A Pocket Full of Courage

The Hobbit started big kids school this year.  He was an old hand at preschool, having spent three years there, but Big Kids School meant a new school, a new teacher, a whole new batch of kids, and just a whole lot of New to adjust to. He had a rocky start.

The first day of school was an orientation, in which 30 kindergarteners, the teacher, three other staff members, two local police officers and about 45 parents, grandparents and/or legal guardians were crammed into one classroom. There was a great deal of anxiety and confusion, for parents and students, and my sensitive little boy had a melt down.  He was the only child who refused to go on the school tour, and I was looking for a wall to beat my head against because here he was starting off the year not knowing where the bathrooms were.  Also, I didn’t want the other kids to think of him as a cry baby and have that stigma stick.  But hey, that was my issue not his.

The Hobbit was allowed to stay with the adults, while 29 other children lined up, got a tour of the school and then went to play on the playground. I think it’s safe to say our school year was not off to an auspicious start.

I didn’t have much hope for a smooth First Day of School and I needed a plan, so I dug out a souvenir from our last trip to Alaska.  There’s a great bookstore in Ketchikan, Parnassus Books, that I love and each time we’ve been there I make a point to visit the bookstore and spend heaps of money.  If you ever find yourself in Ketchikan, Alaska, I recommend you do the same.  But I digress.  On our last visit there, I bought some “coins” and a small storage pouch for them.  The coins are stamped metal, with a Tlingit representation of an animal on one side and the word that the animal is thought to embody on the other. I’m a sucker for things like that:  stones with uplifting words painted on them, positive affirmation cards, etc.  The coins have been in my little treasure box (sentimental treasures, not pirate booty treasures) waiting to be used. Now was the time.

I singled out the “Courage” coin and put it in my purse, hoping I wouldn’t need it, but having it handy just in case I did.

The next morning, I took The Hobbit to school and he did okay right up until we reached the entrance gate, and then all bets were off.  He didn’t want to play with the other kids, he didn’t want to talk to his teacher, he just cried and held onto me.  Oh dear.   He was so scared it was heartbreaking, and I knew just how he felt.

I’d like to say I am the master of my emotions and didn’t cry, because that would have made this story so much better.  However, I am a softie and my baby was scared and crying, so my eyes filled up with tears, too.  I got down on my knees and pulled out the Courage coin.  I told The Hobbit that I knew today was going to be hard for him, that it was scary and new, but I promised him that it was going to be okay, and I had something that would help him.  I showed him the coin and asked him if he knew what courage was?  He shook his head “no” (still crying, poor kid), and I explained that courage was doing what had to be done even when we’re scared.  I showed him the coin with the word “Courage” stamped on it, and I told him that I thought that since he was having such a hard time, that maybe he could use a little bit extra courage today, and so I was giving him some of mine to keep in his pocket so that he could do what had to be done (school) and have the courage to do it.

He took the coin (still crying) and put it in his pocket.  I gave him a hug, told him I loved him, and his teacher, who had been watching our whole exchange, came over and tried to lure him to play with the other kids (still crying), while I told him I would see him in a couple hours (still crying), and I turned and walked out of the playground.  Sob.  Some other parents stayed, for how long, I don’t know, but I thought it important that I leave because I didn’t want me staying to become a habit.  (Shoot, I was already committed to one day a week in the classroom and drive the kid to/from school every day, so I figured four days a week he could do without me for 3 hours.)  I parked down the street from the school and waited for half an hour in case I got a phone call.  We were told that if our child cried for more than 10 minutes, we were getting called to pick them up and take them home.  No call came.

When I picked him up from school that day, I was met with smiles and he proudly handed over the Courage coin.  For the first two weeks, I would stay on the playground each until the bell rang, at The Hobbit’s request.  Usually, he’d drop off his backpack and run off to play without a second glance my way, but I had given him my word, so I would remain until the class lined up.  But on the third week, we were told it was time to cut the apron strings and anyone on the playground would have to sign in with the office and get a visitor’s badge.  I told The Hobbit I wouldn’t be allowed to stay on the playground in the mornings any more.  He asked if he could borrow my courage.

