Saturday, December 29, 2012

We Were On A Break.

I took a little unintentional blogging hiatus this week.  I haven't posted in over 10 days, which hasn't happened since the beginning of the year.  On the one hand, I'm really disappointed about this.  On the other hand, I'm too exhausted and burnt out to care.

I think it's pretty obvious which hand is winning though, because here I am, posting the Excuse Post.

We celebrate Christmas here.  Merry Christmas, by the way, if you're into that sort of thing.  If not, hope your day was merry regardless because merry days are probably better than whatever the opposite of merry is.

Celebrating holidays takes up time.  We host Christmas dinner, so I do some cooking the day of and the day before in preparation.  We also go to dinner with friends on Christmas Eve, a 10 year tradition at this point.  It's nice to have these things to count on, time spent with family and friends.

Nathan was kind enough to tell us that since Santa would be bringing him things, his father and I didn't have to get him anything.  That was kind of him, don't you think?

And, work.  What can we say about that?  It's been steadily getting crazier and crazier.  The benefits industry, like many others, has a lot going on for January 1.  That means my Decembers are nuts.  Most of my blogging time was spent working instead.  I wish I could say that the extra work made my life less stressful.  I suppose in some way it did, but not enough for me to not feel incredibly stressed out.  I can't really do much of anything but shrug and say, "Eh." I just have to keep trudging through. I see a small glimmer of hope by the end of January.  At least I hope that's what I see.

Over the last two nights, I've had the pleasure of spending time with friends.  Thursday I got to see friends I met in high school when we worked together at a Dairy Queen. There's something about people who've known you forever to make your heart feel full.  We joked and laughed, reminisced about the good old days, you know how it goes.  It was a great night.  Last night, we had delicious Indian food with a fun couple.  Good food, good conversation, that's really hard to beat, too.

But, all the social commitments, the work, the family obligations, they've left me exhausted.  I haven't written, which makes me really sad.  I've had stuff to say, but the work it takes to move my fingers across keys was really too much.  I missed Yeah Write this past week and I was too tired to even beat myself up about it.  Something had to go.  I wish it wasn't something I enjoy so much, but, you know, earning a paycheck and feeding my kid had to be the priority.

We are about to get snowed in today.  Monday is New Year's Eve and we'll celebrate with friends.  Tuesday we'll celebrate my son's 6th birthday a day early since January 2nd will find us back to school and work.  I have a lot to catch up on around the house and if I don't rest there is no doubt in my mind that I'm going to succumb to whatever illness has been threatening me for the past few weeks.

If something has to get left behind, sadly it will be writing and reading.  I wish there was time to do everything that I wanted to do.  There isn't.

Thanks for sticking around while I get my non-writing life in order.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Lockdown Drills.

The Saturday before last, the 8th of December, to be clear, on a drive to a friend's house, Nathan was telling his father and I about the lockdown drills at school.  When I asked him to explain it to us, he gave us the details of where they hide and the steps they take.  He needs to remember the procedure for the gym and his classroom.  I assume there are procedures for the art room and the library, too.  They are not allowed to talk or move or make any noise.  Then the principal comes around to each room to see if she can tell if kids are in there.

This isn't the first time he's told me about the lockdown drills.  He mentioned one earlier in the school year.  When asked why they do these, he said it was in case someone bad gets in the school.  I asked him if this scared him and he told me it didn't.  I was disturbed the first time it was brought up and I was no less disturbed the second time.  I hate, hate, hate the idea that these are needed.

I took solace in the fact that he's only in kindergarten.  He's not at an age when retaliation for bullying is a realistic fear.  I believe, perhaps naively, that the kids in his class and in his grade are probably not dangerously violent.  Even though my maternal instinct always says to keep him by my side, to protect him at all costs so that he is never, ever hurt, I have always known that it's not possible.  I know I have to send him out into the world and trust that he will come home to me every day.  I believed he was safe.

And then the tragedy in Connecticut happened.  In my head and my heart I know that most of the world wouldn't do such a thing, but the fact that it could happen, the fact that it did happen, has taken all of my fears and given them a validity that I am not comfortable with.

I read about the teacher who was killed, but not before hiding her children in cabinets and closets.  When I think that it could have been Nathan, scared, shoved into a hiding space while his teacher was murdered a few feet away, I can barely contain my fear and sadness.  What those children saw and heard is unimaginable.

On a regular day, it takes a lot for me to not worry about all the things that could happen and all the ways tragedy could strike.  These are no longer regular days.

After my conversation with Nathan, I had planned a post about the lockdown drills and just didn't get to writing it last week.  Nathan doesn't know about what happened in Connecticut and I don't plan to tell him.  I don't know if he really is scared about the prospect of a bad person getting in his school and a lockdown being a reality.  Maybe he is just so innocent that he doesn't understand.  I hope that's it.  Worry is a burden I don't want for him.  All too soon he'll know why they do these drills and I can't handle the thought of him thinking he's in danger.

Right now I'm watching him, sitting at his kid-sized table, in his almost-too-small dog jammies, watching SpongeBob and flipping the foil top of a single-serve package of Pringles.  I want to scoop him up and hug him and never let him go.  I know I have to let him go.  I know he needs to live in this world, and so do I, and we have to believe we are safe while being prepared for when we're not.

I don't have words to express how sorry I am for the losses of the families of Newtown.  I keep trying to write something that can equal the magnitude of what happened and I realize there is nothing that can be said or written that will do that.  I can't fathom what they are going through.  

I am heartbroken and angry.  I need to do something.  I can't sit here any longer, wishing the world was different.  I need to speak out and work for change.  Because I believe we can change things.  I refuse to be afraid and not do something about.

The time for wishing and hoping is over.  Quite frankly, it should have been over a long time ago.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

In Memory of My Grandmother.

This was originally posted on December 2, 2011.  Today is the 14th anniversary of my grandmother's death.  I hope you'll indulge me as I share it again. 

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 are 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.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Long, Full Life.

"Most gulls don't bother to learn more than the simplest facts of flight--how to get from shore to food and back again.  For most gulls it was not flying that matters, but eating.  For this gull, though, it was not eating that mattered, but flight." - Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull

I first read Jonathan Livingston Seagull in high school and it easily became one of my favorites. I haven't read it in years, but I remember the moral. Life is not just about existing or surviving.  It's much more than that.

All my life, I've wondered why I was dealt the hands I received.  It wasn't that I was whining or wishing for something different, it's just that I wanted to know why.  What was I meant to learn?  

I don't believe we are put on this Earth to simply live here and die, but I'm not a religious woman and I don't believe in heaven or hell.  I do believe that we are here to learn in our life and what we don't learn now, our souls are doomed to have to learn in our next lifetime.

Why was I given one alcoholic parent who abandoned us and another one who abandoned us emotionally?

Why did we face the hardships we did? Why did I have to learn about finances, taking care of a home, cooking, home health care, do not resuscitate orders, powers of attorney, mortgages and credit years before my peers?

Why do I struggle with things that seem to come so easily for others?  Why can't I make a simple decision without agonizing over whether it's the right choice?  Why do I take things so personally without even knowing they are about me?

There has to be a lesson.  I wouldn't keep facing the same issues over and over if there wasn't. I wouldn't keep battling the same demons, having the same conversations and arguments repeatedly, if I wasn't meant to learn something from the experience.

And then, in the midst of yet another hectic week in what is proving to be a very hectic month in a very hectic year, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  

I was lamenting, yet again, my son's difficulties with some recent transitions.  He doesn't handle disruptions well.  He's not a go-with-the-flow sort of kid.  He likes things just so.  He is inflexible.

