Friday, December 31, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 30

Day 30 — Write a letter to yourself, tell yourself EVERYTHING you love about yourself.

See, now....these are the kinds of tasks I am horrible at.  When I was a senior in college, I asked one of my favorite professors for a letter of recommendation for my law school applications.  He told me to set aside an hour and meet him in his office. 

I walked in, figuring that he'd want to talk to me a little bit more before writing the letter.  Nope.

He had another idea.  He sat me down in front of his computer, a blank word document before my eyes.  And he told me to write my own letter. 

I'm not even sure what I actually wrote, but he took one look at it and said that it was terrible.  That I hadn't done myself justice.  That I needed to learn to embrace my abilities more and be proud of myself.  That I needed to learn to brag.  Then he threw out what I wrote.

He of course wrote me a glowing letter of recommendation later that day.  When he called me back to pick it up, he made me sit in his office again.  And he made me read it.  Aloud.

He told me that this was how other people saw me, and that I needed to see it too. 

I felt silly sitting in his office crying, until he told me that he thought I might. 

Humility, he said, was more important than anything else.  The whole letter writing thing was a test, and I had passed.

He was a brilliant man.

I've never been pretentious.  I've never been self-important.  My parents taught me to stay grounded, that people are just people and no one is better than anyone else. 

I didn't write letters to myself then, and I am not going to start now.

I guess this means I am not answering the question, but I'm okay with that.

Raise Your Glass

Today is the day for that backward glance.  To sum up what the year has been.  Wow.  What a year. 

I guess it is fitting that the 30 day challenge ends today for me, though when I began it, I didn't intend for that. 

It makes sense. 

It's been a good exercise for me, even if now isn't really the time when I need more reasons to analyze myself than I already have.

It's been a way for me to at least acknowledge, if not fully confront, some of my 500 pound gorillas. 

I've had more than a few people ask me why I started it.  I'm not really sure, except that I tend to see challenges and think I can take them on.  Once I start, I am too stubborn to stop. 

Even when it's excruciating.

But it's done, and I answered them all to the best of my abilities right now. 

I've also had more than a few people, other bloggers, express interest in taking on a challenge.  If not this one, another.  I encourage them, even if I didn't love every second of it.  I will probably do one of the photography ones next. 

This exercise has helped me not just look back on the last year, but on my life in general. 

A little perspective is a good thing, especially now. 

Sometimes I just need to be reminded of it, whether by a question, or a friend, or a phone call from my brother at 2am. 

I am blessed to have so many amazing people in my life.

I am lucky to be where I am.

For all my readers, you are so important to me right now.  I just want you all to know that.  I've used this platform I have to air my grievances, to share my stories, to laugh, to cry.  This...this right here...and all of you that are here with me...this is a huge help in getting me through. 

Tonight, where ever you are, whether you are surrounded by friends and family, whether you are sitting on a couch in the dark alone (as I will surely be), whether you are the center of the party or the one sitting quietly in the corner, I raise my glass to you. 

May you be loved and give love.

May you fail when you are supposed to, survive when you have to and succeed when you want to.

May you smile at that reflection more days than not.

May you find joy.

May 2011 suck less.

Happy New Year.

Cheers!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Avoidance

Humans, as a species, are particularly well adapted for certain things. We are resourceful. We find ways to live in the harshest climates. We create.

And we avoid. We survive a lot by avoiding things. Even now, when the avoidance is the very thing putting us in harms way.

Back in the caveman days, we learned to avoid the things that were dangerous. Large predators were probably the first thing we actively avoided. We ran, we hid.

Then came weather, and our desire to avoid it. We built shelters.

Then came disease. We invented medications, water filtration systems, insect repellents.

We have developed complex societies. We've domesticated animals. We've built tools and technology that shape almost every aspect of life as we know it. And in the process, we've created many other ways to ruin it all.

Us humans, we are intelligent. And yet sometimes we are too stubborn to save ourselves.

We don't deal with the 500 pound gorillas in the rooms of our lives enough because it's too hard. We ignore the things that we know are wrong. We make excuses. We procrastinate. We wrongfully believe that we will always be able to right the wrongs tomorrow. Or the next day.

Since it's the end of the year and all, that time when you are supposed to be reflective and take stock of your life...I challenge you all to deal with whatever it is you are avoiding.

What's your 500 pound gorilla?

30 Days of Truth, Day 29

Day 29 - What is something you hope to change about yourself, and why?

I'm perfect just the way I am right? 

To be totally honest, I don't really hope to change much.  I don't have the energy to devote to a whole lot of self improvement right now.  Life is too chaotic otherwise.

I'm a constant work in progress as it is. 

Besides, I made my peace with who I am a long time ago.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Kindness of Strangers

This is the fourth time in my life that I have been the mother of a two year old.  I survived the other 3 times, so I am really not sure what is leading me to doubt myself this time around. 

Part of it is that I am older and more tired.

Part of it is that he is smart and perceptive, learns quickly and knows no fear.

Part of it is that I learned not to sweat the small stuff long time ago.

Part of it is that the older I get, the more I realize that most of it is small stuff.

Part of it is that he is the kind of kid that already take a mile when given an inch.

I know that.

But it doesn't make it any less frustrating on a daily basis.

We aren't home, they aren't in their own space.  Our time in large part not our own right now.  Plus, it's December and kids are always bad in December.  For the whole month. 

I guess my frustration was obvious when I was sitting in the opthamologist's waiting room with AJ today, waiting for my mom during her appointment.  He is two.  And two year olds don't wait.  At least not well, anyway.

They would rather crawl under tables, rifle through magazines and test the stability of every chair in the room.

The lady at the front desk was already annoyed that a child was in her office anyway, she glared at me when I had to ask for the bathroom key wanting to know if I was a patient. 

Clearly one of those "no pediatric cases" types of practices.

I was just about ready to cart the boy out to the car and wait there when a women walked out.  She had a cane and a smile, and aimed it directly at AJ.   Her eyes were dilating, and she was sent out to the chairs to wait.  She laughed that at least she could focus right now.

Immediately, she told me that she was a grandma and that she had taught preschool for many years.  Then she whipped out her purse.  She had a tiny little mirror and kept him busy for a good 5 minutes with that.  Then she had a magnifying glass, which he thought was amazing. 

When he tired of that, she took out her camera and started to show him pictures of her grandbabies.   Within a few frames, he'd memorized the names of the kids and started to excitedly point them out. 

Eventually, mom reappeared and we were released from the waiting room torture.

But not before I thanked my waiting room angel profusely. 

I needed her today.

30 Days of Truth, Day 28

Day 28 - What if you were pregnant or got someone pregnant, what would you do?

This one is just funny. 

I'd do what I did the last time I found myself pregnant. 

I'd take a deep breath, talk my husband down from the ledge and then I'd go buy another car seat.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What It Is

One thing that I've said too many times this year and listened to too many people around me say is this:

It is what it is.

And it is. 

Life isn't always pretty.

Life isn't always fair.

Life isn't always easy.

Life isn't always fun.

As much as life can test us, as much as it can put us through, as hard as it is, as cruel as it is, it is always something else too. 

It is always beautiful.

Take a minute to look at the people around you today, to just watch them be.  Watch them laugh, watch them smile.  Give them your undivided attention.  Give them your time.  Give them your love. 

Forgive them.

Share stories and share memories.

Cherish every second that you are given. 

Be grateful.

Embrace the moment.

Time is fleeting, time is short, so make the best of what you have.

Life is what it is, and it is beautiful.

30 Days of Truth, Day 27

Day 27 - What’s the best thing going for you right now?

Easy.  My family. 

I am blessed to have in laws that I absolutely adore.  In the process of marrying my husband, I got two extra brothers too.  Two guys who are far kinder and nicer than they'd ever want you to believe. 

I am spending more time than I thought I would be able to with my parents, my brother and sister in law and my nephew.  Yes, it was all thanks to a car accident, but I stopped believing in pure chance a long time ago.  Someone decided I needed to be here a while, and I am long since past the point in my life of fighting what needs to happen. 

Going with the flow, and enjoying the time I am here.