Every morning since, when we get to school, he asks if he can borrow my courage, and I pull the coin out of my wallet for him to keep in his pocket or his backpack.  And every day after school, he returns it to me.  He feels secure knowing he can borrow it any time and head off on his school day with a pocket full of courage, able to face anything that comes his way.

Fabulous Forty Update

I have not been sitting idly by since I turned 40 last month.  Oh, no, no, no.  Far from it!  I have struck numbers 1, 10, and 25 from the list.  I have also been plugging away at numbers 4 and 5, which are, respectively, completing the Top 100 AFI movies list and completing the BBC’s 100 Big Read List.  Under normal circumstances, completing those two items would have made a stellar enrichment to-do list, but no, I had to incorporate them into a list of 40 things to accomplish, and frankly, I think finishing the BBC’s 100 Big Read is going to be my biggest challenge due to the time it requires.

In the past two weeks, I have watched the following movies from the Top 100 AFI List:






And in the past week or so, I have completed the following book from the BBC’s 100 Big Read:


I decided to start off by tackling the AFI list from the bottom to the top and the BBC list from the top to the bottom.  I know now I’m going to have to mix things up to keep from going batty.  I enjoyed Yankee Doodle Dandy. I thought I’d like M*A*S*H, because I loved the TV show, but I didn’t.  Parts of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner were still startlingly applicable 47 years after it was released and gave me pause. But  on the book side, Pride and Prejudice just about did me in.  I have never been an Austen fan, and despite never having read the book or seen any of the many, many versions of the movie, I knew the story before I started.  I think that made it a little bit harder to read, because the scenes that took pages and pages of embroidered language to unfold bored me to tears when in today’s language they could have easily been summed up in a paragraph, maybe two.  Sorry, Austen lovers, it’s not my cup of tea.  Making it through Persuasion and Emma will probably be equally as painful, but the ones I’m really dreading are the Russian titles:  War and Peace  and Crime and Punishment.   I may be branching out from the world of print and going the audio book route with those two.  It feels a bit like cheating, but since it’s my game and my rules, I say audio books count.

Since Pride and Prejudice was such a snooze fest (Austen fans, go ahead and send your hate mail and lob virtual rotten fruit at me), I decided to tackle some of the Roald Dahl titles on the list next. Up next:  Matilda.

Fabulous Forty: No. 25 Eye Exam



It’s common knowledge that sometimes just after your 40th birthday, while you are peacefully sleeping or just minding your own business, your arms shrink and you can no longer hold a book, newspaper, magazine or other printed matter from enough away from your face in order to read it.  For some reason, instead of correcting our too short arms, the medical community insists it’s an age-related disorder called presbyopia, or “old eyes”.  Presbyopia is treated by engaging in an absurd retail exercise of buying glasses off a rack at the pharmacy that are either a.) worn on a chain around our necks, b.) misplaced, requiring the purchase of approximately 50 other pairs of glasses to leave strategically around the house, or c.) wearing multiple pairs of glasses at the same time, with one pair on our faces and one on our heads.  Wouldn’t longer arms be easier?


As you probably know by now, I like to get ahead of these things.  If it’s inevitable, I will run out to meet it, wrestle it to the ground and take control.  So yesterday, I went and had my eyes examined to make sure my arms had not shrunk in my sleep.

I already wear contacts and have been growing ever more near-sighted since I was 19, so eye exams are a semi-regular thing in my life already. I still get a little apprehensive about them, because like of that stupid eye puff test.  Under normal circumstances I can sit and stare wide-eyed and unmoving for a good length of time, but once I put my face into the Eye Puffer of Death machine, I suddenly develop eye lid epilepsy and lose control of my ability to control my blinking.  I try very hard not to spasmodically blink like I’m a tweaker just long enough to stare at the little house in the picture so the machine can get a readable result.  I’ve had optometrists get a wee bit frustrated when they have to do the test three or four times to get results. It’s an issue.

But this go round, I managed to pass the eye test on the first try!  It’s a miracle!


My prescription had changed just a wee bit, but nothing dramatic, and best of all, my arms haven’t shrunk any.  I can still go about wearing my same contact lenses for another couple years.  But when the time comes, and I do need reading/computer glasses, you can bet I’m going to get the funkiest pair Walgreens carries and rock that look.




