Friday, December 21, 2012

The Boy Who Wanted To Marry Me


Several months ago, I wrote a couple of posts – here and here – about men who restored my faith in, well, men. In those posts, I explained that I’ve had doubts in the past about men’s innate ability to love… like truly, madly, deeply (great movie, by the way) love. L.O.V.E. Oddly, these doubts have never extended to random, select men in my life, such as my dad or my husband or my Papi or Stanley Tucci.

Anyway, despite the revelations that prompted the posts earlier this year, I’ve been having a little crisis lately where my doubts have come creeping back in. It’s completely unfair. It’s heartless of me (there’s irony for you). There’s no reason for such a judgment.

This all was weighing on me until earlier today. Then… I remembered Dominick. Ah, Dominick, my romance from my last two summers of high school and the first man to ask me to marry him.

If my best friend or my sister or my mom read this, they’ll shake their heads in that way we women do when we’re feeling simultaneously exasperated and nostalgic. But they’ll hopefully also remember what an amazing young man Dominick was back then.

Dominick lived not far from Yonkers, I lived in southwestern Connecticut, and we met at the Jersey Shore. We hung out in a large group of kids from around the tri-state area who had gravitated toward each other upon arrival at the beach and who were relatively inseparable for the brief time we all spent at the Shore each summer.

Somehow, among all of these kids and all of the fun and craziness and distractions, Dominick was interested in me. Me! And boy did I like him. He was tall and lanky with the most beautiful smile and a sweet, tender blue-eyed gaze that simply emanated kindness. It was that kindness, that genuine consideration for others, that drew me to him. He was athletic and fun and a teenager through and through, but he also was sweet and gentle and caring beyond words. I was crushy beyond crushy. Serious puppy love. I was distraught when it was time to return home and beside-myself-excited when we returned to the Shore the next summer to find him and the rest of our crew already there and looking for us.

What I forgot about Dominick until this morning was that he asked me to marry him. It wasn’t a joke. It wasn’t a “Someday I’m going to marry you.” It was an honest-to-goodness proposal of marriage. True, there was no ring involved, and the question was asked by phone, but he really did ask me to marry him when I was 17 and he was 18 (or was he 19?).
The ring I did not receive. Or have offered. Or ever see in real life.

Why, you may ask, would this simple act by a boy – because he really was more boy than man still – restore my faith in men?  There are a few reasons. First, more than the proposal itself, the memory of Dominick reminded me of what a beautiful soul that boy was, how selfless and thoughtful. Second, despite your initial thoughts about why a boy would propose marriage – yes, I can read your mind – there was no underlying motivation of the get-in-your-pants nature driving this.  Dominick proposed to me in winter, when we weren’t at the Shore. He lived at least an hour from me, and I wasn’t allowed to drive out of state to visit or meet up with him, so I pretty much never saw him aside from the week or two we would spend near Seaside Heights. So proposal or no proposal, he wasn’t gettin’ any. And… my family wasn’t scheduled to go back to the Shore the following summer. Finally, when I told Dominick I couldn’t marry him because I wanted to go to college, he offered to come with me and support me in whatever dream I wanted to pursue.  

Dominick and I stayed in touch here and there until I left for college, and then we fell out of touch for good.  For years, I kept a photo of him in my wallet (remember when we used to do that sort of thing?). When I was sad or lonely or stressed, I would look at his sweet face and would feel a sense of calm knowing someone so kind-hearted was out there in the world. Then, at some point the photo disappeared. Years later, my mother saw Dominick in a magazine article featuring his wife, who apparently is brilliant, and we were simply thrilled to see him looking well and happy.

So now it’s midnight, and tomorrow the world is supposed to end, according to several misinterpretations of the Mayan calendar. And if the world truly does end, at least I can feel some sense of relief that my faith in men has yet again been restored thanks to that boy who long ago offered to follow me anywhere, who told me he wanted to spend his life with me, and who made me feel truly, madly, deeply loved.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Don't Shoot! I'll Go To Texas!

I apologize for being so absent in recent weeks.  While I would love tonight's post to be something insightful or witty, it's simply a retelling of the conversation the tinies and I had on the way home from school.  If you have a job, have ever had a job or simply know what having a job is all about - or if you are obsessed with pizza (as am I) - hopefully this will bring a smile to your face:

Ballerina (4):  Why do you always have to go away to work in places so far away like Texas and California and Dallas and Texas?
Me:  Because some of the people I work with are there, and I need to go see them.
Ballerina:  But what happens if you tell them no and you won't go?
Me:  Well... I suppose I'd get fired.
Ballerina:  *aghast* You'd get what???
Me:  Um... fired?
Ballerina:  Like ready, aim, fire?  They'd shoot you for not going to Texas???

"Whaddya mean you won't go to Texas?! Them's fightin' words. Draw!"
Me:  No, no, no, baby girl.  *snicker* *cough*  I would lose my job.  "Get fired" means to lose your job.
Ballerina:  Oh.  Is that bad if you lose your job?
Me:  Well, if I don't have a job, then we won't have money.  And we have to have money to buy stuff we need.
Ballerina:  So we need to have money so we can sell money for things like food?
Me:  ... Sure. Yes.
Ballerina:  And we need to have money so we can sell money to stay in our house?
Me:  Yes.
Ballerina:  Wow. [contemplates a moment]  You need your job, Mommy, because if we can't have money to sell money to live in our house then the dog will be all by herself and she'll be lonely and who will feed her?
Me:  Let's not find out.
Bear (6):  Yeah, and we need money for pizza.  Because if you couldn't order pizza, Mommy, someone else would end up fired.
Me:  .....

Friday, November 2, 2012

Why, New York Marathon, Why


Among the other brouhahas that are being stirred up because the immense impact of Superstorm Sandy and the fact that it is almost impossible to prepare adequately for a situation such as this – especially when the situation is literally unprecedented in almost every way –the organizers of the New York Marathon, with the support of New York’s mayor, have decided to move forward with their event this coming Sunday, mere days after the onslaught of the storm. Reasons cited for moving forward with this huge and usually-well-loved event include bringing much-needed dollars into the area and holding an event that can serve as an emotional salve, something to rally behind and cheer on. Yay Runners!  Sandy knocked us down but couldn’t alter our annual big event!