My children are my life, my inspiration.  My past and my future.  For as much as they challenge me, and at times drive me crazy, they are my hope and my pride.

My husband is my friend, my partner, my life. 

I am lucky to have them all.

The Reason

I figured out why we had that car accident last week.

Aside from the ice and the semi and all that, I mean.

We heard today that the soonest the car would be ready is early next week.  Later in the week far more likely.

The kids are going to miss some school.

The trip continues to get more and more complicated.

There's a reason though.

I needed to spend more time here

Flagstaff, you are almost forgiven.  Almost. Just be nice on the way home, would ya?

Monday, December 27, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 26

Day 26 - Have you ever thought about giving up on life? If so, when and why?

No.  I haven't.  There have been plenty of times that life has sucked, yes.  But never enough that I thought I couldn't take anymore.

Though I may not seem to be so, I am an eternal optimist.  I always hope that things will someday get better.  I have heard that saying "God only gives you as much as you can handle" so many times.   I've asked that he give me less more than once.

The thing is that everything I have been through in my life has made me the person I am today.  Every challenge overcome makes you stronger, really and truly. 

And at the end of every tunnel is a light.  It might be dim and faint, it might seem like its a million miles away, but it's there.

Dropping Bombs

I am pretty far from a prude when it comes to movies or music.  One of my all time favorite movies is The Hangover and I've seen just about every episode of Jackass.  I prefer the uncensored versions of the songs I listen to, almost universally. 

I abhor censorship. 

Me and my flaming liberal self. 

But I recently have stared at the radio and asked the question really??? more than once.  Not necessarily about the topics of the songs, or even the lyrics themselves so much.  More by who was singing them. 

I would think that at some point in a pop singer's career, they would settle into their fame.  Get to a point where they don't need shock value to sell records anymore.  Where they have a loyal fan base and don't need to always push the envelope so much. 

The first song that made me think this was by Usher.  I adore Usher.  He's one of the guys who can actually sing and dance at the same time without lip syncing, and I appreciate multitasking.  What I thought was amusing was that in one of his recent songs, he uses the word boobies.  

Really?

Dude has been singing for over a decade and made millions of dollars.  He's filled concert arenas and won industry awards.  I kinda think he should be past the point of using lyrics like boobies just because it rhymes.

I thought about writing about this when that song first came out, but I decided that it was more silly than offensive.  I mean, how many grown men use the word boobies at all, let alone sing about it that way?  I thought it was laughable, and to be honest I thought it was a little sad.  Plus, like everything else Usher sings, I like the song otherwise.

Then Enrique Iglesias' new song started heavy rotation on the airwaves.  You may have heard it, though depending on where in the country you are and which station you listen to, you may have heard the silenced version, the dubbed clean version or the real version.

The chorus in this one?  Tonight I'm f***ing you.

Really???

Again, dude has been singing for what seems like forever.  He is famous around the world.  He's got more money than most celebrities could ever dream of.   He doesn't need controversy to get his place in the spotlight.  He's not hanging on to the edge of fame.  He's not an aging pop star, at least not yet. 

Then, why?

I just want to ask them both. 

I know that my writing about it, like all the other people who have sat up and taken notice, will just get these songs more publicity than they already have had.  That it just encourages it.   I know that. 

I guess there is no such thing as bad publicity, right?   Even if it means you have a drop a few F bombs to get it.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Where My Girls At?

You know how I wrote about my husband seeing some of his best friends the last time we were in California and how great it was?  About how I missed so many of the people who I've been close to over the years and hardly ever get to see now?

People move, life gets complicated, more and more time passing between the moments we can see each other.  It just happens. 

During the scheming phase of this quasi-secret trip, I didn't say much to anyone about it.  I didn't want it to get back to my mom that we were coming.  It was supposed to be a surprise.  I didn't even tell people who live in a state different than my family does these days.

Until one of my very best friends in the whole wide world mentioned that she'd be in California for Christmas.   I can't even remember the last time I saw Blythe, and there is something very wrong with that.  Granted, now a days, I live in the middle of the country and she lives in the middle of the ocean.  But still, I haven't seen her in a long time.  Too long. 

As soon as she said she was going to be here, I spilled it that we were too.  Maybe we could set up a time to meet?  We'd both be busy, sure, since we're only here for a little while.  But find time we did. 

Then I texted Kim.  And I emailed Shannon.  They live in California still, but I don't even get to see them when I make trips out here all that often.  I wondered if they might be able to get together too. 

The four of us met in the dorms in college.  We've been roommates and bridesmaids and godmothers to each others kids. 

None of our kids have met each other (at least I don't think so).  We haven't all been together since Blythe got married almost 7 years ago.  Back then, I had two babies.  Between the four of us, we've added five more kids since then and there is a set of twins on the way now. 

Today is the day.  We're all meeting in the middle, nearest the one of us very pregnant with that set of twins, today.  Today! 

This would be one of the reasons I was insanely, dorkishly excited last week. 

I can't wait.  I need to see these ladies.  I need to talk to them in person and share smiles and laughs.  I need to hug them.  Just a few more hours...

30 Days of Truth, Day 25

Day 25 - The reason you believe you’re still alive today.

Funny the timing of these questions. 

The most immediate reason I am still alive today is a literal one. 

I'm alive because we were only driving at about 20 mph a few mornings ago when we hit that semi.  Had we been going faster, I would not have been so lucky.

The passenger side of the hood was what hit, and I was in the passenger seat.  

If I told you I had a weird feeling and locked the door a few seconds before the accident, would you believe me?   

It's the truth.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Airing of the Grievances

Happy Festivus!  My apologies to those of you that didn't watch Seinfeld as much as I did.

Drum roll please....

It is time for the Airing of the Grievances.

It is so past time.

It is 10:30 Christmas night and I am sitting alone in my parent's family room.  Everyone else left, not that I blame them.  It smells nasty in here.  Aidan barfed.  All.over.the.rug.

Because nothing says Christmas like vomit.

I am pissed off that my car is in the shop in another state. 

I have a headache, and my stomach has been tied up in knots for days now.  The stink in the air isn't helping.  Told you there was a reason everyone left the room.

I think I am done.  I'm trying not to let the events of the last few days spoil the magic of Christmas. 

I'm trying.

I'll be more upbeat tomorrow, after the barf stench fades a little. 

30 Days of Truth, Day 24

Day 24 -  Make a playlist to someone, and explain why you chose all the songs.

Hmm, who to make a playlist for?  I did one for my husband a while back, You can read that one here if you want.  Forgive me, I wasn't so good at creating links back then.  I've warned you all about my technological incompetence before....

I've written about quite a few other songs that remind me of other people.

Today, though I am going to make a list dedicated to someone I haven't even seen in over a decade.  Someone that I reconnected with online, and am probably closer to now than I ever was back when we saw each other all the time. 

Someone who will completely appreciate this.

Merry Christmas, G. 

Hallelujah, K.D. Lang- quite possibly the most amazing live version of any song I've ever heard, from the Olympics.  This one makes me cry every.single.time.

Put Your Records On, Corinne Bailey Rae - let your hair down.

Umbrella, Rhianna - you can stand under mine. 

Move Along, All American Rejects - enough said.

Learning to Fly, Tom Petty - aren't we all?

The Dog Days Are Over, Florence + The Machine - man, I hope so.

Raise Your Glass, Pink - we can always party on our own.

Fragile, Sting - one of the most beautiful songs ever written about humanity.

Return to Innocence, Enigma - we could all hope, right?

Not Afraid, Eminem - when you gotta do what you gotta do.

What Goes Around, Justin Timberlake - because sometimes karma is fun to witness.  :)

In My Daughter's Eyes, Martina McBride - not sure you listen to Country at all, but this is what I imagine your relationship is with your baby girl.

Just Breathe, Anna Nalick - because sometimes that's all you can do.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Israel Kamakawiwo'ole - it just has to rain first.

xoxo

Friday, December 24, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 23

Day 23 - What is something you wish you had done in your life?

This one is pretty easy to answer. 

I wish that I would have done a semester abroad when I was in college.  At this point in my life, I don't know when I'll ever get to travel.  I had the chance to explore the world before I was a wife and a mother, and I wish I would have. 