Fabulous Forty: No. 10 Professional Eyebrow Waxing


Oooooooo boy!  I must put a disclaimer right here at the start.  The BEFORE picture is scary. There is no PhotoShop correction or beautification of my Nanny McPhee Eyebrows.  I let them go feral for about 2 months so the lady doing the waxing would have plenty of material to work with.

nanny mcphee

I really wasn’t sure where to start with this goal, aside from just letting my oh-so-abundant eyebrows do what they do, and I have an EXTREMELY small social circle, so asking a friend who they used only yielded a recommendation for eyebrow threading.  I wasn’t too keen on the idea of threading, so I once again turned to Yelp and reviews left there.

I settled on the European Wax Center.  I think it’s pretty safe to say that if there is a part of the country where hair grows, there’s a location of the European Wax Center. The salon (torture chamber? de-hairifier?)  had plenty of good reviews, it’s about a 3-minute drive from my house, and best of all I was able to make my appointment online, effectively avoiding any human interaction until it was absolutely necessary.

Here’s my Before Picture, and not for the faint of heart:

eyebrows before


I was actually excited, rather than nervous, going into the wax-o-matic. I have waxed my eyebrows at home for years and years, so I wasn’t concerned about pain.   Also, I had decided at the outset of this experiment, I was going to do something unusual for me and actually talk to people, like with words and eye contact and all that, about what I was doing and why I was doing it. So when I went in, I had been rehearsing my chit-chat in my head.  I find small talk works best for me if I script it first, otherwise my base reaction is to start quoting bits of trivia that rises to the surface.  I turn into the kid from Jerry Maguire, “Did you know the human head weighs eight pounds?”


To avoid winning people over with my social awkwardness, or filling the room with one of my infamous and uncomfortable (for others) silences, I rehearse chit-chat in my head.

Anyway – excited to get de-haired and armed with a bullet  list of topics for chit-chat, I went in to the center and was met by a lovely and charming consultant who led me into a private room and then yanked out the hair off my face by the roots.

Here are the results:

eeybrows after

Since I was expanding my horizons and all that, I also let the consultant “fill in” my eyebrows and gel them into place. I think the fill is a bit of overkill for me.  AND as an added perk, the salon does your first waxing FREE.  Wooo hoooo!

This is going on my list of affordable indulgences from here on out. Not sure if I’ll remember to do it every month. I tend to forget to do girly things like that.  Shoot, I haven’t changed my earrings in over a year because it seems like such a hassle.  How am I gonna manage to make an appointment and show up for girly grooming each month?  I’ll shoot for semi-regular and see how it goes.

That’s two items down and 38 to go, although, I still need three more items to complete my Fabulous Forty list.

Up Next:  Eye Exam for the Aged and Semi-Blind and progress on the AFI Movie List and the BBC Big Read list.  Stay tuned for more scintillating, middle-aged action!

Fabulous Forty: No. 1 Eat at Cattleman’s Steakhouse


Review Taken from Yelp:

If you like meat, I mean really really like meat, then this is the place for you. As you’d expect, the portions here are larger than your aunt Margie’s left butt cheek. The beef ribs are bomb, the potato skins are fab, and I have simply run out of hip words in my vocabulary to describe the meaty wonders of this place. Bring your stretchy pants and leave that belt at home. Drive up in your hummer straight into the handicap spot so you can literally be rolled out of the restaurant. Why? Because ‘Murica that’s why.


I had my O-fficial Birthday Dinner at Cattlemen’s Steakhouse in Dixon, California.  I am a little biased when it comes to meat-based restaurants, having cut my teeth on Kansas City BBQ and growing up in a “cow town”, but it was good.  Not great, not the best I’ve ever had, but good.  I think Cattlemen’s reputation is due to a lack of competition in the marketplace.  People don’t know any better, and when you don’t know any better, Good is better than Nothing. While it didn’t blow my socks off, I had a good time and enjoyed the food.

I got the full birthday treatment, surrounded by family:  the obnoxious, but fun, birthday song, ice cream with a candle in it and a ridiculous straw hat.