He is just like his mother.

I do not handle change well.  I resist and rebel against anything that bucks the system, anything that alters my schedules and habits.  I am the one who would often continue to do things the hard way rather than learn a new easier method.

I am rigid.  I am inflexible. 

And it is this inability to adapt to the natural rhythm of life that causes me such stress.  So set in my ways am I that anything that doesn't go as I planned is evil or bad or wrong.  And when others reap the benefits of new things or seemingly breeze through life, I am the one left resentful and angry.  I am the one left behind and sad.  I am the one who suffers from my own doing.

The lesson, I realized, is to accept change.  The lesson is admit that I cannot control everything that happens in the world around me but that I can control how I react to it.  I can slow down, take a deep breath and find a solution.  I can control me.

"Jonathan Seagull discovered that boredom and fear and anger are the reasons that a gull's life is so short and with those gone from his thought, he lived a long fine life indeed."

I can have that long, full life.  It's not just for the lucky few.  

I'm going to go find my copy of Jonathan Livingston Seagull and read it again.  I think it's just the kick off I need.

I'm linking up with the super-supportive crew over at Yeah Write, the best blogging community on these here interwebs.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mary's Birds.

I took a deep breath and turned the key.  I held the door with my left hand as I pulled the key from the deadbolt with my right.  One foot on the threshold, my eyes just about to peer inside and it struck me.

Wait, was that a dead bird on the walk?  Did I step over a dead bird?

I left my purse and Mary's groceries on the porch to investigate.  Sure enough, it was as I suspected.  I crouched beside it, trying to get a closer look without actually getting closer.  A small crust of bread lay a mere bounce away from its beak, clearly a casualty of the harsh landing.  A few pavement ants were preparing to carry it off.

I turned my gaze upward, even though I knew there were no tree limbs above.  Shielding my eyes from the afternoon sun, I wondered out loud where that bird had fallen from.  Off to the side, just on the perimeter of the lawn, I found a small twig.  I picked it up and poked the bird gingerly, just in case a small jolt would cause it to flip over and fly off.

No such luck.

Remembering that I left the door open, I headed back up to the porch.

"Mary?" I called as I stepped inside.  The house was warm and the radio was blaring in the way that you only find in the home of an elderly person.

"Mary?  I have your groceries!"  I looked around and found Mary in her armchair knitting, as usual.

"Did you leave my door open and walk away?  There's a draft in here.  Did you get a nice cantaloupe? Last week the cantaloupe you brought me wasn't sweet.  I like them when they're sweet."

Mary, a widow whose children had passed tragically many years ago, had no one.  My visits with her weren't pleasant, but every now and again I'd show up with her weekly groceries and she'd have something nice to say.  The one week I was sick and sent my friend over, Mary complained that my friend did everything even more wrong than I did.  I think she secretly missed me.

"I think this cantaloupe should be better.  It looks nicer."

Mary nodded to acknowledge she heard me.

"There's a dead bird on your front walk.  I'm going to go clean it up," I explained, holding up a trash bag I found in the kitchen as proof of my task.

"Oh, the birds.  Yes.  I've been finding quite a few of those.  Thank you."

I went back out front and there were two more birds on the lawn, all on their backs, feet pointed towards the sky.  I put the bag over my hand and picked up each one, turning the birds down deep into the bottom of the plastic.  I spun and tied it as I walked around the house over to the garbage can, which I found surrounded by flies.  I lifted the lid to the most putrid smell I'd ever encountered.  Trying not to gag, I peeked inside.

The can was filled nearly to the brim with dead birds.  I slammed the lid on, dropping the bag beside it. I darted back to the front of the house.  I had to skip over two more birds that were not there but a minute earlier.  Taking the stairs two at a time, I bounded back onto the porch and nearly collided with Mary who had come to the doorway.

"Look," she directed, pointing outside.  The lawn was littered with dead birds, heads all pointed towards the house, feet all pointed towards the sky.

I gasped in horror.  Mary was calm.

Birds began falling from the sky, all in the same direction in a way that defied logic and physics.  Each gave a light bounce when it hit the ground but didn't move after impact.  I pushed Mary in as gently as I could given the urgency and slammed the door shut.

We stood mesmerized at the window until the storm passed.  By the time it was over, hundreds of birds covered Mary's property.

When I finally ventured out, pushing birds aside to clear a path, I noticed that only Mary's lawn was covered in birds.  I turned back to face the house.  Mary was still in the window.  I saw her shrug and turn away, headed back to her her armchair to knit, I presume.

I'm linking up with the Speakeasy again this week.  If you want to read more about Mary, you can you do so here.  If you want to read more wonderful works of fiction, click through to the Speakeasy.  And if you like voting for things, come back Thursday and vote for your favorites.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Nothing Is Good Enough.

I had a whole post written in my head that I planned for Yeah Write this week.  It was positive.  No one died, no one was sad.  I think it showed some emotional growth on my part, if I do say so myself.

The trouble is, I can't write happy when I'm not.  When I'm cranky, or worse depressed, all that comes out is cranky and depressed.  I can't fake it.  I wear my heart on my sleeve and on the page and on the screen.  Believe me when I tell you that I find it as irritating as everyone around me does, and at times I have as much control over my mood as they do.

When I feel like this, somewhere in the middle of a ven diagram of furious, apathetic and despondent, I tend to listen to music that feeds these feelings.  I don't listen to upbeat songs in an effort to snap out of it.  Instead, I listen to music that pushes me further and further down until there is no place left to go but up.

The lyrics to Aimee Mann's "Nothing Is Good Enough" came to mind today at a point when I didn't know if I should cry, scream or run away.  I asked my coworker if she was familiar with song and she was not.  I pulled it up on my phone and played it for her.  It was all I could do to not bawling at my desk.  I should have known better than to play it when I couldn't sing unrestrained and let out the bottled up crud I call feelings.

I excused myself when it was over and headed to the ladies room to splash some water on my face and mentally smack some sense into myself.  One can't pick up in the middle of the day and leave the office.  One must get back to work and do what is necessary and expected.  A complete emotional breakdown had to wait.

By the time I got home today, I realized that the person that nothing is good enough for most of all is myself.  I can't expect to please others when I don't believe I'm anything more than an enormous letdown.  It's that whole you get the respect you command thing.

I'm pretty sure I didn't hit the bottom of this current downswing or not.  I don't know if I'm ready to champion my own success yet.  I might need to sit on this one for a little while longer.  I might need to listen to more Aimee Mann so I can get this one over with already.

When I get there though, back up where I want to be, I'll hurry up and write that post before it's too late.

I don't know what's up with the weird picture, but if you've never heard "Nothing Is Good Enough" by Aimee Mann from the Bachelor No. 2 album, give it a listen.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

You Have Exactly.

"You have exactly one hour," Mother said as she walked back toward the living room.

"Oh, exactly?  Not 59 minutes?  Or 61?"

"Do you want me to smack you across the face?"  She never broke stride, even when she was threatening me.

I shuffled the music pages on top of the organ seeking out the piece I was to play this weekend.  I stared at it, each note blurring into the next.  I hate this piece.  Not because it's difficult, because it isn't.  I hate it because I've been playing it over and over for weeks.  First to learn it, then to perfect it, now to practice it endlessly for Sunday's service.

If my kids ever express an interest in music, I will never treat them like this. I don't care how good they are.