One Hell of a Story

You ever have one of those days that just can't end fast enough? Where nothing goes right, and instead it all goes horribly wrong?  Where you are in a hurry to just end the madness and start fresh the next day?

I just had one.

Someday we will look back on the events of the last 36 hours and laugh.  We already have found the humor in what has happened.  Which is good.  Laughter is the only thing that kept me sane.

We've been planning this trip to California for a while now, with all the required scheming and planning.  We knew the weather was going to be an issue this time of year, it always is.  This week, one of the biggest storms in years decided to show up.  Because that is just my luck.  Rather than chance it and take the route we normally do, we went further South.  You know, to avoid any problems.

Go ahead....ask me how that plan worked out. 

Within an hour of leaving the house, the fog was so thick that a small plane crashed at the airport.  It stayed that way for hours.  Hours and hours of not being able to see more than 50 feet in front of the car. 

We timed the trip so we would hopefully miss the weather, or hit it in the form of rain versus snow.  It worked like a charm (except for the fog) until we hit the mountains in Arizona a little before sunrise.  The sky was full of stars, not a drop of rain or a single snowflake falling from the sky.  The full moon out, it was gorgeous.

As we got higher, there was a little snow on the sides of the road, but not enough that we were concerned.  We're from Colorado.  The traffic started to slow, until we were traveling only at about 20 mph. 

Slow and steady. 

Until the semi in front of us jackknifed. 

Even being as far back as we were, there was no hope of stopping.   The truck was taking up the shoulder, the slow lane and half the fast lane. 

Underneath us, black ice.    You don't know the road is covered with it until too late. 

We hit the trailer at probably only about 10 mph.  Not enough to trigger the airbags, but enough to damage the car.  The electrical system was shot, the engine wouldn't start.  We have one payment left on the van.  ONE!

The kids were crying, more scared than anything. 

A few minutes later, the highway patrol showed up.  We had to stay in the car with our seat belts on in case someone behind us couldn't stop.  Without a heater.  For an hour. 

The truck driver kept apologizing.

When the tow truck arrived, he told Tom that he'd have to tow the van with us in it.  Too dangerous to get out. 

He hooked the van to the flatbed tow truck and up, up, up we went.  The kids started laughing.  AJ said he was flying.  Ashley laughed that it was a good thing we got to ride on the truck since we weren't going to Disneyland this time. 

We got dropped off at a gas station as the sun was rising.   I trudged through the snowy parking lot with the kids to the motel across the way.  One look at me and the clerk at the desk ran out to help.  He set us up in a room, asked if there was anything else we needed.  Yeah.  To go back to the prior off ramp and get off the freeway before we hit the truck.  If only we had known we were on ice, we would have.

We got a room and started calling the insurance company, the rental car places.  Turns out the only 6 passenger vehicle in the entire city available for rent was a truck.  Tom got everything out of the van (almost everything...more on that later), then the rental car place picked him up to rent the truck. 

He went to sign the papers only to realize that his license was expired.  Of course it was.  Fortunately, we live in a state with online renewals.  He brought the truck back to the hotel and we settled in to try and get some sleep. 

Then AJ fell off the bed and split his chin open.  I can't make this stuff up.

Tom ran to the store for butterfly bandages and antibiotic ointment while I held his face together.  At some point we entertained just staying for the night, but quickly decided that we needed to get the hell out of Flagstaff.  No good was coming from us being there. 

We started to haul everything down to load the truck.  Everything had to go in the bed since there was barely room for us in the cab.  And it was snowing again, with rain in the forecast for the rest of the drive.  We were already laughing as we put 6 suitcases, bags of groceries, 2 huge boxes of Christmas presents and everything else that was in the car into huge black trash bags to keep it from getting wet.  It just kept getting better.

We got on the road, the kids said they were hungry.  I said too bad, wait until we get out of Flagstaff...we need to leave.  Now. 

Goodbye Flagstaff
Incidentally, I must tell you that some of the nicest people in the world live and work there.

We got down the mountain, to clearing skies and dry roads.  And sun.  Both of our sunglasses....in the van.  Of course.

The first town had a sign for an A&W, so we got off there.  Tom was all excited, he was starving and it sounded good.  Then we couldn't find it.  It was in a gas station.  Oh well.  It was food.  The kids sat in the booth and started arguing.  I informed them that they were to behave and be nice and have a freaking fantastic Christmas from here on out.  Period. 

Then we laughed some more. 

The rest of the drive was fairly uneventful, though I am grateful for the lack of eventfulness. We made it.

By the time we got here, AJ looked like we all felt.  He stunk.  His shirt covered in blood from his chin.  His hair a mess.  Shoes on the wrong feet. 

I'm sure I am leaving stuff out.  There's just so much to remember. 

This wasn't the trip we had planned on at all, but it still got us here.  And here is pretty fantastic. 

Plus, AJ will have one hell of a story to tell about how he got the scar on his chin when he grows up.

Worth Everything

Today I will sit and talk with my father.

Today I will cook with my mother.

Today I will tease my brother.

Today I will laugh with my sister in law.

Today I will see my children play with my nephew.

Today I will put gifts under a tree with my husband.

For tomorrow, it is Christmas.

The Christmas worth driving through snow and rain for. 

The Christmas worth scheming and planning for.

The Christmas worth everything.

I am thankful.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 22

Day 22 - What is something you wish you hadn’t done in your life?

Oh, the irony the this is the question I have to answer today. 

There aren't many things I truly regret having done in my life, and my answer is something that I really only partially regret doing. 

I did it for the right reasons, I did it because I needed to, I did it for my kids. 

But, it had consequences.   And I've kicked myself a bit for doing it every single day since we did, some days far more than others. 

I wish I hadn't moved away.

Going

I've made my list and checked it twice. 

I've wrapped and sorted and packed.

I've been checking the weather maps obsessively for weeks.

I've had my kids write letters to Santa informing him of their plans.

I'm doing something I haven't done in too many years.

I'm going home for Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 21

Day 21 - (scenario) Your best friend is in a car accident and you two got into a fight an hour before. What do you do?

This is one of the questions that puzzles me a little.  I'm not exactly sure what it's asking.  I'm going to have to make some assumption about the question.  First, that the friend is in an accident I am not involved in.  Second, that they are hurt, but alive.  Third, somehow I find out about it right away.

Based on my assumptions, the friend would presumably be in a hospital somewhere. 

And, so would I. 

I'd do whatever I had to do to get there, to be with them.  Regardless of whatever it was we were fighting about.

Why Santa Claus is a Woman

I decided this last night.

It's a lie, all of it. 

I think Santa Claus is really a woman. 


Would a guy have designed this hat?

I mean, really....once you look at it the way I did last night there can't be any other possible option.

Santa Claus knows what is sitting beneath the tree for all the kids on the good list.  Actually knows. Like, before Christmas morning.

Santa Claus has never forgotten Christmas.

Santa Claus will let kids sit on her lap all.day.long.

Santa Claus can get everything done while everyone else is sleeping.

Santa Claus has a predetermined route, all planned out and everything.

Santa Claus is the one driving the sleigh.

Santa Claus gets children the things they actually want, as opposed to what is on sale, what is easy to find or what they need.

Santa Claus knows the sizes the kids wear.

Santa Claus will stay up all night making sure the gifts are wrapped.

Santa Claus knows that you have to wear a black belt if you're rocking the black boots.

Santa Claus won't hesitate to sneak a bite off the plate a kid left.

Santa Claus has a pair of fat pants...this might be related to that last one.

I'm sure that there are more reasons that Santa Claus is a woman....I just can't think of any more right now.

Much like Santa Claus, I've got a million things to get done in the next few days.

Tree Down

You know how I mentioned that the tree hadn't come down yet?

Yeah, well....we can check that off the list. 

It came down a few days ago. 

On top of Ashley's head, no less.

I figured AJ would be the one to knock it over, thought for sure it would be him this time around.  I was wrong. 

Ally has this habit of cramming her body behind the tree.  She likes it back there.  It's quiet and the lights are sparkly.  There isn't room for anyone else.

