Tuesday, March 24, 2015


As I mentioned in my last blog post, my family has experienced some growing pains as I have gone back to work.  The kids are adjusting.......more or less.  We have asked the kids to step up and take responsibility in a few ways.  First, do your chores.  Second, you need to be organized so you don’t forget what you need to have at school.  Third, you need to get out of the house on time for school.  

Bob and I have outlined chores for each kid every day.  I can count on one hand the number of times they have fulfilled their full obligation of chores without being told.  Basically, the cat is away….you get the picture.  

The kids have been pretty good about remembering their stuff for school.  Coulter has only forgotten a couple times.  In the past, I brought things to school for the kids at least once or twice per week.

The kids all get out of the house on time for school.  Kees is a champ.  At 7:57 he runs out the door, shoes on and backpack ready.  Sophia leaves around 8:15.  She walks over to a friend’s house and then on to school from there.  I usually leave then too.  I’ve been riding my bike to work so that gets me to the office just after 8:30.  This leaves Coulter at home alone.  He leaves just after I do to get to school at 8:45.  I make sure that he’s totally ready before I leave.  I say, “Coulter, you need to leave in 10 minutes.”  To which he replies, “I know mom.”  Coulter has a tendency to, let’s say, forget things and loose track of time.  

Two weeks ago today I received a robo call from the school saying, “A student in your household was marked absent.  Please contact the school.”  I thought that was weird but sometimes they make a mistake.  I called the school and they said it was Coulter that was marked absent.  Hmmm…. I had them call up to his classroom to confirm.  The secretary called back, “He isn’t in his classroom and they haven't seen him today.”  

I panicked a little bit and called home.  No answer.  Luckily, I had driven this particular day.  I stood up and announced, “My son is missing, I have to leave.”  Everyone agreed this was what I needed to do.  I went straight home calling the whole time.  I called Bob and told him what was happening and told him to meet me at home.  Perhaps Coulter was at home afraid to answer for fear of getting in trouble? 

When I got home I ran into the house. “Coulter, COULTER!!!! Where are you?”  I searched the whole house as fast as I could.  Maybe he was hiding?  I begged him to come out.  “COUTLER, PLEASE, I’M TERRIFIED!”  Maybe he’s at the library.  It’s his “Go to” spot.  I drove to the library.  It was closed.  He wasn’t in the coffee shop next door either.  Now I’m really scared.  I called 911.  “5’2”. 105 lbs. Blond, with a rat tail. About a foot long. I don’t know what he was wearing.  No, he’s never gone missing before.”  I am trying to be brave but my son is missing and he’s been gone for three hours.  I am as afraid as I have ever been.  I can't breathe... in out, breathe Heather.  I can’t describe how that feels and I hope others never have to go through that.  

I call the school to let them know that I reported Coulter missing and the police are on the way to take a report.  The secretary tells me, “He just walked through the door.”  I say, “Call him down for me.  I will be right there.”  Coulter needs to explain himself and he needs to see how upset and frightened I am.  I get in the car and go to the school.  I call Bob and tell him to meet me at the school. 

I see Coulter and tell him to come with me into the Principal’s Office.  I try to convey how upset I am but of course, he’s an eleven-year-old boy.  He doesn’t get it.  I let him see my tears and makeup all over my face.  He has no excuse.   He claims he fell asleep.  It was two days after Day Light Savings Time kicked in.  I suppose he could be tired.  He says my phone call woke him up and that’s when he realized he was late.  Really?  Three hours?  He’s sticking with his story.  

Bob comes and tries to convey his angst.  Then the school councilor comes in.  We all try to explain to him that his actions have terrified us all.  I tell him how precious he is to me and that this can’t happen ever again.  He apologizes but still, there is no way he can understand the feeling a parent has when a child is missing.  Eventually we all calm down.  Coulter missed lunch so Bob and I take him to get a quick something.  We’re all exhausted and hungry.  

