Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Time for a Few More Things I'm Loving Right Now

During my mega-marathon stint at the ER with Lola last Sunday, Bubba and our eldest daughter spent some time at Borders Books & Music listening to CDs. Eva bought her ailing little sister a Jordan Pruitt CD and Bubba got himself the classic 2-CD set of Heart music (inspired by Rock Band, no doubt). They brought me some new music for my troubles as well - something they both previewed extensively and pronounced "Mom's kind of music." They were right.

This is one of those CDs that strikes me as though I've heard it before, as though somewhere, whether in a movie or on TV, I've heard and loved these songs and even coveted them. I'm sure I haven't, but the songwriting and the easygoing rhythms are so pleasant to listen to that this disc has earned the first spot in my car's 6-disc changer and will likely be there for some time to come.

After several months of reading books with more than 300 pages and/or somewhat difficult themes (The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, The Shack, Three Cups of Tea), three of the ladies in my book club requested a "lighthearted read." Enter, The Daily Coyote.

It definitely fit the bill. I loved the story and the attendant photographs. Unfortunately, the book felt like it was written in a hurry (which, apparently, it was) and didn't have a lot of the details I wished for. In several places I found myself asking questions I had no hope of getting answers to and while the writing was good and the subject matter indisputably interesting, I wanted more. If you're looking for a quick read, though, pick it up.

As for me, I'm off to weightier subjects. After spending a couple of hours in my very favorite book store (the world's best bookstore, in my humble opinion), I found no less than three books I'm off to read over Spring Break, so I'll let you know what I think of them when I'm done.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

They're Baa-aack

When my father died last May, we put together a memorial service for him in four days. In four days we managed to get the word out to friends and family, order flowers, get my siblings together with the pastor at Dad's church to share stories, and shop for appropriate clothes for me and my girls.

The most astonishing thing we pulled off was the photographs. For a family as spread out as my dad's, his sisters managed to dig through old shoeboxes crammed with shots of them as kids, those terrific sepia-toned 3x3 pictures that nobody had looked at for decades. Hundreds and hundreds of photos came my way, emailed to me, burned onto zip drives, and spilling out of envelopes. A few of the originals had my grandmother's spidery handwriting on the back describing the scene, but most of them did not. Some were self-explanatory - you could see my father's mischevious smile or serious adolescent face plain as day. Others were a set-up for spirited debate among my aunts as they struggled to determine just who else was in that photo with him. I loved every minute of it.

In the end, we put together a gorgeous display board with images from every phase of my father's life and I came home with the treasure of some of the original photos. I burned CDs for each of my siblings and my father's wife so that they could enjoy the pictures, too. My girls and I spent hours going through each of them, giggling about Papa's baby fat, remarking at the freckles that dusted his face as a young boy, and seeing him as a big brother teaching his youngest sister how to throw the football. Then we put the photos away in albums and set them in a special place with artwork made for him by my daughters and a small urn of his ashes.

The pictures keep talking to me, though. Every time I download photos from my digital camera to my computer they show up. It doesn't matter whether I'm putting the pictures onto my laptop or the family computer, somehow, a small subset of those 1940s sepia-toned pictures is mixed in with the downloads on my memory card. No matter that I delete the images from the memory card each time I put them on my hard drive (it gives me more space on the card for the next set of pictures I want to take), these same photos of Dad keep cropping up.

Uploading pictures from my writing weekend with Deb in February, there they were.
Uploading pictures from Lola's first piano lesson, they appeared in the list of photos.
Uploading pictures we took at Christmas, Dad was there as a toddler, sitting on a horse with his father.
I don't know what he's trying to tell me, but I like that he keeps popping up now and then.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

And I'm Sticking to it

The scene: 3:30a.m. It's dark and rainy outside, our youngest daughter has just woken us up complaining of a sore foot (see previous post).  The cat-who-thinks-he-is-a-dog follows me back to bed after I administer ibuprofen to Lola and tuck her back in.  He curls up and sinks back into my chest, snaking his tail around all four paws and begins licking my hand loudly.

