Saturday, December 20, 2014

Three funerals - can I get a wedding?

Today was the third memorial service is 10 weeks or so for me. The first one was not unexpected - pancreatic cancer. The second rather surprising - my grandmother was in great health despite vascular dementia. Today's was very surprising - a stroke possibly caused by a terrible heart infection that ended in a car accident.

I convinced Lil to come with me today - she had no ballet rehearsal and Luke was working. I needed someone to be there for me and with me. Someone to talk through the emotions. Someone to keep me in the here & now.

Someone to remind me that there is life & laughter when I feel overwhelmed with sadness.

People often keep their kids away from funerals. I believe children should be present in the celebration of life.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Choices for Breakfast

We had a really busy weekend. Lil had a performance at Heartlands in Ellicott City for Ballet Mobile at which she did her newly learned role of the Chinese dancer in the Nutcracker. For dinner, we attended Iron Bridge Wine Company's annual Charles Dickens' party with "A Christmas Carol" readings and Victorian-costumed a cappella singers.

Lil got to bed around 10, which isn't really a problem usually. But she was tired & she didn't set her alarm. I didn't realize she wasn't awake, so she didn't get up until 8:15. The bus comes at 8:50-8:55, so she didn't have much time. She didn't eat breakfast at home on Monday.

As my friend Tom wrote, Howard County lags behind in providing school breakfast to low-income students. More on that in a second.

My daughter is failure-to-thrive, meaning she fell off the growth charts at some point...I think she was 3 years old. At the time, it meant that we had to take her to the doctor for monthly weigh-ins, supplement her with Pediacare and overall, stress out about her weight. She's almost 11 now, but given the fact she dances 10-12 hours per week, gaining weight is nearly impossible. She's been tested for lead poisoning and other abnormalities, but nothing's shown a problem. Her endocrinologist is pretty conservative and doesn't see much wrong with her. A child who really is FTT has no energy, may be anemic and is not always intellectually developed. So her endocrinologist's advice - let her eat ANYTHING and EVERYTHING.

Breakfast is typically her best meal of the day. On weekends, she'll have several waffles or pancakes. On weekdays, cereal, sans milk (I know). Lunch & dinner might be smaller. So breakfast is the focus.

Back to Tom's post, there are several schools that provide breakfast to the entire school regardless of income level. Lil's school is one of those. There is no stigma and there is no hurry because the breakfast cart goes to the classroom. They have some cereals, fruit, milk and maybe yogurt, but she doesn't like anything on the cart.

When Lil told me she'd overslept, I said "Well, eat something you don't like from the breakfast cart." She replied "How can I eat something I don't like?"

That exchange stuck with me the whole day. I don't blame her for her choosiness and I'm not mad at her for eschewing "yucky" food. She should be grateful that she had an option though.

But what stuck with me was that she has the choice to say no to the breakfast cart almost every single day.

A lot of her classmates don't have that choice. If they say no to that breakfast cart everyday, they'll be hungry. And when you're hungry, it's a lot harder to be picky.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Middle School Muddles

Next year, my little person heads to Middle School. I dread it. Not because of the school, which has had a variety of incidents over the past couple of years (What middle/high school doesn't?). But because it's a jumping off point and it's not always a swan dive into that hormone/crazy/preteen pool, much less a clean swim to the ladder.

I personally liked one particular aspect of my parochial school life. I went to St. Martin's for 8 years - 1st grade to 8th grade. The only difference between 4th & 5th grade was that 5th grade girls started wearing a skirt instead of a jumper (pinafore for my British readers). Obviously, in the US, kids go to middle school/junior high in 7th or 8th grade, but hopefully you see my point of a transition to being a "big" kid.

When you became a 5th grader, more opportunities opened to you. We started electing someone to student council. I believe 7th graders were the vice-presidents and 8th graders were presidents. While this may be shocking to some readers, I was the Student Council President in my final year. I ran a campaign - I'm not sure which classmate I beat. (Which is pathetic: my class was only 25 or so people).

Here's what I DO remember: running for President, I had name recognition. The little kids looked up to me (the big kids probably had more reason to tease me, but...). That translates into responsibility. I wanted to present a positive picture of what 8th grade meant for those little kids. (Again, that is my peculiarity, there are/were plenty of upper school kids that did NOT feel that way.)

The opposite argument could be made for not allowing preteens/young teens to move on from the primary grades. That middle school offers maturation and better preparation for high school. Probably 75% of my high school came from an 8 year school though so that may have been irrelevant in my case.

