Monday, December 27, 2010

The Look of Shame

(Warning: Not a funny post, for those of you looking for that. This one is for me.)

I should have known better. Really, I should have. We'd been at The Grams' since Thursday, immersed ourselves in a weekend full of bacchanalia and then put him off his routine with the aide out on vacation this week. To think I could introduce this particular version of The Prince to new friends was asinine, really.

I was so glad to see an college friend and so eager to meet her three kids, that the thought of heading over to her house after all of the above sounded like a grand idea, rather than the pipe dream it was.

We encountered an accident, resulting in 25 minutes stationery time on I-70, and J fell asleep, snoring soundly. When I attempted to wake him, he was dazed. Better I should have let him sleep in the car while I visited.

I kid.


The melee that ensued was nothing short of one of the most fantastic meltdowns ever witnessed. There was slamming of doors, spitting, yelling, crying - and that was just me. When my friend's four-year-old daughter gasped when J slammed the front door, I knew ignoring him was no longer going to work. he followed that up by spitting at this little blue-eyed angel.

The piece de resisantce, however, is what gets me every time. He wound up and smacked me hard in the face. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught my friend's reaction and it was - maybe- worse than the blow.

Not being a naturally patient person, I know God gave me this particular boy because I have prayed many times for Him to help me be more patient. Keeping calm and not throttling my child when he sinks his teeth into my leg means I have come a long way in the patience department. But it makes me seriously wonder how far I have come in the parent department.

He continued to rage all the way home. I pulled over twice - both to re-buckle him back into the car seat. It bordered on ridiculous when he wouldn't stop kicking me so I took his shoes. After a while, there is something just funny about a boy sobbing "I want my shooooooeeeesssss." But calm I kept.

I vent here so that I can work through things and, more importantly, not kill him. I know I am not a great mom. I know I let him get away with things that other moms would have nipped in the bud. The worst part is knowing this and then having it confirmed just by a glance. I wonder, sometimes - on bad days in particular, how this child is ever going to become part of a class in a structured classroom.

Today was bad. Tomorrow will be better. I have to believe it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

This Things We Leave Behind... And Those We Gain

I am feeling a distinct Christmas-shaped hole in my aura this year.

The year before I converted, we nixed the tree (which was getting progressively smaller, anyway) to see how it felt. It was OK, although, as I reported then, I was caught off guard by some carolers and wept openly at a shopping center that first year.

Last year was all abut the joy of choosing Judaism - and Christmas and Chanukkah were close, so it all felt like a big love-fest. All was well.

This year, though, Chanukkah started on Dec. 1. By December 9, the menorah was aglow with all nine candles, all the gifts had been given, Ma'oz Tzur sung (and sung, and sung) and then darkness. Chanukkah was over.

Meanwhile, carols were on the radio, Christmas lights (yes, Melanie, they ARE "Christmas" lights) were being hung and the buy-buy-buy-frenzy was reaching its peak everywhere I turned.

I don't miss the pressure to out-do last Christmas every year. That's never what it was about for me, anyway. Christmas has always been a state of mind. An extra smile or an extra bit of patience, and remembering to treat each other like human beings (except, apparently, during black Friday sales. All bets are off then). It's just that all of that was wrapped up in the packages and the lights and the singing and - for what its worth - the smell of cinnamon pine cones.

In theory, I should be able to transfer all of those feel-good feelings right on over and celebrate with the Maccabees, no? I'm finding it not quite that easy in practice and I don't know why.

I guess I am mourning a little bit of my childhood: Singing in the choir at midnight mass, matching family PJs and the sweet anticipation of Christmas morning. I will not ever forget the Christmas that Santa brought facepaint and Dad painted my sister and I up like members of KISS. (Dad was cool even then.)

I know that on December 26 I will feel better. Not only because people tend to go back to being rotten to each other, but because I have gained so much more than I lost when I left Christmas.

Let's begin with a place and a service where I truly feel close to God. I like that Jews are taught to treat everyone the way they would treat God not for some promise of a glorious afterlife and rewards, but because we are obligated to - it is the right thing to do and that is why you should do it (vs. you should do it to get into heaven).

While the list of things I have gained from conversion is vast, I'll end it with the friends I have gained. I didn't gain them because I converted - in fact several spouses are still Christians. I gained them by being involved in Temple Israel.

This (I like to think) close group of friends are the ones you can call at midnight when a squirrel is squatting in your living room (Bucy is packing and I have him on speed dial) and the ones who will then show up with many squirrel-themed gifts to mock you and your fear of small, furry wildlife after the terror has passed.

They are the friends I want around me when we deal with things that seem too big - loss of family, financial ruin, serious illness. These are the women and men I want in my corner because some of them will hug me, most of them will make me laugh and many of them will then pick me up by my shoulders and give me a push to move forward (when progress is the last thing from my mind).

