Friday, March 30, 2012

Volunteer Burnout Once Again Rears Its Rude Head

Wow. She just hung up on me.

My entire family overheard the phone conversation I had with the “mom volunteer” (MV) who answered the high school attendance line, and they witnessed my dropped jaw reaction. I wondered if she always treated callers the way she treated me or if she was simply having a bad morning.

You know, I consider myself an “unapologetic beyotch;” however, I don’t feel that gives me the right to be rude. What I mean by this description is that I don’t apologize for my beliefs—be they political, moral, humorous or intellectual in flavor—and if they disagree with yours, well then, I suggest we agree to disagree. And in general I don’t have a problem when people disagree with me. Unless, of course, they’re RUDE about it.

Seriously, this MV was curt from the start. I didn’t even get to finish my first sentence when requesting to speak to someone about my daughter’s detention. “Hold on,” she said, cutting me off. I waited on hold for two minutes before she came back on the phone and said she couldn’t locate an assistant principal to handle my issue.  “So what’s the problem?” she asked.

Yesterday was a registration day and my elder daughter attended her appointment then left school to come home and pickup her younger sister to bring her back for the 9:35 a.m. start time. I approved this, but I didn’t write a note. And my surrogate chauffeur failed to get a pass to leave campus, thinking the same rules didn’t apply because their start time wasn’t until 9:35. The Detention Ticket, in fact, designates the period of the violation as “before school.”

Keep in mind that this is a kid who currently tends to make a lot of her own rules and she’s faced some pretty severe consequences for doing so. But I felt this was as much my fault as it was hers, and I simply wanted to share the responsibility and talk to someone about it. I only just looked up the bell schedule for the registration process and it CLEARLY reads: STUDENTS WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO LEAVE CAMPUS AFTER REGISTERING. So my daughter made a mistake, but I wasn’t a very responsible mother either.

“Well I know what the principal is going to say to you,” said MV. “I’m a mom at this school, too, and your daughter is a junior and should know better by now. She got caught sneaking out and that earned her a detention.”

Whoa! Sneaking out? No one was “sneaking” out. Obviously she had given her name to the parking lot monitor and said what she was doing. He issued the detention because he was following the proper procedure. We understand this. And frankly, she deserved the detention. Again, I just wanted to communicate my role in the violation.

“She wasn’t sneaking anything,” I said. “She had my permiss—”

Interrupting me again, MV said, “I’m writing this all down and someone will call you.”

“Shall I give you my phone number?”

“I have it. BYE.” CLICK!

Repeat: Wow. She just hung up on me.

I called back, she answered again, and I asked for her name. When I conveyed I felt her behavior was both abrupt and inappropriate, she asked why I would think such a thing. “Well for one, you hung up on me!” I said.

“That’s probably because I had 20 phone calls waiting,” she said.

“I understand you’re busy,” I said, “And I appreciate the volunteer work you do; however, I’m just a mom like you and I was simply calling to speak to someone about my daughter’s detention. I didn’t deserve to be treated like that.”

“I’ve already told you I wrote down your concerns and someone will call you.”

“That’s it?” I asked. “No apology?”

“I already apologized to you at the beginning of the conversation.”

Gee, I must have missed it.

It made me think. Bad day? Busy day? Whatever the problem, if you’re suffering from volunteer burnout, by all means do us all a favor and take a day off.

Bottom line? I think I have a new definition for “unapologetic beyotch.”

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Haircut One Hundred

Last May after Keratin straightening 
My daughter ran into a soccer mom yesterday, someone neither she nor I have seen since the school season ended back in February.

“How’s your mom?” asked the woman.

“She cut off all her hair,” responded my daughter.

I wish I could have seen the expression on the woman’s face when she heard this. If I had heard someone had cut off all her hair, I’d think she went a little nuts.

Well, maybe I did.

Last May I succumbed to my first hair process ever. I had it straightened. And for about five minutes I had the silky straight, flowing follicles of a regular Breck girl. (Don’t know what a Breck girl is? Ask your mother). Unfortunately, during a regular Wisconsin summer filled with lake water and humidity, it wasn’t long before my hair was back in corkscrews.

When I returned to Tucson, I learned that my hairdresser had moved to Jersey. So, ever since September, it’s been ponytail city for this soccer mom.

New hair: Curly version
Finally, it came time for me to do something about what ultimately was a lot of dry, damaged hair. During a phone conversation with my friend, Diana, we got off the subject of our teenage daughters and on the subject of our middle-aged hair. She recommended two stylists in Tucson, one for cut and one for color. I made appointments immediately, before I had the chance to chicken out.