As a runner, someone who adores distance events and someone who absolutely embraces the positive impact of trying to get some “normal” back after a tragedy – and make no mistake, this storm qualifies as a tragedy – it is my opinion that this decision to hold the race is severely misguided.

Right now, as I type this, people are suffering.  The fortunate ones are in a state of bewilderment.  Those less fortunate, of whom there are far too many still, have no power or heat, little or no food, few clothes, little or no water, little or no fuel for their cars or generators.  In too many cases, people’s homes are in chaos or are damaged.  In too many cases, people’s homes are destroyed or are simply gone.  In too many cases, people have lost loves ones.  All of this loss is fresh, is too recent or is current and raw.  People are not in any kind of emotional state to “rally” behind a mass of people running through their streets.  They need basic services.

Let me put it a different way.  Do you know how much preparation and how many resources go into putting on a race?  Just at a high level, there are thousands of police, firefighters and EMTs along the course and at the ready.  There are hundreds of buses set up (and the fuel to run them).  There are mobile command centers with generators (and the fuel to run them), heat, power and access to the world beyond the immediate vicinity.  There are water and sports drinks and mounds of post-race food.  There are those “space blankets” they hand out post-race.

All that being said, connect the dots here.  Think about the power and impact of redirecting all of those resources where they’re needed – among the residents of the hardest hit areas. 

  • Buses – Imagine the frustration, the outright ire, you would feel if you couldn’t get your basic necessities but you knew that people were making the effort to secure local transportation to get people to a starting line so they could run together.  Because while a marathon is a huge accomplishment, in the end, it is people running together. In a group. By choice.  It is not an emergency.  What’s happening in the neighborhoods is an emergency.  Use the buses to transport food, water, blankets, medical supplies and personnel, and other needed goods and individuals to areas in most need.  If roads are impassable at a certain point, coordinate a hand-off point with the authorities. 
  • Fuel – Simply by NOT busing runners around, just that much more fuel will be available for residents in the area who already have to line up for hours just to fill up the car or get fuel for the generator.
  • Food and Water – On the Today Show this morning, residents in Staten Island were shown dumpster diving for food.  One might argue that these individuals, who probably prepared for a day or two without power rather than a week or more without power, transportation or access to fresh supplies, might be in more dire need of bagels, bananas and bottled water than a visiting, likely-well-fed runner who has access to all of these items at home.
  • Authorities – The mayor and the race organizers have stated that no authorities will be diverted from relief efforts for this race.  And yet it takes thousands of authorities to support the race.  I would argue that in the dire situation facing so many in the New York/New Jersey area right now, any authority not helping is hurting. 
  • Helping Hands – With so many runners already in town, imagine the manpower available to help distribute goods and services where they are needed.  Has anyone asked them how they would feel about cancelling the run and using their energy for a good cause?  I bet the response would be overwhelmingly positive.  Disappointed… but positive as well.


It’s probably too late now to change anything.  Then again, a slew of music stars have pulled together a benefit concert within a matter of the last few days and have managed to get it televised tonight.  With some focus and determination… anything is possible.  Right?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Little Things, from The Little People

The last several days can only be described as a pile of stress. Between friend "stuff", work "stuff", family "stuff" and trying to get ready for Halloween, things are abnormally abnormal. That's saying a lot in my existence. On top of that, a historic storm bearing my mother-in-law's name -- so much opportunity for humor if she was a stereotypical mother-in-law... darn it -- just did serious damage to my childhood hometown in Connecticut  plus devastated Seaside Heights, New Jersey where my family spent a few weeks each summer. B***h of a storm attacked my youth.

My stressy time clearly doesn't hold a candle to what others are going through right now, so it feels selfish to feel stressed. But the stress is there, and what is it that they say?.. You can't fix the problem if you don't acknowledge there IS a problem. Or something like that. Likely something pithier or more clever.

Watching my kids tonight, I realized that they hold the key to getting a handle on serenity. It's NOT that they epitomize serenity personified -- no, they are more "this is what 5-Hour Energy would look like as tiny humans" -- but their outlook and actions hold the keys to bringing life back into balance.

Without further ado, here are lessons from them regarding what to do to reestablish bliss... these all came from a single evening:
  • Hug everyone good-bye. Everyone. Every. One.
  • If you don't get your way the first time you ask, keep asking. Several times.
  • Chat up everyone you encounter. Be sure to introduce them to everyone you are with, including sharing everyone's ages, birthdays, address and phone numbers. It's friendly.
  • Walk up to someone you like and sit in their lap, then cuddle up to them. Without asking.
  • Challenge people to impromptu foot races. In the hallway. Naked.
  • If the urge hits you, grab someone's face with both hands and kiss them. And then do it again. Then follow up with an Eskimo kiss, a butterfly kiss and an upside down kiss for good measure.
  • Find your passion and then give it your all, even if your passion is battling fancy tops (beyblades).
  • Close your eyes, extend your arms, and spin and spin and spin. Because it's fun.
  • Tell someone you love the following, verbatim: "I need to tell you something. I need to tell you something. Hey. Hey. Are you... Hey... Are you hearing me? Hey, so um... This is important. Ready?... 'Kay... I really love you. A lot."
Try it. Report back. Now... Go.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Artist

The children in my daughter's pre-K class were given large pieces of paper with blank "heads" printed on them and were asked to draw a picture of one of their parents.  Below is the picture my daughter drew of me.

