Friday, March 31, 2006

The Perks

I won’t pretend as if it ranks up there with a spinal tap or chemotherapy or anything of the sort but standing at LM’s feet, watching him flinch and say “ow!” with every little pin prick of the laser last night was hard on Mom. He endured 5-6 pricks for each of the 5 red spots (spider angiomas) on his face, and four were in the tender skin around his eye. He was brave. He toughed it out. And he tried very hard not to cry when it was finally over. We iced his face and will see in a couple days when the redness subsides if the procedure was successful. The perk: they think my insurance may cover the procedure afterall.

We rushed home to schlep the dog off to the vet afterwards. The waiting room isn’t big enough for our dog and anyone else’s, so that’s always a fun time. (Gabe officially weighed in at 203 pounds.) The office has two cats that just wander around and at some point the one thought the coast was clear and had to come sneaking out for a peek. It was all I could do to hold onto Gabe and keep him from eating that cat. The vet loves him, says he’s doing great, but he could stand to lose a couple pounds (couldn’t we all?) I talked with her about our leash issues and she recommended a new trainer that will come right to our door. I’ve heard all of this before, but it’s at least worth an inquiring phone call. The perk: K9Advantage finally made a flea/tick solution that will go up to dogs of Gabe’s size. Translated this means that I can actually by a regular six month supply instead of having to pay double for twelve pouches just to cover the six months. In plain English: a vet bill cut in HALF!!

We stopped at Pizza Hut on our way home for take out. We haven’t had take out pizza in, well, years. I went in while the boys waited patiently in the car. I’ll try to summarize the experience in a word: incompetence. It certainly took me back to my days waiting tables at the Pizza Hut in my hometown, but it was absolutely crazy. The perk: knowing that I wasn’t responsible for the nightmare and that I could take my pizzas and LEAVE.

We got home and I quickly flipped through the mail. Catalogs full of skinny, sexy women, bills, bills and more bills. The perk: my totally beautiful, black watch tartan plaid bags arrived from Slush!! She’s really talented with that sewing machine and I’m glad that I could, in some small way, help her effort to adopt.

We got settled on the couch and turned on LM’s favorite show, “Survivor”. We enjoyed our pizza, laughed at how worn out our dog was just from going to the vet’s office and cheered when our favorite player on the show succeeded. LM sat with a frozen ice pack against his face and at one point, snuggled up against me, he said, “Isn’t this the best Thursday night ever, Mom?”

That, my friends, was the best perk of all.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

It's Genetic

It went something like this:

George called. “Thanks for the box, Aunt Fred!” (I had sent a box with little Easter baskets for them to enjoy along with a few discarded dog toys). “Which one is the toy you put peanut butter in?” I told him which one.

“THE RED ONE MOM!!! YOU PUT THE PEANUT BUTTER IN THE RED ONE! THE ONE WITH THE HOLE IN IT!”

Little Bird got on the phone next. She was telling me about how they were going to go see her friend’s baby twin calves. “DAAAAADDDD!!! THAT’S MINE!! DAAAAAAADDDD!!! MOM! DAD IS TAKING OUR EASTER CANDY THAT AUNT FRED SENT US!! NOOO IT’S MIIIIINNNNEEEEEE!!!”

So there’s this tree. And there are these two apples. And as it turns out, they didn’t fall far at all….

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Struggle

So, I realize that I'm not the quickest person, truly. But since WHEN is Bearca Poka's sister?!?! Geesh! Glad I'm finally in the KNOW!!! :) Now, what other things haven't I caught onto yet?



I canceled my order to Amazon.

I have written in the past in many ways how blessed I feel. To be honest, I've been struggling lately with the luxuries that surround me in my everyday life and the complete lack of basic living necessities for millions elsewhere in the world. It's not that I believe we should all strip ourselves of every material possession, or that we should send our complete salaries off to Mali to restore some semblance of balance, but I stare down a $6 battery-operated toothbrush each morning to then see the face of a starving 9 year old girl on our refrigerator- a child we chose to sponsor from the Dominican Republic whose family cannot afford to give her more than one meal a day, cannot educate her nor give her the health care she needs. Just today I posted about the elective, cosmetic laser procedure to get rid of five red spots on LM's face. The duality is forcing my morals to sit up and take notice.

I fight everyday with my weight issues. I spend more of my time thinking about food in any given day than seems reasonable to me. But I am afforded the luxury of being overweight. I am afforded the ability to go out and buy whatever I want to eat. I have taken the privilege of eating for granted, and I have abused it. I feel guilty for this more than most anything because food is a simple, basic, necessity to life and yet it is not something that everyone has. Food, is in fact, a luxury to most. How do I find peace with the imbalance?

I don't readily have an answer, but I believe God gave us the emotion of guilt to serve a purpose. It is there to guide us when we are off path, it is there to help steer us in the correct direction and to lead us back to Him. I feel guilty. I feel ashamed of my stacks and stacks and shelves and shelves of beautiful, nearly new, dusty books. I feel guilty that I spend more on my dog every month than we do on charity.

It isn't right.

I have to do something. I have to start somewhere. I started by canceling my order to Amazon. If you know me at all, you know that there is no greater joy in my life than new books. None. Truly. But I couldn't do it this time. I couldn't look at the total for our order and know that while it might buy us 5 new books, it would feed a family for a month in other parts of the world.

I don't mean to get "preachy" or to sound like Susie Do-Right here. I simply mean to document my struggle. To say that I am sitting here trying to tell myself that I could sell some of my books and yet just as equally I keep convincing myself that it won't do anything that's significant so I might as well keep them. I look around and think that in some very simple ways we could do without so that others might do with. And then a voice inside says that God gave us these blessings, we should enjoy them. I don't know how to create an equilibrium within my own life that will bring me peace. I'm sure others have found personal ways to make peace with similar demons, I need to find it for myself.

I also know that I can't help others until I help myself. Getting out of debt is my number one priority so that I can truly live as God intended me to. I am going to try to make that happen faster than what I had originally planned. And it's going to begin by selling some of my books. What I hate most about it, is that it pains me to let them go. For that reason, if for no other, I need to get rid of them. An attachment such as that to material things can only bring ruin and further greed. It's a small step, but it's a step. And it's in the right direction.

