pieces of me...

Monday, July 21, 2014

Checking in from the land of jelly bean lovers

Greetings from Los Angeles where I am for the next week studying the "Age of Reagan" at Cal Lutheran University.  We are at the Reagan Presidential Library every day for class and only at the school campus for meals and lodging.  When I pulled up today to check in to the dorm we are staying in all week, all I could thing of was, "I think a Lifetime movie about collage-age girl serial killer Ted Bundy was filmed here in 1982."  I can't complain though, we were treated to a wonderful dinner on the patio overlooking the beautiful valley below the Library.  The library is really beautiful and the chance not to be on this collage campus all day is a major plus.  Plus they have a FULL SIZED AIR FORCE ONE on exhibit!

All week we will be studying the domestic and foreign policies of the Reagan years, or what I call my kindergarten through 8th grade education.  I am teaching US History from the Gilded Age to Present history this fall and for the first time every will be able to teach a full on week on the 1980s and the end of the Cold War.  It is not without some parallels that my two summer conferences do fit together and will be useful in resources on the Cold War and Atomic Age.   I LOVE teaching the election of Reagan and the subsequent shift in US politics and I hope to get lots of documents and related items from this week to use with students (and also personal interest.)

I made one promise to Bill before I left, that being that I would not punch any other participants or the lead Professor, whose 700 page book on Reagan was required reading.  Shhhh... I didn't make it but halfway in as I got so pissed off reading his very one-sided account that I just couldn't finish. At one point Bill told me, "who cares if he calls 1980 a realigning election, and you say it doesn't meet all four criteria, like who else knows that useless fact?"

From our posted bios, I am in the minority in the land of Reagan lovers.  From our dinner conversations about Common Core I think I may be the only person here that would be willing to take one for the capital L liberal team.  I smiled, commented that "since we are working on a document based research project this week, shouldn't we want our students to be using those same skills in class."

My roommates include the program director and a fellow teacher from Texas.  Both seem very nice and while I don't expect to be best friends, the program director and I talked a good 10 mins about House of Cards and her work with other Gilder Lehman past seminars she has been assigned as director. She may be my only ally this week, as when she asked about what I choose as a research topic for my other GL seminar on Women's Rights at Harvard back in 2009, I said. "the evolution of the birth control pill and legal challenges to contraception in the US i.e 1960s Supreme Court case Griswold vs CT."  She smiled and said, "Hobby Lobby won that one, we (women) sure didn't."

Have a great week.  I will with stories to tell I'm sure by end of time in the Land of Ronnie.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Selling t-shirts, "I came to B Reactor and all I got was irradiated"

Greetings from chance in a lifetime week here in Eastern, Washington state.  Since the highlight of our trip was the visit to the B reactor on Wednesday, I figured I would write up what has been going down before getting home to Camp Mommy.

I traveled out uber early Sunday morning and we spent the first night in Spokane.  First of all, I thought Spokane was near Seattle, not on the Idaho border.  Regardless, it was beautiful.  Our hotel looked out over a city park.

A group of us went out Sunday night for dinner at a refurbished steam plant. Sadly no pictures, but I can attest to the like mindedness of the participants.  At introductions I mentioned that I had a lifelong interest in nuclear power and creation of Superfund.  Sadly, several heads were nodding.  Can I tell you that this week,
I am with my people.

There are 40 teachers here from across the country and also Japan.  They allowed for a larger group than normal NEH conferences to allow for both history teachers along with science teachers. The presentations have included both areas which has been great for take home info for my students.  I "think" I could draw an copy of Enrico Fermi's first pile reactor from the early 40s after this week.  Most likely, I need to stick to my day job and not embarrass myself that I can teach anything about nuclear physics.

I've always wanted to see the Columbia River and see the beauty discovered by Lewis and Clark.  Now I have a picture of the real deal to use in class.

Monday and Tuesday we were in class all day and discussed the Hanford Plant and it's importance to the Manhattan Project.  In particular we talked about the how and why this location was picked to produce plutonium.  Hanford Engineering Works was built during the last two years of WWII and produced the plutonium for one of the atomic bombs.  It later became the producer of the majority of all plutonium used in ballistic missiles during the Cold War and 8 more reactors were built.  It was closed at the end of the Cold War where only one reactor, B Reactor was declared a national historic place and has been open to a limited amount of tourists a year since 2008.

