Monday, November 2, 2009

Presidential visit!

Obama is coming to Madison! As much as I wanted him to visit our school, I couldn't be happier with his choice of schools at which to speak. My previous "little sister" went to Wright, and I'm so glad he chose to go there.

I'm interested in what he has to say. I haven't decided yet what I think of Arne Duncan and the Obama approach to education. My first impression is that their policies will work great in a vacuum (charter schools, "race to the top" funding criteria, national standards etc.) but I'd like to hear how such things will work in a school like Wright, with its 86% poverty level. (or my school, with its 66% level.)

Mostly, I want to hear the President not only *say* that education is important, but put some federal dollars behind his words. States and counties are struggling to get tax dollars to support education. There has got to be a better way.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Books and more books

I made it out to the Wisconsin Book Festival last night.

I went to hear Lorrie Moore speak. I just finished "Gate at the Stairs" and really liked it. We timed it so that we would arrive just as she came on stage, and not have to listen to some guy I'd never heard of before who was speaking before her on some strange book that he'd written about chickens.

I was underwhelmed by Ms. Moore. She wasn't feeling well, and she spent most of her time making sure that we understood that she wrote FICTION, dammit. If we were not sophisticated enough to realize that a novel was an art and it WASN'T TRUE than we just didn't deserve to read her books.

She is adored by the NYTimes. They gush:

She is not so much adored in Madison. Not much gushing:

Perhaps it is because despite all of her protests otherwise, people think she writes about Madison. (And really, anyone who has lived here for even a month knows that 'Troy' is no fictional city. It's Madison!) And she writes with a bit of disdain. Or truth. Depending on how you see it.

I think she is a brilliant writer and I don't care what she writes about - I'll read it.

But of course, the highlight of the evening turned out to be Michael Perry - the guy I'd never heard of before who wrote a book about chickens. The one I was trying to avoid. He was an amazing speaker. I laughed. I cried. And I can't wait to read his book, Coop, which I now know is about way more than chickens.

Any other book recommendations out there?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I write a lot about how my kids go to a low-income, diverse school. And I'd be lying if I didn't admit that once in a while, a scary thought sneaks into my head, a "Could they be getting a better education at (insert private school here) or (insert white suburban school here)?" thought.

This year, I am no longer PTA President, which is a very good thing. I love, love, love the school, but one can only run things for so long. And the two men (yes, men) who have replaced me are a thousand times more qualified and competent than I ever was.

They are brilliant and caring and have started doing "listening sessions" in the different neighborhoods of our school. Last night was the one for Spanish-speakers. Tomorrow night is the one for Hmong speakers. Those of us who sadly only speak English, can listen through the translators.

I was holding back tears last night when I heard, for the first time, the thoughts and dreams of our Spanish-speaking parent population. Guess what? Same as mine. We all want to have kids who enjoy school, behave for their teachers and learn to love learning.

The tears almost came when one of the fathers apologized to us through the translator. He wanted to make sure that we understood that if he didn't engage us (the native English speakers) in conversation at school, that it was only because English wasn't his first language and he wasn't always comfortable initiating conversations. He said this after delivering one of the most moving monologues about our school (again, through the translator) that I have ever heard. I really wish I could speak Spanish, because I'm sure something was probably lost in translation.

I was struck with an overwhelming feeling of how absolutely lucky my kids are - and how lucky I am - to be able to interact with families like his. And to go to a school like ours, that has this amazing community of committed teachers and families.

We lost 3-4 more families this year, they all transferred to the higher-income, whiter schools, so I've been feeling a bit blue. It's hard not to take it personally when we lose families. The schools we lose families to don't have any non-English speakers. (Hence, the test scores are higher.)

But I realized last night that wisdom can be found in unexpected places. And I think my kids are the luckiest kids in the world to go to a school with classmates who have origins from all over the world.

And I also realized that I really want to learn Spanish again. I want to be able to speak to the parents without a translator. My four years of high school Spanish aren't cutting it.