Key points of note:

  • I do have brown hair in reality, but it is long (way way way too long, cannot wait to chop it off). Not only this, but my daughter is partial to long hair. She drew me with a rockin' pixie 'do that I would love, but I don't have the delicate features to pull it off. My daughter accidentally referring to me as "Daddy" or to my husband as "Mommy" on occasion is taking on a whole new relevance now.
  • Damn, I have one heck of a big smile! I knew I was a happy person, but wow. Apparently I need to consider a new profession of "bringer-of-joy."
  • My real eyes are brown.  I promise you, I am not a Twilight vampire.
  • I assume those are earrings that she drew in my ears.  I do not constantly wear earplugs.  Hm... constantly wear earplugs... interesting idea...
  • Also, in reference to the cheek dots and circular blue nose, I do not walk around my house in full clown make-up.  Hm... walk around in full clown make-up... interesting idea...
  • And finally:  I'm not entirely certain what those yellow appendages are that are sticking out of my neck. Frankenstein bolts? Rays of sunshine and sweetness? A visual representation of the pleasing ginger aroma emanating from my neck when I wear my favorite scent? Creepy elf arms reaching around to strangle me in my sleep?

Truth be told, I love that she drew me, even though this has brought into stark light that she may need glasses.  Or not.  I like how she sees the world.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Even When You're Dead


I was speaking to my first grader about his day at school as we made the short drive to pick up my daughter from pre-K. I asked him the simple question, “What was your favorite part of the day?” to which he answered something about enjoying lunchtime.  A quiet minute passed – no more than that – and then the following conversation ensued.

Bear:  “Mom, when you’re dead, remember these good times that we had. Because these are the good times, and you need to know that I’ll always love you forever and forever. Even when you’re dead.”

Me:  “Um… thank you? I think?”

Bear:  “And you know, I’m always with you, wherever you are. Even when we’re apart, I’m with you.”

Me:  “That’s sweet, honey. And I’m always with you.”

Bear:  “I know, Mommy. Even when you’re dead.”

I’m trying to focus on the good in this.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Why I Shouldn't Be Allowed to Raise Children

My first grader is learning about the wide variety of nouns in our grammatical repertoire: common nouns, pronouns, proper nouns... and today, plural nouns. With that as your backdrop...

Bear:  There are special ways to make certain plural nouns.

Me:  Oh? Such as...?

Bear:  Well, if you have a baby and you want to make babies, you take away the y and add ies.

Me [what I really said]:  That's right!

Me [what I wanted to say]:  If you already have a baby and you want to make more babies, you should know that grammar has nothing to do with it.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Still Reeling


I apologize ahead of time that this post is a little lengthier than most that I write. However, it’s imperative that I tell today’s story correctly rather than focus on keeping it especially concise.

Originally, I’d intended to break my recent hiatus from posting with a fun little piece about Halloween costumes. As fate would have it, that post will have to be delayed.

Let me start this by setting the stage a little bit. My son’s hero of all heroes is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. When we visited the King Center this past January on Martin Luther King, Jr Day, my little Bear didn’t want to leave first the museum and then the memorial. He wanted to commune with Dr. King all day. On a recent trip to Washington, DC, Bear didn’t want to leave Dr. King’s statue, and he made it a point to read aloud every single quote inscribed along the long wall of the memorial. As Bear’s mom, I am proud beyond words.

As for my daughter, Ballerina, she isn’t quite old enough yet to understand these matters and historic struggles for civil rights. However, from her friendships and from the discussions we do have with her, it’s clear that she would be baffled by someone disliking or excluding someone based on a physical trait.

Yes, my husband and I talk to the kids about these issues, in children’s terms. We ask them if they feel that any skin color or hair tone or eye hue is better than another, and when they answer no, we make sure to ask them why so that they solidify this belief in their hearts as completely as possible.

With this as the backdrop and as a reflection of how my husband and I feel about discrimination of any kind, I will tell you about today.

This afternoon, while my husband took my kids on errands, I took off on my weekly long run. I expected a relatively uneventful, if slower than usual due to humidity, 8-mile run. Because of the length of the run, I started listening to a novel on my iTunes to pass the time.

A little over 3 miles along the trail, I came upon a detour sign and a loose mesh fence blocking the arm of the trail I usually follow. Being curious, and figuring I could just turn around at any sign of real danger, I went around the detour and continued on another tenth of a mile or so until I reached the spot where the trail passes under a road. Signs indicated that until early October the city is doing water line construction, so the portion of the trail under the road is closed.

I have a small fear of underpasses, so I decided not to risk going under. The thing is, this underpass is relatively new. The trail used to wind along another tenth or so of a mile up to the road itself, where a runner, walker, cyclist, etc., using the trail had to wait for a walk light to cross the street to the trailhead at the other side. I felt adventurous and decided to follow the old trail up and over the road.

Just as I was about to continue along, a slightly older couple on bicycles happened along – apparently, like me, they considered the detour sign to be more of a suggestion than a rule. We all spoke for a couple of minutes, and they decided to follow me up the old trail. For the sake of clarity in the story, let me state that this couple was African-American. The necessity of this description will be clear in a moment.

We approached the road, and as we arrived at the spot where the final turn up to the road used to be, we discovered that last length of connecting sidewalk had been removed and trees and shrubs planted along the strip where the paved trail had been, effectively blocking the easiest rise to the road. What was left was a very steep, grassy rise straight in front of us of about twenty or twenty-five feet up to the roadside sidewalk.

The man of the couple and I carefully worked to pull the bicycles up the rise, and when all was secure, the woman gingerly made her way up as well. Did I mention it was steep? It was really steep. I was impressed that they climbed up, and in such good spirits! They didn’t complain about this obstacle. They didn’t wince at the climb. They took it in stride and laughed almost the whole time.

I was just telling them that I’d lead them to the trailhead across the street, when a small, white SUV passed, filled with young men or teenagers – they went by so quickly, I couldn’t tell – and the most hateful word in the English language was screamed out the car window at our little group.

You know the word I’m talking about.

There’s no way you don’t.

I refuse to type it.

Like most people, I can write things and type things that I’d be embarrassed or even mortified to say out loud. But this… I don’t want any effort of mine to produce this word. But you know it.