We eat and talk.  Coulter finally apologizes without sounding like we’re being over reactive jerks.  We take him back to school and Bob and I go back to work.  I am exhausted.  Seriously, it’s crazy what something like that takes out of you.  

Later at home, Coulter apologizes about five more times.  He seems to have heard us.  

But….  A week later, I get the robo call again.  I call the school but this time they report that he showed up at almost 10.  He was more than an hour late! He reported to the school secretary that I knew he was late.  Ahh…no I didn’t.  I ask to talk to him and she puts me through.  I tell him that he is in big trouble.  I wanted him to ponder that all day.  

When we all get home Bob and I sit him down again.  We go through the whole thing again.  I can’t believe he did it AGAIN!  We take away his electronics for two weeks, no iPad, no computer, no TV, no nothing.  Of course this is almost more punishing to us than it is to him but there isn't much that means anything to him.  The only thing that would break his heart is if we took his books....but I don't want to break his heart, I love him.  I want him to be safe, I want him to thrive, I want him to follow the rules.  

I ask him why he has done this.  He says, "I don't know."

Me, "Coulter, there must be a reason." 

Coulter, "School is boring." 

Me, "Well too bad, school isn't an option." 

Coulter, "I just didn't want to go."

We go back and forth and it's nothing specific at school.  No bullying or anything and then it hits me. 
Me, "Coulter, is it the quiet and being alone you like?"

Coulter, "Yeah. (He starts to cry.) I never get to have quiet time alone."  And it's true.  Kees is always right there.  It's sort of his job as the little brother.  

I try to impress upon him the importance of going to school.  I have to know he's safe and if he doesn't go to school I don't know if he's safe or not.  I also tell him,  "Not going to school is illegal.  It's called truancy."  Maybe that will do it.  Again, he seems to understand and I tell him we'll work on getting him some alone time.  That seemed to help him. I also told him that his part of supporting our family was to go to school, to follow the rules and to do his chores.  I tried to impart that it was his responsibility and it was how he could support me in my new job but mostly I want him safe.  

So we'll see how things go from here on out.  I want him safe and I don't want to break his heart.  He's a lovely boy who made a couple of bad choices.  I hope he knows how much I love him.  I'll continue to tell him and check in with him.  Eleven is such a weird age and difficult to know how best to handle these things.  I am doing my best.   

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Working Woman

I contemplated going back to work for a while.  In late January I thought, “I should start looking for a job.”  Be careful what you put out into the universe!  About two days later my friend Gary Boyer posted that he was looking for an assistant.  He is a very successful mortgage broker.  I PM’d him and said I was looking.  A day later we had lunch, four days later I met with his assistants and within a week or so I was at a desk. 

Talk about fast!  Whew… 

I have learned a few things in my life. 

#1 - If you focus on what you want most of the time something comes along.  It is important to be specific in your focus. 

#2 – Don’t over think things.  If I sat down and really pondered what I was about to do I am not sure I would have done it.  This isn’t a bad thing it’s just important not to over think. Often times you can talk yourself out of a great opportunity.  Now that I am doing what I am doing I am glad I’m there and I am glad I didn’t over think it.

#3 – It’s important to take care of yourself.  While I have greatly enjoyed my (almost 15 years) time away from work I find that I am enjoying being productive and part of a team.  I am not making a fortune but I am learning something new, contributing to people’s dreams of buying a home, helping Gary’s Team move forward and hopefully providing some much needed relief to those that were already in the office. 

#4 – I like being there.

#5 – There is an adjustment period. My family has had some growing pains. I will write another post about specific incidents.  For a short while I thought, “What have I done?”  But I know my kids are capable and ready for this, they just don’t know it yet.  Their immediate reaction was, “The cat is away!” and that isn’t what Bob and I are looking for. 

