Sunday, July 3, 2011

Under Wraps

It's official.  Summer is here.  I welcome the heat and humidity with open arms and a new bathing suit. Also, a new cover up so that no human being ever has to see me in a bathing suit. 

To be perfectly honest this is the first time in nine years that I have bought a bathing suit.  Last time being for a family trip to Florida.  Back then I was a "short wearer". Which means that I still considered my legs from mid-thigh down to be presentable for viewing and wore shorts out in public and over my swim suit.  A lot has changed since way back when.

I've gained weight and acquired spider veins. In an effort to lose weight and manage the pain of arthritis I joined a fitness center. A Dairy Queen sharing the same parking lot of the gym should've tipped me off.  Bad idea.  I went on a regular basis and rode the recumbent bike a lot.  The arthritis pain got better.  I celebrated with sundaes from Dairy Queen.  Those chocolate covered waffle bowls get me every time.  They also cause me to lie to my Dr when she asks if I am following a low-fat diet along with the exercising.  

So, this summer, for whatever reason I decided to embrace my out of shape body and just buy a bathing suit already.  Why can't department stores use candle light in their dressing rooms?  It's so much more flattering than fluorescent.  After much swallowing down of denial - yes that is back fat and no you can't squish it down so no one will notice - I found a really cute suit.  A pair of shorts and tank top.  Even better; a cover up that was on sale for half off. 

Off to the water park my family goes.  And, the cover up accidentally gets left at home.  At the store a cover up might have seemed necessary, but at the park it no longer matters.  Sure, some of that is due to the fact that no one I know will see me at Splashing Safari.   But, mostly it's because that as me, Davis, Milo and my nephew race each other down a giant slide it doesn't matter what I look like.  Only that as my son thinks about this day in upcoming years he will remember that I was right there next to him.  Laughing.  And, trying to convince him that it's not how fast you go but how far you travel.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Life Altering Events

Finally, finally, the storm clouds have broken up and dispersed from the plateau of my brain allowing some sunbeams to shine through. 

The past six weeks have been challenging as I embark on a new career path.  That old saying, "can't teach an old dog new tricks" is proving true in my case.  I am learning to do something that I've never done before and after being laid off in January I'm just thankful to be working.  But, it is mentally exhausting.  And stressful.  And, I am a natural born hand-wringer.  Not such a good combo.  Or, it is a perfect combo for sitting around on the couch and eating Ben and Jerry's Karmel Sutra.  Which is mostly what I've been doing in my down time.  The only way I have found to shut the brain off is junk food and old movies on cable.

Some movies stand up to the test of time and "Air Force One" is one that does for me.  My husband Davis and I saw it back in the summer of 1997 when it was a new release and we were newlyweds.  Now, as a pair of oldyweds with a kid we watched the rerun.  Everything is different when one becomes a mom.  Even watching movies.  This go-round I spent a lot of time saying, "How can that poor, first lady go through this as a mom?  How can a mom comfort her child in this situation?"  My husband spent an equal amount of time saying, "You do know this isn't a documentary, right?" 

One thing that is real and has been vastly altered by my mommy status is how I respond to natural disasters.  Back in 1999, during the early morning hours, a deadly and destructive tornado hit Cincinnati, where Davis and I were living in a 3rd floor apartment.  We were sleeping when my sister called to let me know a tornado had crossed over into Cincinnati on the west side of town very near us.  We were tired.  We were stupid.  We went back to sleep.  The next morning when the local news broadcast the tale of homes destroyed and four people dead, it barely registered.  I was late for work since we had lost power and my alarm didn't go off.  At work people were talking about the storms and the general consensus among us lower, working class was that at least the tornado hit the more affluent neighborhood.  Those people had money, which to us translated into lots of insurance.  No big deal. A misconception I'm ashamed to admit to.

Fast forward to the present day.  Tornadoes have ripped through the south and Midwest.  My son's teacher has lost a family member in Alabama's April tornado.  At school the kids have been talking about tornadoes a lot.  Fearfully.  No longer do I ignore the call to seek safety.  One night, late at night, the sirens sound.  More tornadoes.  Davis called from his work to warn me.  I grab our son Milo, blankets, flashlight, both our dogs and head for the basement.  Then I hear it.  That sound like a freight train.  It was loud and over our house.  Milo was shaking.  I tucked my boy up under my chin and promised him that everything would be all right.  Silently, ferociously I prayed, "Please, God, don't make a liar out of me to my son."  The tornado, small in size, passed us by that night and touched down two miles up the road.  The place it landed was an empty truck stop.  A couple semi-trucks were tossed around like toys, but that was all. 

Then Joplin, Missouri happened.  As images of loss and heartbreak flash across the screen all I can think of is how many Joplin parents hugged their children tight that night and promised them everything will be all right.  And, how those children now know those are just words moms and dads sometime say when they don't know what else to do or say.  My heart hurts for the people who have had their lives altered.  I could never imagine what it must be like to tell my child that his home is gone.  That we cannot keep his dogs in a shelter; that he will have to be without his two best buddies when he needs their love and affection the most. 

Hopefully, the people who have been touched by the tornadoes these past two months know that they are not alone.  People willing to step up and help out a stranger in need is the one force of nature that can calm a mom's and her child's fears in the night.

*Update - My husband let me know that later the weatherman announced that it was straightline winds that did the damage at the truck stop and the tornado touched down several miles farther than first thought.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Paying It Forward

The other day, at the exact moment I was in need of a little pick me up, I opened my email and found this lovely award waiting for me from Madison of, I'd like to thank her for the award.  Thank you, I really appreciate it!  I'd also like to encourage everyone to check out her blog.  April is National Autism Awareness Month.

So, the rules are I must tell everyone 7 things about me and then pay the award forward to other bloggers.  Here goes:

Deadliest Catch is my favorite T.V. show.

I'm left-handed.

Walking and riding a bike are my two favorite ways to exercise.

Fall is my favorite season.

I cried after dropping my son off at school for his 1st day of kidnegarten.

