Wednesday, November 28, 2012

One Thing -

I am in the between generation. I grew up the old fashioned, technology free way but my adulthood is dominated by technology. My generation starting relying on personal computers a tiny bit in high school, maybe some in college and most definitely at our first jobs.

So I am frequently in awe of the next next big techie thing. I will never be jaded - it is all just too amazing. Social networking is part of this bright new world. The various mediums such as Facebook, blogs and twitter connect us in ways impossible to imagine. We engage with people we have known forever and people we have never met.

Today I cried many tears for a family and a little boy I have never met in person. Zach Guillot has been fighting AML leukemia. He is 8 years old and is currently at St. Jude after two bone marrow transplants in Dallas. His incredible mother Julie posted this on their Facebook page today which I have been following for quite awhile

"We received the hard news yesterday that Zach has not responded to the treatments at St. Jude, and he will not be a candidate for a 3rd bone marrow transplant. We are shocked to arrive at this conclusion, which is much different than we expected when we came here. We knew our chances were slim, but thought we would have an opportunity to take that chance. But, Zach's AML is resistant, aggressive, and has survived two transplants, and the transplant team at St. Jude's believes the process will hurt more than help. Meanwhile, Zach continues to feel well, is energetic, and wants to see his friends. It is hard to tell what Zach realizes at this point, but we have to make the most of his remaining time."
While I do not know Julie and Zach in the usual way, I do know them in this new world where we have the chance to broaden our humanity. I and many, many others feel genuine anguish for this family.

So I will use my social networking and my blog to do One Thing, if you have not already then visit (see top right corner of blog) to register as a potential bone marrow donor for all those fighting for the next day...a free, fast cheek swab is all it takes ...

Saturday, November 24, 2012

2012 Thanksgiving Texas Road Trip

Our 2012 Thanksgiving Texas Road Trip was full of friendship and fun. Camping Friends and Commuter Family (us, of course) started in Eldorado & Sonora, Spelunking Rocks! (click for post), where our caving experience was supreme. We stopped at Fort McKavett (click for post) on the road to Buchanan Lake to spend the rest of the week at Canyon of the Eagles.

We set up our Pop-Up at Canyon of the Eagles RV area while Camping Friends bunked down in a wonderful cabin with lake view. 

Our highlights are best shown in pictures ...

Oldest Son, Commuter Husband & Youngest Son hike Thanksgiving morning at Canyon of the Eagles.
The Canyon of the Eagles Nature Park Reserve had the best marked Trails ever - even the Not A Trails! 
Look closely at all the Sonora Cave DIRT! We finally got to hang the wet clothes at our campsite. 
This is the table where we had Thanksgiving lunch - Texas Hill Country (although lake is super low.) 
Of course, the guys still watched Thanksgiving football ...
Friday brought the boys' favorite - bows and arrows! A tournament was organized with Oldest Son victorious.
Friday lunch: Cooper's Pit Bar-B-Que in Llano. Boys loved the cabrito (goat) - adventurous eaters for sure.  
The clump in tree on left is eagle's nest and the spot in tree on right is the mother eagle.  
Youngest Son lighting Shabbat candles, with wine in Styrofoam and bagel chips wrapped for "Challah."  
Commuter Husband in kippah snuggling with Oldest Son around Shabbat night fire. Thankful indeed. 
Ugh - teaching Youngest Son & Oldest Son how to break camp and take down Pop-Up.
One final Road Trip stop - The Billy the Kid Museum in Hico! 
Who knew? 
Youngest Son & Oldest Son checking out the Hico Jail. 
Truly thankful for this 2002 Ford Expedition and Coleman Pop-Up.  Many miles and many, many memories over the years.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Fort McKavett

On Wednesday, in route from Eldorado, TX to Lake Buchanan, TX, we stopped at Fort McKavett State Historic Site.

Surprising fact #1: The Buffalo Soldiers were stationed here.

Surprising fact #2: Colonel Abner Doubleday commanded an all African-American regiment here in 1971. In the Fort McKavett Visitor Center, it cites Doubleday as the inventor of baseball. Oldest Son vehemently rejects this premise!

