Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Nalley Fresh Party

Wow, last night's party at Nalley Fresh in Columbia was happening! There were a ton of people. Political people, entrepreneurs and bloggers (which overlap!) gathered to dine on yummy food, listen to good music and chat. If you wanted to be be seen, that was the place to be.

Thank you to Jessie Newburn and Greg Nalley for hosting us. Of course, I broke one of my rules - having caffeine after 5 PM. That was not good for sleeping last night. But it gave me a chance to reflect on how much my life has changed since my first blog party at Second Chance long, long ago in 2012.

I'll always remember being slightly nervous when I walked in - that I didn't know anybody. But I did, right off the bat - a fellow Running Brook parent, Bill Santos. He introduced me to everyone & I had a blast. Without the blogging community, I would not have met Julia McCready, who is so supportive of me. I would not have met Tom Coale and worked on his campaign. Without it, I would not have met Claire McGill and my British friends that will provide lodging (hint, hint) in a couple of years on my next trip to Blighty. (Speaking of which, I now have a friend that knows Sharon Kay Penman and is also a Brit history buff.) I would never have met Dennis and I am glad that I met him before he was taken from us.

My life is so much richer and I have learned so much and made so many friends. If last night was your first HoCo Blogs party, make sure it's not your last! I look forward to seeing you again.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Strathmore Arts

On Friday, my mom, sis-in-law, Lil & I checked out Strathmore Hall for the first time to see Kristin Chenoweth.

Little ironic - I went to the Academy of the Holy Cross and walked to the Metro all the time. The theatre wasn't there yet, but they did have programs there. So I'd always wanted to support the programs.

What a lovely venue. There is hardly any carpet to be found in the hall and one could feel some starkness in the openness. The light wood - pine? - allows the performer to design their own experience. Ms. Chenoweth was wearing a navy/violet gown and the lighting designers created gorgeous effects. I believe the young men in the accompanying choir at the end were wearing pale purple ties. I was surprised to see that against such a pale interior. The pale wood seemed to create a palate that individual performers can design for their individual performance.

So let's get to Ms. Chenoweth. I fell in love with her artistry from an NPR article in 1998, when they spotlighted her work as Sally in You're a Good Man Charlie Brown. I could hear the quirkiness in her voice and admired her spirit.

Friday night, I was reaffirmed in that opinion. She sang "Moon River" to us - my wedding song. Luke & I are "two drifters off to see the world" and we love Breakfast at Tiffany's. I really regretted not bringing Luke to this performance.

She talked about her belief in the arts making a difference. That music is necessary to express our humanity. In an unexpected turn, she and her conductor performed The Heart of the Matter -which I always subtitle "Forgiveness." Given the recent death of Glenn Frey, (I know, this is Don Henley), I heard this song differently than before.

Ms. Chenoweth made me happy & sad. She made me feel and think. I loved her range and her depth.

But I loved her message. Whatever you do, find your truth. Find your purpose. LIVE that. It is different for everyone. But DO that. When she said it, I was thinking about Lil dancing and her belief in her inspiration. But then I thought, Wait, K - you're doing that too.

Thank you Kristin for bringing your beautiful voice, your silliness and your honesty to Strathmore. I hope to see you again!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Game of Tweens

No more emails from Gymboree. I officially unsubscribed from their list this week. I'd get the ads with the cute clothes and envision Lil in their wares.

But that's not her anymore. She wants to shop at Justice. I don't mind their clothes too much, but they're definitely not for little kids. Gone are the days I could choose her clothes. For the last couple of years, it's been a struggle. My mom had her over the New Year's weekend and offered to take her clothes shopping. I said YES, PLEASE! (Don't worry, I paid her back.)

After buying her new boots on Thursday, we wandered through the girls' section. Lil claimed that she needed to go to the juniors' department. We went there and as I knew, everything there was too big. So she challenged me on the return to the girls' side - find at least two items that would fit her. When I did, she added the extra obstacle of the items being things she liked. Sigh.

On New Year's Eve, she ordered a New York strip for lunch at the Greene Turtle. She didn't like it very much, as it's not really a steak place. But after ordering it, she said the hostess hadn't given us a children's menu.

