Thursday, March 15, 2018

Forty-four Never Things

Tomorrow’s my birthday. I know, I know. You feel terrible because you didn’t get me anything It’s all good. I sure as heck didn’t get you anything for your birthday.

But as birthdays are wont to do, this one’s got me thinking a little about Big Things. Like what I Am and what I Am Not. The good news is, I’m pretty satisfied with both columns. But I should step back...

A few weeks ago I was walking into my office and out of the blue started thinking about a necklace I had seen on a friend’s Facebook page. (Check it out. She’s very talented!) I thought to myself, “That was a nice necklace. It seems like me. I should buy that.” 

I literally stopped in my tracks.“How could that seem like me? I never, ever, EVER wear jewelry.”

No coworkers having arrived yet, this exceptionally deep conversation with myself was able to continue uninterrupted.

“That’s true. I wonder when I’ll be the kind of person who cares about jewelry?”

“Uh, I’m almost 44 years old. Don’t I think if I was going to care about jewelry I would have done it by now?”

“Well, maybe. I mean I could see myself wearing…”

“Nope. Never. I will NEVER care enough about jewelry to actually wear. Not ever.”

“Whoa. Hold the phone. You mean I’m past the age where I’m going to start becoming and doing and enjoying the things that as a kid I always assumed I would someday just adult my way into becoming, doing, and enjoying?”

Reader, I have to tell you, this was Some News to from Me to Me. 

I’ve been chewing on it ever since. And yes, it’s a little late in the game for a midlife crisis, I’ll admit, but apparently my existential calendar is delayed. I got thinking about my younger-self’s idea of me. So many things I just assumed about Future Phoebe. The prospect of another trip around the sun being complete had me feeling at once wistful for Younger Phoebe’s anticipated life and relieved that Current Phoebe is pretty close to out of F___s to Give. One of the benefits of the 40s is you’re almost invisible to the world and you can really, truly, do what you want. (H/T to SBS and Molly of Another Mother Runner for this insight in a recent podcast.)

So, in honor of my forty-fourth birthday, here’s a completely incomplete and mostly-sincere-but-maybe-snarky-in-places list of Forty Four Things I’ll Never Be.

I will never be a person who cares about...
1. Jewelry
2. Real Housewives

3. The Grammys
4. The VMAs
5. Manicures
6. Pedicures
7. Ironing
8. Purses
9. Shoes (that are not for running)

THESE kicks matter 

10. Cars

Nor will I ever be a person who regularly....
11. Sends thank you notes
12. Remembers birthdays (without Facebook reminders)
13. Says “no, thanks” to dessert
14. Drinks enough water
15. Eats enough leafy greens
16. Insists her children intake enough leafy greens

Not one of my kids. 

17. Can find the scotch tape
18. Buys a birthday present NOT on the way to a child’s party
19. Has the right sized gift bag on-hand
20. Does NOT want a shoulder massage

It’s not technically too late for many of these things, too, but let’s face it, I’ll never be a person who has....
21. Gone skydiving
22. Backpacked through Europe

It would be the lack of showers that would do me in, I think. 

23. Eaten snails
24. Read Game of Thrones
25. Become fluent in a foreign language
26. Grasped Calculus 
27. Had a daughter 
28. Tolerated (non-obfuscated with chocolate) coffee
29. Been the youngest {anything} in history
30. Smoked anything (NERD!) 

Some things you think you’ll possess someday. Lies. I know I will never be a person who has....
31. A good bladder
32. Insightful thoughts about your style choices
33. Calm amidst stressful driving situations
34. Swimming skills above “avoid drowning”
35. Model flossing habits
36. A really, truly, mother-in-law-level clean house
37. Unblemished skin
38. Freshly shaved legs without at least one hairy patch
39. Packed the right amount for any trip
40. Done enough core work 

And, the final four things I will never be are....
41. A consistent blogger with legions of readers
42. Worthy of you reading this far
43. Tired of my own lame jokes
44. Any younger

Because of the not smoking things, I can totally blow these out. 