It was a beautiful, blue sky day for exploring ...
Youngest Son & Oldest Son were heads down looking for rusty artifacts which had to be returned before we left.
Oldest Son exploring Officer Quarters remains and I just like this shot.
Oldest Son on top of Fort McKavett - no surprise there. 
Oldest Son & Youngest Son peering into the soldier homes which were furnished as in the late 1800s. They are looking for the Native American Indian necklace as part of a game to "find the item." 
Oldest Son & Youngest Son sprinting to spot the single candle holder. Candy Sticks for the winners of "find the item."
Oldest Son. American Flag. Thankful.
Youngest Son is the white spec at end of wall.
Oldest Son on top of Fort McKavett - again.  
Stopped for lunch in Menard, TX - thought this was quite clever. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Spelunking Rocks!

Camping Friends, Commuter Husband, Youngest Son & Oldest Son disrobing from helmets, kneepads, elbow pads, gloves and repelling gear - each item definitely needed and appreciated! 
It is in that moment when you first arrive. What will it be like? Total fail? The coolest place ever?

Our Commuter Family often veers off the beaten path. This Thanksgiving week is no exception. We are traveling in West Texas with our Camping Friends who are a family of four with two boys ages 14 and 12.  Camping Friends are up for adventure and we have been sharing fun times together for over ten years.

The Caverns of Sonora
We spent the entire day caving at The Caverns of Sonora. The morning had the typical tour on the decorated side of the cave. We dubbed our guide as Endearing Grumpy Old Guy. He has clearly done this tour many times, is passionate about preservation and takes no guff. And ... we so enjoyed his thorough explanations and "original" delivery. It is nice to be with someone who is authentic. The cave is just beautiful with lots of ooh and ah moments.


We did the Discovery Challenge Cave Tour in the afternoon. We suited up in lighted hard hats, gloves, knee pads and elbow pads. As we entered the cave and waited to begin, our two Jewish families said the Shehecheyanu which is a common Jewish prayer for saying thanks for new and unusual experiences. A very, very appropriate blessing for what was to come ...

Our first Challenge was crawling on our belly through dirt and water while keeping our head from scraping the top of the low and narrow passageway. I then proceeded through spaces that seemed impossible for me fit but somehow I wiggled, pulled and inched through all of them. We even did a vertical belly crawl up an area that can only be described as extremely claustrophobic - once up - the only way back down was feet first on our belly (think crayfish.)

The Grand Finale Challenge was a 50 foot rappel into Devil's Pit. I was the only member of our party to immediately find myself hanging completely upside down which is what happens when you do not lean back with your feet against the cave cliff wall as instructed repeatedly. I also ended with blood peeping out of my forearm. There was a great deal of spectator entertainment value in my clumsy descent.

Our afternoon guides were patient, funny, knowledgeable and AWESOME. During the four hours plus, we were often out of our comfort zone but also calmed by the complete stillness under the earth's surface. Collectively, our party of eight agreed that the afternoon's spelunking Challenge(s) qualified as a Bucket List kind of day.

X Bar Ranch
Our current accommodations at the X Bar Ranch are unique and fitting for this middle of no where trek. Our Commuter Family is residing in our Coleman Pop-Up while Camping Friends are in a cute but super small cabin. This working ranch outside of Eldorado, Texas has a portion allocated to eco-tourism. We have access to a shared lodge with lots of wonderful communal areas for indoor and outdoor cooking, games, hiking and nature. We have never stayed anywhere quite like this - we like it allot.
Our Campers' shower at X Bar Ranch - hooked to a water hose - hilarious!
See the mouse head in left corner under grate? Nest found in old grill on our hike at X Bar Ranch.
Camper Friends' Son cutting open Cactus Pear. The boys picked a dozen and so excited to eat!
Camping Friends' Dad trying to start a fire with a Bear Grylls knife - yeah baby!
We head out tomorrow for the next leg of our West Texas trip ...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

My 8 Moments and counting ...

I have been inspired by Unseen Moon and his post on "7 Moments." I will follow his format in describing the periods of my life so far ...

Moment 1: Before the Accident. In May 1969, I was in a car accident with my mother and brother. My mother did not survive. Honestly, this is The Moment of my life. It changed everything. I wrote about it in 1966 and then 1969.

High Point: I had a loving family nucleus until I was 4.
Low Point: The Obvious.

Moment 2: Childhood. The years from age 4 to age 12 are like a fuzzy highlight reel of well-intentioned love and great sorrow.

High Points: My brother and I were always together. Reading my way through the school library.
Low Points: Just too many to write down ... that is for another day. 

Moment 3: Teen Years. School became my salvation.

