Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Mystery Monster Bin

Since I'm currently working 20 hours a week while job hunting, I've got some time on my hands to tackle some of those pesky home projects that irritate and annoy me, but are never high enough on my priority list to take on.

Like the closets.

We have a closet under our basement stairs that is overflowing with...well, crap. It's where we store our suitcases (frequently accessed), wrapping paper and other gifting accouterments (also frequently accessed), paint supplies (never accessed) and scrapbooking supplies (why did I spend all that money on that stuff again?).

And, of course, the mystery box.

The mystery box is a huge green plastic bin that is so monstrous that in order to get it out of the closet, you have to empty the closet. Which, of course, never happens.

Until this past week.

I dragged every last little plastic container, suitcase, scrapbook supply and paint brush out to get to the monster box, only to find a trip down memory lane when I opened it.

Back when my girls were super little and their drawers overflowing with clothes because they were growing so quickly, I had stored away summer clothes for both of the girls, thinking that perhaps one or the other would fit into them yet the following summer. Then the next summer I wondered where all the clothes had gone, but couldn't find the clothes in any of the normal storage places (obviously forgetting about the monster bin). I had to buy Marissa new clothes anyway because she was practically wearing the same size as Lindsey anyways, and I promptly forgot about the missing clothes.

It seemed like only a couple of years ago that I was wondering where those clothes went, but by the size 3T and 4T clothing in the bin, it was clearly longer ago than a few years.

Snippets of summer lifted out of the box, a piece at a time, of warm summer days, ice cream cones and painting projects.

I was going to take some pictures of the clothes, but it's not the clothes that are important, it's what my kids did in them that make them memorable.
Marissa watering the tree.

Lindsey squishing I don't know what. 
Marissa playing with water. (Always with the water, that one.)
Lindsey posing in front of gifts for her cousin Nicole's bridal shower.
Lindsey reading and and Marissa playing footsie...with her own feet.
Every single outfit in every one of these photos was in that box, in such adorable littleness that I hadn't even folded them, they were so tiny.

I took them all out and smiled at them. Marissa was home the day I was looking through them, and she remembered certain favorite dresses, skirts and tops. We enjoyed the memories for a while, then we let them go.


I sorted through them all into two piles -- one for consignment and one to donate. I was able to consign 39 pieces of clothing, pretty impressive considering how they reject anything with stains or rips. Those must've been the clothes that only Lindsey wore, because if they had ever made their way to Marissa they would definitely be in the donate pile.

What the consignment shop didn't accept went back into the monster bin, and the entire thing went to Goodwill. There were four garbage bags of kids clothing still in the bin when it went to Goodwill, just to give you an idea of how big this bin was.

It felt so good to get rid of that huge bin, to purge ourselves of the stuff we don't need.  We will never lose the memories, even though the clothes themselves are gone.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Feminists Do WHAT, You Say?

Our wedding day, Sept. 1995. We paid extra for that vignette effect on this print. 
The other evening, while my eldest and I were waiting in a Starbucks when the youngest daughter was at tutoring, I overheard an interesting conversation.

A couple were discussing their marriage with another individual. At first I thought the person they were talking with was perhaps a wedding planner, but it soon became clear that he would be officiating the ceremony.

They worked out how they were going to seat people (no ushers, no assigned seats), how they would like the processional to go, and what the order of the ceremony would be. I tried not to listen, but it's difficult when you're only one seat away from the lively discussion.

At one point the person officiating asked, "Now how would you like to be introduced at the end of the ceremony?"

The couple seemed confused by his question, so he gave examples.

"Do you want to be introduced as Mr. and Mrs. Johnson? Or Becky and Ray Johnson?"

"Oh! That's what you mean. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson is perfect, that's what we want," the bride said confidently.

And then the person officiating went on to say how some people -- women in particular -- did not like to be introduced as "Mr. and Mrs."

"Some feminists don't like it," he went on, "Some ultra feminists don't even take their husband's last names."

The bride and groom made the expected "tsk tsk" noises and agreed how terrible that is for women to not change their last names upon marriage.


I had a hard time restraining myself from going over there and educating these people.

