Wednesday, March 16, 2016

I'm Moving

Yes, it’s true. I am moving. I have an insatiable thirst for new experiences and I like changing things up.

So this time, instead of rearranging the furniture or changing my hair color, I’m changing my blog. It’s time. New name, new place.

I’d love for you to come with me. You can do it here.

Friday, March 11, 2016

New York, Early Spring 1991

Another generally irritating day, where I had a list of things to do and only accomplished half of them. I’m carrying this annoying bag filled with the work of the day, and it’s so heavy that when it swings it nearly knocks me over. I had to stop at the store to pick up a few things, so now I’ve got another bag. It’s pouring down rain out, and the wind is threatening to invert my umbrella. So there I am, struggling with these three things and dropping my mail on the wet floor at the guard’s station as I struggle to locate my ID and at the same time keep the soaked umbrella away from my pants.

I stumble into my apartment, violently thrust forward by the weight of my bag as it slips off my shoulder. I sigh heavily with an air of annoyance, and I feel the tears burning behind my eyes. All I want to do is sit in my bed in the dark, with the covers pulled up to my chin, clutching my lifelong friend Teddy. And cry. What an incredibly frustrating day! Nothing went right.

Instead I find my roommate stretched out on her bed with the blinds up, listening to music. She’s doing absolutely nothing. Most of the time she does nothing. She’s been sleeping all day. I am instantly pissed to find her there, invading my right to privacy again.

“Hi!” she sings cheerily. She’s only a sophomore, and already she has her life planned out as far as graduation from Harvard Law. She’ll probably do it. The only thing she seems to worry about is not getting into Harvard because she only has a 3.7 GPA. It really irritates me to hear her complain about this.

Last semester I was contemplating law school – I even have a dusty white box in the back of my closet with about twenty bulletins. Criminal justice is fascinating, and I’ve always been interested in helping people (and the money doesn’t look too bad either). But then I changed my mind because I knew I wasn’t ready to handle the workload, and I sure don’t have a 3.7.

It really bothers me that she worries over such a tiny little thing, when she already has planned out everything else. This summer she’s studying in Korea. Next year she wants to do the Washington semester.  She’s already got an internship for next fall. I don’t even have that – I haven’t even begun the search for one. That’s just another thing on my long list of “Things to Do.” It bothers me that she already knows what she wants to do after only two years in college and I’m still playing the guessing game after four. I want to know too! When I talk about the uncertainty of my future and worry about graduation and finding a job, she looks at me blankly like I’m a lunatic.

So I stumble into my room. I can’t even look at her. If I open my mouth I’ll say things I’ll regret.  I want her to get out. I swear she hasn’t left that spot since she crawled into it last night. I toss my bag on the floor, rip off my jacket, kick off my shoes, and fall into bed.  I pull the covers up over my head, and lie still. I wait. The tears are stinging my eyes. I slip one hand out from under the covers, groping for Teddy’s leg somewhere behind my head.

She either gets the hint or is getting hungry. She turns off the radio, closes the blinds, and leaves me in the empty darkness of our room. I close my eyes and try to envision something peaceful – a warm, sandy beach, blue ocean, me, and nothing but the sound of seagulls soaring overhead. But, as usual, it doesn’t work. Something is gnawing at the pit of my stomach, and I just want to cry and cry.

I want someone to come along, take my hand, and show me the way. I’m on some rollercoaster ride to nowhere and I just want to get off. I wish the end of this road wasn’t so dark and scary. I wish I had some answers.


Thursday, March 10, 2016

What's New Under the Sun

As my youngest rapidly approaches the end of her elementary career, I am reminded of not only how young she is, but also how fast she’s growing up. And I’m not ready.

Several nights ago, Veruca got her first phone call from a boy. She was all cool and simultaneously silly – and he’s “just a friend” and he bet her $5 that if he called her, her mom would answer the phone. If that isn’t the biggest crock of bull to get a girl’s phone number… and she fell for it, hook, line and sinker. Whatever the exchange was, they kept getting cut off (you know, cell phone service being what it is) and he kept calling back, and eventually she turned her phone off so he couldn’t call again. Ha!

