Tuesday, December 6, 2011

First, and Last

I met him on November 27, 1984.  I was at cheerleading practice, wearing my Prince t-shirt from the Purple Rain tour.  He was the wrestler on a break from his own practice, walking by, wearing the very same t-shirt.  My friend, who already knew him, and I talked to him a few minutes before returning to our practices.  She said afterward, I think he likes you.  Later, when he passed again, he poked me in the side and kept walking.  I would write this in my diary, and the next day would note that I saw him again, and the day after that, and the day after that.  By December 10th, I would declare to God that he was “so cute!”  An incurable flirt and oblivious to nothing, I would also note how I would catch him staring at me, all the way through the 15th of December at a wrestling meet where he spent a great deal of time chatting with my friend sitting right next to me.  Hours later, after a school dance that evening, I wrote how I had hoped he would be there, and how he “had the nerve” to show up with another girl while he continued to stare at me, and how I came home and cried the indignant tears of a 15-year-old scorned.

Fast forward one year, and again we would find ourselves in the same circle as he wrestled and I cheered.  And this time he would finally get up the nerve to ask me to go out.  I don’t remember our first date, or the second maybe, but I remember how we spent New Year’s Eve together, in my room, listening to Prince music and talking the night away.  He was what I conjured up to be a “bad boy,” an artist with an earring, who wore a leather motorcycle jacket years before it became vogue to wear one without a motorcycle, who drove a 1971 Volkswagen Super Beetle – at heart-stopping speeds - with a muffler that identified him a mile before he pulled into the driveway.  He was quiet and deeply thoughtful, mysterious and temperamental.  We had wonderful, meaningful, deep conversations about everything that teenagers consider important, and we cocooned ourselves against the world at large as we slowly buried ourselves into each other.  It was intense.  I loved him more than I’d ever loved anyone – ever – at the tender age of sixteen.  I had given up diaries for the more dramatic, creative poetry I could express my feelings in; I would write about the bond between us, so strong and cavernous, and yet “so fragile that it could break at any moment.”

The Fall of my senior year would see the end of this intensity, though not without the trauma and anguish that accompanies the end of a such a relationship.  We were stretched as far as we could go – he off to college and me focused on my high school social life – our relationship was far too intense for our ages and eventually he would let me go and walk away.  It was one of the most painful breakups I would ever experience.

And the years that passed would have me thinking of him from time to time, wondering where he was and occasionally journaling my thoughts about him, writing about him in my creative writing classes.  It took me years to smell leather and not think of him.  He always held a piece of me that I could never own myself.  There were occasional exchanges between us, like a letter he sent me my first year at NYU, where he penciled me a drawing of a rose.  He told me years later, “I used to drive by your mom’s house when I came back for visits, I really wanted to visit you and your mom, but I could not pull myself to do it...I was a kid, lots of fears…. So I drove the roads...reminiscing the times I ran that bug back and forth just to see you.” 

And, just as suddenly, the communications stopped.  These were the years we lived our separate lives, either involved or married to other people.  Then came Classmates.com.  He was there. His picture was there.  Then came Facebook.  He was there.  Then a day came while I was driving in my car, on the very same road his best friend lived on (unbeknownst to me) and I heard that Bon Jovi song on the radio, and the band, they played our favorite song…. And we danced so close, we danced so slow and I swore I’d never let you go… and soon we were communicating, again.

NO, we did not have an affair.  Let’s just clear that one up.  No matter what the “others” choose to believe, I did NOT break up his toxic 10 year relationship.  He did NOT break up my toxic, 12 year marriage.  We were both just in the same cyber place, at the same cyber time.  He became my friend again, and I became his.  I supported him and encouraged him to do right in his relationship.  He supported me and encouraged me in mine.  But more importantly, he helped me remember who I was before I became somebody else, and he didn’t even know it.  He knew me, and he wouldn’t let me forget the free spirit he had loved nearly 25 years ago.  And somewhere along the way, I remembered ME.  And, in an unfortunate turn of events for him, my ex-husband continued to ignore my desperate need to remember and be her, and he found out the hard way that I was unwilling to wait any longer.

I digress.  Todd and I had our moment of reunion… the first time we saw each other in over 20 years, and it was like someone turned a light on in a room that had been darkened for an eternity.  It was like coming home, and the rest is history. Or, rather, it will be history, when our story is done.  But it is just beginning.

He was my first love, that first boy who steals your heart in an irretrievable way, the one you will never forget.  And we have this most magical JOYFUL thing called reunited.  We’ve had some very awesome moments together today, in the present, in the middle of what I call my own personal descent into hell.  He has stood by me through it all, through the process of divorce and the subsequent custody battle that would’ve liked to kill me if not for the grace of God.  Not too many men would have, but this man is special.  And not because I think so, but because he really is, in spite of me.  I am blessed to have known him 25 years ago, and more blessed because he is still mine nearly a lifetime later.

On November 11th this year, he planned a special night out for us at – of all places – my mother’s restaurant – because, as he said, 11-11-11 is a magical date and we need to spend that night together.  I already knew what he had in mind, that is, until he told me at some point he didn’t want me to think it was “more than what it was supposed to be.”  But we sat down at the best table in the house, and he presented me with a book full of memories both past and present, and a box that contained an ornament for our first tree, and in the bottom – another box with the ring that would make me his forever.  And three minutes after I said “yes!” I looked up and saw his mom and dad, who live two hours away, staring down at me… and soon after found another handful of dear friends, all there by his invitation, to celebrate the love that conquered all.   It was a magical night, sadly no pictures, but magical all the same.  Because, he knows me.  He knows me, like I know myself.  I can only hope that what I have to give him brings him as much Joy as he has given me.

Happy birthday baby.  Like a fine Malbec, you just get better with age. ;)

I love you.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Attitude of Gratitude

This year is my year to give thanks for all I am so very grateful – and thankful – for.

I am thankful for…

God.  Above all and everything else, God alone has blessed me all my life… and given me the strength I needed, when I needed it most.  I am so grateful for the Father who guided me through life’s toughest moments this year, and reminded me of my own self-worth and all that is good in my life, showed me again and again that He is taking care of me, and led me back on the path to Joy.

My children.  They are the driving force behind every last emotion I have, and every action I take.  They are my life, my heart, my breath, my most precious blessings from above.  I am thankful that they are adjusting well to a new, peaceful life full of joy and love…. and I am thankful for every unsolicited embrace and proclamation of my worth to them.

Todd.   I have been enormously blessed to have reconnected with my first love in the midst of a very dramatic, and traumatic, change in my life.  First and foremost, he has been my friend, a source of comfort and joy, laughter and strength, my shoulder to cry on and my “candle in the window.” I am so so thankful that he loves me like he does, and sees me as I am.  This morning he told me he was thankful I said yes; I am thankful that he asked! I can’t imagine my life without him or with anyone else.  I am home.

My mom and dad.  I am thankful for my mom, who has always been there for me through all of my life.  I’m thankful she loves me unconditionally, and never said, “I told you so,” even when she expressed her concerns to me and I insisted she was wrong.  I am thankful for my dad, who too has always been there for me, but ever more so today.  I am thankful to him, and Sherry, who gave us a home when we had nowhere else to go, and welcomed us with open arms.

My friends.  I am thankful for every single one of them, near and far, close and mere acquaintance – they are all valued and I am so blessed to have them in my life, whether it is now or 20 years ago.  I appreciate the value of Facebook for reconnecting me with so many of them and without which I would have missed the many words of encouragement I’ve received from them, that kept me plowing ahead even on my darkest days.

A home.  It goes without saying.  It took me nearly 3 months to find this home where we can plant ourselves until the next big move. 

Work.  I’m thankful to actually have a job, in this miserable economy where people continue to lose theirs, and I am able to at least earn a little bit of my own money.

Insulin.  Without it, my beautiful 6-year-old daughter would not be here today.  And one day, I hope to include Cure among my list of thanks.

Oliver.  And Rosco.  It seems silly to include my pets, and yet silly not to.  Oliver the cat came to us from nowhere, one day in early August.  He is sweet, loving, playful and hilarious… and it occurred to me just the other day that we needed him as much as he needed us.  I am thankful for Rosco, who cannot be with me for reasons never quite “reasonable,” for being the sweet oaf that he was and is.  He gave me something, while we were together, that I can’t quite put into words at this moment – but I think many of you dog-owners out there get it.