Additionally, one could argue that being in an 8 year program could mean that your little siblings could tattle on you to your parents. You still had to see your annoying 10 year old sister at school assemblies or wonder if your 1st grade would report that you said "Damn" on the school bus. I was the baby (again, WHO knew that about me???) so I didn't have that problem. I had the opposite problem of all the teachers knowing my brothers, but everyone knew which brother I was more like...(sorry Brian!).

From Luke's perspective - he actually had that all 12 years of his hometown school. Blue Ridge School District is ONE campus with THREE schools. And from my view of the homepage right now, it is apparently snowing in New Milford, PA. We joke about his one-room schoolhouse, but that campus ain't that big. His public school graduating class was the same size as my private school class. (Funny coincidence - we were BOTH valedictorians! That's probably more of a reason to feel sorry for the Lilster. If you haven't met my lovely husband, think Rick Moranis from Parenthood.)

From the elementary standpoint, there is also the division of the primary (K-2) & elementary grades (3-5) in pedagogy. Why don't we divide them up? A 12 year old on the playground with a kindergartener exhibits a huge divide of physical, emotional & social growth. There are so many different ways of segregating kids by age throughout the world - I have no idea what the "right" way is or if there IS a right way.

Of course, I'm fine with Lil going to middle school. I am nervous about the infighting, the hormones, the monsters under the bed...But you  know what? I'd be lying to myself if I didn't state the obvious - it's already begun. Next year, it will just be in a larger, albeit overcrowded, building and she will have to find her way. Just like she does everyday of her life, without the anxiety I had all the time. She is a stronger, better, more socially adept person than I was/am. People say to me often about her & my fears of little things for her - "It's Lil. She'll be fine."

She will be & I will be.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Inner Arbor obfuscation

One of the opponents on the CA Board to the Inner Arbor used his bi-weekly newsletter to misrepresent the facts regarding a legal opinion that claims the Columbia Association has illegally given away Symphony Woods. Thus, I have responded there. But I am reposting here as my comments are awaiting moderation.

You posted this information 12 days after the Columbia Association voted to allow the CA attorney’s assessment to be publicized. Nowhere in your commentary do you mention Ms. Fanaroff’s opinion. Understandably, you don’t because it runs counter to your argument. Your reporting, which is actually commentary, is purporting to detail the events after the last CA meeting. Leaving out her opinion means that you are potentially lying, or at least misrepresenting the situation, to your constituents.

I find it odd that you are proceeding in this manner, given that you claim that the Inner Arbor Trust was conceived in secrecy. Your actions & words display a covert, secretive edge. You have decided you don’t like something so you will lie and mislead people.

Thank you for apologizing to Mr. Matthews for presenting his testimony to the Planning Board. As the President, he should be the voice for CA publicly. Once something is approved, he should champion that idea. I only wish that you could come before the PB to apologize for your mistake. These situations, unfortunately, demonstrate the lack of professionalism that you have brought to the CA board.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Inner Arbor Testimony for Planning Board

To get everyone revved up for Thursday's continuation of the planning board meeting on Inner Arbor, I figured I'd post my testimony from November 6! I did ad-lib a couple of times, but this is what I submitted to the Planning Board as I wasn't sure I'd be able to speak. One reason I ad-libbed was the awesome presentation that Michael McCall gave that night. It inspired some ideas that I thought needed to be said again. But I think you, intelligent readers, will get the gist of my testimony.

My name is Kirsten C and I have been a resident of Town Center since 2003 in the Governor's Grant neighborhood. Symphony Woods’ disuse has been a sore subject for me throughout as it's practically my front yard. 

The Inner Arbor plan has piqued my interest. It uses some creativity & outside-the-box thinking, which the 2010 Paumier plan that this board rejected did not. When I saw the 2010 plan, I was very disappointed in the lack of creativity. The 2010 plan had no energy in it. The IA plan includes opportunities of new spaces to meet with friends, allow children to play and host community events to create special memories.

Tonight I’m excited that Phase 1 – the Chrysalis – is up for approval. This is my favorite part. I hope would be a destination for smaller bands, a speaker series, library events and our local public school children. One opponent of Inner Arbor said that we should just use Merriweather Post. However, Merriweather Post is owned by a corporation that puts on shows to make money. The public sector partnership that our county has forged with them over the past few years is growing stronger & should continue that way. However, if they used that space for an author-led book club event instead of having sold-out concerts, I would question their sanity. Symphony Woods, on the other hand, is a quasi-public space that is more appropriate for community events.

