Thursday, March 30, 2017

Random Stuff on a Thursday

We replanned vacations yet again. Budapest flights went up so I thought, hmmm, we have been wanting to go back to Ireland and take TJK and do the north and northwest of the country as well as Northern Ireland. So we looked into flights and they were cheap going to Dublin. So, off to Ireland we go! We will fly into Dublin, then head north through the area my family is from to then spend a few days in Belfast (SO psyched for this), then head north to the Giant's Causeway and drive all the way across to Galway, with many stops along the way. I am disappointed that we won't see Budapest this year (or next, since our big Hawaii trip is next year), but I really can't complain.

And, on a further travel note, I just got approval to take a business trip that I have dying to go on...so off I go to New Orleans in a few months! I am SO excited about it because it adds yet another trip this year. Hubby is going to come with me and we are leaving TJK with my parents, so it'll be nice for just the two of us to get away. We have been taking her on most of our trips nowadays so being on our own will be a nice change, especially in one of our favorite cities.
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On Sunday, I went out for drinks with a friend of mine who is fairly politically active. She invited me and a few other ladies out to celebrate the failure of Trumpcare...our toast was "Fuck Trump!" It was so great to spend a few hours with like-minded, smart, funny, mouthy broads talking intelligently about what's going on in the world and what we can do about it. So often with my friends, we vent and complain about the world but never come up with solutions. With this group, we had great conversation interspersed with great ideas for how we can change the world. It felt pretty good.
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Work sucks the big one lately. I hate my role sometimes because I always have to be the bad guy. I am admired at work for being tough and always having the right things to say, but that means that the responsibility for saying the tough things often falls on me. And that gets tiresome. I love my co-workers and my employees (most of them, anyway), but their blind spots and weak points get to me sometimes. This is one of those times. I know it will pass; it always does. But when I'm in the midst of it, it feels like I am buried in mud to my throat.
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I love my outfit today. I have on a deep blue sweater with big bell sleeves and ties around the wrists (interesting sleeves are hot this season and I am all about it), kick flare jeans that have differently-dyed sides (meaning the jeans are a light blue and the sides are a deeper blue - also very hot this season), cute blue pointy flats, and a great, sparkly necklace one of my employees bought me for Christmas last year. I always feel better when I look cute.
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I cannot believe it is only Thursday - this has been the longest week ever. Tuesday felt like Thursday, which means that every other day has felt like it should be the weekend already. And we already have one more day to go! I planned a work friends happy hour tomorrow night, so at least I have that to look forward to.
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And finally, pride is overwhelming me when it comes to my kiddo! She tried out for and made the school play, which is next week. Tonight is the open house for the kids who will be coming into middle school next year, and the drama teacher picked a scene from the play to enact for the open house tonight - and TJK's part was selected! I can't wait to see her. I say it all the time, but I don't know how I got so lucky to have a kid who is so talented, so smart (straight A's in all honors classes), so kind, and so beautiful. And, so happy. She is the happiest kid alive, about 95% of the time. I am so incredibly lucky to have her as my kid. Not to mention that she is 13 and in middle school, and kids are already fighting and drinking and making out and all that stuff....and as of now, she still have her head on really straight. I am so proud of her :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Travel Update - YAY!

While I was super happy to be going to Cuba this year, since it has been on my bucket list for some time and as soon as it becomes just another Caribbean island it will quickly fall off, I wasn't happy that it was so expensive that the rest of my trips this year felt lackluster. I'm obviously a spoiled traveler when 4 trips a year feel like a disappointment, but I couldn't help it. Toronto? Chicago? Grand Rapids? Florida? Blech. I was sacrificing all my travel fun for Cuba and even though it was worth it, I still wasn't thrilled.

About a week ago we got an excellent opportunity to go to Cuba for about 30% of the previous price, and that included my daughter being able to go. We obviously jumped right on that. We won't be in Havana as long, but we will make the most of it and the truth is that for how much we are saving, we can go three times.

