Saturday, June 30, 2012

June Update: Summer, A Circus, and Space!

Lots of changes at our house... anyone surprised by that? ha! But everyone is happy and healthy, so it's all good! Here's what's going on:

Katie on my New Couch!
Katie is settling in here at home for the summer. Josh had moved into her room with all of his furniture, so she was happy to move into the guest room.  She was never crazy about her bed, and the new "guest room" has a very comfy queen-sized bed. A definite upgrade! She started a part-time job as a waitress at Applebee's but that just wasn't for her. She got better at it, but the hours were too unpredictable. So she returned to Cinemark, and they gladly welcomed her back. I think this week she's scheduled for 56 hours!! That's what she wants - more hours, more money!  She and I have been to a couple of movies this month - Snow White and the Huntsman and Brave. She is able to see movies for free and take one person with her (also for free), so this is a nice perk.  We're looking at all kinds of things for her apartment this fall. She'll be going to Los Angeles for her second year with the New York Film Academy at their campus at Universal Studios. She is SO excited about this!

Alyssa is working at Milk & Honey Salon in the Arboretum. The unfortunate part is that the clientele at that salon is primarily suburban housewives, who are home with their kids on summer break right now, and not getting their hair done. This is the salon's explanation for a VERY slow work week. She's in their apprentice program and working as a Shampoo Tech, 3 days a week there. She's keeping up her skills by working on people's hair - cutting, coloring, etc. - in homes. The expectation is that she'll move into a Stylist position in the Fall, when business picks up.  The other big news is that Josh and Alyssa signed a lease for a new apartment about 5 minutes away. She spends a lot of time over there, feathering their nest and planning for their future. Wedding plans are foremost on Alyssa's mind these days. We're meeting with caterers, gathering addresses, and I think she plans to send out "Save the Date" cards very soon.

Michael's experiences in Nicaragua are going great. He stumbled upon a traveling circus and decided to put his Journalism degree to use. He went behind the scenes and got to know the performers. He wrote about the experience in Infiltrating the Tents of Circo Zuary and this article will be in the upcoming issue of the Peace Corps Magazine, La Pue.  Because he's been a regular contributor, they've asked him to be the Editor for La Pue! Peace Corps volunteers rotate out of the country after a couple of years, so these positions rollover periodically. I'm very excited for him because I think this will be great when he's done with this phase and ready to move on to something else. Who knows what THAT will be!?!?!

Ron is spending most weekends on Lake Texoma with the new boat. He's been bringing parts home and we've been working on it here - sanding, varnishing, sewing sail covers, seat cushions, etc.  And today, I'm happy to report, he finally got the boat out onto the water! He said it was great! At nearly 30 feet, this is the biggest sailboat Ron has sailed on his own.  He loved it.

I've been working out for a couple of hours at least 6 days a week. I'm actually getting to the point where I like it a lot more. Especially the swimming. I have a trainer that I meet weekly, and we work out together for an hour, and then make a plan for me for the week.  We have a membership at 24 Hour Fitness, and I take their Body Pump and Water Aerobics classes twice a week plus a weekly Aqua Zumba class - which is very fun! On alternate days, I'm on the treadmill and the bike. I've veered from my Vegan plan, lately. And while I think I'll be going back to it eventually, for now, I really feel I need to reset my metabolism and deal with my insulin/sugar balancing.  I'm reading 2 interesting books:
Why We Get Fat, by Gary Taub (The author of Good Calories/Bad Calories)
Flat Belly Diet, by Prevention Magazine
I've been spending a lot of time trying to adjust to the concept of kids growing up and leaving home. I think I'm finally getting to the point where I can see the new furniture when they take away the old, more space to spread out MY stuff, more energy for my own projects.  Of course, some days I'm still teary, but I'm moving in the right direction.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


History has shown that oppression can only go on for so long. At some point, those who feel squashed will simple rise up and say "No more."    Suddenly, I'm flashing to the scene in the 1976 movie, Network! While some of you may be too young to remember the context, I'm sure you've heard the phrase,  "I'm Mad as Hell, And I'm not going to take it anymore!"  Here's the clip so you can know what it's about.  And, maybe today is a turning point for some people as well.  Today IS The Day Facebook Went All Vagina, after all.

