Friday, December 2, 2016

Five On Friday: That's Not My Name

I didn’t take my husband’s last name.

I didn’t think it would annoy me to be called that name anyway.

And it doesn’t annoy me in a “my feminist sensibilities are being offended sort of way” but I have to admit, it just bothers me sometimes.

Maybe because I have a name. My own name. I don’t just have it on Facebook that way for fun, that’s actually my name. I know it’s all intimidating with those vowels, but I’ll gladly tell you how to pronounce it if you need help. (Sam-Pie-Oh*)
I never really make a fuss when I get called the wrong last name. Either I suck it up or correct them. One time I corrected my son’s kindergarten teacher and she then asked me, "But what should I tell the children?" about my last name not matching my kid’s.

 It was 2007. Not 1957.

I recently picked up the phone and got asked by the caller, "Is this Mrs. Your Husband and Kids' Last Name?

Sigh. Not really but yes. It was the school nurse and I just went with the flow that time but here are some responses that crossed my mind: 

1. Nope, sorry!

2. For all intents and purposes . . . sure.

3. No, would you like her (my mother-in-law's) number?

4. "That depends, who's asking?" and then launch into a song from Hamilton musical  (big surprise there, huh?)

5. Or the best, and maybe my favorite, is to start belting out the Ting Tings' song: That's Not My Name!!

*and, see, I already did change something about my last name once. I grew up using the Anglicized pronunciation of my last name and switched it to the Portuguese way when I went to school. And then I stuck with it.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Advent Calendar of Good Deeds v. 2016

By the beginning of November, I realized I needed to slow down a little. Volunteer less. Delegate more.

I was spread a little too thin. The five kids (first of all, five kids, okay?) are all starting to have their own clubs and activities which meant more staying on top of carpooling and schedules. The house, the yard. The three local part time jobs, the theatre troupe, the volunteering, the exciting and exhausting traveling and performing with the Moth two times in as many months. 

Juggling was exhausting. I needed to start saying "no." Things would still get done without me. "

And then . . . the election. The devastation, the sorrow, the disbelief with each new appointment and the utter despair at the rise in hate crimes and language, some of it happening entirely too close to home.

There is no way I can slow down now. Maybe I do take on too much, but eventually it all gets done, right? So I can obviously handle it. I have to keep on keeping on, fighting the good fight, being the change I wish to see in the world, speaking my mind even when my voice shakes.

I AM WOMAN, HERE ME ROAR: I CAN DO ALL OF THE THINGS FOR EVERYONE ALL OF THE TIME! I am going to continue saying yes, admittedly with more delegating and asking for help, but I am saying yes.

But oh shit. December starts this week and I’m going to be working (outside of the home) a lot this month, when am I going to get my holiday shopping done? When are we going to get a tree? OH SHIT. December starts this week and I haven’t even thought about our Advent Calendar of Good Deeds.

Maybe I’ll skip it this year.
But the election.
But I'm so tired.
But now more than ever doing good is so important to me, even when I'm tired.
But the lack of time. The upcoming work schedule.
The kids. The example being set. The tradition.
I can’t.
I must.

Maybe there’s another way . . . there has to be another way. Maybe we can do this with a slightly different focus this year. Maybe instead of a good deed every single day (which, while nice for my kids to do, in all honesty requires a good amount of work done by me) we can do a few good deeds. Other days can include lots of holiday-oriented activities to do as a family. We’re pulled in so many directions these days and when we’re all home aren’t necessarily doing things together. We could be making gifts. Baking. Reading. Visiting. Expanding our understanding and compassion by learning about other holidays and cultures.

No, I’m not giving up. I’m not giving in. I’m changing course. Putting on my own oxygen mask first. Speaking up even when my voice shakes--and doing good even when I'm tired. Prioritizing family time. Teaching my children well. This year more than ever.

