Friday, September 12, 2014

Wise

It's been a long and busy week here.  Happy Friday, friends.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Back to School Night

Last night was Lucca's Back to School Night.  Aside from the surreal feeling of being back in my old highschool - the night was remarkable.  Totally, completely re-energizing.

Of course, it was great to meet his teachers and hear the nice compliments they had for him.  We are so blessed with that boy, let there be no mistake about it.  But what really caught my attention was the conversation I had with the ESL teacher.  Since Lucca is new to the country, he has to be evaluated for English proficiency.  I've been hearing a lot of nice things about this teacher and I looked forward to meeting him...

When I introduced myself, I was immediately struck by his gentle yet energetic demeanor. He went on to tell me that he works with about 10 English Language Learners per year and his main goal, aside from appropriate adjustment to the new school, is to prep them for the mandatory MCAS test (a statewide test necessary for high school graduation).  In his 20+ years working with teens, he has a 100% success rate on the test.  100% success rate on a difficult exam with a population as diverse as the world itself - this guy is the real deal.   He was modest.  He readily offered that he has the luxury of a small group of kids which really allows him to get to know the students, their strengths & weaknesses and the best ways to help them learn.   While he has kids from Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa - many of them come from stable home environments and have been well educated in their home countries.  That said, teaching a foreign language while helping students adjust to major cultural differences and achieving the results demanded by the school and the state is not simple and this guy does it.  Year after year, student after student - he improves the daily life as well as the trajectory of life for students.   One simple teacher - with nothing more than his brain, his heart and his desire to do it.  

We hear about celebrities in trouble.  We hear about politicians in scandal.  CEO's with dysfunctional homes.  I know... It really is no surprise to me.  When power and money are what motivates you, why does it surprise any of us that these people make the choices they do.   But what about when something else motivates you - what about when the desire to positively effect lives one at a time, to take the gifts that have been bestowed on you and use them to help people without the same good fortune, is what gets you out of bed in the morning.   What kind of person does that make you, what choices do you make?

I left the ESL office only because another parent came in.  I could have spent hours with this man.  I wanted to know everything - what are his struggles, what works best, what trends does he see most often...  He was kind enough to share his victories - kids who have gone on to hold Ivy league PhD's, become doctors, researchers, school teachers themselves...   Kids that showed up to a new school, in a new country for whatever the reason and with the help of a teacher who really cared and a public school system that fostered their development will change the world themselves.   The ripple effect. Life beyond ourselves....



Wednesday, September 10, 2014

10 Books

There's a thing going around on Facebook asking people to name (in no particular order and without thinking too hard) 10 books that stick out in your mind.  I figured I'd do the exercise here instead:

1. The Kite Runner - I have never read a more page-turning, haunting piece of fiction.

2. Guns, Germs and Steel - I read it for a book club but it really piqued an interest in anthropology I never knew I had.

3. Bringing up Bebe - I find the parenting genre kind of irritating so this was a refreshing and light read while home with a new baby.  It made it seem ok that I wanted to go back to work, that I wasn't going to breastfeed for eternity and that being a mom is just one part of who I am.  

4. Mystic River - The best thriller I ever read.

5. Bridget Jones Diary - I read this while living in London.  Our flat had no tv and I didn't know anyone --- I remember looking forward to reading this book.  Bridget's character was so lovingly imperfect.

6. Omnivore's Dilemma - A well researched, yet enjoyable book that taught me a lot about modern food production.

7.  Broken Open - Rarely do I read/hear anything from Elizabeth Lesser that doesn't leave me nodding in agreement.

8. Kitchen Confidential - Anthony Bourdain is my celebrity crush.  I love his sharp humor, quick sentences and general view on life.

9. Daring Greatly - If for nothing else, Brene's definition of connection and the parenting manifesto laid out in this book are forever at the forefront of my thoughts.

10. French Women Don't Get Fat - The only book I've ever read twice.  It combines many of my favorite things - foreign culture, food, and memoir.

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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Seasons of Life

I love the change of seasons.  Here in New England, the past week has been one of the warmest of a relatively temperate summer but I have no doubt that September will soon arrive with its low humidity, cool nights and sunny days.  I adore the change of seasons.  I love the way routines change along with the weather.  Sundays are spent with football on and warm meals cooking.   Kids are back to school and their routines.  Work gets cranking again.  