This is a hole in our community. I have lived in Town Center for 11 years, waiting & waiting for something to happen. For these spaces to be attractive & open for all – I finally have the Metropolitan, Wilde Lake is being renovated and Maggiano’s and Seasons 52 offer fine dining outside my door. Finally. When Seasons 52 & the library hosted a party for the Howard County bloggers a few weeks ago, I was describing where I live by gesturing up the hill. As a friend (Village Green/Town Squared) noted what I said: “Yes, right there! In those townhouses, right there. And I've been waiting and waiting for this (she gestured around her) to happen." I don’t want to wait until my daughter has gone to college for Symphony Woods to become something to visit. I want people to say to us when we say we’re from Columbia, Oh that’s a great place with that pretty lakefront and that cool park & that awesome mall.

I am proud that my council member, Mary Kay Sigaty, has been a champion for this project and supports creating a vibrant downtown district in Columbia. Saving Symphony Woods is an empty mantra – there is nothing to save. Inner Arbor brings life to a dead, wasted area of my neighborhood. I look forward to seeing the concept of Inner Arbor become a physical reality for my family to enjoy.

Thank you.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sunday's not Funday

Dreary weather often leads to dreary Kirstycat.

Add to the weather is that hubby has flown off to Vegas. I was texting last night with one of my friends & she was surprised that I wasn't going. I reminded her of the small blonde person that enjoys playing whist & Carcassonne at her house. Lil had a performance yesterday & today for Ballet Mobile, the first of 8 Nutcracker performances for the season. Luke & I went to last night's performance and Lil was lovely in her doll dance. (When I pick her up in a little while, she'll have spent almost 12 hours at ballet.) But she has school & ballet rehearsal and as awesome as my mom & papa are, that's a lot to ask.

Especially since I didn't really want to go to Las Vegas. I love playing craps, no question. Black jack is fun too, although I start getting stressed when Luke bets a pile of chips. Since he's going for work, the idea of hanging out in casinos waiting for him didn't sound too enticing. Hanging out at the pool, reading, might attract me, but leaving this morning at 7 AM to return in a few days at midnight, didn't.

Which leads to me sitting on my couch, playing Candy Crush, watching the Bucs overcome the RGIII et al, (SIX SACKS so far - WTF?) trying to figure out what to do for dinner. Trying to figure out if I'll make Lil come to the Bridge with me for a little while. Trying to figure out if I should sign up for an HTML class at HCC. Trying to figure out what's next.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Life Well Lived & Loved

Saturday I delivered a tribute to one of my favorite people – my Uncle Richard. It wasn’t in my notes, but at the end, I looked at my aunt and my uncle’s kids & said something like, Thank you for the opportunity to talk about my favorite uncle.
When my aunt asked me to speak, I felt deeply honored. And then, really nervous. I was a child when my Aunt Liz married Richard. And I wondered what I should say.

My Aunt Liz's (my dad's) family deserved some attention. 3 of her siblings wrote me back with their thoughts about Richard. 

I brought those thoughts to Boulder on Saturday. My dad's thoughts about debating NASA funding with his fellow government colleague. My grandmother's "Oh Richard" when she realized he was teasing her. My aunt & cousin who reminded me that the minute Richard walked into a family occasion he'd ask "When's dinner?" Except for Christmastime - he'd ask "Where are my presents?" I had to tell him every year that he wasn't getting any presents. And my Aunt Liz thought I would have mentioned in my tribute that I told him he wasn't smart enough to be around us Litkowskis. I think I was 11 maybe?

But I didn't. Because he was. I did say that while I liked him initially for giving me 2 cousins that were girls & around my age, I found that he acted my age sometimes too.

He was kinder than most of us. A Southern gentleman who really cared about family and teased with wit, but a smile that softened the joke.

After the tribute, I came back to my seat and Luke squeezed my hand and my brother said "Good job." When the service ended, a few people came up to me to say they liked my speech. But one person said, "I could feel your connection with Richard. That you respected & loved him." 

So when I said at the end, Thank you to my aunt & Garth, Blakely & Emily, I meant 1) I was glad to know this man and 2) thank you for trusting me with a sacred time. 

I am so glad that you have his voice recorded - it was so distinctive and beautiful and witty.