Sums up our last 2 years… A ROLLER COASTER. Thursday, May 30 2013 


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“Life’s not about waiting for the storm to pass… It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

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Jobs And Cancer Monday, Oct 17 2011 


It’s been two and a half weeks since my last post. I have been BUSY! For the first time in more than ten years, I found myself wading through the job pool and actually interviewing for full-time positions. I am a single mom now with the added responsibility of paying my own bills and covering my own health insurance. The last couple of weeks have brought to mind scenes from Working Girl and 9-5. I’ve referred to myself more than a few times here as the real-life Snow White with my bunnies and birds and little animal friends, so how could I NOT be reminded of that scene where Violet, dressed as Snow White, poisons the boss’s coffee and catapults him out the window while she and her co-workers giggle at theoretical ways to get rid of the “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.”

http://youtu.be/L19GOqAeT6Q

I interviewed for two very different positions. The first was the MONEY job which would have come complete with a shiny new laptop, cell phone and expense account. It was in outside sales in the hospitality industry and while I’m sure this would have afforded me the opportunity to get a sharp new wardrobe, the stress levels probably balanced out the pay scale. This was one of those positions that in order to even score an interview, I had to complete a 30-minute online “personality survey” that asked my opinion about various workplace issues:

  • Drugs in the workplace –  “I think people who use drugs should all be locked away in jail.” True or False
  • Sexual harrassment – “It’s OK to tell someone they’re hot and give back rubs at work.” True or False
  • Anger management – “I find it hard while at work to keep from punching someone’s lights out.” True or False
  • Company theft – “It’s OK to take things from the office because it makes up for my teeny tiny paycheck” True or False

The day of the second phone interview with the VP of Sales/Marketing, my children were home from school due to a teacher in-service, and I prepared them with strict instructions to stay in a bedroom with the door closed and not bother me unless there was a bloody emergency. I’m not British either so the emergency would require ACTUAL blood for me to be interrupted. The call came an hour ahead of schedule since the interviewer and I were in different time zones, so I quickly ushered the kids into a bedroom and LOCKED myself into my own room with my laptop and cell phone. I did my very best to sound professional while still wearing my pajamas, and when the first knock at my door came, I shut myself into my closet and sat atop a pile of dirty clothes while describing how I often work best under pressure. The conversation flowed well and while opportunity was knocking professionally speaking, the literal knocking at my bedroom grew exceedingly louder… and then stopped. Ms. VP was busy explaining to me a typical day and the ins and outs of the industry in which she felt I could be very successful when she finally stopped and addressed the commotion that had resumed outside of BOTH closed doors. I finally came clean about sitting atop the dirty garments in my not-so-sound-proof closet and emerged to find THIS!

The ever-so-clever kindergartener had shown his resourcefulness by retrieving a screw driver (the mechanical kind – not a drink for me which I undoubtedly needed at this point) and simply removed my doorknob – the first obstacle between him and a solution to his pressing problem. The emergency at hand? He needed to get to the store and buy a birthday present for his friend. At that moment, while I processed the facts that I had mixed up days thereby missing the party AND was living through what I thought must be the interview from HELL, Ms. VP busted out laughing and confirmed that I INDEED worked well under pressure. She admitted that she had been home-based for years and that while her kids were now grown, she had NEVER had an experience where a child had removed a doorknob to break into a room. I guess it endeared me to her, and she then explained the process of hiring and that she was lining up the third, fourth and fifth interviews in rapid succession for the next week.

While the morning’s events re-played through my mind, I re-grouped, re-focused and changed gears for my second interview of the day. The second position couldn’t have been more different from the first. While it involved a lot of responsibility with what was expected to be very little pay, the advantages were abundant. As this was my second interview for the position, I was hoping for an offer. I dropped the kids off at my grandmother’s house just blocks from the job location and set off with the self-talk that if this didn’t work out, then surely something else would come along that would be just as perfect of a match. A minute into the interview, “Mr. Heart” (as opposed to the evil Mr. Hart played by Dabney Coleman in 9-5) was offering me the position and explaining why he thought I was right for the job. He couldn’t offer the kind of money that most other companies could so he had been hoping for someone with the right qualifications that could see also the intrinsic benefits available to anyone with a personal interest in the position. As it turns out, I had both the qualifications and a personal interest in the position. Allow me to back-track for a  minute and explain…

Five months ago, my life changed. While driving down the road and listening to an Adele CD (yeah, I know, I’m THAT person that still buys ACTUAL CD’s!) a song hit me. Maybe the music and the lyrics that accompanied it actually exploded over me. There hasn’t been a way that I can accurately describe what happened to me that day other than to say I woke up. Instantaneously something hit me and I knew, FELT and could actually SEE that my marriage was over. I couldn’t see through the tears enough to drive though so I pulled into the first parking lot available. That parking lot “happened” somehow to be the parking lot of the church where I grew up attending mass every Sunday, where I went to school for eight years, where I still attend fairly regularly and now send my kids to school. The image that popped into my head was one of a picture a friend had given me several years ago.