For one thing, the definition of a feminist is "someone who believes that men and women should have equal rights." I would take that to mean that both genders enjoy the right to vote, the right to work, the right to be paid equally for said work, to not be denied housing on the basis of gender...I could go on. Oh wait, I think I already did.

So what exactly is an ultra feminist? Someone who believes that women should have more rights than men, like the right to not change their name when they get married? Well, I guess that would be just an equal right, because men don't have to change their names when they get married. So they're equal in that regard.

This visual effect was even more unique and expensive. 
This fall Wayne and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. Twenty years. Women choosing to keep their given names upon marriage is not a new concept. Had I chosen to change my last name, I would have to be married for another four years before I would have a married name longer than I had my given name.

My kids don't wonder if I'm their mother. Sure, when they were younger they had questions, and, being girls, they could relate when I talked to them about it.

"Imagine," I said, "that one day you met your prince, the love of your life. You decide to get married. And this prince's name is Joe Smith. So do you decide to become Lindsey Smith? Or do you decide to be Lindsey Horsman? There's no right or wrong, but you have the choice."

They also go to a school where classmates have hyphenated last names that combine both the mother and father's last names, or two parents of the same gender with different last names, or stepparents and half brothers and sisters from other unions.

By the way, I am not alone in my choice. I have met many women in my life who did not change their names, several on my street alone, for no other reason than they wanted to exercise that right.

Guess that makes us a bunch of ultra feminists. I think there are worse things to be.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Another bizarre dream.

I dreamt that I was a passenger in a school bus. The driver was going way too fast, and was driving around a cloverleaf, a ramp that was elevated in the air. The sign said 20 mph but the driver was clearly going faster than this. At one point two wheels of the bus lifted up, and everyone lurched over to the right, lurching nearly over the edge of the curving, inclining road. The bus slammed back down again, and everyone on the bus screamed. Someone yelled "You're going too fast! Slow down!" But that only seemed to make the driver go faster.

Finally, it happened. On the next curve, the left wheels of the bus left the roadway and the bus went over the railing. We were falling, falling, falling.

It was dead silent.

No one screamed. No one spoke a word. All I could hear was the rush of the air going by, not even the roar of the engine. In my dream I closed my eyes and I felt peace. I knew that everything would be all right. We would deal with whatever happened when we landed on the ground; we would be fine. And if we weren't fine, then that was meant to be, too.

I awoke and took a deep breath. Everything is going to turn out.

I am job hunting again.

You would think I had the perfect set-up: working out of my house. No commute. No make up. I could play my own music for anyone to hear. Yoga pants every day! I enjoyed working with my team (many of whom worked out of their homes also) and my boss. I was able to get my kids to school in the morning and was home when they got off the bus in the afternoon. I traveled a little bit, just enough to break up the time in the office, but not so much that it cut into family time.

Yet I was unhappy with the job itself. I thought, "Am I looking a gift horse in the mouth? I am well-paid with the perfect set up, ideal work/life balance; why am I not fulfilled?"

I expected to be challenged by my new role, but not in the ways I was challenged. I don't need to go into details, except to say that I began to doubt my abilities. After a while I finally realized it wasn't me or my skillset, it was just not the right fit.

In late January, the company restructured and many of my co-workers' positions were eliminated. I saw my opportunity and took it.

I quit.

In the week after, as I transitioned knowledge and know-how and notes to those who had just transferred it to me six months ago, I knew this was the right decision. I felt my shoulders begin to ease, my head to clear.

I had the satisfaction of putting hundreds of emails that I never fully understood straight into the trash, instead of gingerly and carefully sorting through them to file, in case that information would be needed at some point in the future.

For me there would be no "some point in the future" at this place. I was done.

I loved working with my clients; their missions moved me greatly, and, as I've found elsewhere, they are some of the most amazing people you'll ever meet. But my family and own career satisfaction comes first -- no one will put it first if I don't. I am so incredibly blessed that I had the option of leaving, of taking the time that I need to find something else that is more fulfilling.

I've said this my whole career and I will say it again: Love what you do and you will never work a day in your life.

Time for me to find something I love doing.

And now...what's next.