The beauty of saving so much money on Cuba is that we are able to replace the Toronto trip with my dream trip to Budapest! We haven't booked anything yet but we are looking at a whirlwind tour to Budapest, Vienna, and Bratislava (Slovakia). I AM SO EXCITED! (My other option is Budapest and Belgrade, Serbia, but hubby isn't feeling Serbia right now.)To be able to do Cuba and Budapest in one year is a dream come true for me.

We will still do our Chicago/Grand Rapids trip in April and I'm totally cool with that. Then we will have Cuba in June, and Budapest in August. And then our big Hawaii trip next year! Sometimes I look at my life and wonder how I got so lucky - to have such a happy day-to-day life, to drive the car I drive, to have the shoes and purses and clothes I have, to do fun things at every turn, and to be able to travel the world the way I do. I recognize how lucky I am (and how hard I have worked to get here, too) and I just beam with happiness. Life is good.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Karma Bites a Mean Mom Gently on the Ass

So let's talk about this here since it's impolite and mean to talk badly about other people's children. So while I have talked about this with my husband and will share it with one of my besties, I don't want to come off like I am reveling in the failure of a child. But I am, and I don't really and truly care all that much.

Years ago, I was really good friends with a woman I will call M. She constantly told me that I was like her sister, that no one understood her the way I did, and that I was the only one she could truly confide in. How nice to have a friend like this! Our families spent a lot of time together, going to the movies, dinners, Broadway plays, and hanging out at each other's houses. Our daughters were in the same grade and in the same class, so our families were a perfect fit.

We had a mutual friend, L, whose daughter was also in the same class as our daughters. I never had a problem with L, although I didn't love her parenting and thought her daughter was a bit of a douche. But we were friendly, and M and L were friendly as well.

Then one day at school, L's daughter hit TJK in the head with a rock at aftercare. I am a pretty calm person in these situations, actually - I handled it well, knowing that kids are kids and while I wanted L to handle this with her child, I didn't want aftercare to kick her out or anything. A conversation was needed between the moms. So I called L and we talked it out. Our first discussion did not go so well, and L claimed that there was no way her daughter would do something like this and that TJK must have provoked her in some way. Oh no you didn't just say that my kid was "asking for it" or that she "provoked" violence in some way. That conversation didn't end well, except for L saying that her daughter would be grounded and not allowed at the Halloween dance that night or to go trick-or-treating the following day. That sounded fair to me - there needed to be punishment for the crime.

So, off we go to the Halloween dance and there is L's kid, dancing away as if she had not just assaulted a child with a rock earlier that day. I was pretty upset about it, because it meant to me that L didn't take this seriously. M and I huddled outside to talk it through, and she gave me advice as I confided in her about how I felt.

Trying to make a long story a little shorter, I got a call a couple of weeks later stating that my child had a bullying complaint lodged against her by L. I was furious, despite the school finding that TJK was, of course, not at fault. Now, when this happened, I could have lodged a complaint with the school or with aftercare about L's child, but I did not. I thought we could work it out amongst ourselves and not do any long term damage to the kids. Weeks went by, and then I was talking to my friend S about it. She was like, "I probably shouldn't tell you this, but L told me that M told her that she should lodge the complaint against TJK to preempt anything I might do. That way, if I said that L's kid hit mine with a rock, there would be a complaint of bullying against her already. THIS WAS MY FRIEND, the one who said I was like a sister to her, telling another person to back stab me,

This is why I hate M. I hate L as well, but it doesn't really matter to my life. My kid is in all honors classes and her kid is dumber than the rock she hit TJK with, so they don't even see each other any more. However, M's kid is in every single class with TJK. They are both in all honors, so they see each other all day, every day. TJK isn't fond to M's daughter because, honestly, she is exactly like M. So they aren't friends, but they have the same circle of friends.

Last night, TJK had a friend over and they were talking. I'm so lucky that not only does my kid talk to me, but her friends do, too. Her friend said, Oooh, "TJG, you are going to want to hear this. M's daughter is on probation for Global Studies and if she doesn't pick up her grade next semester, she is going to be kicked out of Honors Global Studies and put into a regular class!" I couldn't help but do a little jig, and I felt a little bad for it because I don't want to be mean to a child...but...I know that with how competitive and over-achiever-like M is, it is tearing her up that her kid is not succeeding in honors classes (my kid got a 96% in that class, bitches). And since M was such an awful person to me and my kid, I can't help but revel just a little bit in her getting a tiny comeuppance. Karma is a bitch.