I wrote the above on Sunday and then put "Advent Calendar!" on my to-do list for Monday. Then moved it to Tuesday's list. And then Wednesday's list. Last night after I got the little kids tucked in, even though I was exhausted, I started stitching the little pockets. I actually liked how they were turning out! But then after the sewing machine was put away realized a few weren't sewn properly. I taped them. After I got them hung up, I realized just how many loose threads there were, but the scissors were already put away. I ignored them. This is the Advent Calendar of Good Deeds version 2016.

They look like tiny shopping bags! I love them!

Sewing machine is away. Damn it. Tape to the rescue.

Not perfect. Still sweet.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Five On Friday: Faking It, Making It

I stopped watching the news the morning of Tuesday November 8th. Overnight I woke a few times and soothed myself back to sleep with the thought of flipping open my laptop the next morning to see "MADAME PRESIDENT" as the headline. Morning instead found me, of course, crying on the floor.

Every day it's getting worse--the rise in hate crimes, the swastikas, the White Supremacist appointees. Every day I said I'm going to fake it until I make it. Media remained on a brown-out. I cried every day. And every day got a little bit better (not in the news, that is apparently going to be on a four-year downward spiral) but in my handling it. Two weeks later I am not crying every single day and the faking it is slowly turning into making it.

1. Faking it: showing up for work, for my family, even for fun outings that I had previously planned but then had no spirit for. I made myself go. I still had a bad underlying feeling in the pit of my stomach but it was better than sitting around at home having that feeling.

2. Faking it: Continuing to be a part of communities that are important to me. The timing of my show with The Moth in Kansas City felt a little rough, but being a part of telling true stories, of sharing human emotions and commonality from diverse lives (other storytellers at the show included a young gay man who found himself while following the Spice Girls on tour, a local celeb-chef, a Sudanese refugee and a 95-year-old World War II veteran) was a good reminder in these polarized times of how much we have in common.

3. Faking it: Going to a lecture on the History of Underwear with a room full of much older ladies. Apparently sitting in a room of older women giggling about underpants serves as some sort of salve.

4. Making it: Planning, organizing, reaching out, delegating. The myriad projects I'm involved with in one shape or another: various donation drives, the Martin Luther King Day of Community Service, the Meta Theatre Company, the One Billion Rising flash mob event . . . being involved keeps me busy, my brain occupied and helps turn my feelings of helplessness around. I'm a warrior. I've got this.

5. Making it: Keeping a sharpie in my purse to deface hate graffiti. Wearing my safety pin when I remember (and I do know there is some backlash against that. But if there's a young person who needs to see a grown up and know that she's safe, I want to be there with one on) and always, always letting my actions speak louder than my safety pin anyhow and teaching my children to do the same.

6. Bonus! Another "making it" to keep things even: Talking to other parents, teachers, the counselor and even the Superintendent at my kids' schools to see what is happening in our community now and discussing action plans before we have any major incidents. Crying sometimes while having these discussions but having them anyway.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Five On Friday: Music for Hard Times

What a month it's been . . . it was the anniversary of my rapist's release from prison and I was remembering how much the song Under Pressure meant to me as I worked my way through so many feelings.

Then the Presidential Election hit and the aftermath with the spike in hate crimes and my complete and utter devastation about all of it. Again, I turned to music. This time Under Pressure helped a little, but it served a different purpose.

This time, here's what has helped. Not all of them lift me up and fill me with hope, no, most of them don't this time. But sometimes just certain lyrics trigger something or even just listening to someone else sing your pain, when you're still unable to sing yourself, speaks volumes on the shared human experience and reminds me that we're not alone.