Whether you are palindromic-ly 11 or 99 or anywhere in between, I hope you feel comfortable with what you are and what you are not. As for me, I’m going to enjoy my Obama year (#44th) because God knows what chaos great energy awaits me when I’m 45!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

I'll Be There For You; Or, I came back to the blog for THIS?

This was going to be a Tweet. But it was too long.

Then it was going to be an FB post. But again: too long.

It's not important.
It's not insightful.

It's just a thing that happened and I was thinking about.

So. Here it is. A blog post about nothing.

Spent about 75 minutes at the gym this morning. Through my headphones (on which I was listening to Old Lady Podcast Stuff) I could hear them playing Bon Jovi. Like, a LOT of Bon Jovi. All the Bon Jovis. The puzzle is thus:

How do I know EVERY WORD to EVERY Bon Jovi song? I never owned an album. I never went out of my way to listen to them. I mean, they were fine but not my particular taste. I had not heard some of these deep cuts since the early 90s. And yet... Every. Word.

Surely it's down to demographics and geography and long bus rides to volleyball games and track meets and HS dances. But how did they get in there? And how did they STAY in there?!

More importantly, how can I swap this useless information out for things that I ought to actually remember?! Science nerds, please get on that.

What are the songs or things you inexplicably remember, despite decades of not caring nor thinking about them? Phone numbers of childhood friends? (Me? Yes, not that I know any CURRENT phone numbers I might require). Locker combinations? (Yup. Locker 804. 30-32-16).

What am I forgetting that I remember?....

P.S. Remember when I used to run? It's been about 4 months. Maybe a blog post about that eventually.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Muddy Moose 2017

Let me catch you up:

New job, blah blah blah.

Kids growing up and doing funny things and saying funny things, blah blah blah.

Kids growing up and doing infuriating and saying infuriating things, blah blah blah.

Theater stuff. Funny clips on the internet. Netflix shows you should DEFINITELY watch. Podcasts that if you don't listen to I'm not even sure I can ever talk to you again.

Political stuff (removes cyanide pill from hand, places on counter).

Blah. Blah. Blah blah blah blah.

Okay. Cool. Now you know everything about my life since last August.

And now, Muddy Moose. This is a race I've been itching to do since we moved to this area. Every year it happens in late April and every year, I am either in Florida courtesy of my in-laws or pregnant or recovering from childbirth. (Those last couple only happened 3 times, but pretty much everything lines up that way since 2001).

This year it's a mixed blessing, to say the least, that I am in town for the race (and NOT pre- or post-partum!) My hubs and the fellas are in Florida for the school vacation week but I don't even have a smidgen of the time off accrued to make the trip. So, here I am alone in my house for a week. It's amazing... Everything is so quiet! And clean! But, I'm sure their trip will feel about four days too long cuz I already get the sense that I'm gonna miss them a big chunk. (Shut up! No YOU'RE watching Pokemon episodes and leaving dirty socks in the living room!)

So, Muddy Moose is a trail race. Runners can choose between the 4 mile and 13-ish mile races. Each year the race varies greatly, not because the course necessarily changes (though I think the longer one does) but because the course conditions go 1 - 10 on the mud scale. This year was a 8 or 9 out of 10. It. Was. INSANE! And amazing.

My amazing started the afternoon before because Lauren, my best running friend, made the trek from Burlington, VT. She stayed with me and we got to hang out - JUST US! - to talk jobs and kids and running and family and eat yummy food and watch Kimmy Scmidt on The Netflix and GO TO BED SUPER EARLY!! I mean, c'mon!

Sunday morning proved to offer up perfect weather. We are still pre-black fly season  by a couple of weeks so the blue skies and 50-ish degree start was fabulous with no asterisks or explanatory footnotes. I won't go into many details about the race itself because I'm not sure I can sound sincere - it was THAT good an experience. That good, despite, I have to say, the fall (trip?) Lauren took right at the start - splat flat on her face onto the pavement. And I had my own drama when I turned my left ankle at mile 2 in that way that takes you a couple of minutes to assess how well you're going to be able to shake it off. It was OK but today it is pretty ouchy and, oddly enough, my right side is super sore from my shoulders all the way down to my calves. I have to assume I overcompensated to favor the ankle...? Whatev, Bev, we were and are Warriors so it's fine.

