Monday, August 31, 2015

Reasons 161-170

161. Fragrant peach sangria.
162. Cards Against Humanity.
163. Laughing so hard tears stream down your face and you almost wet your pants.
164. Peggy, Nikki, Yiota, Tara, Kelsey, Penny, Barbara, Megan, Sandra, Gine
165. Chocolate Mousse Cake made by a friend.
166. Reading aloud The Tale of Despereaux.
167. From-scratch chocolate frosting.
168. Writing with a roller-ball pen.
169. The creaking of the spine of a brand-new journal.
170. The sweet bloom of raspberry sorbet against my taste buds.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Rather Amusing

This weekend, Tara and Ava stopped in for a visit. As most of you know, Tara and I (and Gina) had one of the craziest summers ever. Somehow, I'm still amazed that the summer is over when we actually never made any progress with "the situation." However, that's not the reason I'm writing today. I'm writing to inform you all that I have, indeed, gone off the deep end. For Friday night, I sat at my computer and suddenly said to Tara,

Hey, you know what would be funny? If we prank-call mom and ask her if she knows where her car is.

Yes, I said that. Daughter of the year, I am not. But Tara found my comment rather amusing.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Another Life

Many times, I've looked at another person and thought, In another life, I hope I'm just like her. It's not that she has more money, or better looks, or a cushy job. It's that she might be living out loud, as they say. Her pores exude happiness, or her persona is calm and peaceful. Perhaps she seems so comfortable in her own skin or her confidence shines from within. Whatever she possesses is something I'd like to have, someday. But I got to thinking about my statement and realized that it's really better for me to look at the situation differently. I should be aspiring to be that person today. There's no guarantee that I'll be getting another life.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Second Grade Substitute

Twenty-four second graders vs. Mrs. C. And who won? Some of you know already who won.

I did. (Nanna-nanna-boo-boo!) But my victory came with a price: my sanity.

I never really thought that anyone listened more poorly than Aaron does, but what I found out yesterday is that by some stroke of dumb luck (or by design, you pick), Mr. B. placed 24 even worse listeners into one classroom. Yes, my friends, these little hellions had no care in the world for anything I had to say.

Excuse me? I'd say. Nothing.

Friends? I'd say. Nothing.

Eyes on me and ears open? I'd say. Nothing.

Do you treat your own teacher this way? I'd say. Well yes.

At least they were honest. At least they let their colors shine. At least they felt they could be themselves with me around.

Themselves my ass. I almost blurted out a few expletives at one point, but then it was time to take them to art and I had one hour of blissful peace to myself.

I always said I could do anything for one day. And I did. But I'm not sure I'll be heading back to that room anytime soon. Poor Miss J. I'll be drinking one tonight in her honor. Cheers!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Tell Me How You Really Feel: 21

It's been a long while since I've told you how I really felt. Okay, that might not be true, considering I'm pretty up front about everything and in this blog, I'm telling you how I feel. Obviously. But it has been a long while since I used that title.

So what's bothering me today? It's the Ashley Madison news. I'm not here to judge or to say what I think about those people who have affairs (I'm not for it, but people make mistakes). I'm not here to tell you I'm surprised that something like Ashley Madison exists, because I'm not surprised in the least. But I am surprised--and I shouldn't be--at the stupidity of many people. Because sex is something you can find for free, just about anywhere. And the people who signed up for the account should know that in this day and age, saying someone is anonymous is laughable. The hackers just proved that point very well.

Short, sweet, to the point. Try not to be stupid, people.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Warning

Today begins the crazy life. (What? You thought my life already was crazy, right? I mean at the top of this blog it claims that every day is crazy in this household. And it is, it really is. But today, we've got more on Momma's plate than ever before...)

Class starts at 8 a.m., so I'm out the door by 7:15 at the latest. Tomorrow I sub. Thursday I'm back in my own classroom. Friday I sub again. Add in soccer and choir and acting class, grocery shopping, laundry, running, cleaning, sleeping, weeding (ha!), and drinking (yes, you bet I will), and you can see how crazy it might be. In fact, it might sound very similar to your life in your own house.

Will I find time to write? I can't be sure.

But I refuse to give up my goal of blogging almost every day. (Considering we're 237 days into 2015 and I have blogged 232 of those, it would be a true shame to give that goal up now, don't you think?) However, I can't guarantee how post-worthy the writing will be.

Just a forewarning, folks. Just a warning.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Sweet Relief

Early Saturday morning in our house went a little like this:
Aaron: Mom, I need to tell you something...
Me: Okay. Tell me.
Aaron: I've figured something out. I think there are kids who have electrical powers. They can zap people. There are seventeen of them. They've been captured.
Me: Uh... [Sweet bacon crackers, what is wrong with this kid?]
Aaron: And now, there are fifteen.
Me: [He's worse than I thought...] What did you figure this out for?
Aaron: Oh, this book I'm reading.
If you know anything about Aaron, you'll know that for a moment I was more than a bit worried. He has quite the active imagination (all the kids do, really). I could easily have seen him go on about how he really thought kids have electrical powers. He would have backed his statement up with convincing evidence, too. But alas, he was speaking about the first book in the Michael Vey series. What a relief.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Hair Behavior

On Friday, I subbed for my second time, but my first time for a music teacher. I admit, I'm no music teacher, but I can do almost anything for a half day. I stood my ground against two classes of second graders and a class of first graders, even when technology let me down. (The iPod didn't work properly, so we had to take out the drums and talk about beats instead of listening to and singing Ready to Learn. Yes, there really is a song called Ready to Learn.)

