Monday, March 31, 2014

Awesome Howard County

Last week, I had a few opportunities to learn more about Howard County's charitable side. It's not completely surprising as I've been lightly involved in the local scene for a couple of years.

I volunteer at our top-notch Howard County Library periodically & Luke & I joined the Friends of HCL. I try to help at Lil's school. Lil's work with Ballet Mobile affords me the opportunity to help the sick/injured/elderly communities around central Maryland. But I've decided to explore more in the recent year.

I attended the annual Women's Giving Circle wine tasting & learned about their Response Network, which connects people in need to the right community service for their particular need & assists with monetary aid as well.  They're focused on programs that benefit girls & women in Howard County.

On Friday, Jessie, part of the team of HoCoBlogs, invited me to attend the Association of Community Services Annual Audrey S. Robbins Awards courtesy of Coshi Productions. Speaking of Coshi, they produced lovely video packages of friends & beneficiaries who have worked with the winners of this year's awards. The videos provided a glimpse into the people who work so hard for our community as well as an introduction to the group. Combined with Dick Story's professional emcee voice, this was a well-done event.

NeighborRide is a service for seniors unable to drive. Howard County is such a car-dependent area so this matches up drivers to take people to doctor appointments, the grocery store, etc. That car dependence was on display as I arrived at Ten Oaks on this rainy day, I parked in the middle of the parking lanes.  I'm thinking about doing NeighborRide myself - it would also be good for my car cleaning habits! But I've had many foot surgeries on my right food & been unable to drive.

One can say many things about the potential self-congratulatory aspect of charity awards. But to me, it was two hours on 1 day out of 365 days to celebrate the contributions of our community members & give them a pat on the back.

I learned about how giving Howard County is. How many people serve our community for free or at reduced salaries to help the less fortunate around us. There were a LOT of people in that room. A lot of people who care.

The Atholton High School coordinator of the Head Start assistance program brought 7 or 8 of her high school volunteers. She had each of them hold up a card with a number as she announced their names. The first student had 300, the next 600 & so on to around 2,000. Those 8 students represented more than 2,000 of their Atholton classmates for the past 10 years. 

Just like she couldn't bring all of her students, this room couldn't begin to hold the true amount of people who volunteer in Howard County.


Friday, March 21, 2014

The ring is found!

When my husband arrived home last night, my daughter asked him if he was mad at me. He reassured her that no, he was sure he'd find it.

Sure enough, he did. He was about to go through my car, which he refers to as the Bookmobile due to Lil's & my addiction to library books.

Is this my car?
He saw it hidden in a little cranny of the stairs. I have no idea how it got there. Beckham, our rotten 7 year old kitten, is usually involved in ponytail elastic thievery. He's a multiple offender, especially given his shared residence with a ballerina. If I can't find a ponytail holder on Lil's dresser, I just need to look down at the carpet & there's bound to be one. Derby, our lovebug, has multiple assault arrests from constantly headbutting us for attention & unlawful restraint as demonstrated below. (She's a minor, so I don't think she can consent?)

Jewelry heists are not as common from my boys. Beckham has been known to test gravity, but only in the kitchen from the breakfast bar to the floor. And again, that's commonly ponytail holders. Poor Beckham, remedial physics FTW.

When Luke found it, he proposed again. I said yes, in tears of happiness. My friends on Facebook have been VERY funny. A bridesmaid not sure about wearing the dress again, will I change my FB status from Married to Engaged, etc.

Since I'm now engaged, I'm thinking destination wedding...or on a cruise!! Quantum of the Seas is launching in November, so that would be lovely! Who's coming with us???

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The engagement

So I may have lost my engagement ring...

So if I get another, I want the proposal to happen again.

Luke & I decided we'd get married in December 2000. So the question was the engagement. Where, what, etc? We looked at rings, I had some ideas, he had some. I knew it would happen, but when? Where? How?

We headed to the Outer Banks for our first vacation together in June 1999. Luke & I had been dating for about 9 months. We didn't have enough money to rent a gorgeous oceanside home, so we were practical and headed to the Holiday Inn.

Luke had never been to the Outer Banks. I'd been a few times before so he asked my thoughts on a "nice" restaurant. I rolled my eyes and said, C'mon, it's the beach. Everything's pretty casual. But he persisted so we searched the Internet for well-rated wine places.

