Friday, September 26, 2008

PhotoStory Friday: Fashionably Lame

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek
* * *

I've discussed my lack of fashion sense on a few occasions.

I was serious.

I wasn't kidding.

But, I was being slightly dishonest.

You see, I used to be quite the stylish young lass (yes, I used lass in a sentence and the year is 2008). I was what many would term "fashion forward."


I have evidence.

Exhibit A:
I rocked this outfit from head to toe, did I not? Even my red and rainbow striped bag is hip . . . and would be on the arm of celebrity divas of today, I have no doubt. Notice my over-sized buckle, the "fur" lined boots, the knitted cap. And of course, my model smirk. And my entire ensemble is set off nicely by the multi-colored carpeting adorning the stairs and the nicotine-stained walls.


Exhibit B:
First, I must make special note of Fluffy. He is so special he had a post all his own.

My hair has always been the bane of my existence. I have been lost in a sea of bad hair days with a few decent hair days thrown in to prevent me from taking a razor to my scalp. Ode to the hair gods . . .

This was clearly one of my shining moments. I mean, I'm a 10! There are some people who have no idea what I am talking about and rather than feel old and decrepit, I am just going to enlighten you . . .

The resemblance is simply uncanny, isn't it?
*if you squint really, really hard . . . *

* * *
"I base most of my fashion sense on what doesn't itch." ~Gilda Radner


"If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture, let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies.... It would be a sad situation if the wrapper were better than the meat wrapped inside it." ~Albert Einstein

Sing it, Al!

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society. ~Mark Twain

Hmmm . . .

And I leave you with that.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Mantra of the Fearless

Memories of me . . .

The toddler, clad in nothing but a cloth diaper, is spinning circles in the middle of the yard. There is neither a hint of worry nor fear in her deep blue eyes. Her wide two-toothed grin only reveals the promise of what is yet to come.

A girl, her long black hair cascading around her, is running . . . pulling at the air above her and yanking it down. Other children stare and laugh as they huddle close to watch the strange girl whirl her body around the playground. She wants desperately to fly. Undaunted, she thinks nothing of the true weight of her old yard sale shoes on her feet or the torn and stained dress that she wears. She has a sky to conquer and a universe to explore.

The young woman is alone with her thoughts, whispers of her dreams still hang heavy in the air. She looks lost, but is not yet defeated. She is melancholy, but resolutely sanguine. She appears youthful, but within her eyes there is wisdom.

And the slow and steady beat of time goes on . . .

Trips never taken. Roads not traveled. Decisions never made. Doors not opened.

The fearless faded away. The "I can do anything" was replaced with a cool pragmatism beset with self-doubt. The "I can conquer the world" was replaced with the gentle shake of a head and the slow curling of a patronizing smile. The "I can be whatever I want" was replaced by the limits of class and reality of vacant bank accounts.

She learned to be content. She learned to just be. And life was good.

Until. She learned to be fearless. Again. Which comes much easier once you've realized you've been tasked with caring for another human being . . . nurturing their soul, building their path, unlocking their mind, and comforting their heart.

And also changing a diaper, balancing a checkbook, baking a cake and painting your nails all at the same time (which in no way can I actually do, but example is for effect).

You made her fearless . . . you gave her no choice.

She will not let another dream fade away, another goal go unreached, another door slam shut.

Never again. Like the bold toddler, the adventurous girl and the brave young woman she will reach up, reach out, and be fearless.

Fearless because of you.

Fearless, for you . . .

Monday, September 22, 2008

Making History

I remember fighting with my siblings. The fights weren't knock down drag out brawls (at least not always--very seldom was blood involved), but they were most definitely hefty squabbles. Name-calling. Yup. A little LOUD conversation. Certainly. The whiny blame and shame game. Oh yeah. Did we run to the 'rents and beg that something horrible be done to the other sibling (dismemberment) as punishment for the horrific crime committed against us (changing the TV station and hiding the remote). You betcha.

But eventually the whining, yelling, ranting, bickering, screaming, blaming and intense display of emotion subsided. Apologies were exchanged (sometimes in the form of a simple nod and the handing over of an ice pack). And nearly everything else could be glued or mended back together in some way . . .

There were a few tears (the ones that accompany the constant stream of boogers and big gulps of air). There was comfort food (hello! Swedish Fish and chocolate chip mint ice cream). There was the ceremonial sharing of a precious/lovey/Fluffy.

All was right with the world.

Which brings me to . . . the elections. Wait. Stop. Stay . . . I promise that this is a very non-political, political post. Oh, and it's short.

