Where the hampster wheel always turns

About Me

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Middle aged underweight high school graduate
"It is not advisable James to venture unsolicited opinions. You should spare yourself the embarrassing discovery of their exact value to your listener." - Francisco d'Anconia, Atlas Shrugged
"The soundest way to raise revenues in the long run is to cut taxes now." - John F. Kennedy

What Did You Do Last Night?

Friday, February 27, 2009

I live a pretty great life. I’ve had many wonderful experiences, and many experiences I’ve tried to turn into wonderful despite how they initially happened. I woke up this morning to one of those ‘get to know you’ questionnaires that circulate freely through cyberspace. I suppose in the recesses of my mind I’m flattered someone would want to know me better, but the arrival of one of these questionnaires always brings a bout of anxiety.

Usually the form asks questions to which I’m not really comfortable telling the truth. Details like “What are you wearing right now.” This is always dangerous with me. I’m the Trifecta of Fashion Disasters. When you combine unbelievably bad fashion sense, extreme cheapness and a sassy streak, it’s really safer never to ask that question. Did you know that you can make some pretty nice underwear out of Saran Wrap, aluminum foil and napkins?

Other invasive interrogations like “Six names you go by.” I have to say, if you have my e-mail address then you know what people call me. Six names is excessive. Coming up with six different names moves us outside polite conversation. I’ve been called lots of things that nice people don’t say, by those same nice people. It’s a gift I have. I seem to have a way about me.

Today though, I’m smiling at the opportunity to answer “What did you do last night?” Usually answering this question would incriminate me, but this morning I’m eager to answer.

Sitting under the stars with the waters of the Caribbean lapping nearby I learned how hard it is for a dolphin to hydroplane a big man with its nose. Last night during karaoke, I learned that there is a woman named Roxanne who is even more fearless than I, and that she is way more talented. Her alter ego “Sarah” would never belie the powerhouse of skill in that tiny body - but in the space of fifteen minutes she performed the worm, spoke fluent gibberish and sang one of the best versions of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy”, I’ve ever heard. People were throwing their room keys at her, men rushed to carry her across the stage all as our little group watched in fully entertained awe.

Last night I watched a unicyclist named “Slinky”, a Jamaican opera singer and some contortionists that would give the Chinese a run for their money. You can’t make this stuff up. Then, being called up on stage I, with three of my fellow resort goers, was asked to stand atop a board spiked with 1,000 steel nails. Whoever came up with the ‘bed of nails’ idea is really sick. Asking me to jump atop the flat side of one, on the other hand, was quite entertaining.

Eventually I'll Get it

Monday, February 23, 2009

Yesterday I attended church in a small chapel about the size of my living/dining room. I love church, and as we drove to the small second floor room in a strip mall I anticipated what it would be like. Directed by our cab driver, we hiked some narrow stairs and formed a single line in the anteroom. I certainly felt like I was in Jamaica.

The air was heavy with humidity and the walls were painted a vibrant yellow with a brightness I didn’t know was possible in such volume - sunglasses were required. Our little group was heartily welcomed by Brother Jackson, and as we entered the small room I quickly realized we would more than double the congregation.

Scott and I walked to the front where I was seated in a broken chair that reclined into the lap of the man behind me. “Gina” the vibrantly dressed shy woman next to me giggled as I tried, rather unsuccessfully to find a graceful balance. Skewed on the seat with one leg extended in the air and a hand on Scott’s chair to steady me I started up a conversation. Gina was a relatively new convert. Her eyes were dimmed from the effects of diabetes but her smile was bright and she was a wealth of information on the other members of the congregation.

Gina shared that she ran a little shop that sold fried chicken, candy, soda and papers. I didn’t want to reveal how culturally stupid I was so I didn’t ask for more information about the papers. I did wonder about the papers - were they newspapers? Notebook papers? Toilet papers? All of these papers have a market and I would certainly purchase each of them.

During the meeting the energy and sincerity of the Jamaican people was infectious. I loved the Sunday School teacher’s style as she raised a finger and emphatically said “Question” with a pause for effect before she revealed the actual question. To my overly competitive self it felt a little like a trivia game - and I was still on the edge of my broken seat, although my leg was getting a little tired.

