Historic Scout Troop shall not go gentle into that good night.

The City of Everett (Washington State) is making a choice; it’s choosing dollar signs over history, environment and children.  The city has entered in to “quiet talks” instigated by a developer who purchased undeveloped property in a ravine that backs to the building known as the “Scout Shack”.  The building is owned by the Everett Elks Lodge and occupied by Boy Scouts of America Troop 1. Troop 1 of Everett is not just the longest continually running Boy Scout Troop in Western Washington but also the oldest known Boy Scout Troop still running west of the Mississippi.  The troop celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2014.  In February of this year, with the help of an article in the Everett Herald, Troop 1 began fundraising to renovate the Scout Shack to improve its appearance and function in order to continue its legacy serving Snohomish County youth well into the future.  Troop 1 is rare in current Boy Scout Culture in that it is one of the few area troops that is unaffiliated with a specific school or church.  Members include not just boys from Everett but from other areas of the county as well.

The history of the building has been difficult to verify due to inconsistent record keeping by both the City of Everett and Snohomish County.  City of Everett permit search dates the building to 1940. Some reports indicate that the building was an old Army barracks. Others have more recently and adamantly declared it as the original building occupied by the Everett Herald News Paper.  Whatever its origins, the building was moved to its current location in what parcel maps indicate is an unplatted green space owned by the City.

Neighbors have long believed the ravine to be an NGPA dedicated lot surrounding the Scout Shack.  Troop 1 has occupied this building and actively maintained the surrounding property and have been good stewards of the land since the building was moved to its current location in or around 1958.  The details of how the building came to be in its present location scarce.  The building rests on a permanent foundation on the City of Everett property and there is a parcel number associated with the building itself (APN00437578600001) which would indicate some agreement had been made between the City and the Elks Lodge (sponsor of Troop 1 and owner of the building) to have it legally placed there.  Electricity and water/sewer are also established and maintained at the building. No land lease or other deed has surfaced through our initial research.  Anyone with documents or knowledge of the history, terms of the attachment of the building to its permanent foundation at this site or other information that could help are asked to contact Scout Master Ben at benjaminrhayes86@gmail.com.

The neighbor owning the adjacent parcel to the south of the Scout Shack was surprised recently when a representative from the City of Everett approached him offering him first right to purchase the land on which the Scout Shack sits. According to this neighbor, the City representative informed him that the City is required to offer first rights to purchase to established neighboring properties before it can offer it for sale to the developer. While, as a former real estate appraiser who spent a decade appraising properties and vacant land throughout Snohomish County, I can appreciate that vacant land within the city limits is rare, I have to pose the questions: Why THIS land and Why Now?  The answer is simple: A Developer with deep pockets has given our city leaders visions of dollar signs now dancing in their heads.   The proposed sale of the land from under the historic building not only jeopardizes the future of Troop 1 but also displays a total disregard for the neighborhood, its tax payers and the environment including the soil stability and natural rain garden that the vegetation in the ravine provides to the surrounding parcels.  When considering the highest and best use of the land, I ask our governing body to look at the land, not at the bank account.  Your decision to sell or not to sell impacts much more than this 103 year old Boy Scout Troop and a piece of Everett History.

Update as of 1:30 this afternoon:

Quick shout-out to the Mayor’s office for getting back to us so quickly! A representative sat down with Scout Master Ben today and got lots of information we hadn’t had yet. Turns out, it’s really up to the ELKS LODGE whether or not they accept the sale and demolition of this historic building and ultimate demise of the Oldest Boy Scout Troop west of the Mississippi. It seems that, after paying for their fancy new building, they are broke and are willing to sell off the Scout Shack for a few thousand $$$.CALL THE ELKS LODGE and tell them they’re making the wrong choice for EVERETT! Lodge #479 Home

Everett Elks Lodge #479 2802 Hoyt Ave #100 Everett, WA 98201 Phone: 425-252-4179

Lodge Office Hours: Monday: 10am – 3pm and Friday: 10am – 5pm

Lodge is held on the first and third Thursday nights of each month at 7 p.m.