You know, watching the election coverage, whether it be on an unbiased news network (I know, doesn't exist, but play along, k?) or on SNL (which was pretty funny, can't lie), the relationship between the candidates reminds me a bit of back home. The name calling. The bickering. The blaming. The whining. The bloodletting.

It can be frustrating. Even for this eternal optimist.

Hopefully, in the end the two candidates (dare I say, parties?) will come together. Apologies will be exchanged. Tears will fall. History will be made . . .

And that is cool.

Ice packs . . . Swedish Fish . . . and all.

Friday, September 19, 2008

PhotoStory Friday: My Affliction

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek
* * *

That face. The way you crinkle your nose as the wind brushes along your face. The way you look at me, your eyes peering up through your tiny soft lashes. Your bow-shaped lips slowly part and I see the sweet beginnings of a smile. Your eyes widen and the swirling pools of color spring to life.

I could drowned in those eyes.

Those hands. One moment they flail around, moving the air, reaching for the sun. Simple things become jewels of wonderment in those hands. With each curious touch, your hands reveal the magic of first knowledge.

I admire those hands.

That body. You crawl walk, run and I watch as the soft slopes of your limbs move to the rhythm of a soundless song. Your boundless energy is infectious as the world becomes your playground.

I crave your freedom.

Your laugh dances its way to my ears and a smile slowly creeps across my face. I feel my heart thump mercifully in my chest, fighting the emotion to no avail.

Who are you, sweet baby? For you are not mine.

I'm in awe of children that are not mine. It is my affliction.

This child . . .

is the baby, enveloped by the tranquil sounds of nature, slumbering in the stroller at the park.

is the doe-eyed girl who trades giggles with her mother over a simple picnic lunch.

is the anxious tow-headed boy who is eager to please his father as they toss a ball between them.

is the toddler who is figuring out the limitless capabilities of her body as she stumbles her way across the floor.

You are the cause of my affliction, sweet baby J . . .

I have a love for you that knows no bounds . . .

In your eyes I see hope.
In your face I see curiosity.
In your body I see determination.
In your hands I see discovery.

And now, I see it in every child . . .

Before J came into my life I admired children from afar. I relished in their innocence. I was touched by their unblemished spirit. I was inspired by their open minds and forgiving souls.

But now with J in my life, each time I see a child my heart swells and my seams break open. Be it in a store, a park, at an event, or anywhere, I am instantly engaged. "What is your teddy bear's name?" "Is red your favorite color." "Wow, you are such a good walker, little man!"," I'll bet your mommy made that for you," "What would you like to be when you grow up?"

They are happy to answer my questions, to lean in close when I speak to them. They laugh when I make a silly face. They give me their broadest smiles and biggest belly laughs.

I can't help but wonder what happened to me . . .

Have I been drugged?

Am I part of an alien experiment?

Am I going crazy? (please let it be aliens!)

But I know the answer.

I'm now a mother . . . I still find it hard to believe. The moment Baby J came to be I was afflicted.

And although I know that the minute I see the screaming-crying-temper-tantrum-throwing-back-talk-talking-eye-rolling-kinda kid . . . I may have a change of heart.

But until then . . .

I will never go looking for a cure . . .

* * *

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Post About How Good I Look in a Swimsuit

I have successfully avoided having to wear a swimsuit all summer. I figured that after giving birth to J I'd have plenty of time to indulge my post-pregnancy body with a few fat stores.

Outside of the bewb area, my body returned to its pre-pregnancy weight and general shape in a few (read: several) months.

I was looking pretty decent . . . in clothes. I eyed the drawer with my pre-pregnancy swimsuites with dread. For I knew the truth. Things had shifted. Things had softened. Things had become . . . jiggly (and not the good Girl's Gone W*ld jiggly either).

But, I didn't have to wear a suit. There was no swimming this summer.

Until last week.

I pulled out all my swim suits in anticipation for J's first swim class.

No. Never. Gonna. Happen. I sucked in and held my breath. I contorted my body in very unnatural ways just to TRY to look decent in the suit. Nope. The dream was dead . . .

I even tried on the maternity suit. Nope. Totally cute on a pregnant chick, but sad and pathetic on a not pregnant chick.

We went on a mission. To the mall! Mr. Husband, J, and me.

Have you ever been to the mall when it is POST swimsuit season and all that is left are the remnants? Mixmatched tops and bottoms along with one-piece (nightmare patterned) suits were relegated to the back "clearance" corners of nearly every store.

