Saturday, December 31, 2011

My year in snorts

If you're sitting around with nothing to do tonight, you've got company.  Here's something to keep you busy.  You. Are. Welcome.

Here are some of my favorite funny posts from this year.  Enjoy!

disobedient nuts - because testicles are funny.

terror on the interstate - full blown freak out.

when you have boys, I and II - anyone with a son will understand.

12 ounces of sweet redemption - chocolate jesus.  enough said.

mommy needs a drink - a list of reasons, if you need some.

stop cleaning this instant! - i heart religious zealots.

lotion girl - i had to wash my eyeballs.

little pieces of joy - fucking with my neighbor since 2005.

a strange birthday request - naked bea arthur.  you know you want to look.

things we learned at dinner last night - chicken nipples.

do you see it? - public humiliation of children, always a good time.

i got balls, how bout you? - meaty sexual innuendo.

i wanna go! - when your baby asks to go to a bar, you really should take them.

friday fashion tips -'s.department.

oh crap, i'm not packed yet - the world that didn't end, so you can read this again.

rawr - scaring my son for years.

brace yourselves - and why can't we set up a bar in the parking lot?  it's a legitimate question.

like it's 1999 - we may only have 355 days left.  drink up, bitches!


I've been looking forward to today for almost the entire year.

365 days ago, I was at my parent's house.  I was stuck there, waiting for my van to be repaired, but grateful for the time with my father.

If I'd known what the next year would bring, or what was happening that very day back home, I can't say what I would have done.

It's a good thing I didn't know what would happen, what was happening, then.  It's better that way.

I just wish I could forget it all now.

This entire year has been horrible from beginning to end.  I've lost, I've questioned, I've barely held on.  It's a good thing there are only a few hours left.

I don't think I could take any more from 2011.

There's not much fight left in me.

There are a few of you who have a fuller picture of what I've been through, but most of you know only what I have shared here publicly.  There's more.  A lot more.

Suffice to say that I'm glad it's about done.

I'm hopeful for the new year.  Not that I believe for one second that things will magically get better when the clock strikes midnight, because I know better than that.

What I do believe in, though, is second chances.

Part of me knows that I shouldn't.  That the part of my soul that dictates self preservation should take over and start running the show.  In some ways it has, I suppose already.

I learned to say no this year.  But only to some people.  Not to everyone.  Some people can change, some people can't.  Second chances are okay, but there shouldn't be fifth or tenth chances.  Not anymore.  I've been burned too many times in the past to let it happen again.

That other part of me, the hopeful part, that's the piece that is looking forward.  The piece that still holds optimism, even looking through the rose colored glasses I now wear.  I want to believe that things can be better.

I want to believe that at some point, things have to improve.

I want to believe that I've been through enough.

I want to believe that I've passed this test.

I want to believe that 2012 will be better.

And, mostly, I just want this year to be over.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Out Laws

I can honestly say that I adore my in-laws.  Really, I do.  I'm not one of those kind of people to pretty things up and make nice anyway, so you know that my feelings have to be genuine.

And they are.

This isn't to say that there has never been conflict among us, of course there has been.  It's human nature to disagree about things from time to time.  We always have, and we probably always will, have things we don't see eye to eye on.

And that's okay.

What's more important is that over the years, they've become a part of my family.  They aren't just my husband's parents, they are mine too now.  I find myself leaning on them, relying on them, needing them.

They've been the help I need, whether I've been here or not.  They've been allies when I needed someone in my corner.  They've been the kick in the ass I needed recently.  They've been willing emergency contacts for my exceedingly accident prone family....and that alone deserves recognition.

About this time last week, my mother-in-law was at a crossroads.  She had a decision to make, and she had to make it in a hurry.  There was no way she could be in two places at once.  People in two places far away from one another needed her, and she was torn.

This time, she looked to me for advice, knowing that I'd been in that place she was in too many times to count in the last few years.  I simply told her that she had to go where her heart told her, and that everything else would be okay.  Everything that had to get done would.  Those of us here would fill in the gaps.

She went, and she's exactly where she needed to be.

On Christmas Eve, I missed her as we opened gifts.  She was here though.  And it's becoming more and more clear just how well she knows me.

Who else would know that I wanted:

- A giant bottle of full octane Coke, with a shiny red holiday label?  It's mine, all mine.

- A package of New Years Eve goodies, not so much to celebrate the New Year as to show this one the door?

- A package of chocolate just for me, already hidden from the kids?

- A labeler?!?!?!  Hell yeah!!!!!

She totally gets my crazy.

And my father-in-law.....where to start?  My youngest child looks up to him so much that one of the things he wanted for Christmas was a moustache so he could look like Papa.

He's hanging out locally for the time being, not really sure what the future holds.  He offered to cook the turkey for Christmas dinner.  I asked him if he was sure, since he'd never in his life been the one in charge of the turkey.

He checked which pizza places were open just in case, then said he wanted to do it.  He even said he would make gravy.

And the turkey was delicious, even if it was cooked upside down.

He is in his workshop finishing up my other gift today, handmade Adirondack chairs.  Told you he is awesome.

Most of us only ever get one set of parents in this life.  I'm lucky I got a bonus set.

Love you guys.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The story I can finally tell

Okay, so there are only about a million really freaking good stories that I haven't written about.   I'm totally holding out on you people.  Maybe someday I'll get there.  ;)

There is this one that I can share officially now because the gift has been given as of yesterday morning.

We got a Kindle Fire for the family.  And it's pretty awesome.

It was delivered over a month ago, and my dear husband just couldn't fight the irresistible urge to remove it from it's packaging and check it out.  Of course, he invented all kinds of legitimate reasons why he had to.

- It needed charged.  
- He needed to figure out how to use it to help the kids.
- He had to set it up with our online accounts so that the music, movies and books we already have purchased on the cloud appeared on it.

Here's what really happened.

He did charge it that first time.  And then about 5 or 6 times at least after that.

He figured out how to use it, but he also loaded it up with all kinds of apps that the kids might never actually use.  And he played Angry Birds.  A lot.

It got the the point where I knew what he was up to when he would announce he had to go to the bathroom.  Code for I'm going to go hide in a small stinky room and play with my I mean the kids' new toy.

He'd be gone well over an hour at times.

I'd have all kinds of messages in my inbox while he was gone, telling me how awesome this new thing was.

He even posted on his Facebook page that he adored his his kids' new Kindle.

It got to the point where he was spending as much time in the bathroom as he was with the rest of us.  Finally, I had to intervene when he asked me what could be wrong with his legs one day.  They were all numb and tingly and weird feeling and he had no idea why.


Might be the hours of toilet sitting, honey.

He then declared that he'd mastered the device that morning and tucked it away where it was supposed to be.  Away from the kids.  All 5 of them, big one included.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Just stopping by to wish you all a Merry Christmas!

Have a wonderful day filled with love and laughter.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

I'm Ellen

I have way too much to do today, largely a result of my apathy the last few weeks.  Well, that, and I'm just a procrastinator anyway by nature.

You'd think I would learn eventually, but no.

The vegetables are sauteing for the stuffing right now, the bread drying.  I have two pies to make, banana bread and coffee cake to bake for the morning.  About six loads of laundry that may or may not get finished.

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING is wrapped.  I still have one gift to pick up, thanks to the underground hair products black market of Longmont, Colorado.  Somehow, I forgot to get potatoes at the store.  My house is a mess, and I'm sitting here ignoring it all for a few more moments.