So what am I talking about and why did I call this piece "Vagina?" I guess I've been worried about something and it's been percolating in my head for some time. I engaged in some drawn out arguments with friends when I said I believed there's a War on Women.  A few people chastised me for using the word "War." They felt that what's happening to women pales compared to what really happens in war. My family knows about war. My husband spent 20 years in the military (Viet Nam, Gulf Wars), my dad fought in WW2, my uncle in the Viet Nam, my father-in-law in Korea, I don't think I'm UNAWARE of what real war is like. And now, in retrospect, I'm wondering if they get that bent out of shape in using the word War in War on Drugs? Because THAT is a farce! But, maybe, the simple fact that they felt completely justified to criticize my word choice, points to the reality of the situation. Maybe women are just supposed to be quiet. In their minds.  Which brings us back to "Vagina."

Vagina. VaJayJay. Yoni. And, yes, there are a lot of other ways people refer to the vagina that I don't want to include here. I'm getting off track though...

On June 14th, Michigan State Rep. Lisa Brown was banned from publicly speaking in the House because she said the word "vagina" during a debate on a bill that puts new restrictions on abortion providers. She didn't go all crazy shouting the word. She simply said, "I'm flattered you're all so concerned about my vagina. But no means no." And Majority Leader Jim Stamas was so outraged at this, he had her banned from the floor. Indefinitely.  This is someone who was voted into office by her constituents and she was unable to vote on the later bills that day about education. 

This is simply outrageous. Is it that we've been so conciliatory, the majority feels they can simply squash a differing opinion? I think everyone should be talking about this. Our elected officials should not be silenced by their opposition. This isn't how democracy works!

Here is the clip of Rep. Brown's speech on the House floor. It's interesting because she is also talking about Judaism with regard to the laws.  And, then, her Vagina Bomb, happens at the end:

This is bigger than whether you are opposed to abortions or not. This is an abuse of power issue. And we really cannot sit by and be steamrollered by anyone who thinks that THIS is how democracy works.

What do you think?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Alyssa's Graduation from Avenue Five Institute

A Month Overdue...

Alyssa chose to graduate early, a couple of months after she turned 18, so she could go straight into a Cosmetology Program. After looking around, she chose Avenue Five: A Vidal Sassoon School.  Only about 12 exist in the USA, so it's a fairly prestigious school.  She learned so much there over the 10 month program. The way it works, time wise, is that you have to complete certain tasks, and 1500 hours of work. She quickly learned that keeping lunches to 30 minutes, and coming in a little early, would help click the time off more quickly. And, in spite of being really tired some days, she didn't want to take a hit with regard to her hours. She pressed on. I was so impressed! It was such a different experience from when she went to high school and was leaving early, sleeping late - I think her attendance rate (according to those nasty truancy notes) was about 65%. But juxtapose that with THIS experience - her attendance rate was 104%!!!

Because of this attitude, she was able to shave some time off. She and several of her friends graduated early from this program too. She was in the first week/wave of graduates from the people who started at the end of June 2011.

Graduation Pre-Parties
Happy Hour before the Graduations start
with Paige
Britney & Alyssa

The soon-to-be graduates went out to Hula Hut at Lake Austin. It would be one of the last times for them all to hang out together. Some were going to finish school and get a job in Austin, others would be moving away as soon as they graduated.  Even though some of the months felt like the program was never going to end, when it started winding down to the final weeks, everyone was feeling the bittersweetness of graduating.

Graduations Begin!
On the week of April 23-27, Alyssa's friend Roxy would step up to be the first to graduate. Each day after her, Callie, Robin and then Alyssa would reach their 1500 hours and the graduation would start. Sabrina graduated a week or so later, and Alyssa ran up there to be sure that she could bear witness to her friend's success! 

Callie, Robin, Roxy, Sabrina, Alyssa
Roxy's Graduation

Roxy's Graduation...hugging Alyssa goodbye

Her Little Group: Callie, Robin, Roxy, Alyssa, Sabrina

Alyssa's Graduation Day: 
April 27, 2012!
Sabrina working on Alyssa's hair

At Avenue Five, as the student approaches their final day in the program, they're able to have take advantage of all kinds of services there for free: Facials, hair treatments, final hurrah's before they're done with school.

Sabrina working on Alyssa's curls
Alyssa went up to school around 10 a.m. She only needed to be logged in a couple of hours to complete her 1500 hours. She had spent her days earlier in the week having facials, etc.. Today, Graduation Day, Sabrina agreed to do her hair.
I had gone over to the Party Store to get a big balloon, a small graduation cap/hair band, and some vinyl letters to go on her car saying, "Congrats!" and "#1 Graduate". I needed Sabrina's help to get Alyssa's car keys since these stickers had to be done from the inside. Alyssa had brought coffee for her friends that morning and parked in the back. Sabrina handed me her keys and the twoof us started putting the decals on the car. We were almost done when Alyssa came out to the back where people were gathered at the picnic tables. Glancing over at her car, I could hear her saying, "Who's in my car?" BUSTED. Oh well, we finished the job anyway and she just shook her head.