Mr. Husband tried to help.

He pulled out stuff like this top . . .

and this bottom . . .

You know, God bless him for thinking I could actually wear stuff like this . . . ever. But, um, his fashion sense is well, horrible. And, given the slim pickings, it was getting rough.

This kept up for hours. HOURS. But how do you tell the hubs that while you are grateful for his help, he just isn't helping? You send him to go get a pretzel. Avoidance rocks.

I finally did find something. At the last minute.

Standard suit w/ a duo use as a tarp. 99% off. Great deal. It fit. All the jiggly stuff was strapped down. The chubby stuff that leaked out the sides would most definitely not be an issue. I was going to be surrounded by other moms! Who cares, right?

I was good to go.

The first class was great. J and I were the ONLY ones for the infant swim class. But I wasn't worried. I was amongst 70 and 80 year-old women (who stayed behind after finishing their arthritis swim) and one fifteen-year-old female lifeguard. No one cared what I looked like. They all zeroed in on J and I was just his shadow.

But the sweet little lifeguard informed me that she'd be heading back to school and a new guard would be taking over the lessons. What?

The old ladies all chimed in and described him. "Oh, he's so cute!" "He'll give you and J the best one-on-one attention!" Huh? What? "He's tall and got that long hair . . . oooh, Agnes, isn't he dreamy?" OK, I added the last part, but you get the drift.

Panic set in. You know, in ANY other setting (and I do mean ANY), I am completely cool with my appearance. I'm fully aware I'm no Giselle. I'm OK with that. But something happens to me the minute I know I'll be EXPOSED. Suddenly I am transported back to my early teen years. My girlfriends gobbing on oil as they arched their backs to show off their teeny bikinis. Me in a one-piece with an extra large t-shirt on. Hot guys paraded past us, ogling my hot friends. I was invisible to them and I was perfectly happy with that. I had HUGE thighs of which I was horribly self-conscious. I was a runner. A sprinter. I had lots of muscle. Big muscle. But big muscle was not in. I was not in. And again, wrapped up in my extra large Def Leopard t-shirt made the lack of attention perfectly OK with me.

What would have happened had one of the hot beach dudes talked to me, you ask? I would have dug a whole in the sand and climbed in. Even my invisiblity cloak (Def Leopard t-shirt) would not have been able to save me. Something about ME + swimsuit simply does not go well with me interacting like a normal human being with cute members of the opposit sex. A sad reality.

But I was about to be exposed. And not in a situation where I could just mix in with throngs of swimsuit-wearing ladies.

I prayed that other mothers/babies would join the group before the next class. I hoped that the fifteen-year-old lifeguard would realize that school was overrated and get back to lifeguarding. I wished that there was a magic pill to give me the confidence I needed to face my demons (AKA cute lifeguard).

Today was the day that me, in my "mom" swimsuit would face her demon. I held my head up high as J and I entered the pool area. I was ready. I could do this.

The ladies greeted J with a cacophony of hellos.

It was just J and me . . . again. No other babies. No other mommies. My eyes darted to the lifeguard stand. No one was there.

I quickly unwrapped my towel and J and I headed into the pool.

As J splashes in the water I hear a deep male voice behind me. I start sweating. OK, maybe not sweating, I mean, I'm in a pool. But seriously, the panic starts to set in. I slowly turn around and find

not this
but this

Garth jumped in the pool. J giggled. Garth blew bubbles. J giggled.

Mama sighed.

And all was right with the world.

* * *

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Photo Story Friday: The Winds of Change Part II

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

* * *

This is where I live now . . .

The view from my back deck.

This was a shot I just took on Tuesday morning at the park.

The cows grazing right next to my house (see the electrified fence?). We've only seen one escape and make its way through our backyard. You know, they run much faster than you'd think.

View of regular visitors to our backyard.

J at the park with the river as the backdrop.

I love where we live. There is no traffic. There are no crowds. The crime rate is low. Chances are you'll see someone you know each and every time you head out to town (both good and bad, I know). Nature is all around--deer, wild turkey, ducks, geese, wild birds, various farm animals, we even live near a llama farm.

Mr. Husband and I grew up just outside of Detroit. We were used to having houses right on top of one another, battling a steady stream of traffic wherever we go, hearing and in some cases witnessing crime on a regular basis. Our only dealings with wildlife typically were the small furry variety known as domestic canines and felines and the occasional squirrel. That's it.

No comparison, huh?

Well, you're right.

Sort of.