My mother in law left in a hurry a few days ago, someone else needed her more right now.  Everything that she'd normally be doing will still get done, come hell or high water.  It just won't be the same.

Throw in a dash of family conflict for good measure.  It wouldn't be the holidays without it, right?

This is why Jimmy Fallon's duet with John Rich is my theme song this Christmas season.

Alright, I'm going in.

Wish me luck.

I'd like to survive the next two days.

If my husband is Clark Griswold, that must make me his wife, Ellen.

I don't know what to say, except it's Christmas and we're all in misery.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Kick Ass

Though there are certainly times during the winter that I loathe having a huge sloped driveway, it does have it's perks.

I've slipped on the ice more times than I care to count, I've been forced to shovel it just to get the van out, my van has slid down it sideways more than once.

When there's more than a few inches, clearing it isn't just a minor workout.

Of course, I spend way more time out there than I need to.  I could just shovel it and be done.

The kids might stage a rebellion though.

I have a reputation to uphold, and I've got expectations to meet.

I build kick ass snow ramps down the driveway, with hills and turns and all that.  The best ones will launch the kids all the way across the street.  (Don't worry, we have a fairly isolated neighborhood and they've always got a spotter.)

I've been doing it for enough years now that I've got it down to a science.

Even the kids know the ramp is better the second day, after the snow has compacted more and iced up.  The neighbor kids start wandering this way eventually...and before you know it, I've got a ton of them taking turns down the hill.

In case you are wondering where we're at today, we haven't gone far.

But we've probably gone pretty fast.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

....and counting

Ten days left.  Only ten days.

Then this no good, terrible, very bad year will be over.

Tick tock.

There haven't been many times in my life when I wanted the clock to run faster, where I would urge time ahead if I could, but this is one of them.

We've just had a bad run around here, and I'm about done with it.

Strike that.  I've been done for a while now, but the powers that be seem to be disagreeing.

All I want for Christmas is a little bit of boring for a while.

I could really handle a big old dose of dull.

Routine would be fantastic.

Monotony never looked so appealing.

You get where I'm going with this.

I had to take Tom to work this morning, and as soon as I left, fighting back the tears that wanted to come from this latest family challenge, this song came on the radio.

I'm feeling this way right about now.  Apparently, Bret Michaels and his giant early 90's hair agrees.

I'm feeling like I need something to believe in.  Trouble is that I don't do blind faith well.  I wasn't great at it before, and I can't let myself do it now.  That pesky self-preservation thing.

There are so many things in this world that are messed up right now.

Some of them are FUBAR.

Most of them are things I can't do anything about.  Like at all.  Which is hard for me.  I am a fixer.

Admitting you have a problem is the first step, right?

Monday, December 19, 2011


I knew it would happen eventually, and quite honestly I am surprised that it took as long as it did.

You can only take two little girls to an animal shelter so many times before you come home with something.

On Saturday, our family grew by one.  One very tiny one.

Meet King George, III.
Don't ask me why his name is King George, III.  He goes by George, honestly.  The rest of the name is just about being pretentious and self-absorbed, as any good cat should be.

He's only 8 weeks old, so he's still a little guy.  He's already trained to the litter box though, Thank God.  I want nothing to do with potty training a child, let alone an animal.

Tom has been taking the girls to the Humane Society about once a month for years.  He thinks it is fun, I personally see it more as a way to torture your children.  They'd go look at the cats and dogs, kittens and puppies and leave.  Then the girls would beg for a kitten for a few weeks until the idea wore off.  I knew that one of these days he'd just decide to bring one home.

When I got the phone call this weekend, I wasn't surprised.

I was a little surprised that there were even kittens there this time of year, though.

It should be interesting.  I've had a cat for most of my life, but found out a few months ago that I'm allergic to them.  I've doubled up my allergy meds, but my eyes are already telling me that maybe this wasn't the best idea.  My doctor isn't going to be pleased, even if my kids are ecstatic.  

So far the dogs seem to be complacent, but I'm betting that all will change once the cat is released from our room, where he's confined almost all the time to adjust to being here.  Once he can roam the house, things might change.  We tend to have cats that think they are dogs and dogs that think they are people around here.

Wish us luck as we adjust to having a baby in the house, even if it's just a furry one this time around.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Caregiving, part II

I knew that I would be forgetting stuff when I wrote the piece about care giving yesterday.  I'm not surprised, as it is such a huge and daunting subject.

I was reminded by my Auntie Mo last night about telling people that it's okay to cry.  And it is.  In fact, you need to sometimes.  As a caregiver, you are under tremendous stress at the same time that you are dealing with the illness, major life adjustment, or impending loss of a loved one.  There will be times that you have to allow yourself to let the emotions out, good, bad or indifferent.

This particular subject always takes me back to when my husband was diagnosed with cancer.  He'd gone from being a completely healthy (or so we thought) 22 year old one day to a man recovering from surgery and facing radiation treatments.  His stomach was so sensitive that I tried everything I could think of to get him to eat.  He couldn't do much alone for a while after the surgery, and I essentially took a leave from school to take him to his appointments every day.  I was, in a word, completely overwhelmed.  I never let him see it though.

At the time, we were living in a 600 square foot apartment, with no room for either of us to be alone ever.  I had almost no time to let my emotions out, except for when I'd take the trash out to the dumpster.  Those walks were slow and tear filled, I'd be on the verge of hyperventilating hysterics by the time I got to the dumpster.  Then I'd take a deep breath and collect myself, recovering on the return walk.  Those walks saved my sanity, and allowed me to be the positive energy force for him that he needed.

It wasn't a whole lot different when my brother was sick as a teenager.  We'd all find ourselves in the garage crying tears of fear and sadness, wondering what the future held, but we'd compose ourselves before walking back in the house.

As a care giver, you need to allow yourself these moments, even if they are few and far between.  If at all possible, do the best you can to keep it away from the patient though...chances are that they have enough on their plate without having to worry about reassuring you as well.

Another thing I forgot to mention yesterday is that you need to make sure you aren't sacrificing other parts of your life too much.  This is, of course, all relative to the situation.  When I left home to care for my father, I knew it wouldn't be long.  I justified leaving my children and husband because I just had a feeling that he wouldn't be on hospice for more than a few weeks.  He wasn't.  It would have been a different situation had he been given months.  I can't say what I would have done if that had been the case, but I know that it was hard to be away from my kids for the amount of time I was.  Thankfully, I had a great support network here to care for them, led by my in-laws.  Without them, I couldn't have left.

I also experienced a bit of shock after my father died, and in a way I wasn't really prepared for.  In his final weeks, I spent 24 hours a day caring for him.  I slept on the couch or in a chair beside him, ready to give him pain medication or nausea meds anytime.  I set alarms on my cell phone to keep him on his schedules.  I slept in 90 minute increments if I was lucky to get any sleep at all.  When he was gone, it all stopped.  The background music of the oxygen machine stopped humming.  The alarms I had programmed in my cell phone kept going off even though they didn't need to anymore.   The daily routines were gone.

It's hard to go from the constant demands to having nothing to do.  I felt even more helpless after he died than before he did.  At least then, I had things to do.  After, there was nothing.  My work was done.

After is a hard place to be, far harder than being in it.

I have a feeling there will be more of these posts as I think of things or am reminded by others.  Please continue to give me feedback about these posts, as they are a work in progress.  And please share them with those who could benefit from knowing they aren't alone.