My husband and I met at Frisch's when I was a waitress and he was a cook.

I wish I knew how to play the piano.

And the blogs I'm awarding The Versatile Blogger Award to:     Really like the style of her writing and her recipes  Such a nice lady with a great blog Tasty BBQ Pulled Pork recipe just posted. Really nice lady A husband and wife that always have great parenting advice Funny essays about life and family  Beautiful photographs and I love her tagline  Blogging for the better good.  Join in with your voice.  Funny, sweet, touching. Creative and interesting

Monday, April 18, 2011

Fairy Tale, Schmairy Tale

Love may very well be a many splendored thing, but it's also a fickle, ever changing, growing, disappearing and reappearing thing. 

It's easy to believe in a happily ever after when you're standing in that bridal shop, trying on white organza confections, and friends are sighing "you'll make such a beautiful bride."  Believing in the happy forever after is a little more difficult when the seal between the toilet and the floor decides to break 30 minutes after Home Depot has closed for the night and you and your spouse are standing ankle deep in toilet water.  Life has handed my husband Dave and I our fair share of these moments.  

Recently, we celebrated our anniversary.  We talked my sister into keeping our boy Milo overnight, got all gussied up and headed out to try a new restaurant.  As we fed ourselves steak, salad and chocolate cake we did more than celebrate the passing of the years.  We celebrated the moments and memories that make up those years.  This anniversary found us huddled close together at the table, oblivious to our surroundings, content to make each other laugh.  There have been other dinners where we've sat and ate, with more than just the width of a table separating us. 

Just 14 years old, our marriage has already lasted three times longer than the average union.  We've been happy, miserable, blessed, resentful, grateful and every other emotion known to exist. I think any long-term marriage is about luck, laughter and forgiveness as much as it is about love.  So, we celebrate. 

We celebrate: a first apartment, new homes, broken toilets, building a swing set out back, puppies no one but us wanted, sleepless nights with a teething baby, standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon, planting trees and watching them grow, Disney Land, loved ones we had to say good-bye to, Christmas stockings hanging off the mantle, the cat biting our toes, stacks of medical bills, watching our son start his first day of school, cheering on his basketball team, eating pizza on an empty beach, calls when the car broke down, sled riding on snowy days, playing board games, flooded backyards, super-duper hugs, just plain old surviving it all and hoping we get some more just like it.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

If Only

Wouldn't it be nice if....

     children came with an instruction manual

     money really did grow on trees

     life came with a do-over button

     chocolate chip cookies caused weight loss

     the house cleaned itself

     that alarm didn't go off so early in the morning

     wishes could always come true


Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Smurf Made Me Do It

There was a time during my misspent youth that The Smurfs and a friend I'll call Crissy combined to form a perfect storm of sin and fear within my Catholic school-girl heart. 

The afternoon in question was unfolding like every other one that came before it. Crissy and I were up in her room playing with her Barbie and Ken dolls, making them take endless trips up and down in the elevator of their Dream House or cruise around the area rug in the pink convertible that Ken must not have had a hand in picking out.  Sometimes, the two went on vacation to the other side of the bedroom where the horse was stabled. 

For whatever reason we soon grew bored of Barbie and Ken and decided to walk over to the local McAlpin's store where the new Smurf toys were on display. And, right next to them stood the dragon lady.  Actually, just a cashier who knew what a couple of kids up to no good looked like.  I'm not sure we knew ahead of time that we were up to no good.  At least, I know I didn't.  But, at some point we decided that we needed a Smurf action figure to serve as a pool boy for Barbie's upcoming pool party.  Only neither one of us had any money.  What to do, what to do? 

Crissy distracted dragon lady and I crammed a little Smurf into the pocket of my shorts.  Then we ran all the way back to Barbie and Ken.  After fishing the contraband out of my pocket we placed it on Crissy's dresser and sat there staring at it, as if the thing were some kind of Genie bottle and something was about to pop out of it.  Only the more I looked at it, the worse I began to feel.  It was stolen.  I had broken one of the Top Ten.  Now, I had spent enough hours kneeling next to my Mom on Sundays and coloring pictures of Jesus during CCD classes that I knew exactly what was coming next.  Soon the devil would arrive to drag me down to the really hot place with no swimming pools for cooling off.  And, the more I feared the fiery pit the angrier I grew that it was a stupid Smurf stolen and not Gargamel or his cat Azrael.  Those were my favorites after all.  I couldn't stand those Smurfs. And what did that say about me, that every Saturday I rooted for the evil wizard and his cat?  Satan was going to make me his apprentice for sure.  Slowly I turned my head to see the exact same expression of fear and dread on my friend's face.

"I feel really bad, Angii.  We shouldn't steal.  It's sooo wrong." Crissy said, echoing my thoughts.

"I know.  What are we going to do?"

"We're going to burn in H-E-double matchsticks.", she replied matter-of-factly.

If the crime was undone then it would be like it never happened we decided.  And, then we could assure ourselves a spot up in the clouds with all those lambs that were forever sitting around in Jesus's lap.  Of course, the dragon lady was a concern.  We hadn't been caught sneaking out the toy, but what if we were caught sneaking it back in?  She would never believe we were returning stolen property.   Enter a brilliant plan. 

I grabbed the offensive Smurf and skipped home to find my little brother, Joe.  He was tiny and cute; all big, blue eyes, freckles. Surely, the dragon lady wouldn't call security if he was found with stolen goods.  Easily tricked into thinking we were spending some quality time together I walked him up to the shopping center.  Once outside the store doubt crept in.  Joe didn't know why we were here and what if the dragon lady did call security?  What if my parents found out it was all my fault?  I slapped the toy into his small hand and dragged him into the store, coming to stop just a few feet inside the door.

"Joey, go throw that Smurf toy over there on that stand."

"Why?  There's no toys over here.  Why do I have to get rid of it?"

"Just do it."  I urged. 