If I've lost Christmas, it was a small price to pay for getting a soft, warm and often funny place to land when the holiday spirit inevitably wears off.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Nature: 3; Zimmers: Naught

It has been a while since I have gone back to the hilarity that is my blogging roots. It is time, friends. If only because we have had a chaotic November and some of it is too funny NOT to share.

Many of you may be familiar with Osi's sordid past with the local wildlife. he has been taunted more than once by raccoons in several zip codes. It's as if they have a poster of him in the local raccoon post office with a sign above it instructing wildlife to "Get This Guy."

The raccoons have branched out, my friends. The word is out and the Bexley squirrels have risen to the challenge.

On a random Wednesday night a few weeks ago, I was awakened by a frantic stage-whisper calling my name. "Chris!" my Great White Hunter of a husband called, "CHRIS! THERE IS A SQUIRREL IN THE HOUSE!"

You may, at this point, stop (as I did) and ask yourself what am I going to to do about this that the GWH can't do himself? While you are pondering this, please keep in mind that this is a man who once annoyed a raccoon off of our deck by a) poking it with a fireplace poker and b) spraying same raccoon with "Clorox Clean-Up." I felt as if it was up to me to defend the family home against this obviously rabid beast.

Let us first agree that squirrels are just rats with better costumes. Let us also agree that while they may be cute and cuddly outside, squirrels do NOT belong on this inside - with the people. And they most certainly do not belong ensconced under the guest bed, which is exactly where Osi found him.

Upon sitting on the bed to remove his shoes, Osi saw our friend Mr. Nutters scamper from beneath the bed in search of escape. This sight sent Osi, also scampering, out of the room, closing the door behind him. That brings us to the stage-whisper alarm I received at midnight that night.

After searching fruitlessly for an animal removal service that would answer our midnight distress call, we (and my WE, I mean I) decided to take matters into our own hands. I Googled "How to get a squirrel out of your house." Here are the directions I received.

Step one was "Don't Panic!" Well, shit. That ship had already sailed. Step one also helpfully instructs you not to get bitten. Thanks, genius.

On to step two, which was to secure your pets elsewhere. Well, now, funny you should mention the pets. Because we have one of those. One whose only job is to alert us to intruders, say, of the rodent variety. Here is Frannie, The Wonder Mutt's, reaction to being told there is a squirrel in the house and she should do her doggy duty.

Step three instructed me to "Gingerly work around the squirrel." Check. That I can do. Donning Crocs and brandishing a broom, I entered the room, skirting the edges, and announced loudly to the squirrel that no one wanted to harm it, I was just opening a window to aide in his escape. There was no need for HIM to panic, because there was no one here by us squirrel-lovers. I proceeded quickly to step 4,which was to open the windows in the room, remove the screens and get the hell out. Actually, get the hell out was step 5 (and 6, if you want to get technical. They were pretty clear about getting the hell out).

At 2 am, we heard a good deal of noise, followed by several thumps. Upon entering the room in the morning, pictures on the wall were askew, our dresser was trashed and the squirrel appeared to be gone. We even called Critter Control to come ensure that the squirrel was gone. They assured us that the squirrel was, indeed, GONE. We determined he came in through the open fireplace flue and scampered upstairs after taking one look at the dog (who, I am assuming, was dozing on the couch through the entirety of Mr. Nutters' entrance). Critter Control secured the flue and left us confident that we were no squirrel-free.

Flash forward to Saturday, when I am once again awakened from my peaceful slumber by the now screaming Great White Hunter: "CHRIS! THERE'S ANOTHER SQUIRREL!!"

Osi had seen a squirrel in the living room, and saw it dart across the room, but didn't see where it went. Another call to Critter Control ensued. (For those keeping track, we are now $300 in the hole for squirrel surveillance and removal). Critter Controller arrived and, after some scuttlebutt, emerged from the guest room victorious, with the squirrel in a cage.

The Great White Hunter cursed at the squirrel all the way out the door. While we relatively certain that - this time - we are squirrel free, I know I live in fear of the day that TGWH calls me to defend Chez Zimmer once again.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Volunteer Coordination 101

Do you work with volunteers? In charge of a committee or two? Do YOU volunteer? I am a fan of finding a cause you can get behind and giving your time to help move that cause forward. We need check-writers, too, but the muscle behind the movement is where things tend to get tricky.

Since I have worked with volunteers in some capacity for the past 10 years, as well as volunteered myself, I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on what makes for a successful volunteer experience. And, equally important, what does not. Here is a brief list. Do you volunteer or work with volunteers? Feel free to add your own thoughts. As a membership director, I would love to hear them.

1. Involve the volunteer where they want to be involved. Even though a volunteer may own a web design business, they might not want to "work" for your organization. While you should always try to take advantage of specialized skills and strengths, it should be up to the volunteer where they get to spend their donated time. If they ask to be on a specific committee, put them there.