When not falling or almost falling, we enjoyed some hilarious scrambles and even a couple of miles on dirt roads that were a decent pace. There were literally places where we had to cross in crotch-level water. Lauren was millimeters away from losing her shoe in one pond but she managed to bring it up with her foot. That would have been a fun scavenger hunt! On one descent, in fact, I crab walked it because I (wisely) wore pretty crappy shoes and I could NOT get my feet to grip the ground. It was hilarious and only mildly terrifying. We stopped at water stations and chatted with the volunteers. Truly no reason to drink and run. 

One universal truth, no matter the pace among all the runners: SUPER hungry after the race. Sounds dumb, because, of course you would need to refuel after that kind of race, but this was like a SPECIAL kind of starving. And other runners mentioned the same phenomenon. We had eaten a good breakfast and taken in gummies on the course, but something about that challenge really got to us - and everyone - in the belly. So, after hosing off we went into town and did some serious damage on breakfast AND dessert foods. No regrets.

These pics - not QUITE in the muddiest or wettest spots on course - were taken by the great and generous Josh Spaulding reflect exactly the feeling we had on the trail on this amazing day. Here is his write up but I must pull the quote that expresses my performance: ".... and Phoebe VanScoy-Giessler of Tuftonboro placed 62nd in a time of 2:56:03 to round out the official finishers from the local communities." I came in LAST! Well, not literally, but last of anyone who lives any where near here. I feel weird about not feeling weird about that. Honestly, though, anyone who got through that course in ANY time at all was pretty bad ass. 

Thanks for the pics, Josh!

Josh was LITERALLY at on Oriole's game IN Baltimore the night before this race. He made the planes, trains and automobiles all the way back to Wolfeboro to cover this race. And maybe he had other reasons, but, ya know, still!

Lauren is training to pace a friend in a fast marathon over Memorial Day Weekend and she was coming off of a 40+ mile week of training - BEFORE this race. And she still, of course, crushed the course... once she faced facts and tramped the through mud instead of trying to avoid it!

If you've lost that lovin' feeling for running, I highly recommend a trail race. Hell, if you HAVEN'T lost that lovin' feeling for running, I STILL recommend a trail race. Egos need not apply.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A change in the program

For me, there's something about leap years. Maybe it's that extra day. Maybe it's the excitement and energy of the Summer Games. Maybe it's the intensity/insanity of a Presidential campaign.

Or maybe it's just that every four years I am ready for something new. A  brief history:

2004 - I became an elementary school classroom teacher.

2008 - I left teaching to run an in-home daycare.

2012 - I left in-home daycare-ing to return to an elementary school - this time as a JV Librarian. (Oh, yeah. I had a baby in 2012, too, but we aren't focusing on that right now.)

And now...

2016 - I am leaving the library to work in the administrative offices of Lakes Region Community Services.

And while a change in my occupation comes along at very even intervals, this is by far the biggest change I've made since I left Los Angeles for New Hampshire. And the enormity of the changes affect my husband and kids almost as much as they affect me. Maybe more. A brief list of how this new job will turn out world upside down:

1. Elliott will go to a new elementary school.
2. Gabe will go to a new preschool/child care facility.
3. After 12 years of me being the keeper of kids' schedules and notebooks and mittens and homework, Scott will be carrying the load of transporting all the kids to and from school/daycare. (Tom is going to a new school, too, but it's middle school and that would have transpired no matter what happened with my worklife).
4. I will go from a 30 minute commute with 3 kids in the car to a 50 minute commute solo.
5. I will not have summer vacation.
6. I am not sure when or how I will train for races. In fact, there are currently ZERO races on my calendar.
7. I have not auditioned and will not audition for any plays or musicals for the bunch of months.

