On Deck

What a crazy/ busy/ exhausting first few weeks of school!  I was so worn out by 4PM on Friday of the first week that I sat down on the couch after the last kid wandered in off her school bus, and I promptly fell asleep for close to two hours.  Right in the middle of all of the kids and all of the chaos.  Granted that I had donated three full bags of platelets at Atlanta Blood Services that morning, but that just pushed me over the edge.  And even after my glorious nap, I went to bed by 9PM.  I think I need to get a little tougher if I’m going to make it through this school year intact.  There’s way too much stuff coming up and happening for us right now!

Kid E started kindergarten a few weeks ago.  He is settling in nicely, making new friends and learning all of the mundane rules that he will have to follow every school year from here on out.  He has already determined that recess and P.E. are “the only good parts of school,” so we have very high hopes for his educational prospects.  He also started playing baseball and, after a rough first day (it turns out he had croup, thus the meltdown at practice), he seems to have settled in nicely.

Kid C has been dancing en pointe for a few months now and is doing really well.  She has learned how to pad-up and tape all of her vast and varied foot and toe injuries, and she has grown accustomed to blood and blisters as a part of her everyday life.  She is looking forward to auditioning for a role in The Snow Queen in just a few weeks.

Kid B is adjusting to high school after a rough academic start.  Her class load is really tough one, so she has to work really hard to keep up.  It wasn’t like that for her in middle school, so she has had to figure some stuff out.  But she just sucked it up and did it, which is awesome.  She also just started soccer season and is tearing it up.  This weekend her team is playing in the Atlanta Cup Tournament and they had three shut-outs before losing a penalty kick-only semi-final 4 – 2.  They have gotten really aggressive on offense and Kid B continues to train hard, make great saves, and be an all-around badass.

On Friday, Kid D got to have the experience of a lifetime.  My brother-in-law is Somebody Important and he knows how much that boy loves baseball.  He set it up so Kid D went down onto Turner Field just before the Marlins v. Braves game and make the announcement over the P.A. and on the Jumbotron… “It’s time for Braves baseball… Let’s PLAY BALL!”  He did a fantastic job and he is still beaming about it.  He looks forward to Quick Pitch and Sports Center playing this clip over and over once he gets drafted by the Braves to actually play ball sometime around 2030 or so.

Kid A is enjoying her final year of high school very much… especially all of the perks that come with being a senior.  She is in the process of completing the common application for colleges, and soon she will fine tune other submissions for a few early admissions, and then even more for regular deadlines.  She is also still dancing ballet and is looking forward to The Snow Queen auditions.

Sheepdog just jumped out a plane for the first (but definitely not the last) time.  He went up with a group of friends on a beautiful Georgia summer day, and experienced the amazing rush of flying in free fall.  Be prepared to watch the video of his leap from 14,000 feet anytime you step foot into our living room, at least for the next few weeks or so.

Today, I am leaving, along with both of my parents, two of my sisters (the third is too pregnant to travel), Kid A (who took Sister D’s spot when she got herself knocked up), three aunts, two uncles, and a handful of family friends, for Barcelona, Spain.  From there, we get on board the Royal Princess for 12 days of travel around the Mediterranean Sea.  We have stops planned in France (Toulon/ Provence), Italy (Florence/ Pisa, Rome, and Naples), Greece (Mykonos), and Turkey (Istanbul and Kusadasi).  Then we travel back, pulling into port in Greece (Athens) and finally, Italy (Venice).

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If you look closely, you can see me on the Lido Deck, sunbathing with a drink in hand.

I have been pretty busy getting the family adjusted to the new school and sports schedules and we are just settling in to the routines.  Now, I’m going to go and screw everything up by leaving Sheepdog to run the show, single-parent style, all while taking the oldest kid (and third driver) away with me for a total of 15 days.  Oh yeah, and he still has that thing called a full-time J-O-B, too.  It’s a very good thing that Sheepdog’s parents are coming to Atlanta to help him out.

I have only been on one other cruise in my lifetime, when I was four or five months pregnant with Kid D.  I went with my mom and all three of my sisters.  It is always fun to be with them, but I didn’t love the cruising part of it as much.  Yet, when my mom and dad proposed this “Trip of a Lifetime,” with all of the amazing destinations on the itinerary, I couldn’t pack my suitcase fast enough.  I have never been to Europe, so I am buzzing with excitement and enthusiasm for the experiences that lie ahead.

Here’s to some amazing things that just happened and even more things on deck.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Over the (Hawk) Hill

Last Thursday I had some kind of unholy, unprecedented strain of PMS.  All five of the kids were ganging up on me by playing a rousing game of Who Can Get On Mommy’s Very Last Nerve?  So when Sheepdog came home from work and (uncharacteristically) asked, “What’s for dinner and when’ll it be ready?” before even saying hello, I felt totally justified in telling him that I wanted “to hit (him) very hard in the face with a(n effing) shovel.”  Obviously, I needed a break.  The very next morning I hopped on a plane to Philadelphia.  We were all very pleased that I got away for a bit.
 