The first slot was 1587. I'd never actually gone to Manteo so it seemed like a cool spot. And it was lovely. It was mid-June and there was a little shower so we watched the rain hitting the boats in the marina. We arrived early & Luke asked for a scotch or whisky, only to learn that the island is dry. So we were a little nervous things might go a-rye (sorry for the whisky pun).

I ordered a chicken tortilla soup that arrived beautifully - lovely decorated bowl and awesome to partake. Luke had a risotto that has been our benchmark ever since.

Time out- We've finished dinner & I excuse myself to use the loo. When I return, I stop by the Tranquil House's desk & inquire about rates for an overnight stay. It's a bit more than the Holiday Inn, but we might be able to splurge. So when I return to the table, I mention it to Luke. He's interested, but kinda blah about it.

And then I do the Kirsten thing. I promised myself in the loo that I was NOT GOING TO SAY ANYTHING. DON'T BRING IT UP. Queen of no will power. So I say, "I kinda thought you were going to propose tonight." Luke looks totally taken aback & apologizes. "Oh, I'm sorry you thought that." I get redder than my hair. I look out toward the marina where it's gently raining & I want to run out there. Anywhere but here...

Luke says "How long should I let you stew?"

Pretty much the most romantic words ever...and he said "Will you marry me?"

And I got the engagement ring that had been traveling around in my car's spare tire area for a month. Staying at the Tranquil House Inn - umm, yeah! Of course, because that's where we're getting engaged.

A guy who put one over on me, called me on my answer was obviously yes.

So that's what my ring means to me. Chicken tortilla soup, rain at the marina, a guy who calls my bluff. My engagement ring means more to me than my wedding band. Because that's when we really made the commitment.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Fitness Failures

I didn't make it to Body Pump or Body Vive class yesterday. Maybe it was the time change, but I decided to rest a little bit and just do the elliptical. I have a book that I can't renew again (Who Killed Kit Marlowe? by M. J. Trow) so I used that excuse.

Group fitness exercises have made the difference in my workout, and hence, my body. I've just started doing spinning - which powers the gym - and I'm "powering" through that. So I feel guilty when I can't or don't go to a class. My personal mantra is "I have to shower at the gym."

That sounds CRAZY, doesn't it? And so odd for me - who eschewed diets & exercise for years.

As a kid, I ran around, climbed trees & tried to get my older brothers to play with me. I rode bikes with my best friend Beth (now Liz!) and we'd daringly cross the railroad tracks DURING rush hour. We played on the bars at Washington Grove Elementary and even climbed onto the school roof periodically.
Then came 1987 - the year we moved. We moved a mile away to a townhouse development. I stayed at St. Martin's, we still shopped at the same grocery stores and my walk home from school was still a mile. (Except when I took the shortcut once I discovered it.) Beth & I were still besties, but the bike rides disappeared. My neighborhood was not ideal for riding given the number of cars in a congested area and I lost my main physical activity.

So I stopped exercising a lot before I even became a teenager. I had tried team sports, I wasn't very helpful on a team...For one thing, my brothers had taught me to throw overhand, which didn't make any sense in softball. Umm, only girls throw underhand...As my dad often recalls, I was the antithesis of grace, so dance & gymnastics didn't work very well. I dreaded physical education classes.

When I went to Holy Cross in Kensington, there became less time for exercise. Morning rush hour generally meant at least half an hour to school. My mom generally drove me and then I walked down the hill and up the hill to Grosvenor Metro station. Sometimes, I'd beg a driving friend for a ride to the metro.

But I was a singer, a drama club girl and an awkward nerd. I'd rather bury my nose in a book than put on sneakers. I believe I may have gone years without buying sneakers after the PE requirement was fulfilled in sophomore year.

In college, I tried to use the gym equipment, but never developed a lasting habit. Then in Fall 1996, I was sitting in the Delta Sigma Pi weekly fraternity meeting. I was wearing forest green suede Birkenstocks and they were irritating me when I was sitting? That's weird. I fiddled with the buckle, but no, something still felt wrong. So I grabbed my foot and felt a bump on the top of my foot. Hmm, that's odd. My mom had Morton's Neuromas on her left foot from years of wearing high heels. But those are on the BOTTOM of the foot. Who gets a bump on the top of their foot?

Apparently, I do.

