Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Elusive Freedom.

I thought the only thing standing in my way was high school.  If I could make it to graduation, I'd be set. I was already 18, I just needed the diploma.  Then I could do whatever I wanted.  I wouldn't need to answer to anyone because there would be nothing stopping me from making my own decisions.  I could move out, get a job, be independent.  I would never need anyone for anything ever again.

The final half day of school was a mix of emotions.  I knew I'd miss some friends, but the lure of my new life was enough to keep most of my feelings at bay.  My excitement won out for the most part and I could barely sit there and watch these teachers and school administrators tell me where to sit and stand and what to say.  It was their last day to do that, so I gave it to them, acting as respectful as I could under the circumstances.

I headed home to get ready for the ceremony which was to be held at the town football field a few blocks from my home.  My family, boyfriend, and a few friends planned to attend, then we would go to my grandparents' house for cake.  I didn't really want to be obligated to a family party afterward, but I knew it was important to them.

My mother sat in the living room, in her usual spot.  But the room was not how I left it that morning.

"Where did that come from?" I asked, referring to the wheelchair next to the couch.

"I rented it for tonight.  I can't walk to the field and the parking is so bad. This will make it easier.  I'll return it tomorrow," my mother explained in her most casual tone.  It was just like her to be dismissive about something like this.

I went to my room.  My mother never used a wheelchair before.  Sure, she struggled to walk and used crutches, but she always walked.  Now, tonight, she would be pushed into my graduation.  She had never, not once, brought up the possibility of renting a wheelchair.

How long had she been contemplating giving up on her own legs?

The ceremony was like most commencement exercises.  There were tears and joyous cheers, heartfelt wishes for the best of luck in the future.  And just like that it was over.

A friend commented to me that she didn't know my mother was in a wheelchair until she had seen her that night.  I mumbled something about not knowing about it either.

In the days that followed, my mother used the wheelchair around the house to go from room to room.  She never returned it as she said she would.

It quickly dawned on me that I wasn't nearly as free as I had thought I would be.

linking up with my pals over at yeah write.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ah, Summer.

A new season only means one thing for me, a new set of stuff to complain about!  So here it is, my list of things I hate about summer.

1.  Grilling.  I like grilled food, but I don't like the act of grilling.  You have to bring all the food outside, plus the cooking utensils, plus clean plates to put the grilled food on, then bring it back inside (unless you're eating outside, more on that later).  Then when dinner is done, you still have to clean up the kitchen, but you have the added bonus of getting to clean up and cover the grill, too.

2.  Eating outside.  You know what likes your food as much as you do?  Bugs.  Bugs like to land on your food, even when you are about to put it in your mouth.  And they say that every time a fly lands it pukes, so think about that.

3.  Mosquito and gnat bites.  Nothing looks hotter than seeing a grown woman in shorts with bug bites swelling up all over the place, right?  Yeah, that's what I thought.

4.  Yard work.  In the winter, and even the spring and fall, I can ignore the bulk of the yard work.  It's pretty hard in the summer though.  We often have our kid or other people's kids playing out there, so it's imperative that we keep things mowed and trimmed.

5.  Heat and humidity.  I really, really don't like being cold.  But I don't like being hot either.  I would prefer to be at a comfortable temperature and have weather adjust itself according to my whims. Is that wrong?  It has actually been pretty chilly around here lately, so I can't complain (well, I mean I CAN, but I shouldn't). Soon enough it will be 90+ days, with 90% humidity and we won't be able to breathe outside.  Maybe I'd prefer a dry heat...

6.  Air conditioners.  You would think that with the oppressive heat here at times, I'd like some AC.  However, you'd be wrong.  I don't like the sound of ACs.  Any kind of incessant humming drives me crazy.  I hate putting them in the windows, I hate taking them out, I hate looking at them in the windows, I hate looking at them in my basement when they are out.  I also hate that I don't have central air.  So maybe there's just a smidge of jealousy in all of this.

7.  My knees.  I hate my knees year round, but by summer they are much harder to hide under pants.

8.  Bees.  They are scary.  They could kill me (probably not).  They caused a long standing joke. If you're lucky, you can watch me fall down running from one.  It happens at least once ever summer.

9.  Vacations.  I like vacations, of course, but I want to be off all summer (yes, more jealousy), not just for a week.  I also hate packing, which is one of the most anxiety producing things I can think of.  In fact, it's 5 weeks until our summer vacation, which means it's 1 week until I have to start pre-packing.

