Friday, September 30, 2011

Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday to You…

Today is our oldest son’s FIFTEENTH birthday. How the devil did that happen? How can my darling baby boy possibly be old enough for a driver’s permit and all that entails? Now I’m not gonna sit here and blow some smoke at you and pretend it’s all been roses raising the child. He’s one hardheaded, determined, questioning personality who gets to hit up against his equally stubborn, determined, and demanding Momma (genetics, I hear you calling my name – or put another way, when my Momma said, “you’ll understand one day”, I think she was cursing, err blessing my future progeny). We’ve had a ride including getting correct diagnoses of a couple of conditions. And honestly I wouldn’t trade a single moment.

My older son and my goddaughter go for a "ride".
My children have taught me to love with a deepness and unselfishness that I never knew I was capable of. I have gotten up in the middle of the night and rushed to an ER. I have been insulted and questioned and blamed. I have also been cuddled and kissed and reached for, and there is nothing like parenthood to put all the crap of life totally in perspective. 

Jackie Kennedy once said, “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.” Well, at only 15, we still have miles to go. But my clarinet playing, tender-hearted, Xbox-adoring, stubborn son who is such an individual and already quite comfortable in his own skin makes me proud. Happy Birthday, my baby…and you can’t have my keys yet.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Oh Dear Facebook, Dear Facebook

Dear Facebook,
Once upon a time you were my dear friend. When I was finally convinced to go on a blind date with you, I found that you were easier to make out with than a one night stand (disclaimer - not that I would know about that – I’m going with how they look in the movies, and it makes for a good line there). I loved how easy it was to see and “talk” to friends and reconnect with old ones. I looked to you for a break - maybe I had just enough time for a cup of coffee and a chat and there you were - friendly and easy to get along with. But then you changed. You became that complicated, demanding friend who wanted to monopolize my time, and wanted me all to herself; the one who could never take no for an answer, and any conversation takes forever to navigate. I am no longer happy with my “friend.” If I want someone to tell me who I should be interested in, I’ll go back to junior high school, and if I want to hear that I'm stupid for being interested in things you think I should have no interest in, I'll talk to my teenagers.

Now you have these “algorithms” that tell me who to see and interact with, a ticker constantly yelling at me, "look at me" (geez, I already had toddlers), and I see that a “timeline” is in my future. Mark Zuckerberg, 27 in all his adolescent wisdom (hey, to me he’s still an adolescent) has said, “It’s your whole life….it’s so simple.” Dude – the people who need to know about my whole life already do know about my whole life. Not everybody in the world needs to know about my whole life and honestly, I don’t need nor have the time to know about theirs either. 

Mark thinks there is a lack of integrity in having two lives – the one for work and the one outside of work. Personally I don’t see the problem. When I was a financial geek at a major corporation, those people didn’t give a flip about my taste in music, which I found out one year when young (I think I was around, say, 27), and I changed my voice-mail to MC Hammer's, "Pray" at year end financial closing of the books. Some people were not amused. Could I control costs…now that was important.  And they definitely didn’t want to see the pictures of my babies’ ad nauseum the way my close family and friends care to (or pretend to so that I will reciprocate the pretense).

I’m just not a fan of the changes. Clean it up and simplify, please. Because right now…Google+ is starting to look good to me. 

Facebook user 345,667,899

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I Want To Be A Super Hero But I Am Just A Mother.

This blog is a day late. No excuses, no griping, just plain, simply late. I was going to write about my family's experience at the local ER where, 20 months apart, my daughter and I had the misfortune to encounter the same attending physician. I was going to tell you the irony of my experience compared to hers. I went in via ambulance on a backboard after an injury, given morphine, valium, sat up once I was floating in the sky, no X-ray taken, told my muscles were taut, told to exercise to release muscles, and discharged within 1 hour. One week later, I was still walking like a chicken and swearing like a 'fish-wife'; I went to my local doctor only to discover that I had actually fractured my spine and herniated a disc.