The funniest part of my day came when the first graders--my last class--strolled in and I introduced myself. But before I get to what occurred after that, I need to give you a tiny bit of what happened in the morning, before I actually went to school.

I usually shower and shampoo in the evening and clip my hair on top of my head when I sleep. This routine simply helps keep the hair more manageable the next day. Not sure how or when I discovered the trick, but I still do it. Every single night. Well Friday morning, I woke up and my hair didn't actually look that bad. It was still clipped and hung down my back pretty calmly, at least I thought so. But I hadn't even brushed it that morning, so I asked Tim, "Hey. I have to sub. Does my hair look okay?" In characteristic Tim fashion he replied, "Uh, yeah. What's wrong with it?"

Fast forward to when the first graders come in. A cute little guy in a green T-shirt and big smile sits down in front of me. I introduce myself and tell them I'll be the sub.
Little guy: What do you normally do?
Me: I teach at the community college.
Little guy: What do you teach?
Me: What do you think I teach?
Little guy: [Places hands on top of his head and eyes grow wide.] I think you teach science.
Me: Wow! I am a science teacher. How did you guess that?
Little guy: [Eyes even bigger and enormous smile on his face...] Because you have crazy hair!
I didn't have my skunk stripe in, and I didn't really think that morning that the hair was all that crazy. In fact, if I had to do it again, I'd stop and ask the little guy exactly what was so crazy about my hair. But he gave me such a good laugh, I had to share it with you folks.

I'm hoping to see that first grader again. At that point, I'll get to the bottom of his comment and find out what exactly he meant by crazy hair.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Forgiveness

See, forgiveness doesn't happen all at once. It's not an event--it's a process. Forgiveness happens while you're asleep, while you're dreaming, while you're in line at the coffee shop, while you're showering, eating, farting, jerking off. It happens in the back of your mind, and then one day you realize that you don't hate the person anymore, that your anger has gone away somewhere. And you understand. You've forgiven them. You don't know how or why. It sneaked up on you. It happened in the small spaces between thoughts and in the seconds between ideas and blinks. That's where forgiveness happens. Because anger and hatred, when left unfed, bleed away like air from a punctured tire, over time and days and years.

Forgiveness is stealth.

At least, that's what I hope.

~Barry Lyga, Boy Toy

Friday, August 21, 2015

One More Day

Warning! Disclaimer! Red alert! I curse in this post. 

(Gasp!)

Okay, now carry on.

I wake up today with only two thoughts in my brain:

1. I am 42 years old, so Happy Birthday to me.
2. Good riddance to that fucking 41st year.

Those of you who have been tagging along for this roller coaster of a year lovely adventure of mine probably don't need to be reminded of what the last 365 days have been like. However, I might need to help you recall how the whole year started...

One year ago, on a rainy day in 2014, I planned for the visit of two people to my home. I knew they wouldn't stay the night, but I had been told they'd have dinner. With me. With the kids. (Remember this now?) In the end, they stayed all of 27 minutes and didn't even wait for the kids to come home from school. In the end, I was hurt. So I took my wounded feelings, wrapped them up with no room to breathe, and tried to push them to the back of my closet. And I wrote about the experience, hoping to move forward with my life.

And I did move forward with everything in my life--teaching, parenting, helping with homework, cleaning, running (or trying to do so), writing, editing, and all the other bits and pieces that take up a day. But when I reflect on that year, I feel like I needed to take heed on August 21, 2014. That perhaps that day was a harbinger of something and I missed it. Shouldn't I have known that the situation on my last birthday screamed foreshadowing? I'm a writer for goodness sake. Had I been reading the story that is my life, shouldn't I have paused on that section of the page and thought, Oh shit. What's next?

But I didn't pause that day, and the only thing I can do now is think about each of those 365 days that transpired since I missed the Oh shit moment. During those days, I had a tough time adjusting to twelve-year-old nastiness, dealing with our non-listening redhead, and making sure I'd given enough time to Melina. It was difficult to fit in soccer practice and choir and writing group and teaching. I never seemed to get enough sleep and I found myself worrying, often, about something: my running injury, the mole that needed to be excised, the dog we adopted (and rehomed), Shadow, Lucy, my parents, my parents, my parents. In fact, as evidenced by the second thought of my morning, this past year has left a very bad taste in my mouth.

So what to do?

You know me by now. I am so predictable, you know what I'm going to say, right? (It's okay, go ahead and tell me...)

I'm not going to do anything but what I have been doing. Living my life the way I think is right, trying to find the lesson in most experiences, loving my children until they burst with all the emotion I'm giving them, and hoping that no matter what I do, that some people (ahem) learn by example. Because if I have the ability to make those two comments I started with, it means I woke up. I am alive.

And that's all I can ask for. One more day.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Friends (and Sisters)

I gravitate toward certain sayings like a moth to a flame. This one tickled me in the right spot: "Friends come and go, like the waves of the ocean, but the true ones stay, like an octopus on your face."

True fact: I once had a small octopus stuck to my arm. It left suction marks and everything.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Letter to Dad, IV

Dear Dad,

I know I said in the last letter that I was done with anything and everything that had to do with you and Mom and Alzheimer's and moving, and that I would be walking away from the situation. But something ties me to you, and here I am writing, AGAIN. I'm beginning to think that I should start every letter to you in the same way--apologizing for writing. Because I KNOW you're probably tired of hearing from me. In fact, you might be rolling your eyes right now by the mere mention of the words, Dear Dad. But I don't think you even read this blog, so actually, you're probably not rolling your eyes at all. At least not at me. (I know you've rolled your eyes at Mom. And I get it, I really do.)

