Sunday, April 10, 2016

Why We're Remodeling

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It's time.

We've been living in our house for nearly 14 years. It's time that it finally fit our family's needs.

The location is amazing, the neighborhood unbeatable. And we love the charm of our older home.

What we don't love is that there is no bathroom on our first floor. There's only one actual bathroom in the whole house. (There is a toilet and sink in our laundry room downstairs, but they don't count as a bathroom, according to the appraiser.)

Did I mention that in less than a month our first-born will be a teenager? She is already up to 45-minute shower/private time in the bathroom, God help us if she begins wearing make up.

We don't love the cramped kitchen, where the main traffic pattern through the house goes straight past the stove.

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Oh, the stove. Did I mention that there is no countertop space next to it? If I need to take a lid off a pot to stir some spaghetti sauce I take the chance of whacking a family member in the face with it as I search for a flat surface to place it. You can often hear "hot pan coming through!" during dinner prep. And I can't open the oven door if someone has the fridge door open -- they collide.

It's time.

For years Wayne and I have sat on our patio in the summer, looking at the back of the house and dreaming. What if we expanded the kitchen? What if we expanded the bathroom upstairs? What if...what if?

And now, we find those "what ifs" becoming reality. We are in disbelief that we are actually doing this, even as I look out at a new crawl space and framing wood stacked neatly in our backyard, about to become our addition.

"Where am I supposed to poop?" thinks Beauty.
Best of all, we are incorporating parts of our history into our home. One wall of our kitchen will be adorned with wood from Wayne's grandfather's barn, the original homestead of the Horsman family. We hope to fill the walls in the dining room with photos of the Upper Peninsula, where I spent many a summer as a child.

We cannot wait until it's all complete. But, we get to live through the middle part. Marissa will have to bunk with Lindsey for about two months. We will be without a kitchen for about that amount of time. Hopefully it'll be grilling weather most of that time.

Somehow I think we'll survive as a family; we've got our eye on the prize.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Not the Real Mexico


The view from our balcony.
When our family took our trip to Mexico, we all were more than a bit nervous about traveling to another country. It's been years since Wayne and I had been to Mexico, and we all wondered about the language barrier.

As I expected, everyone working in the resort spoke English. We got to practice saying "gracias" and "por favor" a lot, but otherwise all transactions occurred in English. We didn't even have to change our money, we paid for any cash transactions with US dollars and tipped in dollars.  Can you imagine someone from Mexico coming to our country and trying to use pesos?

Early on in our stay Lindsey asked if Mexicans who vacation in the US can stay in places that only speak Spanish. I said, "If they vacation in an area that has a lot of Spanish-speaking people possibly, but for the most part they need to know English."

"But that's not fair!" she said., You are correct, it is not.

One day when went shopping in Playa del Carmen and had a taxi take us to "5th Avenue" (which is actually on 5th Ave), with blocks and blocks of vendors with tables out, stores and restaurants. The drive to leave our resort was a boulevard lined with lights, sculptures and palm trees. The driver then took a left and we were on a city street lined with half-tumbled down buildings and ramshackle lean-tos. A clothesline hung under a bridge held tiny t-shirts for boys and dresses for little girls. The heat was oppressive and there was no escaping it -- no pool to dip your toes into, no one to offer you a cool drink.

I felt like we had been living in Capitol City in the Hunger Games while District 13 was right outside our door.

Our luxurious bathroom.
Our family talked about it for some time after our shopping excursion. I would like to think that our visiting the country, going to a resort that employs local people and tipping generously throughout our trip helps. Yet the poverty we saw in a few blocks was no different from the poverty I saw in Honduras 15 years ago. Of the thousands of dollars we spent on our vacation -- airfare, the resort, food and shopping -- the majority of that money went to Melia, the company that owns the Paradisus line of resorts, and the airline. How much of that trickled down to the employees themselves? I can't imagine very much.

Our girls got a glimpse of how extravagantly Americans live compared to people in other countries. We talked a bit about the girl our family sponsors in the Philippines and how we can't help everyone living in poverty, but we can help one girl. And that has to count for something.


Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Mexico

The view when you enter the resort lobby of Paradisus La Esmeralda.
I never in my wildest dreams imagined we could ever do a family vacation to Mexico. We never took exotic vacations like that when I was a kid, and when Wayne was a kid -- well, they didn't take vacations.