Of course I have encountered this word numerous times in my life. In movies. On news reels. In history lessons. On talk shows. In philosophical discussions. But I have never encountered it flung as an invective at me or at people I’m with. This is a new experience for me. And hey, I’m Irish with a temper that matches the stereotype; I get furious enough just hearing about this word being used. Hearing it marring the air around me and directed at people in my proximity performed the miracle of simultaneously stopping my heart and sending my blood pressure skyward.

I heard myself yell some impotent remark at the boys as they drove off; what I really was thinking was, “What I wouldn’t give right now for a baseball bat and a red light.” Of course, violence against these fools – or at least against their vehicle – would have accomplished all of nothing, but it was the first response that came into my head, and I felt it through my gut and along every nerve ending.

The man of the bicycle riding couple looked at with me, and with his unwavering smile still brightening his face, he asked, “What did they say?”  I looked at him for a moment to determine if he was only pretending not to have heard… to try to spare me? to spare me what? embarrassment? to spare himself embarrassment? to sweep away anger and not let someone else’s idiocy ruin the day? 

Either way, I said, “I’d rather not say. Let’s move on. The trailhead’s right across the road.” I gave the couple what I hoped was a warm smile that didn’t reflect how shaky I felt inside, and we continued up the sidewalk, chatting about the area and the trails.

The rest of my run was pretty terrible. I turned off the audible book; I wasn’t listening any longer to anything but the thoughts raging through my mind. I tried to grab hold of my anger and leverage it to drive me forward, but the shock of that word and the hatred it reflects invading the day deflated my motivation and killed my energy. And I wasn’t even the object against whom the word truly was flung. Fortunately, the couple who were the targets either didn’t catch what was yelled or were able to rise above it.

To everyone who ever has fought hatred without turning to hatred themselves… my respect, which always has been tremendous beyond description, somehow managed to increase a hundredfold today.

I’m not naïve enough to believe that people don’t still use the awful word that was yelled today. I’m not Pollyanna enough to think that racism is dead. But I like to believe that it’s becoming increasingly shameful and unacceptable. I like to think that people “out there” are becoming increasingly aware that varying skin tones and ethnicities should be appreciated and embraced, not hated and feared.  I like to believe that parents are teaching their children to be a better generation than ours and the ones before.

Ultimately, I refuse to let today kill my spirit, but it’s going to affect me for the long haul. What I experienced was so insanely minor compared to what others have had to experience and continue to experience today. And yet it was so powerful, that one word, that one moment. It was a perspective changer.

Even so, to those who tease me about being a bit of an idealist in my view of the world… no, this won’t make me less of one. I continue to be realistic about the world as it is, but I also refuse to stop being idealistic about how I want the world to be. Because being an idealist requires a person to have and strive for ideals. And if people don’t have ideals they firmly believe in and want to strive for, how will anyone ever make a difference… how will they ever make this world a better place?

As long as young men like the ones from today are out there, the world needs to be made better. I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do about it, but I’m working on it. I’m doing my best to ensure that my children not only think differently than these young men but that they also are passionate enough about their beliefs to stand up for them.  I’m encouraging my son’s choice of hero, because not only did Dr. King make a difference but he did so with a focus on peace, education, love and non-violence. Focusing my efforts on my children may be the equivalent of a drop in the bucket, but there are millions of us out there, and if all of us would contribute a drop, the result wouldn’t be just a full bucket… but a flood.

How about you? What are you doing to make the world a better place?

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Crash and The Gear


My husband’s cousin is an avid bike expert. He works on them as his trade. He rides. He maintains. He upgrades. He knows his stuff and he is fortunate to work in a job where he can share and leverage his passion.

He also is passionate about safety. Thank heaven for that. His dedication to safety paid off recently. Below is what he shared, in his own words. It’s more powerful than anything I could write.  I want to share this with you all, in case you ride or know someone who does.

“If you know me and my riding etiquette, you know I'm over-prepared for the worst to happen by wearing all my riding gear and having crash protection. 

Well, the inevitable happened Tuesday night on my ride home after work... I was turned into by a negligent driver of a Honda minivan, who not only failed to use his turn signal, but also failed to yield at the right of way. I was hit on the right side near the rear of my bike, spun 180° and ejected from my bike.

I tumbled 3 or 4 times but popped right back up on my feet. My helmet took a fair amount of the possible damage, my riding jacket had some scuffs, my jeans took most of the abrasions damage and left me without any asphalt under my skin.

From what I was told by the trooper as he delivered the crash report to me, the minivan driver contested with both [highway patrol] and [local] Sheriffs that he was not at fault, but both found him in the wrong being in the outside lane of the roundabout and turning left into me. He never even bothered to see if I was ok at the scene of the crash.

I was taken to the Hospital via ambulance on a stretcher to make sure there were no injuries to my back or neck. After about 25 x-rays of various areas, there were no other broken bones than my left thumb and my right ring finger. I also had a few bruises on my knees and a sprained right ankle. I also picked up the nickname "Superman" from the nursing staff, lol.

I cannot stress how lucky I was and glad I made the promise to always wear my riding gear, because I could have been in far worse shape than I was. I have yet to see my bike after the crash, but it will either be fully repaired or replaced with extra for the modifications done. I will also get brand new replacement riding gear from helmet to boots.”
Giving a temporarily permanent thumbs-up while creepy panda looks on.

Enough said. Peace out.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Space Invaders


You know how some people don’t seem to grasp the concept of personal space? The colleague who leans right into your face while laughing at his own joke or making a point… the relative who stands micrometers from you while catching up with you over the holidays, the easier for you to breathe in the wine breath fumes… the person in the convenience store line who seems to feel that if the front of their shirt lightly brushes the back of yours, it will get them to the checkout counter faster.

