When the Homeowner’s Association Goes Too Far

October 9, 2013 by  
Filed under Carol Rood, Same Sex Parent

By Carol Rood

I live in Southeast Virginia.  I have been here since 2002 when the Navy chose to station me here at a local helicopter squadron.  When I retired from the Navy in 2004 after 20 years of service I decided that I didn’t want to move and uproot my kids again, so I decided to stay here in Southeast Virginia.  In July of 2006 we bought and moved into a house in a very nice subdivision in Suffolk.  When we moved in I promised my two boys that we wouldn’t have to move again and that we would stay here until they graduated from high school.  That was very important to me, and so we were thrilled when we found a house we loved in a very nice subdivision.  I was a little leery about living in a neighborhood with a Homeowner’s Association, but we had a good feeling about the neighborhood.

Soon after moving in, my kids started school at the elementary school located within a quarter mile from our house, and I was even more excited about the neighborhood!  The teachers were amazing, the school was within walking distance, and the after-school care was affordable.  The kids quickly made friends, and I started to make friends as well.

I think one of the things I loved most about BG (our neighborhood) was the fact that so many people knew each other and everyone seemed so nice.  My oldest son started playing Little league and we met more people who lived in BG.  Then the boys transferred from our Chesapeake Boy Scout troop to a Suffolk Troop, and even more BG people entered our lives!  Living in a community that felt so tight knit was awesome!!

The summer of 2007 we found out that BG had a neighborhood summer swim team, and I signed the boys up immediately.  It was not free, we had to pay a registration fee, and buy swim suits, but to have an activity for my boys to participate in that was in the neighborhood where we lived, and kept them busy was a godsend for this worried mother. That summer my boys got hooked and we have been participating in the Tsunami Swim Club for the past 6 years!

tsunami 2013

The swim club has a short season, only 6 weeks, and we practice in the neighborhood pool 4 nights each week from 6:45 until 8:45 (two one hour sessions divided by age group of the kids).  To be honest the first few weeks (from Memorial Day until at least June 20) the water is cold and the swimmers come out with blue lips at times.   To their credit parents have to tell them to get out and get warmed up because the kids love the team so much they want to just keep swimming.

In 2009, our Homeowners Association Board of Directors decided it was time to charge us “rent” for the use of the pool.  Keep in mind that the Tsunami Swim Club was formed in 1996 and had never been charged fees before this time.  We were charged $700.00 for our 6 weeks of practice (where we use only 3 lanes of a 6 lane pool) 4 nights per week, and $200.00 per meet (we usually have 4 home meets), for a total of $1500.00.  This is of course above and beyond our normal homeowners dues to use the pool. We said, “ok, that is fair”, and began paying 4 years ago.

3 years ago I became the Team Manager.  This is a loose term because the team is parent run, but someone has to organize things, and I became that person.  I had to attend the HOA Board meetings in March to “hammer” out the details of the swim club license agreement with them.  Every year that I went I heard from at least two board members about how “neighbors complained” about Tsunami “taking over” the pool, and one even said that Tsunami was “trouble” for them.  They reluctantly allowed us to continue swimming in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Each year as I entered the Board meeting in March I knew it was going to be a struggle and was going to have to hear all of the bad things about the team.  I always kept my cool and countered each allegation with facts and no innuendos.  This past year we were told that they felt “threatened” because our Treasurer sent an email asking for a refund for a night we could not practice.  A child has vomited in the pool, and the lifeguards did not have the proper chemicals to treat the pool.  If they had we would have been able to have at least one practice.  When we asked for a refund due to no proper chemicals being on hand apparently they felt “threatened”.  I am still confused about that to this day.

I did receive an email from the HOA President this past summer threatening to kick us out of the pool and “immediately cancel our license agreement”.  One of the lifeguards had complained about something one of the volunteer assistant coaches said and I was sent an email about a “substantiated” report of disrespect.  My response was that it was NOT substantiated because our side of the story had not been heard.  He conceded on that point, and we continued swimming our season.

Last month I received a letter signed by the HOA President telling me that we would not be allowed to swim during the 2014 Season. No reason given. No explanation.  Just “you will not be granted an agreement to use the pool.” I immediately shared this information with the swim team parents who were incredulous.  We had not been given any warning.  We had not been told of any problems.  Our fees were raised in 2013, and we paid them with no complaint.  I was shocked and couldn’t figure out why the HOA Board decided to vote this way.  According to the letter it was a “unanimous” vote.  A vote done without any conversation or meaningful dialogue.  A decision to ban a non profit community team without a discussion. A team comprised solely of swimmers who live in the neighborhood.

Of course I organized a meeting with the parents to try and find a way to approach the HOA Board  in a calm rational manner.  We had a very productive meeting and voted to attend the next HOA meeting to ask for a meaningful conversation to try to reverse their decision.  We knew we would probably have to make concessions, but were okay with that if it meant we could keep the team.

Then last night the President of the BOD sent out a letter to “all of BG”.  In the letter he stated that everyone should come out and state their opinions, and that the Swim Team needs to hear them because of our “perceived importance”.  Needless to say I was shocked.  I couldn’t believe he would send such an inflammatory and biased letter filled with misinformation to the entire neighborhood.  And he used the Neighborhood Watch email to send it. Definitely the wrong platform.

The Vision statement from our neighborhood website clearly states:

The mission of the Burbage Grant Owners Association is to develop and encourage new activities that promote community unity while maintaining the architectural integrity, maintenance, and value of our homes and community property through fiscal responsibility and upholding the highest ethical and moral standards.

It seems our HOA and BOD has forgotten the mission and has forgotten they are supposed to serve the entire community, not malign one piece of it.  A neighborhood swim team definitely promotes community unity.  We don’t have a “perceived” sense of importance.  We ARE important. I guarantee you this won’t be the last word on this issue.  We will be out at the Board meeting this week in force, and we will be a force to be reckoned with!