Seasons recharge me.  But as we enter this newest fall, I can't help but think what a different season of life we have entered.  We have a highschool freshman (!!) and a toddler at home.  We're busy packing lunches, picking up from soccer practice and helping with homework.  We live in the suburbs and although that means a longer commute, it also means bus stops, a friendly neighborhood and enough space for everyone.  

Life is wonderful but undoubtedly different than ever before.  We have entered a new season.  For so many years, I prepared myself for this one.  We saved diligently knowing one day we'd look to buy a home exactly like the one we did.  We strategized - holding on to an investment property, getting a business off the ground and working out careers that would make life in this new season possible.  And here we are. I think it's taken me some time to realize we have crossed this threshold.  I knew the old life for so long.    I'm realizing now that it's time to set new goals and expectations.  We need a new family budget, one that is focused a little less on saving and a little more on making a very busy life doable AND enjoyable.  

Like the seasons of weather, I welcome this change and will adjust the sails accordingly. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Giving: Bill Clinton

Just started this new audiobook as the commuter traffic picks back up post-Labor day - and one morning in, it's just what the doctor ordered.   In the process of self-understanding, I have learned that I generally prefer nonfiction and a book with an uplifting message really does good things for my headspace.  I don't need or have much interest in sugarcoated fairytales but just a book about the better side of humanity or the power each one of us has to make the world around us slightly better.

I think my life is missing some philanthropy.  Sure, like most of us - I am extremely busy and my resources are not indefinite.  Life is expensive and time is so very limited.  But excuses are just that. And plenty of people give with less.  There is no minimum to what we can give - maybe it's just a compliment, a prayer, holding the door open, a few dollars, a meal, an invitation, an encouraging word. Every day we can do something.  Every day I will ask myself, what have I done.

How wonderful that no one need wait a single moment to improve the world. - Anne Frank. 
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Thursday, August 28, 2014

House - months later...

We moved last February.  I had been looking at houses for about a year leading up to our move but hadn't found anything that really spoke to me.  In an effort to be realistic, I knew we couldn't take on a major renovation project - life is just too busy for us these days.  At the top of my wish list was a sunny kitchen, an open floor plan and some curb appeal.   We found those things and some of the harder to explain "charm" I was looking for in our current home.  We loved the working fieldstone fireplace and the kid friendly cul de sac.

While the things that topped my wish list still remain some of my favorite elements of the house, a few things have surprised me and I hadn't realized how much I would enjoy them.   1) We are the last house on the street and our house abuts 300 acres of town conservation land.  I love the privacy.  The dog can run free and the baby doesn't need to be watched every single second while he plays outside.  No cars are zooming by and I don't have to worry about bumping into a neighbor if I play catch with the dog in my pajamas.  A few times a week, I bring J and the dog outside after work and everyone just runs wild. I love that my boy gets so much fresh air.  It's fun to see his little wheels turning as he scoops the mulch into his toy truck or pushes his bike up and down the driveway.  By the time he answers "yes" to being ready to go inside he's officially wiped out and ready for his bath and bedtime.   It's a sweet ending to the day.   2) Our yard.  We bought the house in the dead of winter.  We could tell that the previous owners had a green thumb but I love that we have established plants and gardens.  But I also love that our yard has a little bit of everything - the front yard has traditional grass for easy play.  The backyard has a pool and gardens and beyond the fence is a more "untamed" area perfect for my compost pile and for nature exploration.

The house has been such a joy.  We haven't tapped into its full potential.  A lot of it is still unfurnished, we'd like to paint, do more landscaping, hang things on the wall, get better organized - but those days will come.  For now, I'm not going to let what's undone spoil what is done.  The fact that it's ours- our family will grow and learn and cry and laugh within these walls... it's a wonderful place to call home.


Monday, August 25, 2014

My heart

"A baby will make love stronger,  days shorter, nights longer, bankroll smaller, home happier, clothes shabbier, the past forgotten, and the future worth living for..."   Mama loves you more than stars in the sky, Baby J.