Saturday, December 17, 2011


I have been thinking about this topic a lot lately, as I have so many friends going through different situations right now.  Many of us, for one reason or another, find ourselves in a place we didn't anticipate.  We are now caring for a loved one in a way we weren't quite prepared for.

There are times when you enter a caregiver role intentionally, parenthood being the primary one.  You know that by having a baby, you are voluntarily subjecting yourself to being wholly responsible for the health, safety, feeding, sheltering and caring of another human being.

I don't think most of us go into it with a clear picture of all that entails, though.  We think we are prepared, but in reality we only prepare ourselves to care for healthy, term infants with no unexpected issues.  We aren't thinking we'll have to deal with prematurity, with developmental delays, with life threatening allergies, with injuries, with cancer.

Caring for a child is an expected part of parenthood, but one that can instantly become more demanding and complicated.  There are other situations which you don't anticipate, and they present their own set of challenges.  For most of us, the most likely care giving situation you will find yourself in is caring for a parent.

In my own life, I was the primary caregiver for my dying father once he was placed on home hospice.  I left my children and husband to care for him in another state in his final weeks.  I find myself now caring for my mother as she recovers from major surgery.  I've been down this road more than once, and have caught myself giving advice to others walking a similar path.

Obviously, every situation is different, so there isn't a one size fits all solution for anyone.  Some people will be hospitalized, some in long term care facilities, some at home.  Some will have temporary illnesses, some will have chronic illnesses, some will have terminal illnesses.  Some will be in active treatment, some will be moved onto hospice care.  The only thing they all have in common is that they will need help.

One of the most difficult obstacles to deal with is often the fact that the person doesn't want to ask for help, or has trouble accepting it.  This is common, and can happen for a variety of reasons.  For some, it's just their personality, while others may be in denial of their reality.  Asking for help, acknowledging that you can't do everything alone anymore, is a hard thing for many people to overcome.  If it becomes an area of contention, sometimes enlisting the help of professionals can make a difference.  Social workers, therapists, even doctors can assist in this area.

Which brings me to my primary advice to caregivers: ask for help.  Trying to do everything alone to help another person is exhausting and draining, particularly if they are resistant to the help in any way.   There are resources in your area, use them.  There are support groups for many illnesses, both for the patient and caregiver.  There are respite care groups as well, to allow the caregiver a break away from it all.

Friends and family members can be a great resource, and I've found myself relying on them many times for help with my children, particularly at the times when I need to be in two places at once.  If you can't get your laundry done, if you can't get your bathrooms cleaned, if you are struggling with getting meals prepared, chances are that your friends and family would love the opportunity to help you.  They won't know what you need help with unless you ask.

My mom is currently receiving home health care, and her team includes a registered nurse, a certified nursing assistant, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist and a social worker.  We also will be enlisting the help of senior support services, disabled transportation, Meals on Wheels and the Center for People with Disabilities as we transition her back to her own independent living arrangement.

There is help out there, and it is often covered by insurance or available at reduced costs for those on limited incomes.  You do have to ask for it though.  If you are having difficulty locating services, call your local senior center, hospital or social services office.

If you lose the ability to care for yourself properly, you will be no good to the person you are trying to help.   Eat.  Sleep.  Take breaks.  Let other people help you.

This is obviously easier said than done, and I've run myself into the ground more than once.  The day after my father died, I found myself in the doctor's office on the verge of an asthma attack and with double ear infections.  I'd ignored my own health for too long.

When medications change frequently, I found that keeping a journal helped tremendously with my father.  His dosages changed daily, as did the intervals at which he needed the meds.  Write stuff down.  Do not try to remember it all.  This goes for doctor's appointments as well. If you have questions or concerns, write them down as you think about them, then take the list with you to the appointments.  Discuss the appointment with the patient before going, then afterwards to ensure they understand what went on.

If you aren't clear on something, call the office.  The nurses and doctors will gladly repeat the information.  With a complicated diagnosis or treatment plan, there is often too much information to absorb at once.  Ask for printouts of test reports and blood work, for your reference as well as other health care workers who may need that information.

One lesson I learned as a doula is that decisions rarely need to be made right now.  There is almost always time to ask more questions, to seek another opinion, to ask about treatment options.  If there isn't time, chances are there aren't really any options anyway.

In fact, I think that my training as a doula did more to prepare me for care giving than anything else.  Ultimately, both responsibilities are about helping someone down an uncertain and scary path, holding their hand and reassuring them.  It's helping, plain and simple.

If you are in charge of their medications, I highly recommend that you run all prescriptions through one pharmacy.  This is for several reasons.  The patient may be getting medications from several doctors, and there may be drug interactions.   Each pharmacy will run an interaction check, but if you have prescriptions at different pharmacies, they won't pick everything up.  It also helps simplify things for your own sanity.

You need to have the hard conversations.  You need to know the wishes of the patient, you need to know what the parameters are for their care.  You need to know how much intervention they will want, if any, when the time comes.  If there is paperwork that must be filled out for legal purposes, help them get it done.  You do not want to find yourself in a situation where someone calls 911 for a patient who wishes not to be resuscitated, trust me on this one.

The other family members and friends who are a presence in the life of the patient should be updated and informed of the situation, particularly including end of life decisions and any changes to plans made before.  We set up a Caring Bridge website for my father, which is something I highly recommend to those out there facing illnesses.  It helped us disseminate information without needing to call everyone all the time.  It also cut down tremendously on the number of repetitive phone calls from those who wanted updates.  You will tire of repeating the same details, this website and others like it are great for helping avoid that as much as possible.

Engage the patient as much as possible, and as much as they desire, at the times when they are alert and able. Certain illnesses and medications create extreme fatigue, but there are ways to schedule medications to allow for periods of alertness.  Talk to the patient about figuring out what works best for their desires.  Try and schedule visits from others at those times.

Honor the wishes of the patient.  If they want to talk, talk.  If they want to be left alone, let them.  If they express a desire to see family or friends, try to make that possible, with the understanding that visits should be limited according to the wishes of the patient.  People can quickly overstay their welcome with an ailing patient.

If the patient is terminal, whether in a hospital or on home hospice, understand that the dying process isn't always a linear one.  Most patients experience a surge of energy before their final decline, and many well-meaning family members have misinterpreted this, thinking it was some miraculous recovery.  It's not, and it is normal.

Also realize that at some point, the dying patient will have to finish this journey alone.  Their spouse, their children, their other family and friends cannot complete the trip with them.  It is very common for a person to turn inward in the last days or weeks.

It is common for the dying patient to wait for permission from those close to them to let go.  It is also common for the patient to worry about tying up loose ends and seeing long lost family members.  Again, these can be interpreted as the patient recovering, but often are just a normal part of the dying process.

Once the patient comes to a place of acceptance, they generally will find peace as well.  In my father's case, I found it fascinating that he was often the one reassuring everyone else that things were going to be okay.

Sit.  Listen.  Absorb what they are saying, there are many profound conversations to be heard in those final weeks.

The best advice I ever received when my father was sick was to trust my instincts.  If my heart told me I had to go, I should go.  If I needed to stay, I should.  Somehow I just knew that it wouldn't be long once he was put on hospice.  Though it seemed like everyone else around him thought he'd have far longer, I just had a feeling.  And I was right.  I'm glad I trusted that.