This picture was taken the day after Hurricane Rita passed through the area and left destruction and devastation in her wake. It is a statue that stands on the church grounds and has symbolized for me such a feeling a peace and calm when chaos is present. Years later, as my world seemed to be in such total chaos and the remnants of my marriage lay around me like the broken limbs of the beautiful trees that had once stood and seemed so strong, I had found myself sitting in my car all alone at the scene of my favorite photograph. It meant something to me that I know another person will never fully be able to comprehend. That’s OK though. What hit me in the parking lot was that while I have been about to embark on a new solo journey, I was not entirely alone. There’s just no way that I ended up in THAT parking lot at THAT time on THAT day by coincidence. It was the middle of the day on a Thursday afternoon and the parking lot was packed while I sat along the perimeter with my engine running (both literally and figuratively) and crying. I saw people I knew that day walking out to their cars and hid under the dash-board so I wouldn’t look like a crazy cuckoo bird should someone spy me crying and feel the need to check on me. All I could think – though I never actually checked it out – was that someone must have died. Perhaps there was a funeral going on inside while someone else had just come to life in the parking lot. I thought about the picture and what had become of my marriage but KNEW that peace would come eventually and somehow I would be able to take care of myself and kids.

Flash forward five months to present day. That second job that offered little money yet countless intangible benefits opened HERE on THIS campus. I’ve only worked part-time for the last ten years and only while the kids are in school. They’ve never had to go to after-school care because I’ve always been the one to drop them off, pick them up, offer the snacks and complete the homework yet there just wasn’t an option for me to receive the healthcare benefits I was going to need without going full-time. I was offered the position and allowed time to consider the offer and respond within a few days. I didn’t need a few days. I accepted the offer and kinda shook my head at how surprising life can be. In just five months, my life both fell apart and came together in that parking lot. In just one week I’ll be earning what I need to pay my bills and have the necessary health insurance while my children learn and grow on these same grounds where my sisters and I attended both church and school. Life is cyclical and can be awe-inspiring when you look across at how far you’ve come. My days will get busier in the weeks to come but also more rewarding. I may not be the most pious of all the congregation and haven’t spent every morning or even every Sunday kneeling in the pews like perhaps others think I should. My church is all around me though and once again God has provided me with what I need. It’ll be even funnier now though to leave my office at the church and relax with a nice hot bubble bath and wear my red shower cap with the devil horns while locked in a bathroom with the tool-box to keep the kids from removing the door knob. I know better now, and when you know better you DO better.

My job search over the past couple of weeks happened to coincide with the death of Steve Jobs and the dying struggle an old friend of mine is having from cancer as well. It’s heart wrenching to hear updates from the family of a 39-year-old man and his last days as he struggles with fear and pain but mostly the unknown. He will leave behind a daughter nearly the same age as mine, so I am especially grateful that this new chapter for me keeps her close. I’m appreciative of all the time I have with my children and sometimes when you have less time, you make that time more valuable. Acceptance and peace eventually comes for most but as humans, I think the unknown future may be often the toughest thing to accept. I know this though: my last few weeks have focused on jobs and cancer. It’s only fitting to close with the words of a man named Steve Jobs who left this world after having fought cancer himself.

Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me. – Wikiquote, as quoted in The Wall Street Journal (Summer 1993).

We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it. – Fortune

Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. – Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Address

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Address

Oh, The Places I’ll Go! Friday, Sep 30 2011 


This week has been one for change. Change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but for someone like me, it can be a little anxiety ridden. One of my favorite books of all time is, Oh! The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Suess. It’s one of his books that wasn’t published until after his death and that I didn’t read until I was an adult, but perhaps I wouldn’t have related to the text anyway had I read it along with Hop On Pop and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. I love the video with John Lithgow reading the story, and I have it saved on my phone in the Youtube favorites so that whenever I’m feeling like I’m at some sort of crossroads in my life, the guy from 3rd Rock From The Sun can counsel me.

http://youtu.be/IQRWeZy-S8Q

While sitting on the balcony Monday night reviewing the day and thinking about what was to come the following day, I thought about Dr. Suess’s advice and reminded myself that we all go through phases in our lives and that some of those phases are unpleasant. After 12 years of marriage, I would finally be going to court the next morning to stipulate for the record that my marriage had dissolved and that we would be doing our best to divide “things” appropriately and amicably without having to request the court do that for us.

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own.
And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go.

For the first time in a long time, I am as independent as I can be. I realize that none of us exist in a vacuum, so everything I do affects others including all of my decisions, actions, and inactions. I’ve always known that being independent can be fun and exhilarating but also anxiety inducing when you actually HAVE to be independent. I can make ANYTHING anxiety ridden and I don’t even have to try. I’m getting much better, but I can What-If things to death if I allow myself the time to do so. The biggest curse to anyone with anxiety issues is creativity and I have an overabundance of both. I can imagine a thousand possible scenarios while waiting for a train to go or a bus to come or a plane to go or the mail to come. I could tell you what’ll happen if the rain doesn’t go or the phone doesn’t ring or the snow doesn’t snow, or even how my life could be ruined if my hair doesn’t grow. And THEN I remember,

If things start to happen,
don’t worry, don’t stew
Just go right along
Y
ou’ll start happening too.

And so I do. And you can too. And it’s all a matter of taking your cue. When I start to hit the point of no return, I simply turn down the meter lest suffer a burn. (OK, sorry! I got carried away.) I’m getting SO much better at recognizing when I’m starting to be irrational and it helps to remove myself from situations where people around me feed the fire and throw out their own whatifs. I think, “Take look at THOSE silly loons! I’ll just throw on my headphones and listen to tunes!” And so Monday night while listening to tunes and pondering Suess, I saw a shooting star and was instantly reminded of that song Airplanes by B.O.B featuring Eminem and Hayley Williams.