If you're in the book buying business, let me know. I know a good seller.

A Blue Cross Does Not Stand for "Helpful"

Nearly a year ago, I shuffled LM off to the pediatrician to have them look at the 5 little red spots on his face. I wasn’t overly concerned about them, but he seemed to be getting a new one each year and the old ones weren’t going away so I thought it was best if we had it looked at. My out-laws (ex in-laws) kept saying it was petichea and that some of them had had it before. The doctor said it wasn’t petichea, but it was broken blood vessels due to stress and that we should see a dermatologist to get them removed (and implied perhaps a counselor as LM must have anger issues).

All of last year I was job hunting, so I was uncertain about my insurance (and therefore LM’s insurance) for the duration. Making an appointment with the dermatologist meant you had to wait at least 6 months and I wasn’t convinced I’d have coverage when the appointment came about so I waited. When I landed my new job in January, one of the first things I did was make all the necessary appointments, and today was the day we were finally able to set foot in the dermatologist’s office.

He looked at LM for no more than 30 seconds and said he has “spider angiomas” which are harmless little red specks on his face where blood vessels have risen to the surface. They are not petichea. They are not caused by stress and they will not go away unless we have them lasered off. Fine. Tell me more about the laser.

Simple procedure, won’t take more than a few seconds and won’t hurt any more than a rubber band snap.

Great, where do I sign up?

Oh, he doesn’t have the laser.

He recommends we call around to other dermatologists or go into Center City Philadelphia (over an hour from us) to Jefferson Hospital and they can do it there.

Great.

I spend half my day calling various LOCAL dermatologists to find someone who has this gadget of a machine. Find one, but she won’t do the procedure until we’ve had a consultation. Consultation will cost me $70. But I already had a consultation. But not at her office she says. The procedure is cosmetic and will cost anywhere between $100-300.

I keep calling.

The more dermatologists I call, the more frustrated I become. Even if they have the equipment, I will probably have to schedule two appointments and it will be at least a month if not two before I can even get in for the first, and keep in mind, none of these are really “local” in the sense that taking him out of school and getting him back and me to work without at least a half if not a full day of vacation wasted is impossible.

I call a plastic surgeon.

In my town.

They do this procedure all the time. They can see him on Thursday (two days from now). They will probably do it that same day (without a separate consult) unless they look at him and think some other treatment would be better.

Cost? Laser runs by time, so 10 minutes equals $100. No one thinks that his 5 spots will take even 10 minutes.

So, Thursday, I will leave work early and rush to the plastic surgeon’s office and hopefully his 5 little red spots will be removed and he will never have to answer “What’s wrong with your eye?” again and then we will rush off to the vet to have Gabers looked at (cause I hate to have to reschedule that, too!)

Moral of the story: plastic surgery is elective, cosmetic surgery. They are apparently in the business of being accommodating. Dermatologists, who have to wait for insurance reimbursements are not.

Note: After our appointment this morning, LM declared that they are HIS blood vessels after all and he’s KEEPING THEM. He wants nothing to do with having them removed. I have assured him, as did the doc, that this is a virtually painless procedure, but he doesn’t see why they have to come off. THIS is the difference between a 10 year old boy and a 13 year old boy. By 13 he’d be begging me to have the pimple-ish-looking marks removed!!

Monday, March 27, 2006

A Word From the Wise (That's You!)

This morning, preparing for another workless day of work, I reached for a new book off my bedside stand and realized I have but two new books left. A stack of books waiting to be read is a comfort to the soul akin to a pantry full of canned goods in wintertime. Being able to see the bottom of the stack and the dust outline becoming more and more visible brings a feeling of panic. Even when I am not currently engrossed in a book, just knowing I have some in the wings, waiting for their moment, brings a sense of calm.

Before I begin my quarterly voyage onto Amazon.com to find a new set of books just waiting to be packed in cardboard and shipped to my door, I thought I’d see if any of my two loyal readers have recommendations. After fighting to finish Stones of Summer, I certainly can’t steer any further off course by asking strangers about their favorite books, so tell me what you’ve read and loved. Tell me what book you’d read again if you had the time. Tell me what you’d take on that proverbial desert island if you could only choose one book.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Snatched!

Shhh…

Babies. In the Office.

One nine months. One two and a half.

Shhh…

They left me alone with them.

No one will notice if I just sneak out the door with one of them, right?

Shhh….

They should know better than to leave me unattended with itties and littles!

It Would Seem That I Am "It"

I was just mulling over what to post this Friday when I realized I had been TAGGED by Poka Bean (by the way, if you love reading Poka like I do, she’s back to posting again – go!! Read her!! I got hooked on Poka when I read her blog titled “294” – you’ll love it like I did!!)

Anywho – now that I’m done singing the praises of Poka (oh, and lest I forget, read Undercover, too. She used to be Poka’s roomie and they are still bff and she’s got great things to say as well.)

So, onto the tag. Oh, wait. Read Carolyn (aka Boogie’s Mom) She used to work with UC and she’s got beautiful pics of her kids posted, and well, she’s just cool. And she has a new job that she loves so give her props for that.

Okay, so 3 things..have you seen the picture that Jersey put up for HNT? The orange one? It’s really cool! Go see it! Orchestrated has found Trader Joe's - a way cool place! And while you’re at it, give Todd a hug for trying so hard to be such a great dad. He’s busy Chasing the American Dream and he’s struggling with joint custody and the opinions of an ex wife. Tough all the way around, but sounds like he’s doing the best for his son. Likewise is Wendy. She’s got a great post about raising emotionally intelligent children. Something we all need to think over and put into action! Great points made, Wendy! Speaking of great epiphanies, read Dad - if nothing else just for the picture! Dooce has a great sound recording of Leta. Remember all the funny things your kids have mispronounced over the years? Yeah, takes me back, I tell ya. LM called himself “Heybub” for years. Loved that. Katrina got the sweetest note from her daughter telling her what a great mom she is. (I don’t know if the Note was on a Napkin or not). And Gretchkal wrote a spring haiku which is more than I could ever aspire to do poetically!