My daughter, on the other hand, fell off her scooter last week. We took her to the ER and the same doctor (just our luck) took eight X-rays, casted her arm, and told us he could not diagnose properly if it was broken but he felt sure it was and that we should see an orthopedic specialist. Needless to say, we followed instructions and after a week of juggling bags, books, baths, and general pain-in-the-bottom awkwardness, we were told that there was no way this arm was broken and the cast was taken off. Apart from the obvious, that this man should be seriously thinking about a new career, I also spent a fortune in medical bills. However, what struck me yesterday was not the irony of these two experiences that the one doctor had given us, not the total lack of professionalism, competency, and oblivion, it was the fact that twice this man had made my life just that little bit harder on top of all that a mother has to cope with.

So where is this going you may ask? Is this going to be another mother dribbling on about how much she has to do? Well, yes and no, it is sort of, and you know what, I wallow occasionally. I, unlike that doctor, cannot leave my responsibilities at the sliding doors and start again fresh with the next patient. Every day I juggle old problems with new ones and, if I am lucky, I will get a beautiful reprieve in the middle of it with a smiling, happy child. Take yesterday for instance. At 6 a.m. I woke up after six hours of interrupted sleep due to my son feeling poorly in the night. I packed lunch for my daughter, who is going back to school after also being sick. I get breakfast, showered, I get her breakfast, usher her to get showered and dressed appropriately. We go over completed homework to check it, we find pieces of important paper that have miraculously traveled about the house on their own, and finally we leave for school. All the time the atmosphere is getting tenser by the minute.

As we approach the school, we start the process of negotiation. The negotiation that always ends in screaming tears. You see, as I wrote about last year, she has something called School Phobia. Yes, for those of you who are laughing right now, it is a serious problem. After 45 minutes of gut-wrenching wails, I have to leave her stranded in the car park in the arms of her teacher, sobbing. She calls after me, saying I don't understand, and the final heart-string-pulling words "please, don't leave me." She is twelve, and this has been going on for seven years; I am emotionally exhausted. I sat in the car crying myself. I call her counselor for a pep talk, for confirmation that I have done the right thing. Then I go about my so-called normal day, trying to ignore the fact I had walked away from my child.

Leaving behind a distressed child is against all motherly instincts; being cruel to be kind is not a saying I like. Wanting to run back and whisk her away from her demons always pulls me, but I know I cannot. I have to forge forward hoping that by homecoming time she has forgiven me. During the day, I tend to my other child, make lunches, do laundry, shopping, trip to the pharmacy, pay bills, and clear up the devastation in my house. Within a few hours, I am heading back to the school, only to be greeted by a sulky child who obviously cannot comprehend why I leave her at a place that scares her so. We go to see her counselor, emotionally exhausting to say the least, and finally at 6 p.m. we are heading home. At home, we are thrown into homework, preparing dinner, book reading to calm down before the bedtime stresses, and then finally I can fall into my bed at about 10 p.m. By the time I was able to write this blog last night, I was too exhausted. What is more, I do confess I usually have a glass of something calming beside me.

School phobia does not come and go at the school gates, it infiltrates into your home like an unwanted visitor, and it can show up at any time, even in school vacations when there is not a school day in sight. It is not time-related, it is not aware of your other demands; it just has to come first. So, this is my life and I can say with certainty that it will probably not change for the next six years. It seems like a prison sentence to me, but, honestly, it must seem like a death sentence to my wonderful daughter. I will be with her every step of the way, come hell or high water I will never give up or let go, but I have to expect that I will fail at times with my other duties or deadlines. I can only hope that others can see this and forgive me.

The Brit, whose blog was late.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Only 76 Hours of HGTV and I’m All Out of Duct Tape

By Sheilah Zimpel

I’m back to only working about 3 nights a week, thank God, so I can see my son. But suddenly it’s as if I have all the time in the world while he’s at school, and as I wrote in last month’s blog, that means project time. I didn’t want school to start because it meant by default that I’d have to do things. But then I had 3 days off in a row and immediately hit Lowe’s, a gal’s best friend. I spend more money there than on shoes any day of the week.

It all started with laying hardwood in the living room, and that led to pulling the old tile off the fireplace and laying new slate tiles, which started with laying slate on the hearth, and that led to finding an old cedar log for the mantle, and that was all done last month. So the new slate tile squares are up, and they look awesomely rustic and modern at once. According to HGTV, my style is mod rustic. Uh huh. That’s right. I’m a country girl wannabe in a mod world. I think it means I like tree stumps painted silver, which is true. Got the scoop on how to make my own. Next week.