Whirlwinds and School Supplies

Oh. My. Word.  Things have been happening around here.  First off, my husband, who is probably the most deliberate, cautious and risk-avoiding person I know made a huge decision that I am incredibly proud of:  he’s running for School Board. Our district went from an At-Large voting, similar to the way states vote for Senators, only it’s non-partisan, and switched to an Area-based system.  It took about two years and a gazillion dollars paid to a consultant to come up with this plan, but it’s finally happening in our upcoming election in November.  In an Area-based voting system, the candidate must live in the Area they want to represent and only residents of that defined area may vote for their candidates, which is a little more like the way states elect Representatives for the House, but again, it’s non-partisan.

There was some strategy meetings with the candidate and his team (aka, ME).  Platforms were discussed, campaign techniques, fundraising ideas, etc. While it had heaps of style and appeal, we had to reject my idea of using Pink Floyd’s “We Don’t Need No Education” as his theme song, announcing his candidacy in front of a giant brick wall and handing out pudding cups to anyone who showed up.   It kept us laughing for a good 10 minutes, though, and totally perplexed The Hobbit who was on board with the whole free pudding concept but unsure as to why that would be funny.  However, we did decide we really need a laser light machine in our arsenal for holiday decorating.

We eventually got around to being mature adults once the giggling settled down and pulled it all together.  I got busy with my mad organizational skillz, made lists, scribbled down ideas, and launched the online side of his campaign. There’s a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, and a Website.  

This past Monday, all three of us went down to the county building so Chris could file his paperwork and make it official. It was exciting and for him, a little scary.  I’m proud of him for putting himself out there and taking this chance that is outside his comfort zone.  Surely you’ve heard/read the Edmund Burke quote, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”? I don’t think our current school board is evil, I think they’re making difficult policy the best they can, but I am bursting with pride that the good man I’m married to is doing something where he sees a need. How many of us have taken a big leap like that?  It’s scary and exposing, but he took that first step and I’m right there beside him.

In the midst of the whirlwind for school board candidacy, we have also been getting The Hobbit ready for school.  What an exciting time!  There have been school supplies to buy, though, not many, and also some preparation for Mom & Dad.  The program The Hobbit is participating in requires parent involvement in the classroom, which I’m really looking forward to, but that means we have to be cleared according to the Megan’s Law guidelines, which amounted to time spent getting fingerprinted down at the District offices.  

It’s been about 15 years since I was last fingerprinted for a school job, and then it was a Big Deal because it was being done with that new-fangled Live Scan process.  The machines were so expensive they were shared between public entities.  The last time I had it done was at the Napa County Sheriff’s office (they had the machine twice a week at that time), and the machine was about the size of a massive Xerox copier.  Imagine my surprise, and delight, at the newer versions that are basically a laptop and a scanner the size of a credit card reader.   The woman doing the scanning was really great, too.  It’s always so nice when you have to go do something required and costly to have someone with fabulous customer service skills at the helm.

I feel like we’ve been going non-stop for about 10 days now.  I wanted to shut down and not think for a little while. So this afternoon at 2:55 I sat down to watch last night’s Daily Show, and in the opening lines, John Stewart made a “Guardians of the Galaxy” reference. I looked up movie times and made a spontaneous decision to go to a 3:20 pm showing, because it’s discount movie day, and I am a giant geek who has been anxiously awaiting this movie. 

It did not disappoint.  Easily the best acting Vin Diesel has ever done.  Ever.  If he doesn’t get an Oscar nod for delivering such riveting lines as “I am Groot,” then he’ll never get one.  Maybe a Golden Globe.  I laughed and cried my way through that movie and would happily go see it again.  Who’s with me?   

I have also been counting down the days until my 40th birthday and working on my 40 Things in My 40th Year List. Also, that title is cumbersome.  I need a better one. How about The First Forty?  That may be a possibility.

 I thought for sure I’d have that list done by now.  I had ideas running willy nilly all through my head, loads written down and now that I’m faced with making decisions, I’ve got nuthin’.  Well, not entirely nothing, I have slightly more than half and the other ideas I have make me feel, “meh.”  It’s gotten nerve-racking!  Am I going to get it finished by the 15th?  What if, *gasp*, I’ve just run out of ideas? It’s a writer’s nightmare.  I’m going to ask again – if anyone has any suggestions for what they’d do if handed this task, please leave me a comment below or on Facebook.  Even if I don’t use your idea, it might nudge my neurons and light of a couple sparks.