Saturday, February 27, 2010

I am buzzing.

The Pinks and I completed our Girls Leaderships Institute workshops this week.

In retrospect, it was mind blowing how much we learned. I hadn't realized this until the last session when our children used the new skills to solve their real challenges. In the first session even admitting that they had challenges was a big deal so this tells you how far they had come.

Many of the skills are applicable in multiple scenarios:
  • I used one technique at work today.
  • Another gal remarked that the communication technique would be valuable in dealing with her own mother, several states away.
I also realized that a situation I'd been trying to ignore needed addressing and that it was not too late to do so. Last summer one of The Pinks was bullied in summer camp and I'd avoided confronting her mother about it, even though her mother and I have been close friends for more than 30 years. I now know I have to do it because I have nothing to lose and I have the skills to do so confidently.

At the close of the younger session, the second and third graders surprised our facilitator with a t-shirt they created and signed that said, "We love you, Julia!" Julia was visibly touched and told them that she'd be wearing it a lot. And I didn't even come up with this idea!

You know how you have those days when you question your ability to parent, when you wonder what the hell you got yourself into by bearing these little people? Bringing this program to our community was one of those things that I am patting myself on the back for. I done good!

One more tidbit: although my kids are now graduates, I'm bringing the program back here in October. The more girls who learn these skills, the less painful their upbringing will be for us all. Please leave a comment with your email address if you'd like to be on the list to receive more information when the dates are firm.

More on GLI in coming posts!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

My obsession with the weather

I’d like to tell you that my obsession with the weather has everything to do with avoiding unusually long drives to the mountains. But that’s just not true.

I check the weather each morning and night so I know what to wear, and what the kids should wear to school. The funny thing is, I work mostly from home so what I wear doesn’t much matter. But the kids need to know if they can wear shorts (default, this is California) or need to wear pants and/or jackets.

One afternoon during my sophomore year of college I was reading in bed. (Yes, I'm one of those idiots who studied during college.) The sky turned black and I heard a siren. I kept reading. Only later did I learn that it was a tornado warning and that a twister had touched down on the campus. I won’t be so clueless again.

I’ve now got weather down to a science. I start by checking the default weather app on my iPhone. That gives me a general idea. Then I go to to check the hour by hour forecast. If it’s not a Chamber of Commerce Day, I go to my computer to the live doppler on to see exactly where the storm is and its severity. I love live radars!

If we’re in Tahoe or headed for Tahoe I go to the National Weather Service web site and click a few times to see exactly how much snow has fallen at several specific spots: Donner Summit, Squaw High Camp, Squaw Base Camp, etc. This information is updated hourly.

My family thinks I’m nuts but I know there are more of you out there, just like me.

Don’t even get me started on how I track road conditions.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Thank you

Two simple words.

We’re generally polite. We’re generally grateful. We use them all the time. Thank you to the clerk at Trader Joe’s. Thank you Donna the UPS woman who drops a package at our front door. Thank you for Charlie’s mom for bringing my daughter home from the soccer clinic.

In our Girls' Leadership workshop this week we talked about these two words in depth.

To set the scene: the most important thing to girls is relationships, their friendships. That's what they like best about school.

So then consider this: what do you say when someone offers you an apology? Most likely you say, “it’s okay” or “no big deal.” Something along those lines. We say this because we want to get past the conflict that brought about the apology in the first place. Really, though, most of the time it’s not okay at that very moment. We need time to digest it, to forgive and to move past it.

What we should be saying instead is “Thank You.”

I challenge you to replace “it’s okay” with “thank you.” We're all working on it at our house.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Piano Men

Dave and I celebrated Valentine's Day by seeing Elton John and Billy Joel in concert. The couple in front of us was practically having sex right there in their seats and I really wanted to accidentally spill my drink on them. I honestly think she was a paid escort. He was way too nerdy to get a buxom, scantily clad Amazon like her. But I digress.