I've spent most of the the last few months feeling stressed about losing the families we have lost. But tonight, for one brief moment, I'm feeling sorry for them. They may be surrounded with higher test scores, but I suspect we might have something that matters more than test scores: community. Granted, we are a community of various skin colors, income levels, and languages...but I suspect that people aren't holding back tears at the private school PTA meeting.

Friday, August 14, 2009


OK, now I get it: The incredulous looks on knowledgeable faces when I admitted I had never been to Alaska, despite the fact my sister had lived there for over a decade. I get it now. All of you - you were right, I was missing out.

It is perhaps the most beautiful place I've ever been.

The kids were in heaven. It is perhaps a kid-vacation paradise. Tide pools, hiking, fishing, kayaking, mud, mud and more mud.

It made me realize just how sterilized our Lower-48 outdoor play space has become. We are a family who spends a lot of time outdoors - we bike, walk, run, swim, you name it. But much of our outdoor time is spent in a yard or at a park or a beach or on a well-traveled trail. Even canoeing on the lake involves maneuvering around motorboats.

In Alaska, there are vast expanses of wilderness. Here in Wisconsin, I've noticed that kids create their own wild spaces. They all congregate around the largest, farthest, most hidden tree at the park, and build forts and find sticks and rocks and cool leaves. Kids need wilderness. (exhibit A: Michael Chabon's article)

How does one bring more wilderness into an urban/suburban life?

As for us, we are already planning our next trip to Alaska.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Headed to Alaska

On Monday, we head out to Homer, Alaska to visit my favorite sister. She's been out there for over 10 years, but we have never visited. ( I know, I know, I'm the worst sister in the universe.)

In my defense, I've been busy popping out (and raising) these:

Two of them in fact - one XX and one XY.

Taking babies/toddlers/preschoolers to Alaska was just not my idea of fun. Frankly, getting to the grocery store in one piece during the baby/toddler stage was some days more than I could handle.

But now, they look like this:

And we've decided they can probably handle the 12+ hours of travel without kicking the seat in front of them or spitting up all over the person next to them. And so we are off for a big family adventure to lands far away.

Now if I could get the boy to stop repeating "I can see Russia from my house," we should be all set.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

If I were in charge of Education

Lots of commentary in the last weeks about how to improve education for poor kids.  See: 11D, and David Brooks, and Half Changed World

I've got a simple, sure-fire solution to raising the test scores of poor children.

Here's my plan:
Everyone who has more than they need can join a mentoring program, get matched to a child who doesn't have enough.  You simply promise that child that you will do everything in your power to make sure he or she has clothing and food.

That's it, really.  clothing and food.

You see, once the shelter, clothing and food needs are met - amazing things can happen. (Ideally, you'd be able to promise the shelter too, but let's not bite off more than we can chew right away. clothing and food, and books, maybe.  I should add books.)

OK, so maybe it is more than that.  You see, once you experience the sheer magic of helping a child succeed when they face every single conceivable obstacle in life....something happens to you.  You start to care. 

So, now a child has food, clothing, books (possibly shelter) AND an adult who cares.  Voila - higher test scores.

I've had a rough couple of weeks with my current match situation. Unbloggable stuff. Stuff that has me reaching out to social workers and other professionals.  Stuff that has me curl up in the fetal position on my living room rug when I'm all alone and no one can see me crying.

One possible solution for the current "stuff" is to find other matches for some of the other younger kids in the family.  Right now, I'm the only match and there are 5 kids. The 8-year-old boy has been on the waiting list for two years.  TWO YEARS. TWO YEARS.  

It kinda breaks my heart. Turns out there are almost 300 kids on that waiting list.  Mostly boys.  Most have been on for years. This mentoring stuff works, (really, it works.) 

But no one wants to do it. 

The one silver lining:  I was on the phone with a local respite center talking about (unbloggable stuff) and reading about all the things they need on their website. My daughter, who absorbs way more than I think she does, gathered up every penny she has ever saved, and carried it out to me. She wanted me to give it to the respite center.  We are headed over there this week.  Just when I think I am doing just about everything possibly wrong that I can as a mother, she goes and does something like that to prove me wrong. 