Please take a moment to let Everett leaders know how you feel about their plan to literally sell the land out from under Troop 1.  If the land goes, the Scout Shack will go too.  This is not an entitled group of hooligans. It’s a group of young men who take pride in the community they serve and regularly give back or volunteer throughout Snohomish County.  If you believe as I do that Everett could use more youth like these boys in Troop 1 and less urban sprawl, then please do one or all of the following:

 

City Council Chambers
3002 Wetmore Avenue
Everett, WA 98201

Call or e-mail David Stalheim, Long Range Planning Manager
dstalheim@everettwa.gov

Phone: 425-257-8731

Attend: The SHARE WITH YOUR MAYOR event THIS WEDNESDAY

March 22, 2017

6:30 PM - 7:30 PM

Everett Main Library

2702 Hoyt Avenue
Everett, WA 98201

425-257-8000

Contact the Mayor

Ray Stephanson, Mayor
https://www.everettwa.gov/FormCenter/Mayors-Office-4/Contact-the-Mayor-94

Phone: 425-257-7115

Media inquiries for City of Everett:
Meghan Pembroke, communications director
425-257-8687

Contact the Everett Historical Commission

https://everettwa.gov/572/Historical-Commission

Paul Popelka

ppopelka@everettwa.gov
Phone: 425-257-7155

Regular Meetings

6:30 p.m.

The 4th Tuesday of every month

Van Valey House
2130 Colby Avenue
Everett, WA 98201
Email
Port Gardner Neighborhood Association

Chair: Sean Edwards
Email: seanedwards@verizon.net

Advertisements

When fleeting thoughts get too much attention (or, why I deactivated my personal Facebook account)

 

My Facebook experience started off as such an interesting novelty.  After being harassed by my sister for months, I acquiesced and started a Facebook account.  This was still back in the earlish days of Facebook (2006 or 2007 perhaps), when virtually trout-slapping or virtually throwing sheep at friends was still how the bulk of one’s time was spent on ‘social media’.  I’m not sure the term ‘social media‘ was even a thing yet, as the only real other similar platforms were Myspace or AOL. Facebook was clean, simple, and mostly politics-free.  Joining groups such as ‘I Turn My Pillow Over to Sleep on The Cold Side’ or ‘I Was a Foreign Exchange Student in High School’ were as divisive as it got.   Mostly, it was fun to virtually run in to so many people I’d lost track of over the years.  There were certainly a few surprises as some long-lost-friends resurfaced.  There were lots of “hey-don’t-I-know-you”-‘s and even a few “I-had-the-biggest-crush”-‘s, but few true surprises in the long-lost-souls’ department.

In those early days, it was easy to log on occasionally, Trout-Slap or Super-Poke someone and then log off and get on with my day.  My favorite thing about Facebook was the ease of letting someone know you were thinking of them. It was organic.  A childhood memory would come to mind and voila!  I logged on, popped over to their page and either poked them or jotted them a quick note telling them about the memory.  It was an opportunity that had felt much more laborious before Facebook as a new mom of twins who has a legitimate phone phobia. It was like the isolation I’d been feeling was being lifted. While my lifelong friends were no longer just down the street, with Facebook, they were as close as my computer.

As Facebook looked for more ways to get us to spend more time on the platform, they introduced games that linked to your ‘friends’’ profiles so that you could play against one another.  Oregon Trail, Words with Friends, Bejeweled Blitz and way too many casino games were everywhere on Facebook and linking to your profiles asking permission to raid your friends list.  It quickly became a reason to unfriend people (seriously? You’re spamming me with game requests and you call yourself my “Friend”?). I would log on after the babes were finally asleep and my work was mostly done and settle into this world that was both imaginary and at the same time, very real.  In it, I not only had plenty of friends who ‘liked’ me and my posts, but I also had a virtual apartment in YoVille with a virtual pet and even a virtual job.  I’d log on and hang out with real friends. My apartment was always neat and tidy.  I got to decorate it exactly how I wanted it without having to consider the tastes or safety of any of my real-world housemates.  I could throw parties in it and not worry about anyone waking the twins.  It made for a great escape and cemented my need for this outlet.