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When I was a senior in high school I did what almost everyone else was doing and I applied to get into college.  Three colleges, to be exact.  I was smart, involved and had yet to experience any hard slaps-in-the-face from life.  I was Miss Absecon 1987 and Holy Spirit’s homecoming queen, for goodness’ sake.  So I was in utter disbelief and completely devastated when I received thin envelopes from all three schools telling me no, no and wait.  It was April of my senior year and all I could say when asked where I was going in the fall was, “I honestly don’t know.”

I remember going in to see my school guidance counselor in a daze and asking what I was supposed to do at that point.  He mentioned a small school on City Line Avenue in Philadelphia called St. Joseph’s University.  I had not heard of it before, but my grades and SAT scores were on track to allow me admittance there.  I do not recall the administrative details that followed, but I do know that my parents moved me into a college dorm up on Hawk Hill as that summer drew to an end.

But even with my very own spot in the SJU Class of 1992, it turns out that I still was not sure of where I was going.  I spent the next two years floundering.  I went to parties and bars, but not many classes.  I changed my major and therefore my schedule countless times.  I made stupid and sometimes dangerous choices.  I got my heart broken more than once.  Looking back on my freshman and sophomore years at St. Joe’s, I recall a general sense of sadness and isolation, which was made even worse by my belief that I was surrounded by so many people who all seemed to be having the time of their lives.

My parents saw that I was not happy and they finally convinced me to come back home (a fate worse than death at the time!).  I would work and take classes at a local college in order to bring up my GPA.  Then I could reapply to another school or schools, and eventually earn a degree.  That is how I ended up at West Virginia University as a transfer student in the Fall of 1990.  I met Sheepdog there after just a few weeks.

Short Aside… Yes, WVU was a giant party school back then (and still officially is, according to Princeton Review), but I had thankfully gotten most of it out of my system by the time I moved to Morgantown.  Note that I said most, not all.  Now that’s a true story.

After years of ruminating (and some good, old-fashioned therapy), I look back on my first years of higher education with a smile.  It was the time when I walked on to the varsity cheerleading squad for the basketball team and I got to cheer on national television and travel all over the East Coast to other schools in the Atlantic 10.  It was when I learned that accounting was definitely not my thing, but english and eventually journalism were.  It was when I learned how I didn’t want to be treated by boys, and therefore what I did eventually want from a partner in life.  Most importantly, it was the time when I learned what I did and did not like about myself.  It was where I learned that having a rhinestone crown placed on your head doesn’t mean jack, so I needed to buckle down and start working for what I wanted.  It was where I made friends for life, because college years can be so intense that bonds are forged deeper and stronger than during any other experience.

This past weekend I traveled back to City Line Avenue for Hawktoberfest 2012 and to celebrate the passage of 20 years since the Class of 1992 had been handed their sheepskins.  Originally I booked my plane ticket and hotel room because it was an excuse to spend time with friends who now live scattered all over and I rarely get to see (save for the occasional wedding or funeral or milestone birthday celebration in the Dominican Republic), but it turned out to be so much more than that for me.

I saw people who I hadn’t seen in decades.  I listened to the stories of how their lives had played out, as well as their plans for the future.  I heard the classic tales again, but I also listened to new ones that I never knew about.  One girlfriend teased, saying that I was quite the social butterfly… talking to absolutely everyone, but that was the best part of the experience for me.  We went out to dinner and shared so many memories and bottles of wine.  We played softball on the incredible new field.  We posed for pictures in front of our old dorms.  We tailgated (I know, I know… how do you tailgate without a football team?) and gossiped and laughed.  I laughed until I was hoarse.  It was very, very good.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. This was taken just before 2AM on 54th Street.

On Sunday, we roused our sad, over the hill selves out of bed with lots and lots of coffee.  After we checked out of the hotel, a few of us who had later flights walked around the campus.  It is so much bigger now, with all of the new buildings and dorms and fields, but it is still the same in so many ways.  It was awkward but comfortable at the same time.  I had to catch my breath several times as I walked through the old Fieldhouse (now Hagan Arena) and down past Finnesy Field.  I actually had tears in my eyes as I went from Lafarge to the Chapel and the old Newmann Hall and then crossed the foot bridge to McShane.  They fell silently down my cheeks as I walked down the tree-lined Lapsley Lane to the most magnificent view of Barbelin Tower.

What’s magis? It’s a Jesuit principle that underlies everything we do at Saint Joseph’s University. It inspires us to think a little broader, dig a little deeper, and work a little harder. More simply put, magis calls us to live greater.

The tears were few but they were powerful and cathartic.  I felt such peace and comfort in knowing that St. Joe’s was the first of many steps in bringing me to where I am in my life today.  It defined me, both good and bad.  And it feels so awesome to own that.

I left Hawk Hill feeling light and happy, albeit a little old.  I left with renewed friendships and some new Facebook friends.  I left with a memory card full of photographs.  But mostly I left with a palpable gratitude for the life I have now and the people who are in it.  It never ceases to amaze me how life twists and turns, takes us up and down the hills and sometimes even mountains, and lands us where we are right at this moment.

Sometimes we just need to be reminded.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…