I think what floors me the most to paraphrase from one of our swim team parents is that their arguments are all one sided and without merit.  It is without recent quantitative statical analysis or official data-points with any sort of official polling of our homeowners.

Strap on your seat belts it will be a bumpy ride.

 

My son doing the back stroke at a meet.

My son doing the back stroke at a meet.

 

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Real Food: Homemade Blackberry Honey Jam. YUM!

September 5, 2013 by  
Filed under Carol Rood, Same Sex Parent

If you read this blog with any regularity you know about my struggle with my weight, and  how recently (the end of April) I started my family on a mission to change our eating habits from a regular diet to eating real, organic foods.

In August we made some really yummy strawberry honey jam.  A few days later we decided to be even more adventurous and made some Blackberry honey jam!  It is so good.  I did leave the seeds in the jam.  Some people like to remove the seeds, but I am okay with leaving them in.

Now in order to can, you will need certain tools. The “must have” tools are:

  • Jars (of course) – I prefer the jars without shoulders. I buy them at the local grocery store.  For jelly I use the small jelly jars, and for tomatoes I use pint sized jars, or wide mouth pint size jars.  canningjarsbox
  • Ball Utensil set.  This set has a funnel, jar lifter, lid lifter, and bubble remover tool. I don’t really use the bubble remover tool, but everything else is essential. This set can be easily purchased online for about $10.00, if you can’t find it locally.ballutensilset
  • A Large pot.  I actually purchased a canning pot online because was able to purchase the pot with a rack and all the above pictured tools for about $40.00.  I didn’t want to mess with a pressure canner, and this does the job quite well.
  • canner
  • A ladle or big spoon to spoon your ingredients into the jars.
  • An analog or digital scale.  Many ingredients need to be measured.  Mine is not an expensive one.  I bought it from my lovely Pampered Chef consultant for about $30.00
  • A potato masher.  You will want your fruits to be mashed so your jam is “jammy” and not just cooked fruit. (I received a kitchen “power tool” for Christmas last year and used that to smash my fruit, but a good old potato masher is perfectly good as well)

Blackberry-Honey Jam recipe

  • 3 pounds of organic blackberries
  • 1 cup raw honey
  • 1 apple, grated
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Rinse the blackberries.  Place them in a large pot on the stove over medium high heat.  (I used my caldero, but any nice large pot will do).  Add the honey to the pot.  Grate the apple (including the skin) down to the core and add to the berry honey mixture.  Add the lemon juice.  Stir it together and heat to boiling.

Once it is boiling, turn the heat down a bit so it is a light boil, and cook for 30 to 60 minutes.  The time variation really depends on how thick you want your jam.  The longer you boil, the thicker it will become.  However, this recipe will not be as thick as store bought jams, or jams with pectin.  Scrape down the sides of the pot as the fruit cooks.  It will burst while cooking, so don’t worry if that happens.

Mash the berries with a potato masher.  Some foam will form on top of the berries as they are cooking.  Some people skim it off and discard it.  I just stirred it in, and didn’t worry about it.  The taste of the jam is the same either way.

Meanwhile fill the canning pot ¾ full with water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Be sure to wash all jar pieces in hot soapy water first.

Once the water is boiling turn off the heat. Test the temperature with your thermometer and when it reaches 180 degrees F put the jars, bands and lids into the pot. Leave everything in the hot water until ready for use, removing one at a time as needed.

When the jam is done cooking do a taste test to make sure the thickness and flavor is to your liking.

Remove the first jar from the hot water using your jar lifter tool and shake out excess water. Don’t touch inside of the jar in order to keep it sterilized. Insert clean canning funnel and ladle the jam into the jar leaving ¼ inch headspace at the top (this is where the headspace tool can come in handy – leaving more space at the top might not give as good of a seal). If there are any air bubbles you can slide a clean knife along the inside of the jar to remove them. Using a clean rag wipe excess off the outside of the jar and rim.

Using a magnetic lid lifter pull the first lid out of the hot water and set on top of the jar without touching the bottom of it. Then while only touching the outside of the band screw it onto the jar just firmly enough so it doesn’t feel wobbly on the grooves. Repeat until all jars are filled.

Process the Jars: Bring large pot of water back to a boil. Using your jar lifter (or canning rack) carefully lower as many jars that will fit without overcrowding into the boiling water so they are covered by at least 1 – 2 inches of water. I use a rack inside the canner, so the jars do not directly touch the bottom of the pot (so hot water can flow beneath them). From the moment the water is boiling and the entire first batch of jars are submerged set the timer and process them for 10 minutes.

When 10 minutes is over use the jar lifter to carefully remove the jars from the water. Put them on the counter and don’t move them right away. You will hear your jar lids “popping” which means they have been sealed properly. If jars aren’t sealed within 12 hours then move them to the fridge and eat within 3 – 4 weeks.

Remove bands from sealed jars and with a clean, wet cloth wipe off any jam that has congealed on the outside rim of the jar. This prevents mold from forming on the band. The band can be reapplied, but don’t screw them on too tightly.

Label jars and store in a cool, dry, dark place for up to 1 year.

Tools for jam making

Tools for jam making

 

washed blackberries

washed blackberries

 

 

honey

 

 

appleforjam

organic gala apple for jam

 

in the pot ready to go.

in the pot ready to go.

 

berries and honey

berries and honey

 

berries, honey, apple and lemon juice.  Let's get cooking!

berries, honey, apple and lemon juice. Let’s get cooking!

 

bberiscooking

 

 

almost ready

almost ready

 

 

The power tool I received for Christmas last year.  I used to mash the berries, leaving some yummy chunks!

The power tool I received for Christmas last year. I used to mash the berries, leaving some yummy chunks!

 

after blending (mashing)

after blending (mashing)

 

 

lids and jars in canner

lids and jars in canner

 

funnelinjar

 

 

bberryjaminjars

 

 

lidsoutofcanner

 

 

wipe the jars before putting on lids

wipe the jars before putting on lids

 

 

lidonbberry

 

 

processing

processing

 

 

all processed (and some already eaten0

all processed (and some already eaten)

 

my breakfast today!  YUM!

my breakfast today! YUM!

