Thursday, December 31, 2009

new blog

I'm attempting to start and keep up with a new blog:

I hope you will visit and read and comment and all that jazz...

If you don't follow me, that's cool. I will, however, still be following you. :)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Year in Review - 2009

It’s that time of year again. But, please, hold your applause until the very end. Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office deputies could shoot more people by the time I finish writing this post.

January: I totally kick ass in court! (Sadly, Mr. Dumas is dragging me back in January 2010) However, I do feel like I lose big in the White House. I’ll proudly admit that I voted for McCain/Palin because, while I like Barack well enough, I strongly believe our Commander in Chief should have some military experience. Another big win for me was finding my personal pilot in Captain Sully! I have a sickeningly phobic reaction at the thought of even getting into an airplane and the thought of it leaving the ground makes me feel…well, I dunno. I just sort of tend to black out. The good news in January is that I don’t end up in a river after I meet that creepy guy named Dole in Brunswick. Captain Sully would’ve rescued me. Maybe. Eh, probably not. Sadly, my grandmother passes away while my brother is visiting. He’s the same brother who was visiting when my other grandmother passed away in October of 2008. He’s not cursed, though, because he isn’t visiting when my house gets sprayed with shotgun shells. Or maybe I have that backwards…

February: Not even a full two weeks into the month and JSO shoots suspect #5. President Obama promises me money – it isn’t anything like what the Bank of America dudes are getting, but I’ll take whatever pennies he’s willing to shove into my cupped and begging hands. This month seems a little uneventful, though, as proven by my own personal 2009 wall calendar that screams out (with much red-inked importance!) that Elle visits the dentist twice. Nothin’ to see here, folks. Move along…

March: Does anything exciting happen during the cold months? Nope, not really. Unless you count President Obama comparing his bowling scores to those from the Special Olympics team. On late-night TV. Dumbass. There is a rather aggressive reaction by the American public when we learn just how our taxpayer-funded bank bailout is really being divvied up. And you thought your refund goodies were a bonus! It’s around this time that I publicly acknowledge on my blog how much I ******g hate my job and vow to do something about it. So, because I’m about 34% insane, I decide to go back to school and look into a useful Bachelor’s program, because working on my first degree with a full-time job and full-time mom duties didn’t make me apeshit crazy enough. My family now has only 9 months to prepare for spring semester 2010…

April: I can’t get my hands on any Purell for the office and it’s really starting to piss me off. H1N1, I just call it Piggy Flu or Hiney Flu, makes everyone absolutely batty and all of a sudden people worry about hand washing. Whatever. Nobody gave a crap about it before and I’m sure 99.9% of men still don’t wash up after touching their no-no place in the bathroom. But I brave the public and immerse myself in a crowd of a few thousand to watch Ben Folds git jiggy wit his piano. It is badass. Even better is his opening band, Jukebox the Ghost. Immediately after the show, I buy a CD and each band member signs it, except it gets hijacked by my then-7-year-old daughter. I haven’t seen this CD since May, but at least my kid isn’t listening to Hannah Montana.

May: DeAnna and Delilah visit us but I sure wish it was under better circumstances. Elle and I later visit them in York, South Carolina, where we also stop overnight at my brother’s new place in Rock Hill. It is here in the apartment complex’s pool that Elle decides to give swimming a good college try. Or even a good elementary try. She fails. Miserably. One the way home, we stop off in Pooler, Georgia, to visit the Mighty 8th Air Force Museum on Memorial Day. My grandfather was part of this and I recommend it to everyone! I can’t be more proud of Elle when she very carefully and respectfully places a small American flag near a veteran’s memorial. Well, that's not entirely true – I am extremely proud of her when she participates in her gymnastics club’s annual Flip Fest, konks her head on the uneven bars, and earns the nickname “Bar Girl”. I hope this name doesn’t follow her into her high school years…

June: On the 2nd day of the month, JSO shoots a suspect. On the 12th day of the month, JSO shoots another suspect. I lose count. Anyway, Jacksonville is hit by a MONSTER KILLER WATERSPOUT!! Just kidding, but they talk about it on the news for like five straight days and you think it takes out half of downtown or something. JSO should’ve shot it. I celebrate Father’s Day by patting myself on the back because not only am I mom, I am dad. The girl at Cold Stone Creamery puts me on hold for a good 8 minutes while I have an allergic reaction to some ingredient but instead of insisting the doctor feed me allergy pills, I beg for Yaz. It’s been a happier household ever since! Unfortunately, my 1-year Quit Anniversary is overshadowed by Farrah Fawcett’s death, which is overshadowed by Michael Jackson’s death, which is overshadowed by disbelief over Michael Jackson’s death, which is overshadowed by…oh, nevermind.

July: I drive to Savannah to meet some friends for the weekend and we decide to make another long drive to Asheville the following weekend as well. That’s a lot of driving. I do not, however, blog about my Asheville experience because, well…I couldn’t get the hell out of there quickly enough! Asheville is not the Hell of Brunswick, so I’ll give Asheville another try but I have yet to recover from Round One. Anyway, I return home eager for hurricane season, only to be disappointed months later. You’re welcome, New England.

August: I ship my daughter off to South Florida for an entire week and sit around wondering what the hell I’m supposed to do by myself for an entire week. By the time I figure it out, it’s time to go pick her up and bring her home to a redecorated bedroom and half-dead fish. At least she finally learns how to swim while she is in Fort Myers! Ted Kennedy passes away, Elle ends up hating the Edison House tour in Fort Myers, and JSO shoots another suspect. I’m beginning to detect a problem here. School starts back up again for the kid (hallelujah!) and my child care bills go waaaay down!

September: Oh my word – she’s a Girl Scout! Elle becomes a Brownie and I’m suddenly bombarded by cookie requests. Hold your fur, people. I’ll let you know when it’s cookie order day. One of my directors at work involves me in a very sexually explicit conversation about bunnies (and I had no idea!), but I will never look at her the same way again. I slam the door in the face of a would-be Senator and I FEEL NO SHAME…well, months later, at least. I did feel bad for a while, though. Art Graham is a huge supporter of JSO, our lovely police organization that manages to shoot yet another couple of suspects throughout the month of September. Maybe government-run healthcare will work for them.

October: IT’S MAH BIRTHDAY!! Guess who gets a big present on mah birthday? Obama – he’s get a damn Nobel Peace Prize! I got…a supercool insulated lunch bag. Betches!!! It’s Elle’s birthday, too. She gets earrings. That’s more bling than your stupid prize, Barack. Anyway, I survive a terribly violent and bloody cat attack and a painful yoga session with Rodney Yee, who’s been shelved since mid-October on account of me being lazy. I end up going camping with the Girl Scouts and freeze my ass off. However, with the upcoming holiday season, there is no concern about my ass not coming back.

November: I spend an entire day breathing the same recycled air as my black, married, political boyfriend – Colin Powell (squee!!!). I spend another entire week recovering from some freaky ass quasi-cold/flu (not Hiney!) and somehow manage to teach a few little Girl Scouts how to rollerskate. For FOUR FREAKIN’ HOURS. The bad germs aren’t finished with us yet. While we drive to Rock Hill, South Carolina, on Thanksgiving morning, Elle complains of a tummy ache. I should have known as soon as we hit Brunswick that the demons within the city limits would unleash themselves on us. Elle hurls all the way through Brunswick and all the way back home. Thanksgiving officially SUCKS. Wouldn’t you say so, Tiger Woods?

December: I think Tiger’s Christmas is gonna suck, too. Mine is great! I’m officially a full-time college student once again and I haven’t been shot by JSO. The kid develops a mysterious case of hives (which disappears just as mysteriously), I manage to buy four Christmas gifts for Elle while she stands right next to me, and I don’t know anyone who personally thinks putting explosives in their underpants is a good idea. However, I don’t even think flying is a good idea. Or government-run healthcare, for that matter. And, for the record, my ass came back. Mmm…cookies, cakes, pie!

JSO police shootings count as of 12/30/09: 15


Monday, December 28, 2009

The Mighty Explosion of Tangerine Chaos!! With a matching area rug!!


This is how my boss views me.

“You keep me focused and you don’t feed into the chaos. How do you stay so calm?”

I don’t drink. I don’t do drugs. Hell, I even quit smoking eighteen months ago. Yet I told her something like, “Well, if nobody’s bleeding profusely or dying because something has gone wrong, why worry?”

That’s pretty awesome advice, isn’t it? Too bad I can’t follow it. Although my years on Wellbutrin following my yet-to-be-shared-with-the-general-public battle with post-partum depression are far behind me, I still can’t forget how unbelievably and undeniably terrified I was of being uncomfortable.

Yep. I said uncomfortable.

Just yesterday, I removed my writing desk from my bedroom and put it in my daughter’s room. It will become her homework station/art project table/writing desk. That is our intention, at least. But if she’s anything like me, it will become another flat surface on which to throw and stack useless crap. I have to monitor this very carefully. As a result of losing a piece of furniture, I have gained an extra three feet of wall space and rearranged my own bedroom furniture to give myself even more floor space, you know, so I can do my yoga (that I’ve been talking about doing for over two months now).

The bed is now against the wall, on my left side. Positioning the bed against this wall totally opens my window and I love that! But, like I said, the bed is against the wall on my left side. This is a problem. I am left-handed and I feel absolutely crippled by the fact that everything within reach of the bed is also what is in reach of my right hand. I’m so out of whack right now. My world is jerky, uneven, severely unbalanced, and right-handed.