Over the years, as Facebook applied complex algorithms (and advertising) to try to make our experience using the platform more enjoyable [read: more profitable for those paying for all that advertising], news outlets started cropping up in the ‘news feed’.  As the option became available, I unsubscribed from ALL of them. It’s not that I’m not interested in current events; it’s simply that that’s not why I logged on to Facebook.  As the evolution continued, unsubscribing from news sources stopped mattering because no matter how many times I’d hit ‘unsubscribe’ or ‘see less’ or ‘unfollow’, any time a friend shared yet another news story, there it was…back in my face on my newsfeed.  Through previous political seasons, I had seen the fervor building among friends on each side of the major political divide.  This last political season aided by the prevalence of social media hit an all-time low with parties from both sides latching on to out-0f-context sound bites which turned to viral memes, ugly commentary and an utter lack of character displayed on both sides of the aisle.  As the election came and went, the shouting got more one-sided but the ugliness from both sides didn’t quiet down.  I got disheartened by how quickly I found myself questioning life-long friendships based on so many ugly comments, memes, outright attacks and baseless statements that were flooding my ‘newsfeed’.  In all of the posts, I never saw any one from any of my “friends” that indicated even one of them had volunteered any non-Facebook time working for their candidate of choice.  Did any of them actually volunteer to help their candidate get into office or are they all still blindly sharing and spewing hate (and seldom fact-checking before resharing) against anyone who doesn’t 100% feel as despondent as they do?

If these words, images and photos so many were sharing are really who they are at heart, then I’d rather not know them. If you’d put your passion towards volunteering at your local political campaign office, I’d be willing to listen to your informed position and have a conversation with you about it, but if not, I would appreciate it if you’d quit ruining what started as a great and light-hearted escape from actual life problems with your venom and hate-mongering.  Be an activist. Inspire others to be activists too, but don’t pretend your Facebook poll, petition, Someecard or rant is inspiring anyone to activate in the real world.

I take that last part back.  You inspired me to deactivate my account.  In the past month of not being on my personal Facebook page, I have been accepted as a ‘handmade’ vendor on Amazon.  I have re-photographed about half of my available artworks for the Amazon listings.  I have gone hiking, bowling, swimming and exploring with my family.  I have gotten several photos published (not just via Instagram).  I have resumed writing the follow-up to my children’s book.  I have resumed blogging (something that has been on pause for far too long).  I have gotten my emotional balance back and I sleep well at night. I guess I should thank you.

I’m not saying that I won’t ever re-activate my personal Facebook account.  There is much I like about being able to share personal photos with family and friends. It’s great to be able to check in on someone when I’ve been thinking of them without really interrupting either of our lives.  It’s a too-easy way to acknowledge birthdays.  There are certainly benefits.  If the overly-political climate changes, I’ll likely reactivate it, but I don’t expect to spend nearly so much time or energy there ever again.  If you need me, I’d love for you join me in the real world.

PS: Oregon Trail was a favorite game of my brothers’. You could choose your team from among your friends.  They didn’t even have to agree to play with you, but they were along for the ride nonetheless.  If one was stricken with disease and died on the trail, there was a virtual graveyard where you could leave a rose and a note for the dearly departed.  I received a note from my brother one day along with a virtual rose.

The note read: You died.  Turns out that we ate you.  So sad.

