Saturday, June 27, 2015

Summer Break. Or, The Only Time I Hate Having An Only Child

Growing up, I could never picture my future self as a mom; it seemed physically and emotionally uncomfortable and exhausting and life-draining.  Being a wife? That picture was crystal clear: I really wanted to be a wife.  But, and maybe it was the time that I grew up in, I knew that if marriage and wifehood was a part of my future then having children would most likely have to be a part of it too. So, my motherhood plan became quite simple: if/when I ever became pregnant the number of babies that came out of that single pregnancy would be it. Brilliant. Fast forward to March 2000, marriage. Then to December 2004, birth of one baby, a little girl. Since then, I've never wanted another child; our little family of three works well for us.  

When our daughter was younger being an "only" was hardly noticeable. We even had lots of friends with "onlys" so there were lots of outings and play dates scheduled.  And for every year that our daughter aged, more and more opportunities to do other types of activities opened up: soccer, dance, music, camps, and other enrichments.  We were fortunate that we could enroll her in several activities simultaneously but the more she did, the less time she, and we, really, had to socialize with friends outside of these organized, and time consuming, activities.  What free time we did have was precious and was often spent doing routine household chores and having family down time.  So those organized outings and play dates? A thing of the past. And boredom? Isolation? My daughter didn't even know the meaning of the words.

Of course, my daughter's experience is not necessarily unique; this is probably a very familiar story to anyone who has had a kid or watched them grow.  But what might be a little different for my daughter today, as a 10 year old "only," is that, well, she spends a lot of time with adults. Or alone. This doesn't matter much during the school year when her normal routine is still pretty fulfilling. But, in the summer, it is often much more noticeable and less desirable.  For her.  But, especially, for me. She doesn't have the built in playmate situation with a go-to sibling or the the cul-de-sac full of neighborhood kids to run outside and play with (we live in an urban area and there are no kids her age to play within a couple block radius of our house).  And, making the situation more challenging, as she has gotten older, she no longer blindly accepts and trusts choices that I would make for camps or lessons.  She has to approve them in advance. And friends have to enroll too for her to enroll. And, under no circumstances, can it be a sleep away camp. So while the opportunities are still as great for a 10 year old, my daughter's criteria limits what she is willing to do thereby confining her to the home quite a bit in the summer.  My inner child can relate - that's totally how I was as a kid, as I'm sure a lot of us were.  Heck, it's totally how I am today as an adult!  But, even now as an introverted adult, I can see the benefits of taking some social risks. I just wish I did at her age.    

You're probably thinking, why not call up a friend, invite them over! That does make a lot of sense. And I should. But a few things always seem to get in our way: lack of organization, the typical state of our house, a lack of follow through, my introversion, and, in the end, our general willingness to accept the status quo of this situation.  And by "our" I do include the 10 year old in that because, at the end of the day, she is a product of her environment. So, do I regret not having another child?  No. Never. But it sure would be nice during the summer to have a regular playmate for my daughter. Even if it were just one day a week.  Maybe there's a rental program out there? Haha.  I kid. I kid. Bottom line, I'm sure she's still thriving.  I'm sure that she still happy. And I'm sure that she still not damaged by being an "only" in any way.  They say that 20% of kids in the US are "onlys" now (US Census stats 2011). Twenty percent of us can't be wrong, right?  In the meantime,  I'm determined to provide every recreational and educational opportunity within my means this summer to keep her busy, entertained, and informed. And, eventually, maybe, I'll even get around to calling that friend.            
And, should anyone be concerned that we've been spending too much time on Netflix and Facebook, which we probably have anyway, here's a list of the things we've around town done since June 1:

*One week of cooking and art camp (the kid, not me)
*Four visits to the library
*Clementine's Naughty and Nice Ice Cream - 1st time visiting
*Jilly's Cupcakes - 1st time visiting
*Fort de Chartres Rendezvous
*Weekly Violin Lessons (not sure if these really count)
*Violin Recital (not sure if this really counts)
*St. Louis Zoo
*Ted Drewes - 1st visit of the season
*Grant's Farm
*Circus Flora
*Civil War Museum
*Contemporary Art Museum
*Pulitzer Arts Foundation
*Wax Museum and Laclede's Landing
*Graffiti Wall
*Exploring Neighborhoods: The Loop
*Exploring Neighborhoods: Historic St. Charles
*Renegayed @ (3rd Annual) Tower Grove Pride Festival
*One week of fashion camp at COCA 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Cat in the Tree.

