Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Cities of the Plain - McCarthy

I said I wasn't going to read it. I lied. I just can't NOT finish a trilogy. Besides, it said it brought the two main characters together from the first two novels. Surely that would make for a good novel.

I should have stuck with my gut. I actually finished Cities of the Plain a week ago or so, but it was so incredibly forgettable that I didn't write a review. I'll just say this:

I didn't like the third any more than the second and it was only for love of the first that I even finished the trilogy at all. Maybe I am just too set on finding redemption where there isn't any, or finding hope when all is lost, or believing that all of Mexico just cannot be evil...

I'll just suffice it to say that All the Pretty Horses was a good book, a good movie (in my opinion) and the rest need to just sit on the shelves and collect dust.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Contents

I promised I would do this (although I'm a day late, sorry Jules). Katrina and Jules already showed the world what they carry around every day and now here's my big revelation. Not nearly as exciting as theirs, I promise you.

Without further adieu, here are the contents of my "pocketbook" as I've learned to call it out here on the East Coast...
My pocketbook. Critical features? Small, over-the-shoulder style, black. Two small pockets on the inside. One zippered that holds a spare house and car key and one not-zippered that currently holds nothing at all. Thing I don't like about it? It's not heavy enough to actually STAY on my shoulder. Or maybe my right shoulder is as defective as my left.

First of all note the blurriness. My camera seems to have issues focusing with the flash. Ugh.
The contents. No particular order, just everything shoved in.

Cell phone, small wallet, glasses, chapstick (that's as much makeup as you're ever going to see me toting around. Whatever I put on in five minutes or less in the morning is it for the day - perhaps reason #54 why I'm still single...), keys, pen, hair band, receipts for things I might want to return yet, bookmark and the long zippered pouch holds my money. Well, some of it. Let me explain.

The long zippered pouch (given to me for no apparent reason from a co-worker) holds my spending money. I get paid once a month, so at the start of the month, I divide my grocery (gas, and "extra") money into four groups (with paperclips). The green paperclip is the money for the week I'm currently in. Right now, a week before payday, I have $30 in this wallet and that's IT. Of course, the fridge is pretty full and the gas tank is half full, so we can get through the week just fine right now.

The little black wallet holds all kinds of things. Insurance cards, library card, SS card, Debit card, etc. In the top zippered part, I keep all the single dollar bills I receive in change. This money (along with some fives and tens I sometimes throw in) goes into a box for spending money on our vacation. There's also a little side zipper part where I keep change. I NEVER give a clerk change. If the total is $3.17, I give $4. All the change I receive goes into a mason jar that goes back to church to give to the missionary families so they can buy Christmas presents. It's May and our jar is already half full.

Last but not least, and again, blurry with no explanation, are my pictures of my boy. He is six in the picture on the left and nine in the picture on the right and I know that puts me two years behind, but hey! At least I have a photo of my kid on me! These were both taken on my dad's boat in Tennessee. Too bad the kid doesn't enjoy being captain, huh?

So, there you have it. Exciting, huh?

Now, for some Red Sox baseball.

(But first, to write a thank you for the interview I had yesterday. No great news there, but I'll keep you posted, of course.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Signs

"Mom? You know how Grandma Jenny's favorite bird was the cardinal, and now that she's in heaven, whenever we see a cardinal we think of Grandma Jenny?"

"Yes..."

"Well, what do you think Scout's favorite animal was?"

"LM, I think Scout loved birds as much as your Grandma Jenny did."

"Mom? Do you think Scout had a favorite bird?"

"I think Scout's only preference in birds was the bigger the better!"

"So if we see an ostrich on the balcony, we should take that as a sign of Scout?"

"LM, if we see an ostrich on the balcony, we should take that as a sign from God himself!!"

Monday, May 21, 2007

According to George

"Hey, George? In your ant farm, do you ever see little parts of ants in any of the tunnels? Like a leg here, a head there? LM seems to have ant parts in his some of his tunnels."

"No, Aunt Fred. I don't have any ant parts."

"Hmm...I wonder what's wrong with LM's ants..."

"I think it's maybe that the ants are making their tunnels to small, OR, that the ant parts aren't sticking together like they should."

(I wonder if you can use Gorilla Glue to keep an ant's legs attached.)

"George? How many tunnels have your ants made?"

"Let me count. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6....7....8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13..."

"Wow, George! That's a lot of tunnels!"

"...14, 15, 16...17, 18...19...20, 21, 22, no, 21. No, 22. Wait."

"1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6...7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13...14, 15, 16, 17...18, 19, 20, 21. Twenty-one."

"No, 22. No, 21."

(Julie thought he was counting how many ants there were in his farm. She laughed when she found out he was counting the tunnels. "Does one tunnel keep disappearing?")

Oh, George, you are so good for my soul.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Friend

Last night, inexplicably and without warning, Scout died. I could write an entire post about how much I loved my cat and how shocked and upset I was last evening, but I won't. For those of you who have loved a pet, you already understand. For those of you who aren't animal lovers, there is nothing I can say that will help you understand.
What I want to write about this morning is about who I called first. In my panic, my unbelief at what had happened, while uncontrolably sobbing, I called J. "I need your help," I sobbed. He was calm, he was understanding, he was reassuring. He would come immediately. "Don't bring LM," I said, "he doesn't need to witness this." In that breath and many to follow I was ever so grateful that last night LM had been with his dad. J said he would call the neighbor to come sit with LM and he'd be at my door in 25 minutes. Would I be okay until then? Yes, I sobbed.