Okay, so what do I wish…Pear continues to crack me up. She thinks she is trying so hard just to write, but what she doesn’t realize is that while she’s so busy trying to write, she’s writing very awesome stuff! Belligerent caught my attention with his Lost comments – if you’re not addicted, work on it!! Oh, and have you seen the black and white photo Jurgen posted, or the results of the cooperative Wednesday writing assignment? Too funny! Texas is cleaning which reminds me that something I wish for is a maid, j/k.

All right, all right, I know, I’m supposed to be posting about the tagged…did you see the picture of Bearca’s little one getting a haircut? Oh.My.Gosh. It’s just too cute!

Before I forget, everyone send positive thoughts to Slushy as she’s trying to conquer the mound of ironing. Not fun no matter how you look at it.

So, where was I? Oh, right. TAGGED!! I’ll do my best here…

3 things you wish for (just for you) (You mean I can’t wish for a new computer for Gorilla?!?)
1. A house. Not a condo, not a townhouse, but my own single family dwelling where I never have to listen to my neighbor’s music again.
2. To find the continued motivation to lose weight.
3. Mastery over the leash issues with Gabe. It’s truly a problem only for me and my life would be SO much better if this were remedied.

3 things you would do to/for yourself if there was no one to judge you (or if you had the guts to do it!)
1. Get a new nose.
2. Buy a truck
3. Get another dog (or two)

3 habits you have (these can be good or bad, right?!)
1. Diet/binge/diet/binge…
2. Cleaning the kitchen every morning before I go to work.
3. Talking to my sister on the phone when I’m in my car (it’s a family trait, I swear!)

3 insecurities you feel
1. That I’m not doing a good job of being a mother.
2. That I’ll never have another meaningful relationship with a boy.
3. That I’ll never be out of debt.

3 talents/skills you wish you had
1. Cooking things that make people go “YUM!”
2. To play the guitar
3. To be able to sing

3 things you would do if you had more time (I have oodles of time, so I’m going to amend this one to be “if I had the money”)
1. Devote more time to photography (which I’ll do whenever I can afford to go digital)
2. Have a greenhouse where I would propagate plants to sell or give them away.
3. Become an ambassador for some worthwhile charity, giving presentations and trying to solicit grants/donations/volunteers. (wait, I could probably do this without having more money, couldn’t I? Hmm…gonna have to give this some thought!)

3 things that bring you peace/relaxation
1. Sleeping in on a Saturday morning.
2. the Bark Park
3. Spending quality time with my son.

3 things that spark your creativity
1. scrapbooking
2. reading
3. blogging

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Transformation

I’ve always believed that creating with your hands, planting, cooking, drawing, is not just a physical endeavor; I believe it begins in the heart and moves outward. I’ve always looked forward to spring and planting. I never wear gloves, putting my hands in the dirt is an important part of the process. I love baking bread from scratch, kneading the dough over and over; canning applesauce, peeling all the apples, watching it cook down; making jam that starts at the strawberry patch. It’s all cathartic, brings me back to the roots of my emotions.

Tonight, I put my hands on clay. I put it on the wheel and molded it with my being. Learning to balance and center the clay took a sense of calm inside of me, a quietness that came from the inside out.

To mold and shape the clay took a strength I hadn’t realized. It required me to use my wrists, my forearms, my biceps, my fingers, my heart, my brain, my soul, my core strength.

There are two of us in class. Charlie is not yet divorced, suffering through the anguish of a wife who wants out but wants him to miss her as well. He came back to the wheel after many years of being away, looking for the calm that comes with the clay. Despite many attempts, he could not form the clay to his satisfaction tonight. He could not put into words his emotional turmoil over the most important relationship in his life.

Class was as much about relationships and divorce and recreating our own vision of ourselves and our lives as it was learning about the potentials in a block of clay. Conversation meshed redefining ourselves with changing the shape of a pot. In one simple, unintentional movement, I took a perfectly formed pot and wrecked it, just as in one simple choice, we can ruin a relationship. The instructor showed me what was “fixable” and what required just starting over. It was a familiar lesson. I am not using enough strength in the beginning and too much in the end. Another familiar theme.

We created little “stamps” to use for texture and patterns on later creations. I dabbled with it, but have little desire to spend so much time making something smooth and polished only to rough it up with an imperfect pattern. I’m always looking for simple, clean, easy and pure. Fancy, uniquely syled, elaborate and complicated will never appeal to me – in life or in clay.

It will take me a couple weeks to shape the clay with enough strength, to hold it tightly enough to let it form within my hands. I don’t like to hold onto things so tightly, I’ve found they sometimes transform within my grip into something I don’t recognize. I’ve become someone who loves things loosely, afraid of the feeling of emptiness when it is gone. But tonight, I was reminded that sometimes just holding something tightly can bring back it’s symmetry. Using our own strength we can create something rock solid, tangible, permanent, real.

I will feel it tomorrow.

In my muscles, too.

Not Such a Novel Idea

I just finished the book "The Stones of Summer" by Mossman. I added it to my list of 2006 reads over to the right.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I tend to pick up books by recommendation, by the sounds of it, and very little by actually knowing anything about the plot of the book. I don't want to know too much before I've even cracked it open.

That might help to explain why...

I.Do.Not.Get.This.Book.

It's just over my head. I lost interest on page 2 and never regained it through the 500 and some pages after. I could have lost my place along the way and never been able to figure out where I had been. Only out of some inane sense of duty did I trudge through the book just to get through it. I'll even admit, I skimmed a couple pages near the end when it seemed as though any explanation that was going to help me at all was not forthcoming.

I hate feeling like I'm just not that smart, but boy, trying to digest this one, I feel like I never set foot in a college English course at all.

I will put this book on my shelves with all the other books I have read. Maybe someday, someone smart will peruse my shelves and believe I was far more brilliant than I really was simply for having supposedly read this book.

Or maybe my sister will just deem all my books "JUNK" and will throw them all away.