The other key piece of advice is to let go of the idea of planning to some degree, which is especially hard for type-A people like myself.  I had to learn to live only in today, forget about yesterday, and not worry too much about tomorrow until it got here.  This is not to say that you shouldn't make plans, but you need to learn to become flexible in a way that you never have before.   Do what you need to do to get through today, deal with tomorrow only after you've survived today.

I'm sure that I am leaving out so much that I should be writing, please feel free to comment with other suggestions or tips that you would like to pass on from your experiences.  Even writing about this subject is daunting and overwhelming...being in it is so far beyond that.

For those of you in this place where I am, I wish you peace.  I wish you hope.  I wish you relief and breaks.  For those of you who've been there before, you will know exactly what I mean.  For those of you who've not yet been there, chances are that your time will come.  Trust me when I say that there are many more people who've been there before.  Lean on them, ask them for help, use the resources available.  And breathe.

Just breathe.

Friday, December 16, 2011

And not a moment too soon

I just finished making 118 tiny brownie Christmas trees.  While I was up to my elbows in green icing, my phone rang.  The song playing, Jingle Bell Rock, thanks to my husband, Clark Griswold.

And do you know what happened?

I didn't hate it.

I think I've finally started to find my Christmas spirit.  Took a while this time around.  At least it showed up before the class parties today.

I'm not sure why this morning is different, but it just is.  I'm not going to question it too much.  Instead I'll go with it and hope it lasts for the next 9 days.

I was thinking about gratitude last night, about how even though things don't seem to be right at all in my world, they are far better than they could be.

Besides, I've learned not to tempt fate by asking what else could happen.

I am lucky in so many ways, but there are times that I need a kick in the ass to remember all I am blessed with.

More than that, though, I am reminded this morning of how precious and fragile our children are.  Of how quickly our world can fall apart when something goes wrong.  Of how hard it is to be strong sometimes, but how we can find an inner strength we didn't know was there when we need it.

This morning, my thoughts and prayers are with a little boy and his family as they embark on a new and scary journey.  I hope you all know we are here for you, however and whenever you need it.  May you find strength and peace, and may that lift you up and carry you through this.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Brace Yourselves

For most of the school aged children in the country, tomorrow is the last day of school before the holiday break. Which most likely means that any mom of said school aged child has been running around like a chicken with her head cut off all week.  Tomorrow, the culmination of the crazed attempts to squeeze it all in is upon us.

The school parties are coming.

Brace yourselves.

I appear to have set the bar way too high in the past, and my children expect demand that I perform at that level.  Which I'm completely not in the mood for right now.   I have absolutely no desire to do the things that they want, but I will.  Dammit I hate it when I've been a good mom in the past and have to live up to it.  

In my kitchen right now, four trays of double batch brownies awaiting morning.  The meticulous cutting and frosting and decorating, I'm not looking forward to.  You see, last year I couldn't just be content to make brownies and call it good.  No, no.

I made these.  Over 120 of them.
I have, you see, a special kind of crazy.

I suck in just about every other aspect of my life right now.  Christmas gifts are nowhere near done, nothing is wrapped, I haven't shipped the things that need to be sent far away, I didn't get the teachers gifts yet and doubt I will be able to before the New Year.   I've flaked on almost everything too.

So, I'll do this.  And I'll pretend that I don't hate it.

Maybe it will make up for my suckage elsewhere.

Then tomorrow, I'll carry my huge trays of obnoxiously decorated brownies to school, chase my belligerent three year old from room to room during the parties, and avoid almost everyone except the people I can commiserate with in the back of the rooms.  You know who you are.  We'll sit back and laugh at the serially overachieving moms while we lament the fact that it's frowned upon to drink in public schools.  

Seriously though, these marathon school party days would be far more tolerable if someone set up a bar in the parking lot.

As chaotic as tomorrow will be, I'm going to enjoy every single second of it.

Anyone want to guess why????

Here's why: At least they'll still be at school tomorrow.  After that, they are home two and a half weeks.  18 straight days of joy, half of which are after Christmas.  We all know what that means...the looming threat of telling Santa they aren't behaving will have expired.

The halos encircling their little cherubic heads will vanish magically on the morning of the 26th.

We've still got 10 days of threats.  Use them wisely, enjoy it while it lasts.  And, more importantly, enjoy the last hours of freedom you may be getting in the morning before sugar induced chaos is unleashed.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Not gonna happen

For what seems like forever, I've sent out Christmas cards religiously.

For a few years, I even wrote up a letter with the updates on the kids, the news about our changes in life, all that.

I'm good at putting a spin on just about anything.  Well, I used to be.

Then last year I didn't write the letter.  I figured that with the blog and Facebook and email, anyone who really cared enough to know what was going on already did, should or could.  And no one else needed to know anyway.

So I just sent cards.

It's not happening this time around.  No Christmas cards.  No letter filled with happy news.  Just not feeling it right now.  I may feel inspired to send New Year's cards though, because honestly that is the only holiday I feel like celebrating.

Maybe it's just that there is still a small part of me that wants to be optimistic, hope for a new beginning.  All that.

Thing is, even New Years is never going to be the same again because of what happened last year. Sigh.

I'm hoping that once the clock strikes midnight in a few weeks, I'll be done.  I'll have passed whatever bizarre test this is that I'm being given, and things will settle down.  I'm not even asking for good things to start happening.  I'd just be happy if nothing bad happened for a while.

I'm setting the bar pretty low these days.

For now, this will have to do.
Can't come soon enough.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Just Right

I'm sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee and a brand new baby girl in my arms.

At least at this moment in time, everything in my world is alright.

I'll be around this way again tomorrow, but for now I'm going to enjoy exactly where I am.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

I may even be giddy

As I began to survey the damage, I realized how long it's been since I really cleaned my house. 

It's been a while.

I've been spending so much time making sure that the downstairs remains uncluttered lately that I've neglected everything else.  

I never even cleaned out the closets once the seasons switched.  

Every single room is a mess.  Every piece of furniture has something crammed underneath it.  Every closet is full of things that don't belong in there.  The bathrooms are getting scary, and the pile of laundry keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger.  

The baby gates came down a while ago, but they're going back up.  

It's all getting fixed today, even if I have to bust out my scary mommy voice to get there.

My brother and sister in law are on the way here with their littles, two under the age of two.  I get to meet my baby niece for the first time and squeeze my nephew again.  Riley has been around in spirit though.  That new Capital One commercial completely reminds me of him.  Pretty sure he's got a baby doppelganger out there.  

It's a long drive, one that I've made too many times to even count.  I don't envy the fact that they are doing it this time of year, but am eternally grateful that the weather is cooperating at least so far.  

For those of you who haven't been reading for long, there was a trip about this time last year that could aptly be described as the trip from hell.  We were going that direction to spend my father's last Christmas back home, and to say that it was an adventure is an understatement.  If you've not read that story, check it out here.  It's a cautionary tale.

They are hoping to make it here tonight, but I've made this trip too many times to know that it's a given.  I know how hard it is to travel with small people.  He seems pretty determined, so we'll see.  

It's a good thing it's a long drive, I've got a lot to do...but it's happy cleaning this time.  

Safe drive guys, we'll be waiting.  :)

Friday, December 9, 2011

The List, 2011 Style

In my ridiculousness, I write a Christmas list every year.  I've shared them here before, if you're curious.  Because I know you all care.

I write these lists every year to amuse people.  And also, you know, because I'm five.

When I was two, I asked Santa Claus for diamonds for my ears.  No, I'm not kidding.  This girl has always had expensive taste.  Not to mention the fact that I've spent a good chunk of my life with a princess complex.