1. Genesis' That's All. This one surprised me when it came on the radio and I found myself nodding along in sad agreement with these lyrics, feeling like I could very easily apply them to feelings I've been having post-election:

Just as I thought it was going all right
I find out I'm wrong, when I thought I was right
It's always the same, it's just a shame, that's all
I could say day, and you'd say night
Tell me it's black when I know that it's white
It's always the same, it's just a shame, that's all

I could leave but I won't go
Though my heart might tell me so
I can't feel a thing from my head down to my toes

2. The entire Rhythm of the Saints album. A friend told me that she has been feeling like she can't pray and can't sing and that devastates her, and me for her. When I was a teenager and listening obsessively to Paul Simon, these lines got me every time: 

"Hard times? I'm used to them. The speeding planet burns. I'm used to that. 
My life's so common it disappears . . . 
Sometimes even music cannot substitute for tears" 

I just consider that about one of the saddest things I'd ever heard. And as I listened to the album yesterday trying to figure out which song it was (It was The Cool, Cool River) I found a bunch of other lyrics that were soothing or relatable. Particularly these:

                                         "There may come a time when you'll be tired, 
                                             as tired as a dream that wants to die. 
                                      Further to fly. Further to fly. Further to fly. Further to fly."

3. When I perform with The Meta Theatre Company in our original Cabaret, I had to choose a song to play between my piece on rape survival/racism/white privilege. Suggestions were made, real girl-power sort of numbers, but they never felt right. I want my response to be love, even in times of hate and especially in times of healing. So for that I chose and still turn to Tears for Fears' Sowing the Seeds of Love. Also there is a free bonus meme that goes along with this one:
 4.  I read an interview with Lin-Manuel Miranda in my in-flight magazine yesterday in which he said, "(Alexander) Hamilton really made the most of his very short time on Earth . . . if I were gone tomorrow, what would the people I love say about me? What would the people who never met me say about me? Living your life based on the truth that you can't control what happens, that's very powerful. One day we'll all be gone. So what are you going to do in your life that affects that?" Honestly, did you think there wasn't going to be a Hamilton reference on this list? You just had to Wait for It
"Love doesn't discriminate
between the sinners
and the saints,
it takes and it takes and it takes
and we keep loving anyway.

We laugh and we cry
and we break
and we make our mistakes . . . 

Wait for it . . .
I am the one thing in life I can control"
5. One more from Mr. Bowie. Most of the lyrics don't really apply but the title is inspirational enough. We could be bad guys or bystanders or We Could Be Heroes

(And, hey! Another free bonus meme!)

(PS I thought Sting's History Will Teach Us Nothing, although it hasn't provided any solace for me this week, deserves a nod for its title and our current state of affairs.)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Five on Friday: Five Steps of Dealing with the Presidential Election Results

1.  Sobbing and heaving
2.  Numbness and the overwhelming feeling there won't be tingling for a long time
3.  Loss of appetite and humor
4.  Depression, exhaustion
5.  Renewed dedication and determination . . . but with first four symptoms lingering, I recommend adding a daily dose of "fake it 'til you make it" while lacing up.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Five On Friday: Our First Time Hosting Exchange Students

I love cultural exchange. I love learning other languages, I'm fascinated by foreign cultures, I'm crazy about trying new cuisines. 

I always believed we'd someday host exchange students and when the High School had an opportunity to host British students for just ten days, I knew this would be a great way for our family to try it out.

So I said I'd take two!

We were all excited. Our youngest child gladly gave up her room (really, she adores sleeping in other people's rooms) for the boys, whom I began referring to as The Brits. I changed sheets and set out clean towels and wondered what else they might need. And then . . . I got nervous. Oh god, what if they don't have a good sense of humor? That was the most important one to me, living in this house of five children and lots of shenanigans, the thought of a humorless duo struck fear in my heart.

I had no reason to fear.

Our Brits fit right in and before the end of the week were calling, "SHOTGUN!" in an attempt to call dibs on sitting in the front of the car before an excursion.

This week's list is the top five observations made by us and them:

1. American Skittles are much sweeter than British Skittles. So much so that one junk food loving 17-year-old British boy almost couldn't stomach them. (He managed to choke them all down. We bought them both some to take home and horrify their friends and family.)