The area itself is in a 600 square mile reservation. We drove through and past the other plants and a enormous chemical processing plant but were not allowed to get of the bus.  In fact we were not allowed to take video or photos outside of just being in the B reactor.  When I say I felt of the weight of the Federal Gov't yesterday, I did.

I am in awe of how the Federal Gov't could build a place with 50,000 workers and only a handful of people could know exactly what they were producing. At full production in the 1950s this was the B Reactor site. Call me crazy, but this place is a feat of engineering design and this is a site to behold. Below is a comparison to what exists today.

Also in the amazement department, this is pre-computer aided design and all the calculations to create the factory and the process to derive plutonium were done using a slide rule, drafting, and mathematical calculations only. To give you an scale of the size of the reactor (which is unconditioned and was predicted to be up to 115 degrees inside an all concrete building yesterday) here is the "face" of the reactor filled with a series of tubes (unlike this Internet, which is also a series of tubes, right?)

It was totally worth the dry but also intense heat to see the museum and the surrounding areas. Again for scale, the white elevator behind me was tall enough for someone to stand between and pull individual tubes from the grid.

Before we could enter we had to be processed by the Federal Dept of Energy off site location and I signed what felt like a gazillion security documents about what I could and could not take pictures of or take away from the factory.  Uh, hello, I don't want anything that could emit radiation going home with me (um... guy sitting next to me on the bus who had secretly taken rocks from outside for his classroom.) I'm sorry, but regardless of the whole, "let's get through airport security thing, how about this is a Superfund site."  The only thing I want is a tshirt that says "I came to B Reactor and all I got was irradiated."

I noticed that along the tour were dosimeters to measure radiation.  When I applied for this conference I looked up Hanford and what was happening at one of the largest Superfund sites in the country.  In case you are wondering, check out this report about the clean up to be scared out of your pants about what our government did for 40 years in the name of national defense.

I'll just add that this is the most barren, dry place I've ever seen but also really beautiful in contrast to home.  What happened to green, lush Washington State?  Seriously, this was the scene from nearby.  Speaking of dinner, our project directors took us to a trio of wineries for a very nice dinner and wine tastings earlier in the week.  In the "don't drink the water department," let us spend time talking about the hazards of nuclear waste in the nearby Columbia river all day and then drink wine from local wineries.  Nope, not paradoxical at all.

We will be spending part of Thursday on a boat out on the river talking about the impact on the environment and the clean up efforts.  I already have a list of questions to ask because I am going to be that annoying person. I won't be alone though, we have been broken into small research groups to present on Friday.  Our group met this afternoon at a local brewery called Atomic Ale that serves a bunch of local beers all named after Atomic age people and events.

Needless to say there is a old, dirty hippie teacher at every conference I've attended.  Our research assignment is to design a museum installation for a new National Park Service Museum on the Manhattan Project.  After 3 hours of planning and lots of beer our group gave in to his plan to make our presentation about all the negatives of the Atomic age, aptly titled "the room of doom."  I can't wait to see our professors' faces along the the Friday lecturers who are coming to hear these presentations.

We are back in Spokane late Friday and I return home on Saturday.  Just in time to leave late next week for Los Angeles for the Age of Reagan conference.  Because when I saw this yesterday of a 1950s GE (who was involved in reactor management) actor and spokesperson named Ronald Reagan I busted out laughing.

I still can't believe that for the 2nd year in a row I've gotten to visit amazing places of personal interest related to teaching.  No wearing of a Scooby Doo shirt to identify me as the oddball here, I am with my people and proud to be wearing my sunglasses at night.  And no, I didn't push any buttons in the control room and start a nuclear meltdown.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

2014 Camp Mommy Chronicles- Volume 3

It's been a tiring week here at Camp Mommy.  Ian was not in camp and Ben was only in camp 9-12 three days.  Needless to say, Mom is tired. Mom is very ready for a child-free week, despite that I know I will miss them dearly.

When we came home on Sunday from our lake weekend, Bill had built the following uber cool water board. I picked up the funnels from IKEA and created a big bucket of sponges, empty spray bottles, brushes, along with extra pipe and hoses.  It was a crafting success and reason to go out of town without Bill more often.

Ben did camp through the Town of Cary at the Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve.  The theme was Wet and Wild.  I don't know about the wild part, but he was definitely wet and his boots were covered in muck everyday at pick up.   The focus was on creek life and it sounded like they spent much time getting wet (and also wild) as there was a 14 to 1 boy to girl ratio at pick up.