The four of us had an absolutely fantastic time. The weather was balmy and sunny every day. The resort was absolutely incredible -- top-notch service everywhere we went, amazing restaurants, and delicious food. Our room was breath-taking and perfect for our family, with a swim-out into the pool right from our deck, perfect for our little fishy Marissa who always wanted to go to the pool. She could swim straight from our room while we sat on the deck, reading a book and having a cold one.
Marissa on the steps of our swim-out balcony. 
 But the best part of the vacation wasn't where we were (though that certainly helped), it was who we were with and what we did.

On one of our first nights there Marissa tried to cut a steak and managed to keep one little piece and lose the entire rest of the steak under the table. Lindsey laughed so hard that the rest of us were in giggles the rest of the night.

One morning Lindsey sneezed and the cough drop that used to be in her mouth skittered across the marble floor in the lobby of our hotel, to be heard stopping against a potted plant. Again, I don't know why all these things were so funny to us, but they were.

We all tried snorkeling for the first time. Lindsey and Wayne went parasailing. We lounged around the beach, the room, the pool, the lobby. We read, journaled, listened to music, giggled at Spongebob Squarepants in Spanish, and napped most every afternoon.

Reading.

Writing a letter to Grandma Horsman.
We are already planning next year's vacation. The Paradisus was an incredible resort and we would go there again, but we're thinking about visiting the one in Costa Rica. Or Belize. After all, we've only got 5 more years until the oldest one graduates high school.

Gulp.

Enjoying one last view of the mangroves before heading home.








Friday, February 26, 2016

Who Do You Trust?

I've been carefully watching the case between the U.S. government and Apple and the San Bernadino iPhone.

In case you haven't kept up: The FBI has asked Apple to create a software "back door" into the iPhone used by one of the bombers involved in the San Bernadino terrorist attack. The FBI states that there is no other way to unlock the data within that phone besides having Apple compromise the security of every iPhone that's been produced.

Don't believe me? That's what it comes down to. Create a master key and it unlocks every door. Even though the FBI assures Apple (and thus assures us) that this master key will only be used to unlock this one phone, it all comes down to this:

Who do you, a member of the public, trust more, the U.S. government, or Apple?

The answer to that question is obvious to me: I trust Apple. They have a vested interest in the security of all the phones they've produced, phones that millions of us rely on for our only phone line, our email access, our connection to the world.

I've polled a few people with that very question; which do you trust more? The answer in every case has been Apple.

What a sad statement on the state of our governing body that we would trust a for-profit corporation before we trust our own government. Between the economic downturn, the big bank bailout, the current election shenanigans and the ever growing gap between the have's and the have not's, it's no wonder we'd trust Apple over our government.

Yet another sign that government by the people, for the people, is not working.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Popular

The other day Lindsey was telling me about the "popular" kids at school. Lindsey and her friends don't describe themselves as popular, and she clearly has that "I wish I were them" and "I hate them" kind of thinking that kids this age have about the in-crowd.

It seems that everyone grew up in a school where there was a "popular" group; doesn't matter your generation, class size, big town (or small) or what state you grew up in.  I just don't get it.  I decided to ask her some questions to see what's changed over the years, and perhaps impart some wisdom.

Q: So what does it take to be popular?

A: To be popular you have to be nice, wear really, really nice clothes, have neat handwriting, and have a smartphone.

Q: How do you know who the popular kids are?

A: You can just tell. They dress really nice and care about how they look. Boys too. And they're nice one-on-one, but if you come up to them as a group they're really mean.

Q: Really? Have you seem them do that?

A: Well one time my friend came up to a popular girl and asked her a question and she just turned away from her and wouldn't talk to her, even though they hang out together because they live on the same block.

Q: Maybe she didn't hear your friend.

A: I doubt that.

Q: Do the popular kids hang out with unpopular kids at school?

A: No. They all sit at the same lunch table and joke and laugh with each other.

Q: So what would happen if you came up to them, sat down at the table and joined in?

A: Are you kidding, Mom? They would look at you like "What are you doing here?" and would probably be quiet until you went away.

Q: What do you and your friends do at lunch?

A: We have a blast. We have such an awesome table, we spend the entire time trying to make each other crack up. We have so much fun.

Q: Wow, that sounds like something other kids would want to be a part of. What would happen if someone you didn't know sat down at your table and asked to join in?

A: We'd probably look at them like "What are you doing here?" and....oooohhhh!

We talked for a bit longer and then I gave her the same message I've been giving my kids for years: Be Yourself! Be your own authentic self and you will attract the kind of people you want to have in your life. It won't matter if you're popular or geeky or musical or anything else, because you'll be happy.

And then I told her not to smoke or do drugs ever or have sex before 18. I got the eyeroll AND the big sigh.