Coffee.  C’mon – it can’t all be serious.  Without this little tonic, I’d be lost like the Edmond Fitzgerald.  I am thankful for every cup, travel mug and Wawa java that clears the fog I have to drive my brain through every morning.

And last, but certainly not least, Larry.  The brilliant, seasoned, calm, kick-ass lawyer I never thought I’d ever need, I am thankful to have him in my corner as we sift through the documents, property, custody, lies and manipulations.  I would never have survived the last 3 months without him.  I’d be really thankful if he’d just forget the bill.  :)

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

My Golden Love

It all started back in the winter of 2010.  With a 9-year-old and a soon to be 5-year-old,  I was starting to feel the inevitable maternal need to take care of someone, or something, else.  I knew I wasn’t having another baby, so …. why not have a dog???  After (what seemed like) a lot of thought, I told my then-husband that I wanted a dog for my birthday in May. 

We took one of those Sunday drives with the kids in late March to a kennel where there are a variety of breeds.  He wanted a boxer.  I wanted a “little dog,” like a miniature Schnauzer or a Westie.  Just inside the kennel were the cutest puppies they can bait you with, like labs and Siberian Huskies.  At the far side of this first room was a box with three dogs in it, two were Puggles and the last one was a very large Golden Retriever puppy.  This puppy nearly jumped out of this box, trying to chew off the buttons on my coat and gnawing on my purse strap.  I touched his fur. He was softer than a stuffed animal, except he was 50-plus pounds of solid canine love.  I extricated myself from him and walked on, intent on finding those cute little balls of fluff that rarely surpass 12 pounds.  Goldens are great, mind you, but my father-in-law had 4 of them and visiting him was always a frenzied adventure of flying fur and excitable jumping.  I wanted no parts of a large breed like that.

The kids had a ball, petting the different puppies and “choosing” the puppies they’d like to take home.  I just had to go back and see this Golden who’d already “chosen” me.  And by that time I should have known it was over.  I rode home in silence, thinking about this sweet animal who was so desperate to go home with me.  At five months old, he was already a big boy and the last in a litter of thirteen; the box next to his already had two little golden puppies left from a most recent litter and clearly they would be chosen first.  I overheard two women remark, “wow, look how big that one is,” and I knew he wasn’t going home with anyone any time soon.  Four days later, we were driving back to the kennel to pick him up.

I never wanted a big dog.  In fact, at some point during the several hours following our return home I realized that the stress of bringing this puppy home was surpassed only by Ava’s discharge from CHOP after her diagnosis.  I was a nervous wreck all the way to the kennel, I just wanted to turn back and say forget it.  There was no relaxing as I followed him around the house, nervously waiting for signs of an impending accident, and taking him outside every hour in an effort to avoid one.  And in between, testing Ava and treating her as needed.  By 4:30 that afternoon I collapsed in our big green chair, unable to move or think, ready to pass out sitting up.  “Rosco,” for his part, wedged himself between the back of this chair and the radiator, and promptly went to sleep for nearly 3 hours.

A week later my stress level would peak as “rush hour” commenced in my house – packing lunches and getting two kids up, dressed, groomed, Ava tested and bolused, fed, on the bus and off to preschool – did I mention myself in there anywhere?  And now we had a puppy thrown in the middle of all the chaos, who could not be left alone for a second and needed to go out first thing in the morning to sniff every blade of grass on a quarter acre of land.  This was supposed to be my ex-husband’s one contribution to the dog’s care, but couldn’t drag himself out of bed fifteen minutes earlier to do so.  At this point I was feeling like I was in WAY over my head, and rethinking whether he should be here at all.  (The dog, I mean.)   I would note in my journal, that at some point it has to become clear why we did this, right?

Two weeks later, I would realize he was fully a member of the family, and the single most eager one to please, having learned his name by the second day he came to us and with virtually no accidents at all.  He learned to sit and lie down and stay within a week.  He did his business outside like clockwork.  He was a quiet dog; it took him two days to find his voice but he would rarely use it.  But, he was also afraid of virtually everything – Ava’s doll stroller, parked cars (surprising not moving cars), umbrellas (especially challenging in the RAIN), the kids’ bikes, and this big red ball that mysteriously appeared in our backyard on a Saturday.  That ball had to be the funniest fear I’d ever witnessed… he refused to enter the backyard where it was, until we all played with it and Rosco became monkey-in-the-middle, running back and forth between us until he finally collapsed in the grass, defeat worn like a big panting smile.  I hadn’t laughed that hard in weeks.

He brought me a lot of joy and laughter in the months to follow, particularly one summer morning while I attempted to sleep in a little later than usual.  I heard him coming by the telltale sound of the toy he was carrying.  Squeak, squeak, squeeeeeeeeeeeeeak, squeeeak, squeak, squeak, squeeeeeak, squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeak, squeak, squeak.  Scratch, scratch.  I was trying to go back to sleep in my bed, next to my still slumbering daughter, while green rubber duck got pummeled by the dog.  Keeping my eyes closed, I said a silent prayer that he would go away and not wake Ava up.  Then the duck landed on the bed.  That was it.  By this time Ava was awake but still snuggling up to me, so I peeled myself from her to shut him out of the bedroom.  Next – my colossal mistake -  I started imitating the ten minutes of squeaking, much to Ava’s delight, and then the dog slammed into the bedroom and jumped onto our bed, full body on, wagging his tail like a wind-up toy boat rudder.  Now our hysterical laughter had him so wound up that he had turned into the wild dog from Borneo.  So, I got up to lock him out again, this time latching the door so he can’t push it open again.  He sat outside then, trying to shove his huge paw under the door.  That night I put all the squeaky toys out of his reach so that the following morning he would play with his quiet rope toy, which turned out to not be so quiet with an 80 pound dog on polished wood floors.

I learned to love those early mornings and late nights I’d take him outside, albeit without his quick-grab fallen walnuts he coveted that he clearly knew I didn’t want him to have.   He was always good about going outside, went straight to business and then he’d go after something that peaked his interest, like sucking on long wet blades of grass. Or sticks.  And he knew that by the time we got to the door he would have to relinquish them.  There were funny mornings, like the one where we two stood in the back of the yard, as he picked his “spot,” and someone across the way was working under the hood of a car.  Rosco, deeply oblivious on so many levels, jumped about five feet in the air when the metal clanging of the hood shutting rang out across the field.  One night I took him out at 3am to the clearest sky imaginable, every star in the sky was visible against a sea of black, and no sounds could be heard, not even crickets.  It was chilly, but so incredibly peaceful.  Beautiful.  Without him, I’d likely never have experienced this.

The only truly bad habit he had should not be so surprising: he loved to chew.  He had a particular taste for carpeting, chewing on corners of area rugs and finding loose seams in the old wall-to-wall that he’d pull on until there was large strip missing.  He even chewed a hole in the linoleum in the kitchen, while Owen sat at the counter just two feet away.  I didn’t know who to be more angry with, the dog who just can’t help himself or the kid who watched him do it.  He chewed the heads off of his rubber duck and rubber chicken, and didn’t stop until there were only headless, wingless, footless carcasses lying around.  He chewed up his stuffed toys until they were mere shreds of their former selves.  He even started working on his own bed, chewing through the cover and straight through to the padding, leaving little bits of foam all over the room like newly fallen snow.  Every time I caught him at it I would scold him and, one day, while I was enjoying a quiet cup of coffee in the kitchen it occurred to me that he was not in there with me… and it was quiet.  Too quiet.  I tiptoed into the room where his crate and bed were, and found him there.  When I walked in, he was seemingly lying down and lifted his head to see what I might want.  We regarded each other.  A small piece of foam dropped from his closed mouth.  I looked at him.  He looked at me.  Like he expected me not to notice.  And then the laughter erupted from me in that uncontrollable way.  There was no correcting this guy today.

