Thursday, September 30, 2010

The things we do for our kids.

The older I get, the more I can cross off my "been there, done that" bucket list.

Married with kids. Check.

Navigated the subway system and enjoyed New York like a native. Check.

Explored the backroads of England and enjoyed some real pub food. Check.

Published in a wide range of media, including magazines and websites. Check.

Conquered lace knitting. Check.

Check. Check. Check.

There's another list. The one that itemizes all the things I sincerely do not enjoy, but do anyway because my family needs me to do them.

Camped. I hate tent camping. I hate platform tent camping. I loathe "under the stars" camping.
Slept in a bunk bed. For a week. In 90 degree heat (at night) and using a bathhouse that stunk worse than the open sewer ditches on Okinawa (there's a memory).
 Hiked a total of 70 miles with my son during one of his merit badge challenges.

Dressed up for countless office parties. (I hate to dress up.)
Waded into countless battles with teachers. Usually the same teachers. (I'm a teacher. Most of my kids' teachers are superlative. But the few who are disorganized and cranky with kids are high-maintenance challenges.)
Coached and served as team parent for countless sports, academic, and competition teams. There's just not enough time in the day most weeks.
Did the chores: cleaning, laundry, dishes. I like a clean house, but I hate cleaning it. Quite a paradox.
Check. And doublecheck.
 Thing is, there isn't a single thing on the second list that I regret having to do. Because it's a privilege to be with my family and a blessing to serve their needs.

Uh, oh. Both of my kids just signed up for something new.

What am I in for now?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bad bunny.

I'm researching rabbit prevention.

Not for the cute little bunnies that hop along Dunwoody Park's woods each spring.

Nor the big ones that streak across the road early in the morning as I wind my way through Wytercreek and Roberts Drive.

The ones that eat the garden. Blast it.

My perspective on Peter Rabbit has changed completely. Now I understand how very frustrated the farmer must have been. Every single vegetable we plant at the Nature Center becomes a feast for roving bunnies. I caught them at it one day, so there's no doubt they're the prime culprit.

I'm determined to turn things around next spring with a low cost, easy to shift enclosure for the garden. I want to use materials we already have in hand because that's our way (reuse and recycle).

There are lots of ideas in virtual gardener land. But I'd love to hear what works here in Dunwoody.

Ideas very much welcome.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hello, Dali.

The girls are heading to the High Museum. We'll lunch at Village Burger (our first visit!), grab Marta to the Arts Center Station, and enjoy the Dali exhibit together. This special Saturday comes courtesy of Aha! Connection, which alerted me to the free museum tickets available through the Smithsonian. I love a deal, I enjoy the High ... voila!

I admit that surrealism is not my artistic cup of tea. And Dali's self-indulgent and highly expressive mustache is distracting.  Perhaps the High's instructive dialogue accompanying the exhibit will illuminate the art and help me appreciate it beyond the visual chaos.

Bookending our day is a stop by a Girl Scout garage sale fundraiser and my daughter's highly anticipated opportunity to play with the Dunwoody High School marching band at tonight's football game. (She had to recruit her brother to take a babysitting assignment she'd already committed to before the band gig came along. He's quite a good sport - he said he'd cover for her. The parents said yes, and all's well in her world.)

The house is clean, the laundry's put away, the guys have their own stuff todo today, and it's time to head out.

Hello, Dali!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I am not married to Karl Rove.

Despite appearances to the contrary, I am not married to Karl Rove.

In the past five years, T has been offered a first class seat ("hey, I know you - you shouldn't sit back there! let's trade seats!"), asked how it is to ride on Air Force One while watching it land ("Ma'am, if I were who you think I am, I'd be on that plane, not standing here."), given countless handshakes ("You're doing a great job!"), had some fairly priceless doubletakes (to the point of folks nearly tripping and falling) ... because he looks a whole lot like Karl Rove.

You decide.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Life In Dunwoody.