Last night at dinner she told us that he didn’t give her the five bucks he bet her, and she was pissed. Okay – not really. More like, not fair - that’s not how the game works. Todd told her to ask him for it – you know, a bet’s a bet and she won fair and square. She said, can you tell him? We joked about him calling on her behalf as her “attorney.” We had a good laugh before I looked at her and said, seriously – he likes you – why do you think he asked for your number? Which apparently hadn’t been considered.

There’s an awful lot of liking being circulated through the fifth grade. This one likes that one, that one wants to date this one… wait, date? Who dates in fifth grade?!

Annnndd… apparently the principal knows the answer. Yesterday Veruca told me Mrs. Fitz came to the classroom to talk about some big problems they’re having in school. In Veruca’s words, some kids are “having sex in school.” Cue screeching brakes. (We were in the car.) I said WHAT?! Just how is that even possible? I don’t know, she said, probably in the bathroom. This was her guess – and by now I’m wondering just exactly what Mrs. Fitz said. Did she actually use the word “sex”? She did. Still – I found myself thinking out loud… just how is that even possible? You know – mechanics, people! Meanwhile, in her usual way of ignoring and talking over me, Veruca speculated it could’ve been anyone from kindergarten through fifth grade, though probably 3rd or 4th or 5th graders. Huh.

Coincidentally, there was an incident about 10 days ago where Veruca heard a boy in art class tell her friend to “suck my ---k” and she was upset about it. She said she told the teacher and she did nothing. This is where it pays to be a sleuth – because you absolutely cannot take anything a 10-year-old says at face value without some digging. (She only told the teacher that he said a bad word.) Needless to say, I told her that he cannot talk that way to a girl – or anyone. It’s wrong and in some parts of the grown up world it’s considered sexual harassment – which is a crime. So, the next day she took it to the assistant principal, who thanked her for coming forward.

So another big issue in school is profanity. Well, now there’s a surprise. Veruca tells me that the back of the bus is Grand Central for misdemeanors of the elementary kind. Meanwhile, back in school… Hunter dropped the f-bomb in the adjacent classroom and everybody’s talking about it.

My son, whom I will now refer to as Opac (OH-pock), is learning how to fine tune his communication skills not only by texting me when he wants to stay after weight-training to play a little b-ball with his friends, but also by not spontaneously exclaiming the f-bomb at his sister. It’s a work in progress. The dollar in a jar isn’t working with him, primarily because he has no money. Next offense will result in grounding. And it won’t be pretty.

Veruca couldn’t wait to tell him what her principal said. She said, guess what my principal said to our class today? And then she looked at me and said, you tell him. Like it’s my story to tell. Opac shared that all kinds of stuff like that was happening in middle school last year, which really did nothing to ease my discomfort about the whole matter. Who remembers this stuff??

When I was in elementary school there was liking going on, though in nearly all circumstances it was one-sided, and mostly boys on the receiving end. I remember liking a boy in first grade who lived in my apartment complex. I wrote him love letters which he received and graciously tore up. Next boy was in third grade and surely unrequited, though I never told him.

Middle school was quite different. I found myself both the target and the huntress, but my first grade lesson had taught me to be more cool.  As in, act completely indifferent to anyone who shows interest. I was “going with” a boy in 6th grade for no other reason than that he asked me, and we never even held hands, let alone saw each other outside of school. There was that girl who was luxuriating in the rather obvious signs of puberty that made her an unfortunate and unintended reputation. I flew obliviously under the radar with my underdeveloped body. My first somewhat real date came years later, in 10th grade, again with a boy I had barely noticed until he’d asked. I was 15. Fifteen! My son is fifteen. He’s shown no signs of interest in anything not tied to a football. And for that – I am grateful.

Veruca, on the other hand, is acutely aware of the boys. A rumor circulated back to her that Steven likes her, and she was on a search and destroy mission to find out who started it. I suggested that she focus on her studies, and less on someone she’s not interested in. Probably fell on deaf ears, like almost everything else I tell her. And last night before she went to bed, she told me that cell-phone-boy is her boyfriend. Since when? I suppose it doesn’t matter, at least until he walks over from his development and knocks on the door.