Obediently, he walked over to an outdoor furniture setting and placed the Smurf on a cushion.  Then, I grabbed his hand and fled the store for the second time that day.  During the walk home he was silent for a bit before turning those trusting eyes on me.

"Angii, did we just steal?"

"No.  Of course not.  We returned a toy, that's all."

"But, that's not how Mommy does it.  Did you steal it?  I don't wanna steal.  I don't wanna get in trouble."

Yet another moral dilemma.  Faced with breaking another one of the Top Tens, I questioned what to do.  Should I lie or tell the truth?  Did I just correct one sin to commit another?  

"No, I didn't steal it, Joe.  I called the store and they told me to return it like that.  It's ok.  Don't worry about it.  And, don't tell Mom."

Mom never did find out about my short lived criminal career.  That Smurf is the only thing that I've ever taken.  Too much guilt to repeat another theft of any kind.  Now, if only my lesson in lying didn't involve an Innocent's death.  But, that's a story for another day.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Unsolvable Mysteries

Who doesn't love a good mystery?  The cable channel ID has built it's entire programming around it.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie and Mary Higgins Clark all staked their careers on it.  I love a great mystery and lucky for me, I get to live one every day of my life.

For instance, why are the cabinet doors and drawers in the kitchen always left standing wide open?  The main suspect, my son Milo, claims to not even know that the house came with a kitchen.  Who else could it be leaving everything standing open?  The dogs don't have that capability.  The husband, Davis, and I are the closers, not the openers.  Strange, right?

Where do all the socks go after they've been put in the laundry room?  They never seem to make it out of the dryer and for the life of me I can't find a matching pair anymore.  Mysterious.

Can somebody please tell me why the oven has developed a vendetta against my family?  Although I follow all the guidelines: correct temperature, timing and to cover or not to cover, my bread and biscuits still come out scorched.  What a conundrum.

Life these days is full of all these little mysterious happenings.  It keeps me on my toes and guessing what's next.  Pens that get up and walk away by themselves, possibly.  Or, candy that enters this dwelling and quickly disappears, maybe.  Actually, the disappearing candy happens a lot around here.  I know for sure who the culprit is on that one, but I'll never tell.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

How To Tell If You're Irish

How can you tell if you're Irish?

Your mother and sister recoil in horror when you confess to using instant mashed potatos.

A very serious thing is treated like a joke. 

If you say, "I'll make a long story short" no one believes you.

Although you don't know the words to a song, are off key and out of tune you sing anyways.  And, seriously consider trying out for American Idol.

Your family tree is populated with the names Mary, Margaret, Catherine and men named John but called Jack.
Before a family reunion you have to be reminded who isn't speaking to whom.

A wake for a family member is a party by any other definition.

The only way to get a tan is if it's sprayed on.

You've often wonder why people say, "quick tempered", "hot headed" and "stubborn" as if those were bad things.  That's just being passionate about what you feel and think.

The Gift Of Gab?  Oh yeah, you've got it.

The Sunday morning church service is also an aerobic workout. Stand. Sit. Kneel. Turn to the right, shake hands.  Turn to the left and shake. Bow your head. Now, kneel, sit, and stand again.

There's a good chance that somewhere in your home is either a small picture or plaque with the words of a blessing, something with a shamrock on it, or a cross.  Or all three.

Hold the gravy, you take butter on your mashed potatos.

You've always got dance fever.

Feud is just another four letter word for love.

It takes an hour to say, "Good-bye" at family gatherings.

Intensely loyal, generous, friendly and helpful you hate to say, "no" to someone needing a favor.

You love to tell people that you're Irish.

It's March 17th.  Everyone's Irish today!

For my grandma, Geraldine Catherine O'Connor, a masterful storyteller and proud Irish woman.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Call Me

It's hard to imagine that once upon a time someone actually declared the telephone "a worthless toy".  And, I'm not talking about my husband, Davis, although if I asked he would probably agree.  No, back when Alexander Graham Bell showcased his invention and tried to sell it to Western Union he and his speaking telegraph were ridiculed.  Laughed at.  If I had been there I would have embraced it with both hands.  Through out the years, in all it's various forms, it's been the telephone that's never very far from my fingertips.

Back in the day phones came with a round dial. A finger poked into a hole bearing a number and had to spin the dial all the way around, wait for the spinning wheel to come back to it's original spot and then move onto the next one in the sequence.  By the time a person got through all seven digits of a phone number they had forgotten who they were calling in the first place. And, talk about the colors - white, pea soup green and mustard yellow.  When I was growing up we had one phone, a white one that sat in the dining room.  Every conversation anyone had was listened to and commented on by everyone else in the house.  Most of those comments consisted of, "Stop talking so loud, I can't hear the T.V.",  "How much longer are you going to be?  It's my turn." and  "Hang up or I'm hanging up for you."  All right, most of the time the comments came from me and were directed at my siblings.  Except for the last one.  That came from mom.  And wasn't said so much as it was yelled.  The day my parents installed a second phone jack in their bedroom and we were going to be able to have a conversation in total privacy was a happy day for the family.  We all gathered around the man installing it and anxiously waited, arguing over who would get to be the first to use it.  My mom won.  She called my dad at work and said, "Hi, hold on a minute, I can't hear you over the kids.  They're using the phone cord to tie each other up."  Over the years we upgraded to keypads that could be pushed, phones in every one's bedroom, the cordless, and finally the amazing mobile cellular that was the size and weight of a half gallon of milk. 

Then came the fateful day my husband and I decided that in the interest of saving money we would cancel the house phone and use just our cell phones.  Which wasn't a problem in the beginning.  We had thousands and thousands of minutes.  Everything was going along fine until my friend began texting me.  I resisted texting for a long, long time.  Mostly because I felt like I was to old to say things like, "LOL" and "TTYL".  Eventually, I taught myself how to text back and was hooked.  I could text her all day long at work and never get in trouble for being on the phone. It was great.  Until my husband opened our cell phone bill and let me in on a little secret.  Our plan didn't include texts and all our conversations were costly.  Hundreds of dollars costly.  