I miss him blowing bubbles in his water dish.  I miss him lying on my feet while I did the dishes after dinner.  His constant presence in whatever room I occupied.  I miss him coming up to me, to lay his head on my lap and look up at me with those beautiful innocent brown eyes.  He was an enormous responsibility I hardly gave much thought to, a commitment to share a life through my fifties.   But he possessed the purest love I’ve ever experienced, because he was singly and irrevocably mine.  He chose me.  And I wish I’d done more for him. 
Today is Rosco’s 2nd birthday.  I can’t be there to celebrate with him, because he – like everything else – has become another pawn in the post-divorce war.  I haven’t seen him in almost two months, because my ex-husband didn’t want him and decided I couldn’t have him either.  But I will see him again, it’s only a matter of time.  And I’ll give him the bone I’ve been carrying around in my bag since the day he disappeared from the house.

Happy birthday, buddy.  I love you.

The dog was created for children. He is the god of frolic. ~ Henry Ward Beecher

A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself. ~ Josh Billings

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Coming out of the Dark

My life has been turned upside down in the last two months.  I am living in limbo, while all the legal issues I can’t talk about move like molasses in a cold jar.  I am not living where I should be, or where I want to be… and I am paralyzed by the tyranny it took me years to escape.  It is frustrating, infuriating, and – at times – depressing. 

I had a really, really bad night two weeks ago, a night that followed Ava’s heart wrenching cry-herself-to-sleep-“because I miss you” routine that precedes every night she will spend with her dad.  I had to work, but that didn’t stop me from choking back my own tears all day long remembering the sound of her little voice and the feel of her small body quivering in my arms, the tears silently slipping away as sleep overcame her.  Knowing I couldn’t hold her again for 3 days.  Feeling helpless to comfort her when she seemed so devastated by all the necessary changes.  And missing my son who, at 11 now, is careening toward adolescence in the forward-backward jerking motion of the 6 local… burying himself in online games and not talking about the divorce, he seems frightfully “well-adjusted” and yet feels compelled – after every genuine and unsolicited acknowledgement of the good in others – to declare his father the greatest man who ever darkened a doorway.  Not that he shouldn’t.  Every boy deserves a Superman dad – a man capable of amazing, improbable things while still harboring real human weakness.  And from this day forward I promise to pray (at least once a year) that his dad will be that for him, for his sake.  And that he’ll never let him down so hard he cannot be forgiven.  Or at least break that family’s belligerent chain of fathers vs. sons.

I digress.   Work has become a welcome respite from the anxieties and stress that plague me every hour of every day.  Keeps me from focusing on absolutely everything… like whether I should say this, or do that, how or whether it can be used against me, what it says about my character, parenting skills or my judgment… you get the picture.  I begrudgingly look forward to work, until I get going and my stress melts away as I “forget” for a few hours who I have been all week and what horrors pass through my mind like a camera’s flash.

So – anyway – on that particular night I tried to focus on the folks around me and the beautiful house I was standing in… and these people were all so kind, so real … I felt blessed to be there and to be received so well by so many strangers.  It went very well.  I got in my car to go home and turned on the radio.  I don’t remember which song it was, or how many minutes into the drive, but I snapped back into reality and I thought my heart would explode.  To feel so alone in the car, in the dark, hearing my daughter’s voice crying to me and feeling so far away from my children, knowing I can’t just “go home” where they are all snuggled up in bed and fast asleep like angels in heaven.  That – for now – I don’t have “home.”  And the floodgates opened and I just lost it.  I cried tears for every injustice, every reality and every imagined reality… I even cried tears for things I didn’t even know mattered to me.

I pulled into Todd’s driveway and tried to pull myself together, you know, Miss-Joy-come-knockin’ – and I did a pretty good job…  it was dark so the makeup I’d lost on the way home would be less noticeable.  I found him inside – the love of my life for 25 years – smiling and welcoming me into this peaceful home where I should have been long ago… and I just dropped my bags and felt my knees buckling under the weight of 50, 000 more tears.  And it just didn’t stop.  Couldn’t stop.  I never shed one tear since I’d filed for divorce – I’d always known it was right, never looked back, never felt sorry for him or had any regrets (well, other than it could’ve happened a hell of a lot sooner) – and on this night it felt like the final release of anything and everything I’d felt over the last ten months.  It had to come out.  I felt shattered.  And I wanted desperately to write about it while it was still fresh and steaming, to capture the pain I was feeling right then, before it slipped away into my history’s many compartments and I “forgot” about how horrible it had been, as I always do.

But I didn’t.  I chose to bury my head in the proverbial sand… the other defense mechanism that works very well for self-preservation.  Meanwhile, after the storm, I began to realize how blessed I was to have the flexibility to do what I wanted, when I wanted.  Sort of.  Finishing up a divorce, fighting over property,  child custody and the dog… nobody ever told me it was a full time job.  And in the middle of this mess, moving forward with my life because that’s where God sent me. 

It occurred to me that in the middle of this mess were many blessings… I have spent so much time with my family since the divorce and subsequent, not to mention sudden, move from my home.   Time I haven’t really spent with them since my marriage began.  My father has opened up his home to us since all the ugliness began, and I have spent hours talking to him by phone and at his home as I sort out the legal bullshit.  My daughter has grown closer to my stepmother, and developed compassion and caring for the elderly as she assists Sherry with the care of her parents.  My children and I have spent far less time in front of the television, and far more with our family. 

Even more amazing is how I’ve watched people open their arms to me, offering help and their compassion or even just a shoulder to cry on.  People I hardly know, people I haven’t seen in years, people who occupy space in my everyday life.  I’ve always believed I was blessed.  But in this I have discovered just how blessed one can be… once you open your heart and speak your truth, and become yourself again.  A few weeks ago Todd and I went to church for the first time, and I sat next to an old acquaintance from my children’s preschool who held my hand and welcomed me with joy in her heart while her brother is fighting cancer in the hospital.  I’ve discovered just how many other women out there are living in similar circumstances to those I have left, and I felt the tears well up in my own eyes, because I know how hard it is to finally admit you’ve had enough, and the fear of  mountains that lie ahead.  And I’ve found that my own family has grown, as Todd’s family has welcomed me as one of them since the day we reunited, without question or suspicion.  Finally, I learned that no one is immune to the travesties of divorce, and that we must all pass through the hell before we can truly embrace the Joy on the other side.

I was out with my mom one day, after another thousand dollar day with the attorney, and we decided to have lunch, after which she told me she was picking up my grandmother.  I decided to ride along.  I’ve actually been able to spend more time with Mom-mom too, between dropping off and picking up the kids and killing time before appointments, rather than go somewhere and be alone.  This is a blessing, as before I never seemed to find the time to see her often enough and she’s 86. 

So, we take Mom-mom to this Consignment store she had wanted to go to and she just disappears in there for an hour, looking over used furniture and housewares until finally arriving at her destination: women’s clothing.  And my mom is up there with her, just perusing the goods to kill time.  Mom-mom holds up shirts and asks mom what she thinks; mom says “no.”  Mom-mom looks at me and says, “she never likes anything I hold up.”  She continues moving through the racks.  Mom pulls out a pretty top, looks at me and says, “watch this.”  “What do you think of this one?” she asks Mom-mom.  “Oh! I saw that one but wasn’t sure you’d like it.”   

So we’re driving me back to my car and I’m riding in the backseat watching the conversation between my mom and her mother, as I had done so many times as a child some 30 years ago and I felt so at peace with them.  Not to mention amused, as they two can banter like the best of them.  We’re coming up on a manure spreader but thankfully mom turns off at the first road to get away from it.  About three minutes later, a noxious odor fills the car.  I’m having immediate flashbacks to last week’s elevator ride with Mom-mom to the first floor of her apartment building.  Mom interrupts the conversation to ask Mom-mom to hand her “that little can in the door” (which turns out to be air freshener, which also raises the question –to me – of how frequently an item like this is needed if it remains in the car).  Nevertheless, Mom starts spraying the air with it and I start to crack up.  Mom-mom’s head whips to the left and says to Mom, “if you’re spraying that because of me, I’m getting out.” Yeah.  She’s going to get out of the car on a back country road with her cane and walk eleven miles home. With this, my hysteria breaks the silence that follows and Mom-mom says to me, “you! You shut up.” 

Joy is back.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

20 Worst Songs to "----" To

Ok, so time for a little light-hearted blogging.  So, you're just waking up in the morning, in the usual way, and in the middle of it, the clock radio goes off.....

