Monday, August 22, 2011

Exodus: Piles of Stuff

My son will be moving to his new place in four short days. Located about five minutes from his college campus, his house will be the semester home to my almost 18-yr-old and two other college guys. Sigh...

I'm a planner by nature. Since he decided on the college he wanted to attend, I've been buying toiletries and other things he'll need for school a little at a time. Suffice to say that in late August, there is a big pile of bags, boxes and storage bins in the middle of his bedroom. I think he has enough body wash, deodorant and lotion to choke a small farm animal.

But as the time for the pending move draws closer, each trip to his room to add something else to the pile feels a little more melancholy. Part of it is the realization that my "little" boy is well on his way to adulthood. Part of it is the flashback to my own pile of college necessaries as my college move-in day drew closer. My parents had taken me shopping to get a little fridge, a stereo with a cassette player (don't laugh) and a typewriter, but it's only now as I get ready to untie the apron strings myself that I identify with what they might have been thinking as the pile started getting bigger. Did my mom ask herself if she'd given me everything I needed emotionally to survive in the world outside of our little town? Was dad secretly wondering if I'd remember to eat on a regular? Did they worry that I'd be a menace to my room and dorm mates with my quirky habits? Were they concerned that I wouldn't study but instead party like it was going out of style? I know all these things have crossed my mind in the last few weeks - and more.

Still, Friday will be here before you know it. And although I concern myself with the minutia of new towels and bed linen and making sure his new laptop is college-ready, I know I'll miss seeing him every day. I'm sure that drive back home after the last part of the pile has been transfered from his bedroom in our house to his bedroom in his new one will be a long and probably even a sad one. But I also remember making a "Temple U or Bust!" sign on a sheet of paper that I couldn't wait to stick in the back window of the van before we headed off to my college all those years ago - as well as the excitement/anxiety over what the future held that my pile created. I know my son is feeling that now, too. And I'm most happy about that :-)

Of course, I say that now. I very well may be in a tight ball, rocking myself to and fro on Saturday, though. Hey, don't judge...

Friday, July 29, 2011

As the Financial Abyss Looms...

Sounds like a soap opera title, right? Pity it is the sad state of affairs that is Capital Hill.

And sad it is. What's the big deal about the raising the debt ceiling anyway? Or I guess I should ask what's the big deal about raising it NOW? As it's been done at least 15 times over the last 20 years, it floors me that this particular congress is having such a hard time sorting it all out. And while the three sides point fingers at each other, most Americans I know are getting a bit PO'd by their posturing and whining - and getting to the point where they're ready to toss the lot of them and start from scratch.

It's like our elected officials have forgotten the very reason they are in Washington to begin with: to represent and protect the best interests of their constituents. But as the markets here and around the world hit the skids and the neediest of us all (the poor, elderly and disabled) may not get social security, ADFC and disability payments on time, they bicker. In their many television interviews, all of them have on their little flag lapel pins, though. I guess they don't want us to forget that they are true patriots, maybe.

Note to Congress: if the NFL owners and players can sit down at the table and work out their differences, you can to. Play ball!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Graduation Eve

Cap and Gown pick-up? Check!

Tomorrow is the day. At least it is supposed to be. As the ceremony is scheduled for outside and it is supposed to rain all day, graduation day may actually be Friday. They will once again try for outdoors then, but, since it is supposed to rain then, too, it might be moved to the auditorium instead. We'll be nice and dry, but the powers that be only give each graduate two tickets then instead of four. My son has two biological parents, two step-parents and three siblings. How that will work I have no idea...

I'm not stressing, though. I'll see him flip his tassel. cheer a little and cry a lot. It will be what it will be.

But no rain would be nice, though...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The First "Last"

This is the picture I took of my son this morning - his last day of high school. Kinda teared up a bit...

Tonight is his last high school performance ever. He's choreographing and performing in two dances. Pretty sure I will be bawling by the end of the second one...

Kind of a bitter-sweet time, here. Part of me is happy he's graduating and moving on to bigger and better things. Part of me misses the ages and stages we've experienced as he traveled from diapers to tying his own shoes, to dating and teen angst to licensed driver and soon-to-be college freshman.

Friday is his senior prom. OMG, I better run out and get some more tissues...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

And So It Begins...

Yesterday, my son's updated Facebook status announced that his high school graduation was exactly one month away. Between now and then, graduation photos have to be purchased, announcements need to be mailed, the class yearbook has to be picked up, prom tickets have to be bought and the class ring ordered. Of course it will all get done, but that's just the stuff that PRECEDES the big day. There's still a whole host of other stuff to do between then and his "moving into the dorm" exodus.

