17 October 2017

A Quarter Year

I haven't published here in three months. I haven't been writing in a journal or otherwise. I still write my weekly emails about the girls, so I have a record of our life somewhere. I tweet and occasionally post on Facebook. But as for long-form writing, I've basically stopped.

But November is coming. And November means NaBloPoMo. Although it doesn't look like BlogHer is doing anything official.

I'm still beyond disgusted with the state of American democracy. Every time I think OK this is the worst it can get the next day it gets a little worse. So that may have something to do with my lack of writing.

I also haven't had as much to do for work, and when I'm less busy I am less productive in other aspects of my life.

I guess I don't have to know why. Just popping in to say that's what it is and that I plan to write every day in November, even if there isn't an official NaBloPoMo group to join.

17 July 2017

On Saying Goodbye

I'm a member of the United Methodist Church, which is a connectional church and has an itinerant ministry model. Our pastors are moved every so often. Except, of course, in the cases of big churches with big budgets, which get to decide how long they keep their pastors without interference from the regional bishop.

Our church is in the middle of such a transition. Our senior pastor left at the end of June -- moving onto a bigger, better church in New Orleans. Not by his choice, but gone nonetheless. We have a new lead pastor, a woman, which is incredible. But transitions are hard. I like her very much and think it will be for the best somehow -- she's here for this time and this place. But I hate change.

I hadn't been close to a pastor in many years. The last time I remember feeling this bad when a pastor moved on was as a kid when the pastor who baptized me (also a woman!) was moved. I got to see her a few more times during college because she was at a church close to there and I was able to visit her, and I'm sure eventually it wasn't a big deal to go to church without her being there.

But I hadn't opened my heart up like that since, in part due to self-preservation and also because I was the one who kept moving -- college, then grad school, then here for work and there for marriage. Finally here, to Baton Rouge, for my husband's job. I always attended churches -- United Methodist Churches in fact -- but I stayed away from the deep, personal relationships.

So I became more a part of this church, my current church, and work hard alongside the people and the pastor. I counted him as a friend in addition to mentor and guide of sorts. I also just really liked him, enjoyed seeing him at least once a week and hearing his sermons. And he LOVES my kids, which is probably the #1 way to my heart.

So I'm still processing the goodbye. And wondering if it's worth it to make myself open to that kind of pain again. It's one thing when I'm the one moving on and something else completely when I'm the one being left.

I don't know -- these thoughts are certainly diluted by the three weeks of time away from the old pastor and three weeks with the new pastor. And I know things are fine, or they will be soon. This isn't a crisis in the big picture. This just is the way things are...

05 July 2017

What to Expect: Downtown Baton Rouge Fourth of July Fireworks

I am of the Swistle camp, wherein new experiences make me anxious and I like to know exactly what to expect, or at least as exactly as is possible. First-person descriptions of experiences are invaluable to that. And I could find NONE online for the downtown Baton Rouge Fourth of July fireworks display.  I even asked a few people I know who have lived in Baton Rouge for a while, and no one had actually been to this.

Online there were a few vague ads for the event, which was sponsored by the USS Kidd, a museum/monument on the Mississippi River. But they mostly focused on the daytime Independence Day activities, and I'm not interested in hauling kids to a full day of things AND staying up late for fireworks (plus the heat, my God, the heat). No information about parking and its cost, traffic plans, bathrooms.

But last night we went anyway.

We left our house just before 7 p.m. -- two hours before the fireworks began. The drive downtown takes about 15 minutes, and we were parked by 7:30 I think. We didn't run into traffic but we did take a couple loops trying to decide on parking. There's a choice -- park far away, maybe pay a little less or park closer and pay $10. We picked the "throw money at it" route and forked over the tenner. No problem. We were a block and a half away from the riverfront, making for an easy walk. There were still plenty of spots, although as we got closer to 9 the lots did fill up. (Jane said "That guy's getting rich!" about the parking lot attendant with his fat roll of cash for making change.)