 

bberyjaontoast

 

mmmmm

mmmmm

 

so good!

so good!

 

There are so many great things about this jam.  It is made from organic ingredients, it has no refined sugar or artificial sweeteners, it is only about 25 calories per tablespoon compared to 56 for commercial jam, and it is so good!

When I told people I was making homemade jam they were like, “You must have lots of free time!”.  To be honest this was so much easier than I expected and SO yummy!! I am already planning blueberry, raspberry, and any other combination I can think of!  Homemade jam all winter long!! YUM!

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My kids are growing up too fast! Don’t Blink!

August 22, 2013 by  
Filed under Carol Rood, Same Sex Parent

By: Carol Rood

 

I am a mother.

I am a mother of teenagers.

So far being a mother of teenagers has been uneventful for the most part.  They get decent grades in school. (Yes I have to nag).  They do their chores. (For the most part, but sometimes I have to nag).  They don’t sass too much. (Most of the time.)

Actually I think I am pretty lucky in the kid department. (Their rooms are nasty though.) I gave up the room battle years ago.  Now as long as I can walk across the floor without stepping on stuff I am okay with it.  I choose my battles.  Battles over grades will always win out over battles about their rooms.  The way I look at it, good grades means opportunities, and clean rooms just mean clean rooms.  Opportunities trump clean rooms, in my opinion.

So I am a mother to teenagers.

It went by so quickly.  It seems as though just yesterday they were little, and were showering me with hugs and kisses and love.  These days I still get love, but it is less frequently, and sometimes peppered with wise ass comments.  They make fun of me if I cry during a movie, and while they will still hug me on occasion, kisses on my cheek are forbidden. (They will still kiss me if I ask nicely, and throw in a bribe)

But I can’t really complain.  I enjoy my kids.  I laugh with them, and goof off with them.  I tell them everyday how much I love them.  Sadly, I have friends who have lost children.  My mother lost my brother.  I can only imagine the pain and loss these women feel.  I am sure they cry every day missing their children.  I am grateful for every day I have with mine.  But I know another day with them is not guaranteed.  So I make sure every night before I go to bed I kiss them (they know resistance is futile), and make sure they know how much I love them.

When they were little I was always afraid if something happened to me they might not remember me. Now they are old enough to know how much their mom loved them if something happens to me.

But even with all of that, with the good foundation I have laid with my children about right and wrong and good decisions and bad decisions.  About responsibility and foolish choices.  About drugs, and friends, and sex and drinking.  Even with that I worry.  I am entering the years where I have little control and have to just hope and pray that the guidance and structure I gave them throughout their lives will win out when they have to make a decision.

When they are at a party and there is alcohol.  When they have a girlfriend and the topic of sex comes up.  When they are with their friends and someone pulls out a joint.  I won’t be with them, and I have to believe that the values and ethics I tried to instill in them actually took hold, and they will choose to leave the party, choose not to have sex,  and choose to walk away from the group of friends with drugs.

I am entering a new phase of parenting.  An unknown phase.  I was talking with a friend recently who has an 8 year old.  I told her, “You are still molding your child.  I have finished molding mine and am now just fine tuning.” And I truly believe that.  I no longer tell my kids to say please and thank you.  If I am still trying to teach them good manners, I missed the boat when they were 5.

I do think I am a good mom, and I have spent the last 16 years trying to be a responsible parent and raise two young men.  I have always felt it is my responsibility to help them become responsible, polite, respectful, productive members of society who know how to be nurturing and kind. I think it is important that we give back and I have tried to instill compassion and a sense of doing right by others.  Now the wait to see if my diligence paid off.

Now that I am the parent of a high school Junior, and a high school Freshmen, I will be able to see if what I tried to teach them actually sunk in.

I will let you know how that turns out!

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I Survived My 30 Year High School Reunion!

July 24, 2013 by  
Filed under Carol Rood, Same Sex Parent

By: Carol Rood

So, I recently wrote about how Facebook changed my memories of high school and how my 30th reunion was coming up soon.  I decided a while ago I was going to go, and Karol (the woman formerly known as Bluebell) said she would go with me.  I was excited when the reunion was first announced.  I shared how people on Facebook had reconnected with me in such a positive affirming way, and that really reassured me that it would be okay.

However, I must admit that as the time for going got closer and closer, I became quite nervous.  I started having more anxiety about my weight, and my life choices, and the fact that many people had stayed in Connecticut and seemed to still be friends, while I had joined the Navy and never really looked back.  My parents stayed in Fairfield for a few years after I graduated because my younger brother was still in high school.  However, they also moved from Fairfield, and there was no reason for me to return.  Would I fit in?

My senior picture, 1983

My senior picture, 1983

The weekend arrived, and I was nervous, but excited.  So we packed, got into the car, and headed north.  The drive was pretty uneventful until we hit NYC.  After many bad words were spoken on the drive in from NYC, we arrived at the hotel, changed and went to dinner at Luigi’s Pizza!  Karol had been told by a coworker (who was raised in Connecticut) that she had to try pizza while in CT because it was like “nothing she had ever tasted”.  She agreed!!  The pizza was amazing!!

We headed out to the beach where some friends had gathered, and I nervously headed to the sand to look for them.  I found them pretty quickly, and was greeted with love and friendship!  It was so nice to get hugs and smiles, and to catch up with old friends! But that was just the beginning!

On Saturday we had lunch with a wonderful woman who was very close to my family.  She and my younger brother had dated for several years, and she really was considered part of the family! We met for lunch at an all organic restaurant in Norwalk called Savor Healthy Pizza.  The food was WONDERFUL.  Pizza, wraps, salad. My friend P had a chicken wrap which looked so yummy, and Karol and I had the chicken ceasar salad!