I’ll let Opac answer it.

Keeping watch on the neighborhood.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Momma Forgot There'd Be Days Like These

Because you think you’re having a bad day…

I had a meeting today at one of the college campuses where Todd works. Well, technically he doesn’t work at this campus. I’m doing some grant work and had a meeting about some Veteran Services initiatives that they’re working on. The meeting was at 12:30. Seeing as our accountant is in the Baltimore area as well, I decided to drop off the tax stuff to him before the meeting. We live about 50 minutes north of Baltimore. On a good day. So I left at 10:30, figuring two hours was more than enough time.  Plus, I have GPS. What could go wrong? I also had to stop at this restaurant in White Marsh where we’d had dinner with my in-laws last week, and where Veruca left her prized mint green Justice handbag hanging on her chair.

I had no trouble getting to the accountant. I’ve been there before, his office is literally around the corner from my in-laws, and, like I said – GPS. In and out. Back in the car with 45 minutes until my meeting. I contemplated stopping at the restaurant first, and decided I’d best focus on the meeting.

Well. Missed the proper exit for the direction I needed to go (an exit I take every. Single. Time. I leave my in-laws) and ended up going the wrong direction. Six miles later I was able to turn around, and now I’m going the right way. Meanwhile, the manager from the restaurant calls me about the purse, and apologizes for no one calling me back last week, and tells me to please be sure to ask for James when I come in. Gotta go, James, I’m driving on the beltway and I’m lost again. Seriously.

The fudrucking beltway is a great big circle. Didya know that?  THAT’s why it’s called the BELT-WAY. So, not knowing this, ya know, because I’m not freaking FROM Baltimore, I panicked when I saw signs for a “tunnel.” And now I’m all like – shit! I don’t want to go through the tunnel! How the hell did I get HERE?! Because – and I swear I’m not stupid – I didn’t know there’s more than ONE tunnel in Baltimore. And this tunnel I desperately was trying to avoid was actually going to take me to the town I needed to get to. So, I changed direction and ended back on I-95 going north (at least I know my way this way) and ended up at another tunnel! However, this is the tunnel I’m familiar with and I’m now not only supremely confused, I’m swearing a string of colorful words because I’m now late for this meeting, which is so not a good first impression for the director of Veteran Services.

Long story short, I made it okay. Only 5 minutes late. I apologized profusely and sat down after introductions were made, my face hot and pink from the f@#$-I’m-late jog from my car. Trying to breathe normally, I pull out my glasses and a pen. I click the top of the pen and it springs back – the top flying over my head. I’m momentarily mortified and holding my maniacal laughter in by a thread until the director tells me the same thing happened to her a few minutes ago.

An hour and half later, the meeting’s over. Back in the car and feeling okay now. This is the easy part. The restaurant is around the corner from Todd’s campus. I go in and ask for James and here is a classic example of how you can be so wrong when you picture someone based on their voice. The 7-foot middle-aged giant who greeted me looked nothing like a 30-something preppy guy in khaki pants. He looked more like an off-duty cop. Or a bouncer at a strip club. Not that I know what a bouncer looks like at a strip club. I’m just saying that’s what I imagine one would look like. And after the day I’d had at this point, I seriously had to internally kick myself to keep from sniggling. He handed me some coupons for free stuff, ya know – the standard comp crap they give you when you complain to corporate (not so long story).

I’ve had worse days. I’m just hoping I don’t repeat this on Thursday when I have to find Johns Hopkins.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Overheard in a Fitting Room

A 10-year-old walks into a space-challenged fitting room after trying on a dress, and wedges herself into the corner seat. The click of hangers and whoosh of fabrics … a few seconds of trivial conversation turns to this.

Dad really loves Stephanie.

I hope so. I’m glad.

You want him to be happy.

Yes, I do.

Why did you and dad get divorced?

We didn’t get along. We fought a lot.

But you don’t fight anymore.

That’s because we’re not married anymore.

What did you fight about?

Everything. We didn’t see eye-to-eye on very much. But I’m not sorry we got married – because I have you, and your brother.