How freakin’ lame is that?!

As if that wasn’t neurotic enough, wait’ll I tell you about my nervous stomach, my rapid/non-existent breathing patterns, the lightheadedness, the tingly sensation in my extremities, the dry mouth that I’m convinced will make me swallow my own tongue before the week is over. There, I guess I just told you about it.

And how freakin’ lame is it that right now, at this very moment, I’m having one of the most intense anxiety attacks I’ve had all year…over a new comforter.

This new comforter, which I will refer to from now on as The Mighty Explosion of Tangerine Chaos, is on my bed. I am also on my bed, trying to absorb the good vibes that everyone else has been able to pick up from The Mighty Explosion of Tangerine Chaos’ feel-good aura. If comforters could have auras.

I am all about color, don’t get me wrong. I even had to be the one to convince my mother to paint the living room in a terracotta shade. I am the one who chose to cover my own bedroom walls in a deep, dark purple and then, just last year, turn it around into a cake-batter yellow – the current wall color. It’s gray and cold and miserably wintery outside and I need, desperately need, warm colors. The cranberry reds, the chocolate browns, the cozy caramels – the tangerines?

It’s a beautiful color and The Mighty Explosion of Tangerine Chaos is a lovely comforter. Really, it is. Did I mention that it is striped? Yes, it does somewhat remind me of those ten cent candy sticks in the general store section of a Cracker Barrel and I feel like I’m living in Lollipop Land.

My parents like it, my daughter likes it, my cat likes it, the mother/daughter duo from Target liked it, and even the lady at Sears who sold it to me liked it. I like it, too. I think. No, no…I do. The Mighty Explosion of Tangerine Chaos is the warm, summery color I needed in this bedroom to get me through the next few months. Is it the color? Would I not be so screwed up if I was right-handed? Is that what’s causing this feeling of being so uprooted and unsettled?

Why, oh why, can’t I just be $%^#^!@ normal?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Christmas Hangover

Santa was good to us this year.

Elle woke me up around 7:30 on Christmas morning and was quick to rally the troops around the tree. It was full of gifts and the kid had contained her excitement for as long as was humanly possible. Which, in all honesty (and in the mind of anyone who cares for small children), means she lasted about three full minutes after getting out of bed.

The gifts were opened very carefully, not as violently as when I was a kid...surprise, surprise. In fact, we had to tell Elle to hurry it up since we were all getting hungry (and in this family, hunger leads to grouchiness - like houseplants, we wither without food first thing in the morning). I love how everyone got what they wanted and I'm especially proud of how grateful my daughter is for everything she received. Even the dogs got gifts.

However, Jack Mikerson (the dachsund) became a little greedy after his first taste of PPPPRRREEESSSEEENNTTTSS!!! and we found him nibbling on the other dog's gift, Elle's new latte scented lip glosses, or my brother's Vanilla Cupcake candle. Jack eventually got what was coming when Elle chased him around the house with her remote control car, aptly named The Sorceror, the master of mobile magic, the protector of yummy-scented Christmas gifts, the wizard of I'ma kick dat dog's ass!!

Oh, the things that make us smile.

I fell asleep at 10:30 last night (I don't usually go to bed until midnight). Considering I sat on my ass all day yesterday, I did find myself involved in physical activities - such as unwrapping gifts, shoveling food into my mouth, crossing and uncrossing my legs while watching "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian", and shoveling even more food into my mouth. Let's not forget when the pies and pannetone were unveiled since this led to yet another round of shoveling food into my mouth.

And to my own amazement, I can still type this blog on account of my arms staying intact. Forks are not that heavy. I did play with a Bow & Arrow set in between rounds of stuffing my face and that's considered a sport. Thank goodness, I have that to feed my self-esteem. (Again with the feeding)

So Elle and I sit here today, in a quiet house due to the Crazy After-Christmas Sales Extravaganza for which I did not get an invitation. Only crazy people get this invitation. I have all week to make returns and go shopping since I do not have to return to work until Monday, January 4th. So while the wackadoos duke it out for parking spaces and test their own stamina in the return lanes, I am home watching "Chowder" and listening to baby animals cry and burp on Elle's new Nintendo DS game.

Jack Mikerson is snuggled up right next to me, afraid of leaving the couch for fear that The Sorceror (aaaahhh!!!) will chase him down once again. Little does he know the battery died an hour ago.

Friday, December 18, 2009

One more year

Elle's at that age when she's beginning to question Santa's existence. She is asking if he's a real person or a spirit, if he brings gifts to little girls who backtalk their moms, and if he might have a tummy ache from all the cookies he eats before he gets to her house. She has even written him a Christmas list with a P.S. at the end explaining that her friends think he's a fakey but that she still thinks he's real.

I think this is our last year of Santa. Or of believing in a child's Santa, at least. And it makes me a little sad. Our children have to grow up so quickly these days and it's just not fair. To them or to us.

They can't rides their bikes around the neighborhood alone anymore. They can't play dodgeball at school anymore. They can't go to music class, or art class, or P.E. anymore. They can't even watch Cookie Monster anymore because Cookie Monster teaches them bad eating habits and will make them fat. They can't go to the toy section alone in a department store anymore while their parents shop for barbecue grills, bathroom towels, or something else equally boring. They can't come directly home from school anymore because both of their parents work (if they're lucky enough to have two parents). They can't listen to the radio anymore without hearing "ass", "crap", or "damn". They can't watch a television show with their parents anymore without being reminded that an erection lasting more than 4 hours requires emergency medical intervention.

STOP IT. Just stop it. Can't they just be kids, for cryin' out loud?

And this is why it makes me a little bit sad. I was into the whole Santa thing for a long time and would have continued to be had my older brother not shown me the stash in Mom and Dad's closet. And it probably happened at a reasonable age...eleven or twelve. An age when I had yet to learn about birth control (or even birth, for that matter) and had probably just seen my first boob on TV.

"Mommy, do you believe in Santa?"

And I told her the story, a very true story, of when I was in a panic about being able to get her what she really wanted for Christmas one year: The Disney Princess Vanity Table.

"Would you believe that I didn't have enough money to buy you that gift? That I was around $50 short of being able to afford it? And that a very generous man I worked with handed out gift cards to our entire staff? That my gift card was worth $50?"

She smiled..."So, what happened?"

"Of course, I got you that vanity table!"

"I remember that!"

"And just a few days ago, I got an unexpected bill in the mail. But I also received an unexpected gift yesterday that included a $100 bill."

She put two and two together. "Santa did that?"

"I think so."

And she believes. And so do I. It's hard for me to not look at each coincidence as of late. The fact that financial aid paid for my APA Manual. The fact that Elle's school daycare waived the December fees. The fact that my lawyer didn't ask for a $5000 (yes, folks - five thousand dollars) re-hire fee. The fact that so many of my co-workers were kind enough to send me home with gifts for myself and my daughter.

My obvious issue is money. But around this time of year, it's not the money, or lack of money, that bothers me. I live year-round with very little of it, as it is. It's the stress that having no money puts on me by forcing me to choose between two gifts I know she really wants and can only be justified by wrapping it in Christmas paper and ribbon. It's that time of year when I can give her all the things that she wants because she already has everything she needs. It's the joy I see on her face when she opens the box and looks at me with a smile and talks to me with her eyes..."I've waited all year for this. Thank you, Mommy."

That is what Santa gave me this year. A worry-free Christmas.

So, yes. She still believes. And even decades after being shown the stash in Mom and Dad's closet, I still believe, too.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Itch. Scratch. Worry. Repeat.

For a week, Elle's been complaining of being itchy. It started a few weeks ago, actually, with a bottle of cotton candy scented body wash. I thought that was the culprit originally. I was wrong. She would still complain of being itchy even when she hadn't used the body wash. And to quell the complaining, I drugged her with Benadryl to "either make you stop itching or make you fall asleep. Win-Win!"

Elle was awake until 10:30 last night (against my wishes as I'd been in a meeting from 6-9pm and specifically instructed my mother to have Elle in bed, under the covers, by 9pm. Yeah, right.) I got home around 9:30 and tried to make a sandwich for nearly 45 minutes (I hadn't had dinner yet).

"I'm all itchy!!!!!" Whiiiiine...Oh, god I hate whine.

(I sound like such a horrible parent, mocking my child who is obviously experiencing some discomfort, but seriously - I believe if you feed a child's ridiculous claims with honest-to-goodness attention that the ridiculous claims will never go away and the whine will never stop.)

But suddenly there were welts. What the hell?

"Stop scratching!"
"I can't!!!"

That's not imaginary. Now I wonder, where did they come from?

There is only one answer (and no, I haven't consulted a doctor yet but I will when we're both out of work/school for Christmas break - I'd like to find out if I'm right!)


Yes...stress. My kid is stressed.