I called my sister next and she talked to me and calmed me down. Always my best friend, she let me cry and sob and grieve and get my wits about me enough to deal with finding a towel and a box and moving Scout. She wished she were here, although we both knew that if we actually lived closer, I would have begged for Bear to come and deal with the problem for me, which I know, without a doubt he would have done. But it was my beloved cat, and I had to deal with her death.

When J arrived I apologized for making him come all the way out to help me. He told me that it was fine, that's what he was there for. I said, "There is nothing in the divorce decree that says you have to come help me in my moments of crisis, it's not what ex-husbands are supposed to do." He said, "I'm not here as your ex-husband, I'm here as a friend. And this is what friends do."


And he is so right.


Friends give you hugs and hold you while you cry. Friends remind you that you have gone through this before and that you will come out on the other side of it. Friends take the cardboard box you place in their arms and promise to never tell you what they do with it, but that they will handle your pretty little girl with the utmost care and respect. And friends allow you the time to think of how exactly you will tell LM on Sunday night when he comes home.


For all the struggles I have with him, for all the times I wish he would jump in feet first into LM's life, J is a friend, and a good one indeed. While I do not understand why Scout had to suddenly leave me last night, if nothing else, I will never forget the friend who came to my door to help me deal with her death.


Thanks, J. You were my friend before you were my husband, and you have remained to be even after.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

It's Easy To Go Green (really, Kermit!)

Having a DVR has afforded me the ability to watch shows at my leisure. It has also allowed me to be remarkably behind on celebrating events such as Earth Day. It was only just today that I finally watched the Oprah episode on going 'green'. I don't watch every Oprah episode, perhaps only one in ten, but often the ones that I do watch require me to take notes, especially this one! I thought I would share with all of my (six) readers some of the tips that were suggested on the show and ask for any and all comments about ways that you and your family are helping to save our environment. Whether you subscribe to the global warming warnings or not, saving our natural resources is a cause we can all stand behind.

1. Use reusable (organically made) grocery bags, including cloth produce bags.
2. Choose items at the grocery store with the least amount of extra packaging.
3. Buy recycled aluminum foil, toilet paper, tissues, paper towels, etc.
4. Use reusable water bottles made from recycled plastic or aluminum.
5. Visit www.greendimes.com where you can donate a dime a day to stop junk mail from coming to your home and have trees planted as well!
6. Stop using (or greatly limit your use of) paper napkins.
7. Don't take a receipt at the ATM machine.
8. Use the same cup or glass all day long at home or at the office.
9. Buy clothes at resale shops. Never throw away clothes or shoes, donate or give them away.
10. Use Smart Power Strips - really turn things off when not in use.
11. Change lightbulbs to energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.
12. RECYCLE everything you can. Visit www.earth911.org to find out what is recyclable in your area.
13. Take extra styrofoam from packages or meat trays to a local packing place to reuse.
14. Don't leave the water running while you shave or brush your teeth. Also, take shorter showers.
15. Wash clothes in cold water.
16. Trade your SUV for a hybrid.
17. Take your own coffee mug to the coffee shop each morning.
18. Keep your water heater on 120 degrees.
19. Put gaskets in your outlets on outside walls to help insulate.
20. Recaulk windows, add weather stripping to doors.
21. Keep thermostat at 78 degrees in the summer.
22. Visit www.americanforest.com. They will plant a tree for $1. (It takes four trees to replenish the air for what we take out of it every month.)
23. Buy eco-friendly, all-natural cleansers and products (New Wave, Seventh Generation, Meyers, Method, etc.)
24. Buy bio-degradable trash bags (and doggy bags!)

The amazing statistics that follow from each of us just doing one of these items, or just changing one lightbulb, or turning off one appliance are astounding. I am certain you all have some great tips to add, too!! I can't wait to make some changes and to hear what ideas you all have!!

(First on my list is to purchase bio-degradable doggy bags. We've been using the leftover plastic grocery bags, but then we don't recycle those, we put them in the trash. That's HORRIBLE!!)

Um...

Office Manager comes over to my desk today. Talks with me about a template I was working on for her. Then hands me a box and asks me if I'd like this Pocket PC. It has a camera, color display, blahdayada... she doesn't use it (it's still in the box). The company bought it for her, but since she isn't going to use it, she thought maybe I would like to.

She can tell I'm hesitant. She leaves it with me and says to think about it.

Kinda hard to accept a freebie of such value from the company when you're sending out resumes over your lunch hour, huh?

(Don't worry, I'm not keeping it. I'm just going to let it sit on my desk for the afternoon.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Visit

Things learned during a visit with my fam:

1. The joy of a band concert is quadrupled with every extra family member attending. (So are the trips to DQ afterwards!)

2. A casual attitude with pets will make for embarrassing moments when company visits. Having cats that walk across the counters and sleep on top of the fridge is one thing. Having a cat sit in your sink waiting for someone to turn on the water for a fresh drink of water is another.

3. Filling your deck with plants and container gardening will leave little room for anyone to actually sit out in the sunshine. Luckily, Judy didn't seem to mind.