I reflected on church at home. We had more people, more room and OK, I’ll say it, better chairs. Our decor is more sedate and we’re a bit more formal but the Spirit is the same, the smiles are the same and as a man who was investigating the church came through to introduce himself to each of us, Scott and I smiled knowingly at each other. He was decked out in a gold sequined shirt with a hot pink tank top, knock-off rhinestone encrusted Dolce Gabbana sunglasses and a feathered hat - we had never met him, but we certainly knew him. Every congregation has someone desperate to be noticed.

Gina elbowed me to make sure I saw “Huggy Bear”. You couldn’t help but see him. She then started explaining he comes every now and then and wants to tell everyone what he’s read, what he knows. My problem is when I spoke to him I couldn’t understand a single word he said - except ‘ja know mon’. His thick Jamaican accent made every word unintelligible. Then a light went on in my tiny brain... Gina didn’t sell papers. Gina sells chicken, candy, soda and PEPPERS!

Just give me a little time, eventually I might figure it all out. Maybe.

Political Correctlyness

Thursday, February 19, 2009

We’ve worked so very hard as a society to create an emotionally safe environment for everyone. Problem is with this plan, is as we try to squish ourselves into this definition of tolerance and love we actually become less tolerant and certainly less loving.

While working with a group of fourth graders today, out of the blue one of them asks me who I voted for. I’m really impressed with the political discussion my kid’s fourth grade teacher has led. These kids know way more about the political process that I did even when I started voting.

So as this kid asks me, other kids at the table chime in about who they voted for. (The class held their own election). All this is fine and dandy until they start fighting with each other. The premise of the kid who initiated the discussion was, if you didn’t vote for Obama then you’re a racist. Whoa!

She was clear and concise and defended her position when I tried to intervene.

This is why the Attorney General can stand up and give an inane speech calling Americans racial “cowards”. And I completely agree. I was scared to death trying to handle the insults being slung by this vehement fourth grader. In an offensive assault she called her non-Obama supporting classmates racists, bigoted, close minded... who wouldn’t be beaten down by this mudslinging?

I know in my soul I am not a racist. This being said, I don’t like some of the behavior of certain groups. If you’ve got the waistband of your pants riding around your thighs, your hat on backwards, tattoos and piercings and happen to have dark skin - I’m not comfortable getting in an elevator with you. But in all fairness, your name could be Sven and you could be an albino and if you’re dressed like that, I’m still waiting for the next elevator.

But no Swede has ever claimed oppression from the ‘man’. The Canadians don’t have an Al Sharpton picketing every 5 minutes loudly pointing out instances of racial oppression.

I abhor unwarranted prejudice directed at anyone, especially me. Calling me a racist makes me cringe, even cower in fear. I find it painful that this illegal Latino fourth grader that I volunteer for hours each week, can look me straight in the eye and call me a racist because I didn’t vote for someone.

I’m not saying there is no racism. I am saying we would do ourselves better if we quit finding it where it doesn’t exist.

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Something is wrong with me. (At least try and look surprised.) I’m pretty sure I have both X chromosomes, and that I’m a true bona fide girl. But there is something not right deep in my female soul. I don’t like shopping. Not even a little bit. I think there are too many choices, everything costs too much, I don’t look that great in most of it. I only endure the process because despite our social movement toward total immorality we still frown on public nudity. I’ve tried very hard to bring back the 3’s Company Mrs. Roper caftain, to no avail.

So I’m watching this new shopping movie with my kid thinking - everything in the main character’s life is a waste. Waste of time, waste of money, waste of talent. The message at the end was nice, but how sad to have to wait until the end. Up until the end the poor girl was desperately trying to fill some empty void with shopping. Here’s where I digress from many of my sisters... I don’t get it.

Anything outside jeans and a white t-shirt and I’m treading on thin ice. I can’t accessorize. I’ve stood at the belt kiosks, jewelry racks and kitch counters looking like I’ve been dropped in the middle of the rainforest with a tribe of cannibals.

I still wear clothes I owned in high school. And, if you’ve read earlier posts, they weren’t in style back then either. I don’t own a single thing that qualifies as a “label”, and this doesn’t bother me in the least. Recently a friend was excited about a recent shopping find. Sharing her blissful news with me, she noticed I had a bit of a blank stare. I confessed I had never heard of the label she was referring to, exposing the secret that I do in fact live under a rock. She no longer invites me shopping.

