Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Warning Label.

The universe needs to come up with warning labels on everything so that I'm never, ever inadvertently saddened by something that had absolutely nothing to do with me.

I recently put a bunch of blogs in my feed reader to get to at a later time.

I happily sat down to start reading the 302 things in my reader tonight.  I'm tired and moderately grouchy. It's my own fault.  I was out way too late last night with old friends which was totally worth it.  But, you know, now I'm tired.  That means that my mood can turn on a dime, even more so than on the days when I'm well-rested and more properly hinged.

Anyway, I start reading this new blog that I know nothing about, except that this woman has had some recognition in the blogging community.  In the first post I read, I find out she's wheelchair bound, in a nursing home and talking about her family leaving her there on Christmas.  (Please don't misunderstand, I'm sure the blog is great and in fact other posts she wrote, because of course I kept reading, were good.)

Inevitably, when I read things about women with children who are in nursing homes (and a variety of other far less obvious things) I can't help but think of my own mother and myself and our situation.  And, as you could imagine, it's depressing.

Usually, I joke and laugh off the situation and act like it was all totally normal.  I will tell you the story matter-of-factly as though most people have moms who go into a wheelchair the night of their high school graduation and just never get out of it.  And it's absolutely common place for a 25 year old to have to call a family meeting to tell her mother that she just can't live home anymore and she has to go to a nursing home.  And that 25 year old, with the help of others, will pack up the whole house, sell it (and 75% of the contents) and it will all be done and taken care of and it's just normal.  This stuff just happens every day.

And then, I read things like that blog, and like a punch in the stomach it hits me how immensely NOT NORMAL it all was.  It just isn't.  It's sad and infuriating and depressing.  That was my mother - not some random woman, not some blog that I'm reading about.  She was the woman who gave birth to me and raised me and I lived in her house with her for 22 years.

And now, after all of the crazy nonsense, she is gone.

Allow me to digress for one moment.  She isn't gone, like on vacation, she's dead.  All that stuff happened and then one day it just stopped happening.  Just like that.  She died.  And I generally talk about that like she went out to run an errand or something and she'll be back in a few minutes.  But that isn't what happened.

So I'm sure I'm a therapist's dream.  I'm sure that if provoked there would be floodgates opening or whatever other metaphor there is for people having a complete emotional breakdown.

In a way I'm annoyed that I read that blog.  It turned me off to reading tonight and then I felt the need to write this.  Honestly, I started out sad and now I'm just angry.  At this moment, I have no idea if I'll hit publish.  I don't want people to feel sorry for me or to feel badly or even to make them sad.  I don't want some other random person who can identify with this to have that punch in the gut moment.

Normal people (and we've established that I'm not, despite desperate attempts to appear as such) would talk about their feelings.  But not me.  I'll either save this indefinitely as a draft or I'll hit publish and people will read this and I still won't deal with it because by the time anyone reads this I'll be out of this mood and back into safe mode and I'll just pretend like it didn't happen to me but it happened to some other person, some other family.

And life goes on.  SpongeBob is going to end and I have to give my kid a bath and put him to bed.  I'll eat dinner, watch TV, go to sleep and wake up tomorrow and just go about my business.  Because really, what else am I going to do?  And I'll be normal and no one will know if I'm in the midst of a moment or if I'm not or what I'm thinking.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Present.

I would like to make a few suggestions, if I may be so bold.

Don't, under any circumstances, contract some sort of plague that causes you extreme neck discomfort for 3 weeks in December.  Don't let yourself get a virus or cold.  No sore throat, no fatigue, no general malaise.

Also off limits in December?  Bright Ideas.  Don't decide that you want to change your entire career path (one weekend at a time over what you assume will take years).  Don't dream big, make wishes or, be hopeful.  Don't set your sights on a goal and then spend every free minute cultivating it.

Finally, don't watch about 12 episodes of The Secret Life of the American Teenager in less than 2 days.  Actually you shouldn't do this ever, not just in December.  Especially not if you're 35.

Christmas should not come as a surprise to anyone.  It's December 25th.  Every year!  And yet somehow, it snuck up on me.  I kept saying that I'd buy presents another day.  I'd wrap the presents I did buy another day.  I'll plan a menu for Christmas dinner another day.  I'll maybe send cards this year.  I could even make cookies.  I will clean the house!  I mean, I am off on Fridays, surely I can fit in these holiday tasks.

All of a sudden, it's December 22nd.  I need to wrap teacher gifts tonight since tomorrow is the last day of school before Christmas.  And on Tuesday afternoon, I realized that I somehow missed the notice that school closes at 1pm tomorrow, so I don't actually have until 5pm to get stuff done child free as I thought. So my last Me Friday before the holiday was last week when I did NOT get done all the things I should have because I wasn't feeling great.

As I write this, it's Thursday night at 6:44.  I knew I wanted to write a Christmas Present post for tomorrow, and I'm doing it now instead of any number of the other holiday things I should be doing.  So between now and Christmas morning, I have the following items on my agenda:  finish and publish this post, wrap teacher gifts, wrap Nathan's gifts, buy and wrap my husband's presents (yes, you read that right, I'm not done shopping!), buy food for the week plus Christmas dinner, including cookies for Santa, buy additional stocking stuffers for Nathan, clean the house, go to acupuncture, have lunch with a friend, have Christmas Eve dinner with other friends.  I think that's it.  Of course I have my husband to help me with much of this and of course I can probably give up some TV time to accomplish these tasks.  And of course I should not be putting writing this ahead of the other stuff that needs doing.

I'm not as in the spirit this year as I usually am.  There are a lot of factors, it was a hectic season and being ill on and off for most of it definitely made it harder.  Working in an industry with a big crunch time at the end of the year is also a real mood-killer.  I don't know where my John Denver and the Muppets:  A Christmas Together CD is and I really need that.  And the South Park Christmas album.  These are the things that get me in the mood.
Flash Forward:  It's now Saturday morning, December 24. Yesterday I was up by 4:45.  I ran around like a maniac, had lunch with an old friend (which on top of the great company was a great opportunity to sit down for a little while!), did most of the laundry, some of the cleaning, the rest of the shopping, most of the wrapping.  I forgot to buy one of those stupid foil pans for baking the ham (roasting pan needed replacing LAST year, didn't happen), so it's back to the grocery store for me later.  The whole house was up at 4 today, so there's threat of a family nap (who wants to take bets on whether or not that actually happens?).  The rest of the chores need to get done today so that we can have company tomorrow and I just brewed a pot of full-caf coffee so that maybe they can.

Tonight we'll have the aforementioned dinner with friends, Nathan will get to open one gift (the joke's on him because it's jammies and a robe!) and then he will be shuffled to bed as quickly as humanly possible.  Tomorrow will be a fun day for us, gifts and snacks and dinner with family.  In a way, I'll be glad to have it over and get back to normalcy - a term I use loosely - but I'll also be a little sad that I'm not as into it.  Who knows if next year will be any better or different, but maybe I'll actually try to plan a bit for it.

Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate.  If you don't celebrate, then I wish you the happiest of holidays that you do celebrate.  May the season be filled with whatever it is that makes you happy and makes it important to you.  And thank you, all of you, who read this blog and encourage me.  That's the best gift I could receive, for sure.
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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Past.

With Christmas one week away, I have many thoughts about this season racing through my head.  If I was a planning sort of gal, I would have started a series years ago and posted something about the holiday all month long.  But I'm not a planning sort of gal.  Well I am, but I'm also a skilled procrastinator.

Christmas was always a big deal in my house growing up.  As children, my brother and I loved getting presents, but that wasn't all of it for me.

My mom was a crafter before she got sick.  She used to spend the fall selling the items she made at local craft fairs.  I don't know if she made a lot of money or not, but I know it helped to make a nice holiday for us.  She would have loved Etsy.  I see stuff on there now and think, "My mom could have made that and this woman wants $20 for it!"  My mom used to make many presents for us.  Some years were not so good, like the pink and white individual tissue pack cozy (I've mentioned this before).  One year my brother got a crocheted E.T. doll and I was so jealous ("I liked the movie, too, you know!") so she made me a smaller version and we called him E.T.'s nephew.  I can't remember his name though, shame on me. I think it was Wilbur.

Another year, she outdid herself.  I had really wanted a Barbie closet and clothes to fill it.  My mom took an old Thom McCann shoebox, covered it with contact paper and hung a string.  She bought the Barbie hangers, but then she actually crocheted and entire wardrobe for my Kmart Barbie knockoffs.  I'm not sure if you've ever tried to crochet, but it's hard enough with regular size yarn.  Doing it with what basically amounts to string to make clothes small enough for a Barbie must have been really difficult.  That meant so much to me, even as a child.