4. Sometimes, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. (Seeing my dad and Judy constantly picking up books to read over the weekend provided evidence #1 that I might actually be related to my dad.)

5. Evidence #2 that I might be related to my dad: for the first time in 35 years someone seeing us together for the first time said we looked alike. (Must be the mischievious twinkle in our blue eyes, huh, Dad?)

6. You can stock your entire fridge with mostly healthy items, but your guests will not be fooled into thinking this healthy eating is the norm when they see the expiration dates on the salad dressing. (How bad can balsamic vinaigrette be from Sept. 06?)

7. Never underestimate the power of $4.50. At the local redneck haven, I mean, flea market, LM purchased a billfold, snakelight flashlight, laser pointer and a pocketwatch for less than $5. Even better? When Papa slipped him $5 later.

8. It is critical to allow enough time in a weekend for a rematch of cut-throat mini-golf. Papa still won. (Again.)

9. Despite Papa repeatedly expressing his frustrations with the project to the point of exclaiming that it is not a 'keeper' item from his woodshop, the bookshelves he made for LM's birthday are gorgeous and will be treasured for a lifetime! (Do I have to let him take his furniture with him when he leaves home? Really?)

10. It is the ultimate flattery to use a recipe from the person visiting for Mother's Day dinner. (At least I hope it is. Thanks for the lasagna recipe, Judy!)

11. Despite being the British spelling of the word, 'cosy' is not permissible in a game of Upwords. (Neither was 'mele', 'lan', or 'chilt'.)

12. Boston Market needs to open a restaurant in Knoxville, TN. Although, if they did, my dad might not have any reason to visit us again.

13. Even if you have installed the exact same ceiling fan without help less than a year ago, installing one with an extra set of hands can actually prove to be more difficult. (It wasn't the extra set of hands that was actually the problem. I think trying to install a fan WITH a remote was the real beast of the issue. Thanks for your help, Dad! Left on my own, I think Jacob might have had a broken bedroom window and pieces of a ceiling fan out in the lawn!)

14. Sometimes you can fix the 'zen' of your home by changing the direction of a battery. Sure wish other things in life were as easy to fix as the pendulum clock. Although truth be known, Judy seemed the most bothered by the fact that it was always 2:44 in our home.

15. Even if you try to hide the frayed edges of your nicest towels, your company will still take notice of their decrepit state. Fortunately, when it's your parents visiting, they will suggest a trip to Kohl's and will insist upon buying you two new sets of towels to match your bathrooms. (Thanks, D & J!)

16. The best Mother's Day ever might just be homecooked lasagna (with a salad made by the boys) and watching NASCAR with Judy. (Who would've thunk it?)

17. Some things never change. While my dad might not record which exit off the highway has the best fast-food options (there are always DQ Blazier notations in our Rand McNallys), he still records where he found the cheapest gas so that he might make the same stops on the return trip.

18. Even a dog can appreciate company. I think Eli is in withdrawal from all the lovin' he received while Dad and Judy were here. I think "Elijah" is Hebrew for "charmer".

19. Time really does fly when you're having fun. Four days just wasn't enough time to soak up all the goodness that a visit from family brings. Dad and Judy, thanks for all the laughter, the shared bottle(s) of wine, the great food, fun and conversation. You did my heart good this weekend. LM's, too.

The Crossing - McCarthy

For as much as I enjoyed All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing left me puzzled and searching. I'll first note, that all but the setting, there is no relation to the first novel, and I disappointingly suspect the same of the third in the trilogy. I must also note that while much of the time the context will help the reader along, there are times in the novel when I think it would be of great service to actually know Spanish.

The Crossing depicts three journeys of a boy from New Mexico to Mexico. In the first, the reader is a captive audience as McCarthy tells the tale of a young boy spontaneously deciding to return a wolf to the mountains in Mexico from which he believes the wolf came. The second and third crossings were not nearly as interesting to me, nor could I find the rationale behind theboy's decision to return to Mexico. Even his original decision, though honorable, makes the reader wonder what he was fleeing from, as it seems unlikely that a simple wish to restore nature would provoke such a long journey away from home without warning or preparation.

McCarthy can certainly write like few I have read. It is not for his story-telling ability, or choice of words, or poetic descriptions that I am left with a restless sense of unfulfillment, but for the actual plot, and character development.

Perhaps I am just not studying the meaning enough, perhaps I am not dissecting the novel to its core to truly understand the point. Perhaps this is a novel that I have simply taken too lightly to completely appreciate, but I have little interest now in reading the third in the trilogy. Maybe down the road, when this novel has had time to sit and simmer in the back of my mind, perhaps I will find some deeper lesson, some core value that might give it purpose. Until then, I think Cities of the Plain will just have to wait.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Patience

I know, you all (that's 'ya'll' for my P's) want to hear how my weekend was with my dad and second mom. It was great. Better than great. It was awesome. (and no, I'm not just saying that because they read my blog.) Anywho. I'll get to posting about it and sharing pictures and so forth shortly. I promise. No, really. Pinkie swear.

I'm just really tired.

And the camera is at home with all the pics still on it.

So it's going to have to wait.


For now: suffice it to say that in addition to a great weekend, I also have an interview on Wednesday afternoon. Yes, I'll keep you posted on that one, too.

Happy Belated Mother's Day to all who are, wish to be, might be, or have a mother out there!