As I sit here in the quiet of my own home, I wonder what you're doing and what you plan to do today. I can't imagine being retired and having the entire day stretch out before me like a cat. Maybe you're standing in the kitchen cutting an early morning nectarine. Perhaps you're still in bed, pretending that life is the same as it's always been. Maybe you're planning an outing with Mom to the doctor or the grocery store, or the pharmacy, or the gas station. Maybe you're reflecting on life as you know it right now or thinking about the turmoil you're in. Then again, maybe you're praying--because I know you're still holding out for a miracle. The miracle that takes the disease away from Mom and brings back to you the woman you married.

No matter what you are doing or what you plan to do, I'd like for you to know two things before I get to the real reason I'm writing. First, I'm a spiritual person, but I don't think the miracle you want is going to happen. Mom has a disease. Her brain is deteriorating. Her neurons are dying and her mental faculties are declining. We don't know how long she has before she needs real help from a trained professional. And second, a friend of ours--just 44 years old with three young girls--died on Sunday from metastatic uveal melanoma.

How do you feel now? Can you see that at almost 80 years old, you've lead a charmed life? You have money in the bank and three healthy children. You've been blessed with seven grandchildren who you see several times a year. You have clothes, and a house, and food on the table. And by your side you have a wife. She's stuck by you through thick and thin, but now, she needs your help.

But I refuse to belabor the fact that she needs you and since I'm technically done, well, I'll just get to my point. All I want you to do is to imagine this scene:
You wake on a beautiful Wednesday morning in October when the sun's rays manage to peek around the curtains of your bedroom. You stand from the bed, move toward the bathroom, and walk with ease into the shower. After all these years, you finally have a full-sized shower, and you revel in the space that surrounds you. After a warm shower and a quick shave, you get dressed and amble out the bedroom door toward the living area. You see Mom sitting at the breakfast bar, chin in hands as she scans the newspaper, which rests on the granite counter top. She's managed to make her own waffles, but you don't feel like waffles. Instead, you'd like a good cup of coffee and a muffin. Oh sure, you're not supposed to eat too many carbohydrates, but you've been walking around the block lately. The twists and turns of the new neighborhood give you plenty of space to roam, and you're blood sugar has been fine.

You ask Mom a question. "You think she's up?" 

"Who?" she responds.

"Chris. It's a Wednesday she doesn't work today."

"Then call her."

And so you do. You decide to meet with her at Big Sky once her kids have left for the day. Mom decides to come, and once you've warmed up a bit with the fragrant coffee and chatted with the proprietors, you ask if there's time to go to the grocery store.

Five minutes later, you enter Kroger and see Tom the produce guy. He asks how you are, how Mom is doing, and how the grandkids are. Chris leaves you to speak with Tom while she distracts Mom with having to buy milk. It's been so long since you've had conversation--real adult conversation--that you linger in the store, talking with many of the people you now know. You manage to get everything you need and then some in a much shorter time frame since Mom was being taken care of.

Later that day, you find Chris on your doorstep. "I'm on my way to my dentist appointment. I made dinner already, so I packed some up for the two of you. There's enough here for at least two meals."

You blink back tears as you accept the offering, thankful that you don't have to do the cooking tonight, considering you've been so busy all day with laundry, filing, and keeping Mom occupied. As you warm your dinner that night and bring it out to the patio, you wave at your neighbor and make plans to have a beer with him the next evening. 

You sit back against the Adirondack chair and look over at Mom, who huddles with her arms around her and a content smile on her face. You talk about nothing of consequence. You don't understand everything she's saying, but you feel the arms of support around you. You know that the next morning you can head to the library or walk at the duck pond or make plans to see the grandkids in the afternoon. You glance up at the fall sky, thankful for everything you have. The decision might have been hard to make, you think, but the outcome was worth it.
Imagine, Dad. Just imagine.

Love,
C


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Kitty Cuteness, IX

The kids and I were gone over the weekend. During that time, Tim had some fun taking photos of the kitties. I knew I wasn't the only one who liked these feline friends. Now, we have proof.






Monday, August 17, 2015

Rebuttal

(She asks for a rebuttal,
and yet, she should know better.
Because if there's something Tara knows about me,
it's that I have words at the ready.
Good or bad,
asshat or not,
when she throws the challenge
I'll be there to accept it.
The question is,
What should I say?
What do you need to know
about that spider?
I can think of so many ways
to fill this page.
Word upon word of description,
nonsense, filler. 
But I am the one who reports the truth.
In as few words as possible.
Gina might have brushed off the beast
onto the concrete and crushed it of all life,
but there was no need.)
The only thing you need to know is:
Itsy-bitsy.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Saturday Wakeup

Remember those cute kitties we have? The animals I keep posting pictures of, the beasts who still like to curl up on the kids' laps?

Those kitties aren't so cute when they're climbing the curtains at 5:34 in the morning.

And I can't even blame anyone but myself for bringing these lads into our lives.


I admit, it's not the best photo, but you can catch my drift.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The One About the Keys, II

It seems like just yesterday I blogged about being an idiot when it comes to my car keys. Apparently, though, it's been almost two years since I goofed. Where has the time gone? I have no idea.

You'll be glad to know that I no longer leave my purse in the car, even overnight, and I have tried very hard to make sure the extra set of car keys is in the drawer in the house instead of in the car. So even if the regular car keys do get locked in the car, I have a way of getting into said car and driving said car.