My most recent interaction with a Personal Space Invader happened in the TSA line at the beginning of my most recent business trip. The line wasn’t long. People were being moved through at a decent clip. The woman behind me didn’t seem to be in a particular rush. Yet she clearly felt the need to stick close to me. Quite close. Arm constantly brushing my back close. Breath on my shoulder close. Oh yes. Yes she did.

In response, I found myself standing more and more like a superhero. Legs wide. Hands on hips, elbows jutting out at my sides. I was a moving, walking, welcome-and-comfort-free-zone.

My superhero stance - my vantage - with Personal Space Invader's toes visible at left. Bear in mind, I have short legs. My stance, with normal size legs, would be maybe 7 feet wide. 
How I envision I looked to others in the TSA line. (image c/o gossiprocks.com)

Probably closer to how I really looked to others in line. Sans truth lasso.
Of course, as each person made his or her way past the TSA agent, the line would move. And Personal Space Invader and I would move with it. She, trying to edge closer. Me, with my hands remaining firmly on my hips, taking large, stiff steps. People must have wondered if I had a back or hip condition.

Fortunately, after being granted access to the gates by the TSA agent, Personal Space Invader chose a different scanner line than the one where I was. But for a brief moment in time, she was mine. My Personal Space Invader. (I think there’s a song waiting to be written about this…)



                                                         

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Love Is (NOT) A Battlefield... AKA: 6-Year-Old Wisdom


The kids and I were driving around with the radio on, belting out current sugar-pop hits like “What Makes You Beautiful” when the classic 80s Pat Benatar song “Love Is A Battlefield” came on. 

Seizing the opportunity to enhance my children’s repertoire of music's best decade ever, I turned the volume up to bad-for-eardrums-but-not-loud-enough-for-the-permanent-damage-to-be-obvious-for-several-years-yet.

To their credit – and to my great pride – the kids loved it.
                                    

The song ended, and this was the conversation that ensued:

Bear:  That song is called “Love is a Battlefield?”
Me:  Yes.
Bear:  Well, love isn’t a battlefield for me.
Me:  What do you mean?
Bear:  The song is saying that it’s hard to decide who you’re supposed to love. But that’s not the way it is for me.
Me:  It’s not hard for you?
Bear:  Nope. It’s easy. I met G and I thought she was beautiful. And I knew I loved her. And that’s that.

Bear just turned 6.  G, who will be 5 soon, has been Bear’s “girlfriend” for almost 2 years now.  They say the ability to commit is something that comes with age and maturity...


As Forest Gump would state, "That's all I have to say about that."  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Milk and Cookies


When I was pregnant with my little ones, and for quite a while after they were born, I would bake myself a couple of fresh chocolate chip cookies every single night and eat them along with a cold glass of milk. *sigh*  Few things in life are as delicious or as comforting.

Thank you, Nestle Toll House.
It’s been a rough week, what with our ongoing battle against lice, so this evening, I indulged.  And it was good. So good.

As you can see, tonight’s cookies were served on fine Wall-E ware. Yes, we are bastions of high style here. (Ooh! Ooh! Name the movie: “Why don’t you do what you dream, Bastian?”)

Moving on…

So while I enjoyed tonight’s chocolate-y deliciousness, I found myself thinking about the symbolism of the cookies and milk and Wall-E.  I’m an English major.  It’s what we do.

Depending on whether we’re talking about the cookies or the movie, there’s a little bit of metaphor, a little bit of allegory, but it boils down to nostalgia – there’s that old nostalgia thing again – though this time with the added twinge of fallacy.

I’m not going to go too in-depth, don’t worry, but let’s think about this. Cookies and milk are yummy and fabulous on their own, sure, but there is also a bit of harkening back to childhood and comfort and calm.  Even so, cookies may be scrumptious, but they also are not healthy.  Their sugary, buttery, chocolate-y goodness can negatively impact your health if you indulge in too many.  It’s something we don’t think about as kids, but something that sneaks in as we’re older.  We ignore the bad of cookies at times like tonight, when I choose to think about yumminess (and not about lice)… but the knowledge lurks and lingers.

Same with nostalgia. The phrase “you can never go home again” doesn’t mean you physically can’t go home, obviously, or that you can’t move back to the place where you grew up and be happy.  It means that when you return, you’ll see things through new eyes, and sometimes what you’ll find is that things are different than you remember from childhood. Places. People, too. And while the rosey, heart-leaping blush of returning – for a visit, for a reunion, for a reconnection – can highlight the good and the joy in ways you never imagined, extended exposure can bring to light some less appealing attributes that youth and inexperience held at bay.

It’s like how in Wall-E, people were encouraged to “remember” Earth in a way that didn’t really exist anymore. When they returned to Earth, they had to come face to face with the reality. Similarly, sometimes what you envision in your memory, what you try to make real in the face of the fallacy of your self-designed illusion of how things once were, butts up against reality. Hard. And that can be disconcerting. Even a little heartbreaking. 

The reality also can be simply lovely, as I found when I went home this past summer. But that’s for another post at another time.


So anyway, tonight, I baked a couple of fresh chocolate chip cookies for myself. And I ate them along with a glass of cold mik. Tonight, they were simply… cookies. And they were delicious.

Cheers.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

LICE!!

Late yesterday, my husband and I received the call from my daughter’s pre-K that parents everywhere dread.  “We’re pretty sure your daughter has lice.”  No!  It can’t be true!  Please!

So many things ran through my head at the speed of light:  Bugs in my kid’s hair! Bugs!  In hair!  *shivers*  Smelly hair treatment.  Nitpicking (that phrase – being nitpicky – will never sound the same again to these ears). Lice combing. Washing and sanitizing every sheet in the house, since Ballerina likes to make her way to everyone’s bed to snuggle. Washing and sanitizing all the kids’ clothes. No activities with other kids for a week.  No pre-K for a week (shoot me now).  Trying to keep the kids apart so the bugs don’t spread to Bear, who is set to start first grade on Monday.  Keeping the snuggly 4-year-old off the couches.  Keeping snuggly 4-year-old off laps.