After my brother died in real life, I looked for the game wanting to visit that virtual graveyard and re-read his note, but it had been discontinued from the platform.  Around that time, Facebook started sending notifications randomly selecting names from your friends list and declaring “Your Friend Matt hasn’t heard from you in quite a while. Why not send him a message and see what he’s been up to?”  Considering my “Friend” Matt (my brother) had died a few weeks earlier, the notification was pretty upsetting.  I contacted Facebook to see how to get those notifications to stop.  They asked for proof of death (link to obituary) and proof of relationship (again, link to obituary and citing that we had acknowledged that we were siblings on our Facebook profiles did the trick) and then offered to MEMORIALIZE his profile.  This stopped his profile from sending out any new notifications. It also stopped it from processing any other friend requests. The main advantage of the MEMORIALIZE option is that it preserved his profile, photos and all. It is still nice, over 8 years later, to be able to visit his page, look at pictures and post notes once in a while.

Home Alone

I know…it sounds like such a normal thing.  For most people in our circle, it is.  For the first time in over 12 years since our twins were born, I find my self home alone.  Yes, I have been home for a few hours here and a few there, but this is my first overnight since we got pregnant in 2003 and I find myself surprised that it feels like a momentous occasion.  Don’t worry…you won’t find Macaulay Culkin here (beyond this mention, obviously). I was raised in a family that took extended family seriously.  For most rites of passage, my folks would pile us into the suburban or van and drive us the 4+ hours to the greater Los Angeles Area to be present for whatever occasion it seemed appropriate for us to be present.  I know for sure that I’ve let some branch of the family tree down, but since I moved two states north before sewing my seeds, we have felt much like an island.  I hear tales of extended family that steps in to ensure the parents date/connect/have the option of not being in charge 24/7.  We don’t pretend that anyone but the two of us ever suggested we have kids (well, if we don’t count the father in law approaching me as I signed our marriage license asking when he could expect his first grandchild…-WISH I were kidding… )

My mother in law whom I love dearly moved a good 3+ hours away when the kids were maybe six years old.  My folks live two states south.  My only sister has lived in the southernmost tip of our state for about 5 years at 3+ hours away by car.  Otherwise, we’ve been lucky to have had some good friends that we could count on a few times a year to watch the kids for a few hours while my hubby and I run out for a quick dinner, but an overnight?  No. With a kid with food allergies, it’s too hard on EVERYONE to turn over the reigns.

My husband and I DID have one overnight once.  In 2007, when our twins were three, my parents, grandmother and brother flew up for a week during the summer.  My brother and mother offered to surprise my husband and me for our anniversary by staying with our twins for the night while my grandmother and father stayed in the hotel.  It’s the only night my husband and I have had off entirely since 2004.  We haven’t had one since.  I’ve taken the kids on a few trips since while my husband stayed home to work, so he’s experienced the home-alone-effect. For me though?  Tonight is my first.

We’ve known for weeks that our son had a Boy Scout camp out/gold panning event this weekend.  We’ve also known for almost a year that his twin sister and the older sister of one of his fellow Boy Scouts were friends.  What culminated in this first-in-twelve-years event had everything to do with the girls wanting to spend some time together and their mom (who happens to be one of my favorite people) suggesting that we coordinate the boys being gone with the girls having a sleep-over at not-my-house for the first time ever.  EVER.  Did I mention…EVER?

What shall I do?

Obviously, there will be wine.  Without question, there will be some sort of snooty artisan bread with herbs and maybe stinky cheese.  Then what will happen?

Awe, crap! I cleaned the freezer!

Extremely disappointing with myself, I opted for something stronger than wine and moved on to Netflix and Amazon Prime.  A quick chick flick and then onto the first in a sting of ballet dance movies… good to know even after all of these years that I am still a dancer at heart.

I know that tomorrow I have a whole day (o.k., until about 4 in the afternoon) to myself for the first time in forever.  I hope there will be art.  I suspect there may be purging in the garage and possibly some gardening.  I wish upon wish that I’ll be brave enough to leave my nest and go explore the woods on my own for a hike.  More than anything, I am aware that these nights, while momentous right now, will feel all too common and easy-t0-come-by in just a few short years. I hope I never forget to be grateful for those that offered to give my husband and me a ‘break’ from responsibility for a night here and there.  I feel like I’ve lost 800 lbs for a night knowing that our son and his life threatening allergies are in the capable hands of my husband; our daughter is in the capable hands of our friend.  For now, I have the first night off from responsibility since the night I signed on to become a parent and for that, I am so appreciative of this respite (while looking forward to resuming my responsibilities tomorrow night)!  Now back to my cheesy ballet movies.