... and henceforth, a song list is born....

20.  Private Eye - Hall & Oates

19.  Glory Days - Bruce Springsteen

18.  Allentown - Billy Joel

17.  Hip to be Square - Huey Lewis and the News

16.  Let's Get Physical - Olivia Newton John

15.  Safety Dance - Men Without Hats

14.  Dancing Queen - ABBA

13.  Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now - Starship

12.  Can't Smile Without You - Barry Manilow

11.  Come on Eileen - Dexy's Midnight Runners

10.  Anticipation - Carly Simon

9.   If I Could Turn Back Time - Cher

8.   Break My Stride - Matthew Wilder

7.  Vacation - The Bangles

6.   All Summer Long - Kid Rock

5.   Karma Chameleon - Culture Club

4.   Kyrie - Mister Mister

3.   Walking on Sunshine - Katrina & the Waves

2.   Get Outta My Dreams -  Billy Ocean

and finally, how about this one?

1.   Mambo #5 - Lou Bega

Could you work it???   Really - could you???

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Who Broke You?

The time of reckoning one day comes. One day you wake up and the revelation hits you like lightning. It can be particularly worse when you’re spending the afternoon with someone who seems really content with life as it is. Or, maybe it’s meeting or knowing a married couple, down on their luck but still laughing together, and still loving and appreciating each other. Maybe it’s a final straw – the last injustice he can deliver you, the last condescending syllable he uttered, or the very real sting of flesh meeting flesh.

How many years can or will you endure the control – over how much money is spent, or if family can visit on a Sunday afternoon, or whether your son will have a birthday party this year? How many times did you have to ask for $20, only to be answered with “what do you need that for?” Did you buy the groceries, or did he? How many items on your list never made it into the cart?

How many times did you hear, “you can’t do that”? When was the first time you were called a bitch? Or a whore? Or worse? When was the first time your child heard it? When was the first time the word divorce fell from your lips? How long ago did the physical confrontations begin? How many times did you pick up the phone for help and have it ripped from your hands? How many things were broken, or airborne objects missed you by inches? At what point was a line crossed where you knew it was ENOUGH?

When the time comes, will you be crying, raging, or smiling? All the emotions will be there – every last one – and they all tumble together like ice in a glass… hollow and cold. And how do you leave? Do you do what you must to appease, just to get through the process without being destroyed? Do you attempt an amicable situation, to protect the children and therefore yourself? Or, do you cast fate to the wind and throw him under a bus at first light? And if you don’t, how do you know he won’t? It’s never going to be easy, no matter which path you choose. Someone in control for so many years will not just step aside and relinquish it, just like that. How do you trust someone who’s taken all of that trust away, to do what they say they will? Or, what they will not?

The day of reckoning. No more time to feel alone. No more moments of weakness. No more fear of what you cannot do, without him. It doesn’t matter whether you have any money – and – at some point, it will no longer matter whether you have anywhere to go. You will look at the beautiful faces of your children, and you will know they deserve more than a decade of watching a toxic marriage slowly destroy itself. That they deserve to know what real love looks like, so they stand at least a fledgling chance of love without pain and unhappiness and loss of self-esteem. You will notice the other couples around you, who love and respect each other with no obligation other than to accept love and respect in return – and you will want that, more than anything you have ever wanted before.

You might take that long, long gaze at the unfamiliar face in the mirror – and want desperately to resurrect that woman all your friends say they’ve missed. You want the joy you scratch and claw at every day to stay with you always, without risk of losing it the minute the wrong person walks through the door. If not for them, do it for YOU. You are worth it; every bit of Joy that permeates the earth is yours – you just have to step up and claim your share. And when you do, prepare to be amazed by the warm embrace of people who see the light in your eyes again. Life is short. There’s no time like the present. The time is now. Right now.

We all walk in the dark. And it is up to each of us to turn on our own light. ~ Katherine Hepburn

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Resolutions Update: How Am I Doing Now?

Okay. We are now more than halfway through 2011 so, time to check myself.

Currently, I'm sorry to report, my Joy meter has been running a bit low. Hence the absence of me in the blogosphere. I'm still feeling it, but it has been tempered by my preoccupation with some pretty heavy issues (details upcoming). I don't - or can't - write when I'm overburdened with stress. There hasn't been too much after-dinner kitchen dancing to the rousing sounds of hip-hop, nor any top-of-my-lungs versions of popular songs. This is something that just dawned on me, by the way... and a revelation that something's gotta change, soon.

Giving back where I can? Well, I keep seeing friends of mine going through different struggles, and I feel this really intense need to help. I think of ways to do so. T has recently told me I need to take care of me first, resolve and get my own life straight, before I can truly help others. I reluctantly agreed. However, a recent religiously motivated email offered this prayer: "Lord, let me be a blessing to others." So, with that, I offer my smile, a hug, and an affirmation to you that you are important to me and I'm here for you, whenever you need me.

Fulfilling one dream this year? I think I have. No, I didn't publish a novel or climb Mt. Everest (ok, I really don't want to tackle that mountain), but I did find my way to feeling real, raw, unobstructed JOY that nobody could squash (well, except me). And I found Tara, again.

To the people I love and cherish - I still love and cherish you!

I spoke my truth. Some didn't like it. Many more did. Thank you for that.

I ran and finished my first 5k. As it turned out, it wasn't on May 14th - a series of ridiculous mishaps in the week leading up to it prevented that, including a mysterious leg injury that halted a routine run and - the icing on the cake - a stoopid accident in my backyard two days later involving a trash can and my head that left me with five most attractive staples less than an inch above my forehead. My first 5k was actually a month later, benefiting the local chapter of another cause near and dear to my heart, the American Cancer Society. I ran that race for my grandfather whom I lost in 1983, and my uncle, who lost his third go-around with it in 2004. As my feet hit the final leg of the race and I had sight of the finish line, I had to fight back the tears that threatened to publically expose me for the blubbering fool that I am. But - it was AWESOME. I finished 88th out of 167 runners, and 7th in my age group. And, I'm ready to go again.

Diet. Ok, here it is: I fell off the wagon. It couldn't be helped. It seems when I'm under a certain degree of stress, I eat whatever poison is closest at hand. Today it's potato chips and oreo cookies. Tomorrow? French fries and Berger cookies. If it comes in a package, it's mine. If I've got to clean it, cut it, cook it or otherwise process it myself - it's going to be pretty lonely in the refrigerator. I do manage to swallow the offending material with the calculated deception of an addict - the kids are in the dark about my cookie "habit," since when they see me, I'm eating carrot sticks and cheese. (See? It's not that bad.) In any case, after a recent weigh-in and self-intervention, I'm clawing my way out of the junk food gutter with small, green leafy steps.

Taking time for me. Done.

No more excuses. As they say, I made my bed and now I must lie in it. Very few choices come without consequences - good or bad - but I made mine and I am NOT sorry. No more apologies.

I remain focused on my daughter's health and well-being - I am vigilant day and night as always, keeping her blood sugars low and testing every two hours to ensure her safety. Diabetes can't beat us! Still praying for a cure as the diabetes community remains focused on exciting developments to that end. Looking forward to our JDRF Walk coming in October, raising money and awareness for this devastating disease.

And, too, I am focused on my son's health and well-being - knowing his easy-going nature even as I am acutely aware of what he's not showing, or saying.

I AM a great mom.

A new development: I've gone "back to school." It's nothing big, and no mean accomplishment, just another "leap" I've made as I transition to a new life where I can be there for my daughter and have an income. In life there are no guarantees, but without risks how will we ever know our full potential? (Will keep you posted.)

And finally - in spite of some emotional upheavals and feeling like I'm drowning in stress some days - I've had to remind myself,
Every day I wake up has been a new opportunity to be "me" again. It is a divine blessing to live in the light, even if it is "always darkest before the dawn."

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Pokeback Mountain

School's out. Summer is here. We all wanted it - we all said we "couldn't wait." Then, faster than Gloria Allred chasing a naughty politician, all of us moms out there posted retractions on Facebook. "Oh no, wasn't me." "When does school start?"