Either way, I suppose the book will matter about as much.

Life As I Know It

So, you know when you’re on a diet and all you can think about is food, so you rational all your meals and count down the minutes (minutes? Who am I kidding? SECONDS) until you can put another morsel in your mouth?

And you know when you’re bored at work and so you start doing things like saying, “I will use the restroom at 11am. I will eat lunch at 12:30. I will send an email to my sister at 2.” Anything to pass the time.

Or how about when you’re broke and you still have 10 days until payday so you start doing things like…maybe there’s $1 in the change holder in the car. And maybe I can stretch the last of the grocery money by buying nothing but Kraft Mac n’ Cheese, and I need to hold onto that last $20 to get gas next week…

And there are those times when all three of these worlds collide…?!?!?!

Yeah, so that’s about where I am right now.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Tagged

Wendy tagged me to write to 10 people to say something I wouldn’t normally say. I’m not to name the person, I’m just to write how I feel. After reading Wendy’s blog, I’ve decided that it suits me better to say things I should say more often to certain people. I will name names for this one.

1. Julie: 95% of our relationship occurs on the phone. Interrupted, incoherent, and very rarely the only task either of us are focused on at the moment, the time I spend with you on the phone is still some of the best moments of my day. While I chose to remain in PA, there are so many times I wish I could stop by and help with a project, or come take the kids to McDonald’s for dinner and give you some time off. Or just sit down with you and talk. My only regret is that Mom never saw us get along like we do. She endured our childhood battles more than anyone, I wish she were here so she could see that you are, truly, my best friend.

2. Stacy: From the very first day I met you, you have been an inspiration to me. In that Human Relations class you shared unabashedly that the woman you admired most was a woman of the Bible. You said it might change in a week, when you started studying the next one in your Bible Study class. You were funny, open, honest and Christian and I learned so much from you then. Today you continue to inspire me. The example you give me on raising Christian children, the words of encouragement you give me when they are most needed, and just the general sense of support through prayer that I’ve always had from you. I miss you. I am so glad, however, that despite the many states between us, God has kept us close.

3. Chris: I owe you more than a paragraph, my girl. Last night, playing cards with LM (see blog below) I exclaimed RudeNESS! And realized how much I miss you. You were such a great influence to me in college. You were so funny and so smart and had such a great balance in life. You were a big sister to me in so many great ways. As adults, you have taught me such lessons I don’t even know where to begin. I will never in my life forget your wedding. I will never forget Kevin crying as you came down the aisle. The love that you two share is tangible to the rest of us. I will also never forget the phone calls that told me of Andrew and years later, of Abby. I remember shouting at Josh when Abby was born saying, “It’s too early!!!” I know that I wasn’t there to share in the daily grief of two babies taken back to Heaven, but I know that I learned so much from you during that time. I didn’t understand why, when you were pregnant with Rebecca. I didn’t understand how you could possibly…but again, you were there to teach. God is good, Chris, and you taught me that. God answers prayers. God is there with us every single day. God bless the Waden family, Chris, Kevin, Rebecca, Allison, and the two angels, Andrew and Abigail. I love you all.

4. Bear: You got all sappy on me when I blogged on your birthday, so bear with me. Just last night, Jules said that you really want to come to PA. You. She didn’t say she did (although I know that much) she said you. Now, maybe she’s just trying to be extra nice to me or something, but it touched me. When you come to my house, I put you to work. You fix things, you hang things, you get suckered into wrestling with my child for hours. I would never think it was a trip you’d volunteer for, just something you’d endure for your wife. You are a great brother, Bear. I’m glad you’re part of the family.

5. LM: There are times, as a parent, when you are prepared for your heart to be broken, or for your heart to be touched. You know that watching a school play will be a funny but proud moment. You know that teaching you to ride a bike will be the most excruciating thing your own heart will go through (for now). Last night you and I sat down to look over some charity information we had requested. We have decided as a family that we need to do more to share our blessings and we wanted to make an involved decision. Watching you watch a video on starving children in parts of the world that are just words to you, watching your expression as you saw the work they do for such little reward, the conditions they live in, the lack of absolutely ever creature-comfort we take for granted including clean water. But when you handed me the phone and just said, “Call, Mom. Call.” It was more than I could bear. You and I will learn a lot through this experience. We have already taken a look at our life and realized we are so incredibly blessed – beyond what we could ever deserve. Thank you, for being a child with such a big, soft, heart.

6. Garrett: No matter what is going on in my life or what the latest piece of little stress is all about, you always, ALWAYS have a funny story to tell me. From Hank the Hound (with the Huge Wanker) to nearly falling off a roof while talking on a cell phone, to walking into a sign because you’re too busy gawking at a hottie, you always make me laugh. Thanks for giving me a little humor in my life. Thanks for calling me nearly every day and keeping our relationship close. Thanks for being my buddy and for listening to me when things are rough.

7. Little Bird: I don’t know how it happened, girl. How is it that a girl who is EXACTLY like I was when I was 9, was born to my sister? You and I both love horses and ponies and cats. We both love dolls and playing dress up. We both love to do nice little things for people. We both color meticulously. When I had prayed nearly 10 years ago that God would give me an Emily to love, I didn’t know he would give you to me as my niece. I am so glad to have you, I am so glad that we will get to see each other this summer!

8. George: Oh, George. You are a bundle of boy. You are mischievous, funny, clever, disobedient, and sometimes even crude, but you make me laugh. “Mom, it smells like farts in here.” I will laugh at that for weeks! Your cute dimply smile will get you far in your life. Those huge eyes will make most everyone forgive you anything. Thank you for being you. Even when you drive your mom crazy, I will always think you are funny and cute. I’m proud to be your Aunt Fred.