P.S. Katrina wrote a great post with a call to action that we should all consider. Go take a look.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Nature v. Nurture

In the ongoing debate over nature v. nurture, the discussion ensues on whether a career chooses a child or a child chooses a career. In this case, I think it is evident that plumbing will be the chosen profession for this child.


(I took this shot during a competitive round of mini-golf (is there any other kind?) with my fam on Friday night in town. This child was walking around like this, with his mother right behind him.)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

What Might Have Been

I woke early this morning, anxious to get the day started. I grabbed my sheets, knowing I needed to get them in the wash so I could move them to the dryer before I left for work. With company coming, I needed the one set of sheets to be clean and back on the bed for tonight.

LM got up to use the bathroom and then fumbled back to bed, hoping for a few more minutes of sleep. I quietly opened his door, careful not to let the dog out and tried to lay next to LM on his single bed. Eli, eager to be up and to get outside was all over us on the bed. He tried to lay between us, pushing me nearly off the bed. Anytime we successfully got him off the bed, he would bound back up, landing square on my stomach. LM laughed and we enjoyed a few minutes of joy together as our day started.

I took Eli out in the yard. I went back in to rouse LM. He crawled to the shower with a blanket over his head. Holding on to the last clutches of sleep. Eli followed me around as I folded a load of laundry and put the winter blankets, fresh from the wash, away in the closet.

The kids wanted to take Eli with us to the bus stop again this morning, but I had errands I needed to run on my way to work and I have to leave work early, so I insisted we drive. Kaitlyn got on her bus just fine and LM rode with me to help return a movie and a library book.

Near the library we saw a young boy riding a bike to school. The bike was low to the ground, which looked quite comfortable to me. Like a recumbant bike, but for the road. LM said he knew the kid, it was Brian, from his school. I handed him my book and he ran up to the drop box and returned the book.

Around the corner from the library parking lot is a four-way stop. As we pulled up to it, the car across the intersection was already there and stopped, but he made no motion to proceed. Another car approached from the right, but with the car across from us confusing the order, the car to my right started into the intersection when it was really my turn to go. I hadn't yet moved forward, so I just sat and waited for him to cross in front of me.

Which is when the car came flying through from our left. He never saw the stop sign. He came up over the ridge, over the railroad tracks and right through the intersection. He just ran right through the stop sign as if it weren't even there.

He was well through before I thought to honk. The car across from me was still stopped. I made my left turn and realized if we had gone a second before, when it was our turn to go, I would have been hit. Hard. On the driver's side.

A block down the road we saw Brian, peddling along to school on his cool bike. What might have happened to him, if he had been just a few moments behind?

I dropped LM off at school, wishing him great joy for his concert this afternoon, reminding him that I was so looking forward to his band concert tonight secretly knowing that my dad and Judy are on their way and will hopefully be there to hear him play, too.

And as I pulled out of the school driveway, all I could think was how different our morning might have been if that car hadn't hesitated at the stop. If the other car hadn't taken a turn ahead of me. If I had been more impatient and just pulled out. What a different day altogether, this might have been.



But for the grace of God, go I.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

In the Nick of Time

I know better than to count my eggs as chickens, but...

I had applied to a marketing position with a local non-profit (which, amongst other things, does foster care) last week. I received an email requesting a phone interview, but within the email she implied that the position was part-time. Upon further clarification, it was confirmed that this position was in fact only part-time and I was forced to withdrawal my application (the ad specifically mentioned paid time off and 401K benefits, so this was a surprise to me that it wasn't full-time).

Today, I received an email from the company stating that they had further discussed the position and have agreed to make it full-time. Would I be interested in a phone interview considering the change?

And did the angels sing GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST?! Did the heavens rejoice?!?! Were the skies opened and the sun....

well, okay, I simply replied with an "absolutely" and we'll see where this goes (which potentially could be to a full-time position that I would thoroughly enjoy but only pay me half of my current salary) but nonetheless, this news came at exactly the time I needed to hear it most.

(forgive me if I make a run to the ladies' room to do a little private happy dance.)

All The Pretty Horses - McCarthy

I come by it innocently enough, my love of great American western novels. I can remember my mother picking out books and sending them to her dad – all but the last ten pages, which she held onto until he had read the rest of the novel in an effort to make sure he didn’t read the ending first.

I read All the Pretty Horses years ago, but never the following two novels in the Border Trilogy. I thought I would re-read this one before following up with the other two. I wasn’t far into it when the plot and characters came flooding back and my heart rate quickened. I am certain I have also seen the movie (Matt Damon, perhaps cast as Grady?)

In All the Pretty Horses, McCarthy introduces us to Grady and Rawlins, two teens set out from Texas, crossing the border to Mexico to escape a life they would rather leave behind. They know little of Mexico, other than that it isn’t Texas. En route, a young man named Blevins befriends them and joins them for a short while on their travels. While Grady and Rawlins have their reservations about Blevins, they are unable to shake loose their moral sense of doing right by him and at the very least, helping when they can.

Eventually, we see the heart of Grady’s character when they are taken in by a rancher and Grady’s talent and natural gift with horses comes shining through. There is little time for the reader to relish the beauty of the horses, or to become engrossed in the plan for the ranch, or even to follow the complicated romance of Grady and the rancher’s daughter, as Grady and Rawlins are arrested and thrown into a Mexican jail.