Maybe I should go sit behind the tree. 

I've only told about 374,862 times that she shouldn't try to get back there.  That eventually she'd knock the tree over. I've said it, sure.  But she hasn't really listened.

Obviously.

This would be why only the durable ornaments go on the tree.

And why it's a good thing Ashley has a really hard head.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 20

Day 20 - What are your views on drugs and alcohol?

This is an awfully vague and generalized question, or at least I think so.  I mean, I guess my answer depends on what your definition of a "drug" is and which ones specifically you are referring to.

Plenty of people consider caffeine to be a drug, though I wouldn't ever go that far.  It is a stimulant, but you have to consume fairly massive quantities of it for it to do anything unusual...like make you spontaneously jump out of your seat in class one day with the jitters and want to run laps on the track in the pouring rain.  Not that it ever happened to me or anything.  ;)

I am actually not all that qualified to have an opinion on most drugs being as I've never used any of them.  Sure, I've been in plenty of marijuana smoke filled rooms before, but I've never smoked it directly.  I've never used anything else.  I know, right?  I'm a goody goody that way. 

I've known plenty of people that smoke pot though, and can say with complete honesty that the only negative side effects I saw were the munchies, laughing a LOT and increased apathy about going to class.  That, and it took this one guy I know about 3 hours to get to my house one night when he lived less than 10 minutes away.  I'm not sure where he went, but I am pretty sure he was high that night.  No names of course...you know who you are. 

Having kids now, I want to tell them that drugs are bad.  I do.  Really.  But I know far too many people who benefit from marijuana's medicinal use, whether technically prescribed or not.    I see pot as a relatively harmless, sometimes beneficial drug.  Having said that, I will still try to keep my kids away from it. 

Other drugs though, they scare me more as a parent.  Especially meth.  I've seen what that can do too, and it's not pretty.  Talk about majorly messing up your life!  The thing that scares me the most about meth is that it is so easy to get and so addictive, sometimes the user is hooked with the first use.   Any of the hard drugs scare me that way, and I will do anything and everything in my power to steer my babies away from them. 

Prescription drugs aren't any better these days, some very susceptible to abuse.  I've tried to teach my kids that you only take medication if you really, really, really need it.  That there is a time and a place for it, and that you never use it if you don't truly need it. 

As for alcohol...I have to admit that I drink.  Not every day, and usually not more than one drink at a time.  I know that I have a predisposition to developing alcoholism, which I unfortunately have probably already passed to my children.   Yay genetics!  That scares me far more than drugs ever have or will.  

I know that I have thin ice to walk on with alcohol and try very hard not to go out too far.  I don't ever want to feel like I am not in control, and the thought of my kids ever being there terrifies me.

Why Didn't I Think of That?

I've written here before about the struggles we have had with sleep and our littlest.  AJ is a mama's boy, and he'd rather be cozied up next to me than anywhere else in the world.  Truthfully, I am really okay with that.  Usually. 

There are times that I would pull my own eyelashes out one by one if it meant I could have 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. 

I love to snuggle up as much as the next person, but the constant nature of it gets exhausting. 

He's gone from sleeping totally fine alone in his crib to becoming a nighttime vagabond.  Once he could climb out of his bed, he knew he didn't have to stay there.  And there is literally nothing we can do to make him.  Trust me, if there was, I would do it. 

He slept in the hallway for a while, until we'd go to bed.  Then the sleepy little boy would climb up with us.

Then a few weeks ago, he started to climb in Ally's bed and sleep with her.  Seems to work fine most of the time.  He always, and I mean always, ends up with us anyway. 

Last night he didn't come in to our bed.  He slept until 6:30am without his mama.  How, you might ask?

His father put up a tent in the family room, and he camped out with all his older siblings.  Crammed in there like sardines, they all slept through the night. 

Yes, the tent has been colored on.  Just in case you were wondering.
Here I've been trying everything I could possibly think of to get this child to sleep.  I've rocked him.  I've sang to him.  I've rubbed his back.  I've bought him a special turtle nightlight.  I've driven around until he fell asleep then attempted to transfer him.  I've let him fall asleep on the couch.  

Little did I know that all I needed to do was pitch a huge tent in the middle of the family room.

Now, why didn't I think of that?

Monday, December 20, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 19

Day 19 - What do you think of religion? Or what do you think of politics?

Where to begin, where to begin?  I've not been looking forward to this question. 

They say that you should never discuss religion and politics, and I've found that to be true.  The vast majority of people have their minds made up about both topics, and the vast majority of those aren't really in the mood ever to change those opinions.  It doesn't do anyone much good to talk about them, I'd suppose.

This question asks me to discuss my opinions about one or the other, which is a virtual impossibility.  Religion and politics are intertwined in this country, even though there is a supposed separation of church and state.  That's one of those things we like to say a lot in this country, but everyone knows it is a bold faced lie. 

It is impossible to talk about one, really talk about it, without at least giving a passing mention to the other. 

So I guess I will bite the bullet and share my views on both.

Here's what this science loving liberal girl thinks. 

As for religion, I have opinions.  Oh, do I have opinions.  I truly do not mean to offend anyone by them, I wholly respect each and every person's right to practice whichever religion they see fit, or not practice anything, as the case may be.  I'm not asking anyone to agree with me, I'm just answering the question.

First and foremost, I think it is entirely possible to be a spiritual person and not be a religious one.  The two are not necessarily related.  A belief in a higher power doesn't mean that one needs to be encumbered by the confines of any one religion.  Whether that higher power is God, Allah, Buddha, Mother Nature, whatever, is really of no consequence.  You don't need religion to be spiritual. 

Second, I take issue with the claim that almost every major religion has to superiority.  That it's my way or the highway.  Like we have a direct path to God, but those other guys don't.  It's a fallacy.  No man-made religion is any more divine than another.  It's just a ploy to get people to join the team.  To quote Bill Maher from the film Religulous, "It's like the lotto. You can't get saved if you don't play."

Third, organized religion developed thousands of years ago not as a belief system necessarily, but as a way to control the growing population.  The leaders decided back then that in order to live in a civilized manner, people needed rules.  And they needed to feel some kind of eternal consequences to get them to behave accordingly.  Thus, religion was born.  It is a means to control people, to dictate their behaviors, to constrain their acts.  Plus, it's a great way to make money.

Fourth, I do not subscribe to the idea that morality can be taught only through religious means.  It is possible to be a good person, a truly good person, and be agnostic or an atheist.  Charity, integrity, friendship, kindness are all qualities of good people, and they can be learned outside a religious setting.  Granted, for practical reasons, it is often easier to teach children these things in a structured environment that religion provides. 

Fifth, just because someone claims to be religious does not make them so.  Standing in a building on a regular basis doesn't automatically make you a better person.  It just makes you habitual.  Plenty of bad, bad people have convinced themselves and others they were trustworthy by standing in one of those buildings. 

Sixth, and this one will stir up controversy, I don't believe everything in the bible.  Gasp!  I don't.  If the stories had been written down in an objective format when they took place, they would be a lot more credible in my opinion.  But, as any one who's ever played the game of telephone knows, the stories can change.  Anyone who's been witness to how stories told by their own family members can evolve over the years has seen it too.  The story that emerges after one generation is different than the real story.  Now, multiply that by hundreds or thousands of years, then write it down.  Surely, it can't be relied upon word for word.  In addition to that reliability of information issue, the bible is also subject to translation, and word selection can make a huge impact. 

As for my personal beliefs, I would consider myself a rarely practicing cynical Catholic.  I have issues with the church.  Many issues.  Many, many issues.  Frankly, I'm not sure why I still consider myself Catholic to be honest.  Yet, I am a self professed hypocrite.  Though I haven't stepped foot in a church since my nephew's baptism, I send my children to religious education.  I want them to learn about god, and I want them to be taught by someone more strong in their convictions than I am.  I can't simultaneously teach my children about god, and teach them to question the system.  I need a third party.  A partner in crime, so to speak.