You see, in the beginning it was easy to live in this small town. I enjoyed it (as made evident by my article that darn near pimped small town living). But, there are limitations, challenges, issues, if I may, that have come to light even more so since giving birth to J . . .

1. We have only one mall (within 75+ miles). I know, I know. Big deal. And being that I'm not a huge shopper, this normally wouldn't be a big deal. But, now that I have J, we are limited as to where we can peruse come the winter months. I mean, you can only stare at the same few dozen stores for so long (Oh, and our Steve and Barry's is closing . . . ).

2. We don't have many dining establishments. Let's put it this way. Outback is considered ethnic cuisine, Panera is fine dining, and "buffet" exists in about 1 out of every 2 restaurant names.

3. The lack of entertainment. The only places to go out at night are to B-dubs (Buffalo Wild Wings) and some skeezy bar. There is a community playhouse and one movie theater (well, two, but the other one barely counts) sans stadium seating (yes, I'm a seating snob). We have a cute downtown area in one of the nearby cities. There are cobblestone streets, adorable shops, great sightseeing. Unfortunately, come 4 PM, it rolls up the streets and snuffs out the lights. 4 PM.

4. Now, we could stay in our house all day long. There are plenty of toys, games, books and other forms of entertainment right here. Since I don't want the risk of being named "Hermit Mommy" (you just know someone has this blog title) and not providing J with the necessary social skills to make him a contributing member of society, I believe it behooves us to go out and socialize.

5. The only problem? Outside of the one mall, the park and that new outdoor play area where we were the only visitors (and we were the only visitors today as well!), there just isn't much to do. No museums (does an oil and gas museum count?), science centers (well, maybe the banks of the Ohio. That's definitely a few science experiements waiting to happen), or zoos (well, unless you consider the farms or my attic). I know. I know. We make our own fun. I get that. We do that. But, you can't discount the value of sharing the fun with other children. And yes, AFF, you raise a valid point about the happy avoidance of germs, but dang. Kid needs to build up his immunity, right???

6. The mice. Yes, we've had mice. And calling them field mice does not make them any more welcome. Not just one or two. Not just three or four. Try DOZENS. They took up residence in our attic. At first I was all, "We can't kill them!" (say in an annoyingly shrill voice for full effect). I forced my husband to buy live traps when we spotted the first ONE. We're pretty sure that when he went to empty the traps in a field that they just hike it back to Hotel Laskigal. About six DOZEN mice transports later, I nary shed a tear when one accidentally froze in the mouse cube while we were gone on a family emergency. I still remember the "tink, tink, tink" it made as my sadistic husband rocked in around in the cube. A mouse cube. How fitting.

7. The snake(s). I know. You'd think that having snakes would make the mice go away. Well. Let's just say this. They are. Now. But, before we realized how beneficial they are, we were too busy being freaked out finding a six foot snake skin in the ATTIC. I slept like a baby (my best trait) while Mr. Husband stayed awake night after night envisioning our attic as a scene from a B- horror flick.

What does this mean?

It means that our time is nearly up here in Smalltownruralville. Almost. Mr. Husband put in his request for a transfer. Meetings are in the works. Phone calls are being made. E-mails are being sent. We have ideas as to where we want to be. We would like more culture, arts, diversity, opportunities . . . for J. It'll happen. We just need to be patient.

But. All this being said, I can't lie.

When we go, I'll shed more than a few tears.

This is where I came into my own. Where the clouds of self-doubt were replaced with rays of confidence. Where the soft corners of my marriage became solid. And, where my existence made sense in a whole different way . . .

J's homecoming. And the reason this home, our home, will always be beautiful to me.

Stay tuned for WofC Part III . . .

There is still time to enter the giveaway! Click here to win a signed copy of Midwife of the Blue Ridge and other prizes (coming directly from the author!).

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: All By Myself

. . . and loving every minute of it.

After yesterday's pool adventure where we were the only students in infant swim class . . . we decided to venture out again. An indoor play center! I had no idea this existed until last week. We don't have very much out here for young children to do so finding this was like finding a gold mine with actual gold.

I was so excited.

When we arrived, we found . . . no babies. No children. No adults (save the woman who worked the counter). Part of me was bummed since I am eager for J to get to know other kids his age. But, the other part of me was thrilled. We had the entire place to ourselves.

And J went crazy! What an awesome day . . .

* * *
Hey, guess what? I'm hosting a contest over at my review blog. Go check it out HERE!