Ben also had a friend over to spend the night.  I had hoped they would sleep until at least 7. Nope. I awoke just before 6 am to hearing them in their camp set up complete with two man tent to an epic Pokemon battle.

Ian and I went to the Y spray park daily as well as Ian went to their "club" for 3-5 year olds called "Cricket Club" aka let's do a camp like experience during your two hours of time at the Y while mom is elsewhere.  Mom went to kickboxing, ran laps, did TRX while Ian did a dance party, went to the toddler pool, did crafts.  Did I mention that I love the Y?

In other Camp Mommy news we made freezer chalk (crafting fail.) I promise you that this artfully arranged picture is about the best thing about this attempt.

We also took a field trip over to Durham to Ho-B Max RC car rentals/racetrack and to Locopops afterwards.  I'm planning on a separate write up so I'll save the details.  It was a win win in places to take the boys.

We spent the 4th with our neighbors shooting off fireworks, grilling out, hanging out playing in the cul du sac along with monumental errand running with the boys to prep for being out of town all week.

I took the boys to 3 Bears Acres for most of today so Bill could have the day off ahead of Camp Daddy all week.  Granted both boys will be in full time camp or daycare, but he will have them all of tomorrow and Saturday.  I'm flying out crazy early to Spokane WA in the morning for a week on the "Atomic West-Building the US Nuclear Arsenal."  Yes, I know you would fight me for a chance to attend, but get in line to wear your sunglasses at night.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Way North

Happy Independence Day.  I hope you spent it with family and friends.

The NYT did an amazing multi-day piece on what it means to be an American, entitled "The Way North." The newspaper spent a month along I-35 from Larado, TX to Duluth, MN conducting interviews, shooting pictures, and telling the story of those who are citizens and those who long to become part of the US.  Days 38 and 39 are particularly wonderful and will be used this fall as we dissect the debate of illegal immigration The 4,072 miles that cuts through the heartland of the United States is referred to as as "ground zero for a historic demographic shift."  It is not surprising that the one term I hammered over and over with students was the phrase, " the minority will become the majority."  It plays into future elections, laws, how we see ourselves as Americans.  It evokes both rage and romanticism as we discussion our history of being a melting pot of immigration and our future as we consider what role immigration should play in our history.

I am especially thankful on this day to celebrate of our freedoms of that of freedom of the press to bring such a story that will encourage debate.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Come As You Are

Over the weekend I met up with my four best high school girlfriends for a lakehouse weekend.  Melissa and her husband Todd live on Lake Norman, just north of Charlotte and have hosted us the last few years.

I had high hopes of a great day on the lake, and even though a little overcast, it was not humid or a gazillion degrees.  Happily, I didn't wipe out on the lake when pulled on the raft behind.

This is the 4th year we have been meeting up and my only regret was that we didn't get a shot of all the kids before they were gunning to get out on the lake.  I can't blame them, I mean in addition to the lake and a boat, Melissa had rented a water trampoline, sea kayak, and paddle board. Everyone under the age of 10 rushed through lunch to get out on the water.

Ben loved the paddle board!

Can we say how many times did the kids jump off?  

When Melissa told us what she had rented my first comment was to ask, "did she really want us to visit the finest emergency room facilities serving Lake Norman?"  Ian actually did really well for most of the day listening and not being near water without his life jacket.  He was enamoured with a giant monster truck bouncy going up nearby for a birthday party.

Nothing says summer like giant watermelon slices as big as your head.

I especially love this shot of Laura's older daughter Lydia.  One of the best things about seeing my friend's families is how much their girls look like how I remember them from being elementary aged. .

Some of my favorite picutres that later make the "calendar cut" come from this weekend.  This trip did not disappoint.  A little GQ, but that is a favorite smile on Ben.

I've said this before, but we have known each other literally our entire lives.  Our moms were pregnant at the same time, remained family friends throughout our lives, we all attended the same schools and church.  One of the things I love is that we can just pick up our relationship where we left off.  We spent the day catching up, talking about our kids, their parents, what everyone was doing over the summer and fall.  If there is a theme song with these ladies, it would be "come as you are," as you are accepted for who you are and who you've always been.

Thank you Melissa, Laura, and Jamie for sharing the last 40 years of friendship, I love you ladies!