It’s sad really, to be this different, this weird. People don’t ask my opinion on their outfits. No one ever tries to borrow my stuff. I recently stood in a room with a group of women working industriously together to try and coordinate an outfit. They were like a swarm of ants adding to, taking from; it was a flurry of fashion and the final outcome was spectacular. During the whole event I sat in the corner eating a burrito. I have nothing to contribute.

I’ve tried to get one of my friends to shop for me - we’re about same size and coloring. Multiple times I’ve requested that she just purchase two of everything she buys for herself. She won’t do it. I think she likes that I look silly most of the time. Makes her feel good.

The worst thing about my handicap is I fear, it’s being passed on to my children. Sitting in the kitchen eating my breakfast one morning out comes my eldest - wearing my jeans. Look mom! Oh no... this can’t be good for her.

Smoke Alarm

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Recently our smoke alarms went off at about 3 in the morning. With a groggy mix of panic and disdain I punched my earplug wearing spouse so he could go put out the fire. When he didn’t spring to life with the same urgency, well with any urgency, of course I had to go save the family.

While the rescue mission quickly became a production of keystone cops I actually wished there were a real fire. It would have been easier to stand out in the street in our underwear and watch the thing burn. OK, not really, but as we were stumbling around the house trying not to bang the walls with the extension ladder as the piercing screech of the alarm disoriented us I was living some sort of Abu Grabesque torture. We had all the elements - underwear, sleep deprivation, auditory bombardment.

I gave up.

Leaving Scott high on a ladder ripping detector after detector out of the wall I waddled off to get earplugs. Around this time kids started to emerge. The time delay was quite unsettling. They really can sleep through anything.

Scott found and silenced the offending detector, likely triggered by a build up of dust. (I don’t get out the extension ladder for general cleaning). The whole experience has left me with a burning question (pun intended).

Why the @#$ does the alarm not sound at NOON, when normal people are awake, coherent and usually dressed. I have set them off with my cooking, but that’s to be expected. All my other alarms have sounded in the wee hours, usually the night before a big test or meeting. Reflecting on this inconvenient fact I think there is some sort of cosmic agreement between smoke detectors. In my many years of living with them the chirping to signal a dying battery only happens at night.

I wonder, is it that they feel taken for granted. We do entrust our lives to them, and most of us do little to actually care for them. This smoke detector relationship mirrors some human relationships. For the most part, our closest relationships go along just fine. And then, some seemingly small trigger causes mind numbing explosions. With just a little regular dusting, that requires a little more effort, these alarms would cease to blindside us.

Unless, of course, you’re smart enough to always wear earplugs.

Valentine's Day

Monday, February 16, 2009

Valentines Day scares me. The older I get the more I recognize I haven’t changed as much as one would expect in the time I’ve been allotted. While Valentine's Day should be a celebration of those who mean the most to us, what it really is, in reality is a contrived holiday where the less secure of us merely plead they will be acknowledged.

Valentines Day started to go bad for me in the second grade. I was new to the school and many of these kids had gone to school together since they could remember. Which for a second grader is two years. I had filled out my carefully selected, platitude-filled, tokens for the rest of my classmates. As a class we had each made a lovely shoebox to receive the outpouring we would expect. Mine was a stunning collage of poorly cut hearts, torn paper doilies and glitter. It was spectacular.

As the class began to pass out our valentines, my heart was racing and my sweaty palms were making the ink run. Wandering through the desks delivering each of my notes I worried - would Timmy think this was too forward? What would Joey think? I don’t love, love him but he might get the wrong idea from the chalky sugar hearts I included. Would Sally know that I wanted to be her best friend since I chose the prettiest valentine of the bunch for her? I was a seven year old mess.

I rushed back to my mailbox to open my notes. I checked and checked, Sally didn’t even give me a valentine and Timmy, gave me one that had my name scribbled out, someone else’s name written in and then scribbled out. It’s painful not to matter to the people you want to matter to.

Over the years Valentine's Day passed pretty much like that - me filled with hopes of some sort of ardent declaration while my homemade mailbox remained painfully empty.