I remember the first time I played outside our home.  I was 3 years old and we were at our regular Sunday mass.  I snuck up to the organ when Mother and Father were talking to the organist.  I began to play the music that Miss Judy, the organist, had used earlier.  I had never played those songs before, and yet I hit every note just right.  Miss Judy came over to me and Mother followed, smiling her approval.

She should have been happy, she was the one who orchestrated the whole thing and told me to pretend it was my idea.

"Give her anything you want.  She can play it.  Right, Amelia?" Mother smiled at Miss Judy.

"Isn't that right, Amelia?" Mother turned her glare towards me.

"Yes, Mother."

Miss Judy handed me something else to play and I played that perfectly, too.

That was 10 years ago.  I haven't missed a single day of practice since.  Mother wouldn't stand for it.

"I don't hear you yet," Mother sang from behind me.  I could hear the ice clinking in her scotch.

I began to play.  Every note was spotless, my timing was impeccable, as always.  Mother only spoke to tell me to start again each time I played that last note.  I did as I was told.

When the timer buzzed that my hour was up, Mother released me.

"Go make yourself some dinner.  You have exactly 15 minutes.  You have much more work to do if you're to be ready to perform next week."
I'm submitting this work of fiction to the Yeah Write Speakeasy where we were given a first line and a photo prompt and sent on our way.  Please click through, read the other submissions and come back Thursday to vote for your favorites.

Friday, November 30, 2012

30. November Is Over.

It's over, you guys!  It's OVER!!

This is my last post in NaBloPoMo.  It was 95% fun, 5% torture.  I think hardest part about posting every single day is that I have many, many other things to do besides blogging.  I know, we all do.

This month kicked my ass in a major way.

I wasn't sure I'd be able to do this, but I did.

I woke up this morning with a head full of ideas.  More posts I want to write, some longer projects I'm thinking about starting and a strong desire to accomplish tasks.  I'm going to ride this wave of enthusiasm as long as I can.

I'll be back soon.  I don't know if I'll post tomorrow, it all depends on how all this energy plays out.  Thanks to everyone who read and commented.  I know I wasn't as good at reading and commenting on everyone else's blogs as much as I'd like to.  I have the 600+ emails to prove how behind I am there.

Tonight though, I'm going to eat Chinese food (steamed vegetable dumplings and a vegetable roll, if you're wondering) and go to sleep.

November may have kicked my ass, but December isn't going to.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

29. Spinning My Wheels.

I guess you could say I'm results-oriented.  I like to see tangible proof of my progress on a daily basis.  I  am happiest when, at the end of a work session, I can look at some sort of measurable indication that I actually got stuff done.

Right now, the things I do, they don't leave me with that feeling.

I wash many, many dishes every day.  The sink stays empty for about five minutes and then it's filled right back up.  No sooner do I finish vacuuming do I find crumbs and such on the floor.  The laundry never ends.

At work, it's no better.  This is a time of year when I spend most of my time putting out fires.  Squeaky wheels are getting oiled and I'm not getting ahead, crossing things off lists or clearing my desk.  I don't leave at the end of the day able to see what I accomplished.  My desk is a mess, my email is full and there are piles of folders stacked so high that I'm slightly concerned that they will topple onto my office mate's head.

I've been working in my home office to create a usable, inviting space there.  I've also been working on the project of bagging, boarding, boxing and cataloging our comic book collection.  Both of these tasks are so huge that often at the time I need to stop for the day I've made a bigger mess than when I started.

I know in my head that I'm getting things done.  I mostly don't stop Doing from 6 in the morning until 9 at night.  I could most certainly make a list of everything I did and you would not deny that I was busy. Most of the time it's not nonsense either, it's real work or projects.  But if you were to look around for a pile of completed things or a list you could cross tasks off of, you would probably not find it.

This is not to say I feel the need to justify my time spent.  I don't, honestly.  This is about my perception  of things.  I am my own worst enemy and this is no exception.  I can talk myself out of pride in accomplishment better than anyone else can.

It gets to me after a while.  I know I don't NEED to keep a tally.  No one is making me list my deeds for the day so I can get a gold star.

But it would do my spirit good to see things done.  To see a room clean, a list all crossed off, a pile, um, un-piled.

It would be nice to finish the day not feeling like I'm just spinning my wheels.

28.(ish) Sick.

I humbly come to you requesting that you forgive me for the lateness of this post.  Yesterday I was doing some stuff when I realized the laptop was at 10% power.  I set it to charge and started doing other things.

My health began a rapid descent into the abyss known as the head cold.  By the time I got Nathan bathed and to bed, ate dinner cleaned up, etc., I felt like I was going to pass out.  I sat down and promptly fell asleep.

I woke up on the couch at 2:45 in the morning and realized with a gasp that I didn't post last night.  I meant to.  I really did.  I was going to do it after dinner and I decided to prevent death by resting.

I'm so pissed at myself for missing it.  I managed real posts almost every day of this challenge.  I've had a hectic time at work, the holiday was in there and there have been some other non-bloggable goings ons that have been taking up time and mental space.  Through all of it, I posted daily.

And then, on the 28th day, I messed it all up.  I HATE failing, especially at something that I really don't think I should fail at.

So, if you'll indulge me and not hold it against me, can we all just pretend that I posted this last night?

I will post again later, assuming I survive another crazy day in the office with my head so heavy I can barely hold it up.

Until this evening...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

27. First Snowfall.

The title of this post almost makes you think that I like snow.  On the contrary, I loathe snow.  I abhor snow.  My hatred of snow burns so deep in my gut that sometimes I think it could kill me.

OK, that last part might be a bit much.

For someone like me who has extreme issues with control and flexibility, snow causes me great anxiety.  All weather events do really.  Think about it.  The weather is going to just do what it's going to do and there is nothing I can do to stop it.

I can plan for and around it.  I can try to adapt my schedule, shuffle my needs and adjust my expectations, but I still can't do what I want to do whenever I want to do it when weather decides to do something besides just be sunny.

Thankfully, today the snow didn't do anything to me.  My kid had school, work was open, the roads were drivable.  It did remind me though that it's only November and we have possibly 4-5 months of me worrying that it's going to snow.

Delayed openings at my son's school mess up my work schedule.  If school closes early, that's another inconvenience.  I hate being stuck home if I have errands to run or things I want to do.

I hate shoveling.  It's tiring and I'm lazy.  It's cold outside and my fingers get numb easily.  Snow boots are stupid.  Gloves practically render my hands useless but I can't go without.  I also don't have time for shoveling because I usually have a full schedule and adding something I don't even want to do to the mix makes me angry.

I can't even talk about it anymore.  I'm getting annoyed just thinking about it.

I realize that to live in New Jersey and get this angry about snow is ridiculous.  It snows ever year, even  in the mildest of winters.  I should be used to it by now since snow has been disrupting my life for many years.

Instead, I dream of the day I'll move to San Diego where it doesn't snow.

Monday, November 26, 2012

26. Insecurity, Cigarettes and Ice Cream.

When I was but a teenager, a man I knew passed down some wisdom that has often been repeated through the years by my circle of friends.

"You know what they say about the girls who smoke the Newport cigarettes?" he asked in his very thick Greek accent.  "They like to fuck."

Never a fan of menthol and not wanting to sully my reputation, I decided to stick with my Camel Lights.

A few Saturdays ago, my husband and I had the desire for some ice cream around 9:30 PM.  Because I was the one still dressed, I offered to make the run to 7-11.  As I pulled into the parking lot, two women were sauntering in towards the door, straight through the middle of the lane I was trying to drive down.