Not really one to procrastinate, when I found a hanging laundry basket and a shower caddy today while browsing through one of my favorite area stores, I figured it might be a good time to get started. I must admit that I got a little choked up in the towel aisle because I remembered standing in the same store looking for a colorful Disney towel when he was taking swim lessons for the first time. Hard to believe that was about 15 years ago.

So now my son has a couple of things for college - including enough deodorant to choke a horse and a few towels bath towels. Other toiletries, sundries and necessaries will probably be picked up as I see them on display (and preferably on sale, if you know what I mean)...

I have a feeling that packing his stuff into the car and moving it into his dorm will either be the one of the easiest or the absolute hardest things I'll ever have to do.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Putting the Union Ave Y on Blast

For those of you who don't know, I have been studying karate for the past six years. Although I put up my dukes regularly in training and when I compete in tournaments, two weeks ago, I had my first physical confrontation ever - and it happened at my work place.

Because my son's college tuition deposit to whichever institution of higher education he chooses will be due in four short months, I've taken a few side gigs to help squirrel away a couple of extra dollars to pad the 529 account that took a bit of a hit when the economy dipped. My morning job is a before-school program for parents whose work hours start before their children's school days do. For two hours each weekday, I play board games, draw and read to/with a few kids before their school days begins. Our time together ends when I drive them from the activity center we meet in to their bus stop.

Two Tuesdays ago, my own son missed his school bus. Dropping him off at the high school made me 10 minutes late getting to the activity center. When I arrived, a very angry parent who almost never drops his kids off at all or that early was waiting. The two kids - ages 8 and 5 - were just inside the door while dad was outside with a cell phone stuck to his ear. I pulled up to the door and waved to him before lowering my window and apologizing for being late. Before I could even tell him why, he started screaming at me, called me a bitch and told me that since he paid a lot of effin' money for the program - and hence, paid my salary - I should effin' get there on time. He then walked over to my car, stuck his finger in my driver's side window to wave it in my face and continue to berate me for jacking up his day - all while his children watched from about 10 feet away. I asked him if he would please move away so I could back my car into a parking space, but he refused and actually moved to the back door of my vehicle, stuck his foot under the rear tire and dared me to move. Yeah - exactly...

It occurred to me that I had three choices at that point: run over his foot, get out of the car to try out a self-defense combo I learned the night before or chill and figure out how to get this idiot away from me as fast as possible. I put my window up, locked my car doors and reached for my phone. Calling my boss was my plan, but, probably thinking I was either calling 911 or getting out of my car to move him out of the way when he heard the locks click, Angry Dad motioned to his children, got in his car and drove off. I was so upset, I was literally shaking.

After I calmed down and called my boss to let her know what happened, I contacted my karate sensei. He assured me that I did the right thing by avoiding a conflict and advised me to let it go and move on. Like me, Angry Dad had choices - and he chose to walk away. Had he taken a different route, I knew what to do to defend myself my sensei said.

The defensive art that it is, karate has a famous saying about there never being a "first strike." I totally believe in that, but I hafta tell you that I felt very vulnerable sitting there waiting for Psycho Dad to either stop the foolishness or make a definitive move. I did feel threatened, but there wasn't really anything I could do about it - and I also felt how easy it is for a "situation" to spiral out of control. Everything happened so fast! I just keep thinking now how easily it would have been for him to reach into the car to grab, hit or even spit on me and I get chills.

As soon as I left, I went right to the Y and spoke to my boss' boss so he could hear what happened directly from the source. The executive director assured me that employee safety was a priority was paramount and that someone would be speaking to Angry Dad as soon as possible. That was on Tuesday. On Friday, the executive director met with my boss and me to tell me that when confronted about his behavior, Angry Dad threatened to take his children out of the program, which would mean the program would not net enough income to stay open. To keep that from happening, the agency decided to move me to a before-school program location that was further away which I can't do, so I'm out until a closer spot opens up. That was almost two weeks ago and I'm still waiting, although I did report the incident to the police a few days later.

I'm writing about it here because of another adage: about being part of the problem if one is not part of the solution. This situation really transcends my personal safety; it's also about the well-being of the next employee that has to deal with the same irate morning program parent or any one who thinks yelling, cursing or blocking a path of escape is totally acceptable way to deal with life. In other words, it's not just about this woman, but about all women; not just about this person who was bullied, but about all people who are; not just about the ugliness directed at me, but about the nastiness directed at anyone. So, in addition to the police report I've filed, I'm filing an official grievance and may even take it further if a resolution that only reprimands me and not Angry Dad is not found soon. Letting this get swept under the carpet would be totally contrary to everything I try to teach my martial arts students and to what my instructors have tried to teach me.

And no, I no longer have any desire to work for an agency that puts the monetary above the well-being of its employees, but if I don't speak up, who will?