It is here where the heart of the story comes alive. There is so much cultural influence, of matters of justice and legality that we are forced to reckon with in our own minds as Grady and Rawlins struggle in theirs.

The novel comes around full circle, bringing Grady around to face his own sense of justice and righting the wrongs in his journeys. As readers, we are left with the keen understanding that while this novel (and movie) can (and did) stand on their own accord, a sequel is a much welcome gift and I look forward to following this journey onward.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

S.O.S.

I cannot even begin to explain today how badly I need a new job.


Sigh.

Monday, May 07, 2007

I Remember

My second mom heard my angst over not having my baby photos to pour over and sent me a couple of them today via email.

I just can't believe how fast eleven years have gone by (or how skinny my arms used to be - and that was at the time when my arms were the fattest they had ever been!!)

I'm not sure which surprises me more about this photo - how much older LM is now, or how much younger my brother was then!!

LM (only two or three days old) and his Papa.

The Birthday Party

Suffice it to say I would love to be posting nothing but pictures this morning, in a birthday party recap, but the pictures are all blurry. Yes, that sound you hear is me, banging my head on my desk after spending a near fortune on a new digital camera not six months ago, only to have a dozen blurry birthday photos to show for it. A manual will be consulted. A remedy will be found. Or Circuit City will be fixing the problem.

So, the party went well. Other than Eli nipping at LM's best friend (who is already afraid of dogs.) I think it was just all the excitement, and they made up as friends by the time the party was over, but still. The boys bowled (three games, the last one without the aid of gutter blockers. High score in the previous games? 98. High score with real gutters? 52.) They had pizza and laughter afterwards and then headed for home where they hunkered down in a fort they had built and I hid out with Eli in my room, only emerging to serve up cake and to quiet things down around midnight.

And the cake. After years of LM not liking whatever cake I labored over, I have long-since learned to give up all hope of being appreciated for my remarkable cake decorating abilities. Last year I ordered an ice cream cake from Cold Stone Creamery, but since it's ice cream layered around actual cake and then covered in (heaven forbid) icing, LM still didn't like it. This year, HE ordered it. It was a DQ cake (flavorless, cheap and remarkably bad decorating) and he loved it. Go figure.

In the end, my house was still intact, friendships were still well bonded, the boy is officially eleven and I am officially old. Or at least that's how I feel.

At what point did I become the grown up telling them to stop goofing off at the bowling alley, and to point your thumb forward in order to better 'steer' the ball? At what point did I become the one telling them that no, we were NOT going to play arcade games, they were simply a waste of money? At what point did I become the grown up telling my son that if he was only going to eat the crust of the pizza that was a huge waste and he needed to eat the whole piece or leave it alone? At what point did I become the one telling them to quiet things down around midnight because I could barely keep my own eyes open any longer? At what point did I become the adult who could barely work the portable DVD player in my bedroom while the kids watched a DVD and then played PS2 games in the living room? At what point, exactly, did I become a mother of an ELEVEN year old?!

yes, the crisis has begun.

Just wait until my birthday. When I fall over to the dark side in the "over 35" category.

Yeah, that's going to be fun.

Friday, May 04, 2007

I was tagged

You can blame Midwestern...


A- Attached or Single? Very.Remarkably.Attached (to my dog)
B- Best Friend: My sister (don’t tell her).
C- Cake or Pie: Cheesecake.
D- Drink of Choice: Iced down Diet Coke.
E- Essential Item: Books.
F- Favorite Color: Navy Blue.
G- Gummi Bears or Worms? Bears. (not sour)
H- Hometown: Woodstock, Illinois
I- Indulgence: LM’s birthday cookies.
J- January or February: February (lesser of two evils)
K- Kids: as many as possible, one way or another.
L- Life is incomplete without: laughter.
M- Marriage Date: May 22, 1993. (Divorce date: Ironically, May 23, 2001).
N- Number of Siblings: 2 (sometimes I only claim one. Sometimes I think Stacy and Chris are both long-lost sisters.)
O- Oranges or Apples? Apples. Golden Delicious.
P- Phobias/Fears. Never falling in love again.
Q- Favorite Quote: “Work like you don’t need the money, love like you’ve never been hurt and dance as though no one is watching.”
R- Reasons to smile: LM, my pets, my home, my friends, payday, that it’s Friday…
S- Season: Autumn
T- Tag Three: Bearca, Jules and Poka (cause none of you post often enough right now!)
U- Unknown Fact About Me: I played the oboe in high school.
V-Vegetarian or Not: holy cripes no. Red meat is my friend.
W- Worst Habit: cracking my knuckles.
X – X-rays or Ultrasounds? Ultrasounds (x-rays are for something broken, ultrasounds are usually for something alive!)
Y- Your Favorite Foods. Anything I didn’t make myself.
Z- Zodiac: Completely irrelevant.

Reflections

This morning I put on a summery pair of navy crop pants and a blue and white striped, boat-necked crew top. Was feeling all summery until I looked in the mirror.

I looked like a remarkably cute and stylish pregnant woman.





Only,


I'm not anywhere near pregnant.