2. Communication is key. Setting realistic expectations is crucial. You should have a volunteer job description detailing the kinds of skills needed to successfully work with the committee or project, as well as a description of how much time a volunteer can expect to work on the particular assignment.

Once key communication is laid out: FOLLOW-UP. You likely cannot communicate enough with a volunteer. Making them feel "in the loop", getting ideas, letting them know progress on goals, publicly acknowledging them and getting feedback throughout their time as a volunteer and after. I can;t stress this enough. Volunteers are giving you their time because they believe in your cause or vision and they want to know they are making a difference.

3. Involve them. All points hereafter are just crystallizing communication. If you have a committee, USE THEM. While it may be tempting to try to handle things yourself as staff or the volunteer leader, people, again, want to feel like they are contributing. Please let them.

4. Acknowledge their time and effort. While many volunteers do not want or need the recognition that isn't why they do it), it is a public acknowledgment of the time and effort they put in. Send a thank you card or e-mail and copy your supervisor or CEO. If they helped plan an event, thank them at the beginning and end, so that attendees know who to thank as well (or complain to!). Most importantly, it is much easier to get volunteers once you acknowledge that you have volunteers. Lots of people don;t realize committees, etc. exist. By thanking your volunteers publicly, you make the volunteers feel good and have a good chance of capturing more volunteers.

I have been involved in too many bad volunteer experiences to let it keep happening. Do you have advice? I would love to hear it!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Friendship Fissure

I can tell you the exact moment I heard it crack. It wasn't an ear-splitting lightening bolt, more of a seam splitting on a long-worn garment. If you think about it, you probably heard it too; muted by the clinking of glasses and witty repartee.

I am never sure if friends are reason, season or lifetime friends. I guess no one knows until the friendship either combusts spectacularly, dies a slow, neglected death or one of you actually dies and the other is there to mourn. I have had many of the first two kinds of attrition. Who knows how many more will come and go.

I have made more stupid mistakes than I care to admit. I've lost friends that could have been in the lifetime category over some crazy things (boys come to mind. Being psycho over a boy, also). I've also walked away from my fair share or friendships because there was just too much drama (although the same has been said, sometimes correctly, about me).

Through Facebook, I have been able to find, connect with and apologize to most of those to whom I was an ass and felt terribly about it either the minute it happened, or 10 years later, when I grew up.

In real life (as opposed to Facebook), I struggle with leaving relationships behind these days. I want to believe the best about people, even when they show me something else entirely. Is it because I am loyal or because I won't admit my own mistake in judgment?

Or maybe that seam ripping was the final thread of commonality holding us together.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Facebook Fast

I've deactivated my Facebook account. I may be back, I may not. Here is why:

I have had an incredibly shitty week, which caps off a pretty crappy 5 years. I am tired. Tired of being in charge of everything on all fronts. Tired of putting on a happy face for people who could not possibly care less. Tired of being the Funny Fat Girl.

After what was quite possibly a nervous breakdown of some sort today, I came to the realization that there was no one but my mother I could call. At 37, my mom is my best friend. I have about 4 girlfriends can really count on and I am thankful beyond words for them, but I can't say I have a best friend.

Those 4 people and I talk on a regular basis. As for the rest of the 136 Facebook "friends", most of them are purely surface. There are a few - former teachers I am close to, former co-workers, distant family, too - that I will keep up with via e-mail. All the rest of them couldn't care less.

So I deactivated the account. If you want to know how I am doing or what's going on with me, you'll have to do it the old fashioned way - via e-mail.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Sound of Regret

Everyone has regrets. Those who say they don't lack a conscience, in my opinion, because no one is batting a thousand in the judgement and life decisions arena (please pardon the mixed sports metaphor). Some people regret things they did, things they said. Others regret things they didn't do.

My top three regrets in life fall into the latter category and both have to do with music, my passion thanks to my high school band experience.

Anyone who knows me even a little knows I am a way-out-of-the-closet Band Geek (capital B, capital G). I dated a music major in college and hung out at the school of music so frequently that more than one professor thought I WAS a music major that they just hadn't had in their class yet.

I actually made an audition tape in high school to send to colleges because I was thinking seriously about music as a major. I wanted - and still want to this day - to be a band director. Auditioning with the likes of Matt Hickman (I'm lookin' at you, Aire-Gai) intimidated me and I ended up not sending the tapes. I majored in English because I didn't think I had the chops to get through the performance portion of the curriculum. I majored in English. Regret number one.

During my sophomore year in high school, I had my first experience with Drum Corps, International (DCI). I was smitten. All of the power of the so many brass instruments backed by some of the most amazing percussion you will ever hear. The precision, pageantry and artistry of what they did was astounding. I fell in love and followed The Phantom Regiment religiously. Our band director had hired one of their visual designers to write our drill.