New hair: Straight version
Because I just wasn’t happy with my long hair anymore, I felt my only option was to have it all cut off. Yikes. I still don’t know if it was the right decision. I’ve received a lot of comments—compliments even—but I think most people are simply reacting to the change and how short it is.

My hair hasn’t been this short since I was three years old.

“Who are you and what did you do with my wife?” asked my husband when I came home from getting it cut.

I’ve been avoiding the mirror because every time I look into it, I don’t recognize that person either. She no longer looks like a girl—she looks like a mom.

Friday, March 23, 2012

My Week With Willow

We had the house to ourselves for a spell last evening. It was after track practice. The homework was complete and it was one of the two weeknights per week that didn’t involve soccer. We had an unusually early dinner because Camille had volleyball practice. Dad was, of course, in his man cave working his 24-7 Internet business. So, it was just Willow and me.

“Want to watch the Marilyn Monroe movie with me?” I asked.

To my delight, she agreed. I admit I was a little surprised. Throughout the week it was apparent that I wasn’t my daughter’s favorite person with whom to spend time. Nearly everything out of my mouth—be it compliment, directive, warning, comment or opinion—had been met with either a sigh, an eye-roll, a barbed comeback or all three.

Have I mentioned before how much I detest this teenage stage of motherhood?

From the film My Week With Marilyn
Anyway, there are lovely moments as well. And watching the film, My Week With Marilyn (starring Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh and Eddie Redmayne), was a nice 90 minutes. Earlier in the week she had asked me why the world continues to be fascinated by Marilyn Monroe. I explained how she was once the world’s biggest star and how she’s an icon for a glamorous Hollywood era—a day gone by. And she, like other American icons who died before the world was finished with them, remains a fascination or a mystery of what could have been.

I also told her that Marilyn Monroe inspired me to become a writer. Yes, it’s true.

Marilyn Monroe
It happened when I was in third grade. It was a night not unlike the one Willow and I had last night, when my mother invited me to watch the Marilyn Monroe classic, Some Like it Hot.  It was 1968, some six years after her death. Young as I was, I knew Marilyn was a huge star, but her ‘American idol’ status was in its earliest phase. Anyway, I so loved the movie (and the very fact that my mother allowed me to stay up and watch it with her) that it prompted me to write a ten-page synopsis of the story. I have no idea how many words that was—as evidenced by the five-year diary I began shortly thereafter and recently dug out of my archives—my handwriting was quite fat at the time. And I can’t imagine the spelling and grammar were all that great. How I wish I’d saved that little piece of my writing history.

Willow Cozzens
My mother was impressed by the content and storytelling, however, and suggested I give it to my teacher. Her name was Mrs. Meyers and she was the first lay teacher (non-nun) I’d had at my Catholic elementary school. Apparently Mrs. Meyers was impressed too. She asked me to read the paper in front of the classroom. I did. And when I finished reading, my classmates burst into applause.

I knew from that point forward what I was going to be when I grew up. No, not an actress like Marilyn Monroe.  But, of course, I was going to be a writer.

Willow liked that story. And she liked the movie, My Week With Marilyn. I recall that a line uttered by Michelle Williams/Marilyn in one scene when she was looking at a family of dolls in an exquisite dollhouse in Windsor Castle particularly struck my daughter.

“All little girls should be told how pretty they are,” says Marilyn. “They should grow up knowing how much their mother loves them.”

“Awwwww,” she cooed. And then Willow reached over and touched my arm, and kept it there for the remainder of the film.

What a nice way to end the week.

Friday, March 16, 2012

I'm Just Mad About Saffron

Ever since I tore ligaments in my left ankle I have been in a prison of inactivity. Even though I try to act normal (and yesterday I went for an extended hike with my husband and my Cinco), I’m not. Daily, the pain reminds me that I need to get off my foot/feet.

So how have I filled the time normally dedicated to working out? By cooking.

Of course, when one combines inactivity with cooking, it’s a recipe for weight gain. So that, in a word, sucks. But I think the potato salad I made yesterday was worth it. It’s because I discovered a secret ingredient and used it for the first time.

What was it?

Wow. Who knew?

I knew saffron was a spice and had seen it used on cooking shows, but I never actually considered it. Growing up, I thought it was girl’s name and Donovan (or a guy named MELLOW YELLOW) was mad about a girl with this name. But yesterday in the spice aisle at Safeway, I learned that saffron is the most uniquely packaged, and most expensive spice available. A .06 oz jar cost me $19.49.