Mostly because her dumbass father explained the events of September 11th as follows:

"There is a war going on in another country because the American soldiers chose to fight over there instead of fighting over here. If the snipers get over here, they'll try to take you from your bedroom and make you one of them. They tried to get into America once before and they killed alot of people that day. They'll try it again."
~~~ obviously, not word for word but you get the idea.

Thank you, ASSHAT. Ahem...I mean, Mr. Dumas. So now instead of worrying about the standard Monster-In-My-Closet mystery, she is also on the lookout for Al-Qaeda terrorists roaming the Oceanway community in the city of Jacksonville, looking to snatch little girls and whisk them away to Iraq.

So, yeah - my kid worries about "snipers" coming to take her away and fluff off into another country with her to make her "one of them". I had to explain to her how safe our neighborhood is because of all the cops who live here. I swear, on my block alone there have got to be four or five. And let's not forget about the Angry Marine who lives around the corner. He is humongo and angry that his deployment is over. He looks forward to returning to the land of terrorism and kicking terrorists' bums. But, back to the cops. They're every-freakin'-where in this neighborhood.

"Even Papa was a cop once, Elle. He knows how to protect us."
"Yeah, but really he's just a security guard now."

Uh...okay, you got me there. But have him tell you about the time he tackled a foreign country's Prime Minister to the ground because Papa thought the PM was the bad guy. See, Papa would be willing to take down a world leader in the name of America's security. Imagine what he'd do to keep his grandchild safe.

But, anyway, this whole "worry" business is a family thing. We are reallllly good at it, too! I once worried so badly that I stopped breathing and passed out!! My mother used to worry so badly that she'd throw up!! Our new family symptom: HIVES.

I have passed the gene to my daughter. You, dear Elle, are one lucky, lucky girl. Welcome to a life of tummy aches, social awkwardness, lightheadedness, and an overall feeling of discomfort. 24/7!! And like I said, Nana and I are the Queens of Worry and we know all the tricks to making your brain stop worrying. Ask us, we'll share our tricks. Nothing is too "silly", as you say, to worry about. Because when you're a worrier, everything matters...nothing is silly because it's all too real.

Hives, huh? That's a humdinger. I think I'd rather pass out.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Rejects

There's only so much fun to be had in the rain when a car accident on the Dames Point bridge halts traffic. After about 10 minutes of cursing at drivers who use the right lane to pass stopped traffic (and subsequently making fun of them when nobody lets them in), I was stumped by a Kid Question.

Elle wanted to know:
a)more about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and,
b)more specifically, if he had brothers or sisters and
c)if so, why Rudolph was deemed The Chosen One.

"Well, would you want some reindeer named Gluedolph in charge? I mean, he has to glue his nose on and sometimes it doesn't stick. He's completely unreliable."

So, in no particular order (except probably alphabetically, because I can't remember all of them), Elle and I would like to introduce to you Rudolph's brothers and sisters:

Bluedolph: He's, uh...well, he's blue.
Cluedolph: Now a detective with the North Pole Police Department.
Doodolph: I think the name says it all.
Goodolph: A total drip.
Whodolph: Who? Yeah, exactly.
Jewdolph: The convert.
Loodolph: Spend most of his time in the loo.
Boodolph: Obviously, he scares the children by peeping in windows, as shown in the picture below:
Moodolph: An adopted sibling who is not like the others. Moooo!
Newdolph: Oh, this one will throw you off because he's not the newest member. That title goes to...
Brand Newdolph: The brand newest member of the family.
Poodolph: Has a close relationship with Doodolph and Loodolph.
Suedolph: Works with Cluedolph.
Twodolph: The conjoined twins.
Woodolph: Enjoys going to concerts, bars, graduation parties, etc...and screaming Woo!!!
Zoodolph: He's locked up, thanks to Cluedolph and Suedolph.
Choodolph: A train conductor on the Polar Express.
Shoedolph: Running out of closet space.
Achoodolph: stays home from school alot with...
Fludolph: Ick. And...
Spewdolph: Ickier.

And my personal favorite:

Kung Fudolph: He's one bad ass reindeer.

(I totally high-fived Elle after that one. My kid, she's clever)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

How I turned someone's home into an even BIGGER castle!

"Nothing will turn a man's home into a castle more quickly and effectively than a dachshund."-Queen Victoria

My neighbors across the street have three dachshunds, all black and tans. There's Milo, Trixie, and the new addition, Sookie. They bark alot and they get loose alot. It's not uncommon to see the three of them raising hell in the 'hood - traveling the paved circular street like a gang of mini-thugs.

I wasn't entirely surprised to hear little doggie nails scrapping up my driveway when I pulled in after work tonight. I thought it was my dachshund, Jack. I turned around to see not my own Piebald doxie, but a little male mini black and tan.

"Oh, Milo! You got out again? Where are you sisters?"

He didn't answer me.

I had all of my stuff from work in my arms - a huge tote bag, my lunch bag, my jacket, my purse, my Vanilla Coke - and Elle had her arms full with her bookbag and jacket and a drawing she was working on. But instead of putting our things away, I decided we could just walk Milo home and have a good chuckle with Brenda (the neighbor) about her dogs and how I surprisingly was able to wrangle this one home without having to grab him in a chokehold. When the three of them are running the streets together, they're impossible to catch. Tonight was too easy. I was only responsible for the one.


Elle and I stood on Brenda's porch with Milo and waited. And waited. And waited. Nobody answered the door.

"Elle, hit the doorbell again."


"Milo, where's your mother? And are the other two running around, too? Goodness, where is everyone?"

Milo, at this point, got very cuddly with me. Like a cat, he started rubbing on my leg, begging for physical contact and dying for some cuddles. I knelt down, put my bags on the porch, and rubbed his back. Poor little guy - who knows how long he had been loose! He enjoyed the cuddles and he even propped his little front paws on my leg.

Elle cooed. I just melted.

It was obvious nobody was home. Jack would never allow me to bring in Milo, even just to babysit until Brenda made it home from work. But I decided to try to get into the backyard - I wasn't about to break down the fence, but this dog is a mini and could probably fit through the slats. Elle and I moved around to the side of the house, jiggled the gate, and I was able to walk Milo into his yard where I happened upon two other dachshunds. I was relieved to find the other two safely at home and not running amok. They seemed to be happy to see Milo, too. One of them even went straight for Milo, very happy-like, and the two dogs ended up in a friendly wrestling match.

There. Problem solved.

I finally walked into my own house and started putting my things away, all the while I relayed to my family how I had come across this lone dachshund and had to put Milo back in his yard for the umpteenth time. What a cuddly puppy, so well-behaved! Then it hit me...

Oh, shit.

Milo is NOT a mini dachshund.

RING-RING (damn, voicemail):

"Hi, Brenda. It's Dena from across the street. Um, I found a dachshund in my front yard when I got home from work tonight. It was about 5:45. Anyway, I tried your doorbell and nobody answered, but I was able to open your back gate and put the dachshund in the yard. I really hope it's yours. The other dogs seemed to be okay with him. So call me back if there's a problem. Oh, my goodness - I hope it's yours."

Maybe Sookie is a boy. I truly hope Sookie is a boy. And if Sookie is not a boy, well, sorry, Brenda.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"We just thought you were okay."

Tonight my mother and I had a discussion about our family and our two families. Our two families that live under this one roof. We talked about how she never imagined having to consider what her life with be like with two adult children still living at home, one of whom has a child. Or of how difficult it would be to live in the same home with her granddaughter, never expecting that this is how it would be. Mom and I have butted heads many times, usually over her expectations of how I would raise my child. Proud of herself when she sees me use some of her parenting tools and offended at times, even hurt, when I argue that something she did to me as a child made me feel awful and I vowed to never do that with my own daughter. I think all of us, when faced with the real possibilty of parenthood, flash back to a moment or an emotion in our childhoods that had such a lasting impact on our self-esteem, self-acceptance, or any other measurement of our own self-worth, that we shudder at the thought of making our own child live that same awfulness or awkwardness or whatever you have flashed back to.

Our conversation tonight led to some openings of sorts, some insights into each other's worlds and why we choose to parent our children the way we do. There were no parenting books involved in our decisions that led us down two different parenting paths. It was pretty much simple observations and how what we lacked during our childhoods was what we wanted to provide the most of in our children's lives.

My mother, as a child, lacked stability. I can't get into any more detail than that. However, those exact details are what drove her to provide for her three children the way she did: we had clean clothes, clean beds, three meals a day, discipline, hugs, and the basic comforts of daily life. We never thought we were missing anything. She did everything she could for us. She still does.

But there is one thing she feels she didn't have with me and that's a close relationship similar to the one I have with my own daughter. I don't tend to beat around the bush often, but I had to tread these waters carefully because, in no way, shape, or form, did I want my mother to feel like any blame has been pushed onto her for our lack of communication during my teenage years. As a toddler and elementary school-aged kid, I was a pain in the ass. It took until the age of eight to actually detach myself from her leg and learn to function as my own person. From that point on, she was lost to me.

When I was a teenager, our family struggled for a few years with a number of issues, mostly because of us kids. Again, I refuse to go into further detail, but my youngest brother had overwhelmingly won the "Hey, ALL EYES ON ME!" contest around the same time my oldest brother up and joined the Air Force. I soon became stricken with Middle Child Syndrome and did what any other mopey teenager would have done - I pretended there was nothing wrong. It was too late for me, though. Depression had kicked in and was accompanied by its dirty little friend, Anxiety. Except I didn't know what was wrong, I just knew that I hated it. And I hated me.