Of course, as I've gotten older, the list has become exceedingly boring and practical.

Gone are the days where I'd ask for fully irrational things like a pony.

Now, I want a bigger kitchen table.  Strike that.  I need a bigger kitchen table.  We're past the point of wanting it anymore.

We got this one when we had a one year old boy and I was pregnant with number 2.  Since then we've added a couple more kids.  The table is full on an ordinary day, with no room to spread out.  Elbows collide.  The kids always have to sit close enough to each other that the impulse to bug the ever-loving shit out of one another is just too irresistible.

Now, Mom is here too, and this table most certainly does not seat 7.

Maybe Santa can hook me up.

Here's the rest of the stuff I want:

- A day off.  Like completely.  Off.  I don't want to worry about another human on the face of this Earth for 24 hours.  If there was a body of water, a lounge chair and a drink, it just might be heaven...and I might never come back.

- I want my car detailed.  It looks like the car of a woman with 4 kids.  Goldfish crumbs, straw wrappers, juice boxes, random splatters of unknown origin.  Stuff ground into the carpet.  Windows that are smeared with fingerprints within seconds of being cleaned.  Of course, detailing it would be an exercise in futility.  It wouldn't stay clean for more than 2 hours.

- I want a sock fairy.  I don't wear them.  I don't fold them.  Trouble is that no one else does either, then eventually someone proclaims a sock emergency three seconds before we need to leave for school.

- I want a new pair of boots.  Black leather, mid range heel, hot but not hooker sexy.

- I want a mind eraser.  You know, like the ones in Men in Black.  Where you just push a button and things go poof.  It would be handy.

- I want to get through Christmas without the kids pointing out the things they didn't get.  I want to get through Christmas without any huge meltdowns.  I want to get through Christmas without additional drama beyond all the stuff there already is.  Mostly though, I just want to get through Christmas.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

You can't make me

I love Christmas.

Of course, these days it's really more of a love/hate relationship. This year especially.

I'd probably be fine with skipping it altogether to be honest.  If I could wake up one day and it magically be January, that would be perfectly acceptable in my universe.  Just don't need it this time around.

It's the first one without my Dad, the first one with my Mom here.  The only things the kids really want are things we can't afford to get them.   Then there are all the other reasons, the ones I won't write about.

Christmas would be so much more fun if it wasn't encumbered with all the emotional baggage.  Thanks to the train wreck that is my life, I got a whole brand new set of luggage this year.

I walked into the family room after dinner last night, only to see that my husband was watching the Michael Buble Christmas Special.  I cringed a little.

He, unlike me, still 100% unabashedly loves Christmas.  Even though I know a part of him probably shouldn't see it the same way anymore because of that luggage set I got this year.

He started listening to the Christmas radio stations the first day they started airing the music.  He changed the ringer on my phone to Jingle Bell Rock, which thankfully is one of the less offensive songs he could have picked.  He's determined to make me joyful, dammit.

I sat down beside him last night and suffered through the hour long happy fest.

As if I was saying, I'll sit here and watch this, but you can't make me like it.

I like Michael Buble, really I do.  It's the heartfelt warm fuzzy that I could do without.  The cheese.

I love Christmas, but I can't stand the cheesiness of it sometimes.

Clearly, I haven't found my Christmas spirit yet.  I'll keep looking.

Unfortunately, the things I've always relied on to get me there in the past probably aren't going to work this year.  Usually it only takes watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation or The Christmas Story to do it.  And they've worked for many years, but this one might be different.  They were Dad's two favorite Christmas movies.

A few years ago, I got him a nightlight shaped like The Major Award.  Never mattered how many times he saw those movies, he laughed every single time.

I guess I need to take some advice from Clark Griswold himself,

Where do you think you're going? Nobody's leaving. Nobody's walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We're all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We're gonna press on, and we're gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye. And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he's gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse.

It's not that far off, really.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I'm not a believer

I'm not talking about God, though I have to admit to having had my doubts.

I'm talking about what many around here refer to as damn close to the second coming of Jesus Christ himself.  The savior.

Tim Tebow.


I am not a fan.  I've never been a fan.  I don't anticipate ever becoming one either.

What I think is the true miracle is that he has so many people snowed.  Even the football commentators who really should know better, it seems like they've all hopped on the holy train.

Thank you baby Jesus.

Tebow annoys me, and not just for the religious spectacle he is.  The kneeling and praying is just so contrived, I'm sorry.  I totally don't buy it.

And I don't for one second believe that God roots for Tebow.  Or the Gators.  Or the Broncos.

In fact, I'm pretty sure that God has bigger things to occupy his (or her) time with than football.

Besides which, I've heard more than a few people question how Tebow can be such a religious man, when he spends every Sunday playing a game for millions of dollars instead of worshipping his Lord.

Oh, that's right, I forgot.  If he prays enough during the game, he's good.

Those pesky rules about things, they are so very flexible when they need to be, it appears.

Honestly, though, the thing that bugs me about him the most has nothing to do with the religious stuff.  It has to do with the fact that he can't throw the damn ball.  And he's a quarterback.

Every time he does, I cringe a little.

If there's a real time for prayer when he's in a game, it's when that ball is in the air.

Thankfully, he doesn't throw much.  Which is good, because he's terrible at it.  He runs instead.

Thus far, it has worked.  But it's worked only because the other teams in the NFL no longer structure their defenses to handle option quarterbacks.

And there aren't option quarterbacks in the NFL anymore for one reason.  They get hurt.

The highest paid player on your team, the one you are now re-organizing your entire offense for, is a moving target on the field every single play.  It's just a matter of time before the other teams realize he's only running the ball, and start blitzing him on every down.

And once they do, he's going down.  A lot.  And he's getting hurt.

Here's the thing.  Hurt quarterbacks don't play.  They don't win games in the last 2 minutes.  They don't inspire a desperate city of fans.

He might be the savior now, but he won't be for long unless he can learn to throw a football.

If he can do that, I might believe.

But the kneeling will always annoy the crap out of me.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Print ad photo retouching.  I've been meaning to write about this for a few days now, just got distracted.

This topic came up in the news again this week because there is a new tool in photoshop that can tell you when and how much a picture has been retouched.

Which is good and all I suppose.  I have to assume that there are people out there with enough influence to run new print ads through this and see how much tweaking has been done.  That they will "out" the advertisers and magazine companies.  That they will make sure to hold them accountable for the artificial messages they are sending.
Clearly retouched
It's not news that models and celebrities are routinely airbrushed and retouched.  It's been happening for as long as that software has existed.  Hips have been narrowed, thighs have been shrunken.  Lips made fuller, breasts made bigger.  Wrinkles and fine lines have disappeared, freckles and moles too.  Sometimes ribs vanish, and occasionally heads mysteriously appear on bodies they've never actually been attached to.

A before and after gallery can be seen here.

Many of the celebrities who've been revealed to have work done post-shoot admit it.  Some of them seem upset, but not all of them do.  Some of them wish that the original photos had been used, others are grateful for the smoothing of their cellulite.  Occasionally someone is outraged about the changes.

The bigger issue isn't how the celebrities feel about it though.  It's about how we, the consumers of these print ads, the readers of these magazines, the unwilling sheep fawning over the false perfection feel.

In a word, unworthy.

On some level, I think that most people probably understand that these images aren't representative of reality. That they are manufactured and artificial, created to make that level of beauty unreachable and unattainable.  To make us all wish that we could be them.