So we are all learning at this point.  The adjustment period has been rough a few times.  BUT… and that is a big but, it isn’t about the kids, it’s about me and I am enjoying myself so they are going to have to adjust and grow too.  Ultimately, I guess it is about the kids.  I saw college coming and I am not willing to amend my lifestyle so I needed to figure out how to help pay for it.  A job was the answer.  But it has ended up meaning more to me.  I didn’t realize that it would make me feel needed and wanted.  Make me part of a team.  Let me use my brain for more than the day to day stuff I was working on.  The PTA was a lot of work (sometimes full time) but it was very thankless.  This feels rewarding, more each day

Bob and I are working with the kids, setting expectations and holding them accountable for being participants in this family.  We (Bob and I) can’t do it all.  They MUST help.  Gary has been understanding and has even given me flexibility to come in a bit later to make sure the kids get off to school on time.  It has meant a great deal to me to have a boss like Gary who knows the importance of family.  He works exceedingly hard but he knows, when family calls, it take first priority. 

Ah…the learning curve.  I am used to being highly efficient and handling lots of volume.  I know this is new to me and that I will get faster but man, it is frustrating not to be able to rip through everything.  Thank goodness the people that are training me are patient (to a fault).  I will get there but in the mean time it’s hard.  When I have a question and can’t figure something out I take my stack of papers and go ask where to find info or how to get it.  They take two seconds and bang it out.  I just spent 15 minutes looking for the answer!  I keep telling myself, “I’m learning.” but still, it’s frustrating. 

In the end I will get it.  I know I will pick up speed, learn the ropes, help the team and ultimately will be successful.  And so will my family. I believe it’s important for my kids to see me working.  They know I was in hotel management but they have never seen me work.  They also need to learn that my absence isn’t license for them to mess around but to rise to the occasion.  That this is important to me and they need to support me just as I have supported them their entire lives. The kids need to step up and grow.  They have all the skills, I know because Bob and I taught them, and now it’s time to implement those skills.  It’s my time.  

We will all be better for this in the end I hope we can all survive the learning curve!  I am in this for the long haul and I plan on being very successful. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Brian the Poet

Today I made a new friend at Starbucks.  I was behind him in line and struck up a conversation. He is an interesting guy and in the few short moments that I had with Brian I learned a few things.  Brian is very friendly, he is a Vietnam Vet, he has an injured leg that he's having a hard time with and he is an accomplished poet.  He told me that his friends call him Poet and that he wanted me to call him Poet. I agreed.

If you live in the Hollywood area you probably know of Brian, or as I call him, Poet.  Poet is a hunched over homeless man in his 60's.  He carried the sign, "Too ugly to prostitute, too old for jail." He's is in pretty bad shape.  About a week ago I gave him a dollar mostly because I wanted to ask him how he was and what he needed.  That was when he told me about his leg.  He said that the doctor told him if he didn't take good care of it, he would loose it.  Here's a guy standing all day to make what little money he does and he's threatened with the loss of his leg.

I am no saint but I did think it was important to get him supplies to take care of his leg because he said he couldn't afford them.  I went straight to Rite Aid and bought gauze, tape, self clinging wrap and antibiotic cream.  He was right, it is expensive.  It was about $22.00.

The homeless situation in Portland is problematic.  Who can know why someone is homeless?  Some suffer from PTSD.  There are many issues associated with PTSD, for some being inside is terrifying, others have substance abuse, anger issues or can't relate to their families and loved ones.  Others are mentally ill and some choose to be homeless for reasons that we may never know about.  One thing I know is no one says, "I want to be HOMELESS!" when they are in kindergarten.  

Taking care of homeless people is expensive not taking care of homeless people is even more expensive.  I don't know what the answers are and I don't believe just handing over money is very helpful.  Services, shelter, sustenance, support in many forms: those are the things that are helpful.