Can we pretend that airplanes
In the night sky
Are like shooting stars
I could really use a wish right now (wish right now, wish right now)

MAN, could I use a wish right now! How easy would things be if we were all simply granted our wishes and had things handed to us on a silver platter? I’m a grown adult and STILL have friends that don’t work for much and are handed whatever they want. I hate to say it, but while they are given material things, they are sometimes seriously lacking in character which is NOT to say that all of us aren’t at some time or another. I just think we appreciate things more when then aren’t always handed to us and that’s what I’ve tried to teach my kids. I live near an airport so planes are constantly landing and taking off near me, and I’d be living the dream if I could wish upon every one like a shooting star. I don’t know though… Don’t we as a culture find ANY excuse to make a wish?? I do it all the time; when an eyelash falls, when the clock hits 1:11 or 5:55 or 3:33…, when I blow the fluffy dandelions or birthday candles. It seems like the specific occasions to make wishes are supposed to be few and far between, but aren’t there so many TYPES of wish granting occasions now that we may possibly be taking them for granted? I haven’t really made a true wish in a long time and certainly wouldn’t just sit around WAITING for it to come true like in the pointless waiting room that Suess describes. I do look for signs though and perhaps that shooting star was a sign.

Guess what I caught myself doing… GOOGLING! Yep! I saw the star, caught my breath and then googled the meaning and symbolism of shooting stars. It only dawned on me a few minutes later that what I was doing was looking for someone else to tell me what the significance of THAT star (meteoroid, whatever) at THAT time in THAT place meant for ME. Forget it! I’m in a new place where I decide what has meaning to me and the significance (if any) to my current path in life. I know that I’ve seen them in the past after someone I know has died so maybe I’ll look at that as some sort of honor or recognition for the marriage that has passed on. I know for sure though, that just as shooting stars last but just a fleeting second, so too will this transitional phase of my life. Maybe the sign in the sky was just God’s way of saying, “Hey! I’m here!” Wishes are great, but hard work pays off in the end and noticing my blessings along the way can only make the road more interesting. When I headed off to bed at EXACTLY midnight and began to curse myself for staying up so late AGAIN when I had such an important day ahead, Bob Marley chimed in with HIS heavenly voice through my Pandora station and said,

Don’t worry about a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all
right.
Singin’: Don’t worry about a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right!

Rise up this mornin’,
Smiled with the risin’sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin’ sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin’, This is my message to you-ou-ou

How about that? There you go! Both God AND Bob spoke to me in one night while pondering the rhymes of Dr. Suess and Eminem. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better panel of experts if I’d tried so I headed off to bed with a smile on my face and a comfortable feeling that every little thing was gonna be alright. I know it will.

Adventures In Wonderland Wednesday, Aug 24 2011 


Early in the summer when I was focused on the bunnies and birds and new little creatures around me, I caught my rabbit Roger digging a hole in the flower beds below me. I also caught video, of course (which I’ll post later), and it got me thinking about this crazy summer. All I could think of was Alice in Wonderland and her strange little adventures following the rabbit. I did not PUBLISH the analogies that were scampering through my brain at the time partly because I wasn’t fully confident yet that people weren’t going to make all the same drug references that many see in the book and think I was on drugs myself after leaving my husband, house and seemingly normal happy life behind. I also thought I’d let this summer play itself out and see if my adventures or life calmed down for me. Um… not really, but I took notes so here it goes!

I’ve thought of myself as similar to Alice these last few months. I was well raised and taught to be polite. Sometimes my naivety can be seen as childlike and often times my adventures and sense of humor are immature. The bunnies I discovered early in the summer seem to be taking shelter from the heat or simply moved on when some jackhole cleared the land behind my fence. I mean, didn’t someone KNOW that Snow White herself was sitting up in this little castle writing about her adventures with the critters? I have my pictures and I have my notes however so my mind is open to the other things around me now. New characters are being introduced every day and some of them are as wacky and entertaining as the ones in Lewis Carroll’s book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or the movies that have since followed. I’ve referred to this summer as starting a new chapter, and with school back in session I feel like we are on to the next.

I’ve tried my best to really find myself this summer, and at times I’ve simply quit looking to find what WAS there and simply see what’s BECOMING. You know how they say when you quit looking for something is when you are most likely to find it? Well, it’s something I remind myself often. When I need courage or strength, I look deep down to find it but discovering new things about myself sometimes takes quiet self observation and that’s usually found on the balcony over coffee or my vanity table/writing desk. Simply sitting down and answering questions from some of those self-help workbooks that aim to get your life, career and finances in order don’t always come easy for me because they stress me out a little. Actually, they stress me out a LOT. When quiet doesn’t exactly come easily around here, that’s when I learn about others especially the kids. I’ve learned more by listening to them than I have talking AT them. I can almost guarandamntee you that I don’t really learn a lot in the midst of the chaos WHILE it’s happening, but I do my best to jot something down here or there throughout the day thinking that an interesting thought or idea may sprout from what we did or did NOT do well. I hope my little baby boos have learned from me too, but only they will be able to tell you that and perhaps not until they are adults. Maybe some of the things they get angry about now that are too difficult or inappropriate to discuss with them will make sense to them later. Maybe they won’t. Maybe all that they will learn from this summer is that not everything can be explained when the same experiences between two different people produce two vastly different perceptions. That’s a lesson itself, isn’t it?