On my own, I fought through it. My emotional outbursts were blamed on my teenage hormones and the ever popular 1992 version of angst. I spent alot of time in my room and I spent alot of nights awake. Insomnia got into my bloodstream and created even more frustration in me. I sought out a diagnosis and, eventually, a support group, on my own. I started having difficulty just leaving my house. I'd had a gun pulled on me in my own backyard and I was convinced that someone was out to kill me. The mail could wait to be picked up - I wasn't going out there in that big, scary world! I skipped so much school, but enough to pass, and I remember my mother saying, "I don't care what you do anymore. I just don't want them to call me about it." And I had nobody to tell. Or so I thought. My folks didn't seem to be worried about me. As a pissed off teenager, I took that to mean, "They don't care."

And this is what I use to drive my parenting choices.

My mother pointed out how close Elle and I actually are. And it's true, we are very close. Our relationship is all I have to hold on to right now, while she still trusts me and values my opinion. This kid is a true individual, so I don't have to be too concerned about her losing herself completely even though I do admit she's a worrier with some social anxiety. I try to encourage her to be different, to be herself, to be as goofy as she wants to be so she will never feel like she's not enough for me. Or for anyone else. The geeks run the world and everyone looks back fondly on the "weird" kid and wishes they'd had the balls to be their own person back then, too. I have to convince her that it's okay to stand up to her father when he insults her or makes her feel like she's a disappointment. It's my job as her mother to make her feel safe and secure in this world. To make sure she knows that I DO CARE.

Mom: "You never told us you had these problems. We just thought you were okay."
Me: "You never asked. And I wasn't okay."

I still believe my mother had too much on her plate when I was a teenager (my father was in the military and not home too often) and, to be honest, my antics were kept quiet for the most part and I got away with alot. Until just a few years ago, I was convinced that if they'd paid more attention to me, my parents would have been able to just know that I was not in a good place, mentally and emotionally. I shouldn't have to tell them. Believe me, I know better now.

Amazingly, there were no tears and no accusations - just realizations. This is why this...this is why that...and so on. It explains why I like to bake with and take road trips with my daughter - because spending time with her is what makes her continue to trust me, to know I'll always be there. It also explains why cleaning my room has never been a priority. That was my mother's concern, to keep things clean and orderly.

That is her definition of a safe and secure childhood, for us. Mine is just different.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Fortunately and Unfortunately

It's beginning to feel alot like winter here in Florida. Our version of winter, at least. The dullness tends to stick around all day and wraps the whole city in a blanket of gray. The air is chilled and moist, sunset happens before dinner, steam rises from the sun-warmed ponds and puddles, hot chocolate becomes a staple in the pantry, and my flip-flops are restricted to indoor use only. It's like North Florida goes into a hibernation of sorts. Life, in general, seems to slow down.

And I don't normally react to the change so agreeably.

For some reason, this year is different. I'm taking this punch of cold air with a bit more enthusiasm than usual. I am finding myself quite contented to huddle on the couch in my Winthrop University hoodie, laptop at the ready, with a big cup of hot tea and honey. At bedtime, I sleep with the window cracked to let in the cool air and I turn the heating pad to low before I slide it under my blankets. It only takes a few minutes to warm up the exact spot where I'll eventually fall sleep.

Most of the lights are off and have been replaced by the comforting glow of candles all around my house. At this moment, French Vanilla is in the living room, Almond Cookie is in the kitchen, Cinnamon Apple is in the main bath, and Apple & Warm Caramel is in my bedroom. I love the warm glimmering of candlelight. It just makes everything, well...warm. Needless to say, I have a newly discovered aversion to lights. I'll tolerate lamplight, but I prefer my Lemon Cake & Vanilla candle over the blinding glare of a stale 60-watt bulb. It smells better, too.

I'm simply shocked. Early in the fall season, I submissively accepted summer's end, although I had no idea what was happening to me at the time. My instincts to bake kicked in and since the beginning of September I've been fulfilling myself with cookies and cakes, much to the enjoyment of my We-can't-eat-that,-we're-on-a-diet family. Actually, it's more like my If-you-bake-it,-we'll-eat-it family. Nothing gets wasted in this house.

However, winter in North Florida doesn't last very long. I say However only because I can't decide between Fortunately and Unfortunately. I'm enjoying this weather but I'm not in love with it. Because, deep down inside, I truly believe there is no such thing as too much summer.

Oh, that's just laughable.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

MISSING!: An aging woman's desperate tale of losing her mind and her Friskies Party Mix in the Walmart makeup aisle

Elle was finally feeling well enough to leave the house today. She wasn't feeling well enough to travel the 20 minutes to Target, so we had to suck up our pride and go to Wally World. It wasn't entirely horrible.

(I tend to connect all references to Walmart with "It wasn't entirely horrible" only to justify why I stayed, once I actually walked into the place.)

After picking up a digital thermometer, a hairbrush, and a pouch of cat food, we went to the makeup aisle. Elle was responsibly crafty enough to bring with her a notepad, a pen, and a bottle of water - all in her cute little pink purse. This worried me because the display of supplies showed that she had every intention of setting up camp and doing some kind of project.

Oh. We're gonna be here for awhile.

While Elle made a "birthday/Christmas" shopping list that included the makeup item's company/maker, item description, and price, I stayed in the same aisle and looked at face creams. I had nothing better to do, but hey - I'm getting old, I just might learn something.

And here is what I learned:

* I was a cute kid. I never thought about that overpriced face cream crap.
* I was a cute teenager. I wish I would have recognized that back then. Instead, I worried about my hair and my glasses and how I could afford my next pack of Marlboro Lights. I never thought about that overpriced face cream crap.
* I was a cute twenty-something. I never had to work hard to keep myself thin and looking fit. I say "looking fit" because that's exactly it - I looked fit. That doesn't mean I was fit. I started wearing makeup. I never thought about that overpriced face cream crap.
* I was a cute new mom in my mid-twenties. Or, I could have been if I'd stopped crying, screaming, yelling, and carrying a grudge. I suffered from post-partum depression and never thought about that overpriced face cream crap.
* I am in my thirties. I have gray hair and crow's feet. I have a brown splotch on my forehead from the one summer of weekend beach-going during which I was completely slathered in 80 spf waterproof sunscreen. I am constantly thinking about that overpriced face cream crap.

I grabbed a package of Olay Firming Moisturizer. It was on sale for $6.00, which I still believe to be overpriced face cream crap. I have one bottle of Olay cream at home already and I use it around my eyes every morning. Problem is - it's expired.

Or is it?

Seriously, I'm not treating the signs of aging on my face as a medical condition. It's part of my Life Contract under the section called "Getting Old". I didn't have wrinkles until I had children. Same with my gray hair. And I'm not racing to cover those up, either (although, I do have a box of Natural Instincts in dark brown under my bathroom sink).

I put the $6.00 Olay Firming Moisturizer back on the shelf. If anything, it'll give me something to write about when I'm in my forties - one of those "Oh, I should've bought that $6.00 jar of Olay Firming Moisturizer! Look at my wrinkles!!"

However, it's doubtful that I'll even remember that $6.00 bottle of face cream crap. I hardly remember anything these days. Especially because I lost my package of cat food while I was looking at all that face cream crap. Somewhere, within three feet of my daughter (who was still so diligently writing out her list of "makeup must-haves"), I set down the cat food to look at jars of face cream crap. Then I lost it.

I freakin' lost the cat food. A shiny package that screamed the words "Wild West Crunch!" and had a picture of a cat throwing the niblets all over the damn place, about the size of a bag of donuts and totally out of place on the shelf with Burt's Bees. I searched for a good twenty minutes, looking up and down and all around, making sure I didn't put it in my purse or my daughter's purse and getting funny looks from other Wally World shoppers who made the mistake of walking down the makeup aisle as I mumbled, rather loudly, "Where the hell is the cat food!?!?"

And I'm worried about wrinkles? kid should be happy I remembered to bring her home with me.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Brunswick Strikes Again!

Oh. My. God.

The town of Brunswick still exists, people. I don't know who keeps this running joke afloat, but Elle got even with that place this morning by getting sick all over it. Ha!

And what makes it worse is the one person who had an opportunity to make Elle feel better (besides me, of course!) was the cashier at the gas station where we stopped for a little "clean up", if you will.

Me: Can we have an empty cup, preferably bigger than a coffee cup?
Her: That'll be $1.27.
Me: No, we don't want to get a drink. I need it to make sure my daughter can make it back home alright without being sick all over herself.
Her: That'll be $1.27.
Me: Wow. So it's Thanksgiving and my daughter is sick and you can't spare a cup? One cup? With no ice or soda or anything in it?
Her: It would cost the same if you wanted ice.
Me: I don't want ice. I want NOTHING in the cup. I'm sure it'll get filled soon (har har har!).
Her: I can give you a plastic bag.

Brunswick. Aaaaah, f$%#^$g Brunswick.

I paid my $1.27 and thought it wasteful by the time I made it to my own exit in Jacksonville, 89 miles later, with no further issues. Well, good thing we had that cup. That's all I can really say. The left turn I made to get home didn't do us any favors. But that cup sure did.

Which reminds me - on the way home, after exiting and re-entering I-95 going in the other direction, my daughter asked me to drive slowly so the bumps associated with The Brunswick Infinite Construction Project didn't make her tummy hurt even more. So I did. Folks, I drove 60 miles an hour. I didn't know I was even capable of that. And the world looks strangely hectic from the slow lane...all that merging going on and dumbasses with trash flying out of their pickup trucks. And sewer grates. Lots and lots of sewer grates.