High Points: At school I had friends, sports, clubs, yearbook, cheerleading, academic success, etc. - stereotypical overachiever hoopla. I starting working at age 15 and gained freedom with a car at age 16.
Low Point: Home life still dismal but it did not matter as much ... that is also for another day.

Moment 4: College. The glory years. On my own and glad of it.

High Point: Every minute.
Low Points: Not too much.

Moment 5: First Marriage. College sweetheart and lasted about 3 years.

High Points: Taught math two years and then completed my Master of Science in math & stats.
Low Points: Divorce. More Abandonment.

Moment 6: Four single years. Moved to Dallas and began consulting career.

High Points: Professional accolades. Hanging in Deep Ellum. Rebound relationship with fun guy who had an awesome family.
Low Points: Relationship end created More Abandonment.

Moment 7: Second Marriage Before Kids. Married my sweet and intelligent Commuter Husband.

High Points:  Read "Motherless Daughters" by Hope Edelman and spent ALLOT of time in therapy. Ran a marathon. Got Volunteer of the Year at Domestic Violence Shelter. Became Jewish.
Low Points: Not too much really.

Moment 8: Motherhood. Commuter Husband and I brought two little boys into the world.
High Points & Low Points: Still experiencing every precious Moment ...
Fleeting Moments with 5 peso Pinwheels Chasing Bubbles - Tequila, Jalisco 2008

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bounce, Bounce, Bounce

Oldest Son w/basketball and Youngest Son lead the way on our Sunday Morning Prayer Walk.
Our Commuter Family spent a wonderful weekend on a retreat with our Temple. Oldest Son had his basketball in possession the entire weekend. There were other sports accessories as well: soccer ball, football and mini-basketball.

While preparing to leave, Oldest Son and Youngest Son totally and completely cracked up when I mentioned putting their balls down ... mothering boys is always entertaining ...

Oldest Son bouncing his basketball as he leaves breakfast Saturday morning.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election Reflection

Those stopping by last night used Dots to voice their opinions.
We all have dreams.
Much to say ... where to start ...

Last night Oldest Son, Youngest Son and I had the opportunity experience community in an impromptu and stimulating gathering of friends who mostly live within our neighborhood and few extras. It was a simple invite of pizza and come by if you have time.

It turned out to be a collection of impressive diversity surrounded by happy chaos.

The diversity included (WARNING: I am going to use labels):

  • Ages spanned from 2 years old to teenagers to young adults to mid-lifers to 50 years+
  • Democrats, Independents and Republicans
  • Conservatives and Liberals and everything in between
  • Americans, British Citizen and Guatemalan Immigrant with birth countries including USA, Guatemala, China and England
  • Language fluency included Spanish, French and Proper (British) English 
  • Atheists, Christians, Jews and Searchers
  • Students in Elementary, Middle School, High School, Bachelor of Arts & PhD Programs
  • Educators, Doctor, Nurse, Non-Profit Professional, Artist, Stay-At-Home Moms, Stay-At-Home Dad, Nanny, Waiter, Real Estate & Financial Executives, Corporate Drones
  • Lower to Upper Middle Class and maybe a bit beyond and under
  • Straight and Gay 
  • Married and Single
  • White, Asian and Hispanic
  • Men, Women, Boys and Girls

The chaos included:

  • Kids running to and fro while busy with football, ping pong, basketball, legos, red/white/blue bracelet making and peg board peace symbol creation BUT each child stopping on occasion to get updates, voice their opinions and check their election predictions
  • A very focused, intelligent and enjoyable 15 year old absorbing all that is fascinating in American politics
  • Many Laptop, iPhone and iPad screens with Electoral College Map 30 second updates, Twitter, Facebook, videos and Skyfall
  • CNN blaring over the constant hum of voices, discussions, exclamations, screams of delight and disappointment
  • Placing dots on Issue Flip Charts (see above) - very fun but I was the lone Term Limit Dotter!
  • Fun food, healthy & not-so-healthy snacks and alcoholic & non-alcoholic drinks

We all thought the election would not be decided for many, many hours but we were wrong about that prediction - by around 10pm President Obama was announced as the winner. Wow.

I stayed up to bask in this slice of history. President Obama's concluding remarks hit the mark:

"I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you're willing to work hard, it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love.  It doesn't matter whether you're black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you're willing to try.

I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests.  We're not as cynical as the pundits believe.  We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states.  We are and forever will be the United States of America."