Chapter 1. Down the Rabbit Hole

Alice fell into her hole. I jumped! I went headfirst not merely out of curiosity because that would be irresponsible as a parent to make life changing moves and pull the kids down with me through the twists and turns of some knucker hole. The only thing I knew for sure was that one day a switch in me flipped and the reality I thought I’d been living was realized to be a fantasy. One day while driving down the road, I finally saw my life clearly and knew I was not going to be able to lie to myself anymore. There’s a strong difference I guess between the fictional character Alice and the new real-life me in that I left the fantasy behind. My hole led to a new reality. There was no certainty about the future and there certainly was no money. What I did have was a little apartment leased on borrowed money and a PLAN to spend my summer enjoying the kids because the big changes would affect them, and I wanted to take care of them as I did my best to take care of myself. I also knew that I may never get the chance to stay home with them part-time or full-time again, and I wanted to cherish that time. Of COURSE I knew they’d be fine going to after-school care if a new work schedule left me unable to spend all of our time outside of school together, but you know how you never TRULY appreciate something until it’s gone or you no longer have the daily luxuries you perhaps take for granted? Well, I went into this summer with the kids knowing that it may be my last. (I mean HOME with them – not last as in DEAD – though there were times we could have killed each other I guess.)

Chapter 2. The Pool of Tears

We have a pool here, and we’ve had a lot of tears however I can definitively say that I have not gotten swept away by the current. My current is strong but will not be defined by my past and crying while treading water won’t get me any farther on to future adventures. Why swim upstream?Dry the tears and it’s easier to keep your head above water and swim. Besides, pools are for fun and the kids have definitely had their fill here with tan lines to prove it.

Chapter 3. The Caucus Race and a Long Tale

In Alice’s Adventures, this is the chapter where Alice meets many other animals and birds that have been swept away in the pool of tears and when they reach the riverbank, they decide to race around in a circle with no clear finish line as suggested by the mouse, in order to get dry. Um… no thanks! I’m out of that rat race. I TOTALLY dig all the little real life animal friends I have found here, but I’ve also met and talked with women this summer that want to commiserate. They’ve found themselves alone for one reason or another and want to drown our sorrows over drinks or grow decidedly bitter together because misery loves company. Isn’t that the same as just running in circles? I’ve TOTALLY bitched, don’t get me wrong, but it’s usually to my family because I’ve found that bitches feed off each other and just walk away fatter and madder. Good for Tweedledee & Tweedledum if they choose to do that. I’m happy to not feel so alone when we find something in common, but it’s just not my desire to sit around and bitch or convince people to stand on my side of the river bank and throw stones at the other side. Sitting on the other side is the man who was once my teammate in every way, and we still have to carry these kids together to the finish line.

Chapter 4. The Rabbit Sends a Little Bill

Alice grows, gets stones thrown at her which turn into cakes, eats them and shrinks. Hmmm… I ate cake this summer, and I PROMISE you I DID NOT SHRINK. I mean, I wish that when people hurled stones at you via insults or unwarranted criticisms they turned into little cakes because that would certainly be turning a negative into a positive, but for God’s sake don’t eat the damn cakes! Real life does not always coincide with fantasy here. Again this is an instance though where the Alice character and my own diverge. You know the bottles in the beginning that Alice drinks that say “drink me” and she shrinks? Yeah well I’ve done that too and the Skinny Girl Margaritas & Skinny Girl Sangria do NOT make you skinny. And the more you drink, the more likely you are to eat that box of goldfish that you bought for the kids and the “that’s one snack they like that I don’t so I’ll be SMART and buy those knowing I won’t eat them!” strategy fails. Eating AND drinking makes you grow bigger in REAL LIFE so don’t even try to be Alice.

Chapter 5. Advice From a Caterpillar

OK. This was always my favorite part in the movie because the caterpillar looks so cool and groovy smoking the big hookah, but just DAYS after spotting the rabbit digging its hole in the garden, I KID YOU NOT, I spied some women at the pool smoking a HOOKAH!! They frequently grilled their dinner at the pool and spent hours out there letting the kids play while they cooked, visited, and smoked. I kept thinking how exotic and very cool they seemed and how this just wasn’t something that we would have seen everyday back at the neighborhood pool. I REALLY wanted to go up and see if they had any advice to offer me, you know, because I was sort of having an identity crisis similar to Alice’s and I pictured them asking me very wisely, “Who are YOU?” like the caterpillar. I didn’t do that though because I thought I’d feel a little like one of the nerds from Dazed and Confused asking about their cool bong. As the summer progressed, I decided whatever advice they may give me may not be sound because the kids pointed out one of the moms one day driving the kids through the parking lot to the pool on TOP of the car. My kids pointed out how unsafe that was (SMART KIDS!) and so next time they ask me what those ladies are smoking in that thing I may just say, “DRUGS!! Drugs cause people to make poor decisions like riding on TOP of a car instead of IN it!” Don’t judge me for this either. It was totally cool, but when I have to think of an explanation for reckless behavior then NOTHING is off-limits. My kids are young and impressionable, and I think it’ll work like that egg in the frying pan commercial did for my generation.

Chapter 6. Pig and Pepper

Chapter 6 in Alice’s story is where they introduce The Cheshire Cat – intelligent, mischievous, funny and perplexing with a large smug grin. That’s my son! He’s the living breathing version of the character. So far this summer, he has accidentally spray painted a wall, clogged up a couple of sinks and toilets, attempted to ram passersby with his remote control cars and jet, and frequently hides from us though is easily found by the glow of his Cars 2 light up tennis shoes and night vision goggles. He’s even got the grin!

Chapter 7. A Mad Tea Party

Yep! Been there done THAT this summer! I met some old high school friends in New Orleans this summer for a “Fancy Dinner Party.” I did not know some of them well in high school, but have most certainly determined them to be MAD in a lovely, hilarious, endearing way. Ladies and gents donned fabulous threads and feathered boas while sporting fancy Ivy League sounding names. I was Donatella – as in VERSACE – and cursed every poor lad that thought my name was derived from The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We sipped cocktails and even mingled with the commoners strolling down Esplanade Avenue. I proved myself to be young again by parading through the French Quarter until FOUR in the MORNING with a tiara on my head. WOOHOO!! I can still party with the best of them, and I consider that a jewel in my crown for Miss um… Erica?!?!