For a town of 30,000+ people, this sure is a small world. I was chatting with several parents at Monday evening's Dunwoody High School PTSO meeting and one mentioned that, in one week's time, she interacted with me as a Scout parent, Dunwoody Nature Center staffer, DHS parent, and blogger. Other than the DHS parent thing, each contact was an "a ha!" moment. "Where are you NOT?"

It isn't that I'm omnipresent (though I like my kids to think so). It's just that so much is interconnected in Dunwoody. Church friends, knitting friends, fellow volunteers in the schools, volleyball parents, Preschool Phonics families, weekly breakfast diners at Hickory House, dog owners at the Bark Park, thrift store treasure hunters, fellow walkers, Scout parents, visitors to Dunwoody Nature Center ... the Venn diagrams of our relationships are constantly overlapping and rerouting. (T has even run into Dunwoody connections on flights throughout the country.)

And that's what makes life in Dunwoody so very special. We get to enjoy a small town sensibility, yet can drive just a few more miles away to get a big city perspective. Lunch at Village Burger in town can preceed a visit to the High Museum in downtown Atlanta (which is what my daughter and I will do Saturday, thanks to the Smithsonian's free museum weekend).

Life (in Dunwoody) Is Good.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Watch your tone.

The rich inflections added to any statement can change everything. A simple "yes" becomes condescending, sarcastic, funny, desolate, worried, elated ... it's all in the tone.

I've been called to task a few times about the "tone" of my emails. I'm always juggling multiple projects at work as well as family needs, so I get to the point, pretty much writing the way I speak. The problem is, an email doesn't transmit inflections. So while I'm thinking, "how are we doing?," as I email "what's the status of xx, xx, and xx?" the reader may "hear" a patronizing,  "Are you doing your job?"

It's all very frustrating. Then I either have to send a placating email (you're doing fine, I just wanted to know how we're doing) or pick up the phone to offer a verbal mea culpa. I have to remember to add warm fuzzies to emails for those who need them, and stick to the facts for those who just want to get down to business. Confuse the two and you get equally emotional responses. ("Don't be so short!" "Don't waste my time!") Worse, chronicly touchy people slow down projects and add so much complexity to what are often already difficult parameters.

Maybe I should start using those yucky emoticons. 

A telephone call is better in delicate situations because you can control the tone and delivery of your message. But that's not how we communicate these days. Phone calls are time-consuming. Send an email, move on to something else, and come back when you get an answer. Voila!

Blackberries and Iphones are notorious for bluntness. You can only thumb-key so many letters and symbols on those tiny devices. I don't own either, but lots of people email me that way. I'm fine with it - I love the brevity of a keyed "yes" or "approved" to a straightforward question. But I also know that some people hate the terse emails, particularly when they don't include the text of the email they're responding to.

 The nature of my work, both paid and volunteer, is coaxing disparate personalities to work together, guiding them without leading them and staying on schedule rather than veering off into emotional turbulence. I also have to read and send close to a hundred emails each day.  It isn't easy.

So I'll watch my tone.

Okay, I'll try to watch my tone.

Nah - I'll probably do it again.

Will a pre-emptive mea culpa in my signature work?

Sigh. Probably not.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


When the phones are ringing nonstop, when doing many things at one time means nothing is getting done completely, when I need a few moments to unwind ... I take a few minutes "off" from work with a walk through the park and into the treehouse over the wetlands.

Fresh air, soothing sounds, and glimpses of nature at work: the best cure for a hectic day is time spent outdoors.

All better now.

Monday, September 13, 2010

"My dad is an Eagle Scout. I want to be an Eagle Scout, too."

"Never, never, never give up!"
~ Winston Churchill

From eleven-year-old first-year Boy Scout to Eagle Scout ...

Adam, Chris B, Jeremy C, and Jeffrey H
Adam presents his Eagle Project to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta/Scottish Rite - 26 handheld game systems and more than a hundred games for bed-bound pediatric patients.