So, we found a new plan that included unlimited texts but very few minutes.  I haven't heard the voice of a loved one since.  Texting does have it's draw backs.  For instance, it's hard to decipher the tone of a voice from a text.  Is that person being sarcastic?  Or sincere?  How will I know unless we text the words, 
"Are you sure?"
"I'm sure." 
back and forth the rest of the day?  I am of course talking about a conversation that could apply to any I've had with my friend, sister, neighbor.  All women.  My texting conversations with the men in my life are a lot like the one I had with my husband recently while he was at work on break:

Me: "We have to figure something out with the fence.  Echo has tried to get loose and attack the 2 Golden Retrievers behind us and the new puppy next door.  And that was just in the past five minutes.  Also, I realized that we don't have the cheese I need to make dinner.  We aren't having enchiladas. I kind of feel like ordering a pizza, but we're trying to not eat out so much so what do you think?  Milo got in an argument with me over doing his homework so he's grounded from video games.  Make sure you don't let him play any.  And don't forget tomorrow is my meeting at the library."

Him: "K."

K?!  That's it?  I pour out my frustration over our wayward dog, belligerent son, lack of foresight in planning the dinner menu, question what we should about that and also a quick reminder while I was thinking of it, in a message that took four separate texts to transmit and in response I get a "K".  In fact, I have received this "K" from both my brothers also. 

The cell phone billing statement highlights the differences between my husband and I in a way that fourteen years of marriage has never managed to.  I'm a talking, texting fool.  My phone number is the one that uses up all the minutes we are allotted and has an embarrassing amount of texts going in and out.  In contrast, his number has only a few calls listed, none of them lasting more than five minutes and the only texting done is in response to mine.  They all say the same thing. K.  And, we're k with that.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Why Ask Why

"Why on earth would you do that?"

It's a question that I was asked recently.  To be honest it's a question that I get asked a lot.  But, this time the question was coming from a lady in the writer's group that I belong to and it was in regards to writing a blog.  She was curious (or maybe dumbfounded) as to why anyone would want to put their whole lives out there on the Internet for anyone to read and comment on.  I get it, even though I didn't have a good explanation for her. The reason the blog began is no longer the only reason it continues. 

Exactly one year and three weeks ago during an appointment with an orthopedic doctor for my bum knee the doc began quizzing me about headaches.  Do I get them a lot, what they felt like, etc.  I'm not sure what I was doing to prompt this line of questioning, but I answered his questions even though I didn't know what it had to do with arthritis in the knees.  It didn't.  He told me that I should leave his office and immediately contact my physician to get checked out for an aneurysm.  Very calmly, I said I would.  Then sat in my car and had a major freak out. 

Long story short, I ended up in the hospital with a suspected stroke.  There was no aneurysm and as it turns out it wasn't a stroke either.  The neurologist diagnosed inflammation of the brain.  Which is not any fun.  Aside from the bedside visit from my long dead grandparents.  Which may or may not have been a hallucination.  All I know is that I couldn't answer the hospital staff's questions of what my address was and what year we're in.  And I began to cry.  And I became very frightened.  One thought that kept circulating through all of this was of my son.  I couldn't have anything go wrong with me.  I had a little boy to raise.  So I prayed.  I prayed very hard.  And at one point I swear I felt a hand holding mine and when I looked my grandma and grandpa were right there.  And letting me know everything would be just fine.  In the end it was, of course.  But, not without some scary moments.

It's very hard to explain the confusion that went along with this.  I began heavy doses of antibiotics for seventeen days.  During that time it often seemed like I was in another world.  Once I called Domino's to order a pizza and unknowingly gave them my maiden name, although it hasn't been my last name for thirteen years.  Another time I forgot my name all together.  I thought I was lost in my sister's neighborhood when I wasn't.   The very worst thing though was when a technician making conversation asked about my son. 

"How old is your little boy?", she asked. 

I had no idea.  It was like my brain was a chalkboard.  A blank chalkboard.  Sometimes, if asked something like my zip code, I would see a jumble of numbers on the chalkboard and have no idea how the numbers went together.  But, that day when she asked about my boy all I could picture in my head was his face and no data to go along with it.  During my clearer moments I worried about if it never went away.  If I would always blank out on questions.  What would my son think as he grew up?  How would he know what he means to me?  That what he is to me is everything? 

So the fog lifted, or as much as it ever was going to anyway (I've always been a little flaky) and it became time to set things right with all the new insights about life that was obtained through all this. 

Step One: Figuring out what's really important.  Duh, that was easy.  My son.  My husband.  My family.  But, also my writing.  Most specifically my dream of being a writer.  I decided to go for it.  A book about selling your work recommended writing something everyday and suggested a blog as a way to hone the craft of creative writing.  So I researched blogs and decided two things.  One, it would be a great way to improve my writing.  And two, it would be a great love letter to give to my son.  One day he will be without me.  I'm not going to live forever, but through the writing I do on my blog it's almost like I can.  He will always have a part of me to pull out and read and hear my words of love and devotion.  That's my hope anyway.

Step Two:  Learn and grow, learn and grow.  I'll never be done doing this.  One thing I've learned is that the reasons I started this blog are not the reasons it has evolved this past year into what it is.  My readers have changed it, changed me.  My family were the first people to read it.  I have learned how much I love them over this past year as I write about them in the posts Life Cycle Of A MomAll The Things I Never Knew and Sibling Revelry.  The past year I have grown in my confidence and that has a large part to do with the community of bloggers that are out there in the world, reading my blog and leaving me kind comments.  Those comments have changed me and my blog.  For the better I hope.

So, one day after I got to spend a great day just being alive and hanging out with (almost all) the people in the world that I love most, doing one of the things I love so much (we were snow tubing down those slopes):

when the lady from the writer's group asked me, "Why?" all I could do is stutter and shrug.  Why ask why?  I'm a "why not?" kind of girl myself.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lordy, Lordy, I Am Forty!