My password for my last week of work. Seemed appropriate.
I'm not sure. What I do know is that the nonprofit that I've been volunteering for for three years is excited to have me work on a short-term part-time basis to help them get their donation processing set up and documented, so that when they hire an admin assistant the process will be easy to follow. I'm thrilled to help them out, too, and am loving my time with them.

I know that my heart lies in the nonprofit world, in changing people's lives, helping others, making a difference.

I know that I am fascinated by and passionate about social media and the way that channel has changed the way people connect to others, how it has created political change in countries previously oppressed and has brought together people in ways once unimaginable. It has changed the way nonprofits engage with their donors and how retailers think about customer service. Amazing. What will it do next? What will I do next?

I have the luxury of taking the time to find out.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Don't Take Sh*t for Granted

I love books by Anne Rice, the New Orleans author most well-known for "Interview With a Vampire." One of my favorite books of hers is "The Tale of the Body Thief," when the vampire Lestat is tricked into trading his preternatural body with a mortal, who then decides not to trade bodies back.

In the first hours after Lestat becomes mortal, he is seized by a sensation that he doesn't understand. He suddenly feels a pain in his abdomen, something he hasn't felt in hundreds of years of vampiric living.

He finally realizes what the pressure is that he is feeling: he has to poop.

He makes it to the toilet in time, and feels the relief of voiding his body of the nutrients it didn't need.

What a bizarre little element of life for Anne to write about, how we as living beings eat and poop. It's part of living that truly, most of us take for granted. That is, until we can't. And then it becomes the central focus of our lives.

My dad has been battling colon cancer since he was first diagnosed with it in 2007. During a routine colonoscopy when he was 62, they found a significant sized tumor that required colon resection. He was declared cancer free and did not need chemotherapy or radiation.

The cancer recurred along the suture line in 2011. Doctors told him that this kind of recurrence rarely ever happens. He had radiation, chemotherapy, and another colon resection which left him with a very short colon.

Life since 2011 has not been pleasant for my dad. His shortened colon means that when he first feels like he may need to go, his colon is already full and has often has voided without his controlling it.  He gets up in the middle of the night several times to deal with this problem, not just a quick tinkle like many of us do. It means that indulging in particularly fatty or rich foods makes it impossible for him to leave the house for 24 hours or more.

He used to love to take road trips, and would often drive north to Minnesota and east to Michigan from there to visit family. He hasn't been able to make many of those trips, and when he does, they take infinitely longer due to the number of stops along the way.

His quality of life hasn't been the same since 2011. Then, this summer he was told that the cancer has recurred once again.

Chemotherapy was ordered -- no more radiation as he has had a lifetime worth of radiation already. The hope was to shrink the tumor and then do a colostomy, which would remove his colon altogether and he would void into a bag instead.

This was real hope for him.

He would finally have control of his body. More importantly, it would no longer control him. He had to go to Little Rock, about 3 hours from his home, for the surgery, because the surgery would be tricky due to the amount of scar tissue in the area from his prior surgeries.

He had surgery on January 15th. We are hoping that he will be discharged from the hospital tomorrow, February 9th, nearly a month after his surgery. This was much longer than the 5-7 days of post-surgical care that the doctors told him he should expect.

A few days after surgery he had a bowel obstruction, resulting in him throwing up even the smallest amounts of water that he could drink. They finally got the obstruction to flush out, after nearly 48 hours of the most incredible pain he says he has ever experienced. (Up to that point, that is.)

He developed an abscess. He had crazy amounts of discharge coming from the surgical site and other unnamed orifices, so much so that he became severely dehydrated.

Once the abscess resolved, they discovered he had a fistula, which is when two organs that aren't supposed to be connected together get connected. Part of his intestines had healed incorrectly.

The only way to treat this fistula is for him to stop using his gastrointestinal system, so that it can heal itself. That means no food by mouth. For weeks. He is getting nutrients intravenously and will do so for several weeks more after he leaves the hospital.

He'll be going home with an IV for nutrients, bags for the still unhealed stoma, and strict instructions to not eat or drink anything until he gets the doctor's okay. Once the fistula heals, he will finally -- finally! -- be able to eat and drink, though cautiously.