I saw them end the season ranked second with their New World Symphony program. I wanted to be one of them. I sent away for the audition packet, received it and tossed it. I knew I had the marching skills, but again lacked confidence in my playing. I pitched the packet. Regret number 2.

All through high school, I knew I wanted to attend Ohio State. For one reason and one reason only. The Best Damn Band In The Land. In fact, a friend and I contemplated switching to tuba (damned the fact that I didn't yet have a firm grasp on reading bass clef) just so we had a shot at dotting the i one day. My bags were packed, I was ready to report early for marching band auditions. Again, my confidence failed me. I wanted it so badly that if I didn't make it, I would be absolutely crushed.

I went to summer sessions (an insanely and stupidly hard practice session for both current marching band members and those who want to try out). I went a few times, got ridiculously frustrated and convinced myself that I would have to be satisfied with the Spring and athletic bands, who take anyone (and still got to be under the direction of Dr. Jon Woods - eh!). In my 5 years at THE Ohio State University, I never auditioned. Regret number 3.

Last night I attended a Drum Corps show at a local high school, where at least two, if not all three, of my regrets collided. The Ohio State Pep Band did the Star Spangled Banner and then I watched as musicians not as talented as I was 20 years ago (and I wasn't, just trying to make a point here) got to march with a Corps. I could have made at least two of those Corps without blinking.

Coulda. Shoulda. Woulda.

My regret is strong enough that several times in the past few years I have seriously contemplated trying to talk my old trumpet instructor (now the Associate Dean at OSU's School of Music) to once again take me on as a pupil, get my chops in shape and go back to school to become a band director. If I started now, I could be done by the time Jack is ready to be in his marching band :) What I wouldn't give to write a drill, choose music and see 150 high school students come together to perform it and (most of them, anyway) enjoy it.

I've shared mine, Band Geek to the finish. What are your regrets? Something you've done or DIDN'T do?

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Things We Almost Forget

I've recently had a few incidents of what may be early-onset dementia. There have been brief glimpses of something that triggered a long forgotten memory. It's like mental whiplash.

This afternoon I saw a guy on a motorcycle. I've seen people on bikes probably every day for the last three months but for some reason, today's biker lead me down the "I wonder if I might like to ride on a motorcycle...?" path.

All of a sudden, and only for an instant, I flashed back 20 years. I was speeding across the Williamstown bridge in Jason Burfield's car. We may or may not have been going over 100. I can neither confirm or deny. I had that top-of-the-roller-coaster feeling - thrilling and intensely nauseous.

And - BOOM - I was back. In a millisecond I had had that memory and was back with my definitive answer: No, I would NOT like to ride on a motorcycle.

This is a memory that I had no idea was retained. A memory I literally hadn't thought about for 20 years. It was like it was on the verge of being forgotten until I saw the motorcycle and then it came slamming to the front of my brain. There have been several of these almost-forgotten memories lately, and I find it disconcerting.

Is it my age, the nostalgia for my teens and early 20s, that is yanking me headlong into these memories? Is there some kind of connection I am missing that links to the thing I am viewing and the memory and emotion that comes with it? Am I losing my mind?

I have no idea, but it is weird.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Some People Hate Tea

For those of you who have been following along, you may have realized I have some self-esteem issues. If I couldn't be the prettiest, then I was going to be the funniest and if I couldn't be that then I would try something else to make you like me.

I've always marveled at people who can be so authentically, sometimes outrageously, themselves and just go on about it without giving it a thought.

I've had extensive conversations with one friend in particular about this and while his advice was sage, I could never apply it.

There was no "Aha!" moment (sorry, Oprah). There was no life-altering epiphany. One day - and I can't even tell you what day it was - I just decided that some things aren't worth compromising. I've tried to be the nicest, the funniest, the most whatever, and there are people who still don't like me. As a recent FB post recently stated "I am just not some people's cup of tea and I am beginning to be OK with that." In fact, I've realized some people HATE tea. The tea doesn't take it personally. In fact, I think the tea probably says "OK, then, enjoy your coffee."

For a very long time I've been stuck in the teen angst years, just trying to fit in. Now, as I approach 40 faster than I'd like, it isn't about fitting in. It's about authentic friends for whom you'd do anything and who might even return that favor. The people who will always tell you the truth, even if it isn't popular or what you want to hear.

The friends I've had for decades and the friends that I see most frequently (not necessarily the same people) have made it safe for me to be me. They've seen the good, the bad and the downright ugly behavior, and they love me anyway. And made it OK for those who who may not even like me to have that opinion, too.

So now I find myself, in my late 30s, trying to be who and what I really am. Is this when most people find out? I feel like I may be coming late to this particular party, but I'm OK with that. I have a few more decades to evolve and get it right - for me.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Deja Vu Parenting

I recently started to realize that we all parent tainted by the experiences of our own childhood.

One person may have been an overweight child and therefore is super-vigilant about what they feed their kids. Another may have moved frequently throughout their childhood and is now determined to keep their kids in one place throughout their childhood.