Birthdays are not my kind of thing.  Far, far from it.  I don't know why I hate them so much because the alternative to growing old is not something I want to delve into anytime soon.  So, I'm forty today.  And, I am thankful to be alive to experience this birthday.  Truly, I am.  It's just that I got here way too quickly. 

Seems like just yesterday I was sitting in a classroom writing out a timeline assignment.  We were suppossed to write our dream timeline of what we want out of life.  For sentimental sake I saved mine and recently took it out for a reread.  I must have laughed for a good ten minutes.  Here is a sampling of those youthful delusions:

Write a few bestselling novels.           (Um, nope.  Not yet.)
Buy a private island and live there.     (I wish.)
Marry Charlie Sheen.                        (I dodged a bullet with that one!)

As surprising as this sounds, my dream future did not include a mortgage, car loan, a child that told me he would rather go to bed at 7 o'clock in the evening than put away the dishes and a pile of dirty laundry sitting in the hallway.  My life is full of sweet stuff.  No kidding.  And, it's not just the Hershey Chocolate Syrup I like to drink straight from the bottle and skip the step of mixing it with milk.  The sweet stuff is in the little details. 

Like the other day when I arrived at my son's school for his basketball game and the way his eyes lit up when he saw me walk through the door.  Or, on Sunday when I got to sit in a room with my dad and my husband and watch them watch the Daytona 500.  And, how they both yelled, "There it is!" at the exact same minute in response to a wreck.  It was in knowing ahead of time who my dad would pick for the best driver to ever race a car.  Richard Petty followed by Dale Earnhardt, for the record.  It's the two dogs fighting for the right to lay across my feet.  I think there's room for them both.  They don't agree. 

My life hasn't exactly matched up with the fictional timeline.  No private island, just a house with a mortgage and an overflowing laundry room, but I don't care.  Because, I'm forty and I'm not dead yet.  There's still time to get to the bestselling novels.  I'm letting go of the whole marriage to Charlie Sheen idea, though.   

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Tiger, A Helicopter And A Hippie Walk Into A Baby's Life

This week Good Morning America showcased three teenagers as the proud products of three distinct parenting styles: a girl cub of a "tiger mom", the boy has a "helicopter mom" hovering over his shoulder and the last girl is the result of a "hippie mom".  All three are straight A students, seemingly well adjusted and staunch defenders of their parents.  In short, they do a mom proud.  It is obvious that people can learn a few things about child rearing by listening to what these teens are saying.  But, people are apparently asking themselves, which way is best? 

I know exactly which category I fall under.  Please, excuse the noise.  It's just the sound of my propellers spinning at warp speed. Now, I can't speak to the motivation of that mother from the morning show, but I know that a large part of my parenting technique does, in fact, stem from fear.  And, I know right when the fear set in.  It happened the moment the nurse's aide plopped my newborn son in my lap and said, "Hold on.  I'm going to wheel you out to the curb where your husband is waiting with the car."  As we rode the elevator down to street level I held my baby in my arms and questioned the judgement of the medical staff.  How could they just turn me loose with this baby?  What had happened to all their supposed higher learning?  Shouldn't they know better?

Some of the fear stemmed from the fact that it seemed unbelievable this baby was here and in my arms.  We had been through two and a half years of infertility treatments, a difficult pregnancy and his early arrival by about a month.  Top it all off with the fact that at ten weeks he quit breathing, turned purple and was admitted into Children's Hospital and the poor, little fellow's fate was sealed.  He never stood a chance.  Many is the time I've stood over his sleeping form, marveling at his angelic little face and thinking, "Boy, do I hope you have a lot of insurance when you grow up.  The amount of therapy you are going to require by the time I'm done with you will be outrageous."

So, I'm a helicopter mom.  I meddle in his life, monitor his movements about the neighborhood, and forbid certain video games.  It's frightening to send my heart and soul out into the world and not serve as a buffer from any cruelty that could be waiting around the corner for him.  When he was being bullied on the bus ride home from school my first instinct was to grab a claymore or broadsword, storm the bus and challenge the tormentor with a, "Who's the poopie pants now, Mister?!"  My husband convinced me that this would be wrong.  And also, we are not living in medieval Scotland and I am not a Highlander warrior with an arsenal of weapons back at the castle. 

As a parent it is difficult to know when to step back and let life's lessons happen or when to step forward and act as a shield.  Do you demand straight A's, or declare the whole grading system a stupid idea?  I certainly have no answers.  All I can do is try my best and keep moving forward.  Isn't that what any parent does?  The harshest critic I will ever face will be my own son one day.  My best hope is that he is kind when rating my performance. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Out Of The Closet

Five years ago, when we moved into our home, I stood at the door of my cavernous walk-in closet and thought, "There is no way I will ever be able to fill this thing."  Flash forward to the present.  

Standing in the doorway of the closet I wonder, "If a person can no longer take a step into the closet is that a sign the thing needs cleaned?"  Sure, it's tempting to shut the door and ignore the heap.  What I mostly need out of there is my work clothes and since the lay off I'm perfectly fine with living in my pajamas and slippers.  You have only to see me dropping my son off at school in the morning to know that's true.  But, my gym shoes are in there and even I draw the line at grocery shopping in my slippers.   Gas stations, yes.  Grocery stores, no.

One of the main reasons my closet got to this point is a hereditary genetic defect that runs through my family.  We're part squirrel.  We love to gather up stuff and then stash it away for later.  And, if we can't find a reason to keep something we pass it off on someone else so that it can go sit in their closet for a year or ten.  My Grandma is the master.  Nobody visits her and comes away empty handed.  Today, I scored two semi used legal pads, 10 coupon inserts that may or may not be expired and several newspapers that may or may not contain articles that would interest me. 