10.  Fireworks.  I know by now you're just shaking your head, wondering just how miserable one woman could be.  I like fireworks on the 4th, where they belong.  There was already someone in my neighborhood shooting some off last night (that was June 22, if you don't feel like checking the post date).  My husband and I had to ask the usual question, "Fireworks or gunshots?" Followed by the usual reply, "Fireworks, I think.  I hope..." Followed by the other usual reply, "If they wake that kid up, I will kill them."

There are things I like about summer. Maybe if I'm feeling chipper one of these days I'll write about them.

In the meantime, I hope you all enjoy your summer.  I'll try to enjoy mine.

Check out the moonshine grid, the non-competitive, fun, almost no rules segment of yeah write.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

30 Summers of Bee-Gut.

Our dead end street was littered with children, all gathered for yet another game of kickball on a hot summer afternoon. Suddenly, the game was brought to a halt by a black and yellow invader. A small honey bee had the audacity to lazily fly by me as I stood way in the "outfield."

I have been, and still am, ridiculously and inexplicably afraid of all bee-type insects for as long as I can remember.  It was not, and still is not, unusual to find me screaming and flailing my arms in attempts to thwart attack.

On this particular day, many moons ago, the little bee was following me, threatening my very existence.  I ran away, disrupting the game and annoying everyone who was trying to play.  One of the boys swatted the bee, knocking it to the ground.  The bee was frying on the asphalt, but that wasn't good enough for me.  I could see its legs moving, so there was still a chance it could get me.

As we stood around the bee, older kids complaining that this distraction was taking up too much time, someone decided to step in and put an end to it.  One large, beat up high-top sneaker came crashing down, squishing the bee to oblivion. He lifted his shoe and to our collective surprise, the bee was no longer on the ground.  A chorus of "Where did it go?" could be heard out of nearly everyone.

"Michelle probably ate it," one of them said.

"Yeah, it's in her gut!" said another.

"I did not eat it!! It's probably stuck to your shoe!  Look at your shoe!" I was furious at the accusation and the sheer stupidity of it.

"Shut up, Bee-Gut," my brother said.

They kept looking at the ground and refusing to look at the bottom of the sneaker. I knew they'd find the bee if they looked in the right spot.  I hysterically urged for some common sense and was met only with more laughter and name calling. In a last ditch effort to win this one, I called them all idiots.

"At least I'm not a Bee-Gut," my brother provided as his final, calm retort.

One by one, each kid laughed and began sing-song chanting:



I ran home crying, but I could still hear them.


I stomped in the back door of my house.  My mother was engrossed in All My Children, so her actual child's problem was on the back burner.  During the next commercial break, she finally asked me what was wrong.  I spilled the whole story and pleaded with her to punish her son.

"Well," she said after some consideration, "did you?"

"Did I what?"

"Did you eat the bee?" and then she started laughing at me, too.

Her show came back on and I was sent back outside.

They called me Bee-Gut for the rest of the summer, and it's been brought up every summer since.

I was outside this weekend with my husband and son, trimming our rhododendron.  A bee flew in and Kris warned Nathan to stay back.  

"Hey, hon?" he said casually to me.



Setting this story free with my pals at Yeah Write. Join us.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

It Was Indeed a Fun Day.

I have sunburn on my arms.  I have this weird cramp in my leg that won't quite quit.  I am downright exhausted.  My head is spinning.  It's nearly 10 pm and I should be asleep.

But I feel good.

I spent the day at my son's school for Fun Day.  In lieu of the arguably more common Field Day, our elementary school hosts a day-long event for the children involving games, rides and giant inflatables.  I hauled cases of water, many folding chairs, and tables.  I wrangled children.  I ruled over a cross between a bouncy house and an obstacle course, shouting things like "Get with your partner!" and "Stay behind the black line until I say go!" and "I need two lines here, people!"

The weather was perfect for the event.  Originally scheduled for last Friday, it was moved due to rain.  Given that the forecast looked equally dismal for Monday's planned rain date, it was postponed further to today.  The breezes were plentiful, but the sun shone brightly all day leaving me positively swampy after basking in its glory for seven hours.

When my son was dismissed for the day, we headed home where I fed him, showered him, and put him  in his jammies by 4pm.  I needed to head back to the school for our last PTA meeting of the year and I fully expected he'd crash long before I arrived home.  I wasn't even sure he'd make it to when I had to leave for the meeting which began at 7.