BUBBA: Damn cat! Quiet!

ME: Oh, hush. He's just purring.

BUBBA: No, he's licking you too loudly. I can't sleep.

ME: (chuckling) Oh, really? He'll stop in a minute. Just chill.

BUBBA: What are you laughing at?

ME: He doesn't lick anywhere near as loudly as you snore, sweetie.

BUBBA: Yeah, but when I snore, you elbow me until I roll over and stop.

ME: That's because I can't get any sleep when you're snoring.

BUBBA: So how come it doesn't bother you when the cat is purring right in your ear and you're trying to sleep? Why don't you elbow him?

ME: Hmmm.

I don't know. I find his purring pretty soothing, actually. Not something I can say for Bubba's snoring. I actually lay awake for a while trying to figure that one out (damn that Bubba). Is it because I love the cat more? No way.  
Is it because the cat's fur is soft and silky under my fingertips? I don't think so. I'm pretty happy that Bubba isn't furry.
Is it because the cat's purr is a sign of contentment and Bubba's snoring is a sign of congestion? Maybe. 

That's my story... 

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Best Laid Plans...

Okay, so here's the plan. Coffee in bed for Bubba, a leisurely morning of hanging out with the girls, wrestling, then off to a mystery destination (his favorite brunch spot - a ginormous buffet complete with peel-n-eat shrimp, Alaskan King Crab legs, and a chocolate fountain). What the afternoon might hold, we're not sure, but we'll wing it and see where the wind takes us.

After Lola's piano lesson at 3pm, it's home to a meal of his choice and homemade german chocolate cake before putting the girls to bed. Awesome way to spend a birthday, right? I thought so, too, mentally patting myself on the back.

Here's what really happened:

Because of one vital missing ingredient (evaporated milk) that the grocery store didn't have ANY of yesterday afternoon, I spent most of the early evening evaporating my own, thinking I'd get up early enough to bake the cake this morning.

Because of the spontaneous date we went on last night and the ill-advised Guinness I drank at 10:00 (and the subsequent one I drank at 11:00), I didn't exactly get up early this morning. No worries - I'll make cupcakes instead and get right to work on them. Which, in fact, I did. But I was so busy making them and the homemade frosting - from scratch - that Bubba showered and came downstairs before I could make his coffee and bring it to him in bed. Whoops.

Then the wrestling match ensued. The one where the kids were going nuts in the family room that is completely empty except for space and soft carpet (soft, stained, nasty-but-vacuumed carpet that is to be ripped out this week and replaced) and imitating WWF superstars with their father. The wrestling match in which Lola delivered a scathing, supersonically fast roundhouse kick directly to...her father's kneecap. His large, solid kneecap. Then she, the one with nerves of steel and a pain tolerance to match, crumpled screaming in pain and clutching the side of her foot to the floor.

OK. Ice, ace bandage, Tylenol, elevation and lots of hugs and kisses later, we were ready to head out to brunch. Brunch was terrific. Beautiful. Gourmet. The girls tried all sorts of new things - popcorn shrimp, chicken and mushroom crepes, paella, but honestly went back over and over again for the chocolate fountain. Bubba was in heaven, filling plate after plate with shellfish and finally filling his final plate with nothing but crab legs and a side of melted butter in which to dip them. Ninety minutes later, we were stuffed to the gills. But Lola's foot had gotten progressively worse and more painful.

Our pediatrician's office advised us to go to the local Children's Hospital in order to get the most accurate x-rays of the tiny bones in her foot. After four hours of being moved from one waiting area to the next (each filled with feverish, phlegmy toddlers who coughed like 80-year old emphysemics and made my skin CRAWL), she was finally seen by a doctor and said x-rays were obtained. A really bad sprain was diagnosed, we managed to meet back up with Bubba and Lola's big sister and head home for some (gulp!) dinner. Dinner which I had neglected to plan or make at this point.

Thankfully, Bubba is a wonderful man. He picked us up outside the ER with a loaf of french bread, fresh ravioli and a smile on his face. I was looking forward to a glass of wine and an evening relaxing on the couch. Yeah, the one that isn't in the family room anymore. Okay, the floor. The floor is fine.