My mom used to decorate so much.  Many of our decorations were hand made.  She had carolers, candles with holly around the bases, wreaths, ornaments, and garland, all made of yarn.  Some were crocheted, some were plastic canvas.  She made our stockings herself.  I loved hers, it looked like a fancy Victorian boot.  Mine was the classic stocking shape.  Every year when I asked why I couldn't have a pretty one like she did, she'd tell me that Santa needed kids to have bigger ones and hers was small.  Seemed like a good enough reason for me.  My brother's stocking was blue and green, my favorite colors then.  Mine was pink and cream (it may have started out white, my parents were smokers, so anything cream in our house COULD have been white at some point) and I used to ask if I could trade with my brother.  The answer was no.  I believe my father had a fancier one too, light blue and white, in an old fashioned style.  This was also not an option for me to take.  Pink stocking it was then.

Christmas day was always fun.  My brother and I would wake up way too early and then wake up our parents.  Every year we'd fight over who woke up our father last year, and every year I'd somehow lose and have to do it.  This involved crawling on the floor and reaching up to poke him.  As a Vietnam Vet with some pretty wicked PTSD, you didn't dare wake him up while standing next to him unless you wanted to get punched.  He didn't mean to, but he was so easily startled that it was ridiculous.  After waking them, we'd sit at the top of the stairs, waiting for them to do whatever it is that takes parents SO LONG to get out of bed when you're a kid.  We'd inch down little by little to try to get a glimpse of the presents.  When we ran downstairs, we'd find an abundance of boxes, all wrapped in the same brown paper wrapping with big Js and Ms on them in green and red markers.  Thinking back, I'm sure there wasn't the bounty I remember, but isn't it sweeter to remember it as a bounty?

After gifts, we'd have breakfast.  My parents would make bacon, eggs and toast.  We'd have juice and they'd have coffee.  After breakfast, we'd play with our new toys while everyone got dressed, the Yule log on TV, and that (insert expletive) Julie Andrews Christmas cassette my mother loved so much playing in the background.  We'd also start eating some of the goodies that were on the dining room table for guests - Pepperidge Farms cookies and Christmas chocolates my mom used to make.  We'd make fun of my mother for liking those stupid anisette cookies she loved - Pfefferneuse or something like that?  Those were the worst, but she loved them.

My father's family would come over for a while.  We'd see my mom's side of the family later, and they were infinitely more fun than my dad's family.  We'd open more presents, play, and just have fun.  If my uncle did the cooking, you could count on it being absolutely delicious.  Usually my grandparents would come back to our house to see what we had received from Santa.  All in all it was a great day.  My mom would always ask, "Did you have a nice Christmas?" I hope I always said yes and thank you, but I don't remember that part.

When I was 10, in August of 1986, my parents separated.  Shortly after that my mom started showing signs of getting sick.  My brother and I were getting older.  Christmas was never the same.  My mom, for a variety of reasons I'm sure, didn't "put in the effort" to make the day like she used to.  At the time I  recall her saying something about how we never appreciated anything.  But I know she just couldn't do it anymore.  I don't blame her or fault her, it's one of the many things from my childhood I look back on that just was.

It's one week until Christmas.  I don't think I'm "putting in the effort" like my mom used to when I was my son's age.  30 years from now, when he is about to turn 35, I wonder what Nathan will remember about the holidays and life in general.  I hope he remembers that even if I don't decorate like a maniac or hand-make his gifts or make chocolate or bake cookies, or whatever other things Supermoms do, that I love him very much and anything and everything that does get done, is because I love him.  I hope that when he remembers Christmas, he remembers all of the great stuff:  family, parties with friends, eating cookies after we decorate the tree, writing a letter to Santa and leaving out cookies and carrots.  I hope he remembers the love and excitement he feels as a child, long after life gets in the way and the magic of his youth is gone.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Random Thoughts

I read somewhere during my "better blogging" research that blog post titles should be short and attention grabbing.  They should give the reader a good indication of what information is within the blog and make them want to read it.  This post is going to be about as random as they come, so you can't say you weren't forewarned.

I require a lot of sleep.  To feel rested regularly, I need about 9-10 hours per night. That's pretty hard to get, so on weekends, pre-child of course, I used to catch up by sleeping in or napping.  Now I average 5-7 hours of sleep.  There's this theory out there that says that every hour of sleep you don't get that you need contributes to your sleep debt.  So, if I miss one hour tonight and one hour tomorrow, I need 2 hours extra the next night to be even.  I remember the last night I had before my sleep became permanently disjointed.  It was in May of 2006.  I was in a hotel in Atlanta on a business trip and I had just found out I was pregnant a few days earlier.  I had traveled that morning, did some business things that afternoon and then slept 12 solid hours from 7pm to 7am the next day.  I think I can count on one hand the number of times I've gotten 8 or more uninterrupted hours of sleep since then.  Folks, that was 2006.  I am tired and I have a tremendous sleep debt.

The other night during one of my many episodes of insomnia, I wrote an entire blog post in my head about flannel sheets.  Fortunately for you, I eventually fell asleep and forgot the whole thing.

I never say "folks" out loud.  I write it a lot, but I never say that.  That's kind of weird.

I hate it when I know what I'm going to have for lunch and I'm looking forward to it so much that I can't bring myself to eat breakfast because it isn't the thing that I want.

In 2005, my cholesterol was 210.  I spent the next year eating better and exercising regularly.  By the same time the next year, it dropped to 172.  I was pretty impressed with this.  Since then, I have started eating terribly, gained about 25 pounds (that's after I gained and lost about 35 during pregnancy), and I do not exercise regularly anymore.  I had my cholesterol tested again last week, it's only 175.  I cannot even fathom how this is possible.  

I have noticed a tremendous amount of people who do not know how to yawn in public.  Perhaps it's the fact that I am totally repulsed by teeth (even my own), but I don't want to look in your mouth.  Please cover it if you're not in your own home.  And I know, we all have those yawns that sneak up on us.  Some are big, I get that.  But for the love of olive, try to catch it as soon as possible after it begins.  One last thing - that yelling that so many people like to do during a yawn to let the world know how tired they are?  Annoying.  Stop it.  You're tired.  I get it.  We all are.  Have I told you about my sleep debt?

I had guys here this morning inspecting the chimney and making some minor repairs.  In the 40 or so minutes they were here, the one guy told me his name no less than 6 times.  "My name is Chris, if you have any questions."  He also told me that he "can't believe it's almost Christmas" twice.  Then, as we're going through the invoicing process, he tells me it's starting to get cold, winter is coming, it's windy and cold, you can tell it's almost Christmas because it's cold.  As I'm walking him out, he told me to have a nice day, stay warm (because it's cold out), have a nice Christmas, enjoy my holiday, have a great day and to try not to get too cold.  He was a nice guy though.

I will admit to typing LOL in texts and Facebook comments.  I assure you though, that if I write it, I did it.  I don't LOL willy-nilly.  I feel like a lot of people type LOL but they don't really mean it.  I tried to get GOL (Giggle Out Loud) to catch on, but it didn't take.  I never say LMAO.  Look at me.  Clearly you know that's not the case.  And I love when people put LOL at the end of a Facebook status that is not at all amusing, let alone Laugh Out Loud-able.  For example:  I ate a tuna sandwich today for lunch lol.  Ugh.  This really aggravates me.  Have you seen ROTFLMAO?  Yeah, IMHO, that's just gilding the lily.

I vacuum my house at least weekly.  That means I *actually* do it weekly, but I think about doing it other days.  So this is what I get when I vacuum the first floor of my house after only 6 days.  This is both disgusting and ridiculous.  You would think I had 12 dogs and a family of coal miners living here.

After Thanksgiving, I moved the last two pumpkins out of the house. There was a medium size one and then one of those baby ones you get for about a dollar.  Something took the baby one and did this to the medium one.  I think the teeth marks are cute.  Nathan says he misses the baby one.

I just figured out how to add photos to the blog.  Isn't that exciting?  Isn't it unfortunate the first ones I chose to share here?

Remember how I mentioned that I had done some research on creating better blog posts?  One of the other things I found out is that in order to keep the reader engaged and wanting more, the post or article should have very strong beginning and ending paragraphs.  This blog post has neither.  I hope you'll forgive me.

Thanks for reading!  If you find me at all amusing, please consider following this blog.  You can also share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.  There are icons for that around here somewhere...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What I'm Not.

If you spend any time out in the Blogosphere, you find out that there are a lot of different niches for bloggers.  I enjoy posts by many of them.  One day, as a service to all of you, maybe I'll provide a list of some of my favorite bloggers.  This isn't that day.  Today, I was trying to think of what my niche is.  All I can come up with is what my niche isn't.