 

Death and Homework

I have a new (or renewed) pet peeve.  I know…I hear all of you sighing a collective sigh of relief that I have something new to rant about. You’re welcome!

How many of you have day-jobs? By that I mean how many of you are not self employed, students or stay-at-home parents but instead have a place of business you are expected to be every day at fairly specific times?  Now, stay with me here…

How many of you who fit the above description of having a day job AND are NOT in management have homework expected to be completed every night?  I’m not excluding management to be bratty. Having been in management and also self employed, the nature of your job description automatically means you DO have homework.  You signed up for it when you chose your job/career and you (hopefully) are compensated for the huge interruption in your and your family’s life.  Are you following?

Here’s my issue in a nut-shell:

At 6:55 a.m., a big yellow school bus takes my sixth-grader children away. At approximately 7:30, the school day begins.  They don’t get 10 or 15 minute breaks ala retail or office jobs. L&I and OSHA stipulate that you with the day job does. Hey, if you choose not to take your breaks OR you choose to work for a company that encourages you to skip them, that’s on you.  They do have four minutes to get from one class to another and try to use the bathroom then.  The school gym is on the other side of the school from all of the sixth grader classes. If, after changing out of your gym clothes and gathering your books at your main locker you find yourself late for class, you are given MANDATORY lunch-time detention (working lunch?) on the stage in the cafeteria where all the other students who weren’t late for classes or are lucky enough to have gym after lunch get to watch you not get to go out to recess or eat with your friends.  Really, those on lunch-time detention get to provide the rest of the timely kids with something to watch while they eat with their friends.  During lunch-time detention, you are not allowed to do homework. You are allowed to eat and read while others stare at and tease you.

At 2:05, the kids are released on their own recognizance to get back on the big yellow bus (or have parents pick them up) and head off towards home to start their (on average) two hours of homework.  Don’t even try and throw in after-school activities.  The only way to manage those is with lots of tears, late-night homework fests and/or lower grade expectations.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have AMAZING summers with longer than you’d expect periods of daylight.  It’s really one of the ten best things about living here.  On the converse, we have very short periods of daylight in the winter and much of those periods are filled with rain, fog or general gloom.  Going outside when there is sunlight is not just a luxury; it’s an absolute necessity to keep Seasonal Affective Disorder and possibly scurvy or other Vitamin D deficiency issues at bay.  Winter Solstice on December 21st will gift us with a sunrise at 7:56 a.m. (yes, over an hour after the bus takes our kids away) and sunset at 4:18 p.m. When the bus doesn’t get them home until around 2:40, tack on the two hours of homework and it’s been long dark before they have a chance to go out and play.  If they were unlucky enough to have to wait for access to their gym locker making them late for the following class, then their punishment is being give ZERO access to the outdoors while the sun is up.

Is it just me or does that sound like cruel and unusual punishment?

Why is the two hours of homework necessary on top of the seven plus hour school day?  An hour? I could possibly let that slide and still consider it a reasonable accommodation of their ‘job’ as students, but two (some days more)?  I don’t consider that reasonable.  We are so busy teaching ‘to the test’, having assemblies about fundraisers or national fitness programs and other distractions from learning that we don’t have time to teach our kids.  Sending them home with two hours of homework and a suggestion of websites they can visit to explain the complex math that there was no time to be taught in class is unacceptable.  We are letting our kids down and teaching them nothing of ‘real life’ or time management.  I consider it gross negligence that we can’t make time during daylight hours to play.  We aren’t teaching work/life balance and without that, how do we expect our kids to maintain hope as they grow older that life is worth living?  If one only lives to work, it’s very easy to understand how so many grown-ups see life as bleak, dismal or hopeless.  It was the main topic of conversation  my brother and I had in the year before he killed himself.  No. I’m not being overly dramatic.  We are setting our kids up to fail under the current state and federal teaching and testing requirements, and I am going to start rebelling.  Our kids deserve better. They deserve outside interests and friends. They deserve a life that they WANT to live, not one they feel conditioned to accept.  Don’t you?