I do not know what the future holds for Poet but I will continue to check in with him and see what he needs.  I promised him that I would do my best to keep him supplied with bandages.  What I did not say is that I will keep checking in with him to see what else he needs.  I will not give him cash but I will give him food, dry socks, tarps and whatever else he might need.

I challenge you to see the homeless in your neighborhood and if you are inclined, ask them how they are doing.   Often times a little bit of kindness can go a long long way.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mount Airy and Atlanta....Finally

If you followed our trip on this blog you may think that we didn't make it past Ohio.  If you followed us on Facebook you know we made it all the way to North Carolina, Georgia and back home.  The truth is, I was tired!  Driving for hours on end is exhausting.  It's been a long time since I did that much driving...wait, I have never driven that much.  More on that later.

We made it into North Carolina and Bob showed us around his home town, Mount Airy.  It is where Bob and Andy Griffith grew up.  Not at the same times of course.  I have often joked that I married a big Opie.  It's a cute town and I was happy to see it through Bob's eyes.  He drove us around to all his old haunts and told us what he did here and there.  The neighborhood he grew up in hasn't changed much....except a tree his family planed out in front of their house when he was four.  I don't know how big it was before but this is it now.
I had a funny interation with the woman who owns the house now.  I didn't want them to think I was some weirdo just taking pictures of their house.  I said, "My husband grew up in this house.  His family planted that tree when he was four."  She barely looked up and just said, "Oh."  Strange.  Wouldn't you say, "Wow" or "Would you like to look around?" or "When was that?"  Nope, just, "Oh."  Hmmm....  

We met up with one of his friends from PK - 11th grade, Kristen and her two sons.  It was fun and they are a very nice family.  

The next day we wandered around Mount Airy and checked out the town.  They are famous for three things (four if you include Bob); 
  1. Mayberry / Andy Griffith
  2. Chang and Eng Bunker - Siamese Twins
  3. Donna Fargo, the happiest girl in the whole USA.

They have really done a good job of using and maximizing these attractions.  We went to the Visitor's Center and I got the full run down on what to do in Mount Airy from one of their volunteers.  It was very thorough and honestly, hilarious.  My favorite part was when she told me that we could (Read this in a slow-southern-drawl), "Visit the quarry.  It doesn't cost anything but your time to get there and it's only a mile and a half.  It's the largest granite quarry in the world and it is so big, and so white they can see it from space!" I didn't say it but no, no you can't.  You can barely see it on Google Earth when you only look at North Carolina.  Funny.  It is big and impressive though. 

We left Mount Airy and drove for five plus hours to get to Georgia.   The kids were excited to get to Atlanta to see their cousins and sit still for a few days.  The plan was to be there for 5 nights.  We drove into Lawrenceville first which is where Bob's parents live.  We had a nice visit and a home-made dinner.  Man, we needed that.  We had been eating out every night and I was sick of mass-preparred food.  After our visit we went to Bob's sister's house.  Ingrid and Brian are great hosts and we were looking forward to seeing them and their kids and again....sitting still.  

One of the problems of sitting still is that you relax.  When you relax you can get sick.  When you get sick, you're no good.  I was no good.  I got a cold probably spurred on by allergies.  Allergies in different states in different hotels.... yuck.  Bob got it too.  I was down for a couple days and didn't fully recover until we got home!

Our time in Atlanta was packed with friends and family.  It made me realize that we need to go to Atlanta for a couple of weeks to get it all in.  There are MANY people I didn't get to see.  We did get to see our friends the Combs' and the Malm-Cluett's.  Barbara put together a beautiful brunch for us.  I was so honored.  It was fun to catch up and hear about all the goings on of friends from the past.  

We spent one afternoon with my Aunt Holly, Uncle Rick and cousin Bobbie Hurt and her family.  The kids got to go swimming and and we caught up around the pool until the thunder started.  That stopped that part of the day.  Bobbie and Holly made a great dinner and again, we were so honored to be in their company.  