1.  Food Bloggers.  I love to read food blogs, I love to find new recipes to salivate over.  Obviously, I love to eat. What I don't love to do is write about food.  I am not going to tell you about the complexities of flavors and hints of this and that.  I can't write, or speak for that matter, like a Food Network star.  You know all this "and them I'm going to do a blah, blah sauce to serve with a blah, blah..."  No.  This won't be happening.  Don't get me wrong, I love to talk about what I'm eating, especially on Facebook where I can say it in one sentence.  I will take a picture of food and post it to my page.  But expertly "plate" it and photograph it and explain it and all that?  Not happening.

2.  Urban Homesteader.  Another type of blog I love to read is the Urban Homesteader.  If you're not familiar with this topic, it's people who are, in a nutshell, working to create all that they need and to live as sustainably as possible on their own land.  Most garden, some raise livestock.  There is a focus on cooking basically everything from scratch, using only whole foods.  Many are inspired by Ma Ingalls (and I'm pretty sure there is a book that lead that sector of the movement).  At any rate, I love reading about this.  I love the whole concept.  Sometimes I wonder if I love the idea as a way to stick it to the man and the grocery store industry.  I also love the idea of saying I don't need any one or any thing and especially not your pre-packaged whatever because I can just Do It Myself (stomps foot like 2 year old).  But the truth is that's not me.  I really don't cook from scratch as much as I should.  I don't COOK at all as much as I should for that matter!  I'm not about to raise animals and I don't have time for gardening.  I'm going to pop on down to Stop and Shop or Target or whatever and get what I need.  But, alas, a girl can dream, can't she?

3.  Grocery Geek, Crazy Couponer (or worse, Krazy Kouponer), Deal Seeker.  Whatever you want to call this - yeah, no.  If you look back on my archives, you'll see that I attempted to go this route for a while.  Let me explain to you the trouble with this.  If one is to get the best deals, clip the coupons, match up the sales, drive all over creation buying this stuff, stockpiling, rotating said stock and so on, one needs to not have a life outside of this.  I have a child and a job and TV to watch.  That takes a LOT of time.  Most of what you get doing this is processed foods which doesn't mesh well with my Ideals.  And worse yet, it's boring!  Go ahead, read the blog I wrote where I tell you how many muffin mix boxes I got for a quarter or whatever it was.  Then when you wake up, come back and finish this.  Seriously.  Snooze-fest.  I will say though, I'm interested in what other people write in this genre.  Please don't ask me why, I do not know.

4.  Frugal Living.  This one's a toughy for me.  I love the concept of being frugal.  Until, of course, I hit that moment when I just don't care what it costs as long as I get done what I need to get done.  By the time I come to terms with the fact that I actually need to and will buy something, I'm not about to go deal hunting.  I just want to get it and get on with my life.  That goes for groceries (and yes, I often have to come to terms with having to buy them), clothes, shoes, household goods, etc.  I don't have time to think of clever ways to reuse a milk jug, I'll just recycle it.  If I read a good money saving post, great.  Maybe I can utilize the tips.  But as frugal as it may be to make my own laundry soap, I just don't have time for that (remember, I have TV to watch!).  I wish I did.  I feel very First World, sort of spoiled, that I don't try harder to spend less.  I would love to say that I'm not in that season of life right now (another blog-y phrase!), and that may be true.  I'm certainly not at a point where I can give any advice on the matter.  And there are so many that do it already, why reinvent the wheel?

5.  Mommy Bloogger (or at least I hope I'm not).  It's no secret that I have a kid.  It's no secret that I find  him to be seriously cute.  I find him hilarious, bright and, did I mention, cute?  He's a real whipper-snapper, that one.  But do you really want me to write about him all the time?  Being a Mommy is a huge part of my identity, but it's not the only part.  Sometimes there's an interesting or funny story to tell, but often it's just daily life.  The same stuff that goes on in the households of many other mommies who don't blog.  I could go the You Are Not Alone route, but you already know you're not.  You probably have friends to commiserate with over the trials and tribulations of parenting.  And I certainly have no wisdom to give on gentle or creative disciplining, or getting your kid to eat or behave.  I'm not a SAHM, nor am I doing so well I'm going to be featured in next month's Working Mother magazine.  We do ok.  Some days better than others.  There's not much to report.

6.  Insert Random Hobby Blogger.  What are my hobbies?  Hmmm.  Watching TV, reading blogs, writing blog posts, learning more about writing. I cook, I clean, I work.  These are not hobbies, these are chores.  I don't really have a hobby I'm so passionate about that I want to write about it at least weekly.  Except maybe writing, but writing about my writing sounds like something no one would read.  And since I'm no expert, I have no advice to give.  On anything.

So where does that leave me?  I can't believe I'm going to say this out loud, so to speak, but could I be...  a writer who entertains you? Can I be funny?  Could I be thought-provoking?  Could this be the Seinfeld of blogs (you know, it's about nothing and yet content keeps popping up)?  I don't know.  I guess it could be.

I've been toying with the notion of adding some regular features.  Many of the bloggers I follow have some themes:  5 Minute Friday (write for 5 minutes, no editing, etc. and just let it flow), What I Wore Wednesday (yeah, there's no WAY I'm taking pictures of myself in an outfit, but you get the point), Frugal Friday, Works for Me Wednesday (sharing a tip of some sort), Sunday Still Life (photos)...  I like the idea of having a feature people can count on, I just don't know the topic yet.  Somehow it feels presumptuous to have a topic for people to "tune in" to weekly.  Who am I to assume people care?  Am I really giving myself too much credit here or do I just need to get over myself.  (Incidentally, I was just telling a friend about my need for some professional therapy.  This would be the point of today's post where you agree with that statement.  Another blog for another day, my friends...)

If you've scanned my content pre-August 2011 you know that I wrote a lot about goal setting (another winner topic there, folks!).  At the risk of rehashing that nonsense, I do hope to grow this blog in the new year.  I'm hesitant to call it a resolution, since I'm terrible at keeping those.  I have Plans, Ideas and Intentions for this space that I will be focusing on after December is behind me.  So, if you'll indulge me, here are some questions for you.

What would you like to see here - do you have a favorite kind of post?
If I ever figure out how to get the email subscribe button on the blog, would you sign up?
What do you think of the weekly feature idea - clever or corny?
What kind of blogs do you hate (for those negative types)?
Would you read my rantings ramblings writings more often than weekly?
Anything else you want to say?

I'm not looking for praise or fishing for compliments here (though I love them and they humble me and I appreciate them more than you can ever know), I'm looking for real constructive feedback.  I want this blog and my writing to grow and prosper and Be Something someday.  I want to earn the title Writer.  I simply can't do that without you, Reader!

Thanks for reading!  If you find me at all amusing, please consider following this blog.  You can also share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.  There are icons for that around here somewhere...

Friday, December 9, 2011

Can I Have That Someday?

"Can I have that someday?"

If I had a nickel for every time I heard my son utter that phrase, I'd be able to buy him about half of what he asks for.  And now that it's the holiday season, I hear it even more.  He doesn't beg or cry or whine, but he asks constantly for things.  My standard reply is, "Sure, maybe someday."  I don't even look at what it is anymore.  Someday is pretty broad, so I figure even if he has to buy it himself when he has kids I won't have been lying.

With his birthday and Christmas right around the corner, I'm able to add to my response by reminding him that gift-giving occasions are coming up and he won't be getting anything until then.  This only delays the inevitable though.

Really, I don't know who to blame.  I mean, he's a kid.  Isn't it their job to express desire for things?  Would I be any less annoyed by his material wanting if he simply told me he liked something or something looked like fun?  I doubt it.  And is it wrong that my first response (in my head, not out loud) is that usually the thing is stupid, overpriced and will probably not work half as well as the commercial or box claims it will?

I try reminding him that he's a lucky boy and certainly gets a lot more than I did growing up.  Money is not as tight for our family as it was for the one I grew up in, plus he doesn't have a sibling to have to share the wealth with.  He's probably spoiled.  And sometimes kind of bratty.  I'm not sure he wouldn't act this way even if we did not have as much.  I think gratitude is a difficult thing to learn at his age.  He doesn't have any concept of what it takes for us to get what he has, nor does he really understand that some people don't have even the basic necessities.  Having grown up in a house where I was made very aware that we did not have money did not make me more thankful for what we did have.  It could be the way that was presented to me, but that's another blog post for another day.

I did not become aware of how hard it is to provide for a family and juggle all of the expenses of home ownership, food, health care, savings, vehicles, insurance and, dare I say it, some luxuries until I had a family of my own.  That's not to say we've always had easy times, certainly their were leaner ones, but it didn't hit me until I had a child endlessly asking for things that I realized how lucky I am that I don't have to say, "Absolutely not and probably never."  Maybe truly means what I'm saying - maybe you can have it, if I want you to have it.  Maybe not all of it, definitely some of it, never all at once.  That's a very different answer than I received from mother who was crocheting us Christmas presents for the better part of my childhood (pink individual tissue pack cozy, anyone?).

