Thursday, September 29, 2011


the butterfly calls the beginning. Martin Luther King said to take a first step even if you couldn't see the whole staircase. Somebody said you don't have to be great to start but you have to start to be great. I don't know who said it first but I've heard it all my life. "Don't wait until conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes conditions perfect." Same with that one - no clue who said it first but I know who said it to me every day for a year. Good thing too - it led to becoming parents. "You can't make a new start but you have the power to make a different ending." I thought I knew who said that one but no. It was some Roman warrior I think. Here's my favorite quote on the subject:

"The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it. "

I confess I have no big fat clue who Thucydides is but I saw that quote a long time ago at a bungee jumping place and started thinking about the things in my life most worthwhile and most extraordinary and recognized they had come about in that fashion. They didn't fall into my lap or happen to me randomly, but steps were taken towards accomplishing a goal regardless of the peril possible in the undertaking. I think that's a lot of words for what amounts to "faith". In my case certainly it isn't clear vision or bravery; maybe instead blind faith and a bad case of the Birdbrained Dopeys about the possibility of monumental failure. At any rate, the upshot is that at the age of 51, I'm going back to school.

YAY!! (Yikes)

Not only am I going back to school but going back and grabbing hold of a long lost high school dream. I lost it while I was in college, forgot about it as I pursued my degree and then career, pushed it aside and gave up on it as I made a home and a family. It began to resurface in my peabrain as I was raising my babies. When you stay at home to raise your own children you dream of working and when you work you dream of staying home with your babies I guess. I was right where I wanted to be, staying at home with my boys, but still daydreaming all the while. Daydreaming is a good thing.

Now that my little men-in-training are older and pulling away from the dependence of young childhood, my life is once again becoming more and more my own. It happens in such small increments you don't really notice it until one day a light bulb comes on and it occurs that you aren't any longer in demand every moment of every day. For some it's a sad moment, a poignant realization. Not me baby. Ready for the next phase. Bring it on.

I have enjoyed every phase of my kids' lives (some more than others) and continuing in that respect I am currently enjoying how our relationships are changing, how the dynamic is so fluid. I'm enjoying having thoughtful discussions with my fourteen year old that are not dissimilar to conversations with adults, and as he speaks, recalling how our conversations went and what he looked like when he was four. I'm enjoying listening to my nine year old explain the concise details and engineering concepts of his latest Lego build, and as he speaks, remembering when I found out he was appropriating Lego men from his preschool classroom and telling me he found them on the playground. Great story for another post.

Even more, I am enjoying that when they are hungry they're able to fix themselves something. I'm enjoying that they can do their own homework, get themselves up in the mornings, bring their laundry down when the hamper's full and take it all back upstairs again and put it up when it's clean; wash it themselves if they're in a bind. I'm enjoying that I can send my fourteen year old in to the store to quickly return a video or buy a bunch of bananas while I sit in the car outside waiting for him. I am not thrilled about not having anyone to read to at bedtime, but my hunky hubby has graciously volunteered to be the victim I mean recipient of my attentions in that area. I can't wait to see what he chooses for me to read to him. I'm kinda skeert.

So all in all, going back to school seems like a natural progression. I want to do something new. Something lighthearted. Something fun. Something I can walk away from at the end of a work day and not consider again until I walk in to begin another one. Something I look forward to each morning. I don't want another bachelors' degree and I don't want a post-grad degree in my B.S. major. Now is not the time for me to again delve into criminal justice, to rejoin the corporate world or the education field. I. want. uncomplicated. undemanding. uninvolved. I want to be able to express creativity and cleverness, design and individuality.

Caren's goin' to beauty school. If all goes according to planned, this time next year I'll be finished with school and on the way to doing what I wanted to do when I was in high school. Hair.

So here's the thing. Goals can be lofty, or they can be sweet. They can be complicated or they can be simple. They can accomplish many purposes or one big one. In my case, I'm following my heart. That makes it sweet and simple. Uncomplicated and unpretentious. What will be accomplished is yet to be seen but I'm looking forward to the ride.

I'll keep you posted.

Friday, September 09, 2011


The sweet little guys sitting on top of these pencils represent exactly why I should NOT be working at my kids' school stores. I'm DRAWN to office supplies like a beetle to a bug zapper, and thus I'm always the first to volunteer to work (wink wink - using the word work loosely) at the elementary and middle school stores. As supplies go these adorable little pals are close to the top of the list. They sit on top of your pencil and shake their legs as you write. It's like they're swinging their legs shouting, "Yeah! Yeah! Write some morrrrre, I LOVE to read it!"

This is an addiction I've managed to foist off onto my kids. We are the total nerd package when we shop for school supplies at the beginning of the school year. One year a few weeks before school started I received an email from an industrious, overachieving Room Rep Liaison who said that this particular year they were offering a new service. They were group buying supplies by grade and thus lowering the cost. Should we elect to participate, we could pay $14.00 and on the first day of school we would receive our bag of supplies which would've otherwise cost us $35.00 or more. Eldest and I panicked. What kind of decision was THIS we were forced to make now? Save $21 and not get to shop for and buy OUR OWN SUPPLIES??? Impossible to make a right decision. There wasn't one. It was so wrong; so wrong. Eldest and I paced. Got jittery. Fussed. And in the end, we made the only decision that two humans who so dearly adore to shop for office and school supplies could possibly make. We turned down the offer to save $21.

Hi. I'm Caren and I'm an office supply addict.

My oldest child and I have been known to stop in at Staples for just nothing other than to look at pens - see what the latest, newest, coolest thing is. My youngest and I once drove all the way across town to get to an Office Max so we could use the "20% Off Everything That Will Fit In This Bag" promotion. On the way there we passed a Staples and an Office Depot.