Everything gets dragged out of the closet and goes in individual piles.  The giant bag of beads that my mother passed down to me three years ago is relegated as my sister's problem and I set it aside for my niece.  You know those little pamphlets that hotels put in their lobbies advertising local attractions?  I have to take them.  All of them.  I have a big bag full.  Things to do and places to see in cities that I will probably never go back to.  But, there is a very slim chance that I might visit again.  And if I do, there is an ever slimmer chance that I will wish to see the World's Largest Thermometer.  You never know, so I mark them as keepers and back into the closet they go.  Magazines that have been stashed away for the recipes they contain.  Glancing through them I can't even remember which dishes tempted me.  An embarrassing amount of organizational materials.  All in their original packaging.  I make a solemn vow to myself that this time they will get used and throw them back in.  They will never see the light of day again.  A skeleton.  Literally.  For some reason a bag of Halloween decorations has ended up here.   Which brings me to "the box".  The box of impossible dreams.  The box full of clothes that no longer fit.  Not by a long shot.  I tell myself that I have to be honest about this.  Those outfits have been packed up so long they've gone out of style and back in again.  I consider Goodwill.  Then I consider that I'm looking at this the wrong way.  The box should be held on to for motivational purposes.  Inspiration to lose weight and be a size skinny again.  Plus, it's just easier to toss it into the back of the closet.  

Digging myself out from under the piles of shoes, picture frames, some kind of art project that was started before remembering that I lack talent, well read books and purses, it suddenly hits me.  What am I doing?  My snow boots are downstairs in our laundry room.  And they totally go with green polka dotted pajama pants.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Thank You Almost There

Last month I found a blog from England called  Almost There and I love this blog.  It's written by a lady who is funny, down to earth and the mom of a boy near the same age as mine.  I could definitely relate to a lot of what she writes about.  She held a link up called Sharing is Caring and I entered my post In The Beginning There Was Chicken.  After reading the entries from some of the other bloggers I didn't really expect to hear from her again.  Those other entries were so great.

But, I was surprised to receive to an email from her saying she picked mine to feature for the month.  Actually this is the first time my blog has ever been noticed for anything and the truth is that I squealed like a little girl, called my husband and left him a message at work and then sent out text messages to friends and family alike.  Truely it made my day. 

I encourage everyone to check out her blog, it's rated in the top blogs of England, and also read everyone that entered the link up.  They are all so talented.  There are some great stories on there.  They made me smile, laugh, made me think and raised my conciousness for others out there and things people face in life.  

Also, I finally made a page for my Project 365.  All along I have been taking pictures and then storing them on the camera and not doing anything with them.  So, I decided to get them on here.  This project has taught me a lot about myself and my life as it's happening.  For instance:

I am apparently not smart enough to put together a 1,000 piece puzzle of some birds at a bird feeder.

No matter how many outfits we have in our closets, my family always seems to wear the same clothes over and over.

My little point and shoot had a fingerprint on the lens and most of the stuff looks out of focus. 

My life is pretty boring, but I'm smiling in all the pics so boring is fine by me.

Finally, this past week I decided to tackle some household things that needed taken care of.  I'll be writing more soon.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Horse's Race

Way back before the hubby was "the hubby", and he was simply "the guy I just started seeing" he occasionally played the ponies.  Seems that a man he worked with had the inside scoop at the local horse track, and they would stop by on the way home from work.  I had never been before, so one night we went.  With just one glance I knew right off which horse I would be betting on.  Big Courage.  With a name like that, the horse was destined for greatness, I figured.

     "That horse is a loser.  It's never won.  Look at the odds.", my future husband told me.  Since I had no idea what he was talking about my response was pretty quick.

     "I don't care about any of that.  Look at his name.  Big Courage.  I want to bet it all on him."

     "Bet it all on a horse that loses every time?  Are you sure you want to do that?"

And so, while the man that would one day win my hand in marriage, waxed poetically about things like "the odds" and "win, place or show", I listened wide-eyed, hanging on his every word.  And waiting for him to finish speaking so that I could say, "Did you see that guy with the waffle fries?  Those are my favorite.  Let's go get some."

I couldn't be talked out of betting on Big Courage.  It could be true that race horses don't earn their names by displays of their personalities.  It could be, but I wasn't betting on it.  Surely, a horse with a name like Big Courage had the heart of a winner.

We settled in to watch the race.  The gates open and my horse is slow to leave.  It appeared that he got spooked.  While everyone cheered for their picks, no one within earshot was calling out for Big Courage.  I alone cheered that big, brown horse in last place.  And then, like a scene out of a Hollywood movie, Big Courage gained some ground.  He passed one horse and then another.  The other horses appeared to be moving at the speed of snail.  Big Courage passed them all.  All but one.  A giant black horse that reminded me of my favorite childhood story, Black Stallion.  Blackie, I'll call him, was in the lead and he wasn't willing to give it up.  Big Courage tried his best.  Blackie lead by barely the length of his own body, but it was a distance that had to be breached if Big Courage wanted to cross the finish line first.  As it became clear that only two horses were in line to win, the crowd changed their chants.  Everyone that had already lost their bets took up the cheer for Big Courage.  As unlikely as it seems that the horses could understand what was going on in the stands, it really did appear that the two competitors were responding to the crowds.  Blackie fiercely fought for his hold on first place.  You could see it in the display of rippling muscles, the way he held his head, the tension filled posture of the jockey.  Big Courage appeared to be flying with his hooves never touching the ground.  The two were neck and neck.  The finish line loomed up ahead.  As hard as those two horses raced, as seamlessly as the two jockeys made themselves one with their mounts, as great a race as it was, in the end there can only be one winner.  And we had to wait to see who that winner would be.  A photo finish.  The crowd held a collective breath.  When the photo popped up on that screen the place went wild.  Somehow, someway, Big Courage had taken the lead at the last possible second.  He won the race. 

In the stands I was going wild.  Jumping up and down, I grabbed my guy's shirt and shook him like a little rag doll, screaming in his face the whole time.  The funny thing was, in those first minutes, I wasn't excited because I had won some money.  I was screaming for Big Courage.  Because as that horse stood in the winner's circle with a necklace of roses draped around his neck, it really did look like he was smiling and holding his head up high with pride.  It was easy to imagine that Big Courage knew he was getting his moment in the sun.  As if, all along he had been waiting for the chance to show someone what he was made of.  And, given the chance he rose to the occasion.  Big Courage, indeed.  I now realize it was himself he had been wanting to prove some thing to.