It occurs to me that until he has to have responsibility and work for the things he wants, he probably won't feel the value of those things.  He will be 5 in a few short weeks and I'm beginning to think it's time for some small chores, perhaps a small stipend.  But will that really do anything?  Let's say I give him a dollar every week when he does a chore. He takes the dollar and puts it in his bank. Then what?  Save it for college or a car or some other thing that he can't relate to?  He knows he has a savings account for that stuff but it means nothing to him.  Sure I could let him spend it on a treat or a small toy, but I'm not sure that teaches anything.  I could make him save up for something, but he has not yet expressed a desire to save up for anything except the time he said he was going to save up to buy popcorn on our upcoming vacation to San Diego.  He also thought popcorn cost a stillion dollars at the zoo the previous year, so clearly he wasn't quite getting it.

As usual, I don't have the answers.  There are things I could try, books and articles from the experts I could read or advice I could seek from family, friends and the public at large.  I'm not sure any of it will do what I really think will just take time and experience on his part to learn.  I just hope he looks back on his upbringing and realizes he had all he needed and more.  Even if I won't buy him the Crayola Crayon Make ($26??  Really? To make crayons? No thank you.)

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Friday, December 2, 2011


Sunday marks what would have been my grandmother's 88th birthday.  12 days later marks the 13th anniversary of her passing.  So many things remind me of her and I think of her so often.  December always feels like Grandma Month to me.

I was lucky to live very close to my grandparents while I was growing up.  I spent every Saturday at their house.  In the summer, my grandmother would carry around a little radio so she could keep track of the baseball game that was on.  Her favorite team was the Mets and I actually knew some of the players' names.  One of her other hobbies was puzzles.  Often you'd find partially finished ones in the house and I loved when she'd let me help.  I was not a good help at all though because they were very difficult.  I think she had one that was all one color, or something equally complicated.  My favorite one had all the pieces shaped like salamanders.  I loved to take that one out to play with.

Grandma's house was always prepared with the snacks we never had at home.  She drank soda (fun brands like Tab and Shasta and Vintage) but always had a bottle of Shop-Rite brand for the kids.  She had great flavors like grape and orange and root beer (she pronounced root to rhyme with foot, not toot) and birch beer.  My brother and I had our own special cups too.  Mine was Strawberry Shortcake.  There was always Cheez-Its or ice cream (or both!) in the house.  And Oreos and Devil Dogs.  I didn't like the Devil Dogs, which she knew, but my brother did.  She used to get me "finger cookies," which were Keebler Fudge Stripes.  You could put your finger through the hole and it was like you had a cookie on a stick.

We always stayed for dinner on Saturday night.  One of her specialties was Spanish Rice, which was a recipe from the back of a Minute Rice box.  That recipe card was so old I think it was actually from the first box ever made.  What cracked me up was that she always took out the recipe and yet it always tasted different.  As she got a little older (and a little more forgetful) she would forget if she added salt.  She did not find it so funny the day no one could eat the rice because it was so salty.  She was an avid food-salter. She always referred to ground beef as "ground round" and I never knew what she meant.  She also made "Quick Spaghetti" and I really never understood how it was different from the never-mentioned "Slow Spaghetti."

Great days were when I'd enter the house and she was making lasagna (she cubed the mozzarella cheese so there were always chunks mixed in rather than a layer) or making fried chicken.  These were infrequent, so they were all the more special.  She was often peeling potatoes when I would arrive (and I LOVE potatoes) but sometimes she's serve them boiled (yuck!) instead of mashed (yay!).  I remember standing on the step stool, which I now use in my house) to help mash when I got older.  I felt special when she let me do that - like I was one of the grown ups.  Don't ask me why that was so important to me when I was only about 5 years old, but it was.

And a really not favorite day was when she was peeling carrots.  Carrots have never been my favorite vegetable, but when you boil them to mush they are 10 times worse.  It just didn't bode well for the meal.  For example, there was the carrot, ground round, boiled potatoes with onion stew that a friend once told me looked like prison food.  Everything tasted like carrots.  Then there was ground round mixed with onions with sides of boiled potatoes and boiled carrots.  My mother and grandmother would just mix the whole thing up on their plates, so I never really understood what was the point of not making it in the same pot.  I guess so the kids would eat more of the stuff that wasn't soaked in carrot juice.  And then there was the best of all in this genre, the "hamburg patty" with mashed potatoes and boiled carrots on the side.  At least the carrots weren't canned. And truly, beggars can't be choosers and I'm thankful that she fed me, lest anyone think I'm an ingrate.

After dinner my grandmother would always indulge me in endless games.  Crazy Eights, Go Fish, Life, Camp Grenada (these were my aunt's games from when she was younger).  She almost never said no to playing a game.  At the end of the night we could always count on getting our backs scratched (sometimes my brother and I at the same time) and she never complained.  Never.

One of the greatest things I remember was how she never smothered the children.  I saw this mostly with my cousins who are quite a few years younger than I am, but I'm told she was this way with us too.  She'd watch the kids play - just sit back and watch.  And she'd say that you just have to let children come to you and they always do.  My grandfather was more the type to try to engage the children, sometimes against their will (and I mean that as kindly as I can) but my grandmother didn't do things that way.  There was a sweetness about it that I haven't ever seen in another person.

Grandma used to play the lottery.  I'm pretty sure it was daily.  And she had this elaborate record keeping system and formula for doing something to calculate the numbers.  I do not have the slightest idea what she did with those numbers, but every night she'd write them down on 1/2 sheets of paper, then do some THING with them, make boxes around some.  I don't know.  There were STACKS of these papers in the closet (same closet as the puzzles and the vacuum) and in other places.  I wish I knew what she did with those numbers.  Whatever it was, it did not make her rich.  I assume it made her happy though.

Walking to West End Pharmacy or Shop-Rite Liquors with her to get the lottery tickets was always a treat because it usually meant she'd get my brother and I candy.  And it was nice to take the walk with her too.  I'm sure as a child the candy seemed more important, but now I know that wasn't really the case.  She liked 3 Musketeers bars.  And she'd usually pick up Wintergreen Certs and a carton of Marlboro Reds.  Sometimes she shared the Certs.

Somewhere around my sophomore or junior year of college, my car died in the middle of the street on the way to school.  I didn't have money to get a new one.  I found a car I could lease, but there was nothing for a down payment.  I could put it on my credit card, but it would have maxed it out and I needed that for all of life's other incidentals (you know, food and gas to get to work).  It was a very difficult time.  I was at her house because I had walked to the insurance agent's office which was around the corner.  I was sitting there for a few minutes before I walked home.  I was tired and upset and didn't know what I was going to do.  She reached into the pocket of her housedress and pulled out a wad of cash.  I didn't ask for it, she just gave it to me.  It was enough to get me through.  I told her I had no idea when I could repay her, she said don't worry about it.  She didn't ask me for a payment plan.  She didn't get on my case about why I didn't have money or priorities or anything.  She just told me not to worry about it, it was a gift.  "Because I can and you need it," was all she said.  Now, I know gifts don't show love and it's not about the money.  It was the fact that she got it - she got how hard I was working at school and an internship and my job and that I was taking care of my mother on top of it.  She got that there was just NOTHING else I could do.  And she never, ever mentioned the money again.

I can't believe she's been gone so long.  I wish she had seen me grow up from the 22 year old I was - so much has changed.  I wish she knew Nathan and had gotten to know Kris better.  Like anything else, there's things I'd change if I could.  But I hope that she knows how much she meant to me.  I wouldn't be who I am without her.  Saturdays at Grandma's saved me as a child and I'll never forget them.

Friday, November 25, 2011

I Let A Guy Stick Needles In My Face

Warning:  This blog may contain subject matter that is not suitable for all audiences.  Reader discretion is advised. (TMI warning, especially for you male readers, I'll try to not to be too graphic.)

I remember it like it was yesterday.  I was in the seventh grade, in Physical Education class.  We were playing dodge ball and suddenly it occurred to me that the headache I had had all day was getting much worse.  In retrospect I'm sure it was due to the volume in the gymnasium and forced participation in sport that did it to me.  Mr. G was not a teacher I particularly cared for and thus I generally tried to avoid talking to him whenever possible.  I approached him and attempted to explain that I was in tremendous pain and wanted to go to the nurse.  Request denied.  In his defense, I was a 12 year old girl in gym class.  Weren't we always looking to go to the nurse?  I should have said I had my period, but I hadn't learned that trick yet.  Anyway, I told him he didn't understand, it felt like someone was hitting me in the side of the head with a hammer.  He asked who was hitting me.  I said no one, it wasn't funny, it feels like it.  He asked again who was hitting me.  I said, "Forget it," walked straight into a flying dodge ball so I could be out and went to lay down on the bleachers.  (For the record, I don't know if it's lay or lie down, but I don't care.)