After I was done with my botched nearly stealth car decorating, I went back to pick up Grandma and Josh to join us for the Graduation.  Sabrina was just taking down Alyssa's hair when we arrived. Ron met us there and we were all ready.

Josh & the Graduate

with Grandma
With Grandma (Redo!)

We brought Tres Leches Cake into the break room, and spoke briefly to several of Alyssa's teachers. They all talked about how impressed they were with her. She was the 2nd to the youngest in the entire program. And here she was graduating a month early! She had a 104% attendance rate (compare that to her 64% attendance rate when she went to High School). Clearly, she wanted this.  Her grade average was 94. The teachers said she learned quickly, was great with customers, and they really enjoyed working with her.  They all predicted that she would do great in the industry.

By all standards, she was wildly successful at this.

Unbelievably comfortable in front of everyone :)
Giving her speech to the student body
So the time came and it was Alyssa's turn to graduate.  It's interesting how they "do" graduations at Avenue Five. When the graduate has crossed the 1500 hours mark, one of the head teacher/administrators rings a giant bell and shouts, "We HAVE a GRADUATE!" At that point, all of the students and faculty stop what their doing, begin clapping, and head the to the hallway. Once everyone has arrived, including the family, and lined both sides of the hall, the graduate makes the final walk toward the time clock to "clock out" for the last time. Usually, they run! When Alyssa did, the other students threw confetti on her as she did. Then there's this pause, and everyone applauds as the Graduate returns down the hallway to make her speech. And, in Alyssa's case, more confetti. She thanked her family - and got a little teary with us. Then she moved on to her friends who had come back to watch her graduate as well as her friends from the other classes. She spoke to each teacher, thanking them and reminding them of some little shared experience. I was completely shocked at her ability to do this. All week long I kept nudging her, asking her if she needed to prepare something to say. I had flashbacks of when *I* had to speak at various functions as I was growing up - times when I froze or just couldn't do very well. She kept brushing me off, saying she'd just wing it.  I had been there for several speeches in the past. Most were very brief and the graduate was clearly uncomfortable speaking in front of a group.  Not Alyssa!  She did go to the store to get some Thank You notes - she wanted to write to each teacher that she really liked. That might have helped her bring some ideas to the front of her head, but she did great! She was so comfortable and just talked - to the entire student body. She was a Natural public speaker.

And, here's Alyssa's Graduation Speech. She told Josh she didn't want him to record it, so he quickly handed the phone off to me. It was just aimed in her general direction, but turned out good.
*Be forewarned that this starts out LOUD! It's the students throwing confetti 
and cheering for her as she runs for the time clock!

Lots of Hugs...

After the speech, everyone hangs out to hug the graduate. It's very sweet. I'm sorry so many of these were blurry, because they were so nice to Alyssa. I'm going to include them anyway!

Little Reception after the Speech...
Tres Leches Cake after the Speech

Tres Leches Cake - "Happy Graduation Alyssa!
                          YOU DID IT!"

Roses from Josh

               Alyssa's friends came in for cake and we hung out there for a little bit. 

       Afterwards, we went to Hyde Park Bar and      Grill for  dinner. From there, Alyssa met Roxy 
and Sabrina for Happy Hour...somewhere. 

What a great day!! I'm so proud of her!

Like her Graduation Cap?

The 2 youngest students! Alyssa and LaurenV
Robin, Ms. Linda, and Alyssa

Callie joking around with Alyssa
Dinner at Hyde Park Bar & Grill with Our Graduate

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

New York, New Sailboats, New Beginnings!

We're busy. And recording it here, helps with my memory issues. When I'm old and have my house by the sea, like Miss Rumphius, I'll use these blog posts to write my memoirs.  Maybe.

So, since last we talked, a few things happened....
We'll start with ME!