Monday, January 30, 2017

This Is Why I'm Always Tired and I'm Not Mad About it

From the time my alarm goes off on Monday mornings until I leave work on Friday evening, I am tired. Sometimes, it's just a gentle weariness that I know I can push through. Other times, it's a soul-crushing exhaustion that I feel will cause my untimely death. Throughout the work week, I am somewhere on the spectrum of tiredness at all times.

Of  course, there is a simple way to alleviate this feeling. Sleep. I could take a weekend day and do nothing. I could sleep in, stay in my jammies all day, order dinner in at 5pm, and get to bed by 8. And sometimes I even have this intention. I decide on Monday, when my eyelids are so heavy I don't think I'll be able to keep them open through one more meeting, that I will take a weekend off from the grind and get some well-deserved rest. Yep, that's the plan.

Then the week wears on and I get antsy. I want to do something fun. I want to try something new. I start seeing ideas for fun things to do over the weekend and think, well, I could just do this one thing. It won't be so bad. Then I start building on that one thing: Hey, you're going to be in Brooklyn anyway, so why not hit up that craft beer bar you've heard so much about?

And that's how my weekend went. Friday night has become all about my kid and her friends. They go ice skating every Friday night, and the hours are less than perfect. So I'm heading out at 8:30pm to drop them off and then again at 10:30 to pick them up. There's no rest for a mom who has just picked up a bunch of high-on-hot-chocolate-and-cute-boys teenage girls. The girls want to talk (and, truth be told, I'm glad they want to talk to me!). My daughter wants to continue the talk when we get home (again: grateful she wants to tell me what's going on!). So yeah, there goes Friday night and it wasn't even exciting.

Hubby and TJK always go to Monster Jam. I cannot for the life of me understand why, but this is something they have done for years. I love it because it should be a quiet night at home for me. Well, I really could have used the quiet night, but since my dad was joining them at MJ, I decided to ask my mom to go see La La Land with me. Ok, so that's a movie, no biggie. Here's how the day ended up: We got up and headed up to Nanuet, where we were supposed to meet up with a friend of Hubby's. So we spent a few hours in Nanuet, bouncing from place to place, drinking beers and talking and having a great time. Then we got home, and my parents were already at our house. So, out we went. Mom and I went for a nice dinner and cocktails and then the movie. By the time we got home, and then they got home, there was no time for rest and little time for sleep.

On Sunday, we got up early and head into Brooklyn for brunch. I had seen something on Facebook about a magic exhibit in Williamsburg, so we head  in early to grab a nice hipster brunch before out 1:20 tickets for the magic exhibit. Three and a half hours later, we were still on line for the fucking exhibit. It was insane - so poorly run and so cold out (yes, we were outside for 3 hours in February waiting on line to get into this thing). But once we were in, TJK loved it (she is kind of obsessed with magic right now) so it was worthwhile (sort of). She did get to levitate so that was cool:


But then, we had so many plans for what we were going to do with our afternoon in the BK that even though it was now after 5pm, we still wanted to make the most of our location. So we spent some time at Torst, a great craft beer joint, and then found a bus which had been turned into a teeny cafe, and had drinks there while looking at the skyline from the Brooklyn side, and then hit up our favorite restaurant in Manhattan (The Smith). So we ended up getting home at nearly midnight, on a Sunday night.

I'm telling myself now that next weekend will be quieter, and we will take it easy and get some rest...and even as I say it I know it isn't true. I know I have the best of intentions, but when the weekend comes at me, with all of its enticing opportunities for fun and craziness, I know I won't say no.

But this part is true: I wouldn't have my life any other way. I live for the chaos and I want to do as much as I can while I still can.  Exhaustion is just a by-product of a life well-lived.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Where I'm Going in 2017

It's official. I'm going stir crazy in Jersey.