One of the realities when you keep chickens is making sure that you're prepared to deal with the predators that come a callin' for an oh so tasty meal. In an urban area, like where we live, we've had to run off a few opossum and raccoons that have made their way into the yard.  Once, we even spotted an owl in a neighbor's yard, perched on the 20ft trunk of a tree that she was in the process of having cut down.  It hung out for awhile, maybe a day or two, and looked like it was eyeing the chickens.  But was it? It's hard to say but the bird never tried to take any chickens as far as I know. 

While it's entirely possible that the owl was totally lost -- in my almost 20 years of city living that was my first, and only, owl sighting -- we have always had opossum and raccoon living in the city. Sightings are not what I'd describe as being common but they are not unusual.  The funny thing is that when they have ended up in the yard they've always managed to make it feel like an accident. Like they were just looking to raid the garbage cans and had no idea about the chickens. And they always seem irritated that we've assumed the worst about their intentions. Ha! It cracks me up just thinking about this because I can see their lil' opossum and raccoon faces as I write this - smug and irritated! Anyway, we're fortunate that, regardless of their intentions, we've not lost any chickens this way. What surprised me is that the absolute worst predators are cats! Pet cats. Stray cats. Doesn't matter. They come into the yard and stalk the chickens. Luckily, this makes the chickens, if they're out of the coop, uncomfortable enough that they make a lot of noise.  The noise upsets the dog who, if we're home, goes outside to investigate.  The dog hates cats and she'll bark and chase them right out of the yard.  On occasion, she's chased them right up into the only tree in the backyard, a 15ft Catalpa tree.  She chased one up at 7am this morning, in fact.  And, up until about an hour ago, I thought I was going to have to hire someone to get the cat out of the tree.  Nine and 1/2 hours in a tree!  No water, no food, just sitting at the highest point possible.  That's one crazy cat. 

Not a quality photo - the lighting was bad this morning and my editing skills are terrible but, as you can see this is how the dog spent her morning: in and out of the house, checking the tree to make sure the cat stayed put or, if not, that she was within striking distance. 
So aside from a lunch date that I had previously scheduled and didn't want to miss, my daughter and I did not get any fun activities in today because of the cat in the tree event.  In case you're wondering, lunch was Thai, at Basil Spice on South Grand.  They don't have a website but you can google them and see a menu and reviews.  The friend that I met for lunch - we go here every single time we meet for lunch/dinner.  It's our favorite place and the owners are super nice people.  

Monday, June 22, 2015

Graffiti Wall

Legal graffiti. Is that an oxymoron? I'm not sure. But, yes, there is a place in St. Louis where graffiti artists, from the o'so famous to those aspiring to be, can go and legally paint without the fear of being caught by the Fuzz. The Po-Po. The Five-0. The Coppers. The, well, the slang list for police goes on and on, I'm sure.  As far as I know the spot is just called the Graffiti Wall.  Let me know if I'm wrong though.  And it's literally a wall, a flood wall that runs along the Mississippi River on Wharf Street. Basically, to get here, get yourself onto Chouteau Avenue and take it as far East as it will go and you'll dead end at the Graffiti Wall.  The art starts right there, at Chouteau and Wharf and runs south for about a mile. The path along the wall, if you want to call it a path, has a nice, flat walking surface that changes from asphalt to chipped-rock making it an easy walk in decent weather. It's not, in the official sense, handicap accessible but I bet you could push a wheelchair just fine along the path.   However, in the rainy and wet season and the Mississippi River-above-flood-stage-level times, like today, there are some puddles to navigate but nothing too serious. I'll add too that you can just as easily drive this if you prefer that to walking. 