We only have one more election before Oldest Son (age 12) and Youngest Son (age 10) vote. We have savored this past election cycle by watching the debates, discussing issues and celebrating the election process. Next time they will be 14 and 16 and then we hope for citizens of the world who take a stand ... whatever that may be ...

And on that note I am glad marijuana is legal in Colorado and Washington and thrilled that gay marriage is legal in Maine, Maryland and Washington.
Oldest Son & Youngest Son when results hit!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Week 29 Menu - Meat It Is!

We are in Week 29 of our Commuter Family choice.

The past 8 weeks have been particularly challenging. In addition to the usual commute between Houston & Dallas, Commuter Husband has been traveling every single week for work meetings with employees. It has been difficult for him to know which airport, which city and which bed he was in on any given day. Our Google Color Coded Calendar has kept us halfway sane.

Last week the extra job-related travel ended. (You can put that on my November Thankful List!)

So we are trying to get back to our Commuter Family Normal. Lucky for Oldest Son, Youngest Son and me, Commuter Husband did some extra cooking today. Our protein requirements for the next few days are set with Brisket Swimming in Onions, Grilled Hamburgers and Beer Can Chicken. I will admit that the cubbard was bare a few times in recent weeks but not now ...

Brisket and onions will do nicely for Monday.

Hamburgers will be Tuesday's Election Day Meal.

We cut into the Beer Can Grilled Chicken tonight and will have leftovers on Wednesday.
Commuter Husband labeled (he IS awesome) and put away for future consumption.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Not So Mainstream It Turns Out

Not mainstream.

The evidence is mounting. I am not a mainstream person. And by association, neither are Commuter Husband, Oldest Son and Youngest Son.

It seems that I frequently find myself in situations or with opinions very few around me share.

Consider the following ...

The Obvious: 
Commuter Husband has a job in Houston and the rest of our little family works and goes to school in Dallas. While newspaper articles and experts claim more and more families are considered a Commuter Family, I personally know zero families who have made this choice.

The Week: None of these events were high on the mainstream spectrum especially within a 5 day period ...

  • Politics - On October 16th, the boys' school held a "Civil Discourse on the Presidential Debate." Four debate coaches (one from University in NE) facilitated a screening of the Presidential Debate in an Upper School Lecture Hall. It was SO cool and Oldest Son and Youngest Son thought it was as cool as I did. I was the only parent there with a Middle School and/or Lower School student. While I did not expect a huge turn out, I was surprised to find the three of us being such oddballs.
  • Human Rights - On October 17th, I attended a documentary screening and panel discussion of "It's A Girl" sponsored by the Gendercide Awareness Project, World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth and Embrey Human Rights Program of Southern Methodist University. I was thrilled that one person I knew from my Sunday morning Jewish Studies class hooked up with me there.
  • Mud - On October 20th, Commuter Husband, Oldest Son and Youngest Son participated in a 5K Mud Race. It was hilarious and we joined one other unclean family for the occasion.
  • While this was just one sample week, I find myself at stuff that very few others do. Allot.

The Liberal:
Thank goodness for my friends who tolerate me. I get more and more socially liberal every year. I mean I have really, really strong opinions about rights for women and gay/lesbian families.

Some of my not so mainstream tendencies include ...

  • Free-range child rearing philosophy - see the link on my blog sidebar for an explanation
  • Homework - No Homework for 6th grade and under; way, way less homework for 7th grade and above
  • Chores & Play - If kids do not have a zillion hours of homework then they would have time to do lots more household chores and play outside
  • AP Classes - why? go to college when in college
  • Gaming, Phones, iPads, etc. - wait as long as possible, not never just not when age 6 or 7 or ...
  • Limos - how about when they get married?
  • No organized team sports before 3rd grade. None. Zilch.
  • Better stop ... there is more of course ...

I converted from Southern Baptist to Reform Jewish. But even in my chosen Judaism, I am an outlier. Same theme, I make lots of choices that most Jews (I know) do not.

Random Life Thoughts:

  • It is not Fair. Deal and move on. Apparently, I have an over-abundance of Grit.
  • I am uncomfortable with overt recognition of any type.
  • I enjoy talking about something other than my children on occasion. This includes conversations between Commuter Husband and me.
  • I enjoy Rustic more than the Ritz.
  • New experiences energize me.
  • I want to change the world. Really. Not like a famous person but in a real way in a real community. I have just not figured out how to do it yet. At age 47, I am feeling a little mid-life pressure on this one.
I could go on and on ...