In high school I decided to take matters into my own hands. Enough of this not being noticed I would take the Cupid by the arrow and create my own destiny. I had a terrible crush on a boy a couple of years older than me, Gary Clark. Student Council raised funds by selling carnations they would deliver to other students for a dollar each. You could select from three degrees of amour - white for friends, pink for sweethearts and red for burning passion. I paid for a pink carnation and carefully crafted my message. It was something copied off another valentine, but there was no mistaking my sweetheart sentiment. I signed it Az - my nickname for as long as I can remember. Everyone called me Az.

The big delivery day came, and went. I saw Gary in the halls, in the cafeteria, on the soccer field. He didn’t even make eye contact with me. I saw him at church on Sundays, youth activities, football games - I was even in his home a number of times. Nothing. The rejection was crushing.

I resolved I would never be a pink carnation fool ever again.

A year or so after I graduated from High School and Gary was in college I was visiting his home for a church function. I garnered the courage and asked him about the carnation and why he never even said ‘thanks’. He looked at me quizzically, trying to place the event when his face lit with recognition. He went to his room and returned with the pink heart. While my crush was long extinguished, I was flattered he had kept the little note.

“Is this the heart?” he asked. Blushing I acknowledged my note. He started to laugh and said “I never knew this was from you.”

Somehow this did not let me down easier. I had spent a whole dollar for Pete’s sake, and come on, how many “Azs” does one person know?

“I thought it was from Andrea Alstot - and the signature was ‘A2’ - A squared.”

Well this was awkward. Here I was, a pink carnation fool all over again.

While I have long outgrown the unrealistic expectations I still feel a bit of worry over Valentine’s Day. The reality is, I think we all just want to be noticed. This year, my mailbox was plenty full.

Memory Loss

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Recently I got an unsettling e-mail making me further question my sanity.

The e-mail posed questions to ask yourself... If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, speak to your doctor about getting a neurological evaluation.

Have you ever gotten lost when you drive home?

Define “lost”. If this means I have driven past my street while yelling/lecturing my kids about not leaving half eaten burritos in the back seat then my answer is yes. If it also means sitting blocks away from my house listening to the radio because it’s the only adult conversation I’ll have for the afternoon, then my answer again is yes. If a possible definition is wandering around the parking lot clicking my key fob hoping my cookie-cutter mini van will honk at me to let me know it’s not been stolen, then again, yes.

Have you forgotten being at major appointments or events? Forgetting names of people you met at a recent party is not cause for concern, but forgetting that you attended the party could signal a possible memory problem.

This one is tricky. I’ve endured a number of social events so painful that the only mental survival strategy I could employ was to block them out. For instance, we have photos of an office party where my husband was dressed in a skin-tight tye-dye polyester jumpsuit complete with a giant afro wig. Were it not for the photos I would not recollect his very public karaoke performance of “You Light Up My Life.” Then there’s my senior prom. Sitting all dressed up waiting for my date to arrive I answered the phone to discover that “his mom wouldn’t let him go”. I’ve been dumped, ignored, even stood up before, but this one was pretty bad. I’ve tried to block all of it out.

Has anyone around you complained that you tend to repeat the same questions four or five times?

Well duh. I’m a mom.

Have you stopped any of your hobbies or routines because of memory problems?

Does forgetting to clean out the fridge count? This should be a routine, and once was, but as I have aged so have the items in my fridge. This question really asks the definition of hobby. B.C. (before children) I would have considered showering a necessity, but now there are days it falls clearly in the hobby activity category and I’ve become quite nostalgic for the good 'ole days of general hygiene. The same goes for finishing a book. In the rare instance I am left alone long enough to read the side of a cereal box I consider getting through all four sides a major achievement.

Have you reduced your work responsibilities or hours mainly due to poor memory?

If only!

Jumpsuit Moments

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Well, he’s done it again. My husband was let loose out in society. I try very hard to keep him safe at home, where those who love, and sort of understand, him are the only ones exposed to his, well, um, yeah.

Hubby is an amazingly successful person. While he has had significant professional successes, this is not the arena I’m referring to. He has mastered the ability to be completely at peace with himself. I have never met a person so innately confident, he actually has no shame.