Billy and Elton are just magic together. We've seen them separately, Billy Joel twice or three times, and Elton up close and personal in Vegas a few years back. They did not disappoint. They seemed to genuinely enjoy performing together. Also, it's worth noting that Facebook is a game changer. One of Dave's friends posted that he and his wife were there so Dave met them for a drink. Hilarie posted that she and Steve were there and I could see exactly where they were seated from the picture she posted from the show.

There is just something about piano music. It all started with George Winston in college and progressed from there to Five for Fighting and Billy and Elton. Maybe five years ago we had a family that we did not know very well over to dinner. The father turned out to be a classically-trained-pianist-now-technology-sales-person and he indulged us.

I celebrated my 40th birthday with five girlfriends in Savannah. We went to Savannah Smiles, a dueling piano bar. As much fun as the evening was and as hoarse was we were the next day, my takeaway was the young soldiers, chain smoking and tripping over themselves drunk, on the cusp of deployment.

Happy Valentine's Day all!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Two books and a movie

I've been on a bender, a movie and book bender that is.

The Help
The best book I've read recently is The Help by Katherine Stockett. It takes place during the 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi, on the cusp of the Civil Rights Movement. It's the story of the black maids, "the help", who raised white families' children and ran their households but were not allowed to use their bathrooms nor eat at their tables. The book has its funny moments and is also very sad; it's troubling that this wasn't that long ago and that things aren't much better in some states today. This sparked an interesting conversation with my own mother, who grew up in Memphis. I love the way it was written, in the voices of the help, and I'd like Eldest Daughter to read it.

Sarah's Key
Similar to The Help from the perspective of "dang, I wish it wasn't in such recent history" was Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay. Two stories interlace in short alternating chapters; the first is of a ten-year-old Parisian girl born to Jewish parents who is captured in the round-up of June 16, 1942 and imprisoned with almost 10,000 others in an indoor cycling arena awaiting transportation to Auschwitz. The second is of an American journalist researching for a story on the Vél d'Hiv, and who stumbles on the trail of Sarah's family, and becomes obsessed with discovering her fate.

The child's-eye viewpoint makes it refreshing although overall, the book is troubling. It is beautifully written, though.

Dear John
And then there was fluff: the movie adaptation of Nicholas Sparks' Dear John. No, I did not read the book. It's a romantic tear jerker with plenty of eye candy. It was a good diversion for two girlfriends Superbowl Sunday morning.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Girls Leadership - Session 1

I'm still on my mission to rid the world of Mean Girls. Well, at least around here.

As I fervently blogged in October, when I first got on this soapbox, I arranged to have the Rachel Simmons' Girls Leadership Workshops come to our suburb.

The first session was Thursday night.

It was about what I expected. Some silly icebreakers designed for us to open up to each other, learn to make eye contact, and put us all on the same playing field. Rules, such as nothing confidential said in the room leaves the room. The use of pseudonyms whenever possible. Respecting each other. Discussion on the difference between classmates and real friends. Situational role play.

The kids got a lot out of the role play -- seeing which techniques were better for conflict resolution than others. Julia Loonin, the facilitator, did a nice job, and the participants remained actively engaged. I was pleasantly surprised to see the level of disclosure amongst the kids and parents; a lot of this stuff is hard to talk about and uncomfortable, too.

The big takeaway for me was a refresher on the Silver Rule, corollary the Golden Rule: Treat others how they want to be treated. There are sometimes that this is a better choice than is the Golden Rule. Food for thought.

I'm looking forward to the next session.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


My brother is doing something really great these days! He just launched Chairs4Charity, a non-profit that uses salvaged skis, snowboards and wood to make chairs. They are then donated to local non-profits for auction.

Here's a picture of the two Adirondack-style chairs he made for my children's elementary school. We're very excited to see how much they go for. They'd be great at your mountain house or as a gift to someone whose mountain house you frequent.

Go to his web site to learn how to donate old ski equipment or wood, or for more information about getting chairs to auction for your cause.

Thanks Barry, for combining your love of woodworking and skiing into a valuable community service!