Chapter 8. The Queen’s Croquet Ground

We’ve tried all SORTS of games this summer! The kids have loved playing cards and bocce ball back at the house with their dad and from what I hear, chaos has erupted that would rival the scene in the Disney movie. Remember my sweet girl’s Summer Art Camp where she made The Queen Bee, Tetris pieces, board games, and playing cards? Well I can tell you that many times my little Queen Bee has called for the head of her brother, the Cheshire Cat, but he usually managed to escape with a handful of Monopoly money and a mischievous grin.

There were some characters from the story Alice in Wonderland that were eliminated from the movie versions so I won’t carry on with the chapter references anymore. I’m really more familiar with the movie versions now anyway thanks to the kids (even the creepy Tim Burton version with Johhny Depp) Here’s where I think I’ve ended up though now that the chapter, Summertime 2011, has come to a close: I’ve grown in some ways, shrunk in others (YAY!), experienced the highs and lows that come with any new journey and adventure, and I’ve managed to keep my head above water and be excited about what the future holds. I’ve been put through some trials and judged too, but as Alice says in the story everyone grows and that just can’t be helped. I guess I’m not really very quiet about it either so people can come after me like the guards that set off after Alice, but you know what? I can follow suit and call them out as mere cards that can easily be played or change hands with whatever way the wind blows. I’ll bet you that I can take the cards that I’ve been dealt and produce a winning hand at some point too. I just won’t hold up a house made out of them.

The End.

Second To Nun & Flying Monday, Aug 22 2011 


Yep! It’s Monday. Not just ANY Monday though; today is the first full week back to school for the kids and back to work for me. I’ve really missed the routine. Summertime’s great, but as the days go by and the heat really starts to kick in all of us tend to get a little grumpy. The kids and I were no exception. I slacked on the Post A Day blogging challenge because I started to feel a little bit like one of those crazed writers you picture with their hair all a mess and hygiene falling to the way side. No matter what time I tried to sit down and write, the kids needed me for something. Usually, what was needed was attention and throwing out the, “Please give Mama a little private time to write her blog” began to morph into, “The next person that comes into my room to whine had better be able to show me blood or they’re punished and I’m not kidding!” Not so good, huh? That probably wouldn’t win me parent of the year or anything, but more importantly I wasn’t getting any points from the little ones that matter. I kept thinking to myself that I’d made a PLAN. That PLAN was to blog every day and get some writing under my belt so that once the school year started, I could perhaps venture into the professional writing world and start bringing in some peanuts to feed the circus animals because the part-time gig at the family beauty dynasty simply isn’t going to cut it. Maybe I’d even get a book deal and impress the kids with their own laptops and a car that didn’t have tape holding up the little black rubbery thingy by the door. See, I made the MISTAKE of checking out some other bloggers one day and realized that they have professional experience in the publishing world with literary backgrounds from top-notch universities and have their resumes posted on their blogs for free-lance writing jobs. My PLAN was to show that while I don’t have literary degrees under my belt, I can churn out daily posts with the best of them from my ancient little laptop at my make-up table. Disappointment and guilt kicked in as the days between blog posts stretched sometimes into a week. It’s crazy to sit back and realize that you’ve actually let yourself feel guilty about not sticking to a PLAN that you devised yourself and has no dire consequences if it fails, isn’t it? Actually, the crazy part is feeling guilty while the SANE part is recognizing it I guess. I think part of my problem is still that I want EVERYTHING I do to be great. I mean, I don’t actually think that’s the case, because one look around this little apartment will tell you that I simply can’t keep up with the artistic creative geniuses that rule the roost here with all of their “projects” and the scraps of paper and snippets of pipe cleaners lying around are evidence enough that I’m either terribly inept at instilling discipline into the little artists or sorely lacking the energy and motivation necessary to follow them around with a waste receptacle. Heh heh! I’m actually really good at NOT doing either though. There ya go!

I think I’m just going to change up my plan. Just a tweak. Just a tad. Saying it “out loud” on the world wide web may help motivate me to see through to my goals, but the big change will be reminding myself not to get burdened by the guilt of not accomplishing something the way it was PLANNED. I’m in charge now. ME. MOI. And I’m not going to replace the negative criticism that I used to get from others with self doubts and flogging on my own. Self flogging for lack of blogging?? That’s bananas!! I guess when you get used to hearing things a certain way, your brain steps in to perpetuate a habit. I’m VOWING to break the HABIT! If I’m not going to break it, since the standards I’ve set for myself have typically been higher than what others require, then I’m at least going to wear that habit high and proud on my head and use to catch some wind and fly like that nun. Yeah, Baby! That’s going to be me now – The Flying Nun! I’m still going to pursue the writing. It’s something I enjoy. I’m also reinstating the fitness goal to get back to the gym at least three times per week and make it a habit though my motivational songs would make the ladies of the cloth blush. That’s OK. The Flying Nun is second to none and cut from a different cloth – one that takes Eminem at high volumes to keep from throwing in the towel. I just don’t think that’s going to send anyone to Hell either especially since I’m not teaching it to my kids or playing it in church. Organ music just wouldn’t get me moving, you know?

I think I could totally pull this off! Replace the crown and catch some air with this cool new headgear?