And that was the story of my first migraine.  Another one arrived not long after, this time at home.  My mother told me to take Tylenol and put my head down.  A few minutes later I was throwing up the Ecto Cooler (remember that stuff?) that I used to wash the medication down.  Good times.

The headaches went on for years.  By the time I was in high school, they coincided very conveniently with my Lady Times.  The accompanying cramps were not your ordinary variety.  I missed a lot of school, spent a lot of time in the nurse's office and took a lot of over the counter medication.  My mother, the type of woman to not get worried about anything, simply told me that my aunt used to get the same way and it got better after she had a baby.  Awesome.  Need I remind you I was in high school?  I was not planning any babies any time soon.

When I turned 17 and got my driver's license, the first thing I did was make an appointment at Planned Parenthood to get birth control pills.  I had heard they would help.  And they were only $3 a month, so I could afford them too.  They did help to an extent, but the pain was always still there.  At some point along the way, I started developing migraines outside of my special week.  I'm sure it was lifestyle related - erratic sleep schedule, smoking, drinking, excessive caffeine, not eating right.  Trying to juggle college life, work, an internship and my responsibilities at home with my mother were all taking a toll on my health.

After a headache wouldn't go away for 14 days, I finally decided to see a doctor.  He said they were migraines and gave me a prescription.  I took the pill, took a nap and the headache was gone.  I stayed on this medication for years.  The problem with it was after I took the pill, I had to take a nap.  And if I didn't, I might as well have, because I was useless.  This meant that I had to schedule my pill-taking around driving and work.  It was not terribly unusual for me to find an empty office at work and take a nap on the floor during the day because my head would be pounding so badly.  Coworkers were given instruction to wake me in an hour if I didn't emerge by then.  Like I said, good times.

In 2005, at 29, I had been on the pill for 12 years and Maxalt for about 5.  We decided it was time to try for a baby.  I got off the pill and looked up the safety of Maxalt.  Maxalt is in Class X, which says, "Studies in animals or humans have demonstrated fetal abnormalities and/or there is positive evidence of human fetal risk based on adverse reaction data from investigational or marketing experience, and the risks involved in use of the drug in pregnant women clearly outweigh potential benefits."  Yikes!  Buh-bye, Maxalt.

Throughout my pregnancy, the headaches and other assorted period symptoms subsided (as did my period!), but they returned shortly after I gave birth (as did my period!).  Since I didn't know if we'd have more kids and I wasn't "using adequate birth control" as the package said I should, I tossed the pills and went back to suffering.  I hoped that once my hormones equalized I'd feel better as my mother suggested, but I did not.  In fact, without the birth control pills, everything went back to the high school levels.  And a woman in her 30s, doubled over in pain, tears in her eyes for a few days every month is not a pleasant sight.  Stumbling around, grabbing onto furniture so that the pain in my head wouldn't cause me to fall over was not only irritating and disruptive, it was downright dangerous.

Somewhere in the nearly 5 years since giving birth, I've noticed a new issue.  My hands get extremely cold, turn white, lose sensation and hurt.  In the last few months it's gotten worse and now they also turn a lovely shade of bluish-purple.  It's rather disturbing.  As the weather has gotten colder, my circulation has decreased and this is happening multiple times each day whether I'm outside or inside.  If you've ever been unable to feel your finger tips, you know how annoying it is to try to do stuff when they're numb.

My husband started going to acupuncture a few months ago and had been suggesting I try it.  I had heard about it for migraines, but I was apprehensive.  I did a little research and there were people who had seen a decrease in period symptoms as well.  I made an appointment with a "regular" doctor, but it was going to be nearly 6 weeks before she could see me.  I guess if I had mentioned I couldn't feel my hands she might have gotten me in earlier, but I didn't.  I agreed to give acupuncture a try.  What's the worst that could happen, right?

The acupuncturist looked at my hands, heard about my period and told me my symptoms were Classic and he was certain he could fix it.  He said he rarely tells people that, but he really meant it.  (I checked with my husband, he only told him that he "thought he could help.")  He said it would take more than a few sessions, maybe some herbs, maybe some other stuff.  He asked that the week before my period I come in as many times as possible.  I agreed.

Robbie's theory was that my digestive system wasn't working properly and therefore wasn't pulling the needed energy from my food.  This was causing an inability to produce enough blood.  This lack of blood was making me tired and craving bad food and caffeine.  My improper diet and lack of exercise was causing that cycle to continue and get worse.  And all that lack of blood was causing my hand symptoms.  Enter my period.  As it would approach, my body would know that it couldn't afford to lose any of it's precious blood, so my uterus would hoard it.  All this blood hoarding meant there was now even less for my hands and brain, causing more food cravings, more exhaustion, more numbness.

My first, second and third sessions were similar.  I laid down on a massage table (heated, yay!), rolled up my sleeves and pants, shoes and socks off.  He used a bunch of needles in each foot, leg, arm and hand and one in the center of my forehead.  I was surprised at how little it hurt.  It didn't even feel as bad as getting stuck with a pin.  There is one spot on my right calf that feels weirder than the others.  Honestly, that's the best way to describe it:  weird.  It's an odd sensation, not really tingly, but you can feel energy flow.  If you do it, that will make sense to you.  If you don't, you can sort of imagine it, but once you do it, you will say, "Oh, THAT'S what she meant!"

That fourth visit though, well, that was something different.  I had read, and it was confirmed for me, that as you get closer to your period you can feel the needles more.  He also "stepped things up a bit" by putting the needles in more sensitive places.  This is not to say it hurt.  It should not and it did not.  But it felt weirder and was uncomfortable.  When that was done, Robbie and I had a conversation that went like this:

R:  Did you tell me that you were OK with drinking unpleasant things?
M:  Uh, no, I did not.
R:  Well...  are you OK with drinking unpleasant things?
M:  How unpleasant?
R:  Like hot dirt.
M:  Yeah, I guess that's OK.

Robbie explained to mix the freeze dried herbs he gave me with 1/3 cup of boiling water, let it cool, toss it back in one gulp (because it's unpleasant) and then eat a cookie.  Then he said it's not that bad, even though I didn't ask.  Clearly he knew it WAS that bad.  I did as instructed and immediately vomited.  This did not taste like hot dirt.  This tasted like hot dirt and rotting leaves with just a hint of corpse.  The next day I did try again, adding more water and chasing each mouthful with juice.  It's tolerable at best.  Thankfully I only have 2 days left in this cycle.  All I could think was that this better work.

My fifth visit was back to normal, easy and not uncomfortable at all.  Robbie was thrilled with my early spotting and was glad to hear that my almost migraine wasn't that bad.  This was to be my last visit before my Aunt Flo came to visit for Thanksgiving.  We figuratively crossed fingers that things would be better.

I almost can't believe this myself, but it worked!  I had a headache one day, but it was nothing like I've had for years.  I took 3 Advil and it was gone.  And my cramps were annoying at worst.  The fact that I was able to stand for 7 hours and cook Thanksgiving dinner without having to grab the counter and cry was astounding.  Usually I'm taking 3 Advil and 2 Excedrin Migraine at least several times during this week.  I was tired, but I didn't have the feeling that I was going to lapse into a coma at any minute.  It was, dare I say it, tolerable.  I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I thought for sure I'd wake up feeling horrible this morning, but I feel fine.  I am shocked.  I was hopeful it would work, I WANTED it to work, but I couldn't believe that it actually would and it DID.

My hands are still cold and I'm still struggling with the circulation thing.  I did go to see the doctor, she thinks it's Raynaud's Phenomenon.  Google it, it's basically cold hands that turn colors inexplicably.  She's doing blood work to rule out anything more serious but since I have no other symptoms that would accompany something serious, she's pretty sure it isn't.  As long as I don't let my hands get too cold that I develop gangrene, I'll be fine.  And obviously I try to avoid gangrene routinely anyway, so that shouldn't be too hard.

I'm going for another appointment today.  I don't think I will need to keep going with this frequency for much longer.  But if getting poked with needles weekly and drinking hot dirt/leaves/corpse water a few times a month is all it takes to get me functioning like a normal human, I'm all for it.

After I wrote the above, I went to my appointment.  My regular guy wasn't there, so it wasn't the same. This chick likes to do belly needles for circulation.  You would be surprised how little it hurts to have needs stuck in your stomach.  And they use these really cool "blankets" made out of Mylar - the same stuff balloons are made out of - to hold your body heat in.  It's light enough to rest on the needles without causing discomfort.  Pretty amazing process, I must say.

