opinion · writing

Stormy seas and leaky lifeboats

I am, fortunately, many miles away from the states affected by Hurricane Irene’s angry path this weekend, but that geographical blessing didn’t stop me from riding my own waves of stress and emotion. I’m feeling kind of beached right now and like any self-respecting exhausted whale, I thought I should share.

Two years ago I probably hadn’t even heard of Twitter and I rarely visited Facebook. Fast forward to this week and I’m wringing my hands and losing sleep over people I’ve never met, yet care about in ways I can’t adequately explain. The Internet has created a universal connectedness that has become a blessing and a curse.

Two years ago I would have watched the news with concerned detachment, grateful for the lack of extreme weather in my neck of the woods. Today, my thumbs were poised over my magic phone, waiting for news of everyone’s safe travels through the eye of the storm. The feelings of worry and helplessness made more acute when one friend lost her house, while another couldn’t find out if her horses were okay.

In the twitterverse we call the people we have lunch with, work with, hang out with – RL (real life) friends – but it’s ridiculous to relegate the people I know in Virginia, Maryland and New York that I’ve come to love, as ‘not real.’ The anxiety I felt for them this weekend was all too tangible.

And then a storm of emotions hit closer to home.

My rare venture into Facebook territory last week told me a friend would be delivering the sermon at her church on Sunday. I awoke yesterday morning exhausted from my annual, virtually non-profit garage sale, but determined to go see her. I met this friend years ago as we both worked to build fledgling businesses while navigating the seas of motherhood. (I only have one kid; she has four. I’ll shut up now.)

A couple of years later she informs me of her grim Stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis and I’m wondering what the hell is wrong with this picture. Fast forward again, three years later, to this Sunday morning and I was riveted to her eloquent words on fear and love.

I already knew she was an amazing writer and genuinely kick-ass human being, but her ability to make the bible real and accessible to a cranky bitch like me was a gift.

My heart swelled for her.

Before I could rest in the calm waters of my friend’s health and wisdom, I had another visit to make. I dropped in at a nearby business to celebrate the owner’s retirement. This woman not only helped inspire my art gallery adventures six years ago, but her influence on my town is inestimable.

As I offered my warm thanks and congratulations it became painfully clear she didn’t recognize me. The reason for her retirement was evident.

My heart broke for her.

Whether it’s Mother Nature’s wrath or some senseless disease, we all know how unfair life can be. I don’t have enough room for the clichés and you’d probably think of ten more anyway. But life is also pretty wonderful. So I’m going to swim in this glass of wine and feel particularly grateful for my blessings – health, family, safety and more.

They’re so easy to take for granted. Let’s all make a pact not to let that happen, okay?

Berthoud Weekly Surveyor · Colorado · opinion

Orange folders and martini lunches

Well, we survived the first day of school, although from the annual photo of my daughter next to the school sign it looks more like she’s facing a firing squad than fourth grade. Fortunately, she was in better humor when I picked her up later.

Besides arranging after-school care, buying new school clothes and reinstating early bedtimes, there’s a recurring ritual that’s become a big pain in my backside. I shared my thoughts in last week’s Berthoud Surveyor. Other parents — in my district or not — should appreciate my frustration. ~ Suz

Do you know how I can tell school is about to start? Besides the morose look on my daughter’s face as though mourning the loss of her favorite stuffed animal, I can sense the end of summer by the school supply list posted on my pantry door. And the noticeable eye twitch I develop each time I walk past it.

School supply lists are becoming the bane of my existence each August.

The first year it’s kind of fun loading up your kindergartner with fat, bright crayons and a Clifford backpack, but by fourth grade it’s taken on a new insanity. The only upside is discovering I’m not alone in my quest for two orange, plain pocket folders.

Yes, orange pocket folders are right up there with the tiny Southeast Asian tarsier when it comes to rare, difficult-to-find creatures. There were 100s of red folders at the local WalMart but red is clearly not on the list. Orange is. While trying to control my eye twitch after the shopping trip, I was surprised and relieved to see several other mothers on Twitter from around the country also bemoaning the absence of orange folders.

The rare tarsier is not amused by orange folders or mill levies. (Photo courtesy of toptenz.net)

Aha! I smell a conspiracy. I now imagine teachers getting together, making up these lists, then sitting back to drink martinis and laugh at parents. How else do you explain the required supplies such as a four-pack of dry erase markers, one box of gallon zip-loc bags, one black felt tip pen (no Sharpies), one pad of 3×3 sticky notes, a box of non-Latex band-aids or three boxes of tissues?

These are all items on various lists throughout the school district. Some of the supplies are even brand-specific so don’t try to be cheap and get the generic crayons. And don’t put your kid’s name on most of the stuff because the whole class will be using the colored pencils, yellow highlighters or school glue (orange cap only, please).

Fine. I’ll go buy all of this stuff even if it takes three stores and a large bottle of wine to find it all, because at least now I know I’m not alone. And at least I’m not being asked by the government to bring a roll or two of toilet paper the next time I have to visit the DMV. Yet.

Anyway, I’m sure once the school district convinces the taxpayers to sign up for a new mill levy we won’t have to buy extraneous school supplies anymore. Then they can go hunt down the elusive damn orange folders.

UPDATE: I found the orange folders at Target for $1 each. The red ones at WalMart were 15¢. There are no more glue sticks in Northern Colorado, in case you were wondering. And sure enough, the Thompson School District decided to put the mill levy issue on this fall’s ballot after spending many thousands of dollars asking us taxpayers what we thought they should do. How about spending that money on orange folders and glue sticks, eh?
I’d like to thank my twitter pal in the know, @5280PRgal, for throwing some gas on my fire as well as enlightening me.