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Swimingly Perfect Day

*OK, this is a ridiculously long post (lots of spaces, though). A stream of consciousness post. I pledge to go on a word diet in the very near future . . .

You know, whatever your belief system is, you gotta believe that there is a higher power up there. Sometimes he/she answers your prayers/pleas and sometimes he/she, heck, let's just call the higher power HP, k?

Anyway, HP is out there workin' it all out for you. Sometimes life works in your favor and sometimes it doesn't. But, you know HP is out there . . . all the time. Watching. Working. And wondering what the heck you're doing.

Sometimes, HP likes to play with you, mess with you . . . just a little.

Here's the scenario:

I signed up J for swim classes last Friday. No, I'm trying to turn J into the next Phelps, but if it happens, well then, cool . . .

The classes started this morning. I realized that I had no idea what I was doing. Outside of the tub and sprinkler, J hasn't had a major experience with water. Do I need a life jacket, floaties, a vest? I forgot to ask. It's the weekend. The office is closed. And me, what do I do? I have only one swimsuit (that fits) and it is a maternity suit. The bottoms now sag down to my knees (sadly, the top is actually snug). I know, you think I should just change out the bottoms. Can't. The suit is a ONE piece that looks like a two-piece.

Not only have I been desperate to find a suit in a town with exactly 14 suits left (all mismatch and made for the body of a hot fourteen-year-old model), but now I have to figure out what a kid needs for a swim class. OMG.

I need a moment.

Friday afternoon. Mr. Husband and I head to the one and only mall in the area. I peruse the racks. He peruses the racks. Um, CLOTHING racks. Gawsh.

He pulls out several suits. I take the suits away from him and tell him to go fetch a pretzel with J. He leaves. Happily.

After trying on a dozen suits, I give up. Maternity suit here I come . . .

But, just as I leave the store I spy a suit on a rack near the exit. A black suit. Sorta sporty. I try it on. It fits. 75% off. I can't describe what is does for my figure, but let's just say that outside of eighty-year-old men, I won't be getting many stares.

Moving on . . .

On Sunday, Carrie and I headed to about a dozen stores. To find an infant swim vest. Again. This is a SMALL town.

We were digging, begging, calling trying to locate just ONE infant swim vest. After hours and hours of searching we find a package for the perfect vest. No vest. Oh, HP, you mock me . . . No vest in the end, but we did find a suit with at tube built in. Whatever . . . it floats.

This morning starts out perfectly. "J, guess what? You get to go swimming in a big, big pool today!" He beams. I beam. I'm super mommy!

We start to get ready. I shower. Put on my new suit. Pack our bags.

I can't find my keys.

J starts crying.

I go to comfort him.


"FUDGE BUCKETS!!!" I'm pretty sure I broke my toe.

I pick him up and get ready to put him in the car. Oh, dear HP, what the heck is in your diaper, J?

Change J (oh, if only it were that easy). Pack him in the car. Grab ice for toe. Look for keys.

20 minutes later.

We are so gonna be late.

It hits me. I have a crappy suit, a baby with no gear, a broken toe, lost keys, and not a clue as to what I am doing. And, I'm gonna be late.

I get grumpy. Really grumpy. Ready to scream. There they are. The keys. In J's dump truck. Of course! Where else would they be?

Twenty minutes later we finally make it to the pool house. Great, no parking. This is so not meant to be.

But, with great resolve I am determined to make it now. J will swim if it kills me.

I park a couple blocks away. I grab the bag, the baby, the tube suit and . . .

No stroller. I have THREE strollers but not even one in my car.

J can walk, but unless I want to get there in time for next week's lesson, I have to carry him.

I hoist him up on my hip and all the stuff on the other. I am a spectacle. I have no pictures, but I am certain the group of college guys standing at the corner do.

We make it in the pool. I know I will be late. I know the other mothers will stare. I know it will be a disaster.

I stumble through the door. J barely clinging to me as I drop the pile of stuff on the floor and wipe the sweaty hair from my eyes.

It is empty.

Well, except for the three elderly ladies finishing up their senior water aerobics.

Are you kidding me??? "Am I in the right place?" I ask. One lady responds, "Well, unless there is another pool in here, then my guess is right." Oooh. She's a smarty pants. I like her.

"Where are all the other babies? The mothers? I thought I was late!" I stare around the pool room.

"You're it!" exclaims the very young instructor coming up behind me.

What . . . I'm it? "I couldn't find a vest for my son."

"That's OK. We have a bunch here!" Huh?

It was me, a sweet little lifeguard/trainer, and three elderly ladies (who later turned into J's fan club).