As I stepped out of the car I was greeted by my lovely, loyal, antsy dog. The dog who had so kindly been let out to pee by the contractor working at the house. The dog who was so furious that he was left at home all day by himself that he decided to find the most foul coyote poop in the yard and coat himself in it and then sit on the front porch and await my arrival in order to let me know just how he felt.

As Bubba started his own birthday dinner, I dragged the dog upstairs to my shower to de-stink him. This 80 pound dog who has long hair and requires me to actually be in the shower with him to give him a thorough washing.

Okay, I'm wiped. But wait, there's more...Not five minutes after getting dressed and cleaning up my bathroom from my latest adventure, with dinner simmering on the stovetop, the doorbell rings and a perfect stranger informs me that two stray labrador retrievers have nearly been run over on my street and have now retreated into my back yard. Could I make sure they get back to their owner? Thanks.

Gorgeous dogs. Friendly, well-trained dogs. A yellow lab and a black lab who both came for a treat and sat down politely to wait. Wagged their tails and licked me. No tags. No identifying marks. I've never seen them before. So now, in addition to all my furniture and half of the discarded carpet from my house, I have two full-grown retrievers in my garage. Since it's Sunday night, the Humane Society, PAWS and Animal Control are all closed. My dog is climbing the walls to get to these new playmates and I'm wondering how I'm going to get them to someone who can get them home. My girls have fed them, petted them, and are scheming to keep them. Bubba just wants his birthday dinner.

Somehow, I've got to figure out how to feed my girls, get them bathed, pack their lunches, and have birthday cake before midnight. And it's not even a full moon.

Monday, March 16, 2009

To Be or Not To Be (Eight)...That is the Question

"If you could choose any age to be, what would you choose and why?"

I know it was just supposed to be a fun question for a group of pre-adolescent girls on a sleepover. They were all probably going to say 16 or 18 or 21 so that they could date and wear makeup and drive. That was the point. But she asked me.

The response that sat like a Mexican jumping bean on the tip of my tongue was, "Eight." But for some reason, my lips wouldn't part to let it out. I swallowed that bean and it has been bouncing around in my belly ever since.

Eight was how old I was when my parents' marriage dissolved.

Eight was how old I was when I began to believe I was responsible for the well-being of my siblings.

Eight was how old I was when I dragged the weight of the world onto my shoulders, bent over double and began slogging forward, determined to support it no matter what.

Do I really want to be eight again?

Would it change anything?

I can't save my parents' marriage, which means I can't prevent any of the disastrous things that happened as a result of their divorce.

I don't even think I would want to, given the experiences I was led to and the people I met because of the split.

Do I want to go back and do it again even if it means I would live through all the same things?

"I don't know," I finally answered, realizing she was waiting for a response. Somehow, saying that I wished I was a kid again felt as though I was betraying her - choosing not to be her parent right now. Knowing that if I did change anything about my childhood my life would not be the same now.

She asked me this question over two months ago and I'm still struggling with the answer.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Respect the Funk

The two most recent posts of my dear friend Carrie (Fully Caffeinated.blogspot.com) got me thinking this morning. Carrie's in a self-described funk and it prompted me to think about the times I've been determined to roll around in that sludge, too.

At first I tried to conjure an image of something wallowing and immediately a pig came to mind. The sweet pink piglets at a local farm, trailing after their mother, all headed for the mud bog in the middle of their pen, ready to submerge themselves and roll ecstatically in the thick goo until they are absolutely coated in brown stickiness. They do this to protect themselves from the sun's rays. Their new pink skin gets burned so easily that they have adapted this method of applying sunscreen to prevent burns. Hmmm.