I guess.  

Part of me wants to shield my own 9 year old from the ugly parts of  the life of my 10 year old match. I try the best I can. But let's be honest: I can't. We've opened our home and our life to this other child and I can't pretend that her life is just like ours. It isn't.

But her test scores?  Up.  Way up.  So we plug on...two steps forward, one step back.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

No longer the target demographic

There is a super cool start-up company,, that is in my building, on my floor even. They are selling household products over the internet, with a social media twist. They have an extremely well written blog with gorgeous photos and a lovely design. I wish them great success. You should go there now, and subscribe to the blog. You won't regret it.

I was so excited when I learned they were moving into our building. I figured I'd be their perfect target demographic. After all, I have a blog. I'm on Facebook. I'm on Twitter. And I already buy almost everything over the internet. I have an Amazon Prime account. I order my milk/dairy products directly from the local farm over the internet. I often get my groceries delivered through the local coop over the internet. Prescriptions too, over the internet.

I'm one of the few people in my neighborhood who clean my own house, and given enough time and energy - I actually enjoy cleaning. So a new site with household and cleaning products over the internet - how perfect is that? (you know, now that I think about it, I might be the only person in my neighborhood who cleans her own house...sigh.)

But I have been dismayed to realize that I am so obviously not their target demographic.

Their message is not in any way directed at an over-committed busy 40-year-old working, PTA President, mother-of-two. They offer advice like "don't hit your snooze button" in the morning. Snooze Button? What is that? I haven't had to set an alarm for 10 years! Those children....they wake me up every single morning and last time I checked, they don't have a snooze button.

And we've been working very hard to get son D to stop saying "Yo!" Evidently, 6 year old boys enjoy preceding every sentence with the word "Yo." (So far, I haven't had to answer to "Yo Mama" but I tell you, it is coming any day now.) So, I'll have a hard time dialing a phone number that begins with "Yo" as theirs does.

I could go on and on. It turns out that I am no longer in the coveted "18-35" demographic and it's a weird, weird feeling. When did that happen? What's next? Will I start sitting on my front porch yelling "Kids! Get off the lawn!"

Thank God for Mir over at Want Not. She may not have a cool internet start-up. But she gets what it is like to be a crazy-busy mother with a crazy-busy life and still have to get the damn shopping done.

(And she has great coupons....)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Kids just want to have fun.

So far, we have limited our kids to 1 -2 extra-curricular activities at a time during the school year. For the girl, this means piano lessons and soccer. The boy has chosen baseball and soccer. (And they can walk to almost all of them - very little car transport necessary)

When they only have 1 -2 activities, we can still manage to eat dinner as a family 5 nights/week. I don't go too crazy from carting kids from activity to activity. They look forward to their activities and don't get too overtired or over scheduled. It works for us.


But...we are seemingly alone in this philosophy. All their friends are in 3, 4, or even 5 different activities. Daughter D. didn't do Girl Scouts, because of the 2-activity limit. Son D didn't play on a basketball team. And so name it, they didn't get to do it.

It's uncomfortable to be the only family with a certain rule. And as the kids get older, we are finding ourselves in that position more and more. We have stricter rules about a lot of things (video games, bedtimes, etc.) and the kids are starting to notice that. (Did you know that my son is the ONLY six year old in the ENTIRE UNIVERSE who has to go to bed at 8 pm and is not allowed to get a Nintendo DS? Really, he is.)

I can totally see them adding activities as they get older. But now - they are 9 and 6. They still like to run over to the park and play a pick-up game of some made-up sport with whichever kids they can collect along the way. I don't want to fill up every afternoon with some scheduled activity. When will they have time for unbridled fun?

For now, I'll take the unstructured play over another activity. Husband D and I are both coaching soccer teams this spring and I can tell you - some of these kids are burned out. They don't want to go to a practice and play an organized game. They want to run around and be silly and have fun with their friends. This makes coaching a tad more challenging!