You say “Plastic” like it’s a bad thing

Once upon a time, I spent a lot of time staying home watching TV, drinking too much and cursing like a truck driver.  I was masterful at using not just F-bombs, but mass quantities of other colorful colloquialisms throughout my everyday speaking. Becoming a parent changed those things about me.  Seeing how much little eyes and ears pick up on and how quickly has made me mindful of my words and actions, especially around the kids. Sometimes I slip, but I try really hard to say what I mean these days using MY words rather than the colorful stand-ins that don’t quite say what I want them to anyway. I’ve been called “Vanilla”. I’ve been told I’ve become “Plastic”.  I’ve been name-called for being too “good”?  Language aside, while I have never been a nominee for sainthood, I don’t qualify as a bully or jerk either.  Although not everyone would agree with that statement, I know me better than anyone else and can honestly say that if you are one who disagrees, you should probably take a long hard look in a mirror and see what it is about me that bothers you so.

Social media has heralded in a new age of public shaming.  There are lots of behaviors that deserve to be called out as negative, but why is living a relatively clean life and embracing the low-tech considered fair game?  #liveauthentic has become a target spearheaded by a young woman who still has a good ten or more years ahead of her before she gains a clue as to what ‘authentic’ even is, let alone how to live that way.

Socality Barbie has taken Instagram by storm.  I smiled when I first saw the images. I thought the photos were creative, funny and interesting.  As someone who spends a lot of time hiking and exploring around the PacNW, I loved the idea of using such an iconic prop…much along the lines of parents who take pictures every year of their kiddlet with the same stuffed animal or dad’s dress shirt from newborn-college graduate.  I interpreted the use of the icon as ‘if she can do it, so can you’ and smiled that the idea aligned with my own philosophy on hiking and sharing photos via Instagram.  It wasn’t until the photographer spoke (via interview and in an article) that the images were ruined for me.  You see, the images were interesting enough from an art standpoint that, like good art, many people could interpret them in many different ways.  Unfortunately, the photographer explained her idea behind the images and gave it her own words criticizing and mocking those who get off their asses, turn off the TV and actually go outside rather than just watching the world go by on the internet or television.  Do I sound a little miffed?  It’s not because I took Socality Barbie seriously or personally on its own. It is that a few people who presume to know me sent me the article with no qualification or follow up as an apparent comment on my own Instagram posts.

In a nut-shell:  I live my life in spite of all the crap people have said about or to me and I make no apologies for it.  No one person on this planet knows all of what I’ve weathered or survived in my lifetime and I do not presume to know your details either.  I DO know that the places my feet take me inspire me. They impact my artwork. They charge me emotionally and bring me such peace where I used to harbor anxiety and fear.  If the few photos I post from my excursions inspire even one person to go outside and find places that they too can connect with, then I am satisfied that I was right to share.  They aren’t about YOU. They are about me and my hope for others who may need hope.  When dealing with others, be kind.  Remember, if you can’t say anything nice…don’t share it with me.

PS-My self-worth isn’t measured in ‘like’s or ‘followers’ and I’ll continue to live my life as I see fit (don’t get me wrong…it’s good to be ‘like’d but I’ll still be pretty content with my life even if this blog garners no ‘like’s).  If you choose to add to the conversation in a non-constructive or negative way, please don’t ‘follow’ me and feel free to unfriend me.