All of the fellas at my life - as well as all of the people in my life in general - have been complete rock stars about all of this. My husband is ready to juggle the life of the primary point person for the kids during the school day. He is so happy for me because my 'career' in the last 16 years has not been what I dreamed it would be. (LOVE kids and LOVE the people I work with in education ,but it is just not my calling.) In fact this job seems to be very similar to the nonprofit gig I had in Los Angeles before our big move. And I REALLY loved that job and was not entirely ready to let it go when it was time to go.

Elliott in particular, who faces maybe the most drastic/unexpected change, is just AMAZING. I know he's sad and nervous, but he was dancing around almost as much I was when I got the call about the job. I swear I do not know how we managed to have such a sweet and empathetic child.

In a few short minutes I will be heading out for an afternoon of HR orientation. I have lots of questions for them about policies and culture of the organization. (For example, I have been offered the opportunity to squeeze in the 37.5 hours into 4 days a  week instead of 5 and this is HUGE. Imagine, a day during the week to keep Gabe home, do the grunt work of the weekend, and prepare to have a relaxing time on Saturday and Sunday... ) And although I know some of the work I'll be doing includes fundraising, donor data base maintanence, correspondence, grant applications, publicity, events.... I really don't know the scope of everything I'll be doing. That will become more clear when I start the job in earnest on Tuesday, Sept. 6. Coincidentally, the boys' first day of school, too!

Finally, I now have a FABULOUS story to tell if I ever got on stage at The Moth. I can't do it justice in the seconds I have left here, but I will share it. Maybe I'll make Scott video tape me telling it... It's a doozy!

Friday, August 5, 2016

For the sake of their teachers, please don't spank your kids

I know this is not universally true... BUT... A can of worms is begging to be opened.

Do parents who spank their kids understand that in many cases this is the ONLY thing to which their kids respond? In other words, adults (teachers, daycare, camp counselors, other relatives, family friends) who don't spank because they cannot (legally) or will not (philosophically/morally) have almost no opportunity to effectively discipline (read: teach) your kids. These adults, who really want to connect and love your kids, are put in an almost impossible position.

The most recent example comes from my DH who had to send a camper home early because there was no progress in getting this kiddo to behave appropriately. When I saw the behavior I said, "I bet his parents spank him and I bet there's no way you can get through to him because he knows he won't get hit here." Sorry to say that the spanking was confirmed by the kid's dad and, guess what? He has a hard time behaving in school, too. Will wonders never cease?

You choose how to raise your kid, by all means. But remember (s)he has to function in the rest of the world, too. And the thing is, there's no way to know when your child is wee if they will be the kind who gets a couple of whaps at home and then learns how to be a functioning human or if those whaps are the only thing to which they are going to respond.
And just in case you think the view from my high horse is obnoxious, I DID spank one of my kids once. It was completely ineffective and only made the situation way worse. I understand there are philosophies and cultures in which this is acceptable. I'm just saying... please think twice Or three or 10 or 1,000 times. 

If not for your child's sake, for the sake of the people in your village that have to help raise him.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

And the answer to everything is... $

Several years ago, usually as we were driving the half-hour to or from school, my kids started asking me questions. Questions like:

"If their food is so bad for people, why does McDonald's keep making it? And why do people keep eating it?"

Or, "Why doesn't our school have such-and-such an activity when some other schools have it?”

Or, “If our driveway is so bad, why don't we just get it fixed?"

Smarty-farties despite their Mama.

My answer to all of these questions always boiled down to, of course, money. And so, we began to realize that the answer to most big questions about why the world works the way that it does is just that: Money. Cash. Dinero. Greenbacks. In fact nowadays my 10- and 12- year-olds will frequently start their ‘big picture’ questions to me like this, “I know that somehow the answer is money, but why…..?” (God, I love these kids!)

(Now that we have the soundtrack and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamiltome” book the questions have changed a bit so sometimes the answer to my kids' questions is "ask the book".... but mostly the answer is still $$).