"Get outta my way, ya fuckin' whores!" I growled, windows up, confident they couldn't hear me.

You see, as much as I hate to admit it, I do sometimes talk and act like someone born and raised in New Jersey.

I am not proud of myself.  The fact of the matter is that these women were barely dressed and I judged them based on their lack of clothing.  More than that, I was jealous that they could run around like that and I, most definitely, could not.

I entered the store and made a beeline for the freezer case.  They were still paying for their Red Bulls and chatting loudly when I walked up behind them.  They appeared to be in their early 20s, heavily made up with hair just so.  Their black knee-high boots had stiletto heels at least four inches high.

I used to wear heels like that.

Black leggings, off the shoulder sweaters, tons of jewelry and one with a bare midriff, the girls giggled and laughed.  They looked like they were going to go out dancing or to a bar.  Something cool.  They were probably not going home to eat ice cream and try to finish Season 1 of Revenge on Netflix.

I though about my own outfit.  My sweater was one of those long ones, but since I'm so short it was past my knees.  I was wearing my good mom jeans with a t-shirt from JC Penney's that was just a touch too short.  I looked down and I realized I had forgotten to change my shoes before I left the house.

I was wearing my slippers.

The first woman finished paying and the second one passed her drink to the cashier who was, I am certain, the long lost son of El Debarge.  She was just about to swipe her debit card when the first woman called to her to please get cigarettes.

"Oh, and a pack of Newports, too, please?"

I could barely contain my laughter when she turned, smiled at me, then apologized for taking so long.  I smiled back, told her it was fine and hoped she didn't notice the two pints of Ben and Jerry's I was cradling.

Back in the lot, I fumbled for my keys as I headed towards my car.  I wasn't really paying attention to where I was walking and when I saw a car approaching me, I shuffled along and did the obligatory apologetic wave to signal that I recognized my blunder.

As the car passed, I realized it was the women, each of them lighting up a Newport.

When I got back home, I changed into my pajamas and put my slippers back on.  I smiled remembering old friends.  I chided myself for my bitter jealousy towards young women who still have the youth and gumption to go out on a Saturday night, dressed up and ready for fun.  I vowed to do something about my appearance and to pay more attention to my footwear.

Then I ate my ice cream, watched my program and passed out on my couch like the tired, grumpy woman I am.

I'm linking up with the way-talented group over at Yeah Write.  Hopefully I'll still be welcome after they all find out I'm kind of obnoxious and I have a potty mouth.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

25. Procrastination.

I blame Paplinko.  But it really only explains why I didn't get anything done today.  It doesn't really account for the rest of this weekend.

I brought work home on Wednesday and I promised myself I'd make time to do it on Friday.  I didn't though because I found other very important things to do.  I worked on some projects around the house and spent time with the family.  See? Important.

Then I said I'd do work on Saturday.  Nathan wasn't really interested in napping.  I mean, he's nearly six, so I don't really know what I was expecting.  And I had to make a dish to bring to Friends Thanksgiving.  I never have enough leftovers to bring to the event so I always plan to make a fresh vegetable the day of. This year it was roasted cauliflower and carrots with parmesan and breadcrumbs.  It was a very delicious, important reason to not get my work done.

And today...  I had a birthday party for a 5 year old to attend, the child of a friend/friend of my child.  I spent the better part of the afternoon driving and standing around watching my child and others jump around on giant inflatables.  They had a great time and I love watching the kids have fun.  And I enjoyed chatting with my friends, too.  Admittedly, I enjoyed all of this far more than I would have enjoyed working.

Notice I said the better part of the afternoon was spent in this celebratory endeavor.  So what about my morning?  And my evening?

I was playing Paplinko.  If you're not familiar, it's a free app that I have now downloaded to two iPhones and my Kindle.  I allegedly downloaded this game for my son, but clearly things have not gone as planned.  Certainly I saw the insanity of playing the same game on three different devices at the same time while my son was not in the room.  And even more certainly I saw the insanity of doing it again later in the day.

But you launch this ball and it bounces off pegs and you get points and coins.  When you run out of balls, if you have enough coins, you can "buy" more balls so you can keep playing.  And there are mulitpliers that make the pegs worth more and slime pits that steal your accumulated winnings.  And a treasure chest!  When you get a treasure chest, you can get all sorts of neat prizes!

I managed to get some of my work done in spite of the game.  I also managed to still get this post done. I am watching TV with my husband as I type because we have a tremendous amount of DVRed shows that really need to be viewed.

But Paplinko.  It's sitting on the arm of the couch, calling out to me, asking me to play it.

Shut up, Paplinko.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

24. Sleep Deprivation.

I consulted Google to find out how likely it is that I could die from sleep deprivation.  I found out that it's possible but that I'd have to be completely awake for nearly 2 weeks straight.

Apparently being awake for 10 hours, as I have been so far today, is not likely to kill me.

I read that a whole bunch of rats were dead after being forced to stay awake for 32 days.  But then I read another article where the rats were dead after only 2 weeks.  I'm not sure why there were scientific studies done to see how long rats could stay awake without dying.  I mean, I understand it because physiologically rats are similar to humans and yes, clearly, I'm curious about how long it's going to take for my tiredness to kill me.  What I meant is that I can't help wondering who decided they would spend their time keeping rats awake just to see when they die.

Also, how do you keep a rat awake?  Do you make it get up with its rat children when it's trying to sleep?  Do you make it go to work?  Do you make it cook and clean?  Do you make it participate in writing challenges like NaBloPoMo?  Do you give it an interest like watching TV, then give it a DVR so it can record all of its favorite shows and then have it stay awake engrossed in said shows long past the point where a sane rat would have gone to bed?  Do you take it to a cafe where it can order a coffee with a shot of espresso in it after already having 2 cups of coffee a few hours earlier?

Those are the ways I know to keep a human awake.  They work pretty well.  I've tested all of those methods and I can confirm that each one of those practices have successfully kept me awake.

If you've followed along this far, you may be wondering what my point is to all of this.  I'm sorry to say, I really don't have one.  Except that I'm tired and I think I'm starting to go just a little bit crazy.  I didn't have a blog post idea for today.  I have to leave in about 55 minutes to go to Friends Thanksgiving, which is, as you may have guessed, an alternative Thanksgiving we celebrate with our friends.  I don't have time for a nap, and even if I did, my son does not see the value in rest.  Since I won't get home until late tonight when I, no doubt, will have even less energy than I have right now, I wanted to get today's post written.

It's hard to write an end paragraph to a post that makes very little sense.  But I need to go put some make up on so that I don't look like a cast member of The Walking Dead.

Actually I don't think I own that much make up.

Friday, November 23, 2012

23. The Whole Thankful Thing.

Not too long ago I was having a playful argument with a coworker.  Without giving details, each of us argued that we had more problems than the other.

"You don't want my life, everything's a disaster!"

"You think you have problems?  Sit down, I'll tell you about mine!"

That sort of thing.

The truth is that she has her troubles, I'm sure, and I have mine.  She struggles with things that aren't issues for me and I have some difficulties that she doesn't.  We were both kidding around and we both knew it.

But some busybody other coworker had to jump in and "remind" us of the people who recently lost everything in the hurricane.  She suggested that we both needed some perspective.

Neither the first woman nor I were specific about our problems.  How could this third woman appear and berate us for not being thankful we didn't have problems as bad as people who lost their homes when she had no idea what we were even talking about?

When did we get to the point where we can't talk about anything being wrong without someone else throwing in our faces that someone else is worse off?