Monday, June 30, 2014

June 2014 Wrap Up

What a crazy busy month from end of school to transition to Camp Mommy.

What went down?

- Finished two books and NEED to finish 3 more before Sunday flight to Spokane.  I hope there isn't a pop quiz on day 1! Let's hope I can skim read on the plane and on the first night before class!
- End of 2nd grade, Preschool Age 3-4, and year 14 of teaching
- Went to Duke Lemur Center and the summer food truck rodeo in Durham for Father's Day
- Lake weekend with high school girlfriends and their families
- Went to the Zootastic Park (north of Charlotte)
- Finalized plans for Ian's "big boy bedroom"
- Ben attended BMX camp, Science in the Summer, and Town of Cary Nature Camp at Hemlock Buffs Nature Preserve
- Ian went to YMCA Kidercamp and Cricket Club
- Hosted two separate book clubs and Bunco, so I could use my porch.
- Beach weekend to see the Hunter Family
- Ben's 8th birthday party at Dave and Busters
- Have watched an insane amount of soccer with the boys. Gooooal!!  Luckily we are now adding American Ninja Warrior and Summer Wipeout to the rotation.
- Camp Mommy in full swing with a super cool water board almost finished and more daily fun arriving later this week with a field trip to a NEW place!

Favorite Pic of the month- From the day we arrived to see the Hunter family, we decided after dinner to take a short walk on the beach.  We had been there less than five minutes when one of Laura's twin 4 year old boys stripped down to his underwear an ran into the ocean. Ian decided to do the same but tried to one up him by going naked. Luckily I talked him into staying in his underwear.  Seven year old Eli and eight year old Ben looked like castaways on Survior, covered in muddy sand showing us their muscles.

It was exactly the way to kick off summer.


Through the Looking Glass- 10 Year Anniversay

Ten years ago today I took one of the biggest leaps of my life and had weight loss surgery.  I've written about the why and the 2nd step of having plastic surgery, so I won't rehash the details.

As much as anyone can verbalize that appearance doesn't matter, and it is what on the outside that is important, appearance or the perception of appearance does matter.  It plays into how you see and what worth you give yourself, how you compare the quality of your life compared to others.  It can determine if you get the job, continue the relationship, can get pregnant and/or stay pregnant, or how a total stranger can make a quick judgement without ever knowing your name.

I can tell you that it took a very long time to get to the point of being ready to make the surgery decision.  It took hard work in therapy, a realization that excess weight was equal to any other self destructive decisions I'd already made, and that watching what my dad went through before his premature death in 2001 and the current life my mom currently had in 2004 were not ones I wanted.

Ten years ago the surgery was not commonplace and was only offered in three hospitals in the entire state.  I researched doctors and went through nearly a year pre-approval process with my insurance to prove that I was indeed a worthy candidate.  The only person that I had heard of in the media who had had the surgery was Carnie Wilson.  I, unlike her, decided to keep the process crazy quiet, even from my mom and brother. In hindsight, I should have sought support.  It would have made the process easier, even if there was a shame factor to overcome in the decision to have the surgery.

Ten years out I have put back on about 30 pounds of a 147 weight loss. I did undergo IVF and took other fertility meds, gestated and birthed two children, and also went through two plastic surgeries in the last decade. I can also tell you juggling taking care of babies/toddlers as well as caretaking for my mom out of state was hard on my body for the 5 years I did both. I felt pulled in every way possible and felt like I was treading water just to maintain.  When life hits high gear, exercise is usually the first thing to go.

I've continued to make every effort when I can carve out time and maximize what I do.   Working with a personal trainer last year was money well spent creating a series of 30 minute intense workouts are now a staple of my week.  It is too important and I've come too far to rest on "I'm too busy" as an excuse.  I tell myself when I'm clock watching, to remember how much better I will feel after. Since the summer started I've been going at 5:45 to do a class or getting in by 6 am to run laps and do TRX strength training.  Have I gone everyday?  Nope, but I'm doing what I can to make it a priority and again try to keep up with making it part of my day once the school year returns.

Ten years out I'm feeling joints that hurt in the morning, the inability to exist on less than 6 hours of sleep, and the repercussions still when I make poor food choices.  Alcohol, most fried food, many meats, and Chinese food are all still difficult and in my heart of hearts know better than to eat/drink. I feel like I'm looking down the barrel of a gun as I roll into my 40s.  I don't want to live in fear of being diagnosed with illness, but also have remind myself daily I do as much as I can and only focused on what I can change.