Yesterday morning, I was getting ready to leave for the Honda dealership. I'd received a notice that a recall is out for the driver's side airbag, and I had scheduled a 9:00 a.m. appointment. But when I got to the dealership...
Me: Hi. I have an appointment.
Matt: Great, let's get you started.
Me: Thank you.
Matt: Did you get a phone call saying the parts were in?
Me: No.
Matt: When did you make the appointment?
Me: August 3. And I've had two reminder emails since then that my appointment was today.
Matt: Hold on. Let me check on this.
Matt strolled over to the office and was gone just a few minutes. I could tell by the look on his face that his news wasn't the kind I was hoping for.
Matt: Okay, we don't have the parts. We can order the parts and you can bring it in tomorrow.
Me: Oh no. I made the appointment today because I don't have to work...
Matt: Well, let's see. I can probably get you a rental...and I can get it done by sometime on Friday.
Me: Hmmm. I really need the car Friday afternoon.
Matt: What time do you need it?
Me:  About 4 p.m.
Matt: I can probably have it done by 2 p.m.
Me: Thank you, that would be great.
At this point, I could complain about the Honda website, and the fact that the online booking system should have directed me to call the dealership to make the appointment (which would have ensured that a human ordered the parts). But I'm not here to complain, I'm here to inform you of my ineptitude. Notice that I had not been planning on leaving the car with the Honda dealership. I even had my book and computer with me, since I had anticipated sitting in the reception area for hours.

So when Matt arranged for the rental car, I handed my keys to him. Not the extra set I actually remembered to bring, but the set that has my house keys on it. It's not his job to notice I gave him the wrong keys. I didn't notice when I stopped at the pet store. I didn't notice when I walked into the library. But as I started the car to go home, I said to myself, Oh shoot. You are locked out of your house. 

I've done so many zany and stupid things that I didn't give myself a hard time. And I toyed with heading back to the dealership, but that would be 30-40 minutes round trip I just didn't want to waste. Instead, I drove to the elementary school and had the secretaries call Aaron, who thankfully had his set of keys in his backpack. I gave the boy a smooch and a hug, thanked him, and sent him on his way. (I can't be certain the secretaries and principal weren't laughing at me, and that's okay.)

The only thing left is to make sure Aaron has his set of keys in that backpack again, because he just might need to let himself in today.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Me, Not You

I stayed off Facebook for much of the day yesterday because...

I could not stand seeing one more back to school picture. NOT ONE MORE, I TELL YOU.

Yes, I just admitted to not wanting to show the love to my friends. And maybe I'm a little sorry, but not much. Because as you know, in this forum, I am very honest, sometimes even brutal. It's not that I don't love you or your children, because I do. I really do. (Especially you, Barbara!)

But yesterday's glut of pictures felt like an assault to my senses. I found myself trying to "Like" so many pictures in such a short span of time that I decided instead to just give up. In one word, I was overwhelmed.

Again, it's me. Not you.

(I do hope that everyone's first day back was incredible, because I know how important starting off on the right foot can be.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Back to School

We've been doing a lot of back-to-school things lately. And that's because school starts today. TODAY. I know, I can barely believe it either.

Two nights ago, as we stood in the office supply section of the local Meijer store, Zoe and Talia informed me that even though they'd said that they didn't want to decorate the insides of their lockers, both of them had changed their minds.
Zoe: Can we buy some locker decorations while we're here?
Me: Well, okay. You can choose one each.
Talia: All right then. They're over here.
We walked over to the locker accessory section. Thankfully, they looked past the chandelier (so sixth grade) and the wallpaper and focused on the magnets.
Zoe: Hmm. We could get magnets and hang something up.
Talia: Yeah, that would be okay.
Zoe: But what should we hang up?
Me: Well what about some Hetalia pictures?
At this point, you might be asking yourself what in the heck I was talking about. (Obviously, if you click on the link, you can find out. And, here's a picture of the characters.)

http://rosel-d.deviantart.com/
But believe me, when I say that the girls are obsessed with the folks from Hetalia. They trace their pictures, draw them freehand, and watch the YouTube videos of them. It's all so much, I'm not sure why one of them didn't think of using Hetalia characters before I did. Anyway, back to the story...
Zoe and Talia: That's a great idea.
Me: I know. Sometimes I have good ideas.
Zoe: That's because you're a good mom.
And that's it. There's not really a point to this post other than I think I have some pretty great kids, and that I'll miss these little rugrats and their endearing quips. On the other hand, the house will be far less messy since they'll be away all day.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Starting Point

Over at Writing Journal, Bethany House posts writing prompts from time to time. All of them--some words, some pictures--are very good and should spark a writer's imagination. Yesterday, she decided to pull the first line from page 73 of the book closest to her. The book? The Everything Health Guide to Arthritis. The quote? "Most people don't comply with what they don't understand."

Well holy cats! The reason why my parents aren't complying? They just don't understand Alzheimer's and what it's all about. It's a plausible theory, isn't it? And we as humans tend to shy away, dare I say fear, that which we don't understand, right?

You don't have to say it. I know I'm right. The question is, how to help them get past that fear, how to help them understand so that they can comply. When I feel like delving back into their lives, I at least (sort of) know where to start.

(By the way, Bethany posts a lot of good stuff, so feel free to check her out. She didn't ask me to send you her way. She also didn't pay me to say anything nice about her. I just felt like I wanted to. And in case you wanted to know, I have never met her in person. But I think we'd get along just fine, if we ever do cross paths.)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Lucky

Is this how it feels for everyone?