Some people had parked tail-gate style, with their truck beds facing the river, in a lot just across River Road, the street that runs alongside the river. They could see the fireworks from their trucks and then more quickly get going to beat the crush of traffic after the show ... in theory at least.

When we got downtown in advance of the fireworks display, plenty of people were on the levee, and some had definitely been there for a while. But it wasn't crowded really yet. We were able to get a spot on some grass on the non-river side of the levee's sidewalk, and we were a few blocks north of the USS Kidd where all the days' activities had been.

Jane passed some time climbing down the sloped side of the levee toward the river -- it has big metal letters spelling out Baton Rouge. She did get her shoes completely muddy and gross, even though Shawn told her to stay away from the edge of the river, but that and some ant bites she got were the worst things, and neither was so bad. Livia was a little harder to control, since it was past bedtime and she likes to walk around but it wasn't really safe to let her do so, since the ground slopes on both sides of the sidewalk. It's a more gentle slope on the grassy side toward the road, but it's still a slope.

The weather was pretty much perfect. It was hot, sure, but low 80s probably. There is humidity, yes, but it wasn't super oppressive. There was wind that kept things comfortable. I was expecting to be super hot, but I was much more comfortable than I was the night before at the Kenilworth Independence Day parade. So we were lucky in that aspect.

The crowd thickened after sunset, and there were people constantly strolling along the sidewalk -- even during the show, which began just before 9 p.m. and was about 20 minutes long. We stayed on the grassy side of the sidewalk, since people filled in front of us, but we were all able to see because the fireworks go up so high. We maybe missed seeing some of the water reflections because of the people in front of us, but we still enjoyed the show. (It was the first fireworks for Jane and Livia both!)

Because we timed our coming and going (and because we were lucky I guess) we didn't need a bathroom, and that's a good thing. At the downtown Baton Rouge fireworks display THERE ARE NO BATHROOMS. According to the ads, you could pay $5 for a bathroom pass to the USS Kidd, which seems insane. There are a few restaurants and hotels that were open, and that's where police directed a woman who asked for a bathroom. (Their exact words were first "Good luck" while shrugging their shoulders.) It doesn't seem safe/right/legal to have a huge crowd without some sort of public bathroom facilities. But welcome to Louisiana I suppose.

We took glow bracelets I had left over from Halloween and a light-up toy she got at Mardi Gras. I had bubbles in my pocket but forgot about them. There were people selling waters, and probably closer to the USS Kidd there were more food options. We ate supper at home and brought waters for the girls. There were no bag checks or food police, so having a picnic or snacks would have been fine I'm sure, although a little awkward in the proximity of the sidewalk.

The show was good -- not as good as the DC or NYC shows we've seen in the past -- but still worth the trip. The girls liked it, although the booms scared Jane a little. We'd brought noise dampening headphones for both of them, but only Jane wore hers.

Getting back to the car was fine -- I wore Livia and pushed Jane in the stroller while Shawn carried our blanket and stadium seats. (In retrospect, because we parked so close I would have brought the lawn chairs just for the wait -- standing during the show was fine.) We had to maneuver a bit through the crowd, but it was doable.

Once in the car it took a while to exit our spot and then the parking lot. We went one way hoping to exit toward our house and avoid the interstate. We tried three different times and kept hitting road blocks with police funneling people toward the interstate. I get keeping people from coming into the congested area with contraflow, but why would you not let them out in every possible way?!?! Finally we got to Government Street and took that to Park to Perkins and home. It was about 10:20 when we got home, so about 40 minute travel home I think. Livia cried the second half of it, so that wasn't fun.

We got the girls in bed. Jane slept late, but Liv was up at her usual time. She just had a good long nap though, so hopefully we can get back into a regular sleep pattern. I'd advise people without kids, or with kids who can stay up later, to just hang out downtown a little bit to let the traffic thin before heading out.

TLDR; The downtown Baton Rouge fireworks display is worth the hassle. Parking is available -- for a cost. No bathrooms. Some food for purchase, but it seems fine to bring your own. Traffic is congested as expected after the show.