The next thought that came to mind was that of my dog. My lovely, loyal, eager-to-please retriever who stays close to me on walks until he smells something positively vile. The slightest whiff of animal excrement or decomposing leaves in a stagnant puddle leaves him quivering. He is unable to control the urge to fly straight for the offending pile of nastiness and smear his muzzle through it. The look of pure pleasure on his face as he does a nose-dive into the muck is equal in intensity to the horror on mine. He quickly progresses to lying on his back, all four legs flailing in the air as though his puppeteer is suffering a seizure in an effort to grind as much of his long hair into the guck as possible. He wants to smell like this.

I once asked the veterinarian why. Why, when he is finally satisfied with his accomplishments does he trot back to me with an extra spring in his step? Why is his head lifted so proudly as horse dung hangs from one ear? Why is this a good thing? And why is he always so defeated when I drag him to the shower to scrub the nasty stuff off?

Apparently, some dogs are driven to this behavior because their instincts tell them they are safer if they mask their own scent. It enables them to travel incognito, as it were. Hmmm.

So maybe allowing yourself to wallow in a funk for a while is a way to protect yourself. Ultimately, there is something the Universe is trying to tell you that you're not ready to hear, so you block it out with anger or frustration or hiding under the covers. This wallowing has a purpose, too. It can turn into something that lasts for too long if we don't recognize it for what it is, but for a short time it is serving as another line of defense for our psyches.

Hmmm. I think the next time I'm feeling 'funky' I'll cover myself with sunscreen and sit in the sun. I'll mask my true scent and walk in broad daylight and when I'm ready, I'll shower it all off and figure out what I have to face that is frightening me so much. But first, I'll allow myself the space to feel protected.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


Ever have one of those conversations with a friend in which you very confidently predict the outcome of a situation involving one or both of your children?

Get over it.

I hate it when my kids do exactly the opposite of what I thought they were going to do.

I love it when they do that, though.

I love that, even though I think I know them so well they can shock the sh*t out of me and remind me that they are not 2-dimensional cardboard characters I can stand in place and watch for a while.

I love it when my perfectionistic, predictable, sweetheart of a girl decides she wants to take tae kwon do classes with a bunch of younger boys.

I love it when my kamikaze girl decides she would rather join the swim team and follow in her mommy's footsteps.

Who woulda thunk it?

I'm smiling just thinking about their willingness to stretch themselves in ways I never would have imagined. I am such a lucky mom!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Anniversary Gifts

Fifteen years.


Fifteen years of marriage.

Fifteen years of laughter, travels, late nights, early mornings, terrific meals, saving for a rainy day, celebrating successes, raising children and realizing our individual and collective dreams. It seems unbelievable that it's been fifteen years, but in the face of the years to come, it seems like a drop in the bucket.

Last weekend Bubba and I celebrated. The grandparents came up to pamper the girls and Bubba and I headed out for a weekend on the town. A mere twelve miles from home we found fun and friendship. We checked in to a swanky hotel, our room papered with red and white stripes like the inside of a circus tent. The front desk clerk sent us a complimentary bottle of champagne but we immediately set out for a long walk to one of our favorite 'pre-kid' restaurants. Two hours, two glasses of wine for me and two dirty martinis later, we decided it wasn't too late to find a movie. The conversation didn't lag. We held hands on the walk, shared a bottle of water while we watched "Gran Torino," and found ourselves laughing and crying together at the end.

We slept in ridiculously late on Saturday, walked to the best coffee shop in town, acted the part of tourists completely and managed to thoroughly enjoy each other's company. Our full day found us eating well, talking, browsing the bookstores together and apart and finally agreeing to go to a comedy show late at night.

The weather was perfect - not hot or cold, not wet and rainy or snowy or windy. The food was terrific and not expensive. We mostly shared small plates and appetizers and made sure to try new things we wouldn't normally order. The work we have done over the past fifteen plus years to keep our lines of communication open led us to tease each other gently and hang out comfortably. The fact that I am married to someone who is genuinely interested in me as a person and enjoys spending time with me continues to astonish me. I hope he feels the same way. The weekend we just had gives me strength to continue working at our marriage as we disagree and discover disparate interests. I feel as though I have just celebrated the harvest and am energized to continue planting, fertilizing and weeding this patch of land.

God only knows what we'll reap in this garden fifteen years from now...
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