Of course, in 10 years, when my kids get rejected from their top college because of a lack of extra-curriculars....well, then they can prove me wrong.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Another thing I don't understand

At least I'm not alone.

Deke and Laura don't get it either.

I watched the Susan Boyle video. I was touched. She has a beautiful voice and it is always heartwarming to see someone achieve one of their personal dreams. news? Really?

Her voice is lovely.

But every church choir in the country has someone with a voice like that. Every Madrigal group in any high school has someone with a voice like that. (And no, they aren't all beautiful.)

I just can't get over my feeling that Simon Cowell set us up. That he has some secret Facebook-savvy publicist behind the whole thing.

Hmm....maybe that's why the white house hired Kal Penn (actor from House and and Harold/Kumar fame) to help with communications. Perhaps he is working, at this very moment, on a Tweet to get us all sending Facebook gifts to each other shaped like the Bybee Torture Memo.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Skip, skip, skip to my Lou

I feel that I am very much on top of the education of our eldest child. She's been tested, prodded, and poked and put in every possible applicable enrichment group that exists. 

We have clear lines of communication with the teachers and have gotten involved wherever necessary to further her educational experience: 
Extra Parent-Teacher conferences.  Check.  
Meetings with the Principal. Check.  
Gift and Talented Coordinator meeting in our home. Check.

But the second kid? Ha. Pretty much dropped him off the first day of school in the hands of his incredibly wonderful and capable Kindergarten teacher and said, "Here he is.  Do whatever you think will work with him." 

So, it was a bit of a surprise yesterday, when I was having a casual conversation with his teacher and she mentioned, "They asked if you were willing to have him skip a grade next year."


We are still working out the details on who exactly "they" are and I had to sign some paperwork to allow all the necessary prodding, poking, and evaluating of him that go into such a decision.

Our first reaction is to only do grade skipping as a last resort. He's the happiest and most easy-going kid in the universe - he loves school, loves his teacher, loves his classmates.  Why mess with that?

Anyone else out there skipped a grade?  Was it good? bad?  I guess if we are going to do it, this is the year to do it (Kindergarten into 2nd grade)  But still.  It seems a bit extreme.

Besides, won't that make him smaller for football?

(that's a joke - I haven't even watched a complete football game in over 20 years!)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

So here's my idea

What if all the people who received those awful bonuses at AIG meet tomorrow morning and decide to give up most of their bonuses to a single charity.

What if tomorrow, $100 million was donated to a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter or a school....voluntarily by the employees of AIG?

What if Congress didn't have to spend 4 straight days getting all long-winded and pompous about this?

What if the media didn't have to focus on this little bonus thing, because they don't really understand the intricacies of the entire banking system or the real economic problem we are all facing?

What if the employees of AIG, on their own, decide to take this horrid lemon that they created and we've all been dealt....and decide to make a tiny bit of lemonade?

Because, in the grand scheme of things, these bonuses don't really matter. In the big-picture of all the other things that are going on - the bailouts, the stimulus, the near-nationalizations....this is small potatoes.

But what if.....what if they could turn it into something huge? Something that may inspire millions of others around the country to donate what they can? Something that would turn "AIG" from a 4-letter word into something more hopeful and promising.

What if.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

School stuff

Lots of interesting PTA posts here, here and here.

One thing I find interesting is the assumption that a school with lots of poor kids is a bad school - a failing school - a school in which no child would ever achieve.

I disagree with that.

Yes, there are very real problems at a school like ours, in which 70% of the kids are on some kind of public assistance.  We have a constant shortage of mittens, glue sticks, and snacks. We have kids who arrive at school hungry and kids for whom spring break simply means a week without regular meals. Childhood poverty is a serious issue, and one that I fear is widely misunderstood.  Poor kids are an underrepresented voice in our society.