So I picked up some paint for the front room, which is supposed to be a dining room but doesn’t realize it. It’s had an identity crisis since we moved here 6 years ago. It was the only room I hadn’t painted because I loved the shade of plum, but it needed to go, so I painted the entire walls a silvery-grey, even the white wainscoting. Looks fabulous, bigger, brighter, and mod. I’ll throw a few tree branches in there for my rustic side, maybe a bug or two.

Then I found a modern glass desk off Craigslist for the man, who’d decided to make that room his office, which meant, of course, that I needed to chrome duct-tape an old antique radio stand. Seriously—this is the effect of overwatching HGTV for the 2 days of painting. It’s the only thing I watch if the TV is on during the day, other than “Phineas and Ferb” with Dylan (and sometimes without—that show is funny). Yes, I duct-taped a table. Did you know Target sells turquoise, leopard, and chrome duct tape now?

But I must say I was sick of HGTV after so many hours of listening, and I never thought I’d say that. But I was ready to duct tape those damn perky designers’ mouths shut.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

“As a Clown at a Nursing Home, I Gave Old People Pleasure”

By Sheilah Zimpel

Okay, so the title is plucked straight from a resume I was editing. I cut the line—not a hard choice. Please, please, please, people, no prospective employer ever, ever needs to know that about you. First, how does clowning around fit into a new job, where you might have to go makeup-less, without funny shoes and red nose, sans little car and big horn? Hopefully the job you’re looking for has none of those, unless, of course, you are looking for employment as a CLOWN. If so, then keep the sentence. Secondly, though, the giving old people pleasure part lacks finesse and smacks of something else. Rephrase.

Here’s another strange claim to put on a resume found in an engineer’s itty bitty type at the end of 6 pages under “other skills”: Apparently, the guy can “magic eye.” Seriously? Does he mean what I think he means? Is there another kind of magic eye? I so would grant this guy an interview and have a Magic Eye poster behind my desk to see what he’d do. Would he automagically spout out: Aha! I see it! It’s a dolphin! If so, out he’d go. Also, dude, cut about 3-4 pages of that resume. It’s not a brain dump, not an autobiography, and I don’t give a hoot if you were an Eagle Scout 40 YEARS AGO. You are plain exhausting me with your 500 words on a page. I can tell you’d talk a lot, not to mention stare things down.

So for kicks I write resumes, sometimes for pay but usually for free. Last week, the owner at my favorite coffeehouse said he got a face-to-face interview with his dream company, and the employer said his resume was stoked. Loved it. He thanked me—I’d done both his and his wife’s resumes. Sometimes they throw a free coffee my way. It does the heart good to hear of success from some words you placed on a page, WITHOUT LYING and without mention of CLOWNING.
Don't send in the clowns, rather send me your too-dumb-to-get-a-job phrases from resumes past. We’ll rewrite them together. I think you need about 50 people pulling for you to get a job nowadays, so let’s help each other out.

Friday, September 9, 2011

On the Tenth Day

The day that my Grandmother died my Mama received two phone calls, one from her family telling her that her Mama was gone, and the other from her son, telling her that her second grandson had been born. I don’t remember if my brother said it, or if it was my Mama, but one of them evoked the old saying, “When God closes one door, He opens another.” That is how I choose to think of September 11, 2001.

Everyone has their own story of September 11. Most can recall where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news. That morning I dropped my daughter off at her Wee School and headed for the hospital, listening to CD’s while I happily anticipated the birth of our niece Courtney. When I walked down the long hallway towards the waiting area, I saw my husband walking towards me with a solemn look on his face, and I froze. I couldn’t speak and terrible thoughts sped through my mind. That was when he told me that the South Tower of the World Trade Center had fallen. I followed him, dumbfounded to the waiting room where Grandma and Papa were. We sat, numb, but still filled with hope for the birth of a child.