Not a photo of Ballerina, but might as well be.
None of this is good. None.

As of the writing of this post, we have been dealing with this tiny menace for around 18 hours. Last night, while I took a moment to get in the right mental state for this (as if that’s even possible for a head-bug-phobe like me) and cooked comfort food for dinner, my husband kindly performed the initial step of washing Ballerina’s hair and applying the treatment to her head.  After dinner, I did the initial lice combing and nitpicking (there’s that phrase again), which I repeated this morning. 

Now that we’re self-designated experts at this, I will share my newly acquired parental wisdom with you, hoping the entire time you never have to apply said wisdom with yourself or your kids.
  1. Prepare for several days of house arrest.  You don’t want to expose others to your child’s new friends.  That means you are stuck at the house/condo/apartment, too, and your little one likely will get bored at some point.  Set up the movies.  Pull out the art activities.  Line up the books.  Decide to learn a new language together.  Send someone out for materials to build a next generation tablet computer. [As I’m writing this, Ballerina is sitting off to my right, on a plastic chair, watching Disney’s Jungle Book.]
  2. Expect your head to feel really itchy. Seriously. From the moment we heard the word “lice,” my husband and I have felt dramatically itchy probably a few hundred times.  Neither of us has lice.  How do I know?  We’ve checked each other’s heads at least five times apiece so far. But we still itch. So we will continue to check. Obsessively.
  3. The person with the strongest back needs to be the lice comber/nitpicker.  I don’t care how cleverly you situate yourself as you begin your designated hour to two hours combing and picking your child’s hair; at some point you will find that you’ve been standing over him or her, bent over awkwardly from the waist, for several minutes or longer. It’s not comfortable. Knowing this may happen someday to your child is reason enough to start a workout regimen. Believe me.  Believe my back.
  4. Wear all black while you lice comb and nitpick. Lice and nits in the hair look white. On a paper towel some can look brown, but some still look white. Black makes them all stand out. If you wear black and the little buggers jump onto you – and a few may, trust me – you can spot them and nab them.  Today, I’m wearing a black t-shirt and black skirt.  I look like a cheerleader in mourning.  But it’s been worth it.
  5. If you have long hair and you are the hair-comber, pull your hair back snugly. The last thing you want is to offer a safety rope to the few still-living lice trying to escape your child’s head.
  6. Don’t expect the lice comb to get the nits out.  You’ll need to meticulously go through your child’s hair to pick the nits off the hair follicles with your fingers, then recheck through nearby hair shafts to make sure the nit didn’t fall onto one and reattach.  And then you’ll have to do it again.  And later, you’ll have to do it again.  Get out your glasses and your patience. Truly, there is no alternative.  
  7. Repeating #2.  Your head will feel itchy.  A lot.
  8. Do NOT make jokes to your partner along the lines of, “You do the lice combing. It seems right up your alley. You enjoy obsessively looking for problems” or “Nitpicking! You’ve found a physical manifestation of your true calling!”
  9. Do not beat yourself up and assume your kid is unclean in some fashion. There are urban legends about lice preferring clean hair to dirty hair and some anecdotal “evidence” that the nits have more trouble gluing to oily hair than clean hair. That’s not a reason to obsessively shampoo your kid’s head.  Kids get lice. Clean. Grungy. If they have hair, they’re susceptible.
  10. Don’t make faces or shrink from your kid or otherwise make your child feel icky.  Yes, that’s the technical term – icky.  They’ll likely be freaked out that they have bugs on their head.  Possibly more than you.  It’s the kid’s head harboring the bugs, after all. 
  11. READ THE DIRECTIONS on the treatment. Seriously, people. For instance, our treatment states that if after 8-12 hours, the lice aren’t dead or sluggish, do NOT use the treatment again; rather, call the doctor to determine if you need another type of treatment. The treatment is a pesticide.  Do you really want to keep dousing your small child with pesticide?  READ THE DIRECTIONS. And follow them.

I hope this is helpful. Or actually, I don’t. Because if it’s helpful, that means your kid has lice. And that would suck.

Excuse me… time to go nitpick. Apparently, it’s my calling.

UPDATE:
Both kids ended up with lice (not shocking, since they're very close).  After treating each child twice in far faster succession than is recommended - though done with a doctor's direction - the little head bugs remain tenacious. So I am providing additional insight and advice:

  1. Know your school's and county's lice policy. Our county recommends allowing children to return to the classroom the day after treatment, even if some nits remain, because at that stage it's highly unlikely the child will transmit lice to classmates. The nurse at my son's elementary school is a bit more hesitant, though she pins the blame on the teachers.  I got into it with her this morning regarding the whole lice thing.  If you want details, email me... not in the mood to post here.  Suffice it to say, Mama's Irish was up.
  2. The American Academy of Pediatrics has these recommendations, which concur with our county's policy... some of the information is reassuring, some disconcerting.  
  3. There are magical places that specialize in lice removal.  As in, you take your child there and they'll do the whole thing!  Some places will even come to you at your home!  They guarantee one treatment and done, and as in the case of the place we're going - Elimilice (cute name) - they even provide documentation that allows them back in the classroom the same day as treatment!  (This service apparently warrants a 3-exclamation-point information bullet.)
Ballerina, exhausted from days of Mommy scouring her poor head.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Prince-ly Confusion

Actual message I received today from a friend who travels often for work:

So I'm at a diner right now, and "Raspberry Beret" is playing as the background music. There's an older couple sitting at the table behind me arguing about whether the song is "Raspberry Beret" or "Raspberry Buffet." Because Raspberry Buffet makes so much more sense than Raspberry Beret. 

You can't make this shit up.


You really can't.

Yum.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Angels in Lingerie (or Chicks in Skivvies)


Long ago, in a town far, far away, one of my four (yes, four) grandmothers asked me if I was offended by television ads showing pretty women in their skivvies. Their panties. Their lingerie, if you will. If I recall correctly, I looked at her, raised an eyebrow and very eloquently said, “Nope.”