It is a good thing the restaurant wasn’t crowded because we spent over two hours together.  Chatting, laughing, catching up.  It was so wonderful to spend time with this truly amazing, beautiful, intelligent woman.  I didn’t know her very well because she and my brother are 4 years younger than me, and they didn’t start dating until I had already joined the Navy and left home.  After my brother Brian died she and I reconnected and have stayed in touch ever since.  To come together as adults and chat about Brian, and our families, and her son, and husband, and her life now was such a special treat for me!  It was wonderful to share memories of Brian with someone who knew him so well also! And beyond that, to reconnect as adults was amazing!  She is a very talented writer, and was actually was the one who encouraged me to start writing and blogging. For that and so much more I will be forever grateful to you P!!

After we left Norwalk, we headed back to the hotel to change and go to the reunion of Roger Ludlowe class of 1983!!

As we parked, my heart started to pound a little.  We walked up to the Seagrape (the bar where the reunion was happening), I took a few deep breaths, screwed up my courage and headed on in.  At the door I saw one of the three classmates who had organized the reunion, and found my name tag with my high school picture.  I looked around the room, and saw that it was full!  I was amazed how many people had come out to this event! I recognized so many people!

So many people!! YAY!

So many people!! YAY!

Immediately I saw a woman I had been very good friends with all through middle school and most of high school!  We hugged and chatted for a bit, and Karol and I started to make our way around the room.  While doing so the most amazing thing happened!

Over and over people greeted me, and hugged me and we chatted about where we were living and what we were doing!  I was so surprised by the warmth with which I was greeted. A recurring theme was that most of the people who I talked with also had hazy memories of high school, just like I did!  I thought I was alone, but we were all feeling the same way. We talked about the “girls” and “boys”.  How the “girls” all looked the same, but not all the “boys”. To be honest, most people looked as though time had stood still.

Again and again people talked about how they felt in high school.  Muddling through, feeling like they didn’t fit in.  My perception of them in school was so vastly different from their perception of themselves.  Everyone I spoke with had the same thoughts about adolescence!  As the night wore on, the years melted away, and so did the awkwardness. These people who were walking around hugging and chatting, and enjoying each other were an important part of each others lives. Friendships that had faded away were renewed and new friendships formed.

Throughout the night I noticed a few interesting things.  Most of the people in the room had outgrown the adolescent ideas of cliques, and separatism. Life has a way of doing that.  People who I wasn’t really friends with in high school would say hello and chat for a bit.  I noticed people who were in different “groups” in school mingling and that made me feel good that somehow time had removed the walls and as we all neared 50, we had let go of some of our old paradigms.  However, upon further inspection I found that wasn’t completely the case.  There was a particular group who I walked past at least 4 times.  I noticed they didn’t really socialize with anyone but themselves, and although they all saw me each time I passed, they didn’t speak to me.  This group was part of the group in school who wasn’t very nice to me, and although at the beginning of the night it bothered me, as the night wore on, it didn’t matter at all.  I realized that while 95% of us had grown and changed and become better people, some were just stuck in their worlds and opinions of themselves.  Some people really don’t change.  That seems sad to me.

I spoke about this with a classmate as we stood outside the bar and the party was winding down.  She pointed out that maybe people like that just haven’t had their world view change enough.  Maybe they had not experienced loss, or struggle, or other events that would cause them to shift their focus. What a gracious way to see the situation!  I decided to adopt her view on things, and see the positive aspect of the situation.

So many of us had grown through loss and life experiences.  We had been unemployed, lost siblings, children, parents, spouses, and life had given us ups and downs. They left their mark on us that were invisible to the eye, but visible in the way people were so generous and kind to each other.  Life had given us both positive and negative experiences, and caused bruises. To borrow a thought from a popular Train song, these bruises and experiences had made us all more equal.

One of the most touching moments of the evening happened about 30 minutes after we arrived.  I was making my way around the room, hugging and talking with one old friend after another when another old friend approached me bringing someone else with her.  She said she was so glad to see me and that the man she brought with her had something to tell me.  I looked over and saw a familiar face.  He proceeded to say that he was so sorry he was “such an asshole” to me in school.  He didn’t know why he was mean, but that he really felt badly about it, and wanted to apologize.  His apology brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart!  It was proof to me that in school we were all just trying so hard to fit in with our peer groups, and maybe we did things we knew weren’t right but had to do them to “fit in”.  I have him a big hug and told him all was forgiven.  His apology was a testament to me about the man he had become, and how could I NOT forgive him?

Karol and I with new and old friends!

Karol and I with new and old friends!

Not many of us brought our significant others, and I was concerned Karol would be bored.  At one point I was chatting with a friend, and looked over, and she was deep in conversation with a classmate who works at Sikorsky.  Her husband works there too.  Maybe Karol is planning a move to Connecticut?  The youngest child graduates in 4 years, so after that, anything is fair game.  She actually chatted with quite a few people, and it was nice to see her fitting in so well!!

All in all, it was a wonderful evening.  Not only were there people from our class, but also from the class a year ahead of us and a year behind us.  One of the girls I was in band with who is a year older than us was there and it was so awesome to spend time with her.  We were such good friends in school.   We spent an hour every day, 5 days a week together, hours upon hours at marching band practice, band trips, concerts, etc etc.  She was so much fun then, and still fun now!!

I could write more and more, but I think this post is long enough.  This was the first reunion I have ever attended.  I did not go previously because fear kept me away.  I went this time because I no longer had as much fear.  I am so much more self aware, and have the maturity and self confidence to be proud of who I am and what I have accomplished.  Social media had changed the landscape of my high school memories and friendships.  People I had renewed friendships with online really WERE that nice in person as well!! I was also quite surprised to hear people compliment me on my writing, and tell me they enjoyed reading it.  I had no idea people even knew I wrote.

So the evening was wonderful for me!!  I had a great time, and it was made even better because of Dee and Chris and Mike, and Brian and Peter, and Julie and Diana and Arlene, and Sharon and Jackie and Jacqueline and Kim and Kim and Kris, and Laura, and Claudia and Patti, and Erika and Sue, Mary Anne, and Sharon, Beth and Mark, Lynn and Lisa.  If I have forgotten a name, please forgive me, it was an amazing night, with so many people to talk to.  When I was looking at pictures on Facebook I saw so many people I didn’t even get a chance to chat with, but I will in 5 years!!