This week at the company breakfast he donned “the jumpsuit.” We usually try and keep “the jumpsuit” under wraps at home but sometimes it just breaks out. The jumpsuit started in high school when he asked his mother for a jumpsuit for Christmas. His mother has a sense of pride and quickly squashed all future hubby's 1970’s fashion suicidal tendencies. The tenacious teenager spoke with his uncle, the mortician, who of course had a spare polyester, seersucker, half-belt that buckles-in-the-front zip up jumpsuit laying around.

Soon, "Sporty" was cruising the Cyprus High School halls looking like Jack La Laine. Yeah, all the kids were wearing them...

While the original jumpsuit long ago met its demise, on his 40th birthday present from the same uncle was a new jumpsuit. Fire engine red. (Just know I have my head in my hands and am rocking back and forth.) Of course nothing says “company breakfast” like a fire engine red, polyester, half-belt that buckles-in-the-front zip up jumpsuit.

I’m told there is video. This is why he can never run for public office. Well, this and the fact that he makes up more words than “W” ever did. I’ve done everything I can to try and class the guy up. But polyester doesn’t burn. The reality is, even if there was no jumpsuit he would still create jumpsuit moments. Indelible experiences those present will remember forever even tell their kids about.

I’ve got the photos of him dressed as Cher. Heard the stories of when with his genial drawl he complimented the buxom woman on her “boots” over the PA system. Gotten the feedback of the handstand contests, yoga competitions, push up galas. He’s even split his pants jumping spread-eagle off a stage.

The beauty of all of this is that if you’re lucky enough to be around for the show, you always leave with a broad smile and feeling a little more secure about yourself. He has a gift that way.

International Intrigue

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I was so excited to log into my e-mail tonight to see I had 33 waiting messages. I have fantastically creative friends, and saucy family who share all kinds of wisdom, information, and degenerate humor. As a Stay-At-Home-Mom (capitalization because it’s a title) I can feel a little isolated. The world wide web has done wonders for keeping me in touch with people I would never call, write or remember.

So when I perused the list of my intimates who had taken the time today to think of me I was less than impressed. Seems I’m even less important than I feared. My in-box was full of coupon offers, ways to enlarge body parts I don’t possess and offers for drugs I’ll never take.

I’m sure I receive the latter because I made the mistake once of trying to buy this fantastic medical elixir my circle just calls “The Mexican Cream” online. It’s a combination of all sorts of ‘anti’ medications my veterinarian sells me for $30 a tube. A tube consists of enough medicine to cover a quarter size area on my dog. Once while visiting Rocky Point, I discovered that in Mexico you can buy the same miracle combination for about $5 a gallon.

The Mexican Cream has been discovered to cure all sorts of ailments. Besides the prescribed canine ear infection remedy we were using it for, our collection of users discovered it cures excema, mosquito bites, poison ivy rash, acne, hives, shyness and even makes a nice vinaigrette. Problem is, it’s hard to get the Mexican Cream unless you’re in Mexico. I was having friends mule large quantities across the border for me every time they vacationed.

After a while I felt like my requests were a bit of an imposition so, like the moron I know myself to be, I started searching the web for sites to purchase the medicinal elixir. I discovered that you can’t just purchase International drugs off the internet no matter how benign the compound may be. This is why there are tunnels, false bottomed trucks, stealth airplanes, and highly paid drug runners. What isn’t prevented from happening is the solicitation to try and purchase said chemicals after looking at a Farmacia site on the web.

So now, I am not only popular with the marketing departments of Sears, Crate and Barrel, and Oriental Trading Company, but I also am interesting to Farmacia Mexicana. I love my newfound international intrigue.

The Illusion of Stimulus

Monday, February 9, 2009

With all the billions of cash ready to be dumped into the system one needs to question... where is the cash coming from? Was it tucked under the White House mattresses? Squirreled away in faux soup cans in the pantries of the DC elite? Apparently like some David Copperfield illusion we’re just going to make it appear.

I was levitated by David Copperfield in 1986. Called up on stage as the pre-arranged lightweight audience member who would fit on the levitation apparatus. David danced starry-eyed me around the stage till I was not only dazed with the headiness of being in front of an audience, I was dizzy from the twirling. He laid me on the suspension board, leaned over and as he kissed my cheek whispered “Don’t move or you will fall.” He then proceeded to do a solo dance I could only catch out of the corner of my eye.