One friend has commented more than one "Oh, come on. Your childhood could not have been THAT bad. Your parents are great!" Indeed, they are and in many way I had a fantastic childhood. I had a large family that loved and nurtured me, never wanted for anything and the support of many. I have a lot of great memories.

But many times, the not-so-great memories shape who you are as much as the great memories do (helloooooo... I AM a band geek, no?).

My personal demon is being a social pariah. Moving into a small Catholic school where everyone had been together since Kindergarten was not especially easy in the 5th grade. Adding to this was the fact that there were definitely "Mean Girls" who delighted in the sport of Chrissie Bashing.

Because this was so much of my formative years I am admittedly a bit paranoid about perceived snubs and how Jack is treated. Not great, I know, and I am aware that I do it. Admitting you have a problem is the first step, yes? And to be sure, my fabulous experience as a member of the marching band is sure to color how excited I will be should Jack choose to play an instrument (after he is, ahem, strongly encouraged to do so).

So I am curious, what moments from your childhood color your parenting?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Back in the Saddle

I was surprised to realize it has been over three months since I posted here. I stopped because someone mentioned that my posts don't sounds happy anymore.

In the three months since I have been here, lots of things have changed. Jack's aide Austin started at the JCC. He is helpful but not as aggressive in stemming the troubling behavior as we'd like. Our star Kyley starts in the afternoons with him on Tuesday. She is the one who made such strides in December and we have big hopes for her this summer.

Speaking of Jack, we've experience a lot of "firsts" this spring. We attended our first movie in a theater (Shrek Ever After), attended Kabbalat Shabbat services for the first time and J had his first solo sleepover and Grammy's. I simply cannot believe that this time next year we will be gearing up for Kindergarten.

I have had several "Sunrise, Sunset" moments in the last few weeks. At a recent Bat Mitzvah, a couple had a weeks-old baby at the service. I had a mini panic attack looking at the baby thinking it was only a matter of months - weeks, perhaps - that Jack was that small. I blinked at looked at the Bat Mitzvah gal and realized it was only going to be a matter of months - weeks, perhaps - until we are celebrating Jack's Bar Mitzvah. I literally could not breathe for 30 or 40 seconds.

This morning, we went to see "Toy Story 3" with Little Dude. I'm not ruining this for anyone, but we all know Andy goes off to college. I cried like a baby for the last 5 minutes of the stupid film and and getting a bit teary typing this now thinking of how short the weeks and months are (even though some days seem interminable). I try to play more, hold him close while he still lets me and kiss him every chance I get, but I still have Bad Mommy Moments and I fear those are the ones that will send him to therapy.

Work continues to be good and busy. I took over the e-news in May and, by all accounts, the members are very happy with it. I went to 25 hours in May as well, and am supposed to be jumping to 35 in July. My house is a disaster at 25 hours. When I add 2 more hours a day, I imagine FEMA will be called in by mid-August.

Osi and I are plugging along. We'll be married 10 years in November. We're hemming and hawing over a vow renewal with an actual person of God to witness this time, in the fall. I swear to you that my Italian Catholic grandparents still have no idea what happened at my wedding. There was "Ave Maria" and the breaking of the glass. I'm pretty sure when everyone else yelled "Mazel Tov" they murmured a "gesuntheit."

That is all the news fit to type for now. Here's hoping it isn't another 3 months until I speak again.

PS - See, Shan. Every work is not a masterpiece, comic genius, profound or even funny. Sometimes they're just brain droppings :)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Time to Bust Out the Bikini - It's March!

Ohioans have a complicated relationship with our weather. When it hits 50 degrees in March, we start wearing shorts. When it hits 50 degrees in November, we turn on the furnace and drag out the parkas.

Another thrill of being a Buckeye? The tail end of cold season dovetails nicely with the beginning of allergy season. I still can't tell you if the congestion in April is from a lingering sinus infection or the beginning of allergies (yes, I KNOW nothing has bloomed yet. Please note the sarcasm.).

In February, you cannot find a pair of gloves in any local store to save your life, but if you need a string bikini fr Valentine's Day, Columbus is the place to find it.

Let us discuss snow for a moment, shall we? Granted, we do not get as much as Buffalo or Cleveland. However, we DO get enough each year to a) be prepared when it is coming (The White Death!) and b) know how to deal with it when it gets here.

Allow me to clarify: "Prepare for it" does not mean stripping the local shelves of bread, milk and eggs (apparently, Ohioans crave french toast when it snows). It also does not mean canceling events 48 hours before the snow is supposed to hit.

Now that the sun is out, after, I swear, a month of gray days, we don't know what to do with ourselves. Teenagers are showing more skin walking to school than I do at the beach. I actually saw a lawn crew mowing last week. People. Please. I implore you, just buy your mulch at the local BP station and wait it out.