Something I cannot identify tightens around my chest like a corset gone rogue. My peripheral vision turns hazy and a voice inside my head screams at me to stop. To turn around and run. As if I could bolt away and dodge whatever it is that's trying to get me.

My head feels heavy.

My heart feels heavy.

Sleep cannot come too soon.

As I stand in the grocery store, I fantasize about the cool darkness of my bedroom. I see the wine red curtains, glowing against the late morning sun, trapping the heat inside the cotton fibers so that the room itself remains temperate. I envision myself lying on the bed, back to the silky sheets, eyelids closed. I must get there, I chant to myself. Or, I must work through this.

These episodes don't show up often, but when they do I'm usually taken aback by them. I always thought I had escaped the curse of depression that seems genetically programmed into several family members. But then a day drifts in and I wake up, feeling slammed by an unknown force, a lethargy that pulls at my limbs and pushes me down. I know that description might sound odd--push and pull are opposites of one another. But on days like this, the fierce tug on my legs and the weight on my shoulders make me crumble onto the closest piece of furniture.

I busy myself with anything and everything: laundry, dishes, putting away any books, toys, or shoes that aren't in the right place. If I can compose the outside world, will my inside world tumble together in alignment? Hoping that notion is true, I continue to right all the wrong that's spread across my house. Keep your mind off of what you're feeling, I say to myself. Distract and disconnect. Distract and disconnect. I'm not sure my technique will work. Chances are, I'll still end up in my bedroom.

A few moments later, and I sneak away from the family and head up the stairs, listening to the creak of the wood as my feet touch each step. The small sound drives my head further into disarray even as the coolness of the wood against my toes tries to calm me. I fling myself onto the mattress, back to the sheets, just as I envisioned. I focus on my closet across the room, on the chirp of the birds, on the black fan blades as they spin against the white of the ceiling. Squeezing my eyes shut, I curl on my side and pull a pillow toward my chest.

Aaron finds me first and lies down next to me. I have no idea if he even knows anything is wrong. In his ten years, he's known me to be grumpy and irritable, but I usually have an explanation for that behavior. This time, there is no explanation for why his mom's head is foggy and she's resting in a darkened room. Thankfully, he doesn't seek one. Instead, he stretches out his hand, gathers my fingers into his, and squeezes. "I love you, Momma," he says.

I squeeze his hand in response and feel a lone tear course down my cheek. I don't know what's happening or why. I can blame it on getting older, a twist of hormones, or possibly all of the social stimulation I've had in the past week. Maybe I've been able to keep depression at bay for years, but something has changed, something I'm not aware of. I just don't know. But Aaron reminds me that I'm loved, and that I love in return. And knowing those two facts are enough to help me rise from the mattress and move forward.

By the next morning, I feel fine, and I realize just how lucky I am.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Don't Read into This Post

"Unfortunately, some family members are so psychotic that no matter how hard you try to forge a healthy relationship, nothing will help. Now that you're an adult, take refuge in the fact that some things are beyond your control. You owe it to yourself to steer clear of people who are harmful to your health."

~Andrea Lavinthal, Your So-Called Life: A Guide to Boys, Body Issues, and Other Big-Girl Drama You Thought You Would Have Figured Out by Now

Saturday, August 8, 2015

In Case You're Wondering

I'm betting a few people are aghast at the letter to Dad that I posted yesterday. In that letter, I'm flippant, irreverent, and really, not all that nice to my father with what I have to say. I'm sure some of you rolled your eyes, or wondered where in the world the apparent hate had come from. The thing you have to remember is that my Dad is not all that nice to us at times (not that it has to be an eye for an eye or anything) and that I'm tired of not calling the situation the way I see it. Dad is an adult. I will respect him as such, however, I also have the right to get out my anger and frustration. Writing has always been cathartic for me, and therefore I choose that route to vent. In case you're wondering, though, I'll let you in on a little secret: when I speak to him in person, or via the phone, I try to be as respectful of my elder as he raised me to be. He is my Dad, after all.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Letter to Dad, III

Dear Dad,

Yep, it's me again. AGAIN. I know, I'm like the mold that grows in a dark basement. So difficult to get rid of, aren't I? Well, it's been a while since I've written, and based on our most recent conversations, I thought it would be best for me to express myself in writing. Maybe that way, you'll actually hear what I have to say.

Let me recap what's happened over the last few months. You fell. You went to the hospital. You went to rehab. You checked yourself out of rehab AMA (which, by the way, is against medical advice). You recovered (thanks to your three selfless daughters, one of whom is not against self-promotion). Because of all the medical issues going on with your body, we convinced Mom that you needed to be seen by a senior health specialist and that she should go, too. Mom visited the doctor first and was ultimately diagnosed with moderate Alzheimer's. You're doing okay, but you also have mild cognitive impairment as expected with your age. The doctor has told you both that you can stay in your house, probably about a year, but that you should think about alternative plans.

You with me? I didn't add a bunch of details, like how difficult it was for Gina, Tara, and me to finagle all the things we did for you even though we have kids, jobs, husbands, etc. It's a good thing we have free long distance, because if not, I'd be sending you a bill. All three of us still try to manage your lives from three different places. And why do we do that? Because you aren't managing your own life well. Or Mom's life.