I did fib a little, when I posted the last family update. I had written most of it before I made the last-minute decision to go see Katie in New York. She finally confided in me that she hadn't given a lot of thought to the idea of my coming for her end-of-the-year stuff, because she thought the flights would be too expensive. But the more I heard about it, the more I realized it was a real graduation. And, since she had never graduated from anything before - I needed to be there! I got online on Friday, the 11th, booked a flight, and flew to NYC - La Guardia at 7 a.m. the next day. I was happy that I didn't have to use my seat extender that Michael picked up on one of our last flights. When I got to Charlotte, NC, I decided I should probably tell Katie, in case she made other plans. She was pretty excited to hear I was only a couple of hours away! I met her at her dorm, and we went to lunch at our traditional restaurant, The Barking Dog. It was the first place we went to eat when she first moved there. Mother's Day was far from typical, as I spent it in NYC.
Healthwise, I'm still working on it. While we did lots of walking in New York, we did lots of eating too! It was so good! But now I'm back on track. Kinda.

Katie finished up her year at NYFA and graduated on May 12th. She was so surprised that I flew in. She had a lot of fun with her friends in their last days in NYC. She has a couple of friends who are going to move in with her in an apartment in Los Angeles - which is where she'll do her second year with NYFA. She really didn't enjoy the NY winters, so I'm sure LA will be better in that regard. Several of her instructors told me that she could stay in NY and start working right away - and who knows, maybe she'll go back and do that. It's good to know they think she's good enough for it! Lots of compliments as to how driven and passionate she is about acting. I wish I could have seen her Scene Study that her group did the night before I got there. They all said she was incredible in that. Sean, one of the tech people, said he will upload it so we can see it. Here's more about Katie's graduation.
After I helped her pack up her dorm, she came back to my hotel to sleep in comfy bed. Dorm beds aren't that great. We ate breakfast and parted ways at the airport. She got the rest of her stuff organized, hung out with friends, and hopped on the plane for Austin on Thursday. The layover in Orlando was too short, evidently, because Jet Blue lost her huge suitcase. Actually, this worked in our favor - we didn't have to lug it in the Prius - with Alyssa, Grandma, Katie and me. They delivered it to our door the next day. Katie's enjoying open skies and lots of room in the house. She'll be looking for a job this summer.
Katie wrote her own blogpost about the highlights of this past semester in Birthday, Sick, Final Performances, and Home for the Time Being. 

While I was in NYC, Alyssa got her call back on one of the interviews: Milk + Honey Salon in the Arboretum. They're working on an Apprentice program and are willing to start her as a Shampoo Tech/Salon Assistant.  She'll move into the Stylist role as soon as possible. For now, she's happy to have a job at a really pretty new salon. She gives a great head massage during a shampoo, so I expect she'll make great tips! Since she's only working 3 days/week right now, she's spending a lot of time fishing with Josh - and having great luck! This will be the first summer that she isn't booked solid with classes since 2008! She is definitely relieved to be done with all that!
The Magazine Cover!

Kathya's Graduation Festivities!
Michael has several new blogposts up at his blog, In the Nica Time. His Tumblr blog was too unwieldy for him - especially with his limited internet access. But the articles are still up there until he can get them all moved over to the new blog. So now he's at Blogger.  One of the really cool things that has happened is that he's been published in the Peace Corps Magazine for Nicaragua. His articles, Motorboats, Mansions, and Monkeys: las Islets de Granada as well as The Great Volcan Masaya, were both in the March issue. And one of his pictures of Muelle de los Bueyes was published on the cover of that issue! Glad that degree in Journalism is getting some use!
His girlfriend, Kathya, graduated from college with a degree in Engineering. He was able to get back to La Paz for the graduation and did a little more sightseeing. I'll keep you posted as he puts up more articles/pictures.

Ron's still motorcycling over to the train station and catching the train to work. Most of the time, he likes this little trek - reading his Kindle while people get on and off the train. He's looking forward to UT's Spring semester finishing up - much fewer people on the bus, no bicycles squeezed into aisles, etc.

Ron's big news, though, is the sailboat he purchased on Mother's Day Weekend. Here's the update on Ron's "New" Boat. He's taking lots of trips up to Lake Texoma, 4.5 hours away. The boat is actually 44 years old - something great about that!! I'm happy to say that the air conditioner he ordered from Amazon just arrived today, so I might be able to brave the Texas heat overnight on the boat. I expect the cabin will cool down quickly with that!

Did I tell you that after taking her car from her last Fall, my mom went out with a friend and bought another? A clunker with 130, 000 miles on it! She barely drove it, but desperately hated the idea that I was preventing her from driving. Last weekend, she threw her back out, so I ended up with the car keys. I've decided that much of this depends on the "presentation" of the info. So, for now, we are "sharing" the car.  She takes it for Mass on Saturday night when the parking lots aren't so crowded.  Going cold turkey on the car issue was just too much for her.