Or shall we do this again in two??

 

1983 yearbook

1983 yearbook

 

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How My Family is Different Than Yours

June 4, 2013 by  
Filed under Carol Rood, Same Sex Parent

I am a 47 year old woman who has been a member of many families.  First, there is the family I was born into.  I am the second child in a family with three children.  I am the only girl with two brothers.  I lived with my two brothers and my mother and father until I was 18 years old.  I grew up in the 70′s and 80′s which was a time that was different than growing up now.  We didn’t have all of the technology that kids have these days.  I think of it as a simpler time, but to be honest that may be because I was a kid and didn’t have the responsibilities I have as an adult.  I don’t know if my parents would call it simpler.  My family was far from perfect.  We had our struggles, and our good times.  We had dysfunction and we had function.  But over all when I look back on my childhood, I remember being cared for and not worrying too much.  We had food on the table, and were taken to the doctor and dentist regularly.  My father always had a job and we always had a house to live in. My parents did the best they could, and frankly I think they did a good job.

Then there was my Navy family.  When I was 18 I joined the Navy and my coworkers became my “family”.  We all shared a similar vision, and frame of reference.  I think in many cases people in the military bond so well because “teamwork” is talked about all the time, and we are in such close quarters, both living and working. If you are a young person in the military you probably live with your shipmates (or fellow soldiers as the case may be), and so a certain camaraderie and sense of “family” is established.

So now I am a grown up and have a family of my own.  However, my family is different than many other families and I am going to tell you why:

joy rocks

I believe that kids should get good grades.  Getting an education gives you options, as I always tell my kids, and unfortunately for my 16 year old, I talk about his grades and his education ad nauseum.

I have always expected my kids to get a job when they turn 16.  I am relentless about them looking for work.  I make them keep a list of the places they have applied and the dates, so they know when to contact the managers and check up on their applications.  I have done this for the 20 year old, the 18 year old and most recently the 16 year old.  These days it is not as easy for a young person to get a job and follow up is very important.  The squeaky wheel get the grease, and the kid who goes back week after week to “check in” with the manager of a place of employment gets the job.  (The 20 year old, 18 year old and 16 year old have jobs by the way)

My “adult” graduated from high school children pay rent if they live in my house after graduation.  Now before you get upset about that, you need to know that it is a very small amount, and I actually put it aside and give it back to them when they move out so they can use it to buy things they need for their own apartment.  I believe that a young adult needs to understand responsibility and staying in our pocket forever will not do that for them.

A big way our family is different than most is that the teenagers in my household do NOT get a cell phone unless they can pay their bill themselves.  We do have them on our phone plan so their bill is only $50.00 per month, but since they earn an allowance, they use it to pay their bill first, and then use the rest for their own enjoyment.  We feel as though a phone is a luxury not a necessity, and luxuries need to be funded by the person who wants said luxury.  If they blow their money and can’t pay the phone bill, I suspend the phone line, so it can’t be used until it can be paid for.  Isn’t that what will happen to me if I don’t pay my bills?  Why not teach them the responsibility of paying bills while they are teenagers?

There are also many ways my family is JUST LIKE millions of other families.  We fight with each other, but are fiercely loyal to each other.  We joke around and have fun with each other.  We love each other and can’t stand each other alternately.  (Some days more than others).  Sometimes our feelings for each other change on an hourly, even moment by moment basis.

So, you can see that just like millions of families around the world, our family is just like some families and very different from other families!  The differences and the way we parent makes a significant impact on the kind of adults we are raising, and we really want more than anything else to raise adults who are kind, caring, responsible, compassionate, productive members of society.

babyblues

Photo courtesy of: www.babyblues.com

Oh, and I suppose I forgot to mention that one other small way our family is different than others.  We are a two mom household.  And believe it or not that makes NO difference at all in the way our family functions, or how we relate to each other.  It doesn’t change the fact that our kids play sports on school teams, that one son is a Boy Scout, that we like to be together, and we need space from each other.  We fight and love and laugh together.  Having a family with same gendered parents does not make our family function any differently than any other family, and it isn’t better or worse.

It just is what it is, and we are quite happy with it!

 

 

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My Gay Mom is Cool

October 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Carol Rood, Same Sex Parent

By Carol Rood

 

When I first started dating my lovely partner Bluebell, we had to keep everything a secret.  First of all, she was still in the military and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was alive and well.  Plus I had just gotten divorced and was unwilling to let my children know I was in a relationship with her.  They knew we were best friends, and I decided to leave it at that.

Then we bought a house together and we decided it was best for each of us to have our own bedroom.  She was about to retire, but I had not yet “told” my kids and she had not told hers.  We did sleep together most nights, but actually lived in our own bedrooms for the most part.  It was an interesting time.  Neither of us was “out” professionally but we were to our close friends.  Looking back on it I think we were crazy, but it worked at the time, and I suppose it made things easier for the children to get used to living with new people.

We decided after living together for a year we would tell the children that we were actually a couple.  Of course they all said, “Um, we have known forever Mom.”  They were okay with me being in a relationship with a woman, and that made me happy.  We had actually prepared ourselves for the worst and realized we may need to sell our house and live apart if our kids freaked out.  Our number one priority was the children and how they would feel about our relationship.

Because I had been in a “traditional” marriage when my children were young I never forced the issue about them saying anything to any adults or their friends.  I always introduced Bluebell as my “friend”, and they did the same.  They called her “my mom’s friend” if talking about her to others.

At some point my oldest son (age 15 now) began telling people his mom was “bi”.  Apparently people his age thought that was cool and I scored him some “cool points”.  I suppose technically I am “bi” in his mind since I was married to his dad and am now with a woman.  I don’t consider myself bisexual. I consider myself a lesbian, but I never pushed that issue with my son.  Whatever he was comfortable with worked for me.