Elle: What are those? I've never seen those anywhere but here.
Me: Those, my dearest daughter, are the portals to Hell. Because Brunswick was apparently constructed over Hell itself.
Elle: (giggles)
Me: What's so funny? Hell isn't funny. That's why we have to hurry up and get out of this town. It's Hell on Earth.
Elle: We shouldn't ever drive through here again!
Me: Smells funny, yeah?
Elle: (pointing to the paper mill just east of I-95) Is that the Fart Factory? 'Cause that's what this town smells like.

So, to end it all on a nice note, I present to you:


1. I do not live in Brunswick.
2. That my parents were able to go to my brother's apartment in South Carolina (in my place) and that they made a second turkey for us here at home.
3. I have pie.
4. I am no longer in a moving vehicle with the A/C blasting to keep the little one feeling well enough to continue living. That was flippin' COLD!
5. My house is warm.
6. I live in Florida. Florida is warm(er than anywhere else I could be today).
7. Forgotten cookies.
Choco chip forgotten cookies   2007xmas Pictures, Images and Photos
8. A beautiful daughter who is still worried about everyone else while her head's in a bucket.
9. Redbox. Thank You (insert higher being's name here) for Redbox.
10. 32 ounce styrofoam cups.
styro cup 2 Pictures, Images and Photos

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Poetry for Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Poetry by Elle

Pilgrims ate some corn and some bread
Love is a thing they like to spread
Then they lay on a wooden bed
They have good dreams in every head

Indians taught them how to grow food
And turkey feathers, they all glued (*not true, I just made it up to rhyme)
These are things I am thankful for:
My family
and many more...

Thanksgiving is my favorite day
So let's give Thanksgiving a BIG BIG YAY!

Elle and I are heading up to Rock Hill, South Carolina tomorrow. With the Five-Oh in full force, my 6-hour trip will probably turn into 7 hours. We are packing extra tissues, some antibiotics, allergy medicine, and plenty of Tylenol to dope ourselves into a stupor. Let's add some tryptophan and ice-skating to the mix and you've got yourself a disaster waiting to happen.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone I know and love in Internet Land. And who knows? Maybe the pilgrims did like to glue turkey feathers to stuff.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

It can't always be sunshine and Whoppers

The sore throat started on Sunday. The sniffles kicked in on Monday. The sore throat and sniffles double-teamed me on Tuesday. The sinus pressure presented itself on Wednesday morning and later treated me with an afternoon of watery eyes and "Damn, don't look good. Why don't you just go home?" And because I'm a big baby when I'm sick, I really wanted to prove to everyone, especially myself, that I'm NOT a big baby when I'm sick. My body, energetic and screaming, "Go!!!" was being contradicted by everything from my neck up screaming, "Nooo!!!".

The body aches took over on Thursday and I finally gave up, collapsed, admitted defeat, and called in sick.

Because while I spent the earlier part of the week trying to prove that I'm not a big baby when I'm sick, I really only ended up driving what little energy I had to survive straight into a big hole in the ground and wearing myself down into a big ol' bag of uselessness. Somehow over the past few days, I had managed to drive myself and my daughter to two separate doctors appointments (where we were diagnosed with the same virus yet treated with different meds - I received antibiotics whereas she received allergy tablets), drop her off and pick her up from school (all while appropriately dressed in un-pajama-like clothing) and spend more time than humanly necessary stalking my Facebook friends.

Last night, Elle and I had a "Sick Girls Sleepover" by confining the hack-and-snotfest to my room. I was sprawled on my bed with a sick tummy, the result of an Azithromycin-Delsym-Sudafed-Yaz cocktail, while Elle's little belly grumbled with an overabundance of too many snacks. After days of eating little else but pasta and rice, I was craving some meat (and I'm not one to eat meat, nothing vegetarian about it - just simply not a taste/texture I particularly like in my mouth).

"Tomorrow, we're going to feel better. And I'm going to take us to Burger King so we can have a hamburger. No, no, no. A cheeseburger. No, no, no. A Whopper. With meat and cheese and tomato and onion and lettuce and ketchup and mayonnaise...", and so on.


Well, howdy doo. I sprung out of bed this morning with a still hacking cough but none of the "oh, god, my skin hurts when the wind blows" kind of cold/flu pain. I prepared the little one her favorite breakfast of french toast, helped her clean off her wagon in order to load it up and deliver the Girl Scout candy orders, walked the neighborhood in the sunny warmth of this beautiful day - the first day I could actually walk outside and not have to shield my eyes from the blessed sunshine that had been making my congested head throb with explosive pains since Tuesday.

And what a day to really wake up to it all! I couldn't help but take pictures of how extraordinarily glorious my own backyard looked to me after having emerged from my week-long cocoon of bedding, tissues, and even more tissues. Oh, dear Florida. I talk smack about you alot, but seriously - I couldn't imagine waking up to gray, cold skies or bitter cold winds. That would only send me back to bed! And how can I get my Whopper from bed!?!? Mmmm...that was the best damn Whopper I ever had, by the way.

My cat, Polly Esther Pooper Hemingway. The Pooper. Poopie, Poophead, Da get the idea.

Flowers. In November. Eat your hearts out, Northerners.


Our tangerine tree. The Tree of Vitamin C. $4.00 orange juice? Pttth...I get it for free (technically not until January - they're not quite ready for plucking!)

Polly Esther - check out her fists. Six-toed cats rule my world. Too bad they can't clean their own litter boxes, which is why she's called Pooper - she spends most of her time outside but still manages to muck up an indoor litter box.

Another beautiful palm tree.

My little Girl Scout Elle...wagon washin'!

More flowers...purple ones! Me likey the purple ones!

The grapefruit tree...

Here, have a closer look!

Sunshine and Whoppers do a body good.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

My love affair with Chuck

My best friend and I were discussing shoes today. Not like girly shoes, high heels and "oh, those are SOOO cute!" kind of shoes. Just shoes. I mentioned how badly I need to get my feet in a pair of real shoes. My doctor warned me a few weeks ago that my flat feet could potentially cause alot of pain in my near future and I need to slip into some comfortable shoes with good arch support.

Chuck Taylors are NOT known for their good arch support. But Jessie and I agreed that we love our Chucks. I am a flip flops and Chinese slippers kinda girl. Tennis shoes, sneakers, boots - ugh! No!!! Those are like a straightjackets to our precious little puppies. But I desperately need a real pair of shoes. Ever since I walked the craggy path up to Chimney Rock in my Converse sneakers, I have fallen in love with walking craggy paths to other incredibly beautiful natural wonders. It looks like my 20-year relationship with Chucks might be coming to an end. But not quite yet. Soon, though. I think I'd like to reflect:

This is the pair that started it all. I really thought I was something special by slapping a few pairs of different colored socks over my french-rolled jeans and shouldering a boombox down the road to Rhondra's house. There, in her bedroom, we'd practice our dance moves to New Edition and The Jets, then I'd go home and paint a face on my knee, a la Debbie Gibson's "Out of the Blue" album cover. Styled with my 4-inch bangs and shredded jeans (and my awesomely sexy plastic rose pink eyeglasses), Kris Peterson asked me to go out with him. I said no. My years as a heartbreaker were just beginning.

Pink was so immature and rural Upper Michigan. I had graduated to blue and burgundy by the time I entered high school in the gang-infested Washington, DC suburb known as Prince Georges' County, Maryland. That burgundy pair you see up there - those babies helped me escape a gang of thugs hellbent on beating the shirt out of a white person. Because, you see, I was personally responsible for handing the whacking sticks to the LAPD and clubbing Rodney King to a bloody pulp. It was that afternoon, on the second floor near my history class, that I learned how fast a white girl could run. And to never, I repeat - NEVER!! - proclaim your loyalty to any one particular color. I'm sure this is why the grunge movement made such an impact on my fashion choices. Gang members are easily confused by plaid.

An honest-to-goodness staple in any teenager's closet. The beloved black Chucks. I've had this pair since my last year of high school (black was neutral, you see, and I was pretty much ignored by gang members at this point). My friend, Brendan, always had a pair of black Chucks on his big ol' feet. Even when he graduated from Crossland High School in 1992, two years before I would walk across the stage for my own diploma, Brendan's black Chucks poked out from underneath his graduation gown. He defied the "dress shoes" policy and we all loved him even more. Brendan passed away in 1996, at about this time of year. I don't have it in me to get rid of my black Chucks just yet.

Photobucket navy pair of Chucks. I love them but they look awkward because this particular shade of blue conflicts with any other shade of blue denim. I still have them in my closet, taking up space and quietly promising that one day they will either match with something or I'll just grow so old that I won't give a shit about matching anything. Except maybe one shoe with another. We'll see.

It's a shame I couldn't find a photograph of my first "real" pair of shoes. It's been around 10 years that I've had this pair of suede One Stars, light brown - bone, is what Converse calls it - and they match with everything. And they're suede! I remember opening this box on a long-ago Christmas morning and thinking, "Wow, this is probably the most expensive pair of shoes I own!" I was right, they weren't cheap. But they're beautiful and still have the original laces. But because I'm a flip flops and Chinese slippers kinda girl, they haven't been worn out. Just worn. They've been loved.

This is my most recently acquired pair - aren't they cute!?!? Chocolate brown suede, plaid in the star and stripe. Just adorable. They were a gift from a friend, a friend I had shared nearly everything with since we met in 1990, a friend I no longer have. I won't exactly blame the shoes but they had a part in the overall demise of our relationship. Do I love these shoes? YES! Would I happily give them back in return for my friend's trust and respect again? Yes. Yes. Yes. I miss you, Doug.

So, folks, there you have it. I know other people have a story of their own and you are welcome to share yours in the comments.