I know my problems are first world.  I know that plenty of people are worse off than I am.  It doesn't change the fact that there are things in my life, as there are in almost every one of your lives, dear readers, that are real and true problems.

Maybe you have this month's rent but next month will be a problem.  Maybe you have some disconcerting symptoms and you're waiting for test results to see if you're sick.  Maybe your spouse is about to lose his or her job.  Maybe your child isn't well.  Maybe your car just died and without it you can't get to work and if you can't get to work you'll lose your home.

Maybe, maybe, maybe.

The bottom line is that no one knows what is brewing behind the scenes.  I can't look at any person and claim to know his or her struggles.  And even if it seems like a person has everything he or she needs, that doesn't mean that there isn't something else suffering.  The same goes for me.

This isn't some cryptic message designed to make you worry, nor do I intend to sound threatening and mean.  I'm simply saying we don't always know what's going on with someone and it's not fair to assume we do.

I am thankful for all that I have.  But I'm also allowed to worry about things, and to say that I'm having a tough time, without someone else suggesting that my problems don't meet the definition of real problems or aren't as severe as the problems of others.  I shouldn't have to justify the validity of my worries to anyone, especially when I'm not even really complaining in the first place.

I think, by and large, we aren't all so self-absorbed as to think each of us is the only one with problems. But I also know that when each of us is faced with serious issues that threaten our personal security, those are the problems that are on our minds, first and foremost.  We can't help others when we are no longer in a position to help ourselves.  There is nothing wrong with self-preservation and there's nothing wrong with expressing concern or anger over the things that directly affect us.

All I ask is that you believe that I count my blessings.  Trust that I know how lucky I am in some regards.  Even the worst of my problems aren't as bad as some of the problems other people are facing, but it doesn't make them any less real for my family.

Let's have compassion for one another and not make them prove their thankfulness or the depth of their struggles.  Let's stop accusing each other of not thinking enough about those less fortunate.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

21. 40 by 40.

I've been talking about it, and I can't seem to get it completed.  So I'm going with this as is, with a few slots open for new goal.  I have 1279 days until I turn 40 and my goal is to do 40 great things by then.

Some of these things sound like chores.  And for many people, they are just chores.  But for me, they are things that are hanging over my head as things I want to do but I can't get done.  Life gets in the way.  Things like real chores, like vacuuming and such.

I'm pressed for time and I'm rapidly losing the ability to stay awake.  There are many things I could write about these list items, but that's for another day.  Some of these things need to be fleshed out, to be made less vague and more quantifiable.  But that's for another day, too.

Without further delay, the 40 By 40 List, so far:

1.  Run a 5k.
2.  Run a 10k.
3.  Run a half marathon.
4.  Lose 40 pounds.
5.  Make significant steps toward reducing animal products in my diet.
6.  Finish my memoir.
7.  Publish my memoir.
8.  Buy Long Term Care insurance.
9.  Visit with a financial planner and map out a goal for retirement.
10.  Create and utilize a budget.
11.  Read 50 books.
12.  Redesign my blog under my own domain name.
13.  Sort and organize my mother's belongings.
14.  Live a more minimalist lifestyle.
15.  Save enough money to purchase our next vehicle in cash.
16.  Attend another blogging conference.
17.  Eliminate my dependence on caffeine.
18.  Unplug for one full week.
19.  Get a paid writing job.
20.  Create a usable space in the home office.
21.  Bag, Board and Catalog comic/magazine collection.
22.  Organize CD collection.
23.  Organize DVD collection.
24.  Create usable living space in attic.
25.  Create usable living space in basement.
26.  Organize (digitize?) all old writings.
27.  Make go-bags for all family members.
28.  Create an emergency bin with supplies.
29.  Buy a really awesome, unnecessarily expensive pair of jeans that make my ass look amazing.
30.  Buy a killer dress - cocktail? ball gown?  I don't know.
31.  Go to some event that requires me to wear the aforementioned dress.
32.  Go zip-lining.

Edited January 1, 2013.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

20. Remembering Once Again.

I wrote this post 2 years ago today, back when almost no one was reading this blog.  It's still relevant, only the year has changed.  I don't want to skip a day of NaBloPoMo, but I don't have a post in me today.  I have too much on my mind and November is just a sad month for me.  I hope you don't mind if I dig something out of the archives.  

This week is a tough one for me.

Part 1:
Wednesday was my mother's birthday, her first since she passed away. In a way I used to dread her birthday because it meant trying to go see her not on my terms. Visiting my mother wasn't easy. Nursing homes and 3 year olds are not a good mix. When Nathan was really little, it was ok because he could stay in his carrier or I'd hold him, or we could sit him on my mother's bed. But once he started moving it was much more difficult.

The drive to see her was an hour each way. If I didn't time it right, I'd sit in terrible traffic. If Nathan fell asleep, it would screw up his bed time. If he didn't, I'd endure complaining about the drive. Either way it was not the most pleasant. But I recognized how important it was to go see her, and for her to see Nathan, particularly on her birthday. But it wasn't my terms. I had to go THAT week, THAT day. And if I didn't for a good reason (one of us was sick, or she was) then I felt terrible guilt.

Talking on the phone to her was not easy either. Either she couldn't get the call because her phone wasn't working or it was on speaker and her busy-body roommate would jump in or eavesdrop (if you can call it that when a phone is on speaker). If I left a message, I never knew if she got it until the next time I talked to her, so enter the feeling of "should I be feeling guilty because she thinks I didn't call her."

But this year, I didn't have the guilt, I didn't have to plan a visit (which is good, because Nathan and I both have colds I wouldn't want her to catch and therefore I'd feel guilty). I didn't have to try to call and listen to her stupid roommate. I didn't have to try to think of something to get her and then have her tell me that it wasn't right for whatever reason. I didn't have to listen to Nathan complain because he didn't even know. I'm not sure any of this is any consolation since she's gone. And I miss her.

Part 2:
Today marks 4 years since my grandfather passed away. While he and I were talking in the months before he passed, the few years before that we were not. It's a very long story why, not worth rehashing here, but suffice to say I regret that time. I would love to say if I had it to do over I'd do it differently, but I know me and I know him and we were both too stubborn to have it any other way until I found out he had cancer. And it's not lost on me that calling him for the first time in years because I found out he was sick is really cliche and lame. But it's what happened.

I was pregnant at the time he passed, due in 8 weeks. It was evident he'd never meet his first great-grandson. This saddened me deeply and still does. I think he would love Nathan and get such a kick out of him. I also think that when Nathan was acting up, he'd tell me how fresh he is (he'd be right) and how he is just like I was. And he'd say that in a disapproving way, just like my mother did. Then I would get mad, he wouldn't know why and we'd be arguing. But I'm not sure avoiding all that is any consolation now that he's gone. And I miss him.

Monday, November 19, 2012

19. Fat Ribs.

I have been working on my 40 By 40 list for over a week now and I am hoping to publish it tomorrow. Some of the things in the list are going to seem obvious but some are going to require some explanation.

One of my list items is to get an amazing dress.  I don't know if I'm thinking cocktail dress or a ball gown or what, but it's going to be gorgeous and I'm going to wear it some place.  But, you might be saying, you got married and had a wedding.  Some of you were there for it and saw me in what most people would consider a fancy dress.  And while this is true, like anything else, there's a story behind the dress.

We were on a very tight budget for our wedding.  Our ceremony was held in the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission's garden and the reception was held in their large round meeting room that sits atop the water.  We brought in a reasonably priced caterer, DJ and photographer.