HP. You just loved foolin' with me, didn't you? You loved watching me freak out for no reason. That perfect smile on J's face as he floated in the water, kicking his feet, paddling his arms . . . oh, you mock me, HP.

A perfect hour. A baby so happy that I forgot what I looked like. I forgot about the fruitless and ultimately pointless search for a vest. I didn't care about my toe. And carrying J and all that stuff two blocks. So totally worth it . . .

I have no pictures becaues I forgot my camera. And, my cell phone. Well. Apparently it isn't waterproof.

Next week. I promise.

Friday, September 5, 2008

On Living

Boy, did you know how to push my buttons. Politics. Religion. Gluing the toilet paper. The "bugs" under my pillow. The jokes that made me cringe and wonder how many Hail Marys it was worth. Oh, and remember the time you so kindly helped me visualize the bloodied and broken body of my mother-in-law (whom I love dearly--she's seriously a saint) while I took the wheel on our trip to visit your son (who just so happened to propose to me the very next night) in Georgia? I don't know why you thought getting me to cry while traveling the Smokies on a foggy night was a smart idea. But, your wife telling you to "Shut it" was worth it.

You were such a pain in my arse. From telling me I could give a stick figure a run for its money (I was not skinny, I just didn't care to eat a pound of fried cheese sticks. Those, my dear father-in-law, were all yours) to believing I was the worst thing that could happen to your son because I was a bit too rebellious, you gave me hell. You tried to boss me around. I bossed you right back. You wondered why the hell I wasn't pregnant 3 minutes after I was married. I said that once you pushed a Volkswagen out of your hoo haa, then maybe. You always told me my views were always wrong, I told you your views were never right. I made your blood boil. You made me cringe.

But, you loved me.

I loved you. More than anything.

We had a unique relationship, didn't we? I loved you not only for being the father of the man I married, but I loved you for being a father to me . . .

December 11, 2006
Your hands are resting at your side. Your mouth is strained open, as if you are trying to say something. The monitor beeps. The tubes stretch across your body. I lay my hand on your's and put on a brave face.

Your son needs me to be strong. I will be.

But I can't help but to silently beg you to wake up. To yell at me. To make fun of me. To spar with me over politics. Religion. The sucky Detroit Lions.

Deep breath.

You are the patriarch of this family. You are the heart that keeps it beating . . . I stare at their faces. They are lost. Your daughter. As the oldest, she tries so hard to hold it together. Your sons. I know they are running images of you in their mind. Birthdays. Holidays. Vacations. Firsts. They are negotiating with the guilt and regret of things said, unsaid, done, not done.

Your wife. Anne, my mother-in-law with the soul of a saint. Her pain runs so deep in digs trenches into my resolve to remain strong.

And I look to your son, my husband. You and he shared something that went beyond father and son. Beyond even a simple friendship. He got you. You got him. I know that when you go you'll take a part of him with you.

Yet. You are still you. Even at the end. As your three sons, with breaking hearts and tears in their eyes lean over you, telling you they love you, you lean forward. And with a raspy voice barely above a whisper, you tell them, "Don't be a bunch of pu$ies." The bite back at their laughter. That was an "I love you" if I ever heard one.

I plead with my tears, for they are not mine to cry. But I know they'll fall . . .

December 12, 2006
Today is my husband's birthday. Today is the day you brought the love of my life into the world.

And today. You say goodbye.

The cancer that ravaged your body is gone. It claimed your lungs, your bones, your brain, and ultimately, your life.

I know I shouldn't be. But I am still so angry. How it forced itself into your life, a BIG life. How is stole your sly smile and robbed you of your laughter. You were such a force and to see you as you crumbled under the pain was something I will never be able to wipe from my memory. One moment your voice filled the room as wild energy whirled around you. The next moment you were so small. So frail. A victim, beaten and robbed.

But in the end, it didn't claim your soul. And today, your spirit is so alive. In sweet Anne's heart. In T's sense of humor. In R's stubbornness. In S's charm. In your daughter's wisdom. In my vivid memories. And now, in his sly little smile. Sweet Baby J, who entered this world only nine months after you said goodbye.

Your grandson. I now know why you wanted him for us. Why only two weeks after you left us we found out about him. He was a gift. He soothed our hearts and helped dry our tears . . .

One day, I will tell him stories that will have him filling a room with his laughter (your laughter). He will know you. He will cherish you the same way I did. I'll make sure of it.