You’d still have us, even if you married Todd instead.

Well, I’d still have kids, they just wouldn’t have been you and –

Yeah, cause then we’d look like Todd. Eww!


Well, his face is skinny...

What are you saying?

No – I mean, he’s alright but –

Well, I like him.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Lost and Found

Found 3 things recently that were lost. 

  1. A rather brand new cell phone. 
  2. A green “bowl.” 
  3. The cat.

This was all very exciting, though for different reasons. Todd came in from the car one day and showed me this brand new cell phone he found under the passenger seat. He asked who was in the car recently that may have lost it? I’d never seen it before. After a moment or two of reckoning, he remembered how eight months ago Neph had lost a cell phone – which he never found. Neph, like any person of his generation, is quite adept at losing shit. Like his driver’s permit – which, apparently, one needs if one wishes to take the driver’s test. This was quite funny at the time, since he had to get a new one, and later found the original permit at a friend’s house after he got his license.


After the four-foot wall of snow melted from along the fence line, I noticed something green in the corner of the fence from my perch on the deck. It was a large, plastic green bowl and after a momentary lapse – I recognized it as the base to the Christmas tree stand, missing since last year, and not one person in the house knew where it was. Todd said, “probably somewhere in the garage.” If you’ve seen our garage… I wasn’t going in there looking for the veritable pin in a haystack. O blamed Neph – because, well, see above. But all I could say to that was – what would HE want with a Christmas tree stand? So, I went out and found a plastic bin that could hold water and the legs of the tree stand without tipping over.

Why was this bowl in the corner of the fence, upside down? Veruca used it some time ago to climb over the fence – you know – because why use the gate? When I asked her about it last weekend, she said… are you ready for this? Oh. This same child went with me to shop for its replacement. Heard me 
exclaiming aloud about it. Oh.

Meanwhile, back in the yard…


Todd decided it was time to refill our propane tank and so went outside to unhook it and load it into the truck – because we like to live life dangerously. What I didn’t know at the time was that he’d left the sliding door open downstairs, which I learned upon our return home from having this tank filled. Immediately I worried that Oliver had discovered this lapse, and briefly considered that Todd had done it intentionally. I searched the whole house, every nook and cranny. No cat. I called him and called him. I decided to vacuum the entire house – because if there’s one thing that will flush him out – it’s the vacuum. After 38 minutes of ear-deafening noise, no sign of whisker or tail. Now I was really worried.

I went outside, searching the backyard – which is quite large – and, having also noted that the gate too had been left open, searched the front yard and adjacent properties. I took a can of cat food with me and a fork, and tapped the can and called to him. I wandered into our old horse pasture, all the way to the back where it borders the woods. Two stray cats sitting atop a huge tree stump looked at me with a mixture of curiosity and anxiety. I figured their presence was a pretty good sign that Oliver hadn’t gotten that far. I slipped through the fence and into the woods, winding my way into my backyard. Todd was standing on the deck looking somewhat guiltily at me, and said he still thought Oliver was hiding in the house. He went out to the front yard to look and I went inside the house feeling downtrodden, absentmindedly tapping the can with the fork. When I turned the corner of the kitchen island, an hour and a half after the search began, There. He. Was. The little shit was sitting expectantly by his food bowl, looking gorgeous, well-rested, and completely apathetic about the crisis. I burst into tears. He meowed at me until I opened the can. Dispassionate little jerk.

Monday, February 22, 2016

What is 'Merica?

I referenced ‘Merica in a Facebook comment last weekend, and was accused of using it in a derogatory way. Okay – I did sorta kinda use it in a derogatory way – I referenced stupid lower-middle class ‘Merica as being responsible for the rise of a certain Presidential candidate. That’s kind of a rude and unfair generalization. What I really should have said is that people aren’t making educated decisions about the implications and consequences of electing this individual. Full disclosure: my actual comment: The stupid dumbass Americans from lower middle class 'Merica. The ones who follow the crowd and don't really "think." It's scaring the hell out of me.