I used to joke about her being closer to college than to birth. But this week, it didn't seem like a joke. It felt more like a tearjerker.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Charleston - A Full Day

Three or four years ago, I could barely handle an hour of physical activity. My foot, coming off five surgeries, was a painful reminder at every step. I was scared of encouraging more bone spurs and neuromas. Every twinge of pain made me think I was bringing on my next surgery.

Today, I cleared the 10,000 step mark around 2 PM.

In all honesty, we did drive to Hominy Grill - they open at 9 and people start lining up at 8:30. Knowing it would be a long day, we were told to drive there and big shocker - parking was free.

Breakfast was delicious and Luke's shrimp and grits made him a happy camper. Me, less adventurous, well...I loved the jam and biscuits.

Our tour was at 11 and we had plenty of time to return to the hotel and walk around Tradd St. The homes are lovely and later we were told that many people hold these as trophy homes. I felt a sense of emptiness. (Trust me, when you've door-knocked, you have a sense for no one at home.)

At 11, we met up with our tour guide, Ed Macy. We'd heard great things and we were not disappointed. He interacted with Lil and balanced being funny with being serious. He told us about a time he'd heard a tour guide in the 1970s discuss how "slaves were part of the family." That has continued to bother him and I appreciated that he recognized his neighbors' myths at an early age.

After the tour, we walked several blocks to the ferry for Ft. Sumter. It was such a gorgeous day. I was wearing shorts and people were shedding their coats & scarves like they had dressed for a Maryland November day. 70s in Charleston. Barely a cloud in the sky.

Dinner was at Cru Cafe - we had gotten seats at the chef's table. Luke had a scallop appetizer with shrimp in a tomato-based broth. I had a pork tenderloin that was so tender. But more importantly, we struck up a conversation with a neighbor who was dining alone.

As we walked back, I saw a cab slowing down by us. Like we looked like tired tourists.

But we weren't. Instead, we were looking at the architecture, the single houses, the "doors" and the church steeples.  I was enjoying a walk that five years ago seemed impossible.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Our Curse on Epcot

It rains periodically in Central Florida. Specifically when we visit Epcot Center.

When I was a kid, I hated Epcot. The area around Spaceship Earth, AKA the giant golf ball, sent me into paralysis. I don't remember the World Showcase that much except it seemed blah to me.

Discovering the different countries as a twenty-something made an impact, however. Maybe it was me learning French, going to Maryland, working in a multinational firm...I just seemed to engage in a way I hadn't before.

Oddly, Lils liked Epcot early on...she liked the supposedly emblematic costumes in each country and the different accents. Finding the Kidcot spots in the back corners of the pavilions was a special game for her. Meeting the cast members who are doing a stint in the US to work on their English, begin their careers or have an adventure is a special thing for me. They work so hard and have to deal with many nationalities - in front and behind the scenes.

Lunch & dinner in the countries are an adventure sometimes. We tried the Restaurant Marrakesh for lunch today and were entertained by Moroccan musicians and a belly dancer. Tonight, I spoke French with an Italian server and searched for the word "entre."

As always, the rain. We got to the Italian restaurant early and had prosciutto & wine in the wine cellar. It was just a drizzle at that point. When we finished our dinner, the Illuminations fireworks show began. Lil went out to watch and when I followed her, I got drenched. She didn't care and I didn't either.

Then we walked out of Epcot in the rain & of course, we were in one of the farthest spots from the entrance. The rain became a downpour as we reached the car.

Now we are watching the Long Ranger in our room with the balcony door open as the clouds empty. Lil's favorite way to finish a night at Disney is watching a movie while it storms.

Stay safe in the rain!

Monday, November 16, 2015

High Maintenance

No, the title's not referring to me...

Today my sinuses are reminding me they're still operational. The 75 degree weather is probably partially to blame. But what I did yesterday is also, methinks.

My papa Bill manages the food booths at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in addition to his myriad other volunteer activities there and elsewhere. His favorite part of the year is when he answers the phones at the fair office when the fair is happening. The questions he hears are ridiculous.

Anyway, the Laytonsville Lions Club, of which he is a part, had volunteered to staff the food booth for, wait for it, the Capital Cat Fanciers. This is ironic, because Papa Bill despises cats, unless they are working in the barn. Otherwise, he thinks they are annoying as hell and makes that abundantly clear when he is at my house. "Get away, damn cat" is probably said five times in an hour of his presence here. (Although I think he has a begrudging non-dislike for Disney.)