I don't buy the whole celibacy argument.  I distrust a system that requires that from people.  It doesn't work anyway.  I take issue with the institutional flaws that led to the sexual abuse of thousands, if not millions of children.  I don't agree with how the church requires confession to include a priest, I believe that my sins are between God and I.   I disagree with how the church has shunned homosexuals.  I take issue with the stance on birth control.  I could go on and on about the things I don't agree with the church about.  Ultimately, though, most of the issues I have involve the human constructs.  The rules people put in place. 

I could also write forever about my opinions about other religions.  I won't.  All I will say is that I object strongly to the current trend in this country, in large part brought about by the mega church movement.  The creation of paranoia about anyone that is different, the instigation of political action, the gross funding of propositions on ballots, all in the so-called name of God is shameful.  Hatred is not something I think God would sanction in his name.   I'm pretty sure on that one.

I am a science person.  I like proof.  I don't do blind faith well.  Things like evolution, carbon dating and evidence of the simultaneous development of several civilizations around the world make me doubt.  Is there a God?  I believe so.  I hope so.   

I believe in heaven, but that conflicts with my other belief that some people have been here before.  I'm not saying I think all living things are reincarnated or anything, but it sure seems like this isn't the first trip for some people.  I think there probably is a hell, but I also think it's a place reserved for only the very worst.  I am not so sure about purgatory, and I certainly don't subscribe to any belief that unbaptized children who die go there automatically (as say the Catholic teachings).  I refuse to believe than any higher power would be so cruel. 

So there.  Whew.

Now, on to politics.

For as long as there has been a United States of America, there have been politics highly motivated by religion.  This country was founded on the idea of religious freedom, yet today, even in the year 2010, people of different religions are not accepted.  Looked upon suspiciously, is more like it. 

One only needs to utter the word mosque in a crowded room to know what I am talking about.  Yes, this country was attacked by religious extremists in 2001.  But what about Timothy McVeigh?  He was a home grown white man, raised in the church.  It's easier to vilify something you aren't a part of, I suppose. 

Religion has been used as the justification for discrimination against all kinds of people in the past, and I am sure it will continue to be the sword and shield used in the years to come. 

Politics and religion cannot be separated, it's just not possible.

As for my personal political beliefs, I am pretty left leaning.  At this point, that's probably pretty obvious.  I am a liberal, and as some would say, of the bleeding heart variety.  You name the topic, chances are that I'm on the left.  I don't really need to say too much there, I guess. 

Though I know I am too old these days to still be one, I am an idealist, at least in terms of my political views. 

I do believe in fairness and equality. I believe in opportunity. 

I do believe that our forefathers wrote our Constitution to be a living, breathing document.

I do have the audacity of hope.

I do think we can be better than we are. 

Officially

Last weekend, Aidan wanted to borrow the computer.  He said he needed to look at something online.  I asked him what it was and he said he couldn't tell me, it was a secret.  The little sparkle in his eye told me he was up to something. 

He wanted to try and figure out what he could get for his siblings for Christmas.  He had a budget, and he had ideas of what he wanted for each of them.  He wanted to be prepared before we went shopping, he wanted to know exactly what he could afford.

He saved his money for months.  He opted to save the gift card he got as a reward for selling popcorn for his Cub Scout Pack.  Rather than spend it on himself, he wanted to save it. 

Aidan asked me yesterday if I'd take him to the store.  He had a little list he'd been guarding with his life for a week, his Spiderman wallet and a plan. 

Off we went.  I helped him find the things he wanted for his sisters, then we picked out something he was sure AJ would adore.  I thought he was done.  He wasn't.

He wanted to know where to find something else.  Something cool for his Dad.  Something that we could all play with together and that we've never had.  After we found it in the store, I asked him where he got the idea...it was pretty cool.  He said he'd found it online, with a huge grin on his face.

We started to head to the grocery section, and he said he still wasn't done.  Could I give him a minute?

I wasn't going to have him wandering the store alone because it was so crowded, but I promised I wouldn't look.  He took a good long while in the aisle, picked up more than a few things and put them back.  Then he found what he was looking for and tucked it into his coat so I couldn't see. 

He put his treasures up on the belt at the register, trying to figure out how much of his change he might need.  Could I help him count it out so he didn't take too long, he asked?  He didn't want to hold up the line.

He handed over his gift card, his dollar bills, his quarters and his pennies. 

He bought all his own presents this year

Not because I asked him to or because I expected him to.  Because he wanted to.

This little boy, not so little anymore.  He made his mama cry in the line of a crowded store.  He's officially turned into a young man, and I am proud to say he is mine.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 18

Day 18 - What are your views on gay marriage?

I've written about this exact subject already, so anyone who's been around for a while already knows the answer to this one.  You can read it here if you are interested.

In case you missed that one (which to date has the most feedback of all my posts, since it riled up a few readers quite a bit), I will lay it out for you, basically summarizing what I've said before.

I am 100% completely in favor of gay marriage.  Totally.  Give it to them.  All of it.

I believe in equality.  I believe in fairness.  And not just the fence sitting moderate liberal variety.

I know that human sexuality isn't something within any one's control.  (this point seemed to incite the most ugly commentary before, sadly)

I have witnessed with my own eyes what happens when reality is squashed back and people live a lie.  Too many times.

I am well aware of the fact that straight people have yet to master marriage.  We can't very well lay claim to it, hold it up on some alleged pedestal when the divorce rate is 50%.   

I can't wrap my head around why it is perfectly acceptable for one person to marry 8 times just because they are straight, yet a homosexual couple who has been together for decades cannot marry once.

I think the current paranoia about gay marriage is largely a construct of the bully pulpit.  (For more of my views on religion, stay tuned.....the next one of the 30 days of truth asks me to write about that.)

I could go on for days about this subject, but I will spare you. 

I think it's pretty obvious where I stand.

The Necessity of Laughter

After yesterday's post, I am sure that there are people out there who think I am nuts.  Maybe I am.  At this point, I probably am not in the best position to be judging that anyway.  

Truth is, there isn't much in my life that is funny right now.  Being a grown up sucks.  Feeling like the weight of the world is always on my shoulders, like no matter how hard I try, I can't make things right. 

I want to go back in time.

I envy my kids a little for that.  They are still there, in that place I long to return to.  They still think that Santa can magically bring them anything they want.  They still believe that their parents are invincible.  They've never had reason to think otherwise.  They are innocent and happy.  Life is still fun.

If only it were possible to recapture that. 

So, yes, life gets complicated.  That old adage about life not being fair....well, it's spot on.  These days, I find myself desperately clinging to the humor in life to survive.

I know that some people probably don't understand me.  To them, all I can say is that I have to do what I have to do sometimes just to get through the day.  I'd rather it be laughter than any of the other crutches I could turn to. 

I've been asked too many times this week how I am managing.  Partially, I really do think I am just on autopilot.  I do what I have to do because I need to do it. Period. I have too many little people relying on me for things, and as much as life is disappointing me right now, I want to protect them from all that.  I do what I need to for them.   The rest of my day to day survival can be attributed in large part to laughing. 

I laugh because if I don't, I will cry. 

If we lose the ability to laugh, no matter what else is going on, we begin to take ourselves far too seriously.  We start to resent the reality when what we really need to do is embrace the opportunity.

Sometimes that means you have to find ridiculous humor in things that shouldn't be funny.  Sometimes that means you have to be willing to laugh at yourself.  Sometimes it means you smile when your heart is breaking. 

As I've said to at least one friend before, you only get one trip around the carousel...you might as well enjoy it.    Don't spend all your time regretting not getting on a different horse.  Don't think about what you left behind, the things that couldn't make the trip with you.  Don't live in woeful anticipation of the ride coming to an end.  Enjoy it while it lasts.  Let yourself ride.

My Dad, sticking his tongue out at me.
Throw your hands in the air, let the wind whip your hair around, and just ride. 

Just ride.


The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.
~e.e. cummings

Saturday, December 18, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 17

Day 17  - What is a book you’ve read that changed your views on something?

I am sure that the point of this question is for me to answer it with something that managed to persuade me to think differently about something as a result.  Trouble is, I'm not an easily persuaded person.  There are pivotal books in my life, this is true, but I'm having difficulty thinking of one that changed my views on anything.