This is the true story of my first experience with a horse race.  The next time we went to the race track it was several months later, and the hubby had gone from "the guy I just started seeing" to "the one".  We joined in with a few friends that were going to a different race track.  It was a pretty boring day.  No great horse races.  No high winnings. No waffle fries.  It was the last time I ever went to a racetrack.  Nothing could ever compare to that first trip and I didn't want to try.  Now, every May, my husband's step dad places some bets on the horses competing in the Kentucky Derby. He assigns us each two horses and we all sit around the t.v. waiting to see who will win.  After all, we do live in Kentucky, y'all.  I've never won again.  Just that one time I took a chance on a horse, that in print seemed like a loser, but had the heart to match his name.

I tell this story because of something that I did this week.  I sent off a query letter to a literary agent in regards to a child's story that I wrote.  The story has been sitting in a drawer in my nightstand for years.  I've been afraid to let it see the light of day.  Afraid that if I try to sell it I will find out that it's not as good as I think.  Afraid that my fears will be realized and it will be proven I've no talent for anything.  You see, in print it would appear that I'm a long shot to win.  I've never been published.  And, after several interviews for jobs it seems that I have no real marketable skills, either.  But, like that horse from sixteen years ago, I've got some big courage and I'm going to chase that childhood dream of mine.  I'm going to prove to myself what it is I'm made of.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

In The Beginning There Was Chicken

"Original or Extra-Crispy?"

This is a phrase that I said hundreds of thousands of times.  Back when KFC was still proud to call themselves Kentucky Fried Chicken.  Back before "deep-fried" and "grease" became dirty words.  Back when I was a sixteen year old girl who didn't know what she would grow up to be.

As a girl, growing up we weren't exactly wealthy.  I knew that anything I wanted, like brand name clothes or a car, would have to be earned on my own.  A week after I turned sixteen, legal working age back then, I took myself off to find work.  Don't ask me how I decided on Kentucky Fried Chicken.  It wasn't even in my neighborhood.  I didn't know anyone that worked there.  It was the very first place I put in an application.  Two weeks later I became a cashier at the chicken place.  The job lasted a year and half.  An eon in the fast-food world.  No other job has taught me as much, to be honest.

There was a cast of characters that were unfamiliar to me.  Mean girl, who delighted in being snobby to the newbies.  Playboy, who had peaked in junior high and a few years past dropping out of high school was using the restaurant as his personal dating service.  Cool and aloof manager who seemed to always be looking around the kitchen and wondering how she got there.  The assistant manager, whom having risen to the peak of her career, was going to help others do better and get farther.  Learning to get along with everyone, or avoid the ones I couldn't,  was the best lesson life could teach me. 

In case you've ever wondered - yes, we totally would drop your biscuit or chicken on the floor and then pick it up and toss it in your box anyway. We also switched out expiration stickers on the dessert cups that we wanted.  Same with the little sandwich snackers.  Despite taking food before it's time, I took my job very serious.  Most of the time.  Very quickly, I learned that if I worked hard and did my best, the powers that be took notice and rewarded me with pay raises, as well as increased responsibility.  Just as quickly, I learned that if my parents grounded me I could always pretend that I had to work and then go hang out with my friends.  As long as I was home shortly after quitting time they were never the wiser.

It's been some time since I've thought about that first job of mine.  I'm glad I got the chance to take this stroll down memory lane thanks to a writing prompt by Almost There.  The girl I was back then knew things that the woman I am now has forgotten.  Such as, it doesn't really matter where you work or what your profession is.  All that matters in the end, is that you do your best and take pride in your work.  And, when you're asked, "Original or extra-crispy?"  take one of each.  They're both equally tasty.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Of Friends and Enemies

I have an archenemy.  I'm not a comic book character, but I have an archenemy.  A vile one that gets the best of me sometimes.  My own self-doubt is my worst enemy.  Most times, I manage to beat it down into submission.  To send it running off into hiding.  But, then like any determined villain, it is back.  Stalking me through darkened alley ways.  Jumping out from behind a bush and overpowering me. Time to send up the bat signal.

When the beacon is lit with the questioning, "Anyone want to help me out here?"  there is always an answering response.  It comes in the form of my best friend.  And, it's always a, "Yes". 

This past week and a half has been a difficult one.  There is no need for life to pile on the hurts, and yet it doesn't seem able to help itself.  Within the past week and a half I have been laid off from my full-time job that I've held for five years.  Lost my aunt in a car accident on an icy road.  And, the trifecta was receiving my rejection letter from a company that I had interviewed with.  Oh, and did I mention that I am turning forty in a few weeks? 

The rejection letter came in the mail last night.  My husband had just left for work.  My son was waiting for his friend to show up for a sleep over.  I fetched the mail and knew what it was as soon as I saw the return address.  And, don't you know, it was all just too much.  I stood in my kitchen, hiding from my son (only extreme hunger and dehydration brings him in the room where possible chores await) and cried my eyes out.  I cried for the denied job that I had wanted so badly.  I cried for the aunt with whom I spent so many weekends camping and boating.  I cried for the fact that I wasn't given a severance and unemployment won't be finished processing my claim for at least a month. 

Now, I'm not a selfish person.  And, if there is anything in this world I love to share it is my misery.  So, I sent texts to my husband.  Frantic, hysterical texts.  He was at work and isn't allowed to use his phone or the company phone.  But, I think he enjoys hearing from me all the same.  Next, I gladly shared my misery with my friend.  Texts again.  I didn't want to talk.  I don't like people to actually hear or see me cry.  Reading about it in a text is fine, though.  Instantly she responds to my bat signal.   I won't bore you with the details but, on my part it went mostly like this, "Why? Why?  I'm so pathetic.  I'm a loser.  Why? Why?" 