It is my goal by my 40th birthday in January to be down 10-15 pounds.  I'm hoping that I can kickbox and eat a non-pork rind diet my way into 2015 closer to my goal weight.  Weight is but a state of mind, and I will take how I feel and continue to make it to birthdays without a degenerative illness diagnosis.

When I look at this picture taken about a month before my surgery in 2004 when my friend Laura H came to visit, it makes me sad.  While I'm smiling, I also know that I was unbelievably unhappy and uncomfortable in my own skin.  Posting a picture publicly in a swimsuit would be akin to being naked in a crowd.

From one of the Disney Water parks last summer, when the boys and I were making a train on the lazy river. Sure, I still see things that I want to improve, but more importantly I see the two children that are walking this Earth in part to the decision I made ten years ago today.  I want them to know me not as a mom that couldn't because I physically was unable, but rather as their mom who served as a role model for taking a given situation and making the best of it.

Through the looking glass on the other side is a beautiful vantage point.  It gives me hope that I have reversed or staved off illness until much later because of the decisions and lifestyle choices I made.

Friday, June 27, 2014

2014 Camp Mommy Chronicles- Vol 2

There is a point usually towards the end of the summer where I look back and say, "man, that went fast. Just WHAT did we do with all those days of summer break?"

I can say this week was full, but not crazy full.  Here's the highlight reel from week 2 of Camp Mommy

Ian- 2nd week at KinderCamp at the Y,  Can I just say that I LOVE YMCA counselors.  Love them.  It was "Camping/Outdoors" themed week with a hot dog/s'mores family event today.  They made binoculars and then took a nature walk along with the usual crafts, swimming, games, daily dance party/cheers.  Ian is in love with one of the counselors who walks him in each day.  Thank you YMCA for unending patience.  You must have a mandatory Valium lick for all employees.

Ben- We managed to get a spot in the FREE!!! Science in the Summer Program that is run by Glaxo Pharmaceuticals.  I didn't know Ben was eligible to participate last summer until after all the spots had been taken.  It was tops on my list given it has a great reputation and did I mention a FREE science themed camp for 3 hours for a week?!  They made toothpaste (not tasty, but his chemical compound writing on the bag kills me), made model atoms, made crystals, learned about chemical compounds through fire and other experiments.  On the final day they had student demonstrations.  Ben presented how a lava lamp works. Give him a set of Bongos and a fake ID and I think he is ready for college.  In other fun, Ben and Bill joined our neighbors for a Durham Bulls game last night and reported back many $1 concessions eaten, and lots of 8 year old boy happiness expressed.

Mom- I had about 2 hours a day sans kids by the time I did drop offs/pick ups with boys in 9-12pm camps. I worked almost exclusively in the yard with most of my free time.  This sadly is what happens when you have a March snow that kills your hydrangeas this season :(  

 I managed to get to the gym almost every day uber early to maximize my time to get something done.  Along with the super excitedness that comes with going to the optometrist, hitting up lots of errands, and another freeze ahead session, it was a productive week.  I did make it out with earrings on for a girl's night and also to host summer bunco.

On the Big Summer Fun list we tried our the toy zipline during the week with success.  We ran two lines from our deck into the yard at a steep angle.  First the boys did load up stuffed animals, small cars, Legos, and balloons and raced them.  An hour into the activity they had resorted to dropping the umbrellas off the deck with animals attached to the handles.  It was an experiment in gravity, and also how long it takes to break a $5 umbrella from Dollar Tree.  Speaking of "the money tree store as Ian calls it"  We stocked up on total crap to make our cheap crafty ideas over the next weeks of Camp Mommy.  On the menu in case you missed my earlier Big Summer Fun List?

Freezer Chalk
Marble Racing
Water Balloon Pinatas
Painting with flyswatters/spray bottles/sponges
Recycling wind chimes

We are leaving early in the morning for an overnight trip to Charlotte to my high school friend's lake home. This will be the third summer we have met up with our families for a day on the water in their boat and dockside with all things kid friendly.  My friend messaged me that she had rented sea kayaks, paddle boards and a water trampoline for the kids. Uh.. hello.. does she not know me well enough to know that I am going to be on that trampoline faster than the kids.

Happy weekend-