Yowza. That was a harsh realization.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

You Make Me Smile

I almost didn't post the birth post (and I do hope you skipped right over it, Newly...) I am one of those people who just think your birth story is YOUR birth story and frankly, no one else wants to hear it, but I wrote it down more because this is my little scrapbook of sorts and I forget sometimes (or try to ignore at times) that it is, in fact, sort of interactive, but I just have to say...

You are all so incredibly sweet. I mean, it's like looking at your neighbor's slides of vacation folks...it's a birth story!! (You all have them, okay, most of you have them, (I'll let you off the hook PS2) but you still not only read LM's, but you commented such remarkably sweet things...

I am so touched.

Truly.

You all rock.

(cookies are on me!)

P.S. (Thanks to all of our hard work and antagonism, Jules posted!!! IT'S TRUE!! Go look!)

The Aftermath

Last night was just a simple birthday celebration with just the two of us. I made LM's meal of choice (cheeseburgers, corn and baked beans). (Okay, I'll admit, it was his second meal of choice. His first was lasagna, which I am more than happy to make, but I figured I'd wait until my dad and second mom were here next week, but LM doesn't know they are coming, so I had to just suggest that we wait on that one since it's a BIG meal for two people. He was fine with that. No demotions from Mom-of-the-Year yet.) Anywho...

So we ate, and then I ushered my dear birthday boy off to handbell choir (for me). What a wonderful way to spend your birthday evening, huh? I know, but we only have two rehearsals before our next performance, so skipping one wasn't really a good option on my part. I had LM take along the video camera, however, and asked that he record our last song. I had snuck in some new sheet music and while he video'ed, we all played a round of Happy Birthday!! He was quite suprised and was tickled that I had planned all that.

We came home and opened gifts. Star Wars Lego fighter-jet thing from my sister and her family (nice pick, Bear!!) A big, thick composite book of "The Shakespeare Stealer" (excellent suggestion, Stacy!) and a Robo-Reptile (remote controlled dinosaur) that I had picked up while Christmas shopping. LM was thrilled! I had to make a late night run for more batteries (that's what happens when you buy the gift in December - you've used up the batteries that went along with it by May!) We'll have cake and candles and all that on Saturday when his two best buddies come to spend the night.

This morning, however, I had to deal with the aftermath. I had listened to LM tell me excitedly what gifts his dad had given him on Tuesday and I spent much of my evening after LM went to bed researching and mulling over my options. I realize how difficult it must be for a child to live in two homes with such different philosophies on life. I needed to tread carefully, but to make sure that my efforts were not being sabotaged, either. For all my efforts to raise a non-violent, moral, Christian, loving, kind boy (to become a responsible, mature, compassionate man) my ex-husband had bought our eleven year old "Halo" for the X-Box (rated M for Mature) and a full-sized letterman (a swiss army knife of sorts). I spoke with J this morning regarding the game and it turns out he never paid any attention to the rating. He's going to investigate it and decide if it's appropriate or not. I tried to suggest that even games with a T (for Teen) rating were inappropriate for an eleven year old, but I'm not sure that even sunk in. I spoke directly with LM about the knife, explaining it was immediate expulsion from school if he ever took it there (no questions, no retort, no explanations, just expulsion) and that if it even set foot in my home it belonged to me. Period. End of discussion.

I can recognize that these battles are waged within married couples as well, and that many divorced parents cannot reach middle ground without bloodshed, but I still feel weary some days from having to continually fight for LM's right to a normal, healthy childhood.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Eleven

The Top Eleven Things I Love About My Little Man:

1. His sense of humor. This will always appear on my list of favorites for LM, as I think he has a well-developed sense of humor. He is intelligently witty. This is not to say he doesn't still appreciate the occasional "fart joke" but he's more likely to use the words "flatulence" which makes it even funnier coming from a child.

2. His brain power. I hereby declare that I am NOT smarter than a fifth grader. LM has struggled in school only because his academic ability greatly exceeds the curriculum being taught in his classroom. He continues to be a voracious reader (he just polished off Tom Clancy's "Patriot Games" in three days) and excels in math, social studies and science. This year, he has even improved his writing grades, a HUGE accomplishment for LM!

3. His affection. LM is quick to compliment you on a great meal, a fun afternoon, or just to thank you for an evening spent together reading on the couch. He loves hugs, sponges up praise and if you think to leave him a sweet little note just telling him how impressed you were with how clean his room is, he will tuck it away in his "forever box".

4. LM is up for anything. Want to go to the park? Bowling? Kayaking? Parasailing? Bungee jumping? Mini-golfing? Just want to relax on the couch with a movie? Out to dinner? Homemade pizza? LM doesn't care. His enthusiasm will quickly follow and he'll tag along to do almost anything you please. A day outside with a good walking stick is high on his list of days well spent.

5. His maturity. I have noticed over the last couple of years LM's social maturity really coming around. He takes interest in the little kids at church and helps them with activities. He thinks about his younger cousins in a caring, compassionate manner. He was delighted to have a new cousin born this year and to be able to hold the baby was a big deal to him. His attitude towards fostering has been amazing and his realization of all that he has to offer to another child is really tremendous.

6. LM is just fun. Whether he's trying to put on his best poker face, or is preparing a personal trumpet concert for me on a Friday evening, LM is clever and funny and sweet. He goes out of his way to do nice things for me, and often has me in stitches with his antics.