converse Pictures, Images and Photos

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Bonfire

The first time I went to the Bonfire, my friends and I had to hold each other's hands to keep from losing anyone in the pitch-black darkness of the woods. Tree roots snaked out of the ground and tripped up every single one of us, even after we warned the person behind us, "Whoa! There's a root. Be careful." THUD. And because we were all joined by hand, the rest of the group was pulled off balance by the first man to go down. It probably looked like a train derailment, our little group of hikers, but it was too dark to see the mass of bodies sprawled on the forest floor and all you heard was the thump of knees hitting dirt and someone say "Whoops!" and, after the initial shock of discovering a bloodied elbow, alot of giggling.

Eventually, after a 15-minute walk or so, we came across a rickety wooden bridge that could really only hold the weight of a newborn kitten. Hand in hand, we helped each other slowly cross the planks, careful to mind the planks that were missing. Those were the ones to watch out for as we were reminded each time Little Dave tried to cross the bridge himself only to fall into the small creek below. Pissed off and wet, Little Dave would curse loudly and take off into the woods, when we would hear another thump, another curse word, and finally, more cursing.

This, my friends, was just to get to the Bonfire. This is nothing like trying to find the way out, you know...when some of us were no longer sober. I think Little Dave made it to the Bonfire and stayed long enough to dry off, have some beers, and fall into the creek again as he made a drunken attempt to cross the broken bridge alone. Half the time I don't think anybody ever knew how he made it home. But he always made it home. We all did.

The path was obvious to those who'd been there before. I remember stepping very carefully around tree trunks and dirtholes and wondering how in the hell this place was ever discovered. The drive to this particular neighborhood wasn't too far away from our homebase but I was a mess of nerves each and every time I agreed to go to the Bonfire. Not only did we have to trespass through strangers' backyards and avoid the motion sensor lights we set off in the process, but sometimes a cop would hang around nearby, behind a bush or something, and wait for the moment he saw any movement from within our clump of trees so he could shine his authoritative spotlight on us. We never got caught. At least, I never did. Perhaps this is how Little Dave made it home every night. We'll never know.

The Bonfire was a place to meet new people. Usually someone brought a case of beer (and things that weren't beer) and a couple of guitars. A big campfire, good conversation, and a jam session pretty much equalled a good night. I was with friends and so content to just sit on my happy little log. The occasional argument erupted, fueled by alcohol and macho pride, but for the most part it was just a meeting place for the rich kids, the poor kids, the military kids, the civilian kids, the white kids, the black kids, and the younger crowd who wanted to hang out with the older crowd. Your typical teenage scene.

My last night at the Bonfire was in May of 1994, Graduation Night. We made the usual precarious trek over tree roots and half-exposed rocks, watched Little Dave fall into the creek, and I found my place on my happy little log. I sat next to my friend Sean, a gentle giant of a man and quite capable, I'm sure, of snapping someone's neck with his bare hands. Suddenly, we heard the sounds of motorbike engines coming up quickly from the opposite side of our entry path. Everyone stopped what they were doing at once. The conversations grew silent, the musicians stopped playing, even the drunks stood still. Since I had never walked past the firepit, I didn't know what was beyond the Bonfire and looked to Sean for some sort of guidance. He whispered, "Shhhh..." to me at least once and stared straight ahead, as if he could telepathically convince whoever was headed in our direction to make a u-turn and go back home. I continued to stare at him and everyone around the Bonfire collectively took in a deep breath.

Who were those bikers? Were they pissed because we were here? Was it the cops? What do we do?

Finally, three bikes peaked at the top of the small hill and drove straight for us.

Sean screamed, "Run!!!!" I thought, Run? Okay!!! But wait...RUN? Where??!

And so my plan of escape had been hatched!

I ran into the darkness of the woods, a few yards behind Sean but in a totally different direction. I soon found myself alone and terrified and freakin' lost. In the woods. The woods are dark at night, you know. And while that might not surprise any of you, maybe you'd be interested in knowing that when you are alone and terrified in the dark woods, they get darker. I'm thoroughly convinced that it's scientifically possible.

I eventually found my way back to the party. The Three Bikers brought a case of beer with them and hung out with us all. My own personal party started to wane and I was ready to go home. I was freaked out, exhausted, and I had to pee. No, I didn't want to pee in the woods. That, of course, would require me to be alone in the dark, dark woods again and I was in no hurry to do that.

Where this story came from, I have no idea. It's been over fifteen years and I found myself thinking about that place tonight. I found myself thinking about that night tonight. I wonder why. Those days were cake compared to my real life today. Those were the careless days before my friends and I were separated by our parents' military retirements or our own eventual deployments, before we were gifted with the responsibilities of raising children and fulfulling college requirements and working full-time jobs. Those were the days before we essentially grew up.

Simply put, those were the days!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Homework buddies

Elle was really excited when I told her I was going to start college in January.

"Ooooh, Mom! That's wonderful that you're going to college for the first time!"

The first time?? Child, where have you been since you, born? Do you not remember the tears and screams and bloody clumps of hair in my fists as I struggled with Algebra at the breakfast table two years ago? Do you not remember the twirly-eyed zombie look on my face as I fought off writer's block for a 6-page research paper in World Religions? What about the first four years of your life as you spent every Saturday afternoon at the Regency Mall's Playplace where you barreled your way through the day, exerting a ton of energy and content to jump on plastic dolphins while I pretended to watch you very carefully (when I was really studying Early American Literature)? Thankfully you were such a well-behaved little girl and surrounded by a waist-high wall with only one exit. That mall helped me earn a spot on the Dean's List.

Life has been good since last December when I got my Associates's Degree. I buy books because I want to. And I read them for fun. I started a blog so I could write about whatever I felt like writing about. And I write for fun. I learned how to enjoy going to bed before 2am. Sleeping is very fun.

I'm not looking forward to this whole school thing again.

I'm broke and tired. But mostly tired. Financial aid decided I was poor enough so they're helping out a bit. A big bit. My decision to go back to school was pretty much decided by my ability to obtain financial aid. I've paid out of pocket for classes before so that I didn't lose momentum. Let's hope I don't have to do that again. But I think I would if I had to.

Two more years, I'm telling myself. Two more years of being tired. I'm going to be tired anyway so I might as well do something useful while the insomnia cranks away at me. If I can knock this whole program out in 6 semesters, I'll have a Bachelor's Degree under my Christmas tree in 2011.

I think it's good for us, both of us. Elle will see me working hard for this degree, she'll see me struggle and get pissed off and want to quit. Of this, I'm sure. And she'll see me walk away, take a break, grab a coffee, and fight my way back in. She's at that age level when schoolwork becomes more challenging, difficult and seems nearly impossible sometimes to understand. She'll know it's okay for her to walk away, take a break, get her mom some more coffee, and fight her way back in.

Anxiety has already reared its ugly head and I'm already in the process of grieving. Yes, it sounds dramatic, but I'll be losing the freedoms that I've known in my life for the last twelve months. My life of studying, crying, catnapping, and studying some more is returning and I'm not looking forward to it.

My mother mentioned over the weekend that she doesn't think I'll be able to handle school with everything going on in my life: full-time job, single motherhood, Tuesday night gymnastics, Thursday night Girl Scouts. I did it before and I have no choice but to do it again. Time will be strictly monitored, each hour of my day will have to be devoted to one thing and one thing only so that nothing gets thrown aside, forgotten, or neglected. I defended my decision to return to school for my Bachelor's degree by reminding my mother that, at my current rate of stalled success, I'll be living with her forever.

"No," she said. "I'm not worried about your abilities to get this done. I'm concerned with your personality."

My personality?

Apparently, nobody likes me when I'm in college since I tend to become overwhelmed, short-tempered, and just an overall bitch. So believe it or not, this last year may have possibly been the most pleasant I've ever been to my family since 1997.

"It's only for two more years. I'll try to be nicer to everyone and then I can move out," I promised.

Just the prospect alone of me moving out of their house has my parents putting on their Tolerant faces and replaying the moment in their heads when I said "...I can move out."

This can only end well for all of us. And Elle will now have a homework buddy.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The deepest wounds

"They weren't in Iraq," author Dinesh D'Souza said on television Thursday night, analyzing the culprit. "They were living a normal, everyday life."

Oh, Mr. D'Souza, I beg to differ.

Major Nidal Hasan may not have been in Iraq, he may have never been placed in the center of combat, and he may have spent his working hours in the so-called comfort and safety of Walter Reed Army Hospital, but he was certainly not living a normal, everyday life. And because of his actions yesterday, he most certainly never will.

What, may I ask, is normal about Major Hasan's life? Is it his committed objection to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that makes him so normal? Possibly. Lots of people proudly object. Is it his past desire to enlist in the military against his parents' wishes and proclaim his love for this great country that gave his immigrant family a chance at success and happiness? Could be. Lots of military members have proudly expressed this as reason enough to enlist. Is it his love of God as a Muslim and not as a Christian that enabled him to live a relatively quiet life in America? Sure. Lots of people live this way and enjoy their normal, everyday lives. It doesn't make them any more spectacular than the next guy.