Then I cut to the chase.  The whole painful part about all this is the fact that I won't be able to provide my son with the things I want for him.  Not anytime soon.  While the boy faithfully watches commercials of Nickelodeon cruises and Disney World trips and dreams of his summer vacation, I am mired in reality.  There will be no vacation this summer.  No trips to the movies or out to dinner or special treats just because.  One of the last texts to her says it all for me, "I just want to be able to give my son a better life than what I had."  The response, "U ALREADY HAVE!!" is like a slap to my face.  Snap out of it, girl.  I wipe away the tears and go find my boy.
     "Do you know that your mommy and daddy love you?  And always will no matter what?"
     "Do you know that your mommy and daddy love each other?"
     "Do you think that your house is a happy place?"
     "Yeeaahh.", he is beginning to be wary of my popping up with a bunch of weird questions.  "I always have a lot of fun here every day.", he says simply.

I smile.  Maybe my son's happiness has as much to do with the Xbox as it has to do with his parents, but I'm taking it.  My friend who knows me as well as I know myself is correct.  I have accomplished the most important goal I have ever set for myself.  My name is Angii.  I'm unemployed.  I'm overweight and have too many gray hairs in my head.  I have no future prospects.  But, I have a son who's the member of a happy and loving family.  And, I have a friend that helps me vanquish my enemy.  If only I could wear that Wonder Woman costume and look good doing it.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

All I Ever Needed To Know About Life I Learned At The Amusent Park

Be prepared to spend a lot of time waiting for it to be your turn. 

When you find yourself going around in circles it's nice to see a familiar face greeting you with a smile and a wave.

If things start getting too hot, find some shade and retreat to take a breather.

That first hill you've got to climb up is usually the largest and takes the longest.  

There will always be large crowds that you have to navigate your way through.

In times of frayed nerves and crankiness, a giant ice cream cone covered in sprinkles hits the spot.  Every time.

It's always better with a friend or loved one sitting in the seat next to you.

Sometimes, there is nothing left to do but grab the hand of the person next to you, and scream your lungs out.   

Enjoy the view from the top.  The time there is limited.  But, with the right attitude, the rest of the ride is even better than the journey to that point.

Some rides will leave your feet dangling above the ground.  Some will toss you upside down, or can leave you backed in the corner, being bumped into by friends and strangers alike.  

You can choose a ride based upon what you can see of it, what you see of the people in line for it, and what others before you have said about it.  Until you hop on that ride for yourself, you have no real idea what to expect.

Even if you think you know what to expect, that quick dip down and sharp turn to the right will still take you by surprise and leave you breathless.

Hold onto anything you don't want to loss when the ride takes off.

It doesn't hurt to ask if you can stay on for one more time.  You might get told no.  Or, you may be given another spin.

It's hard to know how long a ride will last.  Some seem longer than others.  Some go by so fast it's disorienting.  No matter what, we almost always wish the ride had lasted just a little bit longer.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Myth vs. Reality

Caught up in that all encompassing bliss that is pregnancy; I was brimming with hopes, dreams, and expectations for both my new baby and my new life as a mom.  Turns out not all of them were grounded in reality.

Myth:  My husband and I would take all those wonderful classes on breathing techniques and pain management.  "No epidurals for me." I often stated.  
A friend warned, "That's what I said.  I was wrong.  I totally needed one."
"You'll change your mind.", my sister-in-law predicted.  "Nope.  I can handle a little pain.", I replied with smug superiority.

Reality:  Pre-term labor hit the night before our first class.  With each contraction getting stronger I literally begged for an epidural.  The on-call doctor thought she could halt the labor and denied me my pain relief.  Nine hours later when my doctor took over, his first words were, "Let's get you comfortable.  You can have the epidural, now."  I tell you, I cried real tears.

Myth:  No co-sleeping or rocking baby until he fell asleep.  The little dear would be placed in his bed, mobile gently spinning and singing a lullaby as he drifted off to slumber land all on his own.  Probably with a smile on his little cherub face. 

Reality:  The little dear arrived, shouting out, "Sleep?  Who needs sleep?!"  After several months of negotiation we worked out a deal.  We agreed to keep the car moving, even if it meant running all red lights, and he agreed to sleep.

Myth:  Becoming parents would not change the relationship my husband and I share.  We would schedule weekly date nights.  Pursue all of our interests, both separately and together.  Keep up with our hobbies.  Have long conversations about said hobbies and interests, where the word, "baby"  is never uttered aloud.

Reality:  Yeah, right.  Date nights came few and far between.  Our interests and hobbies became trying to snatch an hour or two of shut eye, diapers, teething and a special formula that cost hundreds of dollars a month.  And, that's all we ever talked about.

Myth:  Although my progeny had yet to make his debut, I was fairly certain he would be a genius.  We'd better get his college fund started now.  Surely, Harvard and Yale will soon be calling.

Reality:  Shortly after the little genius's arrival we started spending all of his college fund on the formula, Nutramigen, which was really just liquid gold.  As for continuing education; just the other day he said, "I can't wait til I'm in college.  Then, I'll never have to read another book again!"  Probably not ivy league material.

Myth:  I will read all the books by all the experts, and learn what to do in any given situation.  As a result, my life as a mom will be fulfilling, rewarding and an incredible success.  My child, in turn, will be intelligent, kind, happy and confident.  He will always know he is loved.  He will remember his house as a warm, loving place filled with laughter. 

Reality:  Those experts are all as clueless as I am.  None of them ever said what to do when the child has been vanquished to his room, has had every single toy taken away as punishment and still won't listen to a word I say.  My child's stubbornness surpasses mine own.  And, that's no small feat.  His home has, at times, been filled with a crazed lady that has been known to shout things like, "No one in this house say another word to any one!"  or,  "I'm going to the store and if I'm really lucky I'll get lost on the way back!"  And, who cares about all those wonderful virtues?  If I can get the kid to quit using his shirt as a napkin I'm declaring it all a success.