In my disoriented state he proceeded with the illusion of levitating me, knocking the supports out from under the board, passing a glitzy hoola hoop around my body. To this day I have no idea how he did it, but also to this day, I’m glad the illusion was a success.

While I had no idea how Copperfield’s trick would come out, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t fall. I’m not so sure Congress’ trick is going to turn out such good results. As I watch home after home around me foreclose. As I hear the challenges of my friends and neighbors and the powerful impact the downturn in the economy is having I feel a little disoriented.

Certainly I’m no economist, but there seems to be a lot of starry eyed hope in the path we’re pursuing. Americans on the whole are an industrious people. There is something in most of us that values work and connects that those willing to risk should also be able to attain a reward. Seems we’re moving toward a state that wants to remove all of that.

As Congress proceeds to knock the supports out from under our board, devaluing the dollar in the process. I think too many of us are obediently lying still so we don’t fall. It will be a grand trick if it works. The only way it will work is if it puts more of us back to work.



Friday, February 6, 2009

Due to the aforementioned plague, I lost my voice. Not the kind of ‘lost my voice’ I’ve endured before where my voice merely sounded like I was Peter Brady going through puberty. No, this time it was completely gone. If I took unbearably large breaths I could make a few audible squeaks, but this required the lung capacity of a professional tubaist, which I am not. So mostly I fell silent.

The kids loved it. Suddenly they had a valid excuse for not hearing me. Their dreams had come true. Fortunately, I have seen the Sound of Music a few times and quickly adopted the communication style of Captain Von Trapp. Whistling for each of the kids with numerical blasts representative of their birth order. This new summons also brought soldier-like efficiency. After a few short blasts one of the kids would immediately appear. It was like magic.

I’ve got a few friends who struggle with their voices. One gets botox injections in the vocal cords to alleviate her malady. All I can say is after going through a day not being able to make a sound, I can see why someone would endure such treatment. Though it would take a bit of bravery to sit still for the injection.

I’m pretty sure my symptom is merely the celestial suggestion that I just shut up for a while. Normally my brain operates like a humming bird on speed. My mouth is often close behind. Nothing useful unfortunately. If I had put my mental energy to use, I might have a few patents right now, cured a disease or at least cleaned up my office. All I’ve got to show for it are bags under my eyes and a a notebook of Seussical diagrams.

But this recent quiet has caused me to reflect a little. One of my favorite (albeit ignored) scriptures is “Be still, and know that I am God.” Ps 46:10 There is something powerful in stillness. Yet I rarely engage in it unless I’m in yoga class or church. I always enjoy it and then blather on with my day.

This disease imposed stillness has left me isolated, frustrated, resigned and ultimately peaceful. I’ve found this cycle is the way I deal with most of my life, and if I would voluntarily be a little more still I am confident I would get to ‘peaceful’ a lot faster.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

I was recently hit by a virulent plague. Likely my exposure to this uber toxin came while volunteering at my kids school. It’s a cesspool of bacteria. I honestly don’t know how the brave teachers survive day in and day out in the trenches.

I help kids with concepts they are struggling with. Obviously we need to work on basic hygiene along with telling time. Last week a parade of begrimed urchins sat one by one at my table. One mucus encrusted kid wanted to borrow my pencil. Another one hacked at me hard enough I think part of his spleen came up. One kid had a mysterious rash that he insisted “didn’t itch anymore.” I have long held the opinion that all kids are gross, especially my own, but this episode pushed me to my limit.

After departing the campus I doused my entire body in hand sanitizer, scrubbing with clorox wipes. I used a bottle brush swathed in dishwashing detergent to clean my throat. All to no avail. The scourge had already defiled me. There was no antidote.

Within days I was displaying symptoms. Unfortunately I can’t get anyone to pay attention to me. On the verge of death, while I was moaning at the dinner table my youngest says to everyone, mom sounds like she really likes her dinner. While I was coughing incessantly my husband asks me to turn up the TV so he can hear. It didn’t matter that I was driving the carpool looking like a zombie. While the teenage passengers notice every detail of each other’s outfits they look beyond my uncharacteristic mumu and toilet paper hanging out of my nose. Only the parking lot attendant gave me a second look.