On the second full day after school let out, my two were already screaming at each other over something stupid... at ten o'clock in the morning. So, I drove to the community pool, slapped down my checkbook and demanded a membership. The first day at the pool we seated ourselves on a small patch of grass next to another mom whose two children were in the pool a few yards away, bickering. I smiled at the mom as my two gingerly entered the water. She smiled back at me and said, "I brought them here to stop the fighting." Oh no. It's going to be a long summer.

So last weekend we're driving home from my dad's, where we enjoyed swimming in his pool for several hours. The kids started a game of I-Spy.

A - "I spy... with my little eye... something...YELLOW."

O - "My water bottle."

A - "No."

O - "A sign."

A - "A car?"

O - "What is it?"

A - "I'm not telling. You HAVE to guess."

O - "I give up. My turn. I spy...Gabe's Auto Service." Owen, you're supposed to give a clue, not the answer.

A - "What the heck is THAT?!"

O - "It's a new version of the game."

A - "That is IT!! I quit! You're cheating!" Silence follows, then... "Okay, it's sharp, it picks up dirt and...it smells like potato soup."

O - "WHAT?!?!" Laughter erupts from the back seat.

A - "Look!! It's Dave Keene!!..... And he smells soooooo good!!" This time I cracked up, and the two in the back amped it up in stereo.

So, this is how my summer was shaping up. Loads of boredom hovering like rain clouds on a hot day... threatening to open up but never quite making it. The kids, when they're not fighting or playing nicely together, are marvelously entertaining.

Meanwhile, I decided to create my own entertainment recently with a "Poke Fest" on Facebook. I'd actually been planning this for months, this fun and - I must say - funny experiment. I have about 160 friends on Facebook. I wondered what would happen if I poked them all on the same day. Would they all poke back? Who would poke first? Who wouldn't poke? Who would get pissed off and "unfriend" me? Who would wonder if I was "making a pass" at them? Because, after all, what does a Facebook poke really mean?

This has apparently been a subject of debate around a water cooler or two. I've had people ask ME what it means. Well? What does it mean?? Like I told my mom, who enjoys poking me almost weekly, that I think it really depends on who one is poking. She pokes me, I poke her... we're just a mother and daughter having fun with each other. I poke a female friend, it's like an elbow in the ribs, or a "hey, what's up?" I poke a male friend, it gets tricky. How well do I know him? How do I know him? Is he my girlfriend's husband? Will he wonder what I was doing? Would she get pissed off at me? Is he an old boyfriend? Truthfully, there's only two on Facebook, one of whom is again my significant other and for whom the meaning of the poke would not be a question and the other, while no longer a close friend, has recently married his longtime love and - being a fun-loving guy - would have been, had Facebook existed in high school, voted "most likely to initiate a Poke Fest." However, the other large contingency of male friends out there presented a bit of a challenge: what would they do?

So it all started on a Monday afternoon. I told my significant other about my intentions, both because he appreciates my little quirks and silliness and because I didn't want him to keep poking me all day and throwing off my numbers. So I started the poking. And I was cackling like Long Duck Dong all the way through. After about the first 20, I realized two things: how labor intensive it is to Poke 160 people, and how I just might want to offer an explanation on my wall as the Fest is getting started. I did provide some teasers in the weeks and days leading up to it. "It's coming folks, brace yourselves." "It's not the cool breeze of a Peppermint Patty. But it's guaranteed to add some spark to your day...and I'm no sharpshooter but my aim is pretty good... brace yourselves... it's coming..." "And here it comes! Let's see how many of you can take it!!"

So my explanation looked like this: "In honor of my grandfather's birthday (Daniel Joseph Keene), who loved a good prank as much as a good joke, I have initiated PokeFest today!! So, by now you know you've been poked and I'm anxious to see how many will poke me back! ♥" And the fun began! People were already poking me back before I finished poking all the rest. One of my friends, who saw my explanation and unfortunately (for whom, I'm not really sure) falls at the end of the alphabet, poke ME before I poked HIM. Cheater! I called him out on it and poked him anyway.

The first "Pokeback" winner is my cousin, Alisha. Thank you Alisha! She was on it. The next two Poke-back honors go to my "sister in Sigma" Anne, and my most tolerant and easygoing bff Erikah. The next 30 came in rapidly, mostly girls. I have my Blackberry linked to my Facebook, so over the next two hours the thing was "dinging" off the hook while I was making dinner and I expressed no small concern over whether the phone might actually implode. It did eventually slow down and I felt the need to once again offer an explanation, just in case...

"Just in case you're coming in late...in honor of my late grandfather's birthday, I am celebrating with a little PokeFest! Join in! Get poked, get even, get mad... it's all in good fun!" Initially I had been concerned that I would actually annoy someone enough to unfriend me, and then it occurred to me that if they were that uptight, I wouldn't miss them. So I poked with wild abandon.

So what are the final stats? Well, no one unfriended me. A few came in days later, as if they were just logging on to Facebook and were unaware of my game. I do realize, you know, that not everybody uses Facebook every day. More came in after I thanked "everyone" for participating. These, by the way, were by the majority men-friends, so I might assume my theory of them being perplexed by my intentions prevented them from poking back. One did NOT poke back, but only posted on my wall to "keep sticking me." Perhaps he didn't get the previous explanations. Another acknowledged, but didn't poke back. A couple of friends admitted to never having been "poked," and so to that end, I am honored to be their first. The final count, as of today - nearly two weeks after it began - is 70. Not bad, almost half. I had so much fun with this, just hearing the notifications come through on my phone, and I thank everyone for making my days brighter. I hope I did the same for you.

Next up: Get a job!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Joy of.... Negotiation?

So today began like any other ordinary summer day. Well, okay, maybe not quite. I'm beginning to shift the kids' sleep schedules back after a long weekend of late nights and agitated days, so they were both awake by 8:30am and ready for breakfast, sliding right into a schedule-less day of Wii gameplay soon after. I, on the other hand, had a laundry list of things I wanted to get done today, not the least of which involved driving around to multiple locations.

For once in my organized, unstructured life I got a decent night's sleep myself... Ava's father took over nighttime blood glucose testing until 1am, so that left me with several hours of uninterrupted sleep. And I woke up feeling rested - a golden moment in an otherwise dark cloud of sleep deprivation - jumped (yes, I JUMPED!!) out of bed and threw on my running clothes, my iPod and, this time, my can of pepper spray should I meet up with one of the neighborhood dogs who feels compelled to defend both sides of the street in front of his house. Stellar start to the day. My first run since my 5k ten days ago, and it went well. My pace was good, my breathing was even and unlabored. No attack dogs or whole roadkill bodies to vault over.

The rest of my plans today included donations for building a community library in our immediate area, getting gas (my favorite thing!) and driving to the library we currently use, to renew and return books for the summer reading program. AS IF my kids are actually reading anything other than the score on Super Smash Bros. Owen doesn't care about the prizes anymore. Ava, on the other hand, wanted her prize tickets NOW, even though she failed to read any of the previous books cover to cover. My explanation of making a more concerted effort to reap the "rewards" of reading fell on deaf ears. "I want them NOW." Time to test! I felt a low coming on. And, indeed, Ava needed some sugar. Lollipop, then off to our next stop - the creme de la creme - Game Stop.

The kids and I gathered a pile of old video games to trade in; they both wanted a new DS game. I explained, very clearly, that the credit we got had to EQUAL two DS games...
otherwise, they had to choose ONE Wii or PS3 game for the family. I told them, in English, that I was not spending one dime of my own money for any more games. Or, I. Am. NOT. Opening. My. Wallet.

So we get there, and the gentleman who works the store tallies up our trade-in and tries to talk me into a PowerUp Card for $13 that will offer me more savings throughout the year. Strike 1! I already am defensive about the allusion to opening my wallet. Both kids run up to me, each with a DS game in hand. Remarkably similar games. I reminded them of what I said before we got there.

"But it's only $25!" Yes Owen, YOURS is "only" $25. How much is yours, Ava?
"Hers is only $25 too."
"I want it," whines the princess of injustice.

Meanwhile, the total trade-in we received was..... drum roll please..... $26. Well, I was sorry to tell them again, it looks like we will have to choose a Wii game we can all play. This was where it got interesting. Ava clutched her game tighter to her chest, and Owen continued to argue with me about how "they" could work it out. Or, how Ava could use her own money to pay for it. Money, by the way, she not only didn't bring with her but money she refused to part with. Each of them insisted on their own way. So, the red-eyed evil witch reminded them of "the deal." And they still insisted on their own way. I stood there and told them it's ONE game, or NO game. I warned them. I threatened them. They stood their ground.