Novice Nun & Novice Writer? TOTALLY the same.

Bravo to ME & MY Reality! Wednesday, Aug 10 2011 


It’s been basically 2 1/2 months since I have watched cable TV. If you had told me that I’d have gone this long without my Bravo, E! or reality TV fix, I’d have called you all Pretty Little Liars. For most of the last decade, both daytime and evening television have revolved around kid shows with the only time available to watch my own shows being late-night. Even that only came in the last few years when we discovered the wonders of the DVR. As the kids grew, I graduated from Baby Einstein to Playhouse Disney and Noggin. PBS Kids taught me how to craft, like I really cared, but none of that was anything I’d ever sit and watch on my own. Actually, maybe I lie… I’ve TOTALLY caught myself doing something in a room with the TV on for background noise and looking up to see what kind of trouble Zack & Cody get themselves into next. Pathetic! This isn’t quite “The Suite Life” but it is sweet and the apartment transition has been eased by the antics of those Disney twins since the kids see & relate to how similar apartment living can be to hotel living without a big yard separating us from neighboring houses. It’s so social here! (Zero room service here though and I’m pretty sure the kids have tried. Bummer!)

My plan was to save up a little money once I got back to work to buy another digital box, the time killing boob tube recorder, and watch my guilty pleasures again once the kids went to bed. Maybe I don’t really need that box though! Back at the house, that’s what I did nearly EVERY SINGLE NIGHT; I caught up on my shows and would watch all the reality I could handle after everyone was asleep because sometimes the sensationalized reality made my own look better. Shocker!!! Most of the reality on TV while entertaining is pretty negative too. We still watch it though, don’t we, like flies on the wall and talk about the “characters” and the big hot messes that embarrass themselves on TV while preparing their tell-it-all books and spin-off shows. The Real Housewives are tons of fun to watch and have fabulous lives and friends yet inevitably drama ensues when friends call each other Moose and Hefer and pull each others hair out. (God!!! If you didn’t see THAT one you missed out!) Here’s my deal now though: My reality is pretty freaking entertaining ifIdosaysomyself!! At the end of each day now, I make an effort to replay my own day’s episodes of calm, hilarity, drama, TLC & occasional hair pulling violence from the kids. I like to sit on the balcony, listen to the crickets & frogs, and take down notes from the day. I’ve learned some lessons this summer:

  • I’m a Survivor dammit. I’ll outwit, outplay and outlast. I already knew that, but I remember thinking on May 21st – the day the wackjobs said world was “supposed” to end – that nothing is ever really a catastrophic as it seems. I had somehow thought my precious little world would end if I didn’t follow the big house/white picket fence/2.2 kids & a dog route that I had somehow believed provided security in every way. Life goes on and I’d rather be in control of my own strategy in this game. My “perfect” world didn’t end the week after that when I left either just because other people had predicted it would. Wackjobs… all of ’em!
  • My sisters and I have more fun together than the Kardashians and have never gotten arrested for ANYTHING. EVER. YET.
  • I’ll never be a Top Chef, but I can manage to cook with less supplies & gadgets than before. Good knives are important!! I wish, “Please pack your knives and leave” had been running through my head when I packed up and left.
  • I can still cook my own outstanding version of The Soup but I’m glad Joel McHale doesn’t have any clips from THAT meltdown.
  • There are enough inherited OCD traits contained in these 1100 square feet for episodes of Flipping Out every day yet my sense of humor is back so it’s usually easier to handle in spite of the close quarters.
  • I don’t need Million Dollar Decorators to make my kids happy with their rooms. We’ve conquered THAT issue with tape, thumbtacks, posters & candy wrappers. I would’ve been embarrassed for my friends to think I had such poor taste or discipline to have decorated my HOUSE that way. Who CARES!! My kids think their rooms are fancy and EXACTLY how they want them to be.
  • This little apartment looks like a giant art closet, and as my friend reminded me the other day, Tim Gunn would be proud of the way we Make It Work now!

YES! That is a Skittles wrapper taped to the wall because he likes Skittles. That switchplate is also made from a video game cover. Who needs a decorator??

  • I’ve laid low on the social scene I guess partly because the kids are out of school but also because I don’t need or want any drama. I’m stepping back when the drama ensues because I’m just at a point where I don’t have the energy to work very hard at maintaining friendships. I have FABULOUS friends but I’m learning to set better boundaries in order to keep them. Besides, our fairly solitary summer has let me feel a little more independent from EVERYONE without worrying who’s gonna check me, Boo?
  • Crabs are super delicious! I guess that’s not really a deep philosophical observation, but I love Deadliest Catch and I’ve eaten more this summer from our waters than any other. Totally shallow – both me AND the crabs!
  • America’s most DEFINITELY Got Talent! I LOVE the crazies on the stage, I REALLY do, but the three of us have taken some time to actually WRITE DOWN both the serious and crazy talents we recognize in each other. We entertain each other as well, and some day my little ones are going to venture out into the big wide world and share their talents that have been developed and nurtured. I do my best (though admittedly fail at times) to prepare them for the world stage. I can TOTALLY see an E! True Hollywood Story in the future.
  • MY reality CAN be better than scripted reality! Andy Cohen can keep me up to date once a week with the 411 from what I’ve missed on the tube while I pay attention to what goes on around ME. I don’t want to miss things as they happen LIVE especially with my kiddos. Sometimes it’s fun to sit back and just Watch What Happens LIVE.
  • We’re more a Modern Family than we ever were before. We can all be funny and wacky and dramatic and neurotic. We’re not going to be like Leave It To Beaver though; we never were and it’s exhausting trying to be something that you just simply aren’t. I guess the Christmas card will look a little different, but surely it won’t mean any less. My life is often like a soap opera, but I think I can manage to keep the drama in perspective. After all, my name is ERICA and I can do it for All My Children. 🙂