Saffron is a “carefully selected portion of the flower of crocus sativus. It is a pleasantly bitter spice used as much for its golden yellow color as for its subtle flavor.”

Call it Mellow Yellow.

In its raw form the fibrous strings may be bright cerise; however, once I used it in a white wine reduction, my potion became bright yellow. And when I mixed it with light mayo for the potato salad, magic happened. 

I couldn’t stop dipping my finger into the mixture and “testing” it for flavor. Alas! Look what it did to my nails!

Trust me, once I added the saffron mayo mixture to boiled new potatoes, along with fresh cilantro, mint, red onion and grape tomatoes, what I served my family for dinner last night was far more attractive than the hands that served them.

21 oz. red or new potatoes, peeled and diced to 1 inch. (I also used baby Dutch yellow potatoes).
1/2 tsp. toasted cumin seeds
Approx. 18-24 grape tomatoes (cut in half)
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
3-5 TBLS coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1-2 TBLS chopped fresh mint
7 oz. LITE mayonnaise

Saffron Reduction:
1 tsp. saffron in 1.8 oz white wine, reduced down until all the color has come of the threads and only 1 TBLS is left
Sea salt and pepper to taste
2 TBLS lemon juice

Place the potatoes in a large sauce pan and cover them with cold water. Bring the potatoes to a boil, then reduce heat and let them simmer for 8 to 10 minutes or until they are tender yet firm. While boiling the potatoes, place the mayo in a bowl and slowly add the saffron reduction and lemon juice. Mix well and season.

Drain the potatoes in a colander and place them in a large bowl. Lightly toast the cumin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat for 3 minutes or until lightly browned and fragrant. Stir into saffron mayo and add to potatoes. Let the mixture cool.

Shortly before serving mix in the tomato, onion, salt, pepper, cilantro and mint.

Serves six

* variation on recipe offered on Today Show website

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

It’s Not Getting Easier

Twenty Years. The traditional symbols for 20-year wedding anniversaries are china and platinum. The gemstone is emerald, the flower is day lily.

We, however, are not celebrating 20 years of marriage. We passed that marker in 2009. We are celebrating 20 years of owning/ operating our business, Sandy Point Resort and Disc Golf Ranch. So, using the traditional symbols, perhaps it might be appropriate to take a china plate and throw it like a Frisbee toward a disc golf basket made of platinum. We could do it in the midst of a full-growth, emerald green summer shortly after the day lilies all around the property are in full bloom.

In spite of our 20 years at Sandy Point, we’ve only been going back-and-forth between the Northwoods and the desert for 15 years. We started this yo-yo lifestyle when expecting our youngest daughter, Camille, who will celebrate her 15th birthday this summer. When she and her sister, Willow, were babies we definitely had an ideal plan for the ideal lifestyle. Yes, we moved twice per year; however, we had a solid six months in each location.

That was a time when people said we had “the best of both worlds,” and we nodded our heads in agreement. Now we nod our heads and grimace. How naïve were we to believe going back-and-forth would get easier instead of more difficult?

Let me illustrate just two items putting a damper on our best-of-both worlds scenario these days:

#1. Airlines are a business suffering in this economy like any other. We currently cannot find flights from Tucson to Rhinelander (45 minutes from our resort). The closest we could get at Christmas was Minneapolis/St. Paul (four hours from our resort). This May we can get to the Central Wisconsin Airport, which is an hour-and-a-half drive. We used to get flights for $300-something. Now they’re more like $700-something. Multiply that times three, and then figure the astronomical cost of gas for Mike to drive back three weeks ahead of us. Ouch.

#2. The Tucson Unified School District recently informed the community that the 2012-13 school year would begin on AUGUST 2. Smack dab in the middle of a Sonoran summer, our kids will be plucked from their Wisconsin lake-home paradise and dropped into the scorching desert to cut short their much-needed (and well-deserved) summer vacation. And we will lose 50% of our cleaning staff while facing an entire month of a full house at the resort. Mom and Pop can’t leave the mom-and-pop operation, so, I’m currently wondering, who is going to take care of our kids in Tucson while we’re trying to keep the business going?

Yes, indeed, it’s the best of both worlds. What an AWESOME plan we had 15 years ago. Even then, I don’t think anyone told us it would be easy. But I honestly didn’t believe it would get this hard.