9. Gabe: This leash matter has to be solved, my boy, but even so, even when you nearly devour the neighbors cat THROUGH the glass door, even when you think you need to frighten a 5-pound terrier with your massive bark, even when you bark out the window for 20 minutes at a lawn chair that has blown off someone’s patio, I still love you. I love that you go to bed when I do, and that you put your head by my pillow and wait for a little rub and for me to say “Goodnight, Gabe” before you lay down. I love that you will sit just outside of the kitchen, drooling as you wait for me to give you a piece of peanut butter sandwich each morning. I love that when I am on the couch watching a movie, you will lay down as close to me as you can on the floor, even if it means you have to slide the coffee table to get there. I love that when I’m on the computer, you will come put your head over the back of the couch as if you’re reading over my shoulder. I am so glad we got you. I am so glad we have you. I am so glad you are there to brighten my days and give me some nuzzling after a long day.

10. God: I couldn’t have this list at all if He didn’t make all things possible. If He hadn’t brought these people (and dog) into my life with such purpose and reason. I am so grateful for the life that I have. I am even more grateful for the people that I have within my life. God is responsible, and to Him I give the praise.

It’s not quite the same, Wendy, but I hope this will do.

To anyone out there who wants to be tagged for a good list or a bad one, consider yourself “It!”

Like Mother, Like Son


Before he even looked, he steadied himself, preparing for anything. He pressed his lips together tightly knowing his smile would deceive him if given any opportunity. He wouldn’t look at me fearful that a glance would entice the smile to creep out. With pursed lips, serious, focused eyes, he stared and said, “I’ll keep ‘em.”

I laid out three cards on the table between us and waited. He tried to hold his face as he looked again at his cards and said, “I’ll keep ‘em.” I dealt out another card and then finally the last. His face, unnaturally contorted as he tried to remain serious and untelling, starts to crack as he consults the reference card he has at his side. Without warning all emotion releases in a great outburst as he flings his arms into the air and waves them wildly shouting, “I have a FLUSH!!!”

Calmly, I watch his celebratory couch dance. After some time, I ask, “Would you like to know what I have?”

Realizing his glory dance might have been premature, he becomes completely still, awaiting the verdict.

“I have a pair of Kings.”

He waits for a moment, consults the reference card once again, watching my face to see if I’ll give any clues as to the meaning of my words, if I’ll translate that into a verdict for him.

He finally lights up again and says, ‘I won! I won!”



Thoughts race through my head that perhaps teaching him to play one of my favorite card games was a bad decision, perhaps he will take poker too seriously.

The next hand goes remarkably the same. A puckered up face that tells more because it has been obscured than if it had been left alone. Throughout the play, he continues to declare confidently that he’ll keep his cards, barely allowing his mouth enough flexibility to speak. Finally, as the last card is played, he throws his cards down on the table and says, “I was just bluffing.” I look down at his cards and say, “Nice bluff. But you don’t have to bluff when you have a Full House.”

“I have a what?!?” “I won! I won!”

Yes, I think I have created a poker monster.

Please send all correspondence to me c/o Satan in Burning, Hell.

4 Out of 5 Dentists Agree

The dentist told me I need to sleep with someone.


Ooookkkay, so he didn't say that in so many words, but he implied that it would be helpful to know if the pain I was having was from grinding or clenching my teeth while I sleep (a habit I had as a child, which my sister can attest to.)

Without an ear witness to tell me if it's grinding, it's too early to see wear on my teeth, so we'll have to wait and see if it persists or subsides - it might just be stress.

If it persists, they'll make me a nightguard.





That'll be sexy.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Rumbly in my Tumbly

I forgot to eat breakfast.

Oh bother.

Morning seems so long when all you can think about is lunch.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Incident

Quakertown, PA – An innocent woman was struck in the back of the head by a sailing, long, white paper at a local chain restaurant on Monday evening. An eye witness to the crime, a waiter, reports seeing the tubing fly from the near vicinity of a juvenile, reportedly eating dinner with his mother. When questioned, the mother stated, “I was turning my head back to my son, to mock him for missing me yet again, when I saw the look of guilt and horror upon his face. I realized something was terribly wrong.”

Laughter was heard from the booth behind the mother, and the server quickly quipped to the juvenile, “so that was you, huh?” upon arriving at the table with dinner. Witnesses report the juvenile quickly regained a sense of manners and apologized to the innocent woman in the booth behind his mother. All parties were heard chuckling about the incident for the better part of dinner.

The juvenile was reprimanded on the scene for having such horrible aim. The mother vowed he would undergo in-home lessons before trying the art of straw-wrapper shooting in public again. She asked that names be withheld, knowing the child’s grandfather would be greatly disappointed in the miss. He surely taught the boy better.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Joy of Cooking?!?!

I have a love/hate relationship with the grocery store. I love the brightly lit aisles. I love the expansive produce section. I love twofer deals at the meat counter. I love an entire row that is filled with nothing but bread. But I hate that I have no use for 95% of the food there. I hate that while I think it’s such an interesting place to meet people, no one talks to each other at the groc. I hate that I can have only a basket full of necessities and it’s still $50.

I’m going over my grocery list so we can get our weekly shop out of the way this evening and enjoy the amazing weather this weekend. My grocery list could serve as an adequate ‘personals’ description. You know everything worth knowing about me from my list.

In its entirety: (italic items added by LM)

Cat litter
Craker cheese
Eggs
Sandwich bags
Freezer bags – gallon and quart size
Folder (for homework)
Index card file
Index cards (100)
Eggs
Lemonade
Cracker
Salad in a bag
Ground beef
Toilet paper
Stamps
Oranges
Calcium supplements (1500)
Milk
Water
String cheese
Green pepper
Breakfast bars
Toothbrush for Bocaj
Tooth paste

What can you tell about me? A) I’m a mom. From a new folder for his homework, to the index cards and file I need for his Latin lessons, I’m a mom. B) I’m getting older. Calcium supplements mandated by the doc reminds me that time isn’t slowing down any. C) Memory is the first thing to go - eggs are on the list twice. D) I’m a pet owner. E) I don’t stop for breakfast. F) I’m unadventurous. There is nothing exotic on the list, nothing even remotely gourmet. Ground beef and green pepper? Yikes. I need some variety! G) I’m lazy. I want dinner to be quick and easy. Salad in a bag? I go for convenience over organic.