I was probably 18 or 19 years old, not a knockout by any means but young, full of vigor and not about to let such silliness bug me. Plus, I knew that this grandmother – with whom I didn’t entirely get along – wanted me to affirm her belief that all women were put out by this nonsense of mostly naked women flouncing about on the Tee-Vee in front of our men’s easily distractible eyeballs. So, to be completely honest, even if I had found the ads offensive, I would have said I didn’t just to piss her off.


But the fact is, I really didn’t think anything of them. And I said so. After a bit of back and forth on this, my grandmother haughtily said to me, “Well, when you’re older, you’ll feel differently about it.” To which I replied, “Perhaps, perhaps not.”

I wish I could say that was that, but sadly my mind doesn’t simply let things go. Life would be so much easier if it would. I don’t hold grudges, but I do ponder things ad nauseum. Ad. Freakin’. Nauseum.

To this day, every once in a while when an underwear ad hits the screen, I’ll remember this exchange with my grandmother and find myself doing some very shallow soul searching, trying to determine if I have finally developed a problem with ladies prancing about – or dancing, or bouncing on a trampoline – in undies between my favorite shows. Frankly, the answer remains a pretty firm no.


Do I think I’m just super gorgeous and fabulous and these ladies can’t distract my honey from such hotness as I have to offer?  (Sorry, typing those words just made me snort with laughter. Excuse me.)  Of course not. I simply don’t have time to worry about it. I don’t have the energy to waste worrying about or competing with incredibly beautiful, tall, leggy models for my guy’s attention. I am who I am. I look how I look. My choice is to be happy with myself or not be happy with myself… but either way, I still am myself. I’d rather focus my energy on enjoying my life - and who I am - than on worrying about the mostly naked ladies on the telly being paid to sell underwear.


But as I said, once in a while, I still do find myself assessing my feelings about and reactions to these ads, particularly the Victoria’s Secret ones simply because they do walk that fine line between underwear ad and soft core porn.  My thoughts tend to fall along one of three paths, almost without fail.
  1. Wow, those women really are stunning. I hope they appreciate how lucky they are to enjoy such beauty. Or really hotness. And to have ample chests. I suppose I shouldn’t envy that, since running would be more difficult with bigger boobs. But it would be nice to have cleavage, just once. Anyway, yay for them for being hot. You go, ladies!
  2. Why are those women walking like that? Or should I say marching? They look like they’re stepping in something sticky and unpleasant… or perhaps picking their way through low tide. And why are they moving their hips so far back and forth? Are they trying to undo a wedgy? I don’t get it.
  3. Damn! I could TOTALLY rock a pair of those angel wings!

megan in angel wings
I need a pair of wings like this. Putting them on my birthday wish list.
 And I could, couldn’t I?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Being Everything.


A few weeks ago, my little Ballerina’s preschool teacher asked that we parents bring in baby photos of our kids. We were curious why, of course, but we are typical preschool parents; we don’t question random requests of this nature, we just comply.

As it turns out, the baby pictures were used for a sort of look-backward-look-forward project. The teacher taped the baby photos up on the wall next to the kids’ statements of what they want to do or be when they grow up.  Here’s Ballerina’s photo and statement:
I WANT TO DO EVERYTHING!
 I wish I could tell you that this came as a surprise. Nope. I just nodded. So did one of her teachers.

Here is a list of the various things Ballerina has stated, or otherwise indicated during her brief-thus-far but very noticeable life, that she wants to do or be: 

  • Olympic swimmer (I have explained to her that it would be helpful to learn how to swim without floaties first, something we’ve been trying to get her to do for years)

  • Olympic diver (Her practice involves jumping off the couch in various ways or standing on the floor, spinning and falling down)
  • Singer
  • Chef
  • Teacher
  • Farmer
  • Storyteller
  • Archeologist
  • Dancer (Although given the choice between dance class and karate class, she chose karate class)
  • Artist
  • Jedi knight
  • Pole dancer (My response, to my husband: “Honey! We won’t have to pay for college!”)
  • Counselor
  • Soccer Goalie
I'll show you
  • Daycare provider/babysitter
  • Lawyer
  • Karate champ
  • Cheerleader (She is convinced that yelling “U-S-A! U-S-A!” at the television is helping our Olympic athletes win.)
  • Comedienne



Interestingly, even though she gravitates toward younger children like blonde dog hair to a dark suit – to the point where other daycare moms constantly tell me how sweetly Ballerina cares for their small kids, holding their hands, reading to them, generally being overbearing – the one thing that Ballerina does not want to be… is a Mom.

This surprises me. A lot. But it's the truth. Ballerina often asks me if she will be required to bear children someday. When I tell her that she can choose to have children or not to have children, it’s entirely up to her, she unerringly says, “Mommy, I don’t want to have my own children. I love kids a lot, but I don’t want to be a Mom. Is that okay?”  Of course, I tell her that it is just fine.

And you know what? It is just fine.  Sure, if this is the path she takes when she grows up, part of me will ache that I won’t get to see the amazing little people she would create and nurture. She has such a way with children already, and such a clear love for them.  But I also know that if she doesn’t want children of her own, then she shouldn’t have them to make someone else happy, even if that someone is her long-suffering Mama. She needs to live the life she envisions. 

It’s her life, after all, and she wants “to do everything.” And I couldn’t be more proud. She has this giant life in front of her. It’s still the beginning of the beginning for my Ballerina. She isn’t trying to find some niche to fill yet, some place to fit in. My bright, perceptive girl already has a sense of her true self, and I hope she clings to it fiercely. She so clearly recognizes the enormity of the world and all of its potential, and she wants to grab hold of it and make it her own. She wants to experience… everything.

That’s my girl.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Accidents and Aliens


Tonight, the kids and I passed a car accident on the way home. After the inevitable discussions about the number of each type of vehicle surrounded the banged-up cars – “Mommy, look, there’s one fire rescue truck, one ambulance, one police car, what’s that thing again?, oh yeah, one tow truck,” etc. – and whether or not someone died, Ballerina’s focus landed squarely on one of the accident victims. 