So these past, present and future conversations are in the back of my mind as I grapple with the horrifying events of last week in Louisiana, Minnesota and Texas. I listened to a lot of great podcasts and radio reporting (NPR’s Code Switch and Politics, Slate’s The Gist and Political Gabfest, All Things Considered Saturday) about the tragedies. I had a lot of good thinking time doing yoga and running. I had lots of conversation and consternation with my friend as we drove to and from a Black Lives Matter vigil last night.
Still dry.

(BTW - a freaking MONSOON ensued so it was less vigil-y and more good-hearted-people-standing-around-getting-soaking-wet-and-meaning-well-y. But, still, it was a lovely, if squishy….)

Surprisingly, my attendance at said event, my conversations, and my podcast/radio listening did not solve the world’s ills. Huh.

But again, I keep coming back to money. Okay, okay, we need to change the “hearts and souls” of the perpetrators of violence. Yup. Sure do. But when’s the last time you tried to convince a notorious asshat in your life to stop being a d-bag? How’d that go?

Now, consider if you sweetened the offer to the jerk? What if you said, “Say, Cousin Harry, if you can refrain from using misogynistic language in the workplace for an entire week, we will give you a bonus in your paycheck.” Find the right dollar amount and I bet Cousin Harry might try it without making the company go bankrupt. Bonus: women and other humans with any sort of soul can go a week without having to listen to Cousin Harry being horrible.

I know. This is a very simplified example. And I know. Ideally Cousin Harry would stop having such a terrible view on women. But, dammit, if Cousin Harry would shut the heck up about it for a week, then two, and eventually maybe a few months, maybe he would start to feel differently. And, again, everybody else's lives would be vastly improved.

I know change comes from within…. Mostly. But I honestly believe that sometimes change comes from without. (Is that a thing? I don’t know.)

I don’t know exactly how this would translate to police officers and minorities. I think the incentive would have to go toward both parties. Maybe at every interaction where the brown person and a cop get through the process with respectful language and dignity, they both get $50. Maybe that’s discriminatory because it doesn’t apply to not-brown people. Can we figure out a way to make this a universal policy for all people? Obviously there are some kinks to work out....

I wish the problem was, like, Big Bad Corporation or something. We could boycott that. But you can’t boycott the police. (Well, I guess you could, but that would go badly, I think). And you can’t boycott the angry, agitated African American. (S)he needs more of a voice and empowerment, not less.

I don’t know. I’m just spitballing. I think this thing has legs. So, somebody give Obama my cell number and tell him to text me. (I’d talk to Michelle, too, if he’s busy. She’s pretty cool and I could use some tips on her arm workout regimen.)

I'll keep my phone charged.

From one of the whitest states and from one of the whitest ladies,

* "I have honor to be your obedient servant,
P. Van (Scoy-Giessler)"

* It's a Hamilton reference. Honestly if you don't listen to that soundtrack you are not gonna understand ANYTHING I say for the next, oh, 100 years.

Friday, July 8, 2016

All the bad things

What do you say when there's nothing left to say? When you’re me, apparently that’s when you start talking.

I realize that since my blog has been on radio silence forever (that’s metric, more like months-and-months-and-months in American) it’s a bit strange that I would start my re-boot this way. I haven’t SAID anything in a long time. But this morning I just can’t not mark the day. Here’s what I know:

One of our candidates for president is a vile racist (or maybe race-ish’d, since it’s not clear if he truly believes the vile things he says/retweets/implies or if he just knows it serves his candidacy to make sure certain segments think he does believe it). He’s a misogynist. He mocks the handicapped. He thinks that stating something as fact makes it so. His favorite source for information is “Some people are saying….” He has, it seems, no capacity for empathy. And though I applaud leaders who are capable of taking a stand, assessing the facts, and then changing their mind on an issue, this particular candidate has been on almost every side of every issue from moment to moment. (Except Obama. He’s always hated Obama. Gotta give him that…) This candidate makes me SO ANGRY and disappointed in humanity that my head hurts.