SO, I took the credit. And WALKED OUT. Both of them trailing me, but the door hadn't closed behind us when Owen said to me, "what's WRONG with you?" within earshot of the man behind the counter. Silently I walked on, until the door fully closed, and then I turned to Owen and lit into him like a wasp without a nest. Ava stood indignant, and the Prince of injustice burst into tears of frustration at how unfair and mean I am. How I never listen to him. Now there's an accusation. The proverbial pot calling the kettle black. Um, "one game for the family" deal... HELLO!

More whining, disrespectful accusations and cries for the injustice of it all. Owen, God bless him, takes after his mother a little too much. He doesn't know when to, excuse the expression, shut up. Always yapping, and always having to get the last word in. So he's going on in the backseat and then he said it. He said he's tired of being bullied. So, I pulled over, turned around and asked him to tell me just who is bullying him. Well, he didn't mean it. Too late, I tell him, and launch into my own tirade about showing respect to your parents, and how he's now had a glimpse of adulthood where you have to juggle the priorities of wants versus needs. How bills get paid first, so you have running water, electricity to play your gad-dang video games, heat in the winter and food on your table and a roof over it with a bed to sleep in. (!!!) How NOBODY has extra money to spend right now, and how the cost of gas has many people deciding how far they want to drive every day.

The silence in the backseat was deafening. Well, they probably heard none of it, really. When we got back to the house, the bickering began until an all-out war ensued over who had rights to occupy the living room. But they each ate lunch in silence, and halfway through Ava went to grab a granola bar and when she discovered it was the last one, offered it to her brother. OMG.
Did hell freeze over?? And he took it, with a polite "thank you."

Two hours later, they had "negotiated" that Ava would pay a 20, a 5 and a 1 for her game and Owen would use the credit for his. Nice, I said. They hatched a truce, but apparently the offer was only good today.

"Now can we go to Game Stop?"

Friday, June 17, 2011

How We Got Here: Part 2 (and Where We've Been)

Yes it was a shock to learn our 2-year-old had T1 diabetes. Yes it was the single most stressful event to ever occur in my life to date. We'd had a taste of what it was like to sit hours in an emergency room with a small and very sick child, when a month of persistent fevers finally landed 17-month-old Owen in the hospital for "further evaluation." It was hell for us as first time parents, our feverish and sweaty little boy drifting in and out of sleep, an IV drip to hydrate him, a battery of blood tests which showed nothing. But he was admitted for the night and it was a horrible sleepless night during which at some point I prayed my first real (and answered!) prayer to God - to please, please make him well enough to let us go home today.

When a child is diagnosed with diabetes it is said that the whole family has diabetes, because of all the necessary lifestyle changes. We began with a very rigid schedule that required insulin shots and meals with military precision:

8am - blood check, must eat breakfast in 30 minutes, THEN insulin shot given within 15 minutes
10am - morning snack 7-15 carbs (no insulin given)
12pm - blood check, then lunch, 15-20 carbs (no insulin given)
3pm - afternoon snack 7-15 carbs (no insulin given)
6pm - blood check, must eat dinner in 30 minutes, THEN insulin shot within 15 minutes
8-8:30pm - blood check, bedtime snack 7-15 carbs
11pm - basal insulin shot only

This regimen we chose used NPH insulin, an intermediate acting basal insulin, mostly because we thought 3 insulin shots a day (one of which she'd hopefully sleep through) seemed a hell of a lot more manageable than the 6-shot regimen of the far superior long-acting Lantus insulin plan. Because of her age we were required to do "post-meal" dosing, since we never knew how much she'd actually eat, and the fast-acting insulin dose is calculated to the number of carbs she ate. Still, it sure seemed like an awful lot of eating going on. Not to mention the fact that those meals HAD to be finished in 30 minutes. Those 3 other snacks were mandatory, NOT optional. Imagine trying to force feed a 2-year-old healthy carb snacks ... and let me just say there were plenty of junk-food binges "just" to get her to eat. This NPH program was the absolute worst... her blood sugars resembled a ride on the runaway mouse... shooting up to heights in the 300s and well over 400's and then plummeting to those somersaulting stomach drops of 60, or 35. And, most of the time, nothing in between. It wouldn't take long, incidentally, til we made the switch to Lantus - like a raft on a lazy river, where we found control so much better. And then, a year later, to the insulin pump which was like getting a second chance at life.

The husband lost nearly 30 pounds over the first emotionally tumultuous month. And, because I was home with her all day and she clung to me like a baby gorilla, I never ate. I could eat only when she did and, (in those early days) because I spent the entire meal crawling around under the table or around the house with a plate and a forkful of food, that meant AFTER she ate. I'd be so stressed by the time she finally ate everything I had lost my appetite. I dropped down to 105, the skinniest I've ever been since high school.

There was a tremendous amount of fighting during that first year: fighting with Ava to get her shots without jerking away just at the moment of injection and causing an incalculable spillage of insulin so minuscule, and yet so vital to her life and health. Insulin you can't just "give again," but instead have to wait hours before retesting to see just how high she will go. Fighting with Owen, who was initially freaked out by the whole hospital experience, seeing his baby sister with IV lines coming out of both arms and even her leg at one point and being separated from me for 5 days. He didn't understand the necessity of eating on a schedule, she became the center of attention and the focus of most of the arguments between his dad and me, and her deafening cries over every shot would send him scattering for quieter rooms in the house.

Fighting with my husband. In retrospect, we were both so freaked out and stressed and exhausted and afraid... how could this not put a strain on our relationship? Some families do pull together and become stronger in crisis; but there are a good many more who fall apart under the mountain of responsibility and accountability for a disease such as this, and we would fulfill that statistic. In meeting another family who'd been through it a few years prior, we learned that they too experienced a lot of fighting. Yelling at each other. Yelling at the child who HAS to eat and take insulin to stay alive. Fighting over who will do what. Fighting over who's responsible for her eating. Who's giving the shot this time. Why didn't you do it this way? Why didn't you do it that way? We were warned in the hospital about becoming the "diabetes parent"... meaning, one parent takes it all on themselves. That became Me.

I was the strong one, the "backbone," as my husband used to say. He, on the other hand, fell into a depression so deep it was almost impossible to climb out of it. He was filled with worry over every minute of her day. And, inadvertently, he put more and more responsibility on me for the success - or failure - of her care. Not a fun place to live. Why wasn't I depressed? Depression doesn't suit me... it's not a jab at him, really, I just mean that I just don't experience it. I experience tons of emotions, many of them plenty raw, but I deal with them in good time and remember where my focus has to be. It is why, I suppose, I am all about JOY. My daughter - and my son - need me. And they need me to be strong in the face of overwhelming storms. It's not a choice. I just AM.

And so the day came in the fall of 2009, when Ava was finally ready for preschool. She was timid and nervous, but I was excited to set her free to fly on her own... she hooked back up with a friend she'd made a brief but lasting impression with the year prior (which she ended up dropping out of) and they became inseparable. She had two terrific teachers whom I trusted completely. She made friends. She made crafts. She had snacks. I was there. I sat in the Sunday school classrooms upstairs, and enjoyed nearly 2 solid hours to myself for the first time since her diagnosis two years before. I did the testing, I counted the snack carbs, gave her a bolus and sent her back to the class with instructions for the teachers about when and how much. They were so supportive. But, although Ava appeared happy and well-adjusted there, her blood sugars were all over the place. Always high at preschool, I had to determine EITHER to correct the high blood sugar only and give the snack without a food bolus, or give a food bolus and NO correction for the high. It was always a gamble. Sometimes it worked out, but more often than not she'd go low. And only an hour in too (insulin peaks in two hours). Scary.

And that's how she ended up home-schooled at Pa Cyber Charter School this past year for Kindergarten. Not because I was just aching to home school her. Her father worried about her safety in a brick-and-mortar school, worried she wouldn't "feel" her lows (as so many young kids do not) or if she did, that she would be too timid to tell her teacher. And this time, I wouldn't be in another room down the hall, or nearby. He insisted that I home school her and, honestly, by mid-summer I was equally concerned and convinced it was the right thing to do - if it didn't kill me. It was actually a relief to know I could protect her a little bit longer... but as you already know, that feeling lasted a whole... week.

