.

Today seemed like it was off to a shaky start but I'm trying to turn it around. How about  I'm some visual reminders of things that made me happy recently for today's list? Good idea, here they are:

1. One of my favorite parts of the MLK Day of Community Service is getting to look at all of the cards and letters that the volunteers make. A little girl named Matilda made this card and I just love it so much. "Joy is spreading all around New Jersey" . . . I definitely felt it that day. I'm going to feel it again today.

 2. My teens, without planning, both had polka dot socks on  the other day. Also they posed for me.

3. You may have heard it's been so cold this winter that in some places, waterfalls froze. There just so happens to be a waterfall at the historic mill where I work and I had been keeping my eye on it to see if it'd freeze.

It didn't.

However, the water directly under the logs that are currently stuck at the top did freeze, making the logs seem like they have ice beards.

4. I think I've told you that I've been lucky enough to befriend Ilene Beckerman, author of Love, Loss and What I Wore.  Recently she's also struck up a new friendship--with my 7-year-old. I think they may be pen pals now, we got this yesterday in the mail:

5. This is a lovely picture but its loveliness is only part of the reason it's on the list. The bigger reason is because my husband texted it to me yesterday with "Good morning, Sunshine!" Some people like sexy texts from their spouses, but happy little ones like this go a long way, too.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Five on Friday: Martin Luther King Day of Service

When I first started hosting a Martin Luther King Day of Community Service event I, unlike Dr. King, did not have a dream. As a matter of fact, my intentions may have been just as selfish as they were altruistic—I had heard about the national push to make it a "Day ON, not a day off!" and I wanted my kids to have a chance to honor Dr. King by participating in a Day of Service. There was nothing offered in my area, so I started one myself.

That first event was just a few toddlers in my dining room coloring bags for Meals On Wheels. The next two years we moved to a coffee shop with that same lonely activity . . . this year we filled a gym-sized room at a local church with 13 different activities to benefit various local and worldwide organizations.

I never imagined my little dining room event growing this way. But the public response has been so overwhelmingly positive—apparently I wasn’t the one looking for a chance to serve with my children.

While I never knew this event would grow exponentially, I am incredibly proud of what it has become and eternally grateful to the dozens of behind-the-scenes donors and volunteers that help me to pull it off. 

Here are some highlights from our 15th Annual MLK Day of Service:

1. Photo booth! I thought I'd make the table where volunteers were writing letters to soldiers a little more interactive with the addition of a photo booth stocked with patriotic props. It wasn't quite as popular as I wanted it to be but it was still lots of fun.

2. At that same table, a former soldier sat down and said, "I always wondered who wrote these letters to me." (This gave us all the chills.)

3. Screenprinting! A very talented local friend (Thank you Nicole of Jersey Community Acupuncture!) offered to set up a screenprinting station at last year's event and came back with a new design this year. I really love the DIY art element this adds to our day. I can't wait to see someone out in public wearing one of their MLK Day tee shirts!

4. We usually have a free 5-minute massage offered for the adults. They couldn't make it this year and after a day of loading, setting up, running an event, reloading, etc . . . I was really feeling it. (#oldlady) But that peach of a husband of mine gave me a gift certificate for a much longer massage because he is the best.

5. On Monday morning, I was messaging with a friend and we were joking around about me being allowed to boss her around at the Day of Service. I very randomly joked, "If Congressman Lance shows up, do I get to boss him around too?" (He has never come before and I had no reason to expect he would.) When we were just starting to clean things up, that same friend called my name and said "Someone's here to see you!" IT WAS THE CONGRESSMAN. I am pretty sure I will laugh about this until next year.


(*Note: I was also thrilled to have so many activists present this year, including the social justice theatre group I belong to, members of the local Anti-Racism Coaltion and Democratic Clubs and Dr. Karen Gaffney, author of "Dismantling the Racism Machine: A Manual and Toolbox". Many people stopped by to discuss concrete ways of combating racism on the personal and institutionalized levels. When the Congressman showed up, I was shocked and busy so after our photo opp I led him to the activists so they could ask him some questions about what he's doing regarding DACA, the wall, etc. I am so thankful for their presence and hope they are always a part of my event and my life.)


Friday, January 12, 2018

Five on Friday: The Worst List Ever

Since starting the Five On Friday posts almost two years ago, I have only missed one Friday (that includes keeping up while sick, traveling, working, etc.)

I can't remember why I missed that one time because my memory is getting worse by the day. What I do know is that I have no excuse at all this week for not having a list ready. I thought I had an idea but when I started to try to write, I just wasn't inspired. I thought I had the solution--sometimes when I don't have any ideas I look through my recent photographs and just share a list of recent pictures. Aaaand . . . nah. Nothing good. Or at least not five good enough ones.

SO. Here's a list of ideas that are either not panning out, aren't long enough yet or I just haven't had time to write. Maybe they will be a future list or maybe I will forget about these, too . . .

1. Five things to always keep on hand when you have kids in grade school

2. Five thrift scores and misses

3. Five favorite traditions at my kids' schools

4. Five things I love about our upcoming Martin Luther King Day of Community Service

5. Five things TO say to teens you're making small talk with at a party

Stay tuned for a (hopefully) much better list next week!

This is a "Toad Hollow Rambo Frog" I saw at the thrift shop. Maybe he'll be on a future list.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Five On Friday: Teen Talk Back (Fun not Fresh)

Ah, the holidays, so many excuses to get together and overindulge with every faction of our lives: old friends, new friends, family friends, family, coworkers, neighbors . . . and we celebrated with them all (which is why no real pants fit me right now, if you're wondering why you see me at the supermarket in my pajamas).

Well, not all of us . . . for one particular party we went to at the home of some newer friends, I asked the teens if they'd prefer to stay home. They were tempted by the thought of party food but had to take into consideration the fact that they'd be the oldest kids there. They knew that sometimes a gaggle of little kids could be annoying and then, my daughter added, there are the adults! Ugh.

The adults? What do you mean, sweet child o' mine who actually is very pleasant and gets along well with adults? You know, Mom, all the dumb questions. Driving yet? How do ya like High School? Thinking about college? Have ya heard about this snapchat thing? Etc. Etc.

Ah. I do. I totally get it. So while they decided to skip that party and stay home for some sibling bonding, I told her that she should start coming up with her own dumb questions to ask adults. The results are a bit of collaboration between a few of us here and yet to be tested out in person. It almost makes me want to be invited to another party soon (hey, I could wear leggings), just so she can whip one of these out:

1. How's the prostate?  or  Have a mammogram yet?

2. So, thinking about retirement homes yet?

3. Have you gotten any good job reviews lately?

4. Thinking about having any more kids?

5. (my favorite) My Grandma gave me a cassette tape, can you show me how to use it?