But Major Hasan wasn't your normal, everyday guy. He was a psychiatrist who cared for those returning from the horrors of war. Imagine the stories, the tears, the rage his patients must have carried. The separation experienced by these young men and women from their families - sometimes over a year's worth of a normal, everyday life must be recovered - and their fear of adjusting to a normal, everyday life. A car backfiring can ignite the memory of a roadside bomb that killed two of their buddies. That's not normal. Learning how to eat with their left hand because their right hand was blown off. That's not normal. Listening to these soldiers, day in and day out, trying to help them process the worst time of their lives even as they fear the worst is yet to come. That's not normal, either. Just how heavy is the weight of the world? Ask one of those guys, they'll tell you.

Unfortunately, Major Hasan was also a man who initially became a pysychiatrist to help returning soldiers but whose intentions trumped his ability to do just that. His personal and spiritual objections against the wars fueled his failed attempts to stay out of the warzone as a conscientious objector. And this, understandably so, pissed him off. His performance on the job suffered and his personal views became so distorted that he eventually snapped.


Major Hasan seemed to be carrying the weight of the world. Nobody asked him how heavy it was but he was obviously hellbent on telling us. He was the psychiatrist who needed a psychiatrist, not a lawyer. He was the psychiatrist who needed a pyschiatrist, not a transfer from Walter Reed to Fort Hood. He was a soldier who needed the Army to protect him just as he was assigned to protect the mental health of other soldiers. Where the hell was the Army?

I'm not defending him. Not completely, at least. Maybe it's the soft spot in my heart for anyone who has the balls to join the military. Maybe it's the hardened spot in my heart for the politicians who've decided that the mental health of our troops should take a backseat to lining their own pockets with a pay raise. Either way, there are so many elements involved in this disaster. Too many of them were obvious signs of distress.

So as Fox News and CNN declare NEW DETAILS EMERGE!, keep in mind that these so-called NEW details were witnessed by Army officials long before the tragedy in Fort Hood. They gave Major Hasan a poor performace evaluation. He was overheard making comments about "the enemy" and it was assumed "the enemy" meant the terrorists. He was accused of sharing his anti-war views with his patients. Why did nobody follow up? Why was he shifted from one post to another and not dealt with? Why was he deemed unable to perform his duties on American soil but then given a stamp of approval to perform his duties in the field?

Unless the mental health of our returning troops and their families becomes a priority, it's possible this could happen again. We've already chosen to ignore the increase in soldier suicides and domestic violence and it took us years to recognize the shoddy conditions in our country's VA Hospitals.

We can't ignore this.

"The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war." ~~ General Douglas MacArthur


November 11, 2009: Wow. Was I ever wrong in assuming that Major Hasan was a victim of the system, too. I am, however, leaving this post up because I still strongly believe that the Army missed alot of signs. Or did they? Did these signs get swept under the rug? Did they get thrown to the wayside in order to make sure enough mental health specialists would be available for placement in the field?

I'll be honest here. I don't see the good in people. I'm not a forgiving person. I rarely extend sympathy to anyone who has committed such an atrocious crime, for whatever reason. And for me to actually defend this man is way out of my character. Immediately I was sure the perpetrator was a military member who didn't want to be deployed. I looked at my father and said, "How horrible would that be if the shooter was a Muslim?" I'm quick to assume and I'm difficult to convince otherwise. So, I guess I've learned a lesson here. But I still think this could have been prevented and this incident casts a heavy shadow over the Army.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Got kids?

This evening has not gone well. When I took Elle to gymnastics, I actually had to stay outside in the cool air so the chill would lessen my desire to projectile vomit (Got kids? You know the morning sickness tricks! and NO I'M NOT PREGNANT JUSTNOTFEELINGWELL!!!!) and ended up missing my daughter being singled out as the best straddle-handstander in the class. But as my mother was checking me for lice tonight (Got kids? Don't judge! You'll end up getting pinworms if you judge me!), my mini-me threw this little gem in front of me:

"Dear Mom,
I am sorry you are feeling ill and having a bad day but something is hidden in my haert and it's called love and care. I love you.

Please, oh please, tell me that she'll always be my biggest, most adoring fan! No? Okay, then lie to me. Seriously, folks. When does this stop? Not that I want it to. I simply want to know when to expect these less and less frequently. Because at our current rate, I'm getting two letters a week. It's become easier to organize her paper-gifts since she no longer draws me one thousand pictures a week and orders me to hang them on the refrigerator and then store them in the "pretty box" for all of eternity. Or until she deems them too ugly to keep as mementos. No, no, no more of that. We've graduated to real letters. With WORDS!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Screaming obscenities makes me feel good

You'd think he would have figured it out by now. He being the ex, very lovingly referred to in our household as "Mr. Dumas" (as in Dumbass). It being that I just don't give a shit about his excuses.

My day had already started to fall apart. Mostly because of my horrible attitude as of late, but also because...well, okay, fine. My horrible attitude. Anyway, I can usually keep my cool with Mr. Dumas, having learned a few years ago that everything I do and say is a reflection of my character in the court and also a test of my own patience and action/reaction skills. I play nice now. Even when he's hurling insults at me and telling me I'm a money-grubbing, pathetic excuse for a mother because I created a broken home for "our" child, I play nice. Even when he tells "our" child that I'm only using her to get money out of him, I play nice. Even when he calls me for the umpteenth time to cry about how his stellar Master's degree in Physics prevents him from getting any kind of job worthy of his academic background, I play nice. And laugh, because how can I possibly get money from someone who has no job?

Today's phone call registered as number umpteenth + 1, the number of times he's called to whine about not being able to find a job.

"It's a tough market out there," he said.

"Fuck you," I said back.

"What?" he said, a little shocked that my sympathy cup hath runneth dry.

So I repeated myself. Again. And again. And again. He kept trying to nudge into my rant, like he was cutting in line or something and that pissed me off even more. This called for more - "Fuck You". I lost count of how many times those two words flew out of my mouth. The red light at New Berlin Road kept me stationary for a minute or two, resulting in more naughties than you could imagine spewing from my lips.

Boy, you done pissed me off.

At some point I stopped, but only long enough to hear him threaten me with more legal action. He asked me if I was prepared for a legal battle. Another legal battle. I reminded him that he's already dumped my sorry ass into the debt pool, so what's one more go-around? Then he felt compelled to tell me about his wonderful new lawyer. He works pro bono.

"And he's Jewish!"

Huh? What does that have to do with anything?

Mr. Dumas and I. We went back and forth, up and down, east to west, north to south, roundabout, and back around again. All the while, the little slips jerked off my tongue ("Fuck you!!!"), and I'd take a deep breath just so I could say it again, and louder. With more ooomph! Because a pissed-off single mom dealing with a deadbeat dad has alot of oooomph. Then it was over.

Twenty seconds later, I was in my daughter's school parking lot and shaking from so much adrenaline. Wow. Did I just hold all that in for the last three years? Did I just get three-years' worth of "Fuck You!" out of my system in a matter of minutes? Why, yes! Yes, I did! And, dammit, it felt good!! I almost can't wait to do it again!

But I must go back to playing nice now. It was fun while it lasted and I deserved the enjoyment it gave me. Countdown to October 28, 2012.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Not-So-Great Outdoors

I spent the night outside last night. A very miserable, cold, sleepless night. Because, contrary to popular belief, Florida is not always warm this time of year. It may be warm to some of you who live in the Midwest or New England, but you have not been schooled in the ways of humidity and the misery it can inflict upon those of us who are forced to sleep outside with air temperatures in the 50s and high levels of humidity. Not only is it cold, it's wet. It's a wet cold. Ugh.

Two months ago, I was notified of this big Girl Scout camp-out. Elle was really excited, to the point of wiggling on the day of. The day temps were in the 80s and the sun was shining - perfect weather for 20+ little girls to play off their energy with games of Tug-Of-War, sack races, bobbing for apples, and generally running 'til they dropped. Elle was warned months ago that I would NOT be sleeping over (my mother never stayed over with me during camp-outs) and she was overheard telling her friends that "It's much more funner when your mom's not there!", referring to me and her ability to get away with things during my absence (and earning her the nickname More Eller). Because I wasn't going to spend the night, I did volunteer to attend the daytime activities. By 9:30 I was wiped out and could feel the temperature and Elle's confidence in sleeping in a tent without me take a drastic turn downward.

"Please, please spend the night with me!", she cried. Yep, CRIED.

Freakin' guilt trips.

Elle had my only sleeping bag so I had to drive home to pull a comforter out of my closet, throw a pillow in the car, and scramble for some cozy socks to wear to sleep. I packed an unopened bottle of Scope and a warm, fleece hoodie. I was good to go. By the time I returned to the camp-out, the kids were in their pajamas and had their sleeping areas all set up. They are all as cute as buttons but, dammit, can they ever be territorial! My littlest tentmates showed me where I was going to be sleeping for the night and tried to make me feel better by telling me that I had windows in my room.

My room? Yeah, it was basically the front porch section of the four-person tent. And, yes, I did have windows but they had no zipper closures. The windows didn't close. Fat chance, kiddos. I'm moving' in with you!!!