Except they are not real.

Even knowing they aren't real doesn't remove those idealized images from our subconscious minds.  Or the subconscious minds of our daughters, most of whom don't yet have the ability to distinguish real from fake at that detail level.

We are taught to believe that we need to be taller, thinner.  Our skin needs to be flawless, our hair needs more volume.  We need poison injected into our skin, we need anti-aging cream, we need surgery to fix our flaws.

We live in a world now where women and girls are no longer holding themselves up against actual models and actresses, but against retouched supermodels and airbrushed actresses.   Where even the most beautiful women in the world aren't good enough, and have to be edited before the pictures can go to print.

If the most beautiful women in the world are still that flawed, what does it say about the rest of us?  And what message does that send to our little girls?

I applaud companies like Dove, that have made strides in their advertisements to depict real women.  With real skin and freckles and curves.  That encourage women to find their own beauty and not fall victim to the media's portrayal of it.  That tell us to teach our daughters that they are beautiful.
I hope that this new photoshop software goes further to level the playing field.  I hope that these companies will understand that they won't be able to get away with undermining our self-confidence anymore.

And I hope that my little girls will grow up in a world that rejects artificiality and appreciates real beauty.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Fashion Emergency

You know how when you are out somewhere and see something that is just so wrong that you can't look away, then you realize that you aren't the only witness to the trainwreck?  When you lock eyes with someone else who sees the mess and you exchange the yeah, I know look?

Had a few of those experiences last night.

We had a holiday party to go to.  A room full of almost 200 people, most of which clearly need to get out more.  Or less.  Some of them should definitely go out less.

Trust me on this one.

Some people should also eat before they drink.  Okay, so everyone should eat before they drink.  Especially if they intend to drink profusely.  The problem is that when someone is clearly committed to drinking their dinner, as at least a few there were, they go from 0-60 in less than an hour.  From cordial, civil humans to obnoxiously loud wooooohoooooooers.

Some people should take dance lessons.  In particular, the people who are the first ones to hit the dance floor should take dance lessons.  Flailing randomly and doing twirls that end with a kick, while it may be entertaining, isn't really dancing.  Reminded me of a guy that Tom went to college with.  He snapped and pointed and twirled like no one's business, but never once to the beat.  You've got to appreciate the passion though.

Spandex can either be your best friend, or your worst enemy.  This is something that they really should teach in school.  Used properly, it can smooth and snug, boost and lift.  Used improperly, it just makes everything worse.  Squishing your fat out the top of the spanx doesn't help.  It shouldn't look like you have another set of boobs on your back.  My word of advice is to do a 180 in front of a mirror before committing to that dress.   Practice sitting and standing.  Give it a jiggle.   Just because the material will stretch enough to cover you doesn't mean that it fits.  Honest.
Yes, it was that bad.
Don't worry, I resisted the urge to share my knowledge with people last night.  Besides, it's just not a good idea to anger drunk women squeezed into dresses so tight they look like stuffed sausages.  And it can get messy.

But I'm sharing it with you here today.  Use it wisely.

By that, of course, I mean that you should stand in the corner laughing at the hot messes with a friend.

Train wrecks sure are fun to watch.

Friday, December 2, 2011

That like never happens

I was going to write about the photo ad controversy today, but then I didn't.  I will sometime soon, I'm just completely preoccupied today.

I have a date with my husband tonight.  Sort-of.

We have to go to his company's holiday party.  Not normally my kind of thing, and not even really tonight.  If nothing else though, it's an excuse to get dressed up and go to a fancy hotel and eat tiny little appetizers.

I went out looking for a dress earlier this week and had no luck.  At all.

Went back out today and came home with a few things that may or may not work with stuff I already have.  I opted to pass on the ridiculously cute sweater that made my boobs appear twice as large as they actually are.

Have a feeling my husband might be sending me back out to the store to snatch that on up once he reads this.

I hate shopping for clothes.  Nothing ever fits me right.  The top I liked the most was about 6 inches longer than it should have been to look right on me.  Who has a body shaped that way?

Shoes, though...I could shop for shoes all day long. ;)

Wish me luck....I'm off to raid my own closet.  And pack.

We're staying the night too.  Alone.  With no children.  For the whole night.

That like never happens.


Thursday, December 1, 2011


Sorry I haven't written anything today.

It's completely not my fault.

My computer was hijacked

Tom stayed home from work.  It snowed just enough to make the roads a mess, and he opted to work from home.  Which is fine and all, but he neglected to bring his computer home last night.  Which means that mine was his.  All day.

He not only confiscated it.  He damn near deflowered it.

I did get to check my email that one time.  For like 3 whole minutes.

I do have to admit that I've been way more productive today though, not having my electronic leash.

I vacuumed, swept and mopped the floor, am on my 7th load of laundry, 3rd load of dishes, made banana bread and the beef stew is almost done.

Maybe I should contemplate doing this more often.  Or not.  Whatever.

I am not sure I can keep up this level of usefulness.

And I'm pretty sure I need a drink.

Of course, I have you people waiting....wondering.  Keeping me honest.

I was supposed to do things today that I didn't get around to because of the weather.

I shouldn't do that.

I'm at this place in my life right now where if I don't show up somewhere or write anything before noon, people start to wonder if I'm back in the ER.  Or if I've finally lost my ever-loving mind.

I haven't.  Not yet anyway.   No promises on tomorrow.

I have not even had time to watch the news hardly at all today.  Which is fine.  The biggest news story here is the one about the sheriff sitting the jail named after him, charged with exchanging confiscated meth for sex with men.

For the record, that's illegal.  Just so you know.

And seriously, WTF?

I'm going to sit now with a drink.  And do nothing for the rest of the night.

See y'all tomorrow.

I think I might contemplate writing about the photo ad retouching nonsense.  It'll probably be a rant, then.  It will also probably be awesome.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bow Worthy

I'm not in the Christmas spirit.

I may get there at some point, but I don't anticipate it being anytime in the immediate future.  Unless someone makes me sit through watching The Polar Express.  Damn that movie, gets me every time.

I even put up all the decorations, but I'm just not feeling it.

The Christmas songs have taken over the airwaves of a few local radio stations, and I flip right on past every time.

You know what irks me the most though?  What seriously makes me roll my eyes and want to scream every single time I see them?

Those stupid ass Lexus commercials.

You know the ones.  The December to Remember Event crap.

Now, apologies in advance to those of you out there who drive Lexuses.  Or know people who do.  Or care about me offending people about a commercial in the first place.

These commercials make me hate Lexus owners.  

Especially the ones who just got a car for Christmas one day.

Really, we all know you are rich.  We get it.  But do you really have to remind us in 15 minute increments?   Tell all the rest of the world that no matter how good a gift you get this year, you'll never measure up to this?   Do you really have to have a specially programmed video game made just so you can tell your trophy wife you got her a new car?  Do the bows really have to be that big and ostentatious?

It's the in your face yes, we're really better than you are nature of these commercials that just pisses me off.

Show me a commercial with this in it, and I might get a little car envy.
Sorry, Spence.  I totally pimped your picture.
Now, that is a car worthy of a bow.

Crazy thing is, a Lexus is just a Toyota that got dressed up fancy.  Bet that makes you think about the commercials a little differently, eh?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

This version of me

I feel a bit like I'm not doing anything right these days.

It doesn't matter what I do, it always seems like I'm messing something up.