I won't eeeven tell you about my enchantment with planners.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


I was doing some closet tweaking the other day, removing items I no longer wear or no longer should wear - shopworn, torn, or otherwise unwearable and unfixable. My youngest was sitting on the makeup stool outside my closet spinning to infinity (antique piano stool) as I held up a particular top to assess.

Youngest: So are you gonna put that one in the charity pile?

Me: No WAY. This top is my most valuable top.

Youngest: Mom. It's a plain ol' tee shirt for girls. It's not SPECIAL or anything.

Me: Well, it's not valuable from a money perspective, and it's not special from a design perspective - it doesn't have embroidery or ruffles or an impressive brand name. That's for sure.

Youngest: See? Why don't you put it in the charity stack?

Me: Because I can wear this top with 3/4 of my wardrobe. It's the perfect top. I can wear it plain with shorts, with pants, or with a skirt. I can wear it under a cardigan, blazer, or poncho. I can belt it or not. I can put dressy jewelry or casual jewelry with it. The color is perfect. The style is perfect.

Youngest: You do wear it a lot.

Now, you might think from this description this should be some fabulous top, eh? Are you telling yourself you really need to see this top if it's all that?

Youngest is right. It's plain. Nondescript even. And I have one in every single color made.

THE most Valuable shirt in my closet
Doesn't look like much, right? Plain old sweetheart tee, right? Well. Everything about it is perfect. It has a v neck with a narrow satin trim. It's pinched at the bust and fitted at the waist. The sleeves are 3/4. It's soft knit. It's just the right length. It's washable. It goes in the dryer like a champ and comes out looking just like it did in the store the day I bought it. If I could only have two articles of clothing to my name, this would be one of them (in the pepper red).

I asked Youngest if he had any belongings like that- some material thing that didn't look like much by itself but really was a wonderful thing to have for many reasons.

"Well," he said, "I guess Legos don't look like anything but a plastic block, but I wouldn't much want to be without them."

Then he went on. "Plus. One of them by itself is kind of useless, but if you put it with a bunch of other ones it's very valuable. In fact, you could have a whole bunch of Legos and not be able to make anything out of them unLESS you had this one particular one. THAT happens sometimes."

So I started thinking about the things in my life that fit that description, and how you truly couldn't judge the worth of something just by glancing at it; just by making judgments from your first glance. It's really those things that are my most prize possessions. A garlic press doesn't look like much but I wouldn't want to be in a position to have to prepare a meal without one. Compression garments don't look like much but I wouldn't want to wear a sheath dress without one. My minivan looks like forty seven others just like it in the school parking lot, a hundred others just like it on any highway, and not at all the vehicle that would be my individual pick, but it is the PERFECT vehicle for the job at this point in my life.

The list goes on and on. This ink pen is fabulous. (But it's just a pen, y'moron. Yeah, I know you're thinkin' it.) But it is. Fabulous, not just a pen. Well it's that too but the point is this is four pens. In one. Fabulous. I tell you, the very folks that roll their eyes at my relationship with this pen are the SAME ones that ask to borrow it in meetings. "I need a red pen - anybody got - OOH. Caren has one."
My Dad has been using this pen ever since I can remember - and that's a lonnnng time ago. Decades. He understands the fabulousness of a nonfabulous looking item too.

So I'm easy to pleasy. Cheap date. Youngest is the same way. On any given Sursey Day I have many choices that will make Youngest happy for $4.00. Eldest and Hunky Hubby however, different story. For another post. "Hard to buy for" doesn't even begin to tell the story.

So I'm off to JoAnn. There's a $1.00 fabric bin to scavenge through.

Thursday, September 01, 2011


Earlier this week we received word that a family member of an in-law had died as the result of injuries sustained while serving as a volunteer EMT during Irene rescue efforts. We didn't know the victim himself but quickly heard of his fine character and his dedication to his family and community. Countless memorials have already been written and shared via internet and social media. It seems obvious that this man was adored by family and friends, that he was a hero, "not for how he lost his life but how he lived it" as one write-up described.

He and his EMT partner were called to rescue people who were thought to be trapped in a vehicle in the water on a flooded roadway. He was trained in swift water rescue, had followed safety procedures such as tethering to his partner and wearing a helmet and a flotation vest. And yet he lost his life.

My thoughts this week have been about Mike's wife and small daughter. I have grieved over his death, a 39 year old man I never met, but also and especially for the ones who adored him, for whom the puzzle of their life has lost a critical piece, who are now faced with conducting their lives absent of their husband, their dad, their sibling, cousin, nephew, friend, or co-worker. They're tasked with recognizing the gaping hole that is now where he once was and then learning how to cope with that. How to cope without Mike. How to eventually once again be a joyful, blessed person and lead an delightful life not by ignoring that hole but by learning how to live with it.

I'm fairly sure (not to mention extremely embarrassed) that I would have a hard time being mature in this position. Were I the wife of a man who lost his life while rescuing someone, I'm afraid I would be resentful that he was no longer here to take care of his children. Of me. That I could no longer take care of him. That the hole in our lives would be so great, so deep, such an enormous cavern, that I never could surmount the sadness of living a life without him, this man who risked and ultimately gave his life to rescue someone else. I fear I would be resentful - feel that my boys and I needed rescuing and now he wasn't there to do it.

In several of the internet memorials and newspaper articles I read the statement that "Michael died doing what he loved." While I understand statements like that are helpful coping mechanisms, I'm not inclined to believe that would give me any peace.

That there was ultimately no one even in the car to rescue? Don't even want to think where I'd go with that. It's the final affront. Overload.

I pray God gives Michael's wife more tenacity and resolve. I'm praying hard she has peace and tranquility over a tragedy that seems senseless. Hoping she won't see senselessness in it but feel God's good grace instead.