With the blessing of the National Boy Scout Council, this chapter will close and another will open.

I'm very, very proud of you, Adam.

Love, Mom.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Radio wars.

I have always enjoyed music. From Led Zeppelin and Nickleback to Norah Jones and Nat King Cole, my taste is eclectic, mood-oriented, and, thanks to iTunes, always available. I like to plug in my iPod to the computer speakers, turn up the volume, and rock away while I do chores, cook dinner, or work on a project. (An iHome is on my Christmas wish list.)

Yet, now as I do the mom thing and drive my daughter from one thing to another, she and I are fighting over the Odyssey's radio. She wants to listen to pop music, flipping back and forth among her favorite three stations; I want to leave it tuned to public radio. (If I hear about daisy dukes and a bikini top one more time, I'll scream.) My daughter thinks it's hilarious; I'm wincing inside because I sound just like the cliched old mom. Sometimes, I let her choose. Most of the time, I say, "my car, my station."

Fact is, I don't think much of current music. There are a few here and there I like, but the preponderence of sexual and violent innuendo and cultural language just leaves me cold. Give me a hard-driving guitar riff or delicate cello concerto any time.

Yeah, the generation thing has happened. I'm old school, my kid has her finger on the next hot song. 

Let the peace negotiations begin.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Afraid of the outdoors.

It happens nearly every time a class comes to Dunwoody Nature Center: there are children afraid of bees and yellow jackets, worried that snakes lurk everywhere, startled by the wind, and anxious about all the open space. They're afraid of the outdoors.

In the past five years, we've cut the time we spend outdoors in half. More and more children are more comfortable indoors, with their electronic games and wired entertainment. Adults move from temperature-controlled home to car to work and back again. Every moment of the day is scheduled, structured, and stressful.

What are we doing to ourselves?

Teach one child to love nature and you nurture a life of self-sufficiency and creativity. Teach a class to appreciate the natural beauty around them and you develop a generation that enjoys and appreciates the outdoors.

Dunwoody Nature Center is beginning its Fall Annual Campaign. Its environmental education programs are funded entirely by memberships, generous donors, and program fees.

If you haven't visited Dunwoody Nature Center lately (or ever), take a walk in the park. Enjoy the splashing creek. Perch along the railing of the treehouse pavilion for a tree-high view of what's happening in the wetlands. Share a picnic in the fresh open air.

And consider supporting this Dunwoody gem with a contribution to the Annual Fund. You can do it easily: just visit and click "Donate Now." Every dollar helps ensure that one more child discovers the joy of playing outside.

Will it be your child?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

We're going to be alarmed.

One of my favorite brit-coms, Keeping Up Appearances, has a by-now classic episode where Richard forgets Hyacinth's birthday and covers by telling her he's having an alarm system installed to protect her hand-painted china and knick-knacks. Hyacinth swoons in pleasure. At last, the world will know that she is a person of importance. "Elizabeth," she proclaims to her neighbor. "We're going to be alarmed!"

Lovely double entendre.

Anticipation and worry go hand in hand. Does he like me? Will that present contain the single most important thing on the wish list? Will a long-awaited job promotion (and raise) happen this year? Will my child get into the college he wants? Will there be a cure? Will she win?

When we really, really, really want something, our desire can be all-consuming. Then, if we attain that desire, we're worried that it won't be what we expected, or that we'll lose it, or that it won't last.

Maybe that's why there are so many platitudes and sermons about wishes for fishes and sour grapes and you don't always get what you want and be careful what you ask for.

Take college. On one hand, we're delighted that our son has risen to the ranks of high school seniors, a loooooonnnnng school odyssey that culminates in the almighty college acceptance letter (oh, we do hope). On the other hand, we worry about the costs,  the belief that there isn't an alarm clock in the world he can hear, and the extraordinary challenges he will face in handling his medical disabilities without us around.

We're going to be alarmed.