But, our school?  Our school is fantastic. Our Principal?  Amazing. Our teachers? Best in the country. (OK, that may be a subjective bit of analysis there....but seriously - they are that good.)

Yes, our test scores are low.  (But your test score would be low too if you were taking it in your second or third language.)

Yes, our school population has more melanin than the average school. But that just makes us more interesting to look at.

I would even argue that our school is BETTER than some of the more wealthy schools.  Yes, I said better.  My third grader has 11 kids in her class.  Thank you SAGE program (Wisconsin's answer to Title 1.)

Some of the PTA posts included comments of parents complaining about PTA sponsored things like insufferable talent shows that they are forced to sit through. Our talent show is later this month and it is one of my favorite events of the entire year. I suspect that other (more wealthy) schools have showcases for rich kids showing off their piano or violin lessons. Not our school.

At our school, there is not a dry eye in the house at the end of the talent show.  The kids group together to create amazing acts. An African-American 3rd-grade boy raps while a Caucasian 4th-grade girl dances as a 2nd grade Hmong girl jump-ropes and a 5th-grade boy, who happens to be seriously autistic, sings along. It never once occurs to them that kids of lawyers wouldn't hang out with kids whose parents work at McDonalds.  Or that the seriously disabled shouldn't be part of the show. 

Frankly, there might not be a lot of actual talent at our talent show - but you are fighting so hard to hold back the tears that you don't notice. Right before your very eyes, the promise of what you believe America stands for, at our core, is unfolding. It's pretty powerful.

So, while I am the first person to recognize the very real problems of childhood poverty, I just want to point out that a school full of poor kids can still be a great school.  A really great school.

Some lessons in life can't be measured by a test score.  Some take a choreographed rap song, accompanied by jump rope.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Dear Diary

Daughter D has been begging for months to read "Diary of Anne Frank" and I put it off over and over again. Explaining genocide was just not something I was prepared to do. But finally, I caved and we got the book and started it. She regularly reads the world news in the newspaper. I figured if she could handle Rwanda, we could tackle the Holocaust.

I haven't read the book since I was a pre-teen. Like just about everything else I've re-read, it is a completely different book when you read it at the age of 40. It is horrifying. Absolutely and utterly horrifying. Humans did this to other humans.

Daughter D is doing fine with the book. Me, not so much.

As we were reading, I told Daughter D that I used to keep a diary or two and that I thought they were somewhere in the basement somewhere. She immediately wanted to see them, so we went searching and found a huge box, full to the brim of various notebooks/diaries/journals/datebooks.

I couldn't believe it. There were more than 25 of them. I remember keeping diaries and at one point, I must have thrown them all into a box. But I had no idea that there were so many. I started in 5th grade and really didn't ever stop until I had my first child.

I had visions of us reading them together and gleaming great pearls of wisdom from my life experience.

ha. That is NOT going to happen.

It turns out that I went slightly boy-crazy sometime around 6th grade. I think it is safe to say that 60% of my writings were about the boy-du-jour. And about all sorts of other adventures that I seem to have blocked from my memory. My recollection of my childhood was that I was a perfectly behaved slightly nerdy good student. The nerdy/good student part seems to be correct. But evidently, I was not perfectly behaved.

Is this another symptom of parenthood? Do you subconciously block out all the crazy things you've done in life as you try to show your children the straight and narrow path to success? Because seriously, half the stuff I'm reading - I didn't even remotely remember until I read it.

Should I burn these damn diaries? Or save them for my grandchildren? (my children will NOT be reading them!)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Navigating the brave new world of sports

Sadly, blogging seems to have been displaced by my one-line daily updates on Facebook. (I'm 'Kristen Harrald Nelson' there, if you'd like to read those....and Dad - really, we need to get you on Facebook!)

I'm entering a stage of parenting for which I am ill-prepared. The sports stage.

Growing up, I could do any sport, as long as there wasn't a ball involved. I could swim. I could run. But as soon as any sort of equipment was added, I failed miserably.