If I knew how to cook differently, if I enjoyed preparing more elaborate meals, if I were more focused on the environment, recycling, or organic health, I might have a list that would read:

Tilapia
Fresh dill, basil and thyme, rosemary
Lemons
Roma tomatoes
Mango
Arugola (I don’t even know how to spell it)
Shitake mushrooms
Blue cheese
Veal cutlets
Red potatoes
Olive oil
Asparagus
Whole wheat flour
Seltzer
Humus
Balsamic vinegar
Shallots
Brown rice


I remember years ago, a co-worker asking if I wanted to share a hoagie for lunch. Why not? She asked what kind, and picky-eater me said, “whatever – you pick” and then thought, “Oh my gosh, what did I just do?!” She came back with a turkey and cheddar with sweet and hot peppers, oregano, onion, tomato, and lettuce. My pick would have been ham and American dry/plain. Oh my. But I loved the hoagie and I wasn’t sure why it was that I had never ventured to try anything else. Maybe I should start trying one new recipe a week, or buying one “new” item at the grocery store each week. Maybe I’m just a stick-in-the-mud. Maybe this is what happens when you grow up in the Midwest with farm kids for parents. I have never eaten much seafood at all. The salads I make are either Caesar or tossed. Vegetables come out of a can or the freezer and I do nothing to them except add salt and pepper or sometimes a little butter. While I don’t currently serve them, I would certainly consider applesauce (homemade) and some kind of bread to be suitable side dishes. I even have JELLO in my cabinet!! I’m doomed, I really doomed.

You can take the girl out of Illinois, but you can’t take Illinois out of the girl, apparently.

I need help, don’t I? Is there such a thing as a “learning to cook as a grown up” book? Should I just add this ability to the list of must-have’s for a significant other?

Renewal

There’s nothing quite like it all year long. The first step outside where the rain lingers on the sidewalk, the smell of grass and dirt in the air. The conversation of the birds louder this morning, happy and lyrical.

It’s the sort of day that should only happen on a Saturday. Where you pack up peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a bag of chips and lemonade and head out on the road to a park you haven’t been to all year. Where you’ll walk through damp paths in the woods, feeling the warmth of the sun on your face, reflections of light on the water. The sort of day where everyone should own a dog. Where frolicking in the fallen leaves from last fall, having shoes and paws full of mud from the damp, warm earth, when you sit on a rock or a bench and feel the cool dampness of spring rising.

It’s the sort of day that makes the winter tolerable. Having memories of days of hope carries you through the cold, bitter, winter months. A day where you take in a deep breath and exhale with the realization that there is life after all. And life is good. Days like today make me appreciate living in a region where there are four seasons. Only with the winter do we truly appreciate the spring.

These are the days when it takes all my willpower to not start planting the flower boxes. Knowing there will be frosts yet to come, it’s still the delicate days, given only here and there, unexpectedly, teasingly. But these days remind us that the planting days are coming, that the deck will soon be colorful and overflowing with draping flowers, singing birds and pollinating bees.


Today we turned the corner into spring. Today is a beautiful day.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Worse than a Monday

My day started with a scale, a speculum and a shot in the ass.

It can only go uphill from here, right?

RIGHT?!?!




I prefer tulips, thanks.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Choice

A woman in my office hollered across the hallway yesterday, “I guess I’m not moving to South Dakota anytime soon.”

I am grateful that we live in a country where we have such freedom of opposing viewpoints and yet I am always startled when someone says something with such a presumption that you must certainly agree with them.

Fact is, I don’t. Not on this one.

I believe that as human beings, we have every say so over our own bodies and should not have dictates handed to us from our government over what we can and cannot do with them. If you want to have surgery for bigger boobs, penile implants, to change from a woman to a man, you go right ahead. I do not see in any way, however, how abortion has to do with a choice over a woman’s body. If she wants a choice over being pregnant or not, her choice fell in advance of the sexual act that created the pregnancy, not after. I recognize that in cases of rape, a woman did NOT have a choice over the sexual act. I still believe that child has a choice and there are options for the woman that do not include killing the child.

If a woman wants me to extend to her the right to decide for herself whether or not she should be pregnant than I ask her to extend the right to the child she is carrying. If we all have rights over our own bodies, then let that little child speak as to whether or not it would like to live…it has a right to it’s own life, certainly…

Oh, but it CAN’T speak.

So we allow a pregnant woman to speak FOR it.

I could argue this in a hundred directions with many examples only to be countered with someone saying “it’s a fetus, not a child”. I wonder if that person has ever been pregnant. I wonder if they have ever seen a fetus the size of a grain of rice on an ultrasound monitor, or heard a heartbeat twice as fast as their own, or even before that, just had a gut feeling that something was being created within them. I have a picture of a grain of rice sized fetus from the only ultrasound we ever had. His name is Jacob. I wonder how many women would go through with an abortion if they saw that fetus on an ultrasound first. There is no question that it is alive. There is no question that it is part of you. There is no question that it is your child.

I know women who have gone to great lengths to have a child. I know women who have had babies without issue. I know women who have become pregnant without planning to. I know women who have been pregnant at the wrong time, in the wrong place in life, or with the wrong person and have given the baby up for adoption. I know women who have adopted. Not one of these women that I know would go back in time and choose abortion. Not. One.

I recognize that women do not agree on this issue. I recognize that many women feel it is their unalienable right to choose whether or not to be pregnant. I couldn’t agree more. I simply disagree as to when that choice can be made. Actions have consequences. I do not believe in any situation that murder is excusable for a mistake in judgment.

If you want the right to choose, then allow the baby the right to the same choice. After all, she might be a woman, too.



___________

I welcome all comments to this post, on either side of this issue. I simply ask that you demonstrate respect for the opposing view, that is what makes us Americans.

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

I am well aware that you don’t get a choice in how you die. While I certainly don’t dwell on the idea of my own demise often, I certainly have given it enough pause to know I’d prefer not to drown, for example. To be stabbed and left to bleed to death doesn’t exactly appeal to me, either. I’m sure that most would agree with “make it quick, make it painless.”

