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.)