So off to the podiatrist I went and he diagnosed a bone spur. Which anyone who has seen me walk would understand. I walk FAST and I POUND the pavement. I attribute this to years of walking in high heels as well...I think the constant jamming caused it. Christmas Break 1996-97 - I spent in that lovely knee-high black boot and couldn't drive. I finished my senior year with a handicapped pass and my friends enjoyed my parking privileges.

And that is how I became a victim of my foot. Granted, I've had four surgeries since that initial one, most recently 2010. Luke & I used to joke that he'd have to wheel me down the aisle at our wedding. My papa says if my mom & I were horses, we'd have been disposed of LONG ago given our many ailments.

All those years of wallowing in pain, aging, sitting behind a desk, having a baby and not changing my diet meant I am a lot heavier than I'd like to be. Last winter, I had bronchitis for about 5 months, followed by sinus surgery in May. I started working out in June, but wasn't 100% til autumn. I haven't been on steroids since September. My cheekbones are actually visible now! I still need to lose more if just to avoid the judginess of my pulmonologist's tech who scolded me like a 5 year old about my weight's effect on my asthma.

But I've been scared for the past 10 days. The psoriatic arthritis flared up. I would reach for my keys in my purse and yelp in pain. The topical pain reliever didn't help. Anti-inflammatories weren't helping. I'm trying to train my left arm & hand to squeeze the shampoo bottle or spread the peanut butter. I made Lily fill out her summer camp forms so that I can just sign them. (Even if I had Luke do them, it's questionable which would look more childlike.)

Today, I felt much more energetic. So I tried out a class at CA - Zumba Circuit, which combines TRX and weights with Zumba. I had forgotten about the TRX and I got worried that I wouldn't be able to hold on. The arthritis flare seems to have receded.

And my feet do hurt. There might be another neuroma or cyst or spur on top of my foot, but I'm not giving into my stupid foot anymore. I'll never be a runner - I think that would be asking for trouble - but I can exercise in a healthy way. My inertia was hard to break through, but I did.

What is your inertia?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Stand by, we'll be back with you in 14 hours...

The snow seemed neverending yesterday—big fluffy flakes. The plow truck got rid of the snow on our roads for a few minutes. But then it was covered again.

HCPSS Facebook post last night: Right now, we’re delaying schools by 2 hours. BUT we are waiting until 7:30 AM to tell you what we’ve REALLY decided.

Working mom & dad conversation on Monday night: What meetings do you have tomorrow? Can you cancel one? Uh, no, this is a really important meeting? Can you call in? Well, why can’t you call into yours? What if it’s a delay? Well, I can take her to before-care if it’s 1 hour late. Well, if it’s 2 hours, that’s going to be really tight to get to my client. Well, I guess your job is so much more important. But I don't have any vacation time left because this has been such a snowy winter. On-and-on, you can imagine it. I've worked for many bosses who didn't care about me having a kid. I'm lucky I don't have a boss anymore, but the stress still gets to me.

And then knowing it was going to be canceled, why not just say so?

While I was complaining at HCPSS’ lengthy delay to announce the closing, someone said they’re worried about making a mistake. I get that. We are out of snow days. But it was patently obvious from our drive around the Mall area last night that roads would not be ideal for walkers, buses, cars, tricycles, horse & buggy, etc. Maybe for skiers and Siberian husky driven sleds. When I drove on Twin Rivers Rd. at 11:15 AM to go to the Athletic Club on Harper’s Farm, it was in bad shape. Especially on bends in the road. It was slushy. When I returned home around 1 PM, it was much better. But that road provides access to a high school and a middle school. Not good, people.

The Board of Education needs to start planning for makeup days. In Virginia Beach, they decided to have a Saturday make-up day. Although people complained, 78% of kids showed up. I don't want the county to apply for a waiver from the 180 day requirement. That's cheating the kids and saying rules don't matter if you ask nicely. I want my daughter in school. And I want that school time to be productive, not half days where they sit down, get organized, get 20 minutes of instruction and then the bell rings to move to the next class. Learning takes time and a lot of kids don't reset as quickly as others. 

This is an election year for some of the Board members. There has been a lot of focus on them recently, in regard to teacher pay increases (lack thereof, actually) and potential changes to the instrumental music program. They need to have creative options for dealing with our missed days and furthermore, they must elicit community feedback. We're watching.