Spring is upon us. If it is March in Ohio, it must mean sprinklers and kiddie pools! It will be 57 today. I guarantee I see some nimrod in shorts. People, pace yourselves. I cringe to think what you'll be wearing in August if March is shorts weather.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Follow the Yellow Brick Road...

After months of getting our head around Jack's diagnosis, researching, and talking to psychologists, teachers, aides and administrators, I think we may finally be on the road to help.

It feels a little bit like Oz's Yellow Brick Road. It started when something unexpected dropped out of the sky and into our family. While there was no singing or dancing or odes to The Lollipop Guild at the outset (aside from the musical stylings of Mr. Marc), we were in a strange land, no question about it.

Now that we've started our journey to the Emerald City (that being a healthy, adjusted Jack who needs no additional help in the classroom), we have found friends along the way. We call our teachers, psychologists, aides, social workers, family - everyone involved in Jack's care - TEAM JACK. Some of them have helped us to understand with our minds what is going on. Some of them have taught us to open our hearts. All have given us courage to move forward as a team.

We added another member to Team Jack this week. We met Austin, the young man who will be Jack's aide in the classroom for the foreseeable future.While he doesn't have experience with special needs kids, he seems like a great guy.

I am unconcerned about his minimal experience for several reasons: 1) Haugland is giving him a crash-course in behaviors and autism, 2) Our care coordinator Amanda will be in the classroom with him frequently during the first month to show him how it's done, 3) It is really the personality of the aide that matters to us and 4) Jack is so high-functioning that he doesn't need intensive intervention, just prompts, which anyone can provide. And Austin coaches Little League. How cute is that? A 20-something single guy who volunteers as a Little League coach. Bonus points, Austin, mad bonus points.

We also have a few people along the road who have thrown up obstacles. People telling us that Jack should be in an MRDD classroom, telling us what he can and cannot do. Only Jack is able to tell us that, really. Mixing my metaphors, we also have a resident Frau Farbissina. Who makes faces at our suggestions and, indeed, could be a sergeant in "the militant wing of the Salvation Army." While I wouldn't go as far as saying these folks are "Wicked" I would say that they are well-skilled in the art of throwing an occasional fire-ball in our path (we have yet to see the Flying Monkeys. I wait.).

Austin is an excellent (I know, you totally thought I was going to say "awesome" there, didn't you?) addition to Team Jack. Only time will tell how long it will take us to reach The Emerald City, but I know we are well on our way.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

More Things I Have Learned

It has been an interesting week here at Chez Zimmer. I have been so wrapped up in getting past the Temple Israel Purim event on Saturday, that I haven't really looked ahead - which has been refreshing.

I peeked at the calendar this morning to find that I really have nothing this week. NOTHING. A rare occurrence, indeed. The only evening activity on my calendar this week is a much anticipated girls' night on Saturday.

This past week was the polar opposite. I was sick, had many Jack-related appointments and the stress of a temple-wide bash on the weekend. So this week, I learned that I will work for less money in order to work in my jammies, heavily medicated and with a tissue stuck up each nostril at home. The worth of this particular benefit is immeasurable.

Having worked with volunteers - either in a paid position or as a volunteer and volunteer leader - I take some things for granted. For instance, that volunteers should be a) listened to, b) made to feel as if their contributions are making a difference and c) recognized. This, along with utilizing a volunteer's expertise and passion in any given area is the key, IMHO, to getting them to stick around. This week - actually, this month - I learned that this is not common knowledge. Every organization that works with volunteers should have a basic volunteer management training program. Just my two cents.

Also learned, don't try to have an impassioned conversation filled with heated emotion - either positive or negative - with an intellectual. They either don't want to get it or will try to talk the impassioned individual into the logical, reasonable point of view, which anyone giving an impassioned diatribe doesn't particularly want. Don't kill my buzz, man.

Finally, extraordinary days are possible. Had one today, in fact. My Jack Jack had a perfect day. Grammy and Grandpa were here when he woke up, he went to temple dressed as a pirate where he saw both Mr. Marc and cavorted his most favorite playmate, Mr. Stone.

Here is the beauty of my kid. In the midst of the chaos that was the Purim carnival, my shining star found a balloon and spent a good deal of time batting in around, drawing others into the game with him. He was surrounded by games galore, jumpy houses and about 200 other kids and my fabulous little friend made up his own game and was fantastically happy to be playing it.

After we got home, he was happy to remain dressed in his Purim costume and was incredibly lovey all night.Very snuggly and huggy.He fell asleep as I sung the last song in our nightly bedtime repertoire: Hey Jude. An end to a perfect day.

Already learned, but bears remembering: Be thankful for days like these. Lock them in your memory and draw on them for your strength and your happiness.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Crap I Eat in My Car

Although I love my new job, I work weird hours: 10-2. It's awesome, but completely eliminates lunch - which the Fluffy Girl NEEDS. I end up trying to scarf down a snack on the way into work and then, by the time I am done, I am so hungry that I feel more than a little like Godzilla rampaging through the streets of Tokyo.