Case in point: You called me to make some appointments down here with different living communities. "I can't rely on my friends," you said. "The only people that matter are family." My first thought was for you to call up a few communities yourself and make those appointments, but I didn't. Instead, I took time away from my kids (again) to go look at several places, made follow-up appointments with two of them, and let you know of the dates. Then, when the two of you drove down to go to the appointments, I went with you again. (I'm not asking for the world to play me the tiny violin. I said I'd go with you because that's the type of person I am. It's the type of person you raised. And goodness me, you've raised three of them.)

I thought, since you were open to looking at communities, that you were finally, finally going to cave. That the end was near. That you were attempting to make a good decision and manage your own life and Mom's life in the proper manner. And yes, I realize that independent living, assisted living, and nursing home communities are expensive. But you can afford the two places we looked at.

After we visited the two places, you seemed to be interested in moving, in making the change to help mom. Who I might remind you is your wife. The woman you promised to love IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH. The woman who cannot take care of herself anymore. Because must I remind you that MOM HAS ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE. SOON ENOUGH SHE WILL NOT BE ABLE TO USE THE BATHROOM ALONE. NOR WILL SHE BE ABLE TO BE LEFT ALONE, AS SHE MIGHT WANDER. A continuum of care community is ideal for you to look into and think seriously about.

If you need more proof that you should be looking into a new place, I'll tell you (again) what happened while you were here. Mom tried to heat the coffee cup in the toaster oven. And her daily frozen waffles? She put those in the microwave. She's not well. She won't be getting better. The Exelon patch she's on? That patch can help slow the deterioration, but IT WILL NOT MAKE HER BETTER. (As you can tell, I like caps. I find them very useful in this forum. Very cathartic.)

But a few days ago, when I inquired what you were thinking about, how close you were to making a decision about moving, and how you were doing in general, you said, "We're not moving. I've been pushed into this, and we're fine." I heard rancor in your voice and pulled the receiver from my ear. Had I heard you correctly? Were you implying that I pushed you into looking at those places? YOU CALLED ME, Dad, to make those appointments. YOU CALLED ME.

So guess what Dad? I'm done. I'm done doing your legwork. I'm done trying to find a place for Mom that will treat her well and give you time off from being caretaker. I'm done with everything and anything that involves you both. Because as you always said, "Trying is a busy way of doing nothing." And damn, if you weren't right. I tried so hard, and because of you, I've done nothing.

But here's the catch. Because you've always said you're going to die first, you better do it. Then, you won't need to see Mom when she no longer recognizes our faces, when she cannot understand how to use her spoon, or when swallowing becomes impossible. And if you do go first, we'll move her down here and place her where she needs to be.

I have to tell you, though, that if Mom goes first, you are on your own. You're physically pretty healthy and guessing by how your older sister is doing and what your mom was like when she passed away, I think you'll have your mental faculties for many years to come. So I'm cutting the ties. Wiping my hands of the situation. Playing the tough love card.

By the way, you recently asked how writing is coming along. If you've read any of this blog, you'll know that I've been wrapped up in helping you so much this summer, that writing has been put on hold. Meaning that querying is out. But I blog every day to keep the words flowing, and I've kept up my duties at Literary Mama and The Plot Sisters. I've also been really fascinated with new words. My new favorite? Shitastrophy. It's a "word used for massive mess ups, fucked up situations, and epic fails." (I can't imagine why I like that word so much, can you?) Listen to the word as it rolls off your tongue. Shi-tas-tro-phy. Appropriate. And beautiful, in so many ways.

Speaking of beautiful, I found this quote yesterday.
The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.
You know who wrote those words? Elisabeth Kübler Ross. Yeah, I know who she is, as I'm sure you do. But I'm not here to focus on the five stages of grief, although maybe we should. Because I know you're grieving and that might be the ticket: you need to get to the fifth stage, acceptance, before you can move forward. But as I said, I'm not waiting around. Instead, I'm challenging you to become a beautiful person.

And with that, I've said enough. As Tara says, be well. And make sure Mom is, too.

Sincerely,
C

Thursday, August 6, 2015

A Likely Story

I often wonder how Reenie Ann Mackler accomplished as much as she did, coming from a place like Agency, Missouri, where the last census recorded only 683 people, one of whom died the next day. (His death topped the Darwin awards that year.) I've watched her for years now through Facebook-posted pictures of her three beautiful and well-mannered children. Short pig-tails still on one while the other two, identical twins, sport chestnut brown hair down to their bums. And in the back of those photos? One exceptionally considerate, and very hot (I might add), husband. I've never met him in person, but you can tell from his posture--how he leans in to hug the girls or brushes their hair--that he's a keeper. Reenie won the lottery with him, lucky girl.

But Reenie also works full-time, in a position that takes up much of her days and evenings and weekends, and sometimes requires travel. One time last year, she flew to Indonesia for three weeks, posting her complaint on Facebook, over and over, that she didn't want to be away from her "babies" for so long. I remember mumbling to myself about her lament as I scrubbed at the cold oatmeal on my computer keyboard. Then don't go. If you don't want to be away from your babies, stay home with them. Quit your job. I know what Reenie would have said to me had I written that comment on Facebook. "We live in a very expensive part of the country. There's no way I can quit. And I didn't get my Ph.D. to stay at home." Reenie always was the sort to speak her mind.

It's the last part that gets to me the most. I didn't get my Ph.D. to stay at home, either, but I choose to do so. At least for much of my 168 hours of the week. And truthfully, I like it that way. Then, I don't have to complain about missing my babies or the fact that my child lost her first tooth at day care or how the kid in the next cot over has been a horrible influence on all three of my kids "since the time he walked into that place." Then again, I don't have three kids. I have four. Maybe that's the difference. Had I stopped with three wee beasts, maybe I'd be working full time, too.