Yes, we do lots of stuff. We are out and about every weekend and most weeknights doing this or that. Whether it's an exhibit at a gallery in NYC or checking out a new brewery or simply going to the movies and dinner, we are people who do not know how to rest. We go all the time. So it's not like I'm bored or stagnant.

I just want to pack a bag and hit the road and leave life behind for a few days. That is what keeps me going.

The last trip I went on was to Belize and Honduras in November, so it's been only 2 months...but our next trip isn't till April so I am getting cranky about being home instead of somewhere that gets me going. I think all of our major trips are planned for the year (we always throw in some little long weekends here and there, and those are still in the planning stages). So here's what's on deck:

April: Chicago for a few days, and then Grand Rapids, Michigan for a few days. This might not thrill some people, but I happen to ADORE Chicago and can't wait to check out the beer scene in Grand Rapids. And TJK is super excited because her major bucket list goal is to go to all 50 states. She has been to more states than most adults, so she is well on her way. She has been to Chicago already, but she has never been to Michigan...plus we will have the drive through Indiana as well so she'll get to check off 2 new states (and Michigan is a new one for me, too!). It may be a little chilly in April, but I am looking forward to being in Chicago off-season and enjoying the architecture, the Bean, the Art Institute, and the deep dish pizza! And, for the kiddo who wants to be a rocket scientist, a trip to the planetarium will be stellar. In Grand Rapids, we will mostly do beer stuff, but I'm also excited to see the Ai Wei Wei exhibit at the Frederik Meijer Gardens, too.

May: CUBA! Hubby and I are going to celebrate our anniversary by finally taking the trip to Cuba that I have been wanting to take forever. I am SO excited about it, and hope we can get this trip in before Our Cheeto President decides to undo all the progress we have made with Cuba. We will spend a few days in Havana and then a few days in other areas of the country. It will be an intense trip, as it is a people-to-people trip where you spend time learning about the culture, art, music, cigars, farms, etc. I love that kind of stuff so I am really psyched to do it. Hubby prefers to sightsee on his own (as do I, honestly, but I know it's not an option yet in Cuba), so he may struggle with the itinerary but I think it's going to be life-changing for us. I wish TJK could come along, but it's a very expensive trip so she's going to have to wait a few years till prices come down. In fact, our other trips this year are less-than-fantastic because of the cost of this trip, so I hope that putting off Budapest another year is worth it!

June: Captiva Island. We went last year with some friends, and while they can't go again this year, we decided it was so much fun and so relaxing that we wanted to do it again. We are staying at the same gorgeous resort and can't wait to lie on the beach and look for shells and drink frozen drinks and eat at great restaurants and basically chill for a week.

August: Toronto. We had planned to go to Toronto last year and then replaced it with Vancouver and Whistler. I was happy about that choice, and now I am happy to be going to Toronto. We are going to drive up there, which hubby loves and I dread, but it'll be fine. We will stop at Niagara Falls since TJK has never been there (and it's been a longggg time since we have been there at all) and spend the night before heading to Toronto the next day. I am kind of excited about our hotel room there - we got a suite that overlooks the Falls. It should be awesome. I have to admit that I don't remember too much about Toronto so it's going to take some research to figure out what there is to do there. We will definitely hit the Hockey Hall of Fame, which I remember loving.Other than that...I'm not quite sure yet, but it'll all come together.

November: Pittsburgh, possibly. We are waiting on this one until we get the Steelers' schedule for next year. We always do something for Teacher's Convention weekend, and we are hoping they will have a Sunday 1pm game at home that weekend so we can drive out on Thursday and come home Sunday night. If the game doesn't work out, I have no idea what we will do. Maybe Vermont again? Maybe Maine again? I think it'll be somewhere we can drive (trying to cut those costs due to Cuba), and I think we have seen everything within driving distance! (Which, truly, is a good problem to have).