I, with the help of my bridesmaids, made all of the bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages, favors and centerpieces and my veil.  I had a friend make the programs.

The dress was proving to be problematic though.  No matter where I went, what I liked was really expensive.  I didn't want to spend a ton of money on something I'd wear one night but I wanted it to be beautiful.  To say I wanted to look like a princess would sound kind of lame coming from me, but if there's a word for when really grumpy and sour people want to look like princesses while still retaining all of their cynicism, that's what I was going for.

I ended up finding one while searching for the bridesmaids dresses.  It was really, really nice and it was only $150.  It fit pretty well except for a small bulge in the gut.  I vowed to do sit ups constantly until there was no visible gut.

About six weeks before the wedding, I tried on my dress to see how my ab work was going.  I went into the room where the dress was, disrobed, and opened the dress bag.  Carefully removing it and spreading it out, I stepped inside.  I pulled the strapless bodice up to its proper location and reached behind me to zip.

I slowly slid the zipper up, sucking in as hard as I could.  I reached my mid-back and the zipper wouldn't go any higher.  I pushed every bit of breath from my body and sucked my middle in so hard I thought I was going to puncture my lung.  It was no use.

In tears, I called my matron of honor.  One of the reasons I selected her, aside of the fact that I love her to bits, is that she is brutally honest.  Sometimes too much so, but I love her anyway.  She came over and tried to zip the dress.  She could not.

"Well," she said matter of factly, "I think you're going to need a new dress."

"Can't I just..." I was hoping there was an answer she didn't think of yet.




"What if..."

"Michelle!  We need to go buy a new dress!!"

The problem was not my fat gut because that was noticeably slimmer.  The problem, you see, is that I have fat ribs.  I didn't know it when my fat gut hid them, but when I lost some weight, I found out the awful truth. My ribs are disproportionately fatter than the rest of me.  I call it Fat Rib Syndrome and it occurs in 1 person in the entire world's population.  That person is me.

We got in the car and drove to David's Bridal, known for it's low price dresses and significant stock.  I found a suitable gown that fit without alterations except for the straps and the hemline.  It would be ready for pick up 2 days before the wedding.

I barely ate until the wedding and thankfully dress number two fit, even though my ribs were still fat.  I know this was so because I tried on the first dress just in case and it still didn't fit.

The flowers strategically placed to hide the ribs.
Tania, my MOH, and I are laughing because posed wedding photos are goofy.

Before I turn 40, I'm going to buy myself a beautiful dress that fits my body, whatever it looks like at the time, and find some place fabulous to wear it.  Because I deserve a dress story that doesn't involve fat ribs.

Linking up with the Open Grid at the Yeah Write Challenge which goes live Tuesday.  Old school voting going on this week, if you're into that sort of thing.  Make sure you read the other entries before you vote though, OK?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

18. Working on a Sunday.

The great thing about working a mile from home is that I can pop into the office on a Sunday morning and catch up on things.

The bad thing about working a mile from home is that I can pop into the office on a Sunday morning and catch up on things.

It's not like anyone made me go in this morning, it was a choice.  Really it was.

I'm what you call an overachiever. You may have noticed.

The truth is I was backed up on emails and various projects and all that stuff hanging over my head was keeping me up at night.

I make a really good employee because I take things very seriously, I have a strong work ethic, I'm very organized, and I take responsibility when things fall behind.

Of course, when all of this goes into hyperdrive and things are getting out of control and I am getting stressed and everyone starts getting antsy because they want their stuff done and I can't do it because, you know, I can only do one thing at a time and I only have two hands and if everyone would just get off my back and let me actually finish something, I tend to get a little stabby.

Not literally, mind you.  That would make me a really bad employee.  I just throw some temper tantrums.  And get grumpy.  Very grumpy.

So I went into the office so that tomorrow I can try to be slightly pleasant.

I'm not making any promises though.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

17. In Dreams.

It was present day for me. But one look around my childhood living room told me it was still 1988 in there.  I was kneeling backwards on the old, 1970s style couch, looking out the window at the side yard.  We called this part of the yard The Garden.  The perimeter of the property had green chain-link, but the side yard of our corner property had a white picket fence separating my mother's flower garden from the area where the kids played.

The garden was in full bloom.  Tiger lilies, black-eyed Susans, daisies, rose bushes.  There were plenty of other things I could never commit the names of to my memory.  But they were there, as they always were.

My mother walked towards the window.  How could this be?  She's dead.  She shouldn't be here.  She looked like the house did, like it was 1988.  She was 40.


I screamed at her.  I pounded on the glass window to get her attention.  Tears pouring from my eyes, tears of joy to see her again, so young and healthy, so vibrant.  This was the only time in her life she looked this way.  This was the only time she almost seemed happy.  There was hope then.

I kept screaming, crying, pounding.  I reacted as though there was an immovable object keeping me from her.  I reacted as though her death was between us.

"Open the window, silly," she said sweetly as she smiled, crow's feet showing around her eyes.

I opened the window and it stayed up.  I didn't have to use the piece of wood to hold it like I usually did.  I opened the old, dusty metal screen.  I reached out for her, calling out through tears, "Mommy! Mommy!"

I don't ever remember calling her Mommy.  By 1988, I was 12.  I called her Ma.  Maybe Mom sometimes.  Never Mommy.

She reached out for me, too.  Our fingertips touched, then our hands.  I slid my arm up, holding her wrist.  Her gold bracelet draped over my fingers.

We stayed like that for a moment.  Our eyes met.  She looked at me with kindness and love in her eyes.  It seemed she was telling me things were OK.  Or would be OK.  It was reassuring.

Damn it, she never looked at me like that when she was alive.  Never.

She loosened her grip on me.  I tried desperately to hang on, leaning my body out of the window, reaching with my other hand.

Don't go...

It was no use.  She faded away.

I sobbed and called out for her.  She was gone.

Then I woke up, my pillow drenched.

I had this dream a few weeks ago.  I dream about my mom at that age and of being in my childhood home often.  I'm always my present age.  I usually know, even in the dream, that it isn't real and that grown-up me doesn't belong in that house.

My mom would have turned 64 today.

Friday, November 16, 2012

16. Ketchup and Mustard Sandwiches.

I try my best to get my kid to eat a good solid lunch.

On weekdays, when he's at school, he doesn't eat very well.  I send good food, but most of it comes back home.  I've tried sending less food and only the things I want him to eat and they come back home carried by a very hungry boy.  If I pack stuff he likes, even if it's not what I really want him to be eating, he eats.

On weekends, when he's home with me or my husband, he eats better.  That's usually because of threats and bribes.  Eat all of this and we can go do this fun thing.  Eat this and you get this fun treat.  If you don't eat, you can't do this or that.  I know it's not the best method, but generally it works.

And really, all I want is for him to have enough of a meal that I'm not doling out snacks all day and maybe to get some nutrients into him.  I know not every meal needs to be a powerhouse, and in this house that's definitely not an issue.  This kid is picky, so as long as he's eating enough I'm pretty happy.

I worry though that he's not getting enough of all the things he's supposed to be getting.  I try to make every meal have a grain, a dairy/protein and a fruit.  That's much harder than it sounds, but that's the goal.

This morning Nathan and I were playing a game with two throw pillows and a pile of Angry Bird stuffies.  We were pretending to make sandwiches and eat them.  One of the sandwiches he made me was ketchup and mustard.