There is one book though, the only book that sticks out clearly as a game changer in my life.  It was the one I was reading the night I realized I needed help.

The night I confronted my postpartum depression head on. 

The night I admitted it to my husband and to myself.

It wasn't because of anything really in the book, though it wasn't a pleasant story to read anyway.  If you've not read it, it isn't for the faint of heart.  The words of the story were not the problem, I was.   I was internalizing everything, my brain turning it into disturbing visions in my head. 

I read a passage from the book and cracked. 

That book, it broke me. 

I couldn't kid myself anymore.  I couldn't hide what I knew was wrong.  I had to tell him.  I had to say the words out loud. 



The book?  The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. 

Blowing Sunshine and Other Funnies for Your Saturday

Bah Humbug. 

I've been told that I need to write things more upbeat.  Put on the happy face.  All that jazz.

Merry Christmas or whatever.

I'm not normally one to blow sunshine up anyone's ass, but I'm too tired to argue about it at the moment.  So I will tell you all the funny things that happened this week.

Apologies for my abrasiveness.  Well, not really.  I'm not terribly apologetic about it, I'm just saying that because I am supposed to.  I have a short fuse lately, and my censor button seems to need repairing.  So if inappropriate humor makes you fidget in your seat, it's best to stop reading now.  Or up there in that last paragraph, where I was talking about blowing sunshine up your ass. 

Anyhow.  Back to the funnies. 

* I bought leggings this week.  With zippers on the sides.  I am a 33 year old woman.  What the hell was I thinking?  Granted, they were $3.74 on the clearance rack at Target.  But still.  Needless to say, I haven't worn them.  You should stop wearing leggings by middle school.  Yes, even if you are a size 2.  I recently came across a woman older than me wearing leggings and a regular shirt (not a tunic or dress thing, just a shirt).  Even though she definitely had the body to pull it off, it's not something that should be attempted past the age of 10.  Just saying.

* A wonderful stomach virus made it's way through the house earlier this week.  I realized how bad it must be when one of my children (who will remain nameless for their own well being) told me that their pooper was angry.  Seriously, I cannot make this stuff up.   You don't want an angry pooper. 

* I got my drawers moistened.  While I was in the shower.  I was taking the mom equivalent of a shower, many of you will know what I'm talking about.  You know, how you can shampoo and condition your hair, exfoliate your face, wash your body and remove all undesirable hair with the shower door half open in exactly 3 minutes?  That shower.  Anyhow, I should have known the boy was up to no good when he shut the bathroom door.  When I got out, I opened the door.  No one was screaming, the house wasn't on fire and I could hear all 4 of them, so I figured there wasn't a problem.  Then I walked around to my side of the bed and realized that he had squeezed out the entire tube of hand cream.  On the nightstand, on the carpet and all over the inside of the drawer that once contained said tube of hand cream.  That drawer was getting a bit chappy.

* I went to 4 stores that sold bread in one day, knowing full well that we were completely out of it at home and still came home breadless.  That takes a special kind of skill.

* AJ got playdough from his auntie for Christmas.  They have been playing with it and cleaning it up, so I haven't taken much notice of the colors in the set.  I can tell you there is pink though for sure.  I've pulled out two globs of pink playdough from his nose.  Tom pulled one out too.  Ok, so maybe there isn't much pink playdough actually left at this point...

* My dear husband inappropriately texted the wrong guy at his office party.  He meant to text dude with the same name #1, but accidentally sent it to dude with the same name #2.  Which would have been fine if it wasn't intended to remind him to put his cell phone away during dinner through the use of the not-so-subtle message "Keep it in your pants".  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, he is mine.  All mine.  Fortunately dude #2 laughed.  Because if he hadn't....well, this might not be so funny.

* At that same party, we took some really awful white elephant gifts for the exchange.  Like so bad that I can't believe Tom actually went to a cash register and paid for them while his daughter was with him!  The peel and stick invisible boob lifts...really?  Really???  Believe it or not, we brought home something worse.  This.   Underwear actually designed to make your ass look bigger.  No, I'm not kidding.  Thankfully we got a case of wine to go with our new Booty Pop panties.  If I'm going to make my ass bigger, I'd prefer to do it the old fashioned way, thank you very much.

Have a wonderful Saturday.  Or don't.  Whatever.

After I torture my two year old by taking him to visit the dude in the red suit today, I'll be settling in for some adult beverages.  That is, of course, assuming I am not struck by that lovely stomach virus in the next 12 hours.  You really shouldn't drink with an angry pooper.

Friday, December 17, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 16

Day 16 - Who is someone or what is something you definitely could live without?

Sit back and get cozy.  This could be a long list. 

I wouldn't even know where to start.

Oh wait, the question isn't asking for everything, just something

Well, then. 

Just the one? 

Right now, something comes to mind pretty easily.  It's something that could be banished from the world forever and ever and I would be just fine with that.  It's something that I hate for existing in the first place.  Something that has reared it's ugly head in my life more than once, altering the course of events drastically and changing everything. 

It's something that I pretty routinely proclaim can "suck it" on my Facebook status. 

Cancer.  You can go away.

Go ahead.  Go.

Don't let the door hit you.

Insufficient Glitter

We haven't had hardly any snow here this year yet.  Normally, I'd be itching for snow by now, wishing for a huge storm to blow in. 

The kids are officially antsy.  Ashley woke up one day this week angry.  She looked outside expecting to see the world covered with a wintry blanket and saw the same old stick trees and brown grass that had been there the day before.

They want to go sledding and throw snowballs.  They want to make snow angels and snowmen.  They want to build the driveway ramp and catch snowflakes on their tongues. 

The weather isn't cooperating though.


As much as it would normally bother me, I could care less this year.  It would take a miracle to get me into the Christmas spirit, and though snow would be a good start, it wouldn't be enough.  Not even close.

I haven't baked hardly at all.  I haven't wrapped a thing.  There is a box of lights that has been sitting on my back porch for weeks now.  I just don't care about whether they get put up enough to do it.  I avoid Christmas music, changing the station as soon as a song comes on. 

Today is the huge frenzied school party run back and forth between the classrooms day.  I was up late making treats for class because the kids asked, but will be the first to tell you there is no joy in it for me this time around.  I am actually dreading the class parties.  T minus 2 hours and 30 minutes.  Normally I wear red or green.  Not this year.  I am wearing brown. 

Sitting here on the couch, forcing my youngest to take a nap early, I am looking out the window.  Tiny little snowflakes are falling from the sky, not even close to enough to stick, but fall they must.  It's sunny and snowing.  Welcome to Colorado.  The sunlight catching on the snowflakes creates the illusion of glitter coming from above. 

I can't lie, it is beautiful. 

But it's not enough.

10 Minutes

I spent pretty much all day today going.  And going.  It's almost 10pm and I just sat down.

It's that last week of school before break, the kids will be home 24/7 soon, I still have a million things to do before Christmas kind of panic. 

I found the unfindable in the unlikeliest of places, the thing that is going to make me an awesome mom come next week.

I scored a pair of jeans for myself for less than $10. 

I got my baby boy the thing that I know will drive me crazy but that I know he will adore.

I wrote out almost 100 envelopes for Christmas cards.

I think I managed to get all the gifts taken care of for the teachers and other special people at school.  I hope so anyway....I am out of time if I missed someone.

I made, cut, frosted and decorated 117 tree shaped peanut free brownies for the parties tomorrow.  I keep waiting for the day that my kids ask for something easy and simple. 

I did all those things because I had to, because I needed to. 

And for 10 minutes in the middle of the craziness of my day, I sat in my car and cried until there weren't any tears left.

Guess I needed to do that too.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 15

Day 15 - What is something or who is someone you couldn’t live without, because you’ve tried living without it?

Halfway done.  Whew. 

Thank goodness this one is easy.  And anyone who knows me well enough already knows this answer. 

Coffee. 

I.Love.Coffee.

I drink a lot of it.  Like at least half a pot a day.  I know, right?

The kids know that mommy needs her coffee.  I've trained them well. 