Bonus parenting points.


Saturday, February 06, 2016

Sleepless No More



I am sitting in a darkened house with a cup of coffee, looking out at a winter wonderland, piano music softly playing from our living room speaker. I am finally doing one of my favorite activities that has been absent for too long: writing.

These quiet moments are rare.  For years I have suffered from insomnia, which means that on weekends I "sleep in" until 8 or 9 sometimes, catching up on the sleep I missed earlier in the week.  Weekends I finally get a full 8 hours of sleep, even though it takes me 12 hours to do so. Usually by the time I'm up the girls are up and the day's activities have begun.

Today, they are still in bed and it is quiet. I began writing at 6:30 a.m.

I had been in a slump this summer and part of this fall, though others couldn't tell. My Fitbit that I got for my birthday in the spring informed me of how very little sleep I was getting, yet at the same time how much. I would awake in the morning thinking I'd barely slept 3 hours, only to find that I had slept more than that but hadn't thought so.

But really, what's the point of knowing you got seven hours of sleep when you feel like you got three? Knowing that I'd gotten more sleep than I thought would energize me for a time, until physical fatigue set in. I'd convince myself that I really should be able to function; after all, I got seven whole hours of sleep! But I still felt exhausted because the sleep was so disjointed. I would wake up around 2:00 most every night. Some times I fell right back asleep, but most nights I would lie awake until at least 4:00 if not 5:00. Occasionally I was up for the day.

Morning meetings are a bitch when you've already been up for 8 hours by the time they occur, much less afternoon meetings. People at work thought I was a morning person, but that was only because morning was actually my afternoon considering the time I got up for the day.

My wise husband, who has talked to me over the years about my sleeplessness, finally convinced me to do something different about it than what I'd been doing before, which was, really, nothing. I had read every resource about getting good sleep, followed every recommendation. I went to bed at about the same time, have a bedtime routine, used lavender,  tried melatonin, insert well-intentioned person's advice here. I had tried over-the-counter sleeping pills but they made me groggy upon waking. Despite all attempts, like clockwork my eyes would pop open at 2 a.m.

My doctor informed me that if I hadn't been waking up in the middle of the night previously that I would start to do so, as women in "my stage of life" often have hormones fluctuate mid-sleep cycle and for some it causes insomnia.

What kind of walking zombie was I going to become?

I finally tried something I had never done before, something that was always a last ditch effort for me: a prescription sleeping pill.

What a novel concept, right?

Sleep aids are one of the most commonly prescribed medications, and I only finally decided to consider them.

My mother has always been hesitant to take prescription medications. Her life's experience led her to have no trust in pharmaceutical companies, and her skepticism is not unfounded. Just like any parent/child relationship, her values have rubbed off on me.

My mother expressed concern that sleep aids cause long-term memory loss and confusion. But guess what else does: lack of sleep. And here I was, wasting hours of my life attempting to sleep while not having the energy to get my exercise in, being cranky with my family, masking my fatigue at work, and never trying a sleeping pill.

After discussing options with my doctor and expressing my hesitation at taking Ambien, which was his recommendation, he finally convinced me to try it with one caution: Never, EVER take it if I've had any alcohol at all. Yes, sir. (And then he and I compared our favorite wines.)

The first night I took one I let my husband know to be on the look out for any weird behavior, and that if the kids needed something in the middle of the night he was on-call. I dutifully took a sleeping pill and went to sleep.

I woke up with my alarm at 6:30.  I was refreshed, not groggy. I cannot describe to you the feeling of having a full night's sleep for the first time in what felt like eons. All day I walked around with a giddy smile on my face. I couldn't believe how good I felt!

It's been a few months now since that first experience, and I am a changed woman. I sleep through the night. If I awake in the middle of the night I fall back asleep usually within 30 minutes.

I started doing my fitness routine again, first just on weekends (when I used to get my catch-up sleep), and then rising earlier during the week as well. I'm back up to exercising three times a week, and I feel AMAZING. Exercise gives me strength and energy, and I'm thrilled to be getting the rest needed to be back at it.

I feel like my life is back on track. It's incredible what sleep can do for a body.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Still Here

Christmas Ever 2015
It's been a while.

Life is busy. Life is good.

Life is blessed.

I'm still here, have so much to say and so little time to say it. I am re-prioritizing exercising over blogging, which means I'm not up late at night to write. I miss it, but I miss sleep more, and am happy to be back to my fitness activities. I have several ideas burbling in my head and will get them down eventually.

Thank you for following along.

Cardio kickboxing, anyone?