To this end, I have crammed a lot of crap in my face between work and home. Here is a representative, but incomplete, list of that crap:

  • More Raisin' Cane's chicken fingers that I can count. And fries. Drowned in that special sauce which, I swear to you, must list "crack" as the first ingredient by volume.
  • Hummus and pita.
  • Yogurt parfait.
  • Peanut butter crackers.
  • Maple roasted walnuts from Whole Paycheck
  • Sushi. No, not with chopsticks (but I DID use the soy sauce - big mistake).
  • A startling amount of coffee and Gatorade. Apparently, I am also parched.
While I am completely embarrassed to be seen driving down the road gorging myself on various ethnic foods, a girl's gotta eat. And between the job, the house, the kid, the marriage and the 12 volunteer projects I work on, sometimes that has to happen in the car.

Just thought I'd share. Now excuse me while I see if I can fit this Thai Curry in a go box...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Burned by the Blog (and the 'Book)

I haven't blogged in several weeks. Not for lack of anything to say (HELLO, have we met?) but because of The Incident.

My last post was entitled "Back in the Saddle Again" and was generally a love letter to my new job. I love it. I do. I also am being completely spoiled for any other boss by my current Executive Director. However, in the last post, I mentioned that he seemed a bit scattered and that his desk was messier than my husband's - something I thought impossible.

Hey, guess what?

One of the board members has a Google Alert set up so that anytime someone mentions the name of the organization I work for on the web, he gets notified. Guess who e-mailed my blog post to my brand-spanking-new boss?

Oh yes, you are correct. The board member in question (and other board members that he e-mailed the post to) thought that I was presenting the organization in a poor light. I have summarily deleted both the blog entry and the note on Facebook that pulls directly from this blog.

Let me first explain that 98% (and that is a conservative estimate) was explaining how much I love my job and how lucky and happy I feel to have found this organization. But because my boss has a messy desk (which, in my opinion, leads to the seeming scatteredness... he could find stuff if he cleaned it...) this reflects poorly on the organization? That confuses me. Doesn't EVERY company or organization have at least one person who works under piles of notes and documents? I know my husband is That Guy in his office and I don't think it reflects poorly on him.

Much to my boss's credit, he laughed it off and told the board they were over-reacting. It is worth noting that he has since also cleaned his desk. But I think that is out of fear of what I might do to his office while he is on vacation next month. We joke about it. (But I am dead serious about getting major filing and organization done while he golfs in Florida.)

Do I regret that I called him "seemingly scattered" all over the interwebs? Sure do. He is seriously one of the nicest guys I have ever met and is awesome at his job. The fact that I may have offended him or made him look bad to the board really does pain me. The board didn't take the other 98% of the post into consideration - my screaming from the electronic rooftops about how fantabulous this organization is.

So, I have been cautious. For all I know they now read this blog on a regular basis (which is part of the reason for this post. Really, the organization and the Exec are just awesome and I feel so in my element here.). If they do, I am guessing they won't find me funny, or even amusing. They will just be looking for more ways that I reflect poorly on the association. Which sucks, because I thought I made a pretty good impression in Florida last month. To have undone that with a silly blog post is stupid on my part. I now have to work twice as hard to get back to square one with some of them.

That thudding sound you hear? That is me alternately kicking myself in the pants and banging my head on the desk.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Having an "Aha! Moment"

Columbus experience Snow-megeddon yesterday. Granted, we received less than a foot of snow, but you wouldn't know that from all of the local stations preempting regularly scheduled programs to remind us that it is still, indeed, snowing. That public service announcement was clearly aimed for those living in homes without windows.

We were scheduled to usher at temple last night. While we are quick 10 minute straight shot down Broad St. to the temple, we were worried about the well-being of our babysitter. We called (three times, actually) to cancel her. In what can be viewed as Divine Intervention, she never checked her voice-mail and showed up right on time, so off to temple we went.

Literally 10 people showed up for services in a congregation of 600 families. While I felt bad for the clergy, it did result in a very intimate service. A service that included the Torah portion of the Israelites receiving the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai. The ten congregants, plus three clergy, gathered in front of the open Ark, peering in at the Torah while Rabbi Rosenzweig read the parsha. Rabbi Zinkow explained that God spoke to each person at Sinai in a voice they could hear. In the voice of a parent, for instance - a voice that should sound sweet to each listener.

After the reading, the rabbis asked what God is asking of each of us. "Oh!" the voice in my head proclaimed, "That makes sense."

When praying every evening, I always do the thank you prayers and the I-would-appreciate-Your-help-with-this prayers. But I have never included the "What do you want me to do?" prayer. It makes so much sense to me.