My son is now in 10th grade and is very comfortable with Bluebell and with our relationship.

However, I was still surprised when she came to me a few weeks ago and brought me a paper that I saw had my son’s handwriting on it.  “Uh oh”, I said.  “Is this going to be bad?”  She said, “Just read it.”  She had seen this paper lying on the dining room table near my son’s book bag and picked it up and read it.  I held it in my hand and braced myself.

He had an assignment to write about himself and his family for his English class.  In his own handwriting I read, “I found out a few years ago my mom is in a same gendered relationship.  I think that is cool. My mom is cool.”

I cried tears of joy.  My son thinks I am cool! That is a pretty amazing thing for a mom of a teenager to be considered cool by her kid!

My son thinks I am cool!!!

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Boomerang Kids- “Crap They Are Back!”

September 28, 2012 by  
Filed under Carol Rood, Same Sex Parent

By Carol Rood

I have many friends who are close to my age who are currently empty nesters.  They started having children when they were in their 20′s, and are currently in their mid to late 40′s and their children have moved out of the house.  Some are married, some in college, some are working.  I have asked many of them (the mothers usually) if they experienced the “Empty Nest Syndrome” -a condtion where parents have feelings of depression, sadness, and loneliness when their children grow up and leave the family home.  They all said  “NO!” Some said  “Hell no!” and one or two said “Fuck no!” A couple of them asked me if I was joking.

In other words, the Empty Nest Syndrome is apparently NOT alive and well amongst my peers.  At least not in Southeastern Virginia.  When I seemed surprised (after all I had always heard mothers typically experienced it), my friends were like, “Girl, are you kidding me?  No one to cook for, no dirty bedrooms. No nagging about helping out around the house.  No one asking for money…I could go on and on.”  That was the typical response.  Being able to come and go as they please with no one to worry about seemed like such a relief to them.

My partner Bluebell and I have four kids between us.  We were so excited when one of them (L) left the nest last year.  She graduated and moved to Minnesota to live with her aunts and be a welder.  She learned how to weld in high school and was super gung ho to get started.  Since Bluebell’s sister is also a welder, all of the adults thought Minnesota with her Aunt would be a good move for Bluebell’s daughter.  She left, Bluebell cried, but we adjusted and L thrived. She loved being on her own (with adults who loved her there to assist).  She got a welding job, bought a car, managed her money okay, and was doing well.  So we were absolutely shocked when she announced one day that she was going to move back to Virginia.  We were floored and didn’t know what to do.

There had been this whole, “one down, three to go” thing. We had renovated L’s room, painted it lavender, bought two desks and a chaise and turned it into an office.  It has a window with a view, and it is lovely to sit on the chaise, read, and look out the window on occasion.  When L told Bluebell she planned on moving back “home,” Bluebell gently explained that we no longer had a space for her.  We didn’t have room.  We had also had lots of struggles with L, and the last year she lived with us had not been pleasant for Bluebell or me. I became anxious, and started having stomach aches.  However, what could I do?  L was determined to leave Minnesota and come back to Virginia.  She had a car, bills, and no job!  We knew it was a mistake, but we could not convince her of that.  So we braced ourselves for the inevitable.

 L explained to Bluebell that she would not be coming back to live with us, she had a friend she was going to move in with and we were relieved.  The situation was not ideal, but at least she would be safe, and her friend said she didn’t have to pay rent until she was “on her feet.”  Even though I should not have been worried at that point, I just had this nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Fast forward a month.  L’s friend was asked to leave the residence and L needed to come home.  We always knew this was a big possibility.  She didn’t have a decent job and couldn’t afford rent.  We told her she could come back and stay rent free until she got a job and was on her feet.  We now had a Boomerang Kid.  In just a couple of months we went from “One down, three to go.” to “Ermagherd, one came back!!”

We had to establish household rules, and have had to adapt them at least once.  Our Boomerang child felt as though it was okay to be a consumer of our water, electricity, food, etc etc and not help out around the house.  Then we gave her ONE chore:  putting the dishes in the dishwasher.  She was pissed, but had no choice.  Then she got a job, but was only working about 25 hours a week, and her hours were in the evening.  So that left her sleeping until noon, then watching TV or Netflix all day.  So we put her on the Carol Rood Life Plan (or “CRLP”).

This plan is not for the faint of heart.  It requires planning, and being awake, and being productive.  For every hour I was working outside the home she had to be working inside the home to get another job.  The PS3 and the Wii were locked up, and a code was placed on the televisions so she could not sit and watch TV all day.  Every morning around 8 am I wake her up so she can get started on her day and be productive.  This plan has actually helped her get a second job because she is so eager to get OFF the CRLP that she is willing to get three jobs if need be to afford an apartment! Oh, and there is a deadline.  The offer to stay on the couch will end on January 5th.  Apartment or no apartment. So on the CRLP you need to get busy so you can save up and get a place of your own.  There are affordable apartments near us.  None is a penthouse suite, but all have four walls in a safe neighborhood, and can be used for sleeping, cooking, eating, and general hanging around.

Last night we had the “Since you are working now, we are going to start charging you a small amount of rent every month to help pay for your consumerism.”  That went over like a lead balloon.  Oh well, I am not in the business of pleasing people who can be on their own but are not because of sheer stubborn laziness.  If she was in school, or working a full time job, or doing anything to move her life in a forward direction I would probably feel differently, but being stagnant just because you can does NOT work for me, and January 5th looms!

 

I will let you know if the CRLP works, and if so I will offer seminars for other parents of Boomerang kids.  If you are one of the lucky first participants it will be free, but once I achieve the “Boomerang Kid” ghuru status, well then by gosh, it might cost you a few bucks!!

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What To Do When Your Teen Or Young Adult Refuses To Get A Job….

August 28, 2012 by  
Filed under Carol Rood, Same Sex Parent

By: Carol Rood

I blame myself.

No actually I blame people who are parenting kids born in the early to mid 90′s.