2. In Great Britain they don't eat ice cream on pie. At least that's what one of our boys was trying to tell us when he was slightly disgusted by the sight of that combination. We were surprised but then the other boy piped up, "We do have that in the UK!!"

2b. That first one didn't really count, did it? How about this: a "plonker" is a moron. Who knew? (Other Brits, I imagine.)

3. In Great Britain, sales tax is added on to the item's price. Our Brits found the added tax that mysteriously appeared at the register to be "rather cheeky." I found the idea of taxes being cheeky to be rather adorable.

4. The "corridors" at the High School are "spacious." Funny how we understand the words just fine but we'd probably just say "the hallways are big."

5. Americans are ostentatious. Well, obviously, but even us? One of our boys was skyping with his sister in our Family Room. She asked where he was sitting. He paused and then answered, " . . . a second living room." Hm. Guess so.

A rousing game of American Football in the yard with two more players than usual.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Five On Friday: Reasons I Still Pack My Teens' Lunches

 Remember three weeks ago when I told you I could totally justify why I pack my teens' lunches? (It's here if you missed it) I didn't forget! And when one of our exchange students said something about it the other day, I thought this must be the week to share this list.

Now I'd never say that packing your teens' lunches is advice for anyone else to follow. I actually usually feel like I shouldn't be doing it, but I still do. Nearly every day. And this is why:

1. I've always been the "mom" in my groups of friends, even long before I had kids. It's just what I do.

2. I thoroughly enjoy preparing food and feeding people.

3. I like to make sure they are eating a good variety of food and when I pack it, I know for sure what they're getting.

4. Packing their lunches is a great way to use up leftovers--when they pack, they never think of packing leftovers. When I pack, I frequently do.

5. Really? Am I going to really make myself feel guilty for having time and energy to pack my kids' lunches? I'm sure there are so many others out there that feel guilty for NOT packing their kids' lunches. I'll take this one for the team. They can still do their own laundry.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Five On Friday: The Redcoats Are Coming

Around 5:00 tonight. 

To be fair, there is no reason to believe their coats, if they are even wearing them, will be red.
It's just . . .  you know. I was in Boston last week soaking up all the Revolutionary War history and now I have two British exchange students coming for ten days.

You may be asking yourself why on Earth a person with five children is willingly taking two more temporarily. My husband may be asking that same question. This week's list will explain that and more!

1. I love cultural exchange. I have had jobs with exchange students and au pairs. I have been an exchange student myself. This program is only ten days and seemed like an easy way for us to start. I thought we'd be getting one girl. We are getting two boys. (I wanted a girl as it was my High School daughter, not son, that was interested, so I thought they could share a room. However, by the time she handed the paperwork in there were only boys left. Son was still not interested and not into sharing his room. Okay, I'd figure something out. Then I looked on our student's information sheet where he wrote the names of his friends that will also be on the trip. I noticed that one of them did not have a host family yet. I emailed the coordinator and told her we didn't technically have any more space, but might be able to get a cot if that would be acceptable? She replied that he would love to stay with us. So we're getting two boys.)

2. One of the boys is an only child. Ha ha ha ha ha. Poor guy. He has no idea what he's in for. (To be fair, the other one that has two sisters also probably has no idea what he's in for with this crew . . . )

3. They will be sharing the bedroom of our youngest daughter. I mean, with each other. She's outta there. I figured since every night she is begging me to sleep "someplace special" and still frequently wakes me in the middle of the night to tell me she wants "someone to sleep with" she'd be fine with rotating bedrooms for ten days. I was right, she's thrilled with this plan.

4. I hope they have great senses of humor. It helps here, in general, to have one and will probably come in handy when the little kids start trying to speak "in accent' like they do. I solemnly swear to keep my fake British to myself until they're asleep or back home. Or at least try my very, very hardest.

5. Overkill Jones (the 15-passenger van we purchased over the summer) sure is going to come in handy.

I haven't been this excited about a vehicle since I had that '63 Dart