7. His independence. Maybe it's because I never thought he'd be an only, but I never babied LM. While I try to make sure he enjoys his childhood, I've also tried to prepare him to be a mature, responsible, loving adult. I saw it especially on the cruise when LM would decide for himself what activities he wanted to do and would go off to the kid's room without needing my assistance or supervision. He could be trusted to go to the room to change, to go to a meal without me, to play for hours in the pool with someone else keeping track of him. While we still have our occasional slip-ups, all in all, he's a very responsible, mature child.


8. His pirate dance. Actually, I just love how he let loose on the cruise. Sometimes, LM can be a bit stuffy, not always wanting to do the things the other kids are doing, but on the cruise, he got up from his chair and DANCED. He had the most amazing time on that boat and I really saw him cut loose and have fun.

9. His appreciation for what is important to me. LM has learned that I like clean counter tops, zipped back packs, picked up rooms and a clean house. He also realizes how much I appreciate the nights that he cooks dinner, the times he walks the dog and all the times he helps take out the trash. He has really come around this year to understanding that he does these things not because I ask it of him, but because it is important to me. It's a sweet, sweet difference.


10. That he enjoys the simple things with me. Great music at church, good movie night, a walk around the neighborhood, a trip to the library, it doesn't have to be expensive or involved, LM just enjoys time together. And I enjoy time with him.

11. That when I look back over the past 11 years (which went by in a flash) there was never a time of his life when I wanted to trade him in. He was never a terrible two, although aliens took over his body around 3 1/2 he was still a delight to be around, he has wriggled through some growing pains as he's stretched his will and independence, but I can never stay mad at him for more than a few hours. LM is, above all else, my pride and my joy. In every way. In every day.

Happy Birthday Little Man!!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Eleven Years Ago Today

My husband and I had gone out for dinner on April 27th to celebrate his 25th birthday. Sitting in a booth (that I barely fit into) at our favorite establishment, the waitress asked me when I was due. "Yesterday," I replied. She freaked out. She thought that meant that at any point during my meal I would surely burst into labor right there in the booth. We laughed at her anxiety throughout the entire meal. She rushed us through our meal, anxious for us to get out of there before anything happened.

On May 1st, after unintentionally outlasting a month that already held three family birthdays, my mother-in-law called me and said, "Amy, it's May Day! What a glorious day to have a baby!" At this point, five days past my due date, I was more than ready for this child to evacuate the premises. I had been patient and calm up until this point and now anxiety was taking over.

J had a meeting after work that night. He had a pager and was no more than 10 minutes from the house so I wasn't concerned. I called my best friend Suzan and asked if she wanted to go for a walk with me after she was done at work. She had new hiking boots she wanted to break in and quickly agreed. She was sorely disappointed after we slowly waddled around three blocks and I called it enough. She didn't understand that I couldn't walk three or four miles with a baby hanging between my knees.

Since J was at his meeting, we decided to grab a bite to eat. Knowing that any day now I would be done being pregnant, I decided to splurge and eat a horrendous meal - cheeseburger, fries and even cherry pie (a la mode!) for dessert! When we finished, I made a trip to the restroom already regretting my indulgence. Suzan wanted to stop at a small book store in town to find the Rolling Stones magazine with the X-Files on the cover. As we walked into the store, around 7:30, I felt my first contraction. No biggie, nothing to get worked up over. I just stood near the front while Suzan shopped and as we exited the store I told her that our walk had worked and I was having contractions! Suzan wasn't amused by this announcement.

At home, Suzan stayed with me, hoping J would come home at any minute. I was packing up a bag to take to the hospital and had trouble walking around the baby's room. I had to stop several times and wait out contractions. I finally decided to take a shower before I went (some sense of decency, I guess) and spent the time in the shower with the shower head on full tilt right on my stomach. I realized I couldn't really feel the contractions so I decided I'd better stop and get out so I could monitor them better. I went and laid down on our bed and felt like I was hit with a freight train. The contractions were coming faster and harder and I knew with certainty we'd be headed to the hospital soon.

J arrived home and Suzan informed him of my condition. I suggested that he grab a quick bite to eat as I wasn't sure when he'd get another chance to. He stood in the doorway slowly looking at the mail, in no hurry to move or think about dinner. Suzan came running upstairs to tell me that J wasn't understanding. I went down the stairs as best as I could, and calmly informed J that I was HAVING CONTRACTIONS and we NEEDED TO GO SOON. Oooooh, he said. He went to McDonald's and got some dinner. While he was gone, my dad called. He was coming up on Friday and was now concerned that there wouldn't be a baby yet (this was Wednesday) and so perhaps they should wait? I sat in my glider, rocking through the contractions, wincing when they hit, telling him the baby was on the way and would be here long before Friday as it seemed. He didn't believe me. "We'll see," he kept saying. We were scheduled to be induced on Friday morning, but I was glad to be in labor sooner as I didn't like the OB on rotation on Friday.

Meanwhile, Suzan, sitting across from me on the couch, was frantically pointing at her watch mouthing to me that my contractions were five minutes apart already!!

When J arrived home we called our doc. He asked when my contractions had started and I told him about an hour and a half ago. He told me we had a long time before they would be serious and not to go to the hospital until they were five minutes apart for an hour. Within five minutes of that call we realized they had been five minutes apart since the start and that was well over an hour ago. We decided to head to the hospital, much to the relief of Suzan who was glad to be relieved of all duties pertaining to childbirth.