I am usually the one who can fix things, make them right.  I can't.  I can't fix anything anymore.

I've neglected the things I am supposed to be in charge of.  I've flaked on others.

I'm too busy, too tired, too exhausted to even think about it most of the time.

I'm not one for excuses, but I seem to have a bunch of them lately.

I haven't been the most patient mother.

I haven't been a very good friend.

I haven't been a lot of things.

For a long time.

If it's worth anything, though, I think that things will get better.  I hope they do anyway.

Though this version of me is far from perfect, this version of me is still standing.

That's got to count for something.

Friday, November 25, 2011

That's how it goes around here

Aidan's barking like a seal again, and Ashley is running a 103 fever. It's coming around again, whatever it is. Welcome to my life.

My days have been full of things I never thought I'd have to do, and I'm feeling perpetually overwhelmed.

Poor me.

Boo freaking hoo, right?

At least there is beer and there are margaritas.

Through circumstances I'm still not ready to disclose here, I realized again that my Dad's birthday is in a few days. Was in a few days.

I hate semantics that way.

I miss him something fierce right now, but then again I always have this time of year, even long before he was gone.

For as long as I've been around, as for sure before then too, this weekend of Thanksgiving also always meant that it was his birthday.  The two so historically intertwined that at least in my head and heart they will never be separate.

Thanksgiving will always be his that way.

After we moved away, Thanksgiving, and his birthday by default, usually meant that I'd spend half my days wishing I hadn't moved. The other half would be spent playing phone tag with him.

It was that way every year except the one that AJ was born. That year, we scheduled his baptism on this weekend on purpose. I'd get the baptism and Thanksgiving and his birthday and him all here. For once. Even my brother and sister in law made the trip with him and mom.  I'll always have that night.

Then, the year after that and only two years ago now, we were there. In a hurry.  To celebrate a holiday with the man who we knew wouldn't see many more. The day before Thanksgiving, he'd started chemotherapy. Thanksgiving night he was too sick to eat. His birthday was no different, though he tried to eat the cherry cheesecake he loved every year before that.

Last year, we were home here. I'd just as well forget last year. He was there and we were here and there are so many other things about that day that I'd just as well force out of my memory forever.

And here we are, now.

This year, Thanksgiving was really not the least of my worries. I could have cared less about turkeys and pie and tradition. I had other things wholly distracting me from the holiday itself. Which is probably better anyhow. And then today, I was reminded of what lies before us in a few days. The inevitable day that falls sometime this weekend.

His birthday.

The first one he won't be here for.

I got in the car alone this afternoon, needing to run some errands.

As I turned the key in the ignition, this song started on the radio. If I die young, by The Band Perry. Dad loved country music, but he started not being able to listen to it after songs like this hit heavy rotation. I hate music sometimes even though I love it all the rest.
Just like that, I was crying. No warning sometimes, that's how it goes around here.

I looked up at the gorgeous sky, the storm moving over the mountains, the sun heavy in the horizon. Just above, a heart shaped cloud.

Hasn't happened in a while, but I know he's out there somewhere still. Just making sure his baby is okay.

Happy Birthday, Daddy. I love you.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


In the chaos of my life, today is a break.  A time to reflect on the things going right.  A day to try and push aside all the rest.

I'm thankful that my Mom made it here in time.

I'm thankful that my brother, his wife and babies will be with family today.

I'm thankful for the years of memories I have with my Dad.

I'm thankful for the chance to fall in love with my husband again.

I'm thankful for my children.  Even if they drive me crazy, I know how lucky we are to have them.

I'm even thankful for my dog.  I taught him to talk this year, and that's pretty awesome.  No, seriously, he talks.  Every time I come home he says, "hiiiiiii".

Okay, I know you don't believe me.

I'm determined to record it.

I hope that each and every one of you have a day filled with reminders of what you have to be thankful for.

We can be pissed off together again tomorrow, honest.  ;)

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

In defense of big families

I've had a lot of time to think about this lately.

There are all kinds of reasons to only have a couple kids.  Money, space, sanity.

I'm not intending to diminish the importance of those reasons at all.

I am just at a place in my life where it would be better to have more siblings.  More people to lean on, turn to, need.

This is more a long term, big picture argument.  Preparation for the what ifs in life.

I'm eternally grateful that I'm not on this road alone, that I've got my brother to drag along with me.

I do have to admit that there is a piece of me right about now that wishes there were more of us.

At the same time, I'll obligingly deal with the challenges of parenting my herd of children if it makes things easier for them later on.


The times we live in are not calm and settled.  Our government is proving time and again that agreements are not easy to come by.  Elected officials on both sides of the aisle forgetting that their most important job is the service of the people.

In this post 9/11 world we live in, things are just different.  We know now that we are vulnerable to attack on our own soil.  We've fought a few wars that may or may not have had anything to do with those attacks since.  We've spent billions, if not trillions of dollars on the idea that we can defend ourselves and keep the peace in the rest of the world.  Thousands of our men and women have been sent off to combat zones, never to return home again.

We live in a world where a man spends 13 years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread, but those who set up huge fraud schemes and steal millions sometimes walk free.  We live in a world where money and influence govern our nation, not fairness and good judgment.

We live in a country where the wealth has become increasingly concentrated in the hands of the few, at  expense of the many.  The gap between the haves and the have nots widening.  People have been unemployed for months, if not years.  Many of those employed have seen their salaries stagnate while the cost of everything went up.  Do more with less, the theme of all the downsizing companies.  Put more on the shoulders of those still with jobs.

All the while, the pay for high ranking corporate officials hasn't taken a hit.  There was never a requirement of a cap on salaries and bonuses for all the bailed out companies.  Go ahead, take home your multi-million dollar bonuses and ask the American people to save your ass.  Sure.

We'll bail you out, then sit idly by as the government that just shelled out all that money decides to cut spending on education.  Right.

Trouble is, people are mad as hell and don't want to take it anymore.

All across the country, people have been staging protests.  And no, not everyone involved in these protests are left wing extremists.

Some have involved clashes with the authorities where the protesters actually initiated the conflict, but the vast majority of them have been non-violent.  Cities have enacted new laws to keep people from gathering in public spaces.  Riot police have been called, hauling off those who sat and refused to leave.  College students have been sprayed with pepper spray for no good reason at all.

I don't know about you, but that last one really makes me angry.

In this country, we are all guaranteed freedom of speech, the freedom of assembly.  We are guaranteed the right to speak up about the injustices in our government.  These are our rights as citizens of this nation.

In the words of our forefathers, the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Our forefathers would be disappointed.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Not this year

I made up my mind.  I'm not going out shopping on Black Friday this year.

It's not because we suddenly have an unlimited Christmas budget.

It's not because I don't love a good deal.

It's not because the thrill of the hunt is suddenly gone.

It's just that this year is a whole lot different than years past, in a whole bunch of ways.

This year, I have help.  All of a sudden, for whatever reason, Tom wants to be in charge of shopping for the kids.  He hasn't been for many years.  Half the time, he was just as surprised as they were when they opened gifts.

This year, he's calling the shots.  Looking for deals.  Ordering things online.

We'll go out together sometime before the big day to get the little stuff.  Together.  Which is weird, but in a good way.

I have one store I plan to buy from on Black Friday, but will do it online.

I have no desire to fight the crowds this year.

It's not worth saving five bucks.