20150804_200452 20150806_092733 20150806_134522 20150806_135849 20150807_125644 20150807_130324 20150807_162412 20150807_165110

What’s Not To Get?

Today, with the help of my brain and probably contributed to by my previously diagnosed PTSD, I was reduced to a sobbing mess in front of a school bus full of kids and my own children.  I could hear some quiet voice in the back of my head yelling at me to snap out of it, but it seemed to be on the other side of the canyon that was quickly filling with my tears.  Frankly, looking back on the events of the morning, I kind of want to kick my own ass, but that is both challenging to accomplish physically AND it wouldn’t solve anything.

Yesterday afternoon I received a phone call from our daughter asking me to please pick her and her brother up from school.  As they were boarding the school bus at the end of the day, they saw a student on the bus eating Reese’s Pieces. Knowing that our son’s peanut allergy is off the charts severe, our daughter told the bus driver that they couldn’t ride the bus while someone is eating peanut-products as it wouldn’t be safe for her brother.  The driver raised his voice to her and informed her that it is up to each individual bus driver whether to allow eating on the bus or not and told her to take her seat. She said “NO!” and she and her brother got off the bus and walked to the office to call me.  My husband wisely chose to pick them up wanting to spare the school from having to deal with me when I was so riled up.  We’ve done this dance every year since Kindergarten.  Here we are, still in the same school district, but now in our third school still having to fight for the basic safety of our kid.  My husband went in to the office and spoke with the secretary who told him no administrator was around but she’d pass along the message.  The vice principal called him back shortly thereafter and again later last evening after she spoke with the transportation department.  It was better that he handled that. Really. For all of us.

I  am somewhat of a bad-ass when it comes to sticking up for the ‘little guy’ who hasn’t yet found his voice. That’s why I was so irritated with myself this morning when I went to stand up for my own son. I told my husband that I would take the kids to school in the morning rather than have them ride the school bus while this food on the bus mess gets sorted out.  I also fully intended to wait for the bus to have a conversation with the driver.  I had practiced what I was going to say. I had rehearsed various scenarios and dialogues and, in my head, I had made my argument compelling and irrefutable.  Instead, as I addressed the bus driver and explained why I wasn’t allowing my children to get on the bus this morning, I found myself sobbing and barely coherent. I tried for the um-teenth time to explain why the bus driver needs to enforce the no-eating-on-the-school-bus policy, but all I could get out was “Do you not get that he could DIE?!?”

We are not new to this affliction, nor to this school district.  Our son was diagnosed at the age of two with the blood test.  He had his first severe reaction the day after the blood draw and just days before the diagnosis officially came back.  He is re-tested every two years now, and each time, his reactions and ‘numbers’ get worse.  The allergist has diluted the serum used for scratch testing down to 1/200th of the usual potency and he still ends up with fist-sized welts at the test site.  He is not air-borne reactive (knocking on wood and knowing that that could change), but peanut residue on a bus seat would send him in to anaphylactic shock if he were to unknowingly touch it to a cut on his hand or touch it to his face.

I have never been a torches and pitchforks down-with-peanut butter in schools sort of allergy mom.  We’ve made our son very aware that he lives in a world where his food allergy is HIS to manage and other people aren’t likely to understand the severity unless they live with it too.  Now that he’s in middle school, he’s finally met another kid with severe food allergies.  Just this morning, he told me how lucky he feels that his is only to Peanut (o.k., so a few other legumes were added in this last round of testing, but I don’t need to add to his worry over white navy beans or lentils when he’d never volunteer to eat them anyway) since one of his new friends is allergic to all nuts.  He has a great attitude!

The problem really boils down to marketing.  Allergy medications have been so loudly marketed that when most people hear the term FOOD ALLERGY, they imagine someone coughing or sneezing as they take a bite of the offending food.  I have for years referred to our son’s medical condition as Food Anaphylaxis in the hopes that the less educated/understanding general public would ‘get’ the distinction.  While I can appreciate the desire to snack on the 10-30 minute bus ride to and from school, I feel like the need to protect your kids from watching mine die in front of them and the need to not let my kid die should be inspiration enough to enforce the no-eating-on-the-bus policy.  I’m not being overly dramatic. That really IS what it boils down to.  If hundreds of people on an air plane can endure the several hours on international flights forgoing peanuts and peanut products, I’m quite certain these kids can last the short bus ride without them as well.