We've come a long way from that first A1c on June 18th, 2007... it was 9.0. Today she is healthy, active, strong - her A1c is 6.1 (non-diabetics fall around a 5 or below)- and full of the piss-and-vinegar that will ensure her ability to cope with this miserable disease as long as we still wait for the cure. I have never met a T1 kid who doesn't have "it," that something intangible that marks them special and - I believe - destined for greatness in spite of the challenges they face every day of their young lives. She is such a warrior princess, Ava. She is stronger than I am. This I know.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mad Lib Monday # 1

So here it is, the first product of my new "game." Brought to you this week by Treena. It was close, though... Amy had some great working answers, particularly the last one, as noted.


Although we believe ourselves to be slovenly civilized, most of us are really fleas at heart, because we still believe in pasty superstitions that began while humans still lived in cheese. Some of these superstitions are:

1. If you spill salt, throw some over your left ear lobe, for mellow luck.

2. If a black lemur runs in front of you, you are in braised trouble.

3. If you break a ladle you will have 5.375 years of swollen luck.

4. Never extrude under a ladder.

5. If your tibia itches it means you will have a rusty visitor.

6. If you want to keep vampires away from you, always wear pork cracklins on a string
around your lip. Amy's version was "cucumber" on a string around your "big

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Baby Girl

Six years ago after what seemed like the longest nine months of my life - 13 putrid weeks of round-the-clock nausea and five agonizing months of worrisome ultrasounds - and the shortest imagined delivery that almost ended in the car, Ava was born.

She was, perhaps, the most anticipated baby ever - she was planned, and she was the highly coveted girl.... albeit without the dilated right renal ureter that continues to be loosely followed by a CHOP urologist. the grandparents' only other grandchild was my firstborn, Owen, so they were beyond thrilled for another and a GIRL!! My mother-in-law was beside herself; having had two boys, she'd missed out on the little dresses and pink frilly stuff and cool girlie sandals she now buys with frivolous abandon.

She was born amidst worry over what we didn't know - would she be "normal"? What would this "hydronephrosis" mean for her life? She, like her brother, developed jaundice after birth, but required nearly two weeks on the wallaby blanket and frequent visits from a visiting nurse who would stick her foot to check her bilirubin levels. During those visits my newborn baby girl would kick her spindly legs and flush in fury the deepest shade of red. The nurse commented on how strong she was - a little fighter - as the moment her foot was touched she'd launch into her miniature tirade. Naive me - I beamed with pride and smiled nervously as her foot was again stuck for a blood sample. Little did I know this "little fighter" would one day face the biggest challenge of her young life and make every day a test of my own strength.

Over the days, weeks and years since, I've watched her evolve from a clingy momma's girl who could not be touched, held or even looked at by anyone outside her inner circle (me, daddy and Owen)... slowly to open her arms my mom and mother-in-law and, after two years or so, begin to talk to and even hug my dad. It would take nearly two more years before she would even talk to my brother or her father's brother.

Publically she is polite, quiet and shy - leaving all who meet her to comment on her sweetness and how cute she is (and after they walk away she says indignantly, "I am NOT cute"). She will never let on how spirited she truly is; she reserves her most challenging moments for lucky me. One of my friends once called and was shocked to learn the source of all the ruckus in the background, as Ava ran through the house screaming at the top of her lungs.

At home and inside her ever-widening comfort zone she is silly, loud and boisterous, singing little songs she's either learned or made up, doing her best Beyonce butt-shake and getting up in your face and invading personal space. She has a quick temper that turns aggressive when things don't go her way, particularly when she's engaged in Wii with her brother. She drives me crazy with her demands and insolent refusal to cooperate when it is most critical, dodging blood glucose tests as I chase her through the house and screaming like a homicide victim when I catch her. She is not above fearlessly boycotting food just minutes after an insulin bolus for 60 carbs, for such ridiculous infringements like Owen smiling at her, or my refusal to to let her eat dessert first.

She is what my mother warned me would be a "challenging" child, and while it is frustrating at all levels for all of us from time to time... it is this tough-as-nails constitution that is her source of strength through all the things no child should have to endure from the tender age of two. She endured 5-6 insulin shots a day for the first year of her diabetes life, having to wait for food and watching other little kids stuff themselves with the cholesterol-raising cupcakes and cookies that she so craves but knows full well today she should not have all the time. She has had to endure up to 17 finger sticks a day to check her blood glucose, hundreds of insulin pump set changes... with (as she already understands) no end in sight... and yes - there are many days when she's just had enough. What would you feel??

And yet, on the flip side, with those she is closest to, she is sensitive and affectionate, squeezing her brother in a bone-crushing hug while declaring "I love you... you're the BEST brudder." She has an almost intolerable need to be close to me, and I have to remind myself that one day I will miss her desire to sit on my lap for lessons or just a snuggle. She is warm and open, and often mischievous with those she knows well... family or friends. She has a fantastic sense of humor, and a joyful laugh ... and it doesn't matter whether you share the joke or not. Often, NOT sharing the joke somehow increases her hysteria.

She is smart as a whip and a fast learner, grasping academics with ease... and quick-witted with lightning-fast delivery of comments more likely to emerge from a 14-year-old. Her sense of logic is sometimes far beyond her years, how she rationalizes concepts you'd never expect her to understand, like how she will take over her diabetes care and when, who she will see in heaven and who will go first, whether or not she'll have babies and who I will marry next (no kidding). I cannot at this very moment think of a single specific thing she said recently that blew me away, but believe me -they are daily and numerous. (I'll blame it on sleep-deprivation.)

I celebrate my spirited daughter... with all her unnerving, annoying and endearing qualities... she is in so many ways my "mini-me," which is probably the source of my constant frustration and empty wine bottles. It took me nearly 3 weeks to write this to my satisfaction.. I kept stumbling for the right words as she drove me to the edge of madness where screaming is the only method of communication, making it so difficult to adequately express how special she is to me and how I love her so... equally as much as her brother, but differently. So, this is the best I can do, today.

Happy Birthday Baby Girl! I love you and the "best mom" is only as good as her best girl.

Ava Elizabeth Tomme
May 21, 2005 at 3:24am
7lbs. 5oz., 22 inches

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

This is meant to be sung, to the tune of "A Few of My Favorite Things".

Weeding the gardens
And seeding bare patches
Picking up garbage
And things the stray catches
Dodging the dog poo
And treasures he brings
These are a few of my favorite things...

Folding the laundry
And washing up dishes
Picking up hairballs and
What smells like dead fishes
Wet soiled bedsheets
Dust bunnies with wings
These are a few of my favorite things...

Indoors or outdoors
It doesn't quite matter
If I can't reach it
I'll just get a ladder
Clogged dirty toilets
And car doors with dings
These are a few of my favorite things...

When the kids fight
When my girl screams
When the end feels near
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I just grab.... a beer!!!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Resolutions Update: How Am I Doing?

After this first quarter of 2011, I felt the urge to check in and reflect on my progress.

In spite of a few personal stumbling blocks, I am still seeking out Joy whenever I can. Teaching the kids to find it outside of Wii, the Cartoon Network and torturing one another has been a bit of a challenge - but - winter is finally over so... there's hope.

Giving back where I can? Maybe not as much as I'd like, but in my defense there's been a lot going on. I see so many places where I can help. Will continue to work on this.

Fulfilling one dream this year? Working on that.

To the people I love and cherish - I love and cherish you!!

I spoke my truth. Some didn't like it. Many more did. Thank you for that.

Still running! Again, a little short on investment, but I tend to be an underachiever when faced with blinding wind and rain, and ongoing sleep deprivation. The weather is a lot more inviting now, who needs sleep? First 5k scheduled for May 14th. Pray for me that I survive.

Eating better than ever - lots of fruit and vegetables, salads, etc. Did I eat Oreos? Half a bag of potato chips? 14 ounces of Hershey's chocolate? Well, perhaps next time no one will ask me to hide the Easter candy five days before "aunt Mary" arrives.