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Friday, November 18, 2011


It's Friday.  I almost can't even say that without singing that dumb song from this summer.  I also then can't help giggling thinking about the review of the song where the author said it sounded like she was singing "fried eggs."  And THEN I can't help thinking of all of the parody versions that came out, including my all-time favorite, the Bob Dylan version.  If you haven't heard it, go find it on You Tube.  Totally worth it.

But this isn't about that song.  This is about MY Fridays.  I have always been home on Fridays since I quit  my job when Nathan was 8 months old.  It was a good deal in that we could get stuff done before the weekend and even had some play dates to keep us social.

Something changed in Nathan though when he started Pre-K 4 in September.  Suddenly he liked school.  He was all about playing with his friends.  He started asking me why he had to stay home with me on Fridays.  I explained to him that I don't work on Fridays so he and I can be together.  This did not seem to impress him.

On Mondays, Nathan stays with my in-laws.  Nathan did not at any time ask me why he can't go to school on Mondays.  I have to admit, this hurt my feelings a bit.  I think just about every kid thinks it's more fun to hang out with grandparents than parents.  His grandparents don't have to clean my house or grocery shop or buy his friends birthday presents or do laundry.  They only have to play with him.

I have to get on his case about eating his meals, cleaning up his toys, taking a bath and all the other mom things.  I have to drag Nathan all over town running errands.  Sometimes I even have to take him to work to get a few things done.  I am NOT fun.  I totally understand why Nathan doesn't want to hang out with me.  I don't want to hang out with me.

The end result is that for the past few months, I've had to play with Nathan while juggling chores and errands.  He gets frustrated because he doesn't have my undivided attention and I get frustrated because I can't get anything done.  The chores and things I was going to do on Fridays were spilling over into Saturdays which were supposed to be family time.  No one was happy, everyone was frustrated.

So, as this struggle went on, Nathan again asked me if he could go to school on Fridays.  After some parental thinking, we decided to enroll Nathan in school a fourth day.  I felt terribly guilty about this.  I am home.  I could try harder to make his days more fun than I do.  The house shouldn't be a priority over spending quality time with my child.  And the thought of just hanging around my house doing me-stuff while he's at school made me feel like the worst mother.  And then if I were to actually enjoy my time as opposed to simply engaging in Cinderella-esque tasks...  that might make me feel worse.

But then I thought about it some more.  What if I actually DID get something done on Fridays?  Getting the house clean, working on home improvement projects that I've been putting off, getting the errands done, all that stuff out of the way would mean that Saturdays could be family days.  We wouldn't have vacuuming getting in the way of enjoying ourselves.

And what if one of the ways I took care of my family was to take care of myself so that I can help my husband take care of himself?  What if I planned meals better and exercised?  What if I wasn't running around like a lunatic all the time trying to juggle everyone's needs while trying (unsuccessfully, I might add) to pretend that I don't actually have any?

I'm also hoping to devote at least one hour of my Fridays to writing.  I suppose that now if I have predictable, uninterrupted time there is no reason I can't write at least weekly.  And I'm hoping to get to the gym (not today, I cleaned out my basement instead).  If I have all day Friday to take care of me, where's my excuse not to?  And where is my excuse the other 6 days for not doing for others what needs to be done?  Exactly.  There is no excuse.   Instead, I only the accountability to actually accomplish the things I really want to.

Now, as soon as this episode of The Secret Life of the American Teenager is over I can get back to cleaning the house.

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Monday, October 31, 2011


I've been thinking about friendship a lot lately.  When I was young, I was popular enough I guess.  I had the requisite BFF and other assorted close friends.  Most of my friendships were made through school.  It stands to reason that if one is obligated to spend the better part of a year interacting with the same children on a daily basis friendships will form.

I started school at one of three small K-4 schools in town.  Some kids came and went, but there were many that were there all five years.  Then most of us went to the middle school in town and for the next four years we joined the other two elementary schools.  Again, some came and went, but mostly the population stayed the same.  Then we joined forces with a neighboring town to create a regional high school that still probably didn't have more than about 500 kids overall.  I graduated 12th grade with kids I went to kindergarten with.

After high school, I lost touch with a lot of my classmates.  At the time it was painful.  We went to college and got jobs and we made new friends.  Without the confines of school to hold us together, the friendships fell apart.  In some cases, I was truly surprised by the end of the friendships.  I thought we'd stay friends for a little while at least.  In some cases it was a blessing.  Some friends you're "friends" with long after you shouldn't be and graduation is a great opportunity to make those separations.

Some friendships just slowly faded.  Some friends moved away to school and when they got back, things weren't the same. (And, really, why would they be?)  It's hard and it's sad.  Sometimes I'd try to hold them together - we'd get dinner or drinks or coffee or whatever but, as they say, what's done is done.  There's nothing wrong with this, it just happens.  It doesn't mean you care about the person any less, you're just in a different place.

Enter Facebook.  Most people know that I'm on Facebook way more than a grown woman with a young child and an almost full-time job should be.  The great thing is that it's allowed me to connect with some childhood friends with whom I'd lost touch a long time ago.  I now also have friendships with people that I was just marginally friendly with in school.  I get to hear about their families that I knew growing up, their marriages and children. I still feel connected enough to some that I feel their pain and grieve with them when they lose a loved one (even if they don't know it).  I've also reconnected and revived some friendships that I never thought would come back.  I'm truly blessed to get to talk to some friends I had as a teenager in a way that adults do - we're in the same stage of life and we connect as adults, but with that mutual affection and connection that you can only have with old friends.  It's a wonderful thing...

...Except when it isn't.  I am finding that as an insecure, non-confrontational person, I have a fair amount of "Facebook friends" that simply give me stress.  Let me back up.  Any of you who know me in real life are laughing because of the "insecure, non-confrontational" bit.  Deep down, that's me, even if that's not the persona I put out there.  I talk a pretty good game, but the truth is I don't like when people are mad at me and, rather than ask if they are, I'll sit and stew about it and try to mentally recall the last 150 conversations we had looking for some reason that person could possibly be mad at me.  If I think you don't like me and I don't know for sure, I'll look for clues to figure it out every single time we interact.  I might ask someone else, or mentally will them to tell me (this usually does not work, in case you're wondering).  Eventually, I'll decide that I'll never know and let it feed into the insecurity that was already in overdrive in the first place.

I have a certain respect for the people who are mean to my face or just delete me on Facebook.  At least I know where we stand.  There are no questions.  When there's behind the back talking or otherwise, I get all stupid.  Now, let's be clear:  I know better.  If my son came to me and said that someone was talking about him or that he felt upset by another child I'd tell him to be direct, ask what's up or deal with the situation head on.  If someone doesn't like him, I'll tell him there are a lot of other people out there and as long as he's done all he can to be a good friend, consider it the other child's loss and be done with it.  But I've never been one to follow my own advice.

Trying to figure out the motives of others is an exhausting business.  When someone is weird to me and then weird online, it's easy to put two and two together and not take it personally.  But when it becomes apparent that someone has a split personality, you can't help but wonder which is the true one.  Perhaps the problem is that we put too much stock in a status update or lack there of.  And by "we" I mean myself, lest you think I think everyone is as crazy as I am.


I have friendships that are on life support.  They are hanging on by a thread and Facebook would appear to be that thread.  This is not to be confused with friendships where distance makes things more complicated and electronic communication is all there is right now.  And I'm not talking about the ones where we never have been anything more than "electronic friends."  I'm talking about those friendships where everything appears to be great online but I don't rate a call or personal email or whatever and I always used to.  I'm talking about the ones where we used to hang out or speak or email or interact outside of a glorified message board. These are the ones I don't understand.  These friendships are the ones that 20 years ago (even 10 years ago!) would have faded out and been done.  Or we would have had a blow up and called the whole thing off.  But now, no, we like statuses, offering a comment here and there.  We seem like we're still friends, but are we?

And now we're back to the insecure, non-confrontational bit.  I guess I'll never know where these friendships stand.  Is it me?  Is it something I did?  Did we just grow apart?  Did you never really like me in the first place? The starry-eyed optimist in me (OK, I can't even type that with a straight face!) thinks maybe the friendship hit a rough patch and things will go back to normal.  The eternal pessimist in me (that's more like it!) thinks that probably neither one of us will pull the plug but eventually we'll stop using Facebook and that's probably where I'll find out the truth.  But what could the truth be?  Were we only ever friends out of convenience, much like the school mates I've never gotten back in touch with and I don't think of anymore?  Did we only know mutual people and that's not enough anymore?  Were you waiting on me all this time to start the conversation to work things out?

In the meantime, I'm just going to hit Publish and go see what my Friends are up to on Facebook.