While in Cumming (an Atlanta suburb) the kids got to go swimming in a swimming hole that had rock water slides.  That was a big hit.  They even got to jump out of a tree into the river.  It was a beautiful setting and such fun.  

 Guns...not such a thing in Portland but a big thing in the South.  Uncle Brown (Brian) had a BB gun and the kids were quite excited to try it.  They set up some targets in the back yard and went to town. Coulter and Kees even got to blow up a couple of full soda cans.  That was good stuff.  

Sophia spent a day shopping and going out to dinner and a movie with her big cousin Jessica.  We were also there for her 18th birthday when we went out to dinner.  We also visited with Bob's brother Bas and son Austin and caught Bob's sister Connie and her family as they passed through town on a vacation.  There were lots of touches but not a lot of long visits.  Our time was just so short.  

We had nice meals and company.  All in all we had a great time in Atlanta.  We got do do laundry (ohh, ahh), sleep in the same place for a few nights and plan for the rest of the trip...somewhat.  We knew that we were going to head to New Orleans.  While in the neighborhood you may as well.  Originally we were going to go to Memphis but the kids decided they wanted to go to New Orleans instead.  So that was the plan, to leave bright and early on Wed and head to New Orleans.  More in the next post.   

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Bad Sleep in Ohio

Last night was a terrible night for sleep. I had the weirdest dreams; unsettling, confusing, nothing worked, I couldn't find anything, I didn't know where my family was, people were constantly in my way...just general chaos. 

My dream... I was at Crystal Mountain and dropped off Bob, Sophia and her friend Ella B. I drove down the mountain to our really fabulous mountain place. When I got there I couldn't find a place to park. I was driving Bob's Mercedes. 

Next thing I know I'm walking around and looking for our place.  I get there and can't remember paying for it or signing papers. I look around  and think, "We should rent this out." As I'm contemplating this Bob Calls, "Where are you?" Mind you Bob and Sophia don't ski. The next thing I know I'm driving back down with just Sophia. 

I get back and can't find the mountain house. There is also a large crowded market right outside where it should be. Bob calls and I miss the call. When I try to call him back I have a universal Comcast Remote in my hand. It does everything but only a computer scientist could understand it. I try to call him but it's too hard. Of course while I'm trying he calls again and I can't answer. 

I finally decide to just go up there. I ask Sophia where Ella is. She says, "I don't know!" Like I am some big jerk. Now I'm panicked. I go to look for the car and can't find it. I start running around the crowd looking for the car. I press the lock button and hear it. When I get to the car it's a 6 seat golf cart. I figure I've got the keys for it, I'm taking it. Sophia is with me and we are freezing. We are headed toward the mountain and I can't steer very well, we're freezing and I can't call or figure out how to answer my remote. The car starts swerving off the road. And then I woke up....

Last night Sophia lost her iPod and I am pretty sure that got me thinking about the cell phone. Then I tossed and turned and didn't sleep well. Plus, being on this road trip has us all "off" a bit. I'm staying awake now, it's more restful than that "sleep" I just got. I'm exhausted. Hopefully better tonight. 


Milwaukee bound….  Let’s see…. It must be July 5th if we’re in Milwaukee.  First things first, we went to the MilwaukeePublic Museum.  We had reciprocal benefits and it is where I went as a kid.  Ah, nostalgia.   There is a life size Native American exhibit where they are hunting bison.   When I was a kid you’d hit a button and the noise to go along with it would come on.  I literally remember being in my stroller and being terrified of that.  I was scared and thrilled at the same time.  They don’t do the noise anymore…it’s too bad.  It really added something. 

There is Old Milwaukee Town where they show rooms from all the different cultures that moved to the area.  We found all of them including the Dutch and Scottish rooms.   There are dinosaurs, bugs from everywhere, animals, artifacts and then exhibits from many different cultures from all over the world.   We topped it off with an IMAX movie.  We got to sit down.  Nice.