And so you know, I'd give anything to have those moments back. The edgy banter. The lame jokes. The totally inappropriate comments. The moments when I knew I meant the world to you . . .

* * *

I know that nearly every one of you has been touched by cancer. Although is can tear lives apart, in its wake are often the most courageous of all stories. I just keep reminding myself that the body is temporary, the soul (regardless of what you believe) lives on . . .

To Faith, the most beautiful young girl I've ever seen. I miss you. 19 years old.
To Timmy. I can only imagine who you'd be today. Greatness. Undoubtedly. 14 years old.
To Maddie. I miss you, grandma. That fiery red hair. That fiery personality.
To Len. You knew how to live. And you did, up until the last breath.
To Amy. You survived. You did it! You amaze me.

To Roman. Your grandson looks just like you . . .

* * *

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Winds of Change . . .

The following is an article I wrote nearly eight years ago as a guest columnist for our local paper. There is a reason I share it with you today. Changes are coming. But, before I delve into that, I give you a little about where I where I was and where I am today. Tomorrow I will share a little more . . .

* * *
I remember driving into town for the first time on an early summer evening. I saw the hills, some dotted with cows or horses. Small stores lined the street: a bakery, a barbershop and a quaint coffee shop. There was a park where families gathered at tables and children played on the swings. It was as if I had stepped back in time. I left the big lights, the bustling crowds, the towering concrete structures and the incredible shopping for…this. I didn’t know if I was ready for this kind of change.

During rush hour, or heck, any hour on one of Chicago’s many expressways and even the calmest and most patient person will have psychotic tendencies, but not here. I haven’t sat in traffic once since I arrived here. But I didn’t come to talk about the traffic. It brings back bad memories.

I could talk about how parking in this small Ohio Valley town is anywhere from 75-100% cheaper than in Chicago or Detroit. I could mention how I have never seen so many family and community events that seem to take place nearly every weekend. And then, there was the real county fair I attended this summer where I saw the largest pig in the world…I think anyway. Although I could go on forever about my small town versus big city experiences, it is something else that moved me to write this.

The people. I don’t know if it is the calmness of the river, the gently sloping hills, or simply that time just moves a bit slower here, but the people here are different. I am no expert. I hold no degrees in psychology or sociology, but I have lived in quite a few places before I came here. I’ve heard the hostility in the voices of children while walking to school in Detroit. I’ve seen the impatient crowds hurrying along the Magnificent Mile in Chicago. I’ve walked out of a few stores in Atlanta after being shunned by busy store clerks. Although the culture, entertainment and shopping were often outstanding, it wasn’t always pretty.

The other day I walked into the store and witnessed a miracle, a small miracle, but significant nonetheless. The store was busy; after all, it is Christmas. A line started to form behind the only open register. I stepped in behind the last person and drew my usual sigh of despair. I learned to do that in Chicago where you were required to show your frustration with anything that didn’t move at the speed of light. At that moment I observed something amazing. People were talking…to each other. They were laughing and smiling. All I could think was, “Where am I?”

When my turn came at register the young lady smiled and said, “Hello, how are you?” She even waited for me to respond. There was no aggravation in her voice, no frustration in her movements as she placed my items in bags. I explained briefly to her that I had recently moved here and was amazed at how friendly most everyone was, regardless of the situation. She responded with something that was not unlike a piece of modern poetry, “Honey, that’s just the way we are.” With that she smiled, her voice hinted a bit of laughter.

When I first got here, I was a little worried. I didn’t know what to expect. But with these beautiful rolling hills in place of magnificent concrete structures, the infectious smile of a store clerk instead of the bustling crowds of the city and the mooing of a few cows in place of honking horns in traffic, I think I’ll be OK. To my friends in the city, please come and visit. You’ll love it. And, to that friendly store clerk with the infectious smile – Thank you.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Harlequin Moment . . .

Do you remember my friend Carrie from "Single and Loving It?"

Well, after a string of what I can only call near misses (as in they were clearly unworthy of her time, effort, or energy) and dodged disasters (self-explanatory) she had all but given up on dating.

Can you blame her? I surely couldn't. There certainly didn't seem to be much gold in them there hills to be mined. Nope. Not a nugget.

Carrie went about her daily life until one fortunate evening only a few nights ago. It was a night of passion. A night of mystery. A night of hot unadulterated . . . um, well. Kissing and stuff.

I hung on her every word. Sweat beads began to form on my forehead. I gripped J's stroller tighter and tighter. My eyes widened as she fleshed (excellent word choice) out the story in mind-numbing detail. OK, so it wasn't mind-numbing. I just like building drama. Regardless. It was fantasy candy. No doubt.