I believe those instructions are my dad's version of hell, the man who enjoys the gustatory pleasure of eating.

I will be flying down to Arkansas this coming weekend to visit. My sister and I had planned this trip together, thinking that he would have been home healing for several weeks by this time. Instead, Kristi flew down on a one-way ticket nearly two weeks ago to help with his care, and will be accompanying him back to his house from the hospital and ensuring that they have everything set up for his continued care.

He is surrounded by the most loving, amazing, supportive family members in my stepfamily and sister. He has friends and other relatives who call and write, wishing him a speedy recovery and good health.

All of the love and prayers help.

What would also help is for every person reading this to be screened, to get a colonoscopy so that others do not have to go through this.

Don't take shit for granted.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Fun Of Flying Kites

In the winter, the natural parks in the Twin Cities quadruple in size. The lakes freeze over and become a winter play land for all the residents.

Today was the Lake Harriet Kite Festival, an event I've often learned out about too late, after we already had other plans, or when the weather was so bitterly cold that we didn't brave it to attend.

This year, it was a balmy 29 degrees, cloudy with a brisk wind. Perfect kite-flying weather in Minnesota.

Marissa and I dropped Lindsey off at a sleepover, made a little stop at a Caribou for some treats, then headed to the lake. We pulled snow pants and snow bibs over our clothes, tightened up the laces on our winter boots, pulled our scarves up and our hats down and headed out.

Even at 29 degrees, it feels much, much cooler when you're standing on an ice-covered lake.

Marissa has never stood on a frozen lake before. She was nervous about whether or not the ice would hold her, but when she saw the hundreds of people on the ice, she stepped right on.

It took her a while to get comfortable, but eventually she and I were down on a bare expanse of ice, peering through the darkness and trying to see to the water. We admired the geometry of the cracks and speculated as to how deep they went. She grew more confident the longer we were there. She went from not wanting to go to this event to not wanting to leave.

The hit of the day was a huge black fish kite with rainbow scales. I think it was about 12-15 feet in length. It took a lot of wind to keep it aloft, which meant that it often dragged just above the crowd and crashed to the ice, to the great excitement of the kids who would rush to it to touch it. It swept along the crowd and surprised many by lifting up along the back of their jackets. They would turn to see who or what had touched them, only to see a great expanse of a black tail swooping upwards.

This fish -- what a great exercise in community-building! Its owner was an elderly gentleman who was limping slightly due to a fall he had taken earlier on the ice. "I'm not gonna be able to move tomorrow," he told me, "But I gotta stay out here, the kids just love this kite,"

So he would untangle and pull on the strings after a particularly embattled crash, while one of the adults (usually a parent) would hold the fish's mouth open until its body filled with wind. Then it would ever so slowly lift to the sky, sometimes to swoop and come back down again, other times to take to the air and look like it was swimming.

I thought we'd spend a half an hour there, we ended up spending nearly three.  What a wonderful afternoon.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Never Too Old for Toys

Some weeks ago Lindsey began working on her Christmas list.

She wrote down -- with gusto -- fuzzy socks. Pajamas. Lip balm. Manicure set.

"I don't really want the same things for Christmas I used to want," she observed.

She is 11 going on 12, after all, and this year there truly is no doubt in her mind that her parents are Santa. There were no pretenses of asking me to mail her list to Santa this year, she simply handed it to me with a "here you go."

And because she doesn't believe her little sister, for the most part, doesn't believe. There have been a few times over the past few weeks when I've had to stop one or both of the girls from going into a closet that had gifts stashed in them. "Why can't we go in there?" Marissa would ask, "Presents," Lindsey would reply.

Yet Christmas morning, the magic was still there.

Not-so-little bodies filled with excitement as we prepared for bed on Christmas Eve, squeals and giggles as they imagined what was in the presents under the tree, and what other gifts would magically appear before morning.

We played musical beds in the middle of the night due to excitement which made sleep hard to come by. We awoke early, made kids go back to sleep, and finally got up around 7:30.