Something To Talk About Tuesday, Jul 19 2011 


Seven weeks ago I left my little “perfect” life that I had created and set out to do things on my own and in my own way. I left with an extra set of clothes for myself and the kids. The only other things I brought (other than makeup and a toothbrush of course) were my ancient laptop and my cute little monogrammed bag that held all of my tabbed and organized binders for my various volunteer committees. It was on my mind that in exactly one week I had a huge volunteer leadership retreat to pull off for some very talented women, and this was the first big event of the year for all of our committee chairs and board members to come together and plan. I had spent time and effort planning this with some really great gals and did not want to disappoint them, or more importantly myself, by dropping the ball. I had a Camping theme for the big event and had coordinated other people to present their ideas and activities around it. When I planned the theme and activities months before however, I hadn’t ACTUALLY planned on camping out at other people’s houses when this all went down. HA! Maybe they would just all think I was some sort of method actor who had to get into character by camping out with my kids for inspiration. Geez! Who was going to know about my recent hike from home and start fishing for answers. I was nervous, but I kept this old movie in my mind the whole time.

Does anyone remember that movie, Something to Talk About? The fabulously neurotic, Grace has a marriage which is falling apart, volunteer commitments and a family business to run and hilariously struggles to keep all of the balls she is juggling in the air.

I have a cookbook to put out, and a daughter to raise, and the God damn winter Grand Prix. And I just don’t have time for the nervous breakdown I deserve, so please, don’t ask me to stop and think! -Grace

Whoa! I didn’t have the whole cookbook thing since I’m not on THAT committee this year, but I was trying to pull together my big retreat for the year, manage the family business and raise my kids while being a little bit center stage as my marriage fell apart. When I left, I didn’t even tell my best friends, much less the glorious group of women that I would be facing exactly one week after my surprise flight. What if they all stared at me and actually knew everything already through the grapevine and were actually WAITING for me to fall apart as if EVERYONE would do that like they don’t have their own lives to lead and struggles to face?!?! Awesome!!!!! Just a few minutes into indulging that fantasy I had just proved myself to be conceited too by thinking anyone would CARE. Ohmygod! What if I lost my mind and stood up in front of everyone and had a super-massive-stress-induced-temporary-loss-of-sanity like Grace does and started pointing out flaws in everyone else’s marriages?!?! That would most CERTAINLY not be graceful. Or, maybe, what if, I dunno, I vomited in front of everyone when words tried to come out?? Even worse, what if I cried. Hard to believe I guess for most people, but crying in front of everyone would have been the worst case scenario for me. It would have shown some vulnerability that I was struggling to keep at arm’s length. Isn’t that CRAZY!?! I WOULD HAVE CHOSEN TO VOMIT PUBLICLY!!! I didn’t barf, though that would’ve been funny, and I think the event was a success thanks to a lot of great people. The parallels with the movie have continued though.

Somewhere in the movie, Grace’s mother tells her to stop making a spectacle of herself and to just accept how things commonly are. Return to life as normal and don’t set her expectations too high. Don’t cause any waves, right? Don’t make anyone else feel uncomfortable or God forbid awkward around her when they see her. She should DEFINITELY not question her place in life lest someone else feel inspired to do the same.

You’re telling me that if I just eat shit politely with a knife and fork and learn to swallow the handfuls of bullshit I’m served, then everything will be A-Okay? – Grace

Guess what I think? Eating SHIT makes you fat. It’s true! I should know. It works in two ways. First, listening to everyone around you tell you what you should want and should believe and should allow starts to get a little mind numbing. After a while, you quit being numb when life just doesn’t work that way for you and you get sad. Numb is easier than sad any day, so wine and another late night lonely dinner work to numb some people. Then you just start to feel like shit yourself and take the easy route… right through the drive through when everyone is hungry because it’s easier than listening to the kids complain about your culinary capabilities. Billy’s mom must actually feed her kids nuggets and jelly beans for every meal because the way I get looked at with my SOUP can NOT be normal, and THAT lady never looks tired. Before you know it, everyone is eating crap – both from the “truths” we’re fed by other people AND the fast and fried food that takes less effort – and we’re all FAT.

Let me tell you what I won’t do anymore; eat the shit that I’m served from other people around me even if it’s sugar-coated. A glass of wine to wash down the taste isn’t going make it any tastier either, and I’m pretty sure about that now. That’s the worst kind of crap to take, isn’t it? I mean, it’s all cleverly disguised, but it still stinks to high Heaven no matter what fancy china you choose! If you invite me over to a sugar-coated turd, bringing out the china just ends up making feel awkward and inferior anyway like I’m going to mess up and use the wrong fork if I even pretend to taste your delicacy. Please don’t get me wrong though. It really isn’t my place to stop YOU from eating the unpalatable. I will mind my manners and let you eat without saying a cross word, but someone please tell me how in the world am I supposed to trust you and your ideas about what is good and healthy when you’ve just eaten a turd the size of Texas and gone back for more! Now you are LITERALLY full of it! And your breath stinks too. And when you start to get all gassy and full of hot air by telling me everything you know to be true, I’m going to see it for what it is: a shitty burp. Go away and come back another day because lucky for me, my mama taught me that the only time it’s acceptable to eat excrement is when you’ve been in an earthquake and have to lay in the rubble waiting for rescuers. She meant that literally too, so your “perfect” marriage and “perfect” world crumbling down around you don’t count.