Over 2,985 souls perished in the attacks of September 11, 2001, and over 10,000 families in the United States welcomed into the world a new life. Courtney was born on a day and in a year that will always be synonymous with terror and (in my mind) evil. Yet on that same day, so many will celebrate life. On this Tenth Anniversary we will bow our heads and remember the victims, the heroes, the lost and the fallen, and that is how it should be. Still, we should always remember that with death comes life, out of sorrow comes joy, and sometimes, out of great despair comes hope. I bow my head, I remember, and I hope for Courtney and all the other precious miracles of life born that day.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Marriage, Laundry and the Evening News

It used to be that I refused to watch the evening news before I went to bed at night. I just didn’t want to go to sleep with some of the images from the news running a loop in my head, but now it’s getting so I might as well not turn the TV on at all. The news is the very least of the awful things that are out there. I mean, who wants to go to sleep with visions of Snooky burping on your mind? With every click of the remote it seems we’re subjected to someone’s dirty laundry and I’m getting sick in the spin cycle. My column, “It’s a Nice Day for a White Wedding,” about Kim Kardashian’s wedding was just the icing on the cake, and boy was that cake expensive!

JLo and Marc have split! Oh the horror! Snooky has a line of slippers selling like hotcakes, the Beverly Hills Real Housewife star has pictures of herself grieving the suicide of her husband while she’s wearing a black bikini; and to that I just throw my hands up in the air and let my left eye commence to twitching. There was a time when “Don’t air your dirty laundry” was almost a commandment, and while the truth will set you free, I think we’ve gone from one extreme to the other. It’s about headlines, marketing and ratings now, and little else. Wanna revive a stalling career? Easy, just get a reality show or be on one. Do these celebrities really believe that there is no such thing as bad publicity? (Where some are concerned, I use the term celebrity loosely.)

I remember when advocacy groups were up in arms over Teletubbies. Tinky Winky must be gay! Oh heavens. Where are these groups when it comes to “Bridezillas” and “The Real Housewives of New Jersey”? Have you watched the way these people talk to their prospective husbands, their mothers, their family and friends? Give me Tinky Winky any day. We may not know his sexual identity, but I love his purse. In the meantime you can call me old fashioned. I believe marriage should be based on love and respect and that it takes work.  I believe that good taste never goes out of style, but being a spectacle will always haunt you and that Don Henley was right on the money when he wrote “Dirty Laundry.”

Friday, September 2, 2011

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions....Welcome to the Circus

So I'm one of those Mom's. The selfish ones who don't quite make every event that their child is in or volunteer at every opportunity. Tonight is our older son's first ever performance in marching band. He's doing quite well with it. In fact most of the complaints and whines have been mine ("How much money?, "What times are practices?", "Quick, who knows how many traffic lights are between us and the high school?", and "I hate a car pool lane.") Usually those statements are a touch more umm, verbose. What can I say? I love a good whine.

But my life, like so many of us, is a constant juggling act between the kids, and my parents needs. Of course throw in there the house, hubby, work, the never ending yard work, and there you have it, a 16 ring circus complete with juggling and the high wire. 

My Daddy is in the hospital and I am worried. No two ways about it. So I'm sitting here with the "do I stay or do I go" syndrome. If I stay, then I get to see my child perform in the marching band for the first time ever - which I so badly want to do. And I'm already planning on going next weekend which means I'll miss his first time in uniform. If I go, then I can't go next weekend, and will I be able to do everything I need to get done at their house this weekend? Probably not. Plus we have plans for the weekend - which makes me seem selfish.

In between all that someone always seems to "charitably" notice my absences or when I decline to help at an event. It's so very helpful when someone tells me that their life is complicated, too. Especially when I don't remember trying to make it a competition. I even once heard that if going stresses me out so much than I just shouldn't go. Uh huh - to me that really smacks of selfish. I not so charitably have decided they are the chattering monkeys in the circus. They are focused on their own lives (rightly so), but never give credence to your own complications.

As I sit here writing this, I suddenly get inspiration from the Disco channel, yeah, I said DISCO. Sister Sledge is singing "We Are Family" and the lines, "Have faith in you and the things you do" goes past me and then sinks back into my heart. Every day we all make decisions and juggle and hope for the best and all I can do is have faith while I ignore the chattering monkeys and try to juggle in the circus. Please tell me I'm not the only one with the chattering monkeys, guilt and juggling act!