I study her posts sometimes, wondering what she likes better: her kids or her job. She's just as likely to drone on about something her special snowflakes managed to do as she is to mention, over and over, that her Ph.D. has, once again, allowed her to such and such and such (insert award, or grant, or travel here). You see where I am? I don't even care anymore what that freakin' Ph.D. pulls out of the air for her or whether or not her children poop in the potty. Guess what? Mine do, too!

This morning, as I lurk once again on Facebook before the children awake, I take one more look at her profile picture, studying her face and eyes. What made her the way she is? Her life now is a far cry from what she knew back in high school, when Reenie and her boyfriend, Charlie, roamed the halls of St. Lucius High. As I tilt my head, trying to find the girl I knew, I can almost see her again: her dark stringy hair and eyes lined by black. How she clasps hands with Charlie Boxer, outcast extraordinaire.

Scenes tumble through my mind. The words come back in a jumble, not like the dialogue I write in my stories. "Charlie, you got a smoke?" Reenie says. "You know I do, babe." Her reply, "You ready then?" "You know I am, babe."

They'd lean in close then to one another, stick their tongues down each other's mouths, and swoop out the double doors of the school. Before those doors could close, spirals of wispy smoke drifted back into the hallway where I stood, yelling, "Don't forget about the religion assignment!" I'd shake my head and walk away, knowing that by morning, Reenie'd be at my door, palm out, demanding a copy of that forgotten religion assignment. In exchange, she'd slip me a package of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, a treat I was forbidden to eat by my parents.

I still have copies of some of those assignments in my filing drawer, in the event one of my kids needs to discuss the questions that no one seems to know the answer to but everyone has an opinion on. My favorite essay answers the question, How can a group of fallible men elect a fallible man as their leader who then becomes infallible through the election? My answer to that essay even won an honorable mention at the state level the year I wrote it.

I haven't won anything else since then, but Reenie sure has. I think last week, she announced that her most current article was published by The Lancet. The Lancet! That's great news, I guess. And if I remember correctly, one of the girls is quite the artiste. Maybe one of her pictures will be featured in ARTNews someday. I'm sure I'll hear about it if it does.

I sip my once-again-cold coffee, ready to move onto writing a new blog post, when I spy something new on Reenie's timeline. I check the clock. Twelve noon  here means that it is nine in the morning there. Isn't she at work? Isn't she supposed to be doing all that academic garbage she goes on about? Is she cutting out of a meeting? I check her last few posts, which have come in at various points throughout the night and day before. What the heck? When does Reenie Ann Mackler actually work?

And then, I check the actual post. Holy crap! She's complaining about a service she'd signed up for a while back. The service promises recipes and groceries (delivered to your door) so that you can cut out the pain and agony of planning and grocery shopping. Well. I sit back in my chair. Apparently there are some things Reenie can't get done now, aren't there. I feel a smile spread out across my face as I scan her posts, going back days, months, years. She not only pays someone to do her grocery shopping, she also has someone do her clothes shopping, laundry, cleaning, and school supply shopping. I bet she doesn't even compose her own posts; she's probably farmed that chore out to someone as well.

I watch as multiple people comment on what Reenie has to say, commiserating with her about how they'd tried the service and how the garlic hadn't been put in the box and so they had to do without the garlic and sub in garlic powder instead. Who doesn't have garlic in their fridge? Reenie, who must be on the computer at the time, writes back in a second. Maybe even less, going on again about how little luck she's had with the service lately. A second person jumps into the conversation and again, Reenie replies. This is it. My chance to find out if Reenie posts her own posts.

"Hey Reenie!" I pound the keyboard as quickly as I can. "Don't forget about that religion assignment!"

If it's Reenie, she'll know what to do and the reply will come back, lightening quick. My eyes flit away from the page for a moment as I hear a crash in the other room. I don't want to leave my perch so I crane my neck checking on three of the four kids. All seems okay...and it should be only a second. In that moment of looking at my kids, I miss the reply pop up.

It's a picture of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. My smile falters.

I'm not sure what I was hoping for. Not a single one of us can do it all. Reenie Ann Mackler has simply chosen to delegate duties she doesn't have time for. Or doesn't want to make the time for.

I close the lid of my computer, and stretch my arms above my head. Time to clean the house. I have plans for the kids to help. With four of them doing the dusting, I can sit back on the recliner and play the foreman, peanut butter cup in hand.

**
It must be said that this is not a true story. Reenie Ann Mackler does not exist. I never won an essay contest on that topic and I no longer eat peanut butter cups.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Kitty Cuteness, VIII

I know it's not Tuesday, but I like this picture and I have yet to figure out how Benedict manages to sit this way. (Plus, I have two very long posts on the back burner, and I need time to work on them. Stay tuned.)


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Bye-Bye Baby

This happened yesterday:


Yes, despite the fact that she's seven years old, her FIRST tooth came out yesterday. And poof. Just like that, we're on our way...

Monday, August 3, 2015

What Can You Do For Me?

Yesterday, Taye Diggs followed me on Twitter. I got the email notification at 10:04 a.m. You fellow Twitter users know the one I'm talking about--Taye Diggs (@TayeDiggs) is now following you on Twitter. I said to myself, "It can't be the REAL Taye Diggs. What would he want with me?"