We loaded up the car and headed towards the bridge.

Living on the Mississippi River gives you a number of options to get across. We could go the long way, to the big bridge, or the short way and risk the lock and dam being open and have to wait for boats to go through. As we headed towards the lock and dam, with J expressing his great worry that the bridge would be open (which could be a 40 minute wait) I remember him screaming at me - me, who was calmly sitting in the passenger seat only wincing when the contractions hit - screaming "THOSE ARE NOT FIVE MINUTES APART! THOSE CONTRACTIONS ARE ONLY THREE MINUTES APART!!!" J had never been good in a crisis.

The bridge was not open, we went right across and were at the hospital in Davenport, Iowa with no trouble. We had been to the hospital before and made sure we knew where to park, but it was after hours now and we had to enter in through the emergency room doors. As we trudged in, J's arms laden with extra pillows, a stereo, my overnight bag and other assundries, the nurse placed me in a wheelchair and pushed me to the elevator. As we rode the elevator she asked how far apart my contractions were. J, with a tremble in his voice said, "THREE MINUTES!" The nurse got excited and said, "What are you people trying to do to us tonight? Everyone is waiting until the last minute to get here!" I calmly explained that my contractions had only started about two hours before and that I had plenty of time before the baby arrived. This was my first child, it would take awhile. The nurse calmed down, but J certainly didn't.

I remember throwing up when I got into my room, and having the nurse tell me that was quite all right, it was going to happen sooner or later. They wanted me to give a urine sample (I think) and it was the first time I was unable to pee in six months. They tried an external monitor for the baby but it wasn't working well, so they decided to do an internal. They asked if I wanted meds and I assured them that I could wait it out awhile, I didn't want to jump into meds too soon, but wanted to feel some contractions for awhile. She said she'd check back in fifteen minutes. I thought she was insulting thinking I couldn't last another hour. I certainly had perhaps twelve more hours of this, I could certainly wait it out a bit longer.

When she returned I figured I might as well just take meds if it was easier, but she informed me I was too far dialated, I had missed my window. That's when I freaked out. "Missed my window?! I just got here!! I've only had contractions for a few short hours! How can I already be that far gone? This is my FIRST child!!" The nurse informed me that I would be holding my newborn before the day was through. It was currently 10:30pm. I couldn't imagine we were that close to delivery already.

Things didn't go well after that. They couldn't get the baby's heartrate and had to change internal monitors. Every time they turned me, everytime they moved me trying to get the heart rate my contractions intensified. Finally we got the heart rate but immediately we could tell it was slowing. J panicked. He screamed for someone to do something. I still well up thinking about the fear in his voice. We were scared. Everyone in the room was scared. The nurse told J to hit the red button by my head and someone screamed to get the doctor who was down the hall, unamused that he had been called in this early for a delivery.

When doc arrived he told me it was time to get this baby out the cord was around his neck, but nothing seemed to cooperate to that effort. Episiotomy, then forcepts, finally cajoled the itty out at 12:31am on May 2nd, a Thursday, and as I sit here today I cannot remember the pain, I only remember how blue his feet were. I remember the doctor telling me I had a boy and I was stunned. I had been certain I was having a girl. I remember looking over at the little bed they had for him and watching as they wiped him off and I didn't hear a cry. I heard nothing. They finally handed him to me and I remember looking him over searching for signs of breath. He was fine. He was alive. He was beautiful. We had a son. Our little Jacob Gideon.

Before the drugs kicked in, the ones they gave me right after delivery but I swear I didn't felt the effect of (I can tell you how long the stitches took) I remember J asking me who I wanted to call first. I told him I wanted to call my mom. He said he understood, but maybe I could call my dad (my mom had passed several years before). I remember whispering to J never to tell anyone, but I had been hoping for a girl. He said he knew that, everyone knew that, but I would love this boy just as much. I called my dad and woke him up to tell him the news. At some point during the conversation I remember handing the phone to J telling him I didn't know who I was talking to or why. The meds had finally kicked in and J made the calls on my behalf.

LM's APGAR score was a one and then a seven. The nurses told me I needed a transfusion but J wouldn't allow for it. He was too scared of all the risks and said only if it came down to life or death, so I was watched like a hawk throughout the night until my color finally returned and the nurses stopped nagging. LM was fine, but there was some initial concern because he had been deprived of oxygen for too long and his heart rate had sunk so low.

Now, eleven years after that day, I can vouch for the fact that we are both just fine. And that I will never, for as long as I live, forget what it felt like to have a son. As traumatic as LM's delivery was (and by far it was not the worst that could have happened) I will always be grateful that I was the one delivering and not the one standing helplessly by. I cannot imagine what that experience was like for J. It is the only time I have ever seen him scared. It is the only time I have ever heard him make a demand.

It is no small thing to be a parent. We are blessed in enumerable ways, but we are also tried and worn. The physicality of parenting a small child is soon replaced by the emotional struggles to raise a moral and loving young adult. But I am better for being a mom.

And I will never forget it.

Note: I would post pictures, but in an effort to simplify the potential moving process, I took all my albums to Michigan last summer, so I do not have access to LM's baby photos. It is enough that I could sit here right now and close my eyes and see him as an infant as if it were an hour ago that he was.