13 June 2017

Maternal Separation Anxiety

I'm volunteering for my church's VBS. Jane is in the "levelers" crew for The Maker Fun Factory. It's a pretty cute curriculum, and Jane is very happy and loves being so busy. Livia stays in the nursery, and yesterday, day one, was pretty hard. But only for me!

Livia loves all the toys and probably the attention from the workers. There are only 3-4 kids at any given time and plenty of things to check out and do.

Yesterday I was kind of a wreck, and I hated being away from her. I couldn't just go check on her/get a quick hug because I knew that would mess her up. As soon as I went into the nursery she started saying "BYE! BYE!" to everyone, ready to go. And today she cried a little and handed me her water bottle ready to go. Both days I sat and hung out for a bit before we left for the closing VBS songs.

I know it's normal, and she's exhibiting age appropriate attachment. I am sure I felt this way when I was leaving Jane for the first times. So I'm probably normal too. Today was actually much better, and I didn't feel quite as anxious. Maybe it will get progressively better as the week goes on.

As an aside, I'm the photographer for this event. So I'm just floating around the VBS and taking pictures of kids doing this and that. Both days I've taken nearly 300 photos (yikes!), with about 70-80 being usable. But I feel like it's not a very good contribution. Everyone there has cell phones and could easily take (and are taking) plenty of photos. (Who really needs 70+ photos each day?!)

So that adds to the "why am I even here if I'm not needed?" aspect of things and I could be looking after my own baby. BUT she needs the practice so I can get in a better gym rhythm, although the YMCA child care is a different story and Livia cries when I drop her off, even when Jane is there with her. There are more kids, more stuff and I guess it's just less familiar or something.

Still finding our way... And I guess I'll keep shooting the VBS event. It beats cleaning toilets (which another volunteer did because we have a surplus of volunteers and our custodian is out with lung issues)...

08 June 2017

Book Notes: Selfish, Shallow, And Self-Absorbed

I read a book of sixteen essays on the choice to not have children. It was pretty interesting, although some of the voices kind of blended together. I obviously made the opposite choice, and I'd bristle at the identity of "breeder" or that having a family is my way of perpetuating the white race (!!). It's a biological imprint and a social construct that really works for me. But man, I'm so tired and some of the arguments laid out for why these writers chose to remain child-free had me nodding my head. (But never doubting my decision for a second of course!)

Anyway, here are few things I highlighted in the Kindle book -- getting them out before I return the e-book to the library.

Perhaps I was kind of a human geode: sparkly and hollow. - Courtney Hodell, "Babes in the Woods" (I just liked this.)

There is nothing more boring for an intelligent woman than to spend endless amounts of time with small children. -Sigrid Nunez, "The Most Important Thing" (I think it might be more boring to spend endless amounts of time with mansplainers, but I certainly get the point!)

I suspect that my commitment to and delight in parenting would be so formidable that it would take precedence over anything and everything else in my life; that my mastery of motherhood would eclipse my need for -- or ability to achieve -- success in any other arena. Basically, I'm afraid of my own competence. -Anna Holmes, "Mommy Fearest" (I've copied down previous Anna Holmes quotes -- she founded Jezebel -- and I think this is true for my approach to motherhood. It's all consuming, and I'm not ALWAYS sure that's a good thing.)

...while life may not have a purpose, it certainly has consequences, one of which is the accumulation of a vast, coastal shelf of uncut, 100-percent-pure regret. -Geoff Dyer, "Over and Out" (a super valid response to the idea that "you'll regret it later" if you don't have kids now/when you're young/whatever)

26 May 2017

Birkenstock Repairs

Well-loved, ~5-year-old Birkenstock sandals in need of repair

I bought my Gizeh-style Birkenstock sandals almost five years ago in Berlin, when Jane was just 9-months-old. What an adventure. These were my main souvenir (in addition to some wooden toys and Christmas decorations). They'd started to hurt my feet, with the cork cracked and parts of the soles rubbed flat. The part that touched my feet was disintegrating, or at least it felt that way.