I already knew I was broken.  I seldom see the triggers coming, but when they do, I make a mental note and try to create a strategy for managing better next time.  Now pardon me as I mop myself up.

Not all laundry is dirty

Earlier this year, my husband and I sought marriage counseling.  We had no question that we loved each other and neither of us had a ‘grass-is-greener’ complex to worry about. We simply had stopped communicating well and struggled with the most basic attempts.  “How was your day?” turned into a competition for who navigated through the most drama.  “Did you get a chance to change over the laundry?” became a personal attack.  “What’s for dinner?” became a judgement.  I cried. A lot.

It wasn’t that either of us was in attack mode. We were both so tired, so beaten down by several years of major life-in-your-face monuments that we’d stopped turning to each other for solace and instead retreated to our own corners like wounded animals.  The problem was that we’d STOPPED talking to each other in trade for talking AT one another.  The fact that we were back to opposite sleep schedules similar to when we were first living together back in 1996 didn’t help. Neither of us were well rested since, aside from a minor-ish sleep apnea development, he would wake up briefly when I finally came to bed and I’d awaken when he got up to go to work in the middle of the night.  He was feeling like a slave for our family and I felt like a slave to it.  That’s no way to live, and no way to keep a marriage healthy.

My husband works for a major area employer.  By most accounts, depending of course on whom you ask, the employees of this employer have a considerably higher than the national average divorce rate.  The work is physically demanding. In the summers, employees are mandated to work three weeks/seven days per week shifts before they can have a weekend off.  Having been an employer, I’m not sure how they skirt the labor laws on that, especially with such a huge Union presence keeping an eye on the goings-on, but aside from nice paychecks, the time demands on its employees are both physically hard on the workers and emotionally exhausting on their families.  We joke about being widows of this employer, but it’s not really funny when you’re in the middle of it.  It shouldn’t have been a surprise to learn that the company keeps counselors (stress management, grief and marriage) on staff and allow for x-number of visits per year as an employee benefit.

My husband and I don’t come from families who talk it out.  His folks divorced long ago, and mine split when I was a senior in college only to spend several years trying to keep it together and to learn how to be nice to each other again. They celebrated their 51st anniversary in August which is a testament to their stubborn natures and unwavering commitment to not getting divorced. They like each other again, but it took years of sticking together to get there.

Growing up, physical therapy was the only reasonable type to undergo and if one had emotional issues, they were best shoved down and set aside to be addressed at a later time that never came.  My husband and I wanted better for ourselves, and ultimately agreed to start counseling in search of a bigger tool box.  Our counselor made it clear that she was on our team. She reminded us that it’s o.k. to take some time to process ideas and to retreat to our corners to do so so long as we return to the conversation before bedtime.  We were reminded that dating each other only once a year on our anniversary isn’t really conducive to maintaining intimacy nor clear communication.  That’s really what it boiled down to.  We’d forgotten to prioritize each other.  Even with our ridiculous schedules parenting twins and balancing day jobs with family and other obligations, there was time if we only chose to make it.

We started off small with short walks around our neighborhood while the kids (now age eleven) stayed home.  We expanded on that by running errands together.   We slowly but steadily rebuilt our team.  By summer’s end, we’d regularly walk, hike, nap or even cook together and were holding hands often.  It didn’t happen over night, but the little moments we set aside with each other each day amounted to a huge improvement in communication and overall in our happiness.  In February, we will celebrate 20 years of coupledom…not that anyone’s counting.  This wasn’t our first rough patch and it certainly won’t be our last. At least we know we have resources to turn to when we need a bigger toolbox.