I told Nathan that when I was a kid, that was one of my favorite lunches.  Ketchup and mustard on white bread.

And then it hit me how differently my kid is growing up than I did.  I don't know if it was because we were poor or I was picky or my mother didn't know or didn't care, but many a day I made myself a sandwich slathered with ketchup and mustard and nothing else and that was my lunch.  I paired it with a tall glass of sweetened iced tea made out of the store-brand powder drink that was loaded with caffeine and sugar.

It's true that there's so much more knowledge now.  Maybe parents back then were just glad when their kids made their own lunches and went back outside to play.

I've grown up to be a relatively healthy adult.  I'm pretty smart, responsible, hard-working.

I can't help but wonder though, could all my faults be traced back to a poor diet as a child? Could it be that ketchup and mustard sandwiches are to blame for everything that is wrong with me now?

I think I'm going to make sure Nathan has a good lunch tomorrow, just in case.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

15. A Song.

A Song For NaBloPoMo
by Michelle Longo

{The tune is irrelevant, sing this any way you like.}

We're halfway through
We're halfway through
Tra La La
We're halfway through.

We're half way through
We're half way through

I wrote that.  All by myself even.

I have to tell you, I'm a bit punchy.  I'm over-caffeinated, I'm stressed out, I'm exhausted and I'm really just becoming even more batshit crazy than I usually am.

I wrote a post this morning for Saturday that kind of wiped me out.  I can't share it today because it isn't for today.  But if you come back here Saturday, you can read it then. 

If you're doing NaBloPoMo, congratulations on making it halfway through!  I'm enjoying meeting new bloggers and having new readers.  Thanks for indulging me in a little silliness today.  It's been a hectic week that isn't over yet, so I've got to get back to non-blogging life for now.  But I'll see you all tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

14. Where'd I Put My Kid?

I was thinking through my day while drying my hair this morning.  It occurred to me that Nathan's new teacher hasn't met my husband yet, so it struck me that maybe I should alert her that he would be picking Nathan up from school today instead of me.

I should note before I tell you this next part that I had not had any coffee yet at this point.  I don't think I was talking out loud to myself for this little monologue, but it's entirely possible.

Why have I not seen Nathan's teacher all week?

Wait, what day is it?  Yesterday was Tuesday.  Today is Wednesday.  Wednesday, right?  {pause} Yes.  Wednesday.

OK, so where has his teacher been?  Did he go to school yesterday?  Yes.  He did.  Where was I?  I was at work.  Did I forget to pick him up?  No, I don't pick him up on Mondays and Tuesdays, his grandparents do.

It rained yesterday, I left him in the gym.  I don't see his teacher in the morning when it's raining.

Working backwards...

Monday.  I picked him up at his grandparents.  They pick him up from school.  It was nice out.  Why didn't I see his teacher Monday morning?  Was there a sub?

Oh wait.  He didn't have school on Monday.  I dropped him off at his grandparents in the morning.

{sigh of relief}

I need to remember to tell Ms. P that Kris is picking up Nathan today.

I strongly urge someone to get a video of me freaking out at 3pm today when I realize that I didn't leave work yet to pick up Nathan, only to remember a minute later that my husband is picking him up today and I'm going to work until 4pm.  I'm sure it's going to be hilarious.  And yes, I'm sure it will still happen, even with this much thinking about it now.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

13. My First Time.

I had only been full-time for a few months when my boss first asked me to do a benefits presentation at a client's office.  There was no hesitation in my answer.  Sure, I was nervous, but I wanted to grow my skills and I wanted desperately to be seen as a team player.  I knew that the ability to get in front of clients would make me more valuable to the company.  This was my chance to show them how much more I was capable of.

The producer who brought in the client was one I had the utmost respect for and tremendously feared. He was no-nonsense and respected in the community.  About the same age as my parents, I sought his approval and endorsement, even more so than that of my own direct superiors.

The day of the meeting my nerves were starting to get to me.  I arrived at the client a bit too early so I was left alone in the conference room until the employees arrived.  I placed one handout at each seat around a large, heavy table.  It was the kind of table that made me wonder if they had built the glass-enclosed conference room around it since there seemed no way to get it in there.  I was expecting about 20 employees, plus the human resources manager.  I wondered how we'd all fit in this room.

One by one they filed in.  It was a 4:30pm meeting, so they'd all had their fill of the day.  Their weary expressions made clear that I needed to wrap this presentation up quickly.

After giving my name and my company, I asked the group to hold questions until the end, certain I'd cover most of their concerns.  I inhaled deeply and began.

"A Flexible Spending Account is very simply a plan that allows you to set money aside out of your paycheck on a pre-tax basis to reimburse yourself for out of pocket medical and/or dependent day care expenses."

The words rolled off my tongue, just as I'd practiced.  I began to talk about Section 125 of the IRS Code, the types of medical expenses that are tax deductible and the rules surrounding plan years, irrevocability of benefit elections and how to access their funds.  I was sure I sounded relaxed and intelligent.  I was waiting for my audience to get the glazed-over expression everyone back at the office assured me I'd receive. 

A gentleman to my right raised his hand and interrupted me before I could acknowledge him.  He asked me a question I was moments away from covering if only he had waited.  I answered him and, in doing so, opened the floodgates to more inquiries.  By the time the group settled down and I was ready to resume speaking, panic struck.

I only knew the presentation in order.  Suddenly I felt so unprepared.  I was out of sequence and I couldn't get myself back on track once derailed.

Then someone asked the one question I feared most.

"Isn't it true," he asked, "that these plans have the Use It or Lose It rule so if I don't claim MY money, YOU keep it."  He leaned back in his chair, arms folded across his chest and an arrogant look in his eye.

I explained that the rule did exist but that funds stayed within his company, not mine.  I shifted the focus, as taught, to planning wisely at open enrollment so he could avoid forfeitures.

"So, what you're saying is that you want me to sign up for this so my company can steal my paycheck."

"No, that's not what I'm saying," I replied.  Everyone was starting to mutter and shuffle papers.  I'd lost them.  The HR manager motioned to jump in.  I was relieved he was going to save me.

"Listen, these plans are a racket.  It wasn't my idea to add it.  You can join it if you want, but I'm not going to."  He turned back to me.  "Do you want to finish?"

Finish I did, holding back tears of humiliation.

As I sat at my desk the next morning, my stomach churned knowing I was going to have to face the music.  I watched the clock and grew more and more ill as it crept toward the time I knew the lead producer would arrive.

"Michelle." I knew his voice. He always said my name like a statement as he approached.  Never a question to request my attention, always a command.

I turned around to look him in the eyes.  He looked irritated. I probably looked terrified.

"So I hear it didn't go too well yesterday," he was calm.  Scary calm.

"No, it didn't. They ripped me apart.  I'm really sorry.  I hope I didn't ruin everything there for you," I was about to cry.  If there's one way to solidify your position as an inept, non-professional, it's to cry as you are reprimanded. 

The producer grinned a shit-eating grin like no other.

"Well, I'm glad it happened.  You got your first awful meeting out of the way.  They can only get better from here."

"I guess so," I said, so surprised I could not feel relief.  Was he really letting me off the hook?

"They are jerks over there.  They told me you held up pretty well under attack.  Now you'll be prepared for next time.  Good job."  Then he walked away.

I exhaled for the first time since he approached.

After that, I never let anyone take control of my meetings.  I practiced the tough questions and I came up with answers for anything they could throw at me.  I learned to say I didn't know with grace and learned to cover a blunder with humor.  I learned to hold my head up high and speak with confidence, no matter what.