My natural reaction is to cover my eyes and duck as soon as a ball comes my way. My volleyball team did not appreciate this. Neither did my tennis partner or the other people covering the outfield with me in softball practice. I quickly learned to stick to sports with no rapidly traveling projectiles. Or better yet, non-sport activities like piano, choir or reading.

But my son - he is all about sports. The more equipment the better. And, he actually seems to be - dare I say - good at them. This is completely new territory for me.

We got a phone call yesterday from a Little League coach. Little League doesn't start for a few more months here in Wisconsin. (The snow on the ground makes it hard to see the ball in February and March.) But this coach wanted to recruit son D for his team. Son D is 6. This team is a group of 7-8 year olds. It's not T-ball - it's real baseball.

I'd planned on putting son D on a basic T-ball team with all his Kindergarten friends. But I talked to the coach for about 20 minutes and I think he convinced me to let D try the real baseball team.

I think.

I don't want to turn into one of those mothers. In my childhood world, they were the "stage mothers" - the ones who pushed, pushed, pushed their kids into getting the best roles or the highest marks in the piano competitions. My parents weren't like that at all - and for that, I am eternally grateful. If we wanted to excel at an activity, great. But they didn't really care if we had a staring role or a winning team.

Son D really wants to be on this team, so we are going to let him join it. I hope that is the right decision. It's a fine line between pushing too hard and letting the kids have an opportunity to shine.

So, if you read a post by me in 6 months complaining about how his team isn't winning because he hasn't been practicing his bunts, please schedule an intervention.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Helmets for sledding?

I usually think that husband D and I are about as safety-conscious as you can get. Then I read an article like this.

Helmets for sledding? We have mandatory 'wear-them-all-the-time-no-matter-what' helmets for biking. And riding scooters. And ice-skating lessons. And car seats galore.

But sledding? We live 2 minutes from a fabulous sledding hill. (The country club golf course has some good hills, amazingly enough.) Usually, when we go, it is just the four of us there and we fly down the hill, laughing all the way.

Carefree, frequent family sledding outings are one of the very few benefits to living in this arctic climate of ours.

Helmets for sledding? No thanks. Does that make me a bad parent?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I'm absolutely sure that I did not achieve many of the dreams my parents must have had for me.

I wasn't first in my class. I never made it to the moon. I didn't end up being a diplomat. I'm not running a company or breaking any world records. That Pulitzer prize never came. I have not made a million dollars. I haven't invented anything or discovered anything. I work for a middle-sized company, in a middle-management part-time job. By any measurements, I ended up as a very boring, average adult with no real outstanding achievements. Nothing to write home about.

And I'm OK with that. Really, I am.

But, somehow, and I'm not really sure how - both my sister and I managed to do the one thing that I think was valued most of all in our home: caring about something greater than ourselves.

My sister has done more for the environment than the rest of us put together. She's amazing. She is one of the rare people on this earth who "walk the walk" and live a truly eco-friendly life. She's a naturalist and works in the field of her passion. (And in her spare time, she teaches children about the environment, coaches kid's hockey, and works with disadvantaged kids.)

Me, I do what I can in the area of child poverty through Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the local schools. (Last week, that included dealing on a detailed level with really fun issues like sexual predators, parole officers and severe domestic violence. It's a laugh a minute, I tell you!)

Again, we aren't doing anything remarkable or earth shattering. Nothing we do takes any special intelligence or personality trait. We just show up to help - week after week after week after week. We don't know any different. This is how we were raised. It's like brushing our teeth. It's just something you do.

When I hear Obama speak, I think of my parents and how they have lived their lives and the values they passed on to my sister and to me. Community service is not optional. It's not something you talk about on Sundays at church, and then forget for the rest of the week. It's just something you do. Something you do today, and next week, and the week after that. You see a problem, and you step up to lead the solution. You put in your time, your money, your sweat and your tears. No excuses.

When I hear Obama speak, I imagine a world in which everyone steps up to help others in need.