The meeting was long, but productive.  If I think I'm tired now, I better get ready for next year since, perhaps due to my bleary, sun-drenched state, I found myself volunteering for several committees in the fall. I'm a doer and have been known for my compulsion to take on responsibilities without having to be asked.

As I sit here tonight, contemplating what I've gotten myself into, I can't help but smile.  It feels so good to be a part of my son's school and to be building community with like-minded parents who want our kids to have the best they can have.

I don't know that I ever pictured myself as this kind of mom.  I never really thought about what being a mom would be like past the early stages of infancy and toddlerhood, neither of which went how I envisioned.  But here I am, jumping in head first.

I returned home to a child still awake, so overtired he couldn't even get his eyes to close until almost an hour past his normal bedtime.  I coaxed him to relax held his hand and wiped his hair from his brow, marveling at how the only time there is a trace of my little one is when he's sleepy.  I asked if Fun Day was really a fun day.  He smiled and nodded, his eyes finally starting to flutter.

He drifted off content and I look forward to doing the same.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Safety of Insurance.

My phone sat beside me on my desk in its usual place.  I was waiting for an email, yet the familiar vibrate-ding sound startled me.  I looked like a teenager waiting for a call from a cute boy the way I jumped, then reached out to grab the phone.  I felt like one too, giddy with anticipation.

But the email wasn't the one I was hoping for.  

The email I received was a new blog post by a writer I admire about a new milestone she'd hit and her upcoming plans which all included more excellent writing things.  I'd read about a half-dozen such posts from various writers in the last week or so.  But this one was the straw that broke the camel's back.

I sighed deeply as I shut off my phone and turned my attention back to the work I was supposed to be doing in the first place.  I pulled up the rates of the various New Jersey insurance carriers and began selecting plans.

You shouldn't have looked at your phone.  You need to pay attention to your work.  Your REAL work, the work that pays the bills.  Not this writer pipe dream of yours.

"That's it exactly," I agreed with myself out loud. "I'm not a writer, I'm a dreamer."

I grabbed a tissue, blotted my eyes, blew my nose and got back to work.  I tried to focus, but my mind was way off on its own, dragging me down.

The story is all there, I lived it for crying out loud.  The time is there, when I choose not to waste it.  There are many excuses for why I don't have a first draft of my memoir, but only one real reason.

I'm afraid, damn it.

I'm afraid I'll never finish it.  I told everyone I was writing it and now there's still barely anything to show for it.  I shuffle pages around, rework the same damn paragraphs over and over again, but I get nowhere.

I'm afraid if I do finish it, I'll find out it's terrible.  I'm afraid I'll learn that all that time was wasted telling a story no one cares about because, after all, I'm just a person who took care of one sick parent and whose other sick parent was absent.  This story has been told before, better than I can tell it.  I'm sure I'm as unoriginal as they come.

I'm afraid when I finish it, I'll find out I am a horrible daughter who has disrespected her parents by airing our dirty laundry.  I'm afraid I won't be a sympathetic character in my own life story.  And what do I even want?  To be pitied?  To be told by others they are proud of me?  Is there a point or am I just another attention whore?

Does owning my fears and sharing them alleviate their intensity at all?

I don't know.  Not yet.

I pushed it out of my mind.  I focused on my work.  Another day with nothing written. 

Insurance is safer, after all.

Linking up. Great community. Check it out.

Monday, June 10, 2013

I Got Tagged.

Robbie over at Fractured Family Tales tagged me in her post ABCs Old School.  Two other bloggers, Elaine and Jennifer are hosting this, and I'm trying to be better about accepting tags and whatnot and being a good blogger in the community.

I used to love doing surveys like this back in my Myspace days, so I thought this would be fun.  Here goes...

A- Attached or single?  I began dating my husband in 1991 and we were married in 2001.  

B- Best Friend? Since I'm not in the 6th grade, I don't declare any one friend to be my best friend. But there are some ladies who are very important to me, so there's that.

C- Cake or pie? Depends. I'm just as picky about my desserts as I am about all my other foods.  However, if I'm in just the right hormonal state (like now), I'd say both.

D- Day of choice? I am the working mother of a 6 year old.  All of my days are super busy, crazy, and hectic.  Some are better than others, but one day I like more than the others? Sorry, can't help you there.

E- Essential item? My phone.  I am one of those super irritating people who constantly has her face in her phone.  

F-Favorite color? Black.  