Stepping off my soap box now...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Felicia Does Heavy Metal

As a die-hard Rhythm & Blues/ jazz fan, it might shock you to know that I was once an avid AC/DC fan. "Back in Black" is still on my all-time favorite Top 10 list and I still know every word to the title song and "You Shook Me All Night Long." Never saw them on stage (the last non-R&B concert I went to was last August), but I kinda thought my semi-hard rocking days were behind me once I hit the big 4-0 (save for a little listening on my iPod while on the treadmill).

So guess where I went a couple of Saturdays ago? To The Loft in Poughkeepsie, a spot on Crannell Street (just around the corner from The Chance). Unbeknownst to me, The Loft is a popular venue for heavy metal bands, so of course I thought nothing of it when Will, one of my karate training partners, asked if I wanted to come and check out his band. I'd missed their last concert - the one that my other training partners and my sensei caught - at Webster Hall in NYC. They all raved about the performance and how much fun they had, so I vowed I'd catch the next one.

The only other thing my karate buds told me was that Will was an amazing guitarist. A bit shy and reserved in the dojo, they said he was a totally different person on stage. So I bought two tickets for the "Left in Ruins" show on January 22 and made a "date night" with my honey, who has never listened to anything remotely resembling heavy metal in his life (that's his hand in the pic above, holding the ticket stubs). He prefers hip-hop and R&B.

I guess we looked a little out of our element in the jeans and sweaters we wore amid the folks with lots of tattoos, body piercings and chains hanging out near the entrance. The guy taking the tickets took one look an us and gently asked "Umm...you here for the METAL show?" Yep - I guess we were!

Will's band, No Remission, was just setting up when we walked in. He greeted me warmly and thanked me for coming before giving a nod to his three band-mates, stepping up to the mike and screaming "What the f*ck is up, Poughkeepsie?!?" Definitely a totally different person than training partner Will.

The music was actually pretty good - even when I stood next to a very large speaker to get this photo:


Will's lead voice and guitar were nice to listen to (I really did like "Redemption"). I was kinda getting into the performance - y'know, tapping my foot and moving my head a bit - until the mosh pit near the stage got a bit close (one poor guy almost got pushed out the door and down the stairs). Soon after, another guy started moving his head in time to the music (I'm talking his chin hit his chest and the back of his head practically touched between his shoulder blades on every beat) and continued through the rest of the performance. He seriously put me and most of the other foot tappers to shame.

When the band was done, the thunderous applause prompted the promoter to ask them to add an encore song to the set. But by then, my honey was getting kinda antsy (he later said he thought his eardrums might be bleeding) so I waved to Will and the band before dipping out.

I made a video of them when I was standing next to the speaker, but I guess I was too close because the sound quality is not so great. But you can listen to them here. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did :-)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Komen Sucks...

Been writing that a lot lately - mostly in response to other folks' links about Susan G. Komen for the cure (that's their official name) and their battle to trademark the "for the cure" part of their moniker. (read more about that here). Seems to me like they've totally lost focus about what the fight to eradicate breast cancer is all about.

For the record, I've never been a big fan of Komen. I applaud them for bringing breast cancer to the top of the cancer pile, but the fight doesn't end with awareness and pink ribbons. They raise gobs of money via their races, walks and product donations, but still, 40,000 women died last year from breast cancer. Each October, it gets harder and harder to walk through the store without getting pretty ticked off about all the pink ribbons on things like cookies, batteries, pens and clothing. Companies, it seems, have figured out that if they slap a pink ribbon on their label and mention in teeny five-point type that a "portion" of their proceeds from the product's sale will go to Komen, they will make a mint. They make a million, donate $10K to Komen who lumps it into their generic "research and education" pile and no one is the wiser, right?

But what the heck research is Komen funding? Treatment for women who have been diagnosed or ways to end BC forever? Both are important, but they are two totally different things. Spend more funding dollars on research for the cure and nobody would even need treatment.

Blogger Anna Rachnel breaks down how the money is spent in her recent "Komen by the Numbers" post. A former public accountant before being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, she crunches the numbers and gives a very clear picture on how little of Komen's funds - less than 25 percent - have actually ended up in that "research" pile since the organization was founded in 1982. Shocking, to say the least, but not surprising.

My fear has always been that Komen would become THE face of BC fund-raising and other organizations like the National Breast Cancer Coalition, the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute would get pushed aside and their donations dwindle down to nothing. If Komen's trademark attempts are successful, I could totally see that happening.

Know that there are lots of survivors, their relatives and relatives of lost warriors who are not at all happy with how you do what you do, Komen. Know that we're watching you and blogging about your shenanigans as well. You really ought to be ashamed of what you're doing, but I suspect you aren't.

In that case, you really do rot.

Proceed With Caution, Please...

So, yeah, there are a lot of males who have behaved badly and are being called to the carpet for their past actions. Hats off to the women...