This is just south of where Chouteau dead ends at Wharf Street. We parked here today and it wasn't a problem. 

So what will you see? Lots of graffiti, obviously. Some is figurative, some abstract. Some, as my 10 year old pointed out today, have some "adult themes and language" so, parents who have children that can read and/or make sense of sexual imagery as well as those with sensitive dispositions take note before you head down. But please do take that warning with a grain of salt because the Graffiti Wall is always changing. I've been down a handful of times and there is always new artwork.  In fact, we saw an artist painting today - he rolled black paint right over an existing image, let it dry for a bit, then got to work on his piece using spray paint.   

The Kid and the Dog stopping for their first photograph.

Even if you don't know their names, everyone is probably familiar with the work of graffiti artists Banksy, Shepard Fairey, or, even locally, Peat Wollaeger.  Beyond that people tend not to know a whole lot about graffiti artists or art, also called street artists or street art.  I would include myself in that group especially when you're talking about the local scene.  So as I walked along the wall today, studying the art, picking out favorites, or photographing them, I had no idea if I was appreciating the work of an unknown artist or a very famous one.  Art is subjective, of course, and there is a wide range of styles but I am comfortable saying that some of it is much better than others.  

The Kid and the Dog after a series of photographs.  The Kid is holding up okay but the Dog is much hotter, much more tired, very thirsty, and wondering where the AC went.

Today, along the wall, we had the perfect conditions: not too hot, the sky was blue and clear, there was a slight breeze in the air, and it was practically devoid of human existence.  Around 10 am this place was peaceful, it looked safe.  And, better yet, I felt safe.  I felt it was a safe place to take my child.  Even without the 95 pound Shepherd I would have felt safe.  That said, I've never been to the wall at night and I've always been with a group so I can't speak to how safe it is at different times or under different circumstances.   

You can see steel beam reinforcers and the sandbags at the base of the flood wall, aka the Graffiti Wall, have been brought in. The Mississippi River is currently flooding and it's seeping under the walls, despite the sandbags. 

A Couple of Resources;

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Things I Hate Today. Or, I Spent Way Too Much Time On Facebook Because It's Raining And It Has Been For Like A Week And It's Not Going To Stop Until Saturday

1. Maxi Skirts
2. Maxi Dresses
They're the crocs of female fashion.  They're the sweat pants of female fashion.  Yeah, just stop.

3. Bragging about how superior your "real, non-synthetic, post-workout power salad" is while it sits atop a big fucking plastic to go container.  Yes, PLASTIC. On a plastic-topped table. Next to a fake plastic plant on said plastic-topped table.  Real cool.

4. Selfies. I get that sometimes occasions arise that call for selfies -- maybe there's no one else around to take your new Facebook profile pic or a bio pic that you need for an online application or page profile.  But that's about it. So stop it with the selfies.  Every day, posting a new selfie on Facebook or Instagram.  You're sad. You're desperate. You're insecure.  It's so obvious. Even science says so.  I think.  But stop. If you want us to know that you made it to the top of Mt. Everest, have the Sherpa take the pic, then post.  Or better yet, ask the Sherpa if he'd take a group photo.  That's even better.

In the News Noon

Ah, man! Trickle down.....I mean, trickle down...hahaha! Well, it all sounded so real that we totally bought it. Using economics and physics and politics and psychology talk. Man, that was a good one, you big prankster you....

The world's running out of non-saline water and we still allow common folk, in ordinary situations to drink bottled water whenever they want.  Why is this not illegal? This should be illegal. If you're still drinking bottled water, you're a horrible person that is contributing to the death of this planet.  And no excuse that comes to mind will make me think differently. 

Even Pope Francis agrees.....