Besides, I'm more than a little bit annoyed with the retailers this year.  It seems like every year, Black Friday starts earlier and earlier.  This year many have pushed it back to midnight Thanksgiving night.

Having worked in retail myself, I can tell you that this move benefits one group only: the retailers.

It doesn't help the shoppers, who aren't being lured with any more deals than before.  Quantities are still extremely limited.  The ads that get you in the store hardly are worth it, since they only have a few in stock of whatever is on sale.  A few will get the deals, everyone else is left to fight for the scraps.  Oh, and to even have a shot at the deals now, you'd better forgo that time with your family.  You've got a line to stand in.

It doesn't help the employees, many of whom are now being plucked from the families in the middle of their holiday meals.  I've been in their shoes, I know that the amount they are getting paid an hour is completely not worth being forced to show up at work in the middle of the night.  Many retailers forbid employees from asking for time off this time of year, and will fire them if they don't show up. This year, lots of them will be required to report at 8pm on Thanksgiving night for a few bucks more than minimum wage.

So if you remove the shoppers and the employees, who is left to benefit from this change?

There's only one answer.

The retailers.  Corporate greed.  The powers that be, the people making these decisions, they aren't the ones standing in lines desperate to stretch their limited budgets.  Instead, they are fooling people into believing that the move here is being made for the benefit of everyone.  They aren't the ones being forced to work on Thanksgiving night.  Nope.  They will be home, with their families, where all the shoppers and employees are supposed to be.  They are perfectly capable of buying their kids whatever they want with their over-inflated salaries, and are now lining their pockets with another day of sales.

I'm boycotting Black Friday.

In fact, that term needs to be discarded.  Black Friday no longer exists, by and large.

Now, it's just another day.

And another way that the retailers have invalidated a tradition in this country, made Thanksgiving just another day on the calendar.  First it was the early decorations going up, then the commercials, then the radio stations playing Christmas music in the beginning of November.  Now, they've gone too far, trying to strip Thanksgiving of all it's meaning.

Stay home with your families.  Tell the retailers no.

Maybe you'll spent a few bucks more, but maybe next year the retailers will reconsider.

Thanksgiving isn't just a speed bump on the way to Christmas.  It's a holiday, all it's own.

I say we take it back.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

You can't fix it

Some people are just stupid.

I'm not talking about whether someone is intelligent or not, whether they are educated or not.  I'm not referring to whether they can somehow get through college or hold down successful jobs.  That really has nothing to do with it.

The kind of stupid I'm talking about here is something completely different.

It's the complete and total lack of awareness at how idiotic their choices are.

The open-mouth-insert-foot, rinse and repeat phenomenon.

The inappropriate things they say.

The allegiance they pledge to things that are completely contradictory to the way they live their lives.

The dumb ass things they write on Facebook.

The times when they do or say things that force everyone around them to stare in disbelief, thinking REALLY, did that actually just happen?

How could someone be that stupid?

Trouble is, stupid happens everyday, in every town.

Friends don't let friends be stupid.  Unless you have stupid friends...then you're shit out of luck.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The rest of it

I feel a bit like I've been to hell and back.  A few times.

I tried not to think about what yesterday was, but then I found myself sitting a parking lot crying.  I knew why.

Two years ago yesterday, on November 17, 2009, my father was formally diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.

These past two years....just wow.

The diagnosis wasn't a complete shock, at least not to me.  Once he'd told me about the mass that showed up on the MRI of his shoulder, I knew that probably wasn't going to be indicative of anything good.  Then the doctors suddenly started moving faster, and tests were ordered and blood work done.

I'd walked the scary path of medical urgency before, and I knew what it probably meant.

Still, it's one of those days that I'll always remember.  I'll remember who I was talking to on the phone, trying to distract my mind from impatiently waiting from them with news.  I'll remember sinking to the floor against the wall and sobbing once the receiver went dead on the other side.  I'll remember walking outside and telling my husband the news.  I'll remember making up my mind at that exact moment that though we weren't prepared for a trip at all, we were going to California for Thanksgiving in a few days.  We had to.

They didn't give him a lot of time, they tried hard not to give him false hope.  He fought like hell for as long as his body would let him.

He softened.  He loved a little more.  He grew patience quickly.  He saw the beauty in simple things.

Often, he didn't need to talk about anything at all to feel comforted.  He just wanted to share the same space with us, and that was enough.

Things became less important, time became more.

He spent more of his effort on taking care of things that needed done, far less on worrying about the things that most people occupy their minds with all day.

He was doing this on his own terms.  And he did, until the day he died.

I thought for sure that losing him would be the hard part.  I know now that it wasn't.  In many ways, it was the easiest.

He made sure of that.

He found peace before he went, and that was a gift to us all.

It's everything else that has been harder.  The tragedies in my own life since then.  The tragedies in the lives of others.  The things he wasn't here for.  The things he couldn't help with.  The times when I'd have given anything to call him.  When I've needed encouraged that I was making the right choice, when I've needed reminded that I am strong and capable and can get through anything.  When I've wanted him in my corner, ready to fight.  When I just needed someone to tell me that everything would be okay.

Those are the hard times.

This year has been the most catastrophic of my life.  I have lost so much, far more than you all are aware.  Questioned who I am, who I should be.  Doubted everything I thought I knew.  Wondered where I go from here.  Worried if I can do it all.

His voice in my head tells me I can.

I have to trust that he's right.

Life's not about worrying about what already happened, it's about what you do with the rest of it.
My Dad, Thanksgiving weekend 2009

God, I miss him right now.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

One of those days

There are days in the life of every person that will forever be remembered with full clarity.  The day you got married, the births of your children, the moment you walked into the first home you bought.

Not all those days are good ones though.  For me, there have been other days.  Bad ones.  The day my husband was diagnosed with cancer. The day I found out my baby had died.  The day my father took his last earthly breath.

And yesterday.

Another day that will change the course of my life, another day that will remain etched in my memory forever.

Realizing again that life doesn't much care what my plans are...there is another plan already made for me.

Monday, November 14, 2011

For Reals This Time

 I know that I've said here plenty of times that I'm not one to ask for prayers.

If you've got it in you though, and you're willing, we could use them right about now.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Shame

Saturday morning, the Penn State Nittany Lions will take the field for the first time in 45 years without their head coach.  

In a scandal that has rocked the college football world, his Assistant Coach, Jerry Sandusky, was arrested this week, accused in the molestation of at least eight boys over the last 15 years.

The carnage has extended far beyond the office of the Assistant Coach.  As of this morning, Joe Pa is gone, as is the University President and a handful of other high ranking school administrators.  

According to reports, he was made aware of an abuse situation in 2002 by a graduate assistant.  Joe Pa in turn told the Athletic Director, but never alerted the authorities.  No one else involved at the school did either, even though it appears that several people knew of the situation.  Some are accused of actively suppressing it.

It's a sad day in Happy Valley.

And it's a shame.

This man, this legend of football, this constant presence in the heart of this university for nearly half a decade is gone.  

I will not today, nor will I ever defend the actions taken in this matter.  I do believe that Joe Pa had a moral and ethical, though not technically a legal, obligation to turn in his assistant and friend.  I also believe that a huge part of him probably thought he'd done the right thing, by going to his supervisor.  

If only that had been enough.  

Instead, here we sit today, with the career of a man who in large part made college football what it is, tarnished and over.  He is a legend and an icon, who will now be judged for how his tenure ended, not for everything else he accomplished while he was there. 

Happy Valley is happy no more.

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