"I will take time for me." I have, several times. And, I have continued to assert my needs and behold! I have been heard. I've been getting "me" time at least once a week - with only a little drama from my youngest who still thinks she's my boss. Who knew it would be this easy?

I did stop making excuses for my choices, emotions and behavior. I did apologize occasionally - but, as I am still in the "asserting me" phase, I may have dodged a few apologies. I'm not without remorse. Email me if you need one.

Of course I continue to fight for my daughter's health - that's a no-brainer. She, however, continues to fight me tooth and nail (literally) over virtually every meal and pump infusion set change. Therefore I continue to pray for a cure, and my sanity.

I'm trying to be a great mom, really I am, but let's face it - some days you're only as good as your tolerance will stretch. My two little angels challenge me virtually every day not to be Mommy Dearest on crack. But I do tell them I love them every day, AND I hug them all the time - whether they like it or not.

Every day I wake up has been a new opportunity to be "me" again. It is a divine blessing to live in the light.

"To your own Self be true." ~ William Shakespeare

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Is it? Is it? Could it be.... will I find... Shangri La?

I woke up a few days ago with a dazzling revelation - we were about to begin day 140 in school and, as we know, there are 180 days of school. Know what that means? Only 40 - FORTY - days of home-schooling left!! Mrs. Mom - er, this teacher - has already begun the countdown to the last blessed day. I will shamelessly admit to counting the days, and that Ava's last day - barring any unforseen roadblocks - will be June 2nd.

These last 3 months have pushed me right to the edge of the cliff overlooking Happy Place, like the Grinch staring down at Whoville on Christmas. Cabin fever notwithstanding, Ava and I have been literally on top of each other with few opportunities for escape since before the New Year. One day she is enthusiastic and independent, but the remaining four (excluding weekends) she wraps herself around me like a boa constrictor and I am forced to peel her off of me and move away fast. I stand jealously by the door to my prison - where the inmates relentlessly pester me over lost tennis balls and chew toys, refuse to work up to potential and forever invade my personal space with constant demands for attention - watching my oldest child hop the bus to the promised land.

Meanwhile, I start video lessons with Ava and she immediately stops them to ask me some unrelated question or need to "get something upstairs." If she doesn't stop them she talks over them or sings little songs to herself, and I know she hasn't heard a word they said. I am constantly reprimanding her for interrupting lessons and stalling. She does enjoy the worksheets and special exercises - anything to break up the unpredictable routine. One thing we can count on here - unpredictability. The monotonous routine we began back in September, well, we needed to shake it up a little. Even sleep-challenged me was fighting the drooping lid syndrome on many a day - only further enhanced by my daughter's whiny voice and head-on-the-table behavior.

There are way too many days when she insists on sitting on my lap during lessons - for videos and even worksheets - that by the end of the day I have reached maximum saturation for physical contact. Seriously, by 9pm don't even THINK about touching me. I know she loves me and I cherish our time together and the closeness she craves, but REALLY - there's a limit to the in-your-face antics, the badgering class clown without a class and the endless neck-crushing hugs she bestows on me throughout her lessons. And that's when she's in a good mood.

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel though - and on day 179 you can bet all the Tylenol in the world that I will be running to the light and if you come looking for me, I will be rolling in the grass under the rainbow with a pitcher of margaritas and giggling like a mental patient. The bouncer at the gate will not be the warden keeping me in - for who in their right mind would leave such a paradise? - but drop-kicking all the whiners and pessimists and absolutely ANYONE under 30 right back to the dark hole they crawled out of. Walk a little farther in - in this paradise there is a white sand beach and crystal blue waters, bright sun and a light breeze, no Wii or chaotic car rides, no insulin pump changes and nobody telling me what I can't do. You might even see Jimmy Buffett playing Blue Heaven Rendevous or Fins. Mr. Reed Moore, Dr. Algae and Mrs. Triggle are welcome as long as they ditch the scholarly clothes and the cheesy chuckles.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What I Didn't Say

Ever wish you'd stood up and said something at a funeral?

I'm Tara. I'm the first grandchild. Beryl June Freeman Keene was my "Nana." Nana was 41 when I was born, just one year older than I am today. From the time I was born until my college years, I spent nearly every Sunday with Nana at the Keene family house - where my dad, 2 uncles, aunts and young cousins gathered to watch football, play pool and enjoy a family dinner. My warmest and strongest childhood memories revolve around that house... and the woman who was the next closest person to me besides my mother (and dad, of course).

We shared Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners there every year - our large family gathered around the big kitchen table - my uncles "hiking" dinner rolls across the table after someone said Grace, my aunt unbuttoning her pants halfway through the meal, the year Nana dropped the turkey and it skidded across the linoleum floor. Where we'd retire downstairs to watch the Wizard of Oz and the grownups would enjoy a drink at Lady Windsor's bar.

Certain traditions Nana had became events in her house: chicken pot pie dinners began with her homemade noodles, rolled out and cut and spread out on her counters to dry... apple dumplings fresh from the oven with milk and sugar... and my favorite - Christmas cookies. Nana made everything from peanutbutter to chocolate chip to cut-out cookies, the latter spread out on half a dozen baking sheets set on the table where we'd gather to decorate stars and bells and Santas and angels (some a little more than anatomically correct.) The cookie tradition I planned to carry on with my children and, sadly, only this year begun because of the diabetes and figuring carbs on butter cookies coated in sugar and sprinkles.

One of the last memories I have of that house was the night of Candy's wedding, when so many of us gathered back in the rec room downstairs, watching the first footage on tv and giving drunken commentary on the whole affair. It may not have been a Hallmark moment, but that night was just another reflection of the warmth and love and joy our family shared - the home and family created by Nana.

She was so gentle and kind - she had a beautiful, ready smile and a sunny disposition - never one to complain, if her greatest flaws were worry and a don't-rock-the-boat attitude she would be destined for sainthood. She had a great sense of humor and a fantastic laugh weathered by a lifetime of smoking - her laugh still rings in my ears today, when I imagine telling her about my first attempt at her pot pie or some funny story about the kids. I can still hear her gasp, if only she knew how colorful my daughter's language was.

She was a true romantic at heart, she was my confidante and the one I turned to most often to share secrets and dreams and tales of loves won and loves lost. She was always eager to hear and always had the best advice. She was honest without condescension - when once she told me the importance of making my husband first in my family, or that my hair really did look better short.

During my years at NYU we wrote letters back and forth - shared anecdotes and the day-to-day news like my registering for classes and her new sewer going in. Her reminiscences of her teenage trips to New York to visit her parents - who lived and worked there - meeting soldiers in Central Park, New Year's Eve in Times Square.

She was modest and sensible - she wasn't much for fancy clothes or a life of grandeur. She married the love of her life in her early twenties and enjoyed many years together, until his untimely passing in 1982 at the age of 56. She would spend the next twenty-seven years missing him, honoring him and just wishing she could hug him.

In all my life I only saw her grieve twice, when Pop-pop died and I saw her red-eyed and stoic, surrounded by the women in the family. And again - when she watched her second son finally succomb to cancer. She was devastated but handled his memorial service with far more grace than her blubbering granddaughter.

I remember the joy she expressed at the news of my first child: she was to be a great-grandmother. She was thrilled. And the first time I placed him in her arms gave me as much joy as I know it did her. Family was always so important to her, and we never had to wonder where we stood with her.

Two years ago today Nana went home to the Lord, to her room in His house with "Danny" and her son Barry. I wish I had the chance to sit with her one more time, to see her beautiful sparkling blue eyes and share with her what's going on in my life and ask her what she thinks. Because it matters. I want to tell her how important our bond has always been to me - how much I loved and valued her. In all my life, she was an anchor - as much as mom and dad were. All I have left now are her pictures, a handful of letters, an afgan she made me 12 years ago that I often wrap myself in and a lifetime of memories. I hope I've made her proud.

On Life: "Each year you grow up a little more and realize, life is not your oyster, you have to make it what it is."

On Love: "Take it a day at a time and it is always best to be friends first and really like a person. Love and like are very close but you must first like a person to truly love them. You can love but not like and that never works."

On material wealth: "Love, friends and family are much more important, and I'm sure you will find that out as the years go by."