I was torn between buying a replacement pair (the sparkly, blue-looking "snakeskin" style continues to haunt me across the Internet ... thanks, cookies) and paying for them to be re-soled. The cost was essentially the same. But if I didn't get them repaired what would I do -- throw them out? I've worn them so often and for so long. And the tops are still fine -- nice purple leather that just needs a little cleaning. And shiny, purple leather doesn't seem to be an option anymore, not even in purple-crazy LSU country!

I looked around online and found iBirks.com, which had been written about in the New York Times a couple years ago. There were good reviews, and I decided to take a chance. I sent my shoes off on a Tuesday. They arrived at iBirks (in Cincinnati) on Thursday and were back to me on Monday! So the whole thing, including shipping, took less than a week!

Birkenstock sandals repaired

I had ordered "The Package," which included an upgraded/longer lasting heel, leather conditioner and cork sealer. They didn't arrive with my shoes, so I wrote to ask about them. I don't think the heel can be added now (and I'm not sure if it actually is on or not, since I didn't fully understand that). The iBirks.com guy said he'd ship me the missing conditioner and sealer, so they should be here soon.

I can certainly tell a difference in the shoes, and it's taking a while for me to break them in. I'm wearing them as much as I dare. I think I read just 2 hours a day until you've worn them a few hours. At first they felt so tight because my feet were back up so close to the straps and I was used to them being very loose and floppy (realizing now I can adjust the buckles to keep them tight as the soles wear down). The new soles look great -- the cork and the nonslip base part. The leather uppers weren't actually cleaned (another thing listed in the package), but I have wiped them down and they feel like mine anyway.

Soon enough these will be my most comfortable shoes again!

23 May 2017

Tales of a Preschool Room Mom

When Jane started preschool three years ago I signed up to be one of her class room moms because the teacher said something like "it's really easy to do it now when they're small" ... and that was true. The time/energy input was very minimal. I can't remember anything I did except the teacher gave me an orchid plant at the end as a thank you (which promptly died because I have black thumbs).

We switched schools after that year, just because Jane became old enough and got accepted into the university's preschool program. I was pregnant so didn't act as room mom last year, but this year, her second in the program I did volunteer.

There was not a whole lot to do, because the teachers manage most everything. But the teacher appreciation stuff led to some work, not so much in time investment but stress and annoyance (and money). The school's parent committee did a center-wide effort to give the teachers' lunches during the week, but they needed money for that. I also needed to ask for money for our class teacher gifts (the whole school decided to just do the same thing -- Visa gift cards -- which is smart and surely more appreciated than tchotckes). The mom in charge of that center-wide effort certainly had more work to do than me, but my part with our class was certainly enough for me.

In reality it was just a few emails, accepting the money from people and then buying the cards and gift cards. I also took a class picture because the center didn't do photo day this year. A couple things I learned that could be helpful for other room parents:
  • PayPal does not take a percentage of money when it's marked as a gift. This was a gift for our teachers, so no ethical concerns either. I had assumed PayPal would reduce the money for the teachers and discouraged people from using that (just give me cash or check directly). But some did anyway and there was no problem. It was much easier for all involved, since I could just transfer it into my bank account. If I ever do that again I will definitely ask people to just do PayPal!
  • The bank sells Visa gift cards, at least our credit union does. And they only cost $2.50 each. At a store, where I intended to buy them, they'd be at least $6 each! That was a good tip from another mom who had been room mom before, and I'm glad she told me that!
I definitely had to pitch in more money than I probably would have had I just been donating to the effort. I wanted to get it to a round number, and I had to contribute more than our share for the center effort of lunches because the ask for that came late and most parents didn't even respond to that request.

We had almost 100% participation in the teacher gift. I put all the kids' names on the card of course though! The amount of money varied from $10 up to $65! The one family that didn't give was surprising to me, and it was hard to restrain myself from directly asking that mom to be sure she'd received my emails asking for the donations! In the end we collected $400, to be split between our two teachers. Not a bad thank you gift!