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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Passions and Spinal Cords

If there's one thing I'm good at, it's finding a passion and then not following through on it.  Often, my passions are conflicting which ultimately leads to failure of my own making.  For example, I love being fit and exercising but I also love being lazy and watching TV with a pint of ice cream.  I also am a true Gemini, I flit from idea to idea, losing interest as quickly as I gained it.  I do revisit ideas over and over which makes me wonder if they weren't good ideas in the first place or if I just dove in too fast.  Oh, and clearly I love to also second guess every single decision I make.

Another example of a passion of mine is my (not terribly successful) minimalist lifestyle.  When we bought this house, and probably one of the things that first attracted me to it in the first place, it was empty.  I love an empty room.  You're probably thinking I mean in that blank-canvas sort of way. Oh, no.  I love it because it's empty.  I don't want to put anything in it.  But, soon enough, spaces get filled.

Just about a year after moving in, it occurred to me that I had nothing to wear that wasn't ill-fitting or stained or ripped (or all three!).  Enter my new passion - fashion.  Well, sort of, but saying I am passionate about looking presentable is as lame as a grown up in ripped clothing, so we'll call it fashion.  I recruited some friends and embarked on a mission to What Not To Wear me in several months' time. (If you don't know what WNTW is, it's a reality show on TLC where they surprise the terribly-dressed, throw out their clothes and give them money for new stuff following their rules.  Despite nominating myself, I never got on the show, so I actually had to use my own money for the makeover.)

Fast forward a few months and the day to toss out my stuff approaches.  I end up with a few bags for Goodwill and a few for the trash.  But the best part was that the closet was (gasp! swoon!) almost empty.  The next day we hit the mall for shopping with the girls, lunch and drinks.  10 hours later I'm home with a new wardrobe and a full closet.  And while I love my new stuff and I mostly look put together when out in public these days, I also loved how I had an empty closet again for a few hours.  What a way to take the wind out of my own sails.

A few weeks ago I bought an organic, free-range, grass-fed, blah, blah, blah chicken.  Whole chickens are an excellent frugal meal idea because you can get 3 or more meals out of one chicken.  And I'm passionate about being frugal (except when I'm not).  I made roasted chicken the other night, then I shredded a portion to freeze for another dinner.  I put the carcass in the fridge to make soup.  This morning, I started said soup.  I soon realized that the chicken was too tall to cover with water, so I set about breaking it up.  I snapped the thing in half and looked down.  What was I holding?  Spinal cord!

Ew, ew, ew, ew, nasty.  Chicken back and spinal cord.  I'm holding a SPINAL. CORD.  I am now repulsed beyond belief.  This is the moment where I remember why I want to be a vegetarian.  All of those animals I eat have spinal cords.  Poor little chickens and their poor little spinal cords that I so callously snap in half.

And thus I'm left with a conundrum:  Do I go back to being a not-so-great vegetarian and throw my unfinished spine-soup down the drain?  This is not frugal (and I'm passionate about being frugal, remember?).  And what about all the other animal spinal cords products in the house?  Surely I can't waste them.  But then I go back to feeling guilty (another passion - this one I'm good at though.) about the animals.  A vicious cycle...

The fate of the soup is unclear.  The fates of my diet and closet are equally unclear.  Perhaps if I stuck with one passion and just DID it, that would help.  But which is the right one?  Whatever passion I pick has to be the absolute correct passion right??  And do I have the courage of my convictions to stick with whatever it is anyway for more than a day? a week? a lifetime?  Too daunting to think about that now.  For now, I need to go do something with the soup.

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Monday, September 5, 2011


I should start out by saying that I am 100% aware of how lucky I am that my house did not suffer damage in the hurricane last weekend.  We only had some dampness and moisture in the usual basement places and several bags of leaves and sticks from our large tree out back.  Next door they had about 6+ inches of water.  Just a few miles away, people's basements were flooded out completely.  There are some people who will never go home again.  I get it.  I am so blessed.

However, I am also me.  I am, at heart, a complainer.  I can't help myself.  And mostly I don't feel like I'm complaining, just stating fact.  It's hot today. It's cold today.  It's not has hot/cold as expected.  You get the point.  I'm not looking to have my problem solved and it may not even be a problem.

I find that people like me, known as complainers, bring out a different type of person:  The one who must point out that my life isn't that bad.  These people are the worst (see, complaining again) because often they don't know enough about me to know that, trust me, I've known harder times.  Oddly enough, you'll rarely hear me complain in a serious manner about my childhood or young adult life.  Those struggles - those REAL struggles - were what they were.  They are done.  I may talk about them, joke about them, lightheartedly laugh off some traumatic experience.  But I rarely lament the awfulness of them.
These people who need to point out to me that my issue du jour is no big deal are quite irritating.  

Me:  I don't like my nail polish.  I should take it off.
Other Person:  You know, quadruple amputees can't even go get a mani-pedi, so consider yourself lucky.

Me:  I don't like my hair.
OP:  You know, someone going through chemotherapy would wish for your hair.

Me:  I don't like my job.
OP:  At least you have one.

Me:  Wow, being unemployed is the pits!
OP:  At least you're not homeless.

Me:  Wow, being homeless is unpleasant.
OP:  At least the weather's nice.

Me:  Wow, being homeless in a snowstorm is not ideal.
OP:  At least you didn't freeze to death.

Me:  I just froze to death.
OP:  At least you weren't murdered violently.*

The hypothetical someone-out-there-is-worse-off-than-you rant is also far worse than the my-problem-is-bigger-than-yours rant.  Here's why.  When I complain about something to someone who is truly in a more difficult situation, they could be pointing it out for several reasons.  Maybe it's for a little bit of perspective, which sometimes we all need.  Maybe it's because they are self-absorbed and can't help themselves.  Maybe I'm being insensitive and need a major reality check.  But when you're telling me that I should get over my problem because someone, somewhere is having a worse day, pardon me, but kindly shut up.  That's not helpful and it's annoying.  It's also a tad condescending and judgmental in a passive-aggressive way.

If at any point I stated something negative about my relationship with my mother, invariably someone would tell me how lucky I was that she was alive, someday she'd be gone and I really shouldn't mind any of her faults.  First of all, yes, some people's moms are not alive.  If everyone's mom lived forever, we'd have an even bigger overpopulation problem.  Also, I was always aware of how sick my mother was and that someday she'd be gone.  Even if she wasn't sick, some day she'd be gone.  And her faults, well, she was human.  She had faults.  I noticed them.  Get over it.

I find the same thing happening with my dog.  He is getting up there, 13 last month, and his age is showing.  He has some bladder issues that are resulting in some carpet issues.  He does have the uncanny knack for having accidents at the most inopportune moments: while I'm in the bathroom, while Nathan's in the bathroom or tub, while I'm eating, etc.  I know he can't help it, I know he's old.  He is still urinating on my floor more often than I'd prefer and I still have to deal with it.  It is not fun.  It's not the part, when you're getting a dog, that you look forward to.  It's not like when he's gone, I'll fondly look back on being on my hands and knees mopping pee or dragging out the steam-vac twice per week.  I know what I'll miss, thank you.

And finally, the kid.  He is 4 going on 2 going on 14.  That child is his mother's son:  He is opinionated, emotional, sensitive, easily offended and has a big mouth.  He keeps talking long after he should have stopped and in ways that are completely inappropriate for his age (that's the 14 part).  He does so, however, while crying, stomping his feet and pounding his fists (that's the 2 part).  Every day is challenging.  But, every day is wonderful.  He is bright and beautiful and funny.  I tell him every single day how much I love him and how he is one of my favorite people on Earth.  I wouldn't trade him or change him for anything because he is who he is.  And someday when he learns to tame who he is, he will be a happier boy.  In the meantime, we have challenging days.  Seriously though, I know how great he is.  I know that I'll miss this age just as I miss all the others that have passed.  But I won't miss the bad stuff and it's silly to tell me I will.  

Last week wasn't my favorite week.  All aspects of life were challenging.  Not horrible, not the worst ever, just lots of annoying stuff, one after the other, all. week. long.  So, by the end of Thursday, which is my last day in the office for the week, I was done.  I had had it.  I wanted to sit down, relax, zone out.  I just had to get through Nathan's bedtime and then I could have some peace.  And wouldn't you know, the dog pees a ridiculous amount in a ridiculously spread-out way.  And, just needing to vent to adults, I vaguely commented about it on Facebook.  And wouldn't you know it, I had people tell me a) it's no big deal and to b) get over it.  

What's the moral of the story?  Most reasonable people in the midst of annoying life-crap know that their situations are not the worst possible things (unless they are teenagers, but they aren't really reasonable people, are they?).  You don't need to tell them things could always be worse or tell them to get over it.  We know it could be worse and we will get over it.  Maybe we just needed to say something out loud or in print.  Maybe we just needed a hug or a sad face in the comments.  Maybe we needed to know we aren't alone.  Sometimes misery loves company.