And upon asking the question, there, in front of the open Ark, I immediately heard the answer. Patience. Tolerance. Kindness. I had heard that voice only once before in a moment of incredible need while we were trying to get Jack safely into the world.

I will certainly be asking this question more frequently and hope that I have the patience, tolerance and kindness to listen to the answers and act.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Facebook: Friend or Foe?

Hello. My name is Chris and I am addicted to Facebook.

Not as badly as I was at first, mind you, but I still waste enough hours on the social networking site to be a wee bit embarrassed about it. The thrill in the beginning is all the new "friends" you find. Everyone wants to invite you to the virtual party and you feel like the belle of the ball with all the waiting invitations out there.

Look! A friend from grade school! Oh joy, a former colleague! What ho - an ex-boyfriend! Everyone so eager to reconnect after years, possibly decades, apart.

I don't deny that Facebook has helped me track down and chat up friends with whom I have lost touch for one reason or another. It has actually strengthened family ties as well, as my long list of cousins and I can now keep track of one another and comment on each other's daily musings.

The seedy side of Facebook, however, out there. I have "friended" old friends only to realize why we weren't Honest-to-God real life friends anymore. Some have a propensity towards political views and religious opinions as their status updates. Since this is a "social" networking site and religion and politics are topics I was taught to avoid in polite company, I don't get these folks. I have "unfriended" more than one person because their rhetoric was offensive or just plain annoying. However, if you post something on Facebook - just like any other public forum - you had better be ready to back it up or defend it. It is out there for public consumption and debate.

Then there is the "to friend or not to friend" question. Also commonly referred to as the "friend or ignore" query. Do you ignore a request from someone you volunteer with? Surely they will notice and take offense. How about the college roommate who drove you nuts (not you, Feeb)? And what of the ex who left you emotionally wasted for months and now wants to be "friends." (Note: this situation is so aptly synthesized in this song on youtube. Another note, that link would be NOT safe for work.)

Sometimes you accept their friendship out of curiosity. Other times because it is a social or work obligation (this is what "Lists' are for, people. Use them!). Other times, "ignore" just feels good. I ignored my grade school nemesis and in my ignore message, sent her a personal note something along the lines of "are you f-ing kidding me?" (Thank you, Kate Mill-Heidke.)

Despite the pitfalls, I am still a Facebook addict. I tend to have very funny friends and their status updates alone are worth the price of admission. Add to that their comments and photos and I rarely log on without being thoroughly and genuinely amused by at least one of you fine folks. I follow their blogs and they follow mine and we generally have a high old time having virtual coffee and kibbutzing about the rest of you who, sadly, we have likely "ignored." :)

Small Group for Small People

Down the Rabbit Hole we go, folks, into the land of tiny group therapy. Completely surreal and yet I am thankful it exists.

Jack started his group classes yesterday with the STAR (Social Training and Rehearsing) Group at Children's Hospital. While it was heart-wrenching to walk into the room and see five tiny chairs arranged in a circle, just like I imagine adult group therapy to be, it was a relief to talk to some of the other parents there.

Our new friend Ryland had a complete meltdown when it was time to enter the room. "This is completely normal," explained his nonplussed mother, "Transitions are the worst for us." HALLELUJAH. Are you telling me people look at YOU like you're a horrible parent, too?

As we were leaving, I heard another mom having a heated debate with her 4-year-old son about how they were NOT going on the elevator this afternoon. I smiled silently. I had relented upon arriving and explained to Jack that we will go up one time and down one time and then we are done with the elevator. However, this is the kid who goes to the mall not for the play pit, but for the elevators and whose favorite part of the zoo is the door to the aquarium. I feel your pain, sister.

Misery loves company, it is too true. None of parents are miserable. Just challenged. A PDD-NOS diagnosis ( or any diagnosis on the autism spectrum) brings with it many things. Answers, questions, fears and frustration. It was a relief to be sitting among parents who share many of these challenges.

Jack did really well. I was so proud of him for not melting down when I left and for participating at all. You really can't compare kids on the spectrum, since autism affects each and every kid in a different way. That being said, I was so happy to see that none of his "behaviors" flared yesterday.

This morning, we were on to bigger things. The Occupational Therapist from the district was in J's class when I left today. I am eager to hear hat she has to say. She explained that she was going to work with Jack on tracing and shapes (to which I thought, good luck, lady. Why don't you just throw scissor use in there, too??). I hope she gets to watch him play as well. Both the office manager at the JCC and my friend Julie understood that Jack is fine one-on-one. If she wants to evaluate him for school, though,l she is going to have to watch him in a group, where he tends to get a little squirrely.

Today I am spending the morning calling therapists to see if any of the ones on our insurance are taking new patients. Was it Confucius who said that "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step"? If so, it feels as if the baby steps are starting to actually amount to something. Being Jack's mom is the most rewarding, challenging and worthwhile thing I could ever hope to do with my life. Though our journey may be of a thousand miles, I am glad to be on it with him.