This is why I have a dog, he notices me. He brings me little get-well gifts like half chewed stuffed animals, soggy rawhide treats and dirty socks. Gets nose to nose with me as I lay passed out in bed and belches in my face to confirm I’m alive. When I lay on the bathroom floor puking my guts out...who was there? The dog. Granted, he didn’t hold my hair back but there is something to be said for a soul who can’t be grossed out.

Fear not! I will survive. Soon to re-enter the land of the living, or at least the land of the recently showered. And my family might even notice...

Thank you to my readers who have been following my little blog. I got a few e-mails yesterday sharing that some of you have been reading daily (wow) but unable to post your comments. I wish I were technologically savvy enough to help because I absolutely love the feedback. Unfortunately, I can barely operate my cell phone and only recently got a microwave so I'm of no help to you.

Scott "encouraged" me to set this up and I have enjoyed it immensely. Thank you so much for reading my musings, and for taking the time to e-mail me your feedback. This process makes my world a more wonderful place.

The Gold Standard

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

In 1989 I had the opportunity to travel to the Soviet Union. It was a powerful experience that opened my eyes so many of the blessings of America. Blessings I was too nineteen to notice.

While strolling the Moscow streets I met another teen named Andrei. Andrei offered to be a tour guide of sorts and took me around his beleaguered city showing me a kaleidoscope of empty stores with no goods, gilded subways you could ride for a kopek - the equivalent of 1/4 of a penny, delapedated churches, and the stores open only to foreign currency brimming with wares.

Being a teenager, Andrei was fascinated with these stores he was not allowed to enter. I had a golden ticket; I could flash dollars to gain admittance. Like some sort of VIP I was able to get my newfound friend into this exclusive shop. With some of my souvenir money I purchased some food for his family and a roll of tape. It was an awkward exchange for which he was profoundly grateful.

Later I shared lunch with his generous family. There were three generations living in a one room apartment. We enjoyed a lovely afternoon communicating in broken Russian, English and proficient Charades - the universal language. There is something fantastically bonding seeing Babushka Irina, around 90 years old, gesticulating wildly at me to ask if I wanted more sausage.

Andrei and his brother regaled us all with their teen rendition of the Beatles’ “Yesterday.” I’m expert at getting the lyrics wrong but couldn’t contain my giggles when they sincerely began “Yesterday, all my bubbles seemed to fly away!” I don’t know the word for ‘bubbles’ in Russian and couldn’t translate their mondegreen. To this day, I still vividly picture two teens intently strumming as their bubbles flew away wherever I hear the song.

As I gathered to leave, Andrei and his family thanked me for the food. I had asked many naive questions about their economy that day. It was all summed up in the parting scene. Walking down the short hallway with the entire family in tow, Andrei opened up a small hall closet. Inside it was stuffed to the ceiling with boxes. He pulled out a box and opened it for me. Peering in I was surprised to find it was full of money. He motioned to all the the boxes and explained they were all full of money.

This modest family had plenty of money. Money coming out of their ears. Thanks to the government, the money had no value. After this week, I wonder how long until I’m showing someone my closet of money. Yesterday, all my bubbles seemed to fly away...

The Re-Gift

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A few birthdays ago I received an odd gift from a friend I don’t see too often. When my friend realized she had missed my birthday she rummaged around her house and then presented this little peach colored book. She explained that she had recently received it from one of her friends, that she hadn’t read it, and didn’t know what it was about but wanted to give it to me for my birthday. Right in front of me she opened the cover, crossed out the sentiments from the original giver and re-dedicated it to me.

Needless to say, I was unimpressed with the “gift”.

When I brought it home, I tossed it aside completely unmotivated to peruse its pages. My husband picked it up because it looked like a quick read. I distinctly remember rolling over late one night, well morning actually, to see him still reading the little book. My husband doesn’t give up his sleep easily and as he closed the pages of the re-gift book he proclaimed it one of the best books he has ever read.

I perked up a little about the gift. Even though it was not originally intended for me, I certainly love a good book. I immediately delved in to its pages. The opening lines revealed the main character, a man who was in an unhappy marriage. Wait a second! Best book he’s ever read? What’s my husband trying to tell me??? I exude bliss so how could he possibly relate to this miserable man?