And since this is my little fantasy world, I particularly imagine a world in which everyone calls up their local Big Brothers/Big Sisters office and signs up. I've been a "Big" for nearly 20 years and I've never seen as much need as I see right now - my own city has over 300 kids on the waiting list. There is dire child poverty right in our own backyards. There are kids who are desperate for a mentor - right in our neighborhoods.

I don't actually agree with every one of Obama's political views. But I wholeheartedly believe in his call to all Americans to embrace service to others as part of their every day life. His speech today sent shivers up my spine. Imagine what we could achieve if everyone were committed and involved. That is change I can believe in!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The big thaw

I couldn't write anything this week because my fingers were frozen.

It was one of those weeks in Wisconsin in which the temperatures stayed below zero for most of the time. When it gets down to 20 below, it hurts. School was canceled for two days this week. Not for the snow, for the cold. Wind chills were -45. That's instant frostbite weather.

But the cold snap broke and it got up to 18 degrees today. As in "38 degrees warmer than it was yesterday." Everyone in Madison got a bit manic. People were out in t-shirts. No coat, no hat, no gloves. Just T-shirts.

When I stepped outside this morning - I swear to you, it felt like summer. At 18 degrees. (14 degrees below the temperature at which water freezes and it felt like summer.) The entire city was outside today, enjoying our amazing winter: skiing, sledding, skating, snowshoeing. It was a great day to live in Wisconsin. The kids didn't want to wear hats or mittens, and we could hardly force them in this heat wave.

So you can imagine our reaction to all the CNN reporters in Washington for the inauguration who are whining constantly about how cold it is. The windchill is in the 20s! Oh my. If it ever hits the 20s here, we'll be running outside naked. I swear we will.

Friday, January 9, 2009

world wide recession web

Yesterday was not a good day at work. 25% of my office mates were laid off. This was done for solid financial reasons, and I'm sure it is good for the company as a whole. As business decisions go, this one was necessary.

But even so, it just all-around sucks. The whole day was awful. No chance to say good-bye. Good friends being walked to the door, under surveillance by the HR department. Lots of tears and empty faces. I almost felt guilty for being one of the ones left standing.

Honestly, I don't know how else it could have been done. I don't think there is any good way to do this sort of thing.

But late last night....we all started connecting on-line. An Instant Message here - a Facebook comment there - a new LinkedIn connection and a Twitter thrown in for good measure. It didn't change the facts. But it helped me for some reason. At one point, I was simultaneously IM-ing with 3 different people.

If we could just find a way to buy someone a beer over the internet, then we'd be all set.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Long time, no words

You can tell when my family is visiting me, because I don't write anything for a long time. Why would I? The true reason for this silly blog, in the first place, is to give my far-away family a slight glimpse into the mundane minutiae of our life. I think that one of the hardest things about living so far away is that you miss out on the everyday details of life.

I was trying to explain "Facebook" to a friend who doesn't do any of this internet stuff and thinks that it is very silly and a bit self-indulgent. "Why in the world do you care what someone is doing at 4 in the afternoon?, " she asked. I answered, "because I do." I love knowing that my sister is having a good day....or a bad day....or that my best friend from high school has a cold, or that my husband's brother is at a particular airport, waiting for a delayed flight. I love looking at all the photos of kids and pets and Christmas trees.

These are all people whom I love, and who live very, very far away from me. We communicate through email, letters, and holiday visits. But we never really communicate the run-of-the-mill boring, everyday stuff that we all do. Until now. These blogs, and facebook pages, (and dare-I-say "Twitter"?) give you a glimpse into the mundane.

Another friend mentioned that when her parents visit, it takes a good 3-4 days for them to connect with her kids. We don't have that problem. I swear it is partly because my parents are so tuned into the self-indulgant, boring details of our life....that they really only know about due to all of these silly Web tools.

As the kids get older, it gets more difficult. I won't be writing about anything even remotely personal when it comes to them. And most of the photos will be over on Facebook, where I can control who sees them. (in my mind, at least.)

But I still don't get Twitter. (sorry, dear husband....I just don't.)