The other one of our candidates for president has so much excess baggage she wouldn’t have the credit on her Am Ex card to pay the fees to get on a Southwest flight. Her self-fulling prophecy seems to be “I can’t trust anyone so I better skirt the standards and protocols of my position which makes me untrustworthy and gives people ammunition so I can’t trust anyone….” Back in the 1990s her husband broke my heart (not literally, I interned at “Fresh Air”… ba-dum-dum) but he made it up to me by being an engaged, thoughtful, pro-human ex-President. And she was part of the renewed good feeling. Now, it seems, she’s doing her darndest to finish off my last gasp of youthful, 90s exuberance. Even though I agree with her on most of the issues, this candidate makes me SO SAD and disappointed that it hurts my heart.

Here’s what else I know:

Last night police officers in Dallas were targeted and murdered as they were doing their jobs. And it serves to mention in this time of nationwide questionable tactics, Dallas has been ROCKING police reform. They, it seems, were doing their jobs WELL and RESPONSIBLY. Shooting any cop, even a d-bag racist, is bad, but these particular cops being targeted is just devastating.

The day before a 32-year-old man in Minnesota was doing his best to follow police instructions, inform the officer of his weapon and HIS RIGHT TO HAVE SAID weapon. Reached for his ID. And he’s dead. Because broken headlight.

A man in Louisiana was taken to the ground, taze’d, and THEN shot several times by police. Because selling illegal CDs (and possibly being kind of a dick about it).

All of this makes me so distraught that it hurts my soul.

Other things I know:

People I know and love make choices I don’t understand. These choices are objectively and obviously horrible and have negative impact on those closest to them. From their point of view I have to believe the choices seem to be the only reasonable ones… but I can’t even. I don’t even.

And that’s the thing: I DON’T even speak up. Try to start the conversation. Make an effort. I don’t because it’s far more comfortable to shake my head and tsk, tsk, tsk and worry. Also, I’m a wuss and maybe it’s not REALLY my business because it doesn’t affect my day-to-day.

NONE of the stuff I talk about here affects my day-to-day.

I’m not black.

I’m not gay.

I’m not handicapped.

I’m not sending emails of any kind to Secretary Clinton, let alone classified ones.

I’m not a cop.

I’m not being taken advantage of financially or emotionally by a family member.

I woke up this morning, clicked on Twitter and my public radio app, heard the horrible news, sighed and fretted... and then got out of bed to make oatmeal for my kids. I had the luxury to consider my thoughts. I had to the luxury to decide that I might want to write something down. And I listen to NPR coverage as I type. As I type SAFELY in my home.

Meanwhile, my kids play inside and outside of my house. Free of fear, free of hunger, free of emotional want - as it should be - but as it is NOT for so many kids.

What’s it all mean? What do I want? Specifically, what do I want TO DO?

My guess is there are many more like me who are wide-eyed, shocked, and sad about this stuff. Are you a middle income white lady with no official skin in the game but feeling completely out of sorts about all of this? Please please please tell me what you are DOING? ACTION is what I'm talkin' about. (And yes, "pray” is great but we are so far beyond that).

I will end with the wise Facebook words of my sister, Heather. She is referring to our annual week-ish-long gathering of my siblings and their offspring and then some. As usual, she says in a few sentences what I couldn't' figure out how to say in a blathering blog post.:

If you want an example of how this society could work, spend a day at Camp Gungah. Trust me, you'll be equally annoyed by, entertained by, loved by, given a wedgie by ALL of us.
White semi-racists, white ultra liberals, immigrants, blacks, in laws, out laws, ex spouses of in laws, Asians, Hill Billies, suburbanites, fat people, skinny people, shack in laws, shack in laws' children, young, old, engineers, teachers, homemakers, librarians, country music fans, functional alcoholics....
And we've never shot anyone.

This is only a fraction of the Camp Gungah contingent. But... none have shot any other. Not that there isn't cause in some instances.....