This morning, while meandering through the news of the world, I stumbled across this article. In addition to drowning, bleeding to death or even being on fire, I think I’ll have to add this to my list of “Ways I Do Not Want to Die”:

GRANGEVILLE, Calif. - A dairy worker and his 8-year-old son died in a manure pit on the farm where they lived, authorities said Tuesday.

Luis Gutierrez, 27, and Luis Armando Gutierrez went to feed calves Saturday night and apparently stumbled upon the manure pit in the dark, investigators said.
Footsteps near the edge of the 10-foot deep pit seem to suggest one of them fell in, said Kings County Sheriff Allan McClain.

“We could see the dad seemed to be doing what he could to reach his son,” McClain said. “But this stuff ... if you step in, it sucks you in.”

When Gutierrez and his son didn’t return, family members called the dairy’s owners and the sheriff’s department for help.

Investigators found Luis Gutierrez’s stalled pickup with its hood up. They said the Gutierrezes probably got out of the truck and tried to take a shortcut home.
The dairy’s owners dredged the cement-lined holding pond that collects rainwater and manure running from the farm, and the bodies were pulled from it early Sunday, McClain said.

The 9-year-old was the oldest of four children Luis Gutierrez had with his 22-year-old wife, Maria.

The county coroner is still working on the autopsy, but investigators don’t suspect foul play. McClain said the pair may have drowned in the thick, foul-smelling sludge. It’s also possible they were overwhelmed with noxious gases emanating from the mixture.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Taste of Home


I couldn’t fall asleep last night. Pair that with being on a diet and you might understand why I laid in bed dreaming about food. What seemed so strange was for the first time in my entire life, I dreamt of my mom’s fried chicken. It was an experience not at all unlike when I was pregnant (which I can assure you, I am not) when I craved thousand island dressing. On anything. Just get.me.the.dressing.NOW.

It took me well into my adult years to realize that my mother wasn’t a particularly good cook. Not in the sense that she cooked anything gourmet or complicated, anyway. She was a farmer’s daughter and she married a farmer’s son and in that regard, she cooked meat and potatoes just fine. A complete list of spices in her cabinet would probably not exceed ten items and that’s including salt and pepper. I never had a complaint about her cooking growing up, but I learned shortly after I was married that dicing up an onion or a green pepper or even using an actual real clove of garlic wasn’t something reserved for Julia Child.

While I tend to cook with a few more spices and occasionally producing something not served in a small-town diner, I am still a far cry from a “good cook”. LM would strongly disagree, but his only comparison is his father, who never cooks. (As a side note: I am firmly convinced that to impress ANY male with your cooking ability, simply make deviled eggs. Men cannot get deviled eggs from a diner, a chain restaurant or the local convenience store. But they LOVE them! If you can master this simple side dish, you’ll have him in the palm of your hand!) I can cook well enough that LM and I eat a variety of dishes, but when I think about having guests over for dinner I honestly have nothing in my own repertoire worth cooking for company.

All of this is to say that to be lying awake in bed dreaming of my mother’s fried chicken is like Lance Armstrong saying he’s thinking of taking a bike ride down to his local library or an opera enthusiast saying he was moved by his three year old’s school play performance.

There was nothing remarkable about her fried chicken. I don’t think a single spice was used, it was simply chicken coated with flour, fried in vegetable oil in her electric skillet. But then she made mashed potatoes. Again, nothing added, no sour cream, no cream cheese, no cream even, just potatoes and milk with maybe a dab of butter. Most of all, I could nearly taste the white gravy. Chunks of chicken from the bottom of the skillet still floating around in the gravy. She would always ask me to taste and I never refused! A dash of salt and a sprinkle of pepper and it was perfect. Last night I could envision a cob of Midwest yellow sweet corn, smothered in butter, salt and pepper. If I had to top the meal off, I would have the cheesecake she used to make for my birthday. Or maybe the spice cake she made on a regular basis, 2/3 covered with icing, the last third left plain or sprinkled with powered sugar, just the way she liked it. Or perhaps the French cookies that she made. Mmmm….

Thinking about her chicken, I could nearly taste it. I could picture the table full of my family. I could see the plates, see the glass of milk at the top of my setting. I could even hear the phone ring in the middle of the meal like it always seemed to do.

And then I fell asleep. With a little piece of home stuck in my head.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Git R Done!

I believe…..

Blue Collar Comedy Tour Rides Again is as funny as the first.

I don’t care who you are….that there’s funny.

Here’s your sign....

Tater…

(Forgive me, God, I’m real sorry for that, bless the pygmies… Amen.)

Friday, March 03, 2006

Heartache of the Most Selfish Kind

The way he walked into my office took my breath away. The swagger of a boy laden with all the padding of Pampers between his legs, he came in drinking juice from a sippy cup. The whole time he sat with his dad, he kept drinking, pausing only when a two-year old smile crept across his entire face.

He had huge blue eyes and waves in his hair. Just the sound of him sucking on the cup took me back. He reached up behind him, over his head to try to touch his dad’s hair – a familial habit. Security within reach.

He could name all the animals on his cup, his father translating for those who were unfamiliar, but I knew. He said, “elephant”, “monkey”, “cat” and “bug”. I knew.

I thought I was past the heartache of wanting more. Lord knows I’m so blessed with the one child that I have and yet today it all swept over me and now, on a cold, windy, Friday night, I sit in tears longing for the smell of Johnson’s shampoo in his hair. They way dried milk caked on his cheeks. How he said “maykin” for napkin and “plano” for piano. It was years before “mazagine” came out right.

In an unexpected moment today I was overwhelmed with the emotion of longing. I love my son so incredibly much. I love being a mother and an aunt. I love being a family. I never intended for LM to be an only. Never a day in my life.

He’d make a great brother.

I don’t know God’s plan for me. He’ll reveal it in His time, I know. Tonight, through my tears though, I pray that he’ll give me the chance one more time. It’s the most selfish prayer I’ve prayed in years. I’m not ready to be done. I’m not ready to give up the hope. I’m not ready to be done.