Some things never change. Instead of dumpin' Jackson's ol' sorry, contributed-nothin'-positive-to-US-history-ass off the $20, the gov takes the easy way out - kicks Hamilton out of prominence (golly, the $10 was up for resign anyway guys), takes the xenophobic way out (hehe, the gov's been waiting a long time to take down Hamilton, that bastard immigrant - this one's for you, T.Jeff!), and takes the stickin' it to women way out (yes, $10 is less than $20 people). And, guess what? We're like, "Great. Thank you, Mr. President." Thanks for this great big turd.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

It's Been Awhile....But I'm Back!

When I first started blogging, there was no Facebook, no Twitter, no other social media to speak of - well, at least known to/used by me.  This blog was my main means of consolidating and archiving my thoughts and my life adventures.  It was an online journal.  And, if blogging also meant that my archiving, my journaling, would lead others to read and enjoy my writing and photos and make me an internet celeb then I was okay with that too!  Not that anyone ever read this blog, mind you :) But that didn't stop me from coming here regularly, writing my little entries and posting photos.

Eventually, I did get into social media, first Facebook, then Twitter - which I really didn't and don't use-, and then Instagram.  Initially, they were all apples and oranges and the blogging continued, especially my daughter's blog because it was our main vehicle for helping the relatives to feel connected to her. Over time though, blogging seemed less relevant and my attention shifted to posting on Facebook almost exclusively, then, depending upon the content, to Instagram, or both. With Facebook and Instagram, I sacrificed a more detailed text, which sounds funny given how relatively short my blog posts tended to be, but I did gain a wider audience. And the immediate gratification of "likes" and quick comments made sharing via Facebook and Instagram much more satisfying than blogging, where I rarely received comments or even knew if anyone was reading (at the time, I didn't know about the traffic stats on blogger).  As my presence became more prominent on Facebook, especially, and Instagram, it diminished on this blog.  My last blog post was from 2012.

How do I feel today?  Well, I still love Instagram, but I'm not lovin' Facebook much.  Here's a random, brainstormed laundry list of why: it's too social, annoying braggers/humblebraggers, newness has worn off, overposters, selfie overload, too public.  Too public.  That's odd considering. Above all, Facebook feels like a competition, it feels fake, it feels intrusive, it is a place where I don't feel like I can be myself anymore.      

Interestingly, one thing that I have always been afraid of doing regardless of the platform, even back when I was keeping a written journal, even going all the way back to like middle school, is revealing my true self, exposing my true thoughts.  In my writing, I was/am always mindful of this imagined audience that I might have. You know, the person along the way -- the sibling, the parent, the friend, the spouse, the offspring, the ? -- that discovers your journal and is disappointed, hurt, mortified by what they've read.  That's why keeping it semi-real is what I've done, and continue to do.  Back in the day though it used to just be the judgement of those in your inner circle of family and friends that you had to fear should your private thoughts be revealed.  Nowadays, the circle has widened thanks to the internet.  Your thoughts - should they been deemed too politically incorrect or scandalous - might get you not only the private scorn of those you do know and but also the public scorn of those who don't. And, as a bonus, you might get fired, not hired, or denied whatever. 

Don't get me wrong, transparency, accountability, all good things.  But it does mean that now, more than ever, we have to be aware of our online presence.  Of what we say, and how we say it. Facebook and the like encourage irresponsibility as far as I am concerned.  It's far too easy to write and publish a post.  Even in the time that it takes for you to regret it and delete it, someone has undoubtedly seen it and made a screenshot of it.  In my line of work, I can't afford that.  And, yes, it too can be done with a blog post. But blogging does take more time to write, with a few more steps to publish, giving one more time to think about what they're about to publish.       

So where is this three year in the making post going you ask?  Well, allow me to make a list.

1. I'm returning to blogging. 
2. Why? Mostly because I hate Facebook but also because I want to write more.  I miss it. I want a more detailed archive of my life for future reference. 
3. I want a place where I can be more myself.  While I would never reveal too much or intentionally say something damning or insensitive, I at least want a place that affords me the possibility of a context.  Facebook doesn't offer that and it's a too impulsive platform.
4. I like Instagram for photos but I might want to share a few more than what I feel comfortable doing on either Facebook or Instagram.  My blog is a space that allows me that luxury.