After the MPM we went to our lodgings.  We were blessed to have a house to stay in.  Sophia’s buddy Katia’s grandparents’ (Do you follow that trail?) house.  They summer in northern Wisconsin and said we could stay at their city house.  It was perfect.  We settled in and then had a quiet night.  We’d been driving for days and needed some down time.  Bob and I let the kids go to town on devices and he and I watched Netflix to our hearts content.  We had snacks, wine, no kids in earshot.  Ahhh….

We all slept in but our gluttony made everyone tired the next day.  We survived. 

The big outing the next day was the Milwaukee ArtMuseum.  It is amazing!  The art is always top notch and the building is world class.  Really, mind boggling.  It looks like a ship on land, a BIG SHIP!  It has sails that go up and down.  You need to check it out.  And if you are ever in Milwaukee you must go and see if for yourself.  Again, this museum brings back memories for me.  I always loved it as a kid and it’s fun to see lots of the same pieces still there.  We were lucky enough to see a great Kandinsky exhibit while we were there too.  Bingo!   The kids’ areas are excellent and vary from hands on to learning about optical illusions. 

 After that we went to the Geodesic Domes though now they call them the Mitchell Park Domes….that’s just weird.  We got there with very little time to spare but we squeezed them in.    The bugs outside almost killed my kids……

After that is was dinner at Kopp’s.  The burgers are as big as your head…really.  So well fed, tired, run hard….we all crashed.

We woke up at about 9 on the 7th so pack up for Chicago.  While a nice two night stay was a luxury, it was time to move on.  We cleaned up, loaded up and off we went.  My next post….Chicago.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The 4th in La Crosse

Sioux Falls was just a quick stop.  We slept, ate, swam and left.  Within a few miles we were in Minnesota.  As we drove across the state I noticed something.  It’s pretty, lots of farms and hills but not a lot of roadside attractions.  South Dakota doesn’t have a lot of things to see beyond the Badlands but they make it up.  It was pretty impressive.  And (this is looking ahead) the minute we crossed into Wisconsin there were windmills everywhere.  No windmills in Minnesota.  Hm… 

Our trip across Minnesota was pretty much business.  Drive, stop at rest stops and make it to the next goal, Milwaukee.  By the time we were approaching La Crosse, Bob and I asked the kids if they wanted to press on or if they wanted to stop.  It was the 4th of July and the kids wanted to stop and play.  We made it to La Cross by 2:30 and just let the kids play in the pool.  They needed it. 

After pool time we went downtown to get dinner.  We went to Buzzard Billy’s, a Cajun place.  Everyone got what they wanted and then we went to Riverfest three blocks away.  People were scouting out spots for the fireworks so when in La Crosse…..  be from La Crosse.  We found a spot and then Bob went to the car to get provisions; chairs, blankets, jackets. 

It was fun to watch the crowd go by and see all the smiling faces.  People were really happy and just having fun together.  Bob came back and we set up camp.  The kids ran and played.  They did some bungee thing, bought a few treats and giggled together.  That’s the good stuff of just spending time as a family. 

At 10pm the fireworks started. I negotiated with a couple who had a great view to let us sit with them when the show started.  La Crosse does a good job with the fireworks.  One of the things I appreciate about the Midwest is that people show their appreciation when they like a firework.  At the beginning of the show people were oohing and aahhing and then breaking into applause.  I loved it.  The fireworks lasted about 20 minutes.  Kees, who hasn’t been to a fireworks show in years kept asking, “Is this the finally?”  I kept telling him, “You’ll know when it is.”  Poor kid, he hasn’t seen big fireworks in years because we are always at a family event or block party.  This year he indeed knew when it was the finally.  The fireworks went off for about two straight minutes and there were hundreds of them.  And the second they were done….the crowd erupted in loud and unanimous cheering.  Awesome!

We went back to the hotel fed, happy and ready to proceed the next day.  It was a good day.