Well, I’m not sure if she this woman actually was a perpetrator or a victim. I wasn’t there to see the accident. Let’s just call her an accident participant.

So anyway, Ballerina quieted momentarily when she saw this accident participant, a middle-aged (I’m guessing) woman (I think… one never knows truly) who was strapped to a gurney and about to be loaded into the one ambulance. The following exchange ensued:

Ballerina:     Mommy, are they taking her to the hospital?
Me:              Yes, baby.
Ballerina:     Will she die?
Me:               Seriously?
Ballerina:     Sorry. So they’re going to make her better?
Me:               Yep.
Ballerina:     Got it. They’re taking her to the hospital to take care of the bad things inside her and then they will get the bad things out and then the bad things won’t be inside her anymore.

So now this is what I envision when I think about the woman on the gurney and what will happen when she arrives at the hospital.

c/o IMDB.com and Paramount
For a more action-packed version, here you go...


Way to go, Ballerina.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Feeling Replaceable

I love my friends intensely. Fiercely. So you can imagine the depth of my concern when I received this online comment from a good friend of mine: “Today, I hurt so much. Today, I feel tremendously replaceable.”

How do you respond to that? Well, I’ll tell you how I did… I sought her out and made her tell me what happened. She was reluctant. The last thing someone wants to do is recount the events that would make her feel less than appreciated, less than special. But in this case, I wasn’t taking no for an answer. When she was finished, and when we had re-established firmly the fact that she is unique and precious and wonderful, she gave me permission to share this with you. Why? I’ll tell you at the end. (Stories are best when you reveal the moral last!)

My friend is single.  Let’s start there.  She’s wonderful and smart and beautiful.  She simply hasn’t found the right man yet... but I’m getting ahead of myself.

So my friend – let’s call her Jill, because that’s nothing close to her real name (as far as you know) – recently started to feel a little crushy on a guy she’s known for a long time.  As luck would have it, this man started to show interest in her at about the same time. Voilá!  Romance begins. 

Because Jill and this guy both hang out with many of the same people, often in group situations, the guy suggested that they keep their budding relationship quiet for a bit.  He made the cogent argument that they needed to determine on their own, with no friendly interference, if their relationship really had long term potential before “coming out” to their friends. This way, if things worked out, they’d know it was because of the relationship, not because of pressure from the group. Similarly, if things didn’t work out, no one – either of them, anyone in the group – would feel awkward about the situation.

No matter what the arrangement was, Jill was beside herself.  She was happy.  She clearly thought things were going well.  If I had to guess, I’d say she was falling hard for the guy.  She never said it in so many words, but to me, from the outside listening to her, it was obvious.

So this went on for a few weeks, when Jill started to notice a slight change in this guy’s demeanor. It was slight, yes, but Jill’s a perceptive woman. Still, he gave no direct indication that his interest was waning. In fact, Jill gave him several “outs” which were never acknowledged or taken. Then, in recent days, Jill noticed this guy paying the slightest bit more attention to another friend of theirs. A hint of it. A whisper of it. Nothing anyone from outside would notice. Nothing anyone else on the inside seemed to notice.  Anyone but Jill.

Jill thought about bringing this up with this guy, but she didn’t want to seem jealous when they’d barely started dating. That’s all sorts of uncomfortable, right? So instead, she took a circuitous route that you may question… she went to the other woman.

Now, before you get crazy, Jill did NOT let on to the other woman that she (Jill) and this guy had anything special going on. Instead, she lightly mentioned to this friend that she’d noticed the guy paying a little bit more attention to her (the friend), kind of in that wink-wink-nudge-nudge way that friends will do. I’m sure you can guess what happened next… the friend was beside herself excited to confide in Jill that she and this guy had decided to start quietly dating to test the waters, to see if their interest in each other was something worth pursuing further.

You know the rest of the rationale.  And I’m sure that by now you, like I, can completely grasp what Jill meant when she said she felt “replaceable.”  After all, the guy set things up with this other woman the exact same way he set them up with Jill – things he said to her, things they shared, ways and times they spent time together, including some details I can’t share here at risk of revealing to a select few who Jill is. Identical.

Is Jill going to say anything further to her friend, the other woman in this situation?  She considered it, more to protect her friend than anything.  But she also doesn’t feel it’s her place to presume that this guy will treat her friend with the same disrespect as he showed her.  It’s a crap shoot, really. 

And of course Jill is going to end things with the guy. That part is tough because she considered him a close friend for many years prior to this. Now she wonders if they can continue to be friends at all, since he lied to her and betrayed her trust.

So what is the moral of this story?  There are several, but these are the points I want to drive home with you:
  1. Trust your gut.  Yes, sometimes your gut will be wrong, of course. Sometimes you may come across like a crazy person.  But listen to it.  Even a little.
  2. Be direct and be honest.  Jill gave this guy many opportunities to be direct and honest with her if he felt he wanted to revert to “just” friendship or felt interest in someone else.  She would have been hurt, but she would have felt respected by his honesty, and their friendship could have recovered. Now, this guy likely will lose a friend, and by being dishonest he augmented Jill’s pain tremendously.
  3. Trust people.  Just because this happened to Jill, it doesn’t mean that all men are dishonest or that relationships are fraught with disaster.  This happened to Jill.  Not to everyone.
  4. Most important of all:  YOU are not replaceable.  Jill is not.  You are not.  You are unique in all the world.  If someone you desire doesn’t recognize all the special qualities you have or feel the same way about you, or if someone you care about betrays your trust, it doesn’t diminish you one iota.  It simply says something about that person. You continue to be wonderful, amazing you.   

This still leaves us with Jill’s dilemma. Does she go back to her friend (the woman) and let her know the full story related to the guy in this situation, or does she leave it to fate?  Any thoughts?

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