We messed up.

We did it wrong.

We shouldn’t have listened to the “experts”.  I think we should have parented more like our parents did than how we were told was a “better way.”

I am of course speaking about the way we have parented our children who were born between 1992 and 1996.  Those who are legally able to work and who have either graduated from high school or will shortly graduate from high school.  I have to first say I googled “what do I do when my teen refuses to get a job”.  The websites I found were not much help.  A couple said things like, “You need to give your teenager positive motivation and explain to them the benefit of having a job.”  I don’t think this will work, in fact I think that kind of “only positive reinforcement parenting” is partly what got us into this mess in the first place.

We have become a society that coddles its kids.  We never let them fail, we never let them scrape their knees, we never let them fall.  And by doing this we never teach them how to be self reliant!  How can they learn to recover from a set back if we never let them have any set backs?  I experienced this first hand with Bluebell’s daughter.  She was struggling in school.  Mainly because she didn’t do any work.  And I mean to say she really did not do ANY work.  She was in danger of not graduating high school.  So at the very last minute so that she would graduate, one of her teachers changed her grades from 0′s to 50′s so she would indeed get a passing grade.  I have to say honestly that I had mixed feelings about that.  On one hand I wanted her to be held accountable for her lack of action, however, on the other hand, I didn’t want her to have to spend another year in school, and I knew she would end up dropping out and would not have her high school diploma.  In the long run, not having a high school diploma was a far worse thing than not being held accountable for ignoring your schoolwork.  So she was “passed” and graduated.

With my own children, especially with Joe Cool, the older of my two, I have noticed that I let him slide on some things and he doesn’t always learn about accountability.  Looking back at it now, I realize I have been too much of a “helicopter parent”, and need to back off some so he can learn to make his own decisions, bad or good.  I think it is not too late for me as he is only 15, so I am taking on this challenge for the good of my son.

I have digressed some, so let me get back on track.  I think that somehow we as parents have imparted to the youth between the ages of 16 and 20(ish) that they can pick and choose what jobs they want and that they are entitled to always being taken care of.  We did such a good job caring for them that they haven’t learned how to take care of themselves.  These are some of the things I hear from Bluebell’s son The Hunter who is 17, “But I don’t want to work in the fast food industry.”  “I applied online, that is good enough.” “Why should I call the manager?”  etc etc etc.

Bluebell’s son is 17 and has been “looking for a job” for about 6 months.  His looking consists of applying for jobs online. He has called a few of the places he has applied to, and they tell him to call back next week.  He does this usually two times, then gets frustrated and gives up.  I have tried to tell him that he should not be picky when looking for a job.  I have told him to apply everywhere.  I have told him to walk the mall to look for a job.  The answer I received regarding that suggestion was, “I don’t want to go to the mall by myself.”  I was like, “What are you talking about, this is not a social excursion.  You are looking for a job.  That is a one person thing to do.  NOT a group.” I have told him to borrow my car and go to the places he has applied to and meet with the manager.  That way the manager can see that he is a clean cut polite teenager and it will give him a leg up on his competition.  Has he done it????  NO!!

Are you kidding, I am offering the kid my car to borrow to do this.  Most teens would JUMP at that opportunity!  Not him…..

As a matter of fact when I was in our local Harris Teeter the other day I mentioned to the hiring manager that The Hunter had applied at HT at least 3 times.  She said, “Him, and 3000 other people.”  She went on to tell me that she had recently hired 4 teenagers, and three of them had been consistently coming in to see if HT was hiring.  She said, “The “squeaky wheel” gets the job. They are persistent so I know they really want it.”  When I told this to our 17 year old he said, “ok.”

ummmm, ok?

We have told him again and again that he will graduate in 9 months and he will want wheels to get to his “real life” job.  He is taking welding in school and he is good at it.  I fully expect him to get a welding job with a local shipyard, or BAE enterprises, or a welding apprenticeship. Something. How will he get there?  I know 9 months may seem like a long way away, but it will go by SO fast!!!

We are at our wits end with what to do.  So finally I said to him, “Dude, you are almost 18 years old.  I am done bugging you about a job.  It is now up to you.  You know what you need to do and how to do it.  The rest is up to you.  Whether you take the bus or drive your own car to your job when you graduate is in your hands.”

I do know however, that The Hunter is not the only youth with these same attitudes.  Bluebell’s daughter was being picky about where she worked too, but the fact that she had to move back to our house and sleep on an air mattress on the floor until she saves up some money and can afford her own place made her see things differently.

In fact, Susan has experienced some of this with her own young adult. Bonnie now has a full time job, but it was a struggle, and I know for her as well as other young adults it is easier to sit at home and hang out then look for a job.  Because really, what are we parents going to do???  They know they have us over a barrel.  They know we aren’t going to let them live on the streets, so they  take advantage of that.  Maybe a few nights on the streets would be good for them….but I know and you know that really won’t happen.

So what do we do when our teen and young adults refuse to put any effort into looking for a job?  I don’t yet have the answer to that  I think each parent needs to find a way that works best for their family.  But this is so rarely discussed in a meaningful way that I thought I would get the conversation going…

Are any other parents of teens and young adults out there dealing with this?  We would love to hear your comments!!

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The Struggles of Blending a Family

July 17, 2012 by  
Filed under Carol Rood, Same Sex Parent

By:  Carol Rood

I live in a step family.  However, the politically correct term is now “blended family”.  Whatever you decide to call it, my experience is that blending two separate family entities is a struggle, to say the least.

I have written about the difficulty in merging my children with my partner and her children.  One of her children resisted the “blend” and ended up going to live with her father.  This was very painful for my partner, as she didn’t see it coming.

I had been struggling to connect with her child, and no matter what I tried the child would ignore me, or be rude to me.  The child was rude to my children as well.  It was a very uncomfortable situation, but we were talking a lot and doing our best to make it work. I thought things were getting better.