What is also amazing is that my husband allowed me to go to a cat show. He made sure I was carrying a small purse so I could not smuggle any new friends home. Luke strongly believes in a one cat per person rule for our family. Introducing a new one means someone has to go. And yes, we would all three of us say Beckham. But he will probably outlive Disney (they're six years apart), because that's how annoying Beckham is.

Also amazing, Luke didn't have a sneezing fit or watery eyes. He doesn't take his Zyrtec regularly. I do, but I still think part of my congestion is all the kitties. We're both allergic, but I didn't encounter any Russian Blues, which really affect me.

We enjoyed the Maine Coon cat that was the size of a small collie. Same coloring too. There was a four-month-old kitten that I definitely wanted to take home. He was a little nervous as it was his first show. The judges at the show also impressed us as they explained the criteria for assessing the cats. It was hard to follow along sometimes or see why certain cats weren't winners. We spent a couple of hours running from ring to ring to see the long-hairs and the kittens as they went through the multiple rounds.

At dinner last night at Mom & Bill's favorite restaurant, Italian Pines, we were discussing the potential for any of our cats to qualify for a show. More than just the qualifying - but the serenity of these cats. They get introduced to the circuit at four months old, if they're better than pet quality. A woman with two fluffy six-month old Himalayans said their brother was "petted out." "You can just tell immediately if they're pets."  They weren't scared, one was very playful (not a perfect Himalayan) and just sprawled out. She said she has to wash them THREE times/week. They were absolutely gorgeous.

But my mom said Disney could be a show cat. So as I was brushing my teeth this morning, while Disney is halfway in the sink drinking water (it's Luke sink, not mine), I allowed myself to dream of taking my cat to a cat show. How I'd sit there brushing Disney. How he's too fat. How his tail has a crick at the end, probably from birth.

He may not be show quality, but he's high quality when it comes to love & low maintenance when it comes to grooming. He's sleeping on his back next to me, dreaming of chasing mice or birds with his front paws twitching and his back paws quivering.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

When a plan doesn't come together

Today, this blog post was published by our superintendent. As of yesterday, my middle schooler has used her Ipod for the following: playing games when she's finished lunch, playing games during lunch and using an app over the Wi-fi to text me. (She doesn't have data yet.)

Over lunch with another mom of a middle-schooler, she told me how many syllabi this year required the use of a tablet. Wow, big difference from our middle school. Her husband bought an Asus tablet for their daughter. Who came home upset upon being directed to download a crucial app for a class that was only available for...Apple devices.

This article proclaims the miracle of Howard County middle schoolers bringing their devices to school, but middle school parents would dispute this. Instead, they’re sitting at lunch with their heads focused on their screens. During classes, kids aren’t using them. At one school, when asked, a teacher said “We’re not sure what we’re doing with them yet. Maybe we’d have them scan a QR code.”

So…there’s not a plan.

Children are allowed to bring any device they want: tablet, Ipod, smartphone or Kindle. My daughter has an Ipod Touch that requires wi-fi for usage. It’s also got a three inch screen. If they scan a QR code to go to a website, her experience will differ greatly from a kid who’s using a tablet. The fact that there's no standard requirement for a smart device indicates that there's no structured plan. And for the kid that does not have a device?

Contrast this to Montgomery County Public Schools. They have been rolling out Chrome Books to their school system on a MULTI-YEAR basis. They have a plan! Our schools already have laptops that they use on a periodic basis. They have a Frequently Asked Questions sections and information on training for teachers. Our system website has information on Digital Responsibility for teachers. Our schools don't even have consistent wi-fi.

I find this lack of plan even more concerning due to a report recently by Anderson Cooper on CNN called Being 13. Kids are spending a lot of their day checking social media to see if they're getting "dissed" or if their friends are hanging out with other friends. If there's no plan, what is the point of them taking their device to school? To continue bullying each other and feeling bad about themselves?

Maybe some teachers have some ideas and that's great. But it seems like there's inconsistency throughout our country as to their usage. Our kids have plenty of ways to waste their time outside of school with electronic devices to the chagrin of their parents. Why inside too?