All in all, a pretty good year. Not as exotic as I usually like, but I'm dialing everything else back so we can go to Cuba. Next year is a big anniversary for us, so we have already planned to go to Hawaii to celebrate. That's where we went for our honeymoon and it was so wonderful. We can't wait to show it all to TJK and see how it has changed over the years. The only downside is that, again, it's a big and expensive trip so everything else will be scaled back. I'm thinking that will keep me from Budapest (again) and Scotland (where I'm dying to go to see my family!), and it will also keep me from swimming with the piggies in the Exumas. But maybe 2019 will have us going to all three of those dream locations!

Monday, January 23, 2017

A Whiplash of Feelings Over the Political Weekend

Well, there's a lot on my mind today, following the inauguration of the Cheeto and the magnificence of the Women's Marches. Friday felt like a day of despair, knowing that the Obamas leaving the White House meant yuge changes for our country - changes that even those who supported him do not expect nor want. It felt like such a dark day, like I had to brace myself for the next four years of this man as our leader. It was hard to feel hopeful about the future and I felt myself getting depressed and downright angry about it.

Saturday was a day of resurgence - while I wasn't able to march (it KILLED me that I couldn't!), I watched on tv and social media all day while millions of my sisters marched for the rights of women, the LGBT community, communities of color, and healthcare, and against sexism, racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and homophobia. It filled me with joy to see all of these human beings joining together to march not only in DC, NYC, and LA, but in tiny towns and medium cities across America and the entire world (including friggin' Antarctica!). While it upset me to see some Facebook friends stating that the march wasn't necessary because they personally are doing just fine (wow, self-centered much?), most of my feed was of friends who had personally attended marches or who were in full support. It felt like a good day filled with hope and promise.

Then on Sunday, I took TJK, who wants to be a rocket scientist, to see Hidden Figures at the movies. It blew my mind how amazing this movie was and how timely its release was. These three brilliant women were held back because of their gender and skin color, held down at every step by the government and the system and their employers and even some of their loved ones...only to triumph monumentally in the end. It was so incredibly inspiring, and following the day of marches on Saturday, it made my heart smile. Hope had returned.

And in my own reality, my Sunday went something like this: hubby, kiddo and I went to the movies; hubby and I went food shopping together; the three of us cooked a big dinner together with all of us prepping, cooking, and cleaning up afterwards; and finally, all three of us watched football together, with my husband and daughter in their Steelers jerseys complaining together about the loss. It made me see that the way my own life has turned out falls right in line with my moral stance on how life should be: we all food shopped, we all cooked; we all cleaned, we all watched football; we are all equals in my house. And that is what I believe should be the norm.

This, to me, is a big part of being a feminist: living your own truth and walking the walk. We don't fall into stereotypical gender roles - we are equals. We help each other. My money is his money, and vice versa. We are a team. He takes care of me, and I take care of him. And my daughter sees that, and she thinks it's odd when she is at a friend's house and the dad sits on the couch watching football while the mom cooks after both have worked all week and could use a rest. As a mother of a daughter, I am so proud of the example we are setting for her.

As Monday wears on and I hear about the anti-abortion orders President Cheeto is signing, I feel the despair start to creep back in. But I won't let it. Good wins in the end. I know it does. And while he and his unseemly minions will certainly win many battles in their positions of power, I know that what's right will win the war.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Come at me, 2017

I have to admit that while 2016 was rough on a global-scale (can you say "orange president"?), my 2016 was actually really good personally. I traveled a lot and knocked a few things off my bucket list (Lisbon! Southern Portugal! Honduras! Belize!), while still taking some of my travel time to relax and unwind (instead of always needing a vacation when I come back from my vacation because I've run myself ragged). My daughter is such a superstar, and she had a great year - and when your kids are doing well, you do well. She started middle school, in all very challenging honors classes, without a hitch. She made so many new friends, auditioned for and got a major part in the school play, and has a bright and busy social life. She is happy and that makes me happy. My husband and I are in just such a great place, too. We are enjoying the time we spend together, laughing, having fun, and being best friends. My parents are happy and (mostly) healthy, and we have had some pretty good times with them over the year as well. I have shed some friends who were better left in the past, and made some new ones who brighten my outlook...and have even caused me to leave some of the my cynicism behind.