Continuing with the book I too related with the man. Not because of the bad marriage, but because of the humanity captured in the book. Sometimes talented people portray the human experience with such insight and inspiration it speaks to our souls. This little book certainly spoke to mine, and it’s not too much to say it changed my life. I reread it a couple of times each year.

There is a host of things I have learned from this seemingly insignificant interchange. One of the most influential is the realization that the “gift” was not found in the giving - but in the receiving. After this experience, I have tried to be a better receiver. It has made all the difference.


Monday, February 2, 2009

I can’t be a fan. Watching the Super Bowl I felt both exultation and wanted to vomit. Jumping around the room , throwing things at the television, the interceptions, the 101 yard returns, safeties, I just can’t take it. How can I love so deeply and hate so fiercely a bunch of men I’ll never meet. Stupid football.

This behavior is usually confined to the privacy of my own home. My real challenge comes in watching my kids play sports. My son is in a basketball league that has some cooky rules. In the name of skill development, players can’t steal, block shots, or play any defense except stand there with their hands straight in the air. If they bend forward even slightly the other team gets a point. It’s stupid.

So this weekend, in a tied, overtime, sudden death game our team gets stolen from, off the dribble. No call. Sitting in the stands surrounded by parents from the other team I go ballistic. My husband immediately reaches over with his his hand and palms my face, effectively muzzling me and causing me to flail my arms wildly. He’s had to do this before and has become quite adept with practice.

The final play was a penalty, called on my son, for using his hands to block a shot. The other team gets the penalty point and wins the game. My kid runs out of the gym shedding little man tears, bypassing the snack mom, believing he singlehandedly lost the game. I’m torn. Do I catch up with my son to comfort him or do I go “mama bear” on the inept, underpaid, probably volunteer ref. You know where this is going.

Scott sees it too... he palms me again, and with his other hand lifts me by my waistband and carries me from the gym. Arms and legs flailing, not being able to speak or walk, I have time for reflection and to cool off. Once in the car I return to normal mom mode and comfort my little superstar. As we drive from the parking lot, my husband yells out the window “Thanks ref. Good game!” He meant it. He really is that mature.

Stupid good sportsmanship.

Trust Me, You Don't Want Fair

Sunday, February 1, 2009

I often feel bad for my children. While I believe in a pre-existent state prior to this earth life, I am not so sure we were agents in choosing the details of our current lives. I’m pretty confident if that were the case my kids would not have picked my family to come to.

They may have chosen my husband, but I suffer from a particularly deviant from of parenting style evolved from the recognition that while ‘love and respect’ are noble foundations for parental philosophies, fear really brings quicker results. I learned this from my own childhood. For example: when I was a preschooler I gave my mother fits about getting dressed in the mornings. Not an uncommon parent/child impasse, yet my mother’s solution has resonated through the generations.

Fed up with my stubbornness, she packed my clothing in a paper bag, drove to the curbside drop off where most parents lovingly kissed their children tenderly sending them off for the day. I was deposited in my underwear in the drop off line as my mother burned rubber as she sped away in the Pinto. I don’t care how young you are, having Todd Maruca see your underwear is a horror no child should have to endure.

The power in my mother’s solution is my children know that if my mom was brash enough to pull a parenting stunt like this, then of course their mom would do it too - and likely worse. My children are rarely dressed in clothes that match, but they are always dressed.

It has been tremendously effective to have my kids understand that my side of the family carries a special kind of crazy gene. They are always a little on edge when the punishment comes from me. My husband is fantastically rational. He’s steady, predictable and fair. They run to him for their consequences.

I on the other hand chase after them with things like: if my toddler won’t stay in her bed, then of course she should lose the privilege of having a bed. It went in the garage. She slept on the box springs with a doll blanket. Or... if a second grader is complaining that life isn’t “fair” then of course I would do everything in my power to make it fair. Removing every item from her possession she owned that her younger siblings didn’t own. Sad for her they were still in diapers and didn’t own any underwear.

Squabble in the car: I’ve pulled over on the side of the road and made them walk. Won't use your table manners? I’ve put their dishes on the floor and made them eat like dogs. As a consequence they are fantastically obedient. I really should get an award.

Miraculously, they still like to be with me, even like me. And as an added bonus, whenever we’re out in public they know better than to mess with me... they never know what I’ll do.