It might not have been my finest comment. Needless to say, a “friend” reposted my comment on her wall in a very unflattering post, which was followed by a shockingly more vile comment from her husband which I won’t dare repeat. To be fair, she never mentioned me. But clearly it was meant for me. And then she unfriended me. In a couple of PMs, I reached out to apologize for anything I said that offended her, that I believed she took it out of context, and told her I just wished she’d told me directly that my comment upset her. I was sincere. Her response? 'Merica is used alot by Veterans (close friends of ours) and I don't stand for it to be thrown in their faces and calling them or anyone else that used it low-middle class. I'm tired of people in this country disrespecting vets, stepping on the flag, etc. just because it's their "right" to do so and calling it liberalism. It's just better at this point for me to unfriend those that are making statements like this, I don't want to see it.

I was so confused by this that I shared it with Todd, to be sure I understood what it meant. Was I being accused of calling veterans low-middle class? Was I disrespecting veterans by using the term ‘Merica? I never mentioned veterans in my offensive comment, but is that implied if I’m using it? How did veterans become a part of this conversation anyway? Do I symbolically step on the flag by saying ‘Merica? Am I a liberal if I use the term, or am I a Republican? I’m still confused.

Since I’m so obviously ignorant, I googled ‘Merica this morning. According to Urban Dictionary:

The top definition – America. It’s considered a slang term for The United States of America. There are also other ways of spelling it – such as ‘Murica, ‘Murika, and Amurica.

#2 – “A whole new way of saying America. …Merica is the whole experience of America summed up in a stereotypical way. Eating anything deep-fried, shooting shotguns….. People often say it when they see Americans doing things only Americans can do, such as: trimming a hedge with a chainsaw…. and driving tractors in the middle of a freeway. It is often expressed in a proud and commonly exaggerated manor.” Another definition calls it the redneck/hicks version of America. (Urban Dictionary misspelled "manner" by the way. Which really annoys me.)

It also hails from George W.’s “country” accent (their words, not mine. I’d have chosen Texan, myself. Unless Texan is somehow not PC and then I guess I should've just said, Texas accent), wherein the A comes across as silent and thus we hear only, merica. Which – by the way – I found very endearing about him.

Finally, still another definition is “a term used by the ignorant masses who have no self-respect, or respect for our founding fathers.” This definition is kind of confusing too, in the context of my comment and the subsequent backlash. Does this mean I’m “the ignorant masses” for using the term? Or was this definition incorrectly written and they meant to say, “used for the ignorant masses”? By either definition, it’s kind of insulting. In the context of my friend’s statement, would that then mean that veterans are the ignorant masses? Because that’s just all kinds of wrong.

I’m still confused. Doesn’t everyone use chainsaws to cut their hedges? I thought they did that in Disney. Are Disney landscapers rednecks? And what’s wrong with riding a tractor on the highway? That would be pretty badass, not to mention fun, pissing off all the speeders. And I love deep fried food. Does that make me a redneck? I better Google Jeff Foxworthy and brush up on my definitions.

I am genuinely sorry for making an ignorant statement. I’m like that meme that says I don’t think about what I’m going to say because I like to be just as surprised as everyone else. Except that I’m not shameless. It’s no excuse, but I often blurt out stupid and/or inappropriate things and then mutter to myself – kind of like when Baby told Johnny she carried the watermelon.

Still – for the public record – I don’t think lower-middle class people are stupid. There are plenty of stupid people out there representing all classes. I do not dislike rednecks, nor was I implying that rednecks are stupid. Again, see above. I would never use “liberalism” as my excuse to say or do something inherently wrong. My often foolish ineptitude and undisciplined tongue are to blame. I have never, or would ever, stomp on the American flag. There’s a little 3 x5 flag on a broken wooden stick in my drawer because I just can’t throw it in the trash can. I don’t know what to do with it, but I just can’t throw it away – kind of like your kid’s dried up umbilical cord.

I did not – nor would I ever – say anything derogatory about veterans. I have friends and beloved family who are or were veterans. I bow down to them for doing something I’d never have the courage to do. I also don’t feel the need to defend myself at length about this. However, if you knew that I’m immersed in grant work right now and the group I’m currently working for – you’d know just how ridiculous this whole conversation is.