Even as I write this, I want to take it all back. How can I ask God for another when so many don’t have one? How can I hurt so badly when I had LM by sheer luck, without incident, without complication? In a relationship that never should have produced a child, God handed us LM and gave him to us without question. I wasn’t worthy then, and my prayer isn’t worthy now. And yet, I still pray. I don’t deserve to have more. So many people would be so happy just to have one child to call their own. I don’t have a right to such greed, to such a selfish request. I don’t have a right to feel this way when I am already so blessed.

But I do. Selfishly, I do.

I want more children.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Keys to Remember

For the entire time that I knew him, I believed my great uncle’s name was Uncle Owl. I can’t explain how that made any sense other than to say that I was very young and it was an easy thing to hear “Al” as “Owl” and not think twice. Besides, there was a very famous Owl in my world, he appeared on Mr. Rogers everyday, so certainly it couldn’t be that strange to have an uncle with the name.

I remember only snippets about him. They had a huge organ and grand piano in their mob-style home. The living room and dining room were enormous; the home obviously built with entertaining in mind. They had a dog, I imagine him as a Rottweiler, although I don’t know that he really was. I also think his name was Charlie, but I’ve shown my ability for getting names wrong already. The dog was always shut in the kitchen and had basically destroyed that room.

My great aunt and uncle played music like I had never heard before. I didn’t hear them play often, but it was memorable. I can remember visiting when my uncle “Owl” was very sick. We went into his bedroom to say our hellos, small girls with no idea of old age and death. He had a stuffed animal – a leopard- on top of his dresser and he would get it down for me so I could pet it. I was a softie for stuffed animals and having never been played with, this one was still so soft and new. It was one of those that looked as life-like as a stuffed animal can. When he died, the leopard was given to me. I treasured it all my life and still have it in the back of my closet. It’s worse for the wear of all my affection and love (and my cat’s affinity for chewing on tails) but it holds great memories for me.

My great aunt moved to another, much smaller home. I remember that one more distinctly as I was older the years we visited her there. It was never a fun trip to go see her. She could barely hear you and so conversation was stilted and difficult. Her house smelled funny to me as a child and there was little to do there. She was an incredible quilter and had made my sister and I some of the most beautiful dresses we ever wore as children. She had traded in her full grand piano for a much more practical studio version and I remember it sitting in that second house. When she died, I inherited her piano.

My dad’s sister is truly without question, the best musician our family has to offer. I remember when my grandfather visited us once and made us sit in his brand new “coffin car” as I called it- a luxury car that was so silent and padded and huge that only the very old seemed to own one, or so I thought – and while I was sitting in his precious car, he played me a tape of classical piano music and asked me who it was. I thought he meant the composer, so I was naming off Bach and Beethoven and the names I was familiar with as a young piano student. He laughed and got that proud twinkle in his eye and said, “No, that’s your Aunt Marg!” He was so proud of her.

The piano from my Great Aunt has traveled with me from Illinois to Pennsylvania, from the apartment to the house we rented. It followed me after the divorce to the apartment and now our condo. It sits proudly in the living room. Proud but silent.

I haven’t played it in years. Not played to mention, anyways. I did pluck at the keys a couple years ago when the boy I was dating wanted proof that I could play. I have tried in vain to get my son signed up for piano lessons. I can find a traditional teacher, sure, but I learned the traditional method and unless I have music in front of me, I’m useless at the keys. I wanted my whole life to be better at playing by ear; just to sit down at a party and play something. We always want what we don’t have. LM is on a waiting list, but it’s been that way for over a year, so it may not be in his cards to learn.

I don’t often think about playing. I am grateful beyond words that my parents insisted that I learn and even more grateful for their patience as I fought against that education all those years.

Tonight, in the quiet of the living room, with just a small lamp lit in the corner of the room, I long to play. I long to hear the music. I long for the ability to sit down and produce something with passion. I long for the pleasure and sense of accomplishment that comes from learning a difficult piece. I long for the outlet that it gives to my soul.

I don’t play because I have neighbors. I hate listening to their rap music and don’t want to subject them to my tedious practicing. There will be a day, though, when we have our own, single family home and I will play. I will let my fingers remember how it feels. I will let my ears and eyes guide me along the music. I will brush off the rust and learn something I played more than 20 years ago. I will remember what it feels like to create music.

And all the while, I will remember my mom. She was my most attentive audience and my biggest fan. She endured the practicing, the recitals, the talent shows, the battles over practicing. She would sit and listen. Sometimes she would even ask me to play for her.

One of these days, I will play again. For the both of us.

The Scales of Justice

I realize that life seems so unfair as a child, but I can say with confidence and first-hand knowledge that the scales of justice balanced themselves out this morning. For all the times I’ve justified why I get to stay up late and he doesn’t, or why the last brownie is always Mom’s, today I got the other end of the stick. And it was cold. And hard. And cruel.

I had been hitting snooze for a hundred times trying to convince myself that getting out of bed this morning surely would be the worst part of my day. There was a cold wet nose urging me to get up and go outside (where it was sleeting) when I heard a little man’s voice ask if I had checked the news. I knew the information he was after and told him to go turn on the computer as I let my radio start talking again. He read the words as I heard them on the radio, “School is Closed.”

He jumped with glee and screamed a little scream of joy! As I stumbled through an abbreviated morning routine (trying to get to work as early as I could to avoid the roads that would be fine, but no other driver would recognize this fact) he was full of smiles, asking me what he could watch on the DVR. His day is filled with movies, peanut butter sandwiches (that he’ll share with the dog) and never getting out of his pajamas. It’ll be topped off by one of his favorite dinners of late and certainly his favorite night of TV, “Survivor”. (A double-dose, even, since we taped last week’s episode.)

My day? Not so swell. Rationed serving of low-sodium peanuts and a Caesar salad. A pounding headache and the need to go to the store for just ONE item (which drives me crazy!) No work to be done so I finished off another book but that only bothers my eyes even more. A stack of bills in my pocketbook to be mailed on the way home ensuring that we are broke again for the next 30 days. The need to go home and get on the rower but lacking any desire to do so. The knowledge that I will have to take the dog out at least four times in the rain/sleet/freezing rain this evening.

It is no fun to be Mom today.