Apparently, nothing. I quickly Googled "Taye Diggs Twitter" and found out that Mr. Diggs follows a ton of people. And he's been doing so for a while now. (Do I feel cheated that it took this long to find me? Not so much.) In fact, back in June 2014, Taye Diggs told the Today show the entire story of why he started following so many people. Truth be told, I found the story somewhat amusing.

But his follow got me wondering. How did he find me (or how did his assistant find me, because I'm not sure he's the one actually in charge of his Twitter follows), and is there something I can do for Mr. Diggs? Is there some part of my life that he might find interesting and useful?

So I did more digging (oh, that's downright awful) and this is what I found--that I have nothing in common with @TayeDiggs other than two things: 1. We're both writers. (He wrote a picture book--published in 2015--entitled, Mixed Me! So actually, he's one step ahead of me, because as of this post, I haven't actually published a book. [I'm not counting this lovely gem, because even though it took a lot of hard work to write captions for pictures and chapter introductions, it wasn't quite the creative endeavor I'd been hoping for. As in, I don't feel like it's a book.]) 2. We're both parents.

And perhaps that's the connection he or his assistant latched onto when they considered yesterday, Who else can we follow in this quest to follow so many? Because as of this morning, I'm pretty sure I still have four children here at home. Four active, hilarious, interesting, and eccentric children who've provided countless hours of amusement and joy. The lives of whom have filled many a blog post. I've been through sleep jags, teething, potty training, primary nocturnal enuresis, asshole 12 year olds, and more eye rolling than a gaggle of teen girls could ever hope to produce. I've listened to more potty talk than I ever imagined I would, and stomping? We've had that here, too. And don't get me started on the "not listening" routine or the "keep your hand out of your pants" rant. On the other hand, I've also been the lucky recipient of a plethora of hugs, and smooches, and sweet smiles.

Or maybe, and more likely, my name randomly popped up as a Twitter suggestion. And perhaps I need to inform Mr. Diggs what I can do for him. I can tell him more than the average Joe what it's like to live with someone who has depression. I can tell story upon story about the battle we have as educators here in the United States. I can wax poetic about the Midwest (come visit sometime, it really is quite the place to raise a family!), and give a pretty good picture of the toll Alzheimer's takes on a person. In fact, if he had the interest (and I'm pretty sure he doesn't), I could spend hours talking about muscle contraction and nerve synapses. I could go on, but the four beasts will wake soon, and since we're in the last throes of summer vacation, we have much to do.

Do I have a connection to Mr. Diggs, or was he (or his assistant) randomly clicking? I'll never know, and I'm not sure I care. Any connection to Mr. Diggs himself is tenuous at best. But my momma brought me up right. Which means I'll be polite and follow him back. After all, I have a child who wants to be on Broadway someday. Maybe it isn't a case of what I can do for him, but what can he do for me?

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Celebrity Non-News

Here's a headline I found over at People the other day. (Yes, I check that website from time to time. If I can't be spectacular at remembering geography or history facts, than I might as well fill my head with the facts that I can remember: random celebrity nonsense.)

Anyway, back to the headline. It proclaimed: Khloé Kardashian Reveals She's Lost 35 Lbs. from Intense Exercise Regimen.

KK herself, image found over at Life and Style.
Honest to goodness, I thought the headline was written by staff over at The Onion. My gut response was made up of two parts: 1. Who the heck cares if KK has lost weight? That fact is really none of our business. (But I guess that most of what is reported at that site falls into that category.) 2. Well, duh! Usually, if you follow an intense exercise regimen, you will lose weight.

So why the headline? I'm not sure. I think it's time I stop reading that crap. I'll be moving on to bigger and better things, using my time wisely with reading articles from much better sources, and hoping I remember that I actually read them. That's another lofty goal, but with the kids going back to school, I'm sure I can do it!

(By the way, I only included a picture here so Tim, in his celebrity innocence, would know who it is I am talking about.)

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Meh

Melina and I headed out to Goodwill the other day, in search of some pants for work. Those of you who read this blog religiously--this is NOT a shopping for pants moment. I really need some new (or used) pants since I'll be teaching at the community college and subbing in the school district come fall. I love our local Goodwill; I usually find some great finds there. My favorite pants have come from that store and so has one of Melina's most-worn dresses (and she did the wearing).

But pants aren't all I need. Sometimes (not always or even often) I like to wear a dress or skirt. So I thought, Sure...let's see what they have. I found a couple skirts, added them to my stack, and walked into the dressing room.

Once inside the box, Melina became the best helper ever. She took the hanger off the article of clothing, handed me the item, and then stood back and watched until she gave me a thumbs up or a thumbs down. We made it through the two shirts and three pairs of pants and then, when I put on one of the skirts, everything came to a stop.

I didn't really like the look of it, but asked Melina for her input. I thought she'd say yes or no, but instead, she wrinkled up her nose. "Mom, it's okay to wear meh colors for pants, but not for skirts." I looked down at the color of the skirt. Beige? Taupe? Some mix of light gray and light brown that I can't describe? Whatever the color, the skirt didn't look great against my legs. She was right. The best word for it was meh. And maybe she was on to something. I've always said she has more fashion sense in her little finger than I do in my whole body. Maybe meh colors are out for skirts this season.

I thought maybe Melina would talk more about her reasoning for saying no to the skirt, but I quickly realized she was ready to move on. She'd made known her opinion in as few words as possible, and now, it was time to put my own clothes back on and get ready to go.

But as I pulled on my shirt and shorts and adjusted my purse against my chest, I looked at the little blond cherub standing close to the mirror and marveled, again, at how someone could look so much like I did at that age, and be nothing close to who I was in terms of personality.