We had the special treat of having Kristi join us this year, decked out in fuzzy red pajamas with matching Santa hat. She helped me "play Santa" the night before, wrapping the last of the gifts and even wrapping a forgotten 5:30 a.m. (All communicated via text from two floors away.) She really IS a Secret Santa!

Coffee cake, coffee, presents, and glee.

Lindsey wanted to get something for everyone in the family. She spent her own money and bought Caribou gift cards for her parents (always appreciated), a candle for Kristi and a stuffed toy, movie and "squishy toy" for Marissa.

Over the past few weeks when Marissa saw Lindsey wrapping presents for her, she wanted to get something for Lindsey, too. So she wrapped a piece of pottery she had made over the summer and a book that had been laying around the house. Lindsey expressed great delight and gratitutude as Marissa jumped up and down with excitement. Marissa had purchased a gift for her too, but I think the unwrapping of the "here's what's laying around the house" present was more fun.

Lindsey got a pair of boots from her Aunt Kristi, who cleverly wrapped just one, then hid the other boot in a sweater that had been wrapped separately. Wayne got a "gift" of a plaid shirt and plaid pants (non-matching) from his family to make up for the gifts of clothing he got last year. He got real gifts too, don't feel too sorry for him.

Plaid, anyone?
All the gifts were unwrapped by 8:30. One hour is all it took to unwrap every single item under the tree.

And for as much as Lindsey hadn't put toys on her list, she put enough toys that she spent the rest of the day playing with Magnatiles and her new Disney Sleeping Beauty figurines, while Marissa entertained the family with her new karaoke CDs from the Hoyt cousins and microphone stand.

No one fought. No one asked Marissa to be quiet. Everyone said "please" and "thank you" and were polite to each other.

Now that's the true magic of Christmas.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Six Pounds of Sugar

I found these in the garbage this morning.

Lindsey had been saving the full-sized candy bars from Halloween for after our sugar challenge was done and planned to have them the day we were done.

Except she realized that if she ate them she would get all crazy first, then get sluggish and want to take a nap. And since it's the beginning of Christmas vacation she doesn't actually want to take a nap, she'd rather enjoy her time off than nap.  Her solution was to throw the candy bars away today so she wouldn't be tempted.

A couple of years ago I would've been the kind of person who would've fished them out of the trash (Hey I'm not above this, they were JUST thrown in, there was nothing burying them yet!). Except now the idea of eating them myself is quite intolerable.

What an educational two weeks it's been.

I learned that sugar is in EVERYTHING. Just start reading ingredient lists. It's hard to avoid.

I learned that drinking coffee without sugar is just fine. Not my favorite, and I really, really loved my sugar in my coffee, but I can live without to avoid the sugar roller coaster for the day.

Eating a sugar-free diet is nearly a gluten-free diet, because sugar and flour go together in most foods. Our family ordered pizza once during this two weeks, and Lindsey and I ordered a gluten-free pizza because that was the only way we could avoid sugar. I've seen friends of mine eat those unleavened cardboard-looking things in the past, and they always looked so unappetizing. But when you've adjusted your diet and aren't accustomed to how sweet and filling regular pizza crust is, it's actually quite delicious.

I've discovered that I actually have will power. When I tell myself I absolutely cannot have ANY, then I don't.  I get in trouble when I tell myself, "Just one bite," because I don't stop at one bite.

And I've been shocked and surprised to find that I lost 6 pounds during these two weeks. Six. Pounds.  That's crazy talk, because I've been thinking about those 5 pounds I want to lose, and I dropped six like that. [snapping fingers]

Lindsey learned that she likes wheat bread better than white, but she's excited to go back to white flour pasta. And dessert, but only every once in a while, because her energy was definitely more even.

For me, here's what's sticking:
  • Sugar free coffee
  • Wheat bread, not multigrain (which ironically has more sugar)
  • Sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes
  • Non-sugary afternoon snacks
  • Sugar-free peanut butter
  • Wheat pasta (when I eat it with sauce I can't tell the difference)
I won't avoid white potatoes/white rice altogether like I've been doing, but substitute wheat and brown rice here and there.

It's been a great two weeks, and truly is the start of a new journey in healthy eating for me. Now to get the rest of the family on board...