Then one day when Bluebell (my partner) came home from work, she noticed a paper on the door.  It was a court notice that her ex-husband was petitioning the court for custody of her child.  No notice from her ex or her child, just a notice on her door.  It was a loud night in our house that night.  She approached her child and tried to find out what was going on.  Her child said she was so unhappy living with  me and my two kids that she had asked her father to petition for custody of her.  She wanted to go live with her father and stepmother.  My partner was heartbroken.

Bluebell’s daughter did end up going to live with her father, and believe it or not, after she left we were able to finally blend our family.  We still had bumps, but it seemed as though things went a bit smoother.  Without the negative energy running rampant through our house we were able to work together to merge the boys to some sort of family unit.

It was still not completely smooth.  Bluebell’s daughter would call her from school crying about how she didn’t feel well and her stepmother would refuse to pick her up.  So Bluebell would leave work, and drive to get her daughter to take her home to her father’s house.  That happened many times.  Then there were the times she called Bluebell complaining about her stepmother.  Then we had to put her daughter on our cell phone plan because she needed a phone and her stepmother wouldn’t help her.

These episodes caused tremendous stress on my relationship with Bluebell, mainly because her daughter was still disrespectful and rude to me anytime we saw her, and I had a problem with that.  I could understand not wanting to be friends with me. But I never understood the blatant disrespect.  I never understood why Bluebell allowed her daughter to treat me in that way.

This continued for almost two years.  Then came the fateful day Bluebell got a call from her daughter stating that stepmama was “kicking her out” and she had nowhere to go.  Of course Bluebell drove straight down to get her, and brought her to our house.  Thus began a really difficult chapter of our family life and our relationship.  It was May of her daughter’s junior year, and we lived in a town about 45 minutes from her daughter’s school.  So regardless of the way I had been treated and was still being treated by her daughter I had to drive her to school every morning for three weeks until school was over.  I never received a kind word, or any thanks.

We changed the living arrangements in our house so Bluebell’s daughter could move in with us to finish her last year of high school, and provide her with a stable family life.

As I am sure you can imagine, we were all in for a difficult year.

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Is My Family Like Your Family?

July 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Family

By: Carol Rood

I have something I want to talk about.  Something I have wanted to talk about for a while, but was unsure.  I wasn’t sure it would be received well.  I am not trying to upset anyone, or make anyone feel as though I am not okay with their situation.  I just think my situation is not talked about much.  I don’t know if that is because there just aren’t enough of us writing, or if we don’t talk about it.  Well, I have decided to come out with it.

I read all kinds of blogs by LGBT writers.  They write about their journey looking for a relationship.  Then the journey during the relationship.  Then they find the RIGHT relationship.  They move in, and then they usually decide to have a family.   Then the IVF blogging starts, or the adoption blogging.  Then we read about the miraculous pregnancy, and the delivery and then loads and loads of stories about sweet babies and precious toddlers.  Sometimes on occasion there is a blog as the children grow and become elementary school kids. Then the blogs dwindle as the kids grow up.

I don’t see many blogs written by LGBT parents with middle school or high school -aged children.  I wonder why not?  Is it because many people haven’t been blogging long enough to have teens and tweens?  Is it because they get tired of writing and get caught up in other things?  I really don’t know.

I have found only one other blog written by a woman close to my age (40ish) who entered into a relationship with another woman who had a teenage son.  I would love to find other moms out there who found love with a same sex partner in their late 30’s or early 40’s -who already had elementary age or middle school-aged kids -and decided to blend their families.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the stories of the families out there who met while they were 20-30ish and decided to have a baby via IVF or some other method, and those who decided to adopt and start a family.  But they have a different perspective than I do.  Their children will have always been around a two-mom or two-dad household.  They will grow up in unbiased houses with moms or dads who teach them about equality and fairness.  They will be okay saying, “I have two moms, or two dads”, because that will be “normal” for them and they will be comfortable with it.

I am a bit jealous of that.  Because that is not my story.

My story is the one where two 40ish women meet after being in hetero relationships.  Marriages that ended, and there were children from those marriages.  Then for whatever reason, the woman finds herself in a relationship with another woman, and doesn’t quite know how to tell her kids.  Kids who see their father every other weekend or so.  Kids who just want to be “normal” teens, and already struggle with self-identity and peer pressure.

Where are those other bloggers?  The ones who decided to blend a family to one with two moms or two dads with kids who were tweens and teens.  When the kids resisted the relationship, or just didn’t know how to handle it?  Being in a relationship and not being able to tell your children that your “best friend” is really something more?

My children did not resist the relationship.  However, one of hers did.  As a matter of fact, when we all moved in together, my partner and I had separate bedrooms.  To hide the fact from our kids that we were in a relationship.  How bizarre is that?  We didn’t want to tell them at that time, but had to move in together due to our circumstances.

When we finally told the kids, three of them did not care much.  One did.  That child resisted the relationship, and chose to move out and go live with Dad.  That was difficult, but my partner couldn’t say no to her child.  The child was old enough to make that choice.

So, yes, sometimes I get jealous of other LGBT mommy and daddy bloggers.  They tell their stories about when their kids go to school and tell everyone about the “two moms” or “two dads” in their life.  It is what the children have known since infancy or small childhood, and they have no qualms about it.  No prejudices.  No hesitation.

My kids have come to that point now.  To them it is normal…..now.  They still don’t always tell people they live in a house with two moms.  I am very careful to never reveal my relationship to their friends or their friends’ parents. I leave that choice up to them to tell whom they choose.

Please forgive my jealousy of the two-mom and two-dad households out there. It is not born out of malice.  It is born from a wish that maybe, just maybe, I could have been like they are.

If by chance you are a person who has a story similar to mine, please let me know.  There must be more people out there with a family like mine, who has struggled with identity and disclosure.  Who has older kids who had to make a transition that did not come easily or always go smoothly.  I would love to hear from you.

For those of you who have babies or toddlers in an LGBT family  I wish you nothing but love and support!  I pray that your children are always open and honest and not afraid to talk about their families.

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