I begged her to share her story with you. I said that many of us might just appreciate a little lustful excitement in our diaper-changing, meal-making, laundry-folding, house-cleaning, hard-working kinda day.

I know it might seem like an odd mix . . . sappy Baby J posts juxtaposed with a little s exy drama. But hey . . . we all know that once in a while I like to spice things up (remember the nekkid photo?). Hey, and now worries. This is no Playboy post . . . it is more like a steamy Lifetime movie. Except without the cheesy plot lines and C movie actors.

For your reading enjoyment, I give you . . .

"How Carrie Got Her Groove Back"

Saturday night started off like any other night when I’m heading out…last Saturday free from work so “K” and I head out on the town.

What to wear, oh yeah, that little black top I just got at the store’s clearance rack. Jeans?? Well no shorts maybe, its hot…no jeans and flip flops. Why am I worrying about what to wear, my club of one is going well (my club: I hate men).

Maybe I’ll try a little something new w/my makeup. Who cares, right? No one to impress, right? So out the door…oh crap, can’t find my ID or bank card. A 15 minute search underway…and out the door.

My friend and I head out to one of the few places we have to hang out. I was feeling the need to have a drink or 2 or 3. After a quick glance around the room I realize that unfortunately there is no good eye candy. I'm not surprised. Shall I play the trivia game? Order a large nacho platter? File my nails?

No. I must forge ahead.

We start discussing where else we could go so that the night won't be a total loss. Hey, come on we are 2 single gals…and we deserve to have something nice to look at! Meanwhile…across the bar I see “him”. His parents were family friend . . . he was just a cocky jock in high school . . . I was a college graduate with a career.

I say hi…he tells me he almost doesn’t recognize me b/c my hair looks different, but quickly adds it looks good. He has this great smile. (Great = rip off his clothes.) Dirty old lady…yes, I’m 32 and he’s 24. *note later in the post…he’s freshly 24. Fresh . . . ain't that the truth.

I have another drink…he gets up to leave stops by to say bye, and asks if we are heading anywhere else, I answer “yeah, I think we are heading over to the dance club (AKA dirty, body-smashing bar) down the road.” He answers, "so are we…it’s my birthday."

I tell him when I get there I’ll buy him a birthday shot. Yup. You heard right. I jumped right in the deep end. Without arm floaties . . .

He gives that yummy smile again and he’s off. I finish my drink and we are headed down the road. In my friend’s car, (I was not in any shape to drive…yes, my face was going numb…should have stopped while I was ahead) I look at my friend and tell her to keep me away from that pretty young man…

We get to next stop, there he is…beautiful smile is flashed my way. I take note of the thick head of hair, the way his muscles tense under his shirt, the way his pants hang on his waist . . . *wipes away the drool*

I get to the bar, order a drink and ask him what shot he’d like for his birthday. One shot for him…one for us, two for us and three for us…and then somewhere in all that…

We kiss.

I don't know how it happened. My lips just fell on his. Or his lips fell on mine. Not quite sure.

I guess I gave the bar a little lesson on how to properly kiss a guy. Yes, that’s right--right AT the bar, we made out like high school teenagers (who of course wouldn't be at a bar--duh!). Yes, if I do say so myself, we gave a top notch lesson that might just make a porn star blush. Mom would be proud.

We leave the bar, I give my friend a nice little wave goodbye (she was ticked--but oh well . . . she'd most definitely do the same to me, except she wouldn't even have taken the time to wave), and PYM and I head out the door.

We get to his friend’s truck and present to all the stumbling patrons making their way to their cars another great lesson …how to properly kiss a man while pushed up against a truck! Total movie moment. And I was the leading lady. Cue music. Dim the lights. Commence with heavy breathing.

We head to his place. Stop shaking you're head. You have no idea the power of a six pack (as in abs), full lips, and a six pack (as in NOT abs). We proceed to give another great PRIVATE lesson on kissing.

The bright sunshine kisses my face . . . kisses his beautiful face and perfect body…yeah, still there in the morning. I rolled over and whispered “I’m leaving…good morning.” Oh, and just so you know . . . THAT did not happen. I swear. No reason to lie. My dad doesn't even know what a blog is.

He asked how I was going to get home (yes, I thought about the walk of shame) when I mentioned walking home (I only live a few blocks away). He said no way. He got up. He drove me home.

What a gentleman.

What a night.

What a dirty old lady . . .

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