G- Gummy bears or worms? I generally prefer worms.

H-Hometown? East Rutherford, New Jersey.

I- Favorite Indulgence? I don't know if I have one.  How sad is that?

J- January or July? Other than my son's birthday in January, I don't really have much use for the month.  It's cold.  Now, if I could move to a warmer climate, that could change because I do like the whole new beginning feel of the new year.

K- Kids? Just the one, thanks.

L- Life isn't complete without? Air? Food?  Water?  I'm not feeling particularly philosophical right now.  Can I say my phone or is that too obnoxious?  (Honestly I just don't want to be backed into a corner on just one thing and then have all the other things be like, "What about me?!")

M- Marriage date? October 20.

N- Number of brothers and sisters? 1 brother

O- Oranges or apples? What about them?  They're fine.

P- Phobias? Bees. If you ever hang out with me in the summer, I'm sure you'll get to watch me trip over something while running from them.

Q- Quotes Again, what about them? I like good ones.  I hate stupid ones.

R- Reasons to smile? I have lots of them.  And sometimes I even DO smile about them.

S-Season of choice? I like Fall and Spring.  It's too bad I live some place where they amount to a collective 4 weeks out of the entire year.

T- Tag 5 People.  I'm sorry, I just can't. It's too late and I'm tired.  But if you think this looks fun, then you should do it.

U- Unknown fact about me? I'm a classic over-sharer.  Oh wait, everyone already knows that.

V- Vegetables? Sure, if you're cooking.

W- Worst habit? I am sheer perfection and I have no bad habits. Well, except maybe sarcasm.

X- X-ray or ultrasound? I'm no doctor, so I'll just wait to see what the professionals recommend.

Y- Your favorite food? pizza, burritos, mashed potatoes.  not necessarily in that order.

Z- Zodiac sign? Gemini


This was very silly.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

I Need A Sticker.

Nathan was already waiting outside when I got there, the school nurse by his side. He has never looked sadder in his life. As soon as he saw me, he began sobbing all over again, heaving and struggling to breathe.  I knelt down and he hugged me hard, his head on my shoulder. I looked to the nurse for explanation.

"He's OK," she said, "but he had an altercation with another student.  She is OK, too."

No adult saw the preceding events, but my son and a girl in his class were both caught with their hands around each other's necks.  They were sent to the nurse, then to the principal.  Punishment would be one day of detention, which meant staying inside doing worksheets during recess.

On the walk home, Nathan pleaded with me to believe that he didn't touch the girl.  I offered to go back and correct his teacher, suggesting perhaps she had lied to the nurse and principal.  He begged me not to do that.

When we got home, I sat Nathan down.  I tried to explain that lying would only make things harder.  He should tell me the truth about what happened, even if he was embarrassed or angry or afraid.

It wasn't until dinner time that he confessed.  The girl grabbed him in a playful way and he got mad and choked her back.  Knowing my child, I truly believe he didn't start it, that he overreacted, and that he quite possibly escalated the issue.  And I also know he lied about it to anyone who asked, as much as it shames me to admit it.

Our district has a very strict anti-bullying policy, which is most certainly a good thing.  Any act of violence towards another student is taken very seriously.  I'm so grateful that the administration knows Nathan's personality and only gave both students detention.

Still, visions of me researching military schools for troubled boys danced in my head that evening.

I spoke to the teacher and the principal.  I assured them that this is not the kind of behavior we condone in our house, neither the lying nor the aggression.  Both told me they are working with all of the kindergarten students on accepting responsibility for their actions and that all of them are getting a bit handsy.  They were kind and reassured me that children go through these phases and that he would be alright.  I wanted to believe them, but it was easier said than done.

When I arrived to pick Nathan up from school the following day, he came bouncing out, all smiles.  I asked how his day was and I received the standard reply, "Good."

"How did detention go?"

"Good!" he said enthusiastically.

"Good?  Detention was good?" I thought the boy might be missing the point.

"Well, I did my worksheets really fast because they were easy, then I helped Nancy* with hers because she had trouble, then I got a sticker for being good," he explained, all in one breath.

"You mean you got a sticker for being good in the classroom, not for being good in detention, right?"

Please tell me they don't reward good behavior during a punishment.

They do.

It's done now.  The sticker proved it.  Everyone is over it.

Everyone except me, though.

*not her real name.

linking up with yeah write again this week, where no one will hate me because my lying kid can't keep his hands to himself (you all won't hate me, right?)