I had to laugh at the Christmas party last night.  Someone commented on how huge the coffee mugs were, and I was simultaneously thinking how small they were.  I like my coffee big.  What I drink it out of at home isn't a petite little coffee cup.  It's a huge beast of a cup, more like a bowl than anything else. 

I've tried to quit many times.  I've even attempted to phase it out in the bizarre Catholic self punishment that is Lent more than once.

I switched to decaf when I was pregnant, desperately trying to retain some cosmic psychological benefits.   Thankfully none of my kids were ever sensitive to coffee when I was nursing.  I'm not sure how I would have survived the sleep deprivation without the good stuff. 

I often wonder about the person who stared at a bean one day long ago and thought...hey, I could do something fantastic with this.  I love that person.  Seriously. 

Speaking of coffee....I need a refill.

Fancy Me

So I bought this black sweater dress a few years ago with all the best intentions in the world.  I was going to wear it and it was going to be awesome.

Don't you hate it how the magic of the fitting room mirror seems to fade the minute you bring something home?

That dress is still sitting in my closet, still has the tags on it. 

I even bought leggings to wear with it today.  I was going to wear it to Tom's company Christmas party tonight.  I has visions of how cute it would all be.  And then I put it on.

Turns out that sweater dresses aren't my thing.  Shocker, I know.

The look on my husband's face told me that it just wasn't going to work.  It's okay though, I already knew what his face was saying.

I'm not that cool.  I'm not that trendy. 

We both used the excuse that it wasn't dressy enough.  Whatever works, right?

I wore old reliable, also known as my go-to little black dress. 

It's cute and all, very flattering and pretty.  I just always end up wearing it.  Every time I think I am going to branch out, push the envelope of my personal style, try something new...I end up in the dress. 

At least it sparkles.  And it does the ladies justice.  You women know what I'm talking about.

So I put on old reliable.  I engaged in the annual curling of the eyelashes.  Pulled out the beautiful antique jewelry passed down from my grandmother.  Put on the heels. 


Supposed to be proof that I curled my eyelashes, but it's too dark in here because everyone is asleep.
 I'm not so much in the mood for parties right now.  Or fancy.  Or associating with other humans in general really.  But you gotta do what you gotta do.   And tonight, I needed to be fancy. 

As we walked into the party, I instantly holed up in the corner with the people I can actually talk to at these events without wanting to gouge out my eyeballs.  Then I complimented one of them, a perky, trendy young woman on the adorable sweater dress she was rocking. 

She can wear it.  I can't. 

And I'm okay with that. 

My sweater dress didn't do the ladies justice anyway.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 14

Day 14 - Who is a hero that has let you down?

Sigh.  Yet another one I don't really want to answer.  Next time I take on one of these challenges, I am going to make sure to read through all the days first.  There's a photography one floating through cyberspace...maybe that one wouldn't be so bad.

If it wasn't for my resolute stubbornness, I would quit this challenge.  Throw in the towel and be done with it.  Stubbornness....one of my more annoying personality traits. 

You see, the trouble with answering this question is that I have lived almost my entire life without heroes.  Almost.

Back when I was a little girl, I had heroes.

I was a different person back then, very different from who I am now.  I was happy and innocent as a young child.  The cynical jaded person you all know and love today didn't exist yet then.  Back then, I'd never known loss or disappointment, heartbreak or sadness.  

Then one day I did.  

My Pap, one of my heroes, died. 

I was five.

I know that he didn't let me down on purpose.  I know that he'd have given anything not to have that heart attack.  He was young and strong, I know he wasn't ready to go.  He had a whole lifetime still ahead of him.

Something in me changed that day.  From that point on in my life, I stopped elevating people to hero status.  People were just people, flawed and broken.    No one was invincible.  No one was perfect.  No one was forever.  I knew then that someday, eventually, they would leave, they would walk away, they would be gone.   And it wouldn't make a damn bit of difference if I was done needing them or not.

It's a hell of a lesson to learn at five.

I wonder sometimes just how different I'd be if he hadn't died when he did.  If it would have mattered if he'd seen me sing in concerts, play softball, graduate, walk down the aisle, have children of my own.   I can't help but think I would be different. 

I miss you Pap.

The Myth of Choice

I'm just in the mood to touch third rails these days.

What I am about to write about is something that I feel very passionately about and fully expect people to disagree with me about.  It's an issue that I am torn on myself in many ways, at a loss of what I will do when the time comes that I have to cross that bridge.

It's about school choice.  Or the myth of it.

I call it a myth because it isn't really something that many people have a real choice about.   Sure, there is a vocal group of parents who preach about the virtues of it, who hang on to the notion that their children deserve the best, that they know what is the best for their children. 

I'd like to make an argument that school choice is actually not a good thing for most kids.  And it hurts the quality of the education received by just about all of them.

Before you all go grab your torches, hear me out. 

Back before we moved here, I was in a credential program.  I student taught in a public school in a low income neighborhood.  The school had a fabulous reputation, all the employees at the university nearby would attempt to open enroll their kids there.  So you had this socio-economic dichotomy of kids.  One end of the spectrum next to the other.  We had kids with parents in jail sitting next to the children of associate deans. 

I taught there.  It wasn't a good school.  Not by any stretch of the imagination.  The teachers were disinterested.  Uninvolved in what they were doing.  They pandered to the parents of the kids that mattered, the vocal ones who would raise hell if they didn't get their way.  The other kids fell by the wayside.  Sure, a handful of the kids got a great education.  Most of them didn't.  You can probably guess which parents were the ones raving about the school, getting it the reputation it had.  Little did they know.

When we moved here, part of the draw was the school system.  Not wonderful, but far better than the one in the area we lived in at the time.  At least on paper.  The schools we left didn't allow open enrollment.  The schools we moved to did. 

At the time, we were naive enough to believe that was a good thing.  I see how it isn't now.

Sure, you can handpick a school that excels in the area your child is interested in, which presumes that any 10 or 14 year old really knows what they want to be when they grow up.  It also assumes that you can just get into the school you think is best.  That there aren't ridiculous waiting lists or test-in requirements.  That the open enrollment period doesn't mean that parents who have the desire and ability to sleep overnight in the dead of winter outside a door should be the first to get their kid on the list.  It also assumes that the parents can get their student to and from the school that is best for them, assuming they get in.  Working parents, you might be out of luck here. 

My biggest issue with open enrollment is something else entirely though.  Something that most people never even think about when they are thinking about the best interests of their child.  It is this: the very idea of open enrollment removes a certain degree of investment in the school by the parents and children who are supposed to go there.  There isn't as much motivation to make it better, to work on flaws, to revamp curriculum, to raise money....well, because if we don't like it we can always just go somewhere else.  Pack up my stuff and leave.  It doesn't force anyone to care as much as they should. 

Alright, got your torches fired up yet?  I thought so.

Now, don't misunderstand me.  I am not saying that parents should stop being focused primarily on what is best for their child individually, but there is a slippery slope that starts when the pursuit of what is best for "me" begins.  At what point do the schools fail to offer the same quality of education because one is labeled "good", the other "bad"?  At what point do parents hide behind other justifications for their choice, and the schools become racially segregated?  What about the kids at those schools?  The ones there because their parent couldn't sleep overnight in a parking lot, or drive them across town every day, or pay for tutoring to get them to test into a special elite program.  What about them?  Are they less deserving of a quality public education?  Of course not.

This is the problem with school choice.  It is a myth, available only to those with the means and knowledge to truly pursue it.

Now, I won't go into which schools are which in this district.  I'm not about to make accusations about anyone.  I don't point fingers.  I don't judge what one parent does for their child, especially if it is done in the name of their best interest.  What I take fault with is the system that allows this in the first place.  The system that, in fact, encourages it.

School choice came about as a way to improve schools.  In a lot of ways, it's only stratified them more.  But, like so many things in this society we live in, once that power is placed in the hands of the masses, it's virtually impossible to take it away.  Can you imagine the uproar if open enrollment was discontinued here?  Good god

I have another year before I have to cross that bridge.  Before I have to decide whether my oldest will go to the school in the boundaries or whether I attempt to open enroll him somewhere else.   More likely than not, he will go where his friends go, assuming I can get him in there.  Wherever there is.  Middle school without pre-existing friendships is not a torture I will subject him to.  I lived it.  It was hell. 