Yesterday, fifteen years later, I began another presentation  Everyone looked friendly, but it didn't matter.  Things could never go as badly as they did my first time.

I'm linking up again with the good folks at Yeah Write.  Check it out!

Monday, November 12, 2012

12. Now With Less Meat!

I love researching stuff sometimes more than I like doing stuff.

So when I was thinking about moving towards a vegetarian lifestyle many years ago, I started searching for websites that would support that goal.  I happened upon one such site, Meatout Mondays.  There's plenty of good information there, but I think one thing that I liked most about it was that it wasn't geared towards dumping meat all at once, but taking a small step by giving up meat one day per week.

I was really successful at not eating meat for a while, but then I stopped trying and eating meat is really easy as long as I do one thing:  Practice denial.

In order to eat meat I have to intentionally forget everything I know about the meat industry, meat's role in my health and what it does to the environment.  Sure, I know there are some more responsible ways to get meat and that not all meat is as unhealthy as other meats, but at the end of the day, it's still unnecessarily eating another living creature.

Unnecessarily.  That's the key here.

So, I'm making a step.  I'm giving up meat on Mondays.  And today was my first intentionally meat-free Monday in years.

I'm happy with myself.  It would have been much easier to eat leftovers that were in my refrigerator that had meat in them, but I didn't.  Yes, I'm going to eat them tomorrow.  And maybe I'll eat meat every day for the rest of the week.  I don't know, I haven't planned that far.

But next Monday, it's going to be vegetarian for me.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

11. Sunday Dinner and TV.

There was a time when Sunday was for watching TV and ordering take out.  Sundays differed from weekdays where we watched TV and ordered takeout because on weekdays we'd go to work, too.

But on Sundays, there was no work.  There was TV.  There was takeout.

Now we have a kid.  This means there's no watching TV during the day, unless of course we want to watch SpongeBob, which we don't.

The only saving grace is that Nathan goes to bed early on Sundays.  Tonight he was down by 6:40, thank goodness.

In spite of how tired I am today and how much I got done around the house,  I managed to get dinner cooked.  I present to you penne, broccoli rabe, and sausage in a garlic and oil sauce topped with freshly grated parmesan.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have some TV to watch.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

10. Sort Of Almost 40.

I'm going to be 40 soon.  I mean, not soon-soon, like next week or anything.  But soon enough.

Specifically, I will turn 40 in
- 1291 days; or
- 3 years, 6 months, 14 days; or
- 42 months, 14 days; or
- 922 weekdays; or
- 3.54 years.

After writing a post a few days ago about setting reasonable goals, I started to wonder how I could blow that completely out of proportion and turn a simple to do list into a completely stress-inducing endeavor.

And that's how I came up with the idea of making one of those 40 By 40 lists.  You know what I'm talking about, a list of 40 things I'd like to accomplish by the time I turn 40.  As you can see, I have some time, but really not that much when I think about getting 40 things done. 

I have about a dozen or so things on it so far.  I want to make sure it's a good list, filled with things that matter to me.  I want it to help me grow as a person and feed my spirit.

I am hoping to publish the list in the next couple days and then start working towards the goals.  I will check in with you all on them so you'll know if I'm living up to the goals I set.  Some will be concrete and measurable and some that I have in mind won't be so clear cut.  Some are going to be vague for now until I figure out exactly what they mean.

I'm excited about this project because it involves two of my favorite things:  making lists and stressing out about things on my lists.  OK, I don't really enjoy stressing (though some people reading this would argue vehemently that I do!), but I do enjoy a good challenge.

I hope you'll follow along with me on this little adventure!

Friday, November 9, 2012

9. My Legacy.

My blog traffic isn't exactly what I'd like it to be.  Most of my posts get roughly the same amount of traffic depending on what kind of post it is.  My Yeah Write ones get the most views, everything else doesn't.  It's getting better, I have some regulars (who I appreciate so much I can't begin to say), but overall, my traffic isn't high.

I have a few posts that have done really well that I'm proud of.  For example, The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes, a look back on my childhood, won a jury prize one week at Yeah Write and I am really happy with the way it came out.  It is my fourth most-read post to date.  

What troubles me is that the three above it really aren't my best work.  

There was one, Get Ready For The Questions (#3), that tugged on the heart strings as I discussed the impending death of my dog and dealing with explaining it to my 5 year old son.  I don't think it's my best piece of writing, but it's better than the top two.

Number 2 of the top 4 is the post I wrote after BlogHer, Yes, There Were Vibrators.  One day I noticed my stats going up like crazy and when I checked the source, I was getting a lot of readers via The New York Times.  Thinking this must be a mistake, I read the article they were sent to me by and lo and behold, that article did actually link back to my post!  It's not a bad post.  But it is just a recap post after an exhilarating and exhausting weekend.  

A few weeks ago, I received a spam comment about salsa dancing on this post about Corn Salsa.  Haha, I get it, salsa dancing, corn salsa.  Funny.  I deleted the comment.  Not too long after, I got another comment, but this one wasn't in English.  And then another.  Each day, my stats were skyrocketing and they were all for this silly little post about how I don't like corn salsa.  This post has gotten more page views than any other by more than double.  

Far be it from me to turn my nose up at any page views, but it seems like my blog legacy is going to just be those times I wrote about corn salsa and vibrators.  I've poured my heart and soul into writing about family, my childhood, my past.  I've edited those posts, labored over the words and done all I could to get them into just the right order and in the end, the posts most people read weren't the ones I would have like them to read.

If you're new to my blog, please look around and check out some of my other posts.  Please don't let my legacy be corn salsa and vibrators.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

8. Early Resolutions.

As I was emptying the dish drain so I could do more dishes this morning, it occurred to me, yet again, how much of my life is spent doing things I don't enjoy and wishing I had time and energy to do more of the things I do enjoy.  And then, when things like the two recent storms happen, I'm scrambling to get everything done in less time and growing more and more resentful of the fact that the things I want to be doing seem less and less doable as the necessities pile up.

I had told myself that I was going to write posts in advance, to have them planned and scheduled to go so that I could keep up on them.  This isn't happening.  My memoir sits, barely written, in my home office that looks like a bomb went off in it.  We've lived in this house 2.5 years and that room is as awful as when we moved in.  The attic and basement are disasters.  I never decluttered, I never worked on various projects that need finishing.

Though I've made strides towards better health, I'm still overweight, I still don't eat as well as I should.  I don't cook whole foods from scratch like I promised I would.  I don't exercise regularly.

My son...  I don't even know where to begin there.  Perhaps it's the struggle of dealing with a growing, changing kid, but I feel like as soon as I get a plan to "fix" one thing, something else changes or goes awry.

I'm blogging more, I'm glad that's going well.  I wish I could be a better member of the online communities I enjoy, but work and home get in the way of that quite often.  I wish I could keep up with the reading I want to do, supporting the writers I enjoy reading and, again, building better community.

This needs to change.  I can't keep waking up every day saying I wish I could do this or that but having to do something else instead.

I'm not exactly sure how to achieve my goals and anyone who has hung around my blog (or me) for more than a year knows I go through this every single year.  But this year I'll try harder.  This year, after seeing progress on the writing front and on the health front, I am hopeful I can have a better plan, attainable goals and a better mental state surrounding the entire endeavor.

So for now, I resolve that by the end of this year I will have solid resolutions, backed up by a solid game plan to achieve them.  And by this time next year, for the first time in my adult life, I won't be staring down mid-November feeling like a failure.