So I did. When the girls fell asleep after 12:30 (!!!), I hung out by the fire to absorb as much warmth as possible (those of you who know me well know that I am NEVER warm) and braved the bedtime blues by pulling my hoodie over my head and tightening the strings around my face so that only my nose was exposed. I folded my comforter in two (for poofiness!) next to my daughter and clutched onto my little fleece blankie for dear life. Then I spent the next 6 hours wide awake, shivering and mumbling about what a ****ing nightmare this was and...

What the hell? Why is Leticia sitting straight up and yelling about "Those darn kids!" while ruffling through her overnight bag? Why is Leticia digging through her loud, crinkly sleeping bag and arguing with it because it made her forget something at home? Oh, crap - she's one of those kids. One of those kids who should be tied to her bed when she's asleep at home to prevent her from running around the house at night building robots or making cheesecake in her sleep or some shit. So when I wasn't freaking out about the owls hovering and hooting overhead, I was keeping a watchful eye on Leticia and trying to keep her from unzipping the tent and wandering into the woods. Oy!

The campfire was still burning when I finally climbed out of the tent around 7am. Our girls stayed asleep for another hour or so and the troop leader was wonderful to have the coffee/creamer/sugar all prepared for us. The kids woke up and immediately hit the hot chocolate (another wonderful troop leader idea) with marshmallows (self-serve!) and they were just so cute. So, so cute!! Breakfast was amazing and I'm pretty sure everyone had a great time.

Yes, even I did. I'm sure Elle will always remember her first time camping and that her mom was there with her. She'll also always remember her first time burning a marshmallow and making a real s'more, or painting pumpkins with twenty of her closest friends, and having the biggest damn slumber party of her life! Seriously, as miserable as I was, I do believe it was worth it.

My "room", with windows!

Sack races!

Elle. Pumpking painting.

Bobbing for apples!

And, cute!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cat Fight!

A couple of days ago my cat returned home with a swollen back leg. Polly (a polydactyl, hence her name) hobbled along for the night, licking and tending to her wounded back leg. There were two puncture wounds and I assumed that one of the non-venomous snakes in our area finally got a good whack at her. A much-deserved victory for the snakes, in my opinion. I do get tired of her bringing them onto our back porch and flinging them around like jumpropes. Not cool. So, score for the snakes.

I decided to take her to the vet on Friday, the day after we noticed the swelling, and it turns out that it wasn't a snake bite. The doctor shaved the wound and cleaned it up and explained to me that the three slice marks on the pad of her foot were more likely from another animal, even another cat. That's believable. Polly, she's a ruffian, a scrappy little cat who spent her first weeks of life without a mother and defending herself from the grabby hands of a pre-teen girl who didn't know how to take care of her. My cat is 'hood.

His suggestion? I'm to give her .02 mLs of "Cat Advil" in the morning and, for 4-6 days, soak her wound in a betadine/water solution, then an epsom salt/water solution, then rinse completely with running tap water to remove any risk of Polly licking the epsom salt clean off and developing a monster case of diarrhea. He was concerned that I wouldn't be able to handle this. I told him there are five people in my household and if we can't handle one little cat...

Well, let's flash-forward to explain why I am sporting a greasy coat of Neosporin on over 50% of my back and about 20% of my front. I have holes in me. Not scratches. HOLES. And this sordid tale pretty much proves that at least two people in my household can't handle one little cat.

I grabbed Polly's front legs and back legs to gently set her in the warm water soak of betadine I'd prepared in the bathroom sink. After a brief struggle, I sternly explained to the cat that I would win. I always win. Elle giggled because she probably knew, in the back of her mind, that she was about to witness her mother get busted up by a cat. Polly made some noises I can't duplicate or spell out, so just imagine a low-key cat fight in your backyard. Now involve water and 20-something claws. My assistant, Elle, calmly stepped back and giggled some more. Then she popped the drain after a few minutes and we started prepping the epsom salt soak.

The epsom salt soak went rather well, I think. I held the cat in a headlock pretty much at this point and just stuck her bottom half in the water. She fought me again until I reminded her that I always win. I should have known that, with those words having been said, my cat would begin to channel Satan (or Satan's cat). Her eyes glazed over and she stared right through me, but quietly endured the epsom salt soak. I was good for about two minutes until I told Elle how freaky it was that Polly was looking at me like that, with her eyes so big and her mouth wide open. The second Polly let out a low growl, Elle hopped into the bathtub for safety and just watched me from the mirror. Elle kept saying, "ooooh, oooh!! Ooooooooh!! (giggle, giggle) Oooooh!!" It was annoying. I'd been given very specific instructions by the vet to rinse as much epsom salt off of Polly's leg as possible to prevent her from developing a bad case of cat-diarrhea if she licked it off, so my assistant popped the drain and I started running the tap water.

Yeah, okay. People, don't ever do that. Seriously, if the cat gets diarrhea you've got to admit it's better than losing an eye. Or two!! Polly freaked the hell out and instead of jumping out of my arms and tearing down the hallway in a panic, she decided to climb me like a tree. Claws were suddenly in my back and in my front and in my arms and in my scalp! Elle jumped in the bathtub again and nervously screamed, "I wanna leave!" and I screamed, "Get the cat off me!! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!!!!!" and she screamed, "Polly's ripping holes in your shirt, Mommy!" and I continued to scream, "Get the cat off me!! Aaaaaaaaah!!!!"

Meanwhile, my parents were watching a rerun of The Locator and left me to depend on an 8-year old to answer my increasingly desperate pleas for help. The same 8-year old who was hiding in the bathtub!

I finally grabbed Polly's arm or tail or something and yanked her off of me and threw a towel over her, much like Steve Irwin used to do when he would catch man-eating alligators. The towel was rigged to swaddle her and prevent her from sticking a rogue claw in me again. I took her back to her crate and locked her in. Polly instinctively started to lick her leg and since I never got the epsom salt rinsed completely away, I reminded her that I won. There's a kitty litter box in there with her. She'll be needing it soon.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


For three consecutive nights, I woke up choking and gasping and nearly suffocating in my sleep. My previous erratic breathing patterns had led me to take a class where I was taught how to use my diaphragm, and not my lungs, to draw in oxygen. A more relaxed rhythym, a natural rise and fall of air being absorbed and forced back out from my lungs, was the only was to keep me from becoming lightheaded and tingly-faced. That's easy to do when you're awake, when you're aware of your breaths falling out of step with the others. But you can't keep time like that when you're asleep and your brain takes over completely, leaving your conscious self outside to wait to hold the reigns during your waking hours. I was completely alone in the house for an entire week so after three nights, I moved into my parents' bed and hoped the scent of their familiarity would comfort me at least through the night.

I woke up again, this time worse than the others. It was nearly four o'clock in the morning and I hated that I was awake to experience what I thought was my death. Why couldn't I have just stayed asleep? Why couldn't I have simply slept my way through the ungodly pain and fear associated with running out of oxygen? I was drowning, it felt like, and nobody was home to save me. Convinced that I was dying, I struggled to force my lungs open and succeeded, drawing in a breath so deep that I could have made the walls bend inward. My parents' bedroom provided me with no comfort, after all. I decided to go to the emergency room.

It's embarrassing for me to admit that I was probably around eighteen or nineteen years old when I climbed into my parents' bed that night. I'd never been alone for that long before and, to be honest, I was very lonely. It was my first real taste of absolute quiet and I didn't like it. I called my friend's mom and, through tears of frustration, exhaustion, and near-panic, convinced her to drive me to the hospital herself instead of run me via ambulance. This dear woman was at my front door in less than ten minutes. She proceeded to drive me to the emergency room, park the car (not a dropoff), and sit next to me in the waiting room for four hours.

"If this were my daughter, I'd expect someone to stay with her if I couldn't be there myself."

Around 8:30 that morning, the nurses took me to an exam room and I was poked and prodded with needles and cuffs and quickly prepped for the heart monitor. I was lying on the bed's loud and crackly paper, with my top off and an enormous amount of round white stickers stuck on my chest, nipples and all. Some stickers had wires, some had none. When the technician on-call came in, she gasped loudly enough to get everyone's attention and practically diagnosed me on the spot: Anxiety.

I'll be the first to tell you that anxiety sucks. It sucks hard, too. Anxiety disorders are often coupled with depression and the whole thing has become a "What came first - the chicken or the egg?" discussion. Imagine my surprise when I was given a diagnosis and I immediately started to feel better. The hidden triggers started becoming more well-known to me and I learned how to stay one step ahead of my attacks alot of the time. Not each and every time, but enough that I can step back and breathe my little rhythmic routine just well enough to prevent hyperventilation. Hyperventilating is another thing that sucks hard, too.

It turns out that the technician who recognized me did so with a sharp eye and an even sharper memory of my frequent visits over the last few months. She had treated me when I'd found my way to the ER many times in the previous weeks, each time while complaining of breathing, swallowing, heart palpitations. face tingling, and nearly blacking out.

"I'll bet there isn't a physical thing wrong with you. It's all in your head." And she was right.

Anxiety is not a fun disorder. It's crippling, in fact, and can hijack your life with no warning whatsoever. It can hold you hostage. It messes with your personality in so many ways that you lose yourself. After so many years of struggling to stay calm in everyday situations, and surrendering parts of your character over to this anxiety, you just become exhausted. You're drained and just plain ol' tired.