*Disclaimer:  None of the examples given above actually happened, except the one where I shouldn't complain about my job because the economy is bad and many people are out of work.  So here I am, officially stating that I'm aware of our current economic situation and the large number of un- and under-employed people.  I sincerely hope things change and those who seek work find it.  Here I also am, officially stating that some of my work is fun (in a benefits geek way) and some of it is not.  And yes, it could be worse, I could be a coal-miner or a janitor in a train station or a podiatrist (feet are gross).  That is all.  Carry on.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

On Writing and the Future

They say to write what you know. What's that you say? You don't want to see me write sarcastically about employee benefits? Really? I'm so surprised. What else do I know? Let's see... I could claim to set goals and then say something negative about myself. That's really interesting, right? Yeah, that's what I thought.

I can't get the idea of writing off my mind. I've been doing a lot of work-related writing lately and, in a total geek-out sort of way, it's fun. But I would really like to write more, preferably about something other than pre-tax plans, IRS regulations and ERISA. If you don't know what these things are, consider yourself lucky.

I used to dream of being a writer. The typewriter by the window, wind blowing, frantically banging on the keys. I'd have some sort of ritual when I finished stuff. Drink scotch or smoke a cigar or something. But of course life's not like a TV show. Let's face it, if I had that open window with no screen (why don't they EVER have screens on TV?), a bee would fly in, I'd panic and end up falling over my own chair. And if I ever got anything finished, I'd probably have to go put laundry in the dryer or clean up some mess my kid or the dog made.

I was reading a blog post on Money Saving Mom (a blog I sometimes read and follow on Facebook) that was a guest post from I Can Teach My Child (a blog I've never read before). The subject was how to run an unsuccessful blog. Don't post frequently (check!), write about something you're not passionate about (check!), don't write original content (this implies I write content - see the first item on the list) and don't get in the blog world (check).

I have influences in the blog world. There are women I find inspirational or I love their style, story or mission. But their stuff isn't my stuff. I've always joked that I don't have A Thing. Jack of all trades, master of none, that's me. Wide and shallow, not narrow and deep. Probably some other trite phrases. None of this serves the goal of being a writer. If I'm not writing anything that anyone wants to read, no one will read it. It's that simple.

I recently read Bossypants by Tina Fey. I wish I had written that. I could write a memoir, but really, who cares? I could do the whole Mommy Blogger thing, but do we need someone else writing what her kid did? Sure my IRL friends care, but they are probably hearing the story from me and not reading it on the blog. Oh, and IRL means In Real Life, which again, implies I have any kind of following or In Blogosphere Friends, which I don't.

As for participating in the blog world, the recommendation was to read and comment on posts. Most will include a link to your blog. I have often felt that if I linked back to my own blog people would read it and surely not come back.

What's my point, you're wondering? Well, I think I need to give this writing thing a shot. The blog is here, so I'm going to start here. After tonight, I'm going to plan posts, write them in advance and even *gasp* edit them! So if you read this, give me a comment, show some love (or hate, if that's how you're feeling!). If you feel so inclined, tell me what I've written that you like and you'd come back for more of. If, by chance, there's someone I don't know personally reading this, say hi, introduce yourself! I'm not sure where this is going. I don't have a vision yet. When I figure it out, I'll let you know. In the meantime, I'll write what's on my mind and we'll see what sticks.

Here's to new beginnings!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Goal Setting

I'm trying something different for August. I wrote out a list of things I want to get done this month and prioritized them. I know this sounds pretty elementary, and it is what all the "experts" say you should do, but I've always just had a rough outline in my head for a week or month. Sure, I've written out long term goals for the year along with all my other bright ideas and I've made daily to-do lists, but never made a list of the steps for a medium amount of time to work towards the larger goal. I suspect in September I will look back at this as one of those aha moments.

1. Pay the bills and do the banking. Before we moved (yes, I'm aware that was over a year ago), I had a great system in place for bill paying and banking. My office was set up and in the main area of the house, my computer worked, everything was online and, most importantly, I had time alone in the house. I never quite fell into a new routine when we moved and most of our bills changed. This leads to me scrambling last minute to get stuff out on time or paying one bill at a time over the course of a week. Not good. This month I sat down and did what needed to be done. Of course, the dishes didn't get done, but you know you can't have it all.

2. Research new banking/savings options. I don't know enough about CDs, online accounts like ING and the like to move on this. But there's no way Nathan's savings account is going to grow any momentum if it stays a savings account. I'm a lazy banker. Stuff stays where it is because it's easier to not look at it. I know there are better options out there, I just need to spend a little time learning.

3. Nathan's room. In my endless attempt to have less clutter, I have to find a way to make Nathan's room a place that doesn't make me physically ill when I walk into it.

4. Pain the dining room wall. Now that the new door is in place, we need to repaint. It's one wall and there's a 5 foot door in the middle of it. This shouldn't take long. Of course, it takes forever if you don't actually go into the basement and get the paint.

5. Wellness Assessment. This one is done as of yesterday! Our insurance plan is offering $100 if you complete a 15 minute questionnaire about your health and another $100 if you sign up for a wellness program. No surprise I qualify for the weight loss program, so my Health Coach will be calling me shortly (or so I'm told) and I'll be getting $200.

6. Clean out the kitchen cabinets. After Nathan's room, the kitchen cabinets are the 2nd most cluttered place in the house. I have too many kitchen things, many of which I don't use. Partially because they aren't organized, partially because I just don't need them. Either way, something has to change.

7. Get to the gym at least 4 times. That's once per week. If I can't make start going weekly, I need to quit, so the rest of the year is a test for me. We'll see how it goes.

8. Track all expenditures to prepare a budget. On a daily basis I'm tracking all of our spending to see where our money goes. We have long term goals - we don't want to work for other people the rest of our lives (or at all for that matter), we want to move across the country, we want our family to have all it needs and a good amount of what it wants now and in the future. Financial irresponsibility is one way to make sure those things never happen. Not that we're irresponsible, but we have our moments that certainly don't fit into the big picture. I want to change that.

Some of these goals are easy, some just take some planning. None of them are inherently difficult. Let's hope this approach works!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Is July 1 the New January 1?

I have lots of ideas these days. Too many. The kind of ideas that keep me from doing what I should be doing, regardless of what that is. Could be the gemini in me that can't keep still and can't keep focused on the task at hand. I'm suffering from a general lack of enthusiasm for much of what I'm doing these days. I know in my head and heart that there is a better way. The better way is hard. The hard way and happy (hopefully) or the easy way and less happy, followed by disappointment in myself that I took the easy way out (again)... This is my daily thought process whether I realize it or not.

I'm hesitant to share any of it with anyone though. Most times that I do, I get questioned, I defend it, I plan more for it, I get caught up with some other unrelated drama, I forget about it. I appear wishy-washy and noncommittal. And isn't that exactly how one wants to be perceived?

I'm going to try something new. I'm going to tell you what I've done. As in actually accomplished. Then when I go back and read past posts (one of my favorite time wasters!), I can feel good about what I've done rather than follow it up with my second favorite hobby, tearing myself down.

Today I finally reduced one of my inboxes to a mere 19 emails. Some of them I should really just file away because they are more for reference, one is a reminder of something I desperately need to do (if I don't book a flight, it's going to be a long walk to San Diego!), and some are blogs that I really want to try out the suggestions of the author but just haven't gotten to. I decluttered the last of the Christmas themed ones this morning, that's how far back some of these emails went. The other day I also got my Google reader down to zero and even cut back some subscriptions. I checked it this weekend, read through what was new this week and cleared that out. Some subscriptions are officially on double-secret probation and have this next week to catch my interest or out they go.

This isn't terribly interesting to others probably, but it's important to me. It's hard for me to move on to Step 2 when the arbitrary Step 1 I've established isn't complete. It's ridiculous, but that's me. So Step 1 is done and now I can move on to Step 2.

Today's work on Step 2 (which I'm not revealing for fear of jinxing) is to go clean lettuce and write up a meal plan for the week. Since I intend to do this AS SOON AS this is published, I am confident that I might actually get it done.

With July 1 on the horizon and many of my New Year's Resolutions yet incomplete, I am resolving to work on some things, try to keep my mind on the bigger picture while focusing on the task at hand. If I'm cleaning lettuce, then I will give my all to that lettuce until it's clean. Then I'll move on to the next thing. Less multitasking, more actually getting something done instead of starting 10 things. We'll see how that goes. Maybe on January 1 I can even make NEW resolutions instead of writing the same ones out again.

Oh, and the other thing I did that I wanted to? I wrote again this month.