(Ok, not all of it. I'm still cynical and sarcastic and that won't ever change. But I do realize that the negativity was weighing me down and making me less happy. And I've reduced that, and I feel good about it.)

So, here we are in 2017. I don't really believe in the whole "new year, new you" thing. Like, the change of a calendar doesn't mean a change in you. But I do think the end of another year gives you the opportunity to look at yourself closely and figure out what has been working for you and what hasn't.

What's working for me? My travel goals are nearly perfect. I love how I'm able to travel often and to unique and interesting places. I wish I could travel more, but with 4 weeks of vacation from work, I do the best I can. This year will be a little different because we are going to Cuba, which costs an arm and a leg, so our other trips will have to be scaled back. No Budapest or Scotland or Istanbul, as I had hoped. It looks like it'll be Cuba, Toronto, Captiva Island, and maybe Chicago or Vermont. I hate the idea of only one new place this year, but Cuba will make it all worthwhile. What makes me a little sad is that for 2018, we will be doing a big anniversary trip to Hawaii, so that will make the rest of our trips small again next year. I know, poor me.

What else is working? My approach to motherhood is working. I couldn't have a better, smarter, cooler kid and I know that while some of that is just in her genes, some is my influence. And now that she's 13, my influence may seem to wane as her friends grow in importance...but I know she is still listening. I have to keep on momming the way I am now, because it's working. And I can keep on wife-ing the way I am now, as well...while putting in a little more effort, perhaps. He spoils me so much (not just with material things, but with all the "stuff" he does) and I need to figure out how to spoil him back a little more.

And what isn't working? While I don't set the whole "lose 10 pounds" goals at the beginning of the year, I am setting health goals. I need my ass up off the couch more. I need to fuel my body in healthier ways. And while I love my craft beer more'n my luggage, I need to drink less of it. I want to start hiking again, and maybe kickboxing and yoga. I got so lazy this year, and I miss the endorphins of a good workout and the feelings of strength that follow.

What else isn't working? I want to stop letting negativity influence me. I let that happen too much in 2016. If something is bringing me down, stop doing it. This can apply to my obsession with politics (which has definitely lessened since the election - it is too depressing, so I've minimized my exposure) or to friends who focus on complaining about the bad parts of life, or even to social media (where I have been mostly absent because frankly, I'm bored of it). I want to focus on the fun and joyous parts of life - and truly, I am so lucky to say that my life is full of joy and that I have more fun than should be allowed by law. There is so much good to focus on, and I want to seek out those moments and be present in those moments and simply revel in how good life can be.

Slightly off topic (but not really) - I planned a get-together in NYC for my extended family to meet up with our visiting family from Scotland. A bunch of us went in early - with the "adults" concerned about timing and about how we would fill our time until we had to meet, and with some just sourpussing it through the whole day. We went to see the Rock Center tree (so nice after the holiday crowds have gone!) and then walked to the Plaza, where I had the idea to get some fancy cocktails and pretend to be fancy people for an hour or so. We did just that, and it was such a nice little break in the day - impromptu and totally fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants - and it was fantastic. We then met our Scotland fam (after a small walk across town that left some sourpusses complaining, again), and had an amazing time. Now don't get me wrong - it took a lot of effort to get this whole thing planned, with more pushback than help from the rest of the family. But the effort was so worth it, and it was such a memorable day. This weekend we are headed back to NYC to see an art exhibit and my parents are coming with us. I'm excited about planning a fun day for them and trying some new things while we are there. THAT is what the new year feels like to me - make the effort, take some chances, reap the fun rewards.  

In all, 2017 is probably going to globally suck. Our Cheeto President is going to mess up the world and the Republicans will cheer it and the Democrats will do nothing to stop it. But I have realized that there is little I can do about that (yes, I call my representatives to express my concerns, yes, I vote in every single election no matter how small, yes, I stay educated on global and local politics) and I have come to terms with the fact that I am mostly powerless and it is futile to think otherwise). But 2017 for me, personally, has all the potential in the world to be a great year and I am approaching it as such.