I find it laughable that the school choice expo here is held after the start of open enrollment.  It's almost like the district is just throwing a bone to the parents who don't really have a choice, trying to convince them they do.  By the time the expo was held this year, the coveted spots in the so-called desirable schools were gone. 

So you see, there really isn't so much choice in the choice as advertised. 

Unless you know how to game the system. 

And that, my friends, isn't what public school is supposed to be about at all.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 13

Day 13 - What is the band or artist that has gotten you through some tough ass days?

As much as I love music, there isn't really one band or artist that I turn to.  There is one song though. 

This one. 

Wheels, Foo Fighters

I find myself playing this one a lot. 

Ironically, the very first time I heard this song I was on a plane. 

Flying back home from California at the end of February alone. 

Flying away from where I felt like I should be. 

Flying back to where I knew I needed to be. 

Flying away from some of the the hardest days of my life.

Flying into the unknown future.

Flying away from one part of my life to the other.

Getting on that plane took all the strength I had.  It took the acceptance of the fact that there were things out of my control.  It took the realization that I still had little lives depending on me, no matter what else happened.  It took faith and it took hope. 

At some point mid flight I managed to stop crying, and when I did, this song came on the in-flight radio.  At just about exactly the time in my life that I needed it. 

Funny how that works.

Flying Ornaments

I threw an ornament at my tree today.  I'm not proud of myself.

I sat there and laughed and wondered aloud why I bother obsessing about the perfect placement of the lights when I know the rest of the tree is going to eventually look haphazard and random.

I live with children, real live ones.

I don't live in a house where children are forbidden from touching things.  Evidence of that is clear to anyone who bothers with more than a passing glance at my walls. 

I don't have plastic on my couches to protect them from spills.  I bought leather you can wipe off and slip covers that go in the washer for a reason.

I don't have a pristine sitting room off limits to anyone under the age of 30.  There are two couches in that room.  One with a huge gaping hole in it, the other recently repaired with duct tape. 

I don't have fancy tablecloths and centerpieces.  I do, however, have a fabulously distressed kitchen table. 

I live in a house that isn't just occupied by children, I live in a house where children live.

I don't know why I imagine that Christmas would ever be different.  That some magic protective coating would appear over my decorations. Yet I do. 

I spend over an hour every year putting the lights on the tree perfectly.  I let the kids put most of the ornaments on the tree, but then I go back and fill in the gaps, balance it all out.  Make it look pretty and symmetrical and uniform. 

Then it stays that way for exactly 3.7 seconds.

Eventually, there are more ornaments on the floor than on the tree.  The princess dresses are notorious for flying off the tree and into the hands of mischievous little girls.  Anything AJ can reach is fair game.  He talks to them, he tells them stories.  He brings them to me.  Sometimes he dismantles them.

I think he has a future in reverse engineering.  Or demolition.

At some point, I find myself fed up with trying to make the tree look pretty anymore.  By now, any ornament I care about has already been relocated to the top third of the tree.  Anything breakable that was put on there...chances are 50/50 it's broken.  Anything that has sentimental value that is breakable was taken off and hidden weeks ago.  The tree hasn't even come down yet.  It will.  It always does. 

AJ brought me a beaded wire ornament today.  I made a bunch of them when we first got married.  It's just one piece of wire, coiled to look like a little Christmas tree.  He'd uncoiled it.  Again. 

I coiled it back up.  I laughed a little.  Then, when he wasn't looking, I just threw it at the tree. 

It landed upside down.  I don't care though.  I know it's not going to stay there anyway. 

I could have walked over the tree and hung it all nice and pretty.  I could have perpetuated the illusion, it's true.  But really, what's the point?

Besides, that spot on the tree was missing something.

Monday, December 13, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 12

Day 12 - What is something you never get compliments on?

Just when one of these questions is easy, wham, a hard one.

There are three different ways to approach this question. 

1.  Answer it the way it is intended to be answered.  There are two things hard about this question.  First, you have to conjure up all the things about you that are awesome.  Second, you have to figure out which one is something that other people, at least theoretically, would compliment you on if they knew.  Or noticed.  Or bothered saying anything about.

2. You just decide that you aren't worthy of compliments, whether in a self deprecating humor sort of way or in a real and sadly depressing way.

3. You find something you are just bad at, and say....well, people will never compliment me on this because I suck at it. 

It actually seems like most of the people writing this challenge are doing that last thing.  Which, I suppose, is one way to answer the question.  Me, though, I like a challenge.  So I am going to go with the first option.

The trouble with answering this question that way is that my tendency would be to take the second or third option.  Me and my self deprecating self, we could answer it that way.  But I won't.
 
I guess my answer will be my intelligence. 
 
At first glance, I'm just a stay at home mom with a boatload of kids.  Whatever it means to be "just a mom" anyway...  No one here ever has ever known me as anything else.  I don't dress up, I don't have a fancy car, I don't have a lucrative career.  There's no reason for anyone to suspect otherwise.

Besides, I have spent a good part of my life suppressing my intelligence.  Ever since I was little, I knew that it was better to just keep it under wraps.   It's hard to see where the line is between smart and dork, genius and evil genius, intelligent and head case.  So I try to stay away from that line.  Contain the brain.
 


Once people get to know me well, though, they realize that I'm not just a uterus. 
 
Every so often, like once happened on a cruise ship in Alaska, even people who know me better than anyone in the universe should, realize just how intelligent I actually am.   One evening on that boat, I found myself in a conversation with highly educated people from another country and the conversation meandered down the path of health care policy.  I just couldn't help myself.  Big fancy words were trickling out of my mouth, intricate arguments were invented, pointed questions were asked until eventually I looked around the table to see my own family members with their mouths hanging open.  They know I'm smart and all, but damn. 
 
My actual intelligence, I hide it well.  So well that my own family often doesn't even know. 
 
It's pretty hard to compliment someone on something so actively and intentionally suppressed.

The Tale of the Headless King

Over the years I have acquired at least five nativity sets, not including all the figurines and nightlights that are single pieces.  I'm talking five separate sets of people.

By now you all know about our vast Christmas collection.  

The first nativity I got was when my cousin was selling for a home based group.  I bought a set from her with glass figurines and a mirrored base.  It was small and simple, and it served the purpose I needed it to when I was in college. 

The second one was a gift I got from my aunt at my bridal shower.  The third was the set that my grandmother used to display in her house, and it was passed to me the year she died.  It is one of my most cherished Christmas items, and the kids know it is important to me.  They know they can't touch that one.

When Aidan was a baby, my mother in law made a set from tiny terra cotta pots.  It's adorable, and no matter what I tried, the kids always wanted to play with it.  As with all the other sets, I'd shoo them away and direct them towards the special toys and books that came out at Christmas time.   I had other figurines for the kids to keep in their rooms, but they always wanted to play with the people in the sets. 

About three years ago, back when I was actively ebaying, I came across a ceramic nativity set at a garage sale.  All the characters were children, the colors muted and soft.  The pieces weren't in perfect condition, but the set was complete.  I bought it initially planning to sell it.  I should have known better.



As soon as I brought it home, Ashley found it.  She carefully took the little statutes from the foam box and set them up on the table and began to play with them.  Ally noticed and started to play too.  Aidan came over and told the girls that the baby wasn't just a baby.  He was Jesus.  They looked at him, not really understanding what that meant, but figuring he knew what he was talking about.

I didn't sell it. 

I figured that it was better for the kids to have a set that they actually could touch and feel and play with.  That they could set up and read books to and tell stories about.  Through these tiny statues, they have learned the story of Jesus' birth, the tale of the Three Kings.  They have learned what Christmas is really about.

Every year, we need to do some repairs to the pieces.  A natural by product of little kids playing with ceramic statues is that sometimes there are accidents.  Sometimes something breaks. 

Sometimes someone loses a head. 

As we were unpacking the decorations a few weeks ago, I noticed one of the kings needed his head reattached.   It's okay, though.  They invented super glue for a reason. 

Just like I found this nativity set for a reason.

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