People are always going to find something to talk about, and the Bird People never run out of things to say. Something else will come along though, and I KNOW it’s gotta be more scandalous than me. I’m just a girl in a new little castle with bunnies and birds and a couple of dwarfs to entertain me. Here’s hoping that if this fairy tale ever hits the big screen, Julia Roberts herself will play me because SOMEHOW her movies keep ending up in my blog! Someone should call her. 🙂

Miracles & Luck Tuesday, Jul 12 2011 


It’s been about six weeks now since we moved into our little castle – long enough for us to get acclimated and learn to stand on our own feet. We passed a couple of milestones just the last couple of days. I’m not big on numbers. As a matter of fact I HATE numbers, and I am the very last person on the planet you would ever want balancing your checkbook. I’m not a big gambler either, though I live in an area where a lot is tied to the gaming industry. From what I know, there are certain combinations of numbers that are considered lucky. 7 and 11 are usually lucky numbers while 13 has always been considered unlucky. There is a wealth of information for anyone interested in the whole superstition, but the actual term for the phobia or fear of Friday the 13th is friggatriskaidekaphobia. I don’t believe in lucky or unlucky numbers but then again I’ve never won the jackpot either. I do know this though, anyone who trusts their life to dumb luck or a crap shoot is a friggan idiot. I don’t believe in luck, but I do believe in signs. And I believe in Miracles as well, ESPECIALLY when Miracles can serve as a sign. When I left six weekes ago, I really had no idea where this journey would take me, but someone once told me that life is about the journey not the destination. If I’d have known where I was going I might not have seen the signs along the way.

Anyone who was following the blog a few weeks ago will probably remember Our Little Miracle. She doesn’t know it, but I learned a lot from watching and speaking with Miracle. She was my little cheerleader, literally. I moved out on my own uncertain of what the future would bring, but I found a little Miracle next door. More than once, she brought out a pom-pom or doll to show me and never just talked about herself. She asked a LOT of questions and freely gave her own answers and advice whether we asked for it or not. One day when she and my son were having popsicles outside, the boy complained about how hot it was and that his popsicle was dripping everywhere. The girl responded matter-of-factly, “Suck it up!” He literally sucked up the melting juice, but I think she meant for him to quit his whining or take his pity party somewhere else.

On her balcony cheering me on...

Miracle told me that her favorite doll is Tiana from The Princess and The Frog. Of course it is! All the little girls, and even the boys around here love that movie. The film is set in New Orleans and just down the bayou where the characters talk like we do, though not all of us practice voodoo. The story is different from most fairy tales though, and that is exactly why I think it is so great. Fairy tales evolve over time and change their cultural relevance, and the Disney version of the tale is the one that holds the strongest meaning to me. Unlike the early versions where a princess kisses a frog who then turns into her prince and they live happily ever after, the Disney animated version shows a hard-working Tiana in control of her own destiny. It was when Tiana chose to try the easy route to fulfill her dreams by kissing the frog that she found herself lost in the swamp. I think I know a lot of girls around here my age who could relate to that! And guess what – I wouldn’t want to be the poor prince responsible for fulfilling someone else’s dreams either. That’s the kind of pressure that bubbles up and pops on the surface of a seemingly stagnant swamp. You’ve got problems and troubles like the rest of us? Well as Miracle would say, “Suck it up.” We make our own choices, and we live by the consequences. When we make a bad decision, life’s not over. Paddle yourself out of the swamp. You’re welcome to just sit there on your lily pad sulking and waiting for someone to come along and pull you out too, but I’m willing to bet my own lily white you-know-what that you’ll be waiting for a while. There are no guarantees that what comes along will be a prince, and if he is who’s to say he’ll want to carry you. Our little Miracle moved away this weekend, but miracles always come and go don’t they? I think I’m strong enough to navigate the swamps and bayous around here on my own now anyway.

Miracle with her Tiana doll from The Princess & The Frog

Yesterday was 7/11. Those are supposed to be lucky numbers, but 13 years ago on 7/11 my dad died. I wrote my first blog post, My Hail Mary, for Facebook in the wee hours of the morning of Friday the 13th, and it was good for me. Maybe the whole numbers/luck thing is backwards which would explain my backwards figures in the checkbook too where I am most certainly NOT lucky. Maybe even God forced my hand, and I’m finally taking charge of my own destiny. Either way you roll the dice, the only safe bet you have is to rely on yourself. How can anyone else count on you if you can’t even do it yourself. I hope my kids at least take that lesson from my fairy tale regardless of how it turns out, and I’ll take notes about my signs along the way for them to read and learn from later.

Walt Disney

Mayhem and Me Sunday, Jul 3 2011 


You know that guy from the Allstate commercials, Mayhem? Well I’m friends with him on Facebook. He’s with me in all my states of waking consciousness in life. I think one the best decisions I’ve made was finally accepting him as a friend and quit running away from him. He’ll chase you through the house, embarrass you in the carpool line and make your kids throw their chicken strips across The Olive Garden resulting in total mortification when the THUD hits the floor in front of the Cleavers at the next booth leaving you with the stabbing pains of guilt and humiliation. Just when I think I’m about to lose my ever-loving mind – which by the way I must say often enough that my boy has taken to repeating my tag line verbatim to Mario every time he crashes – Mayhem comes in and says something funny to break the tension.

Here’s the deal. Mayhem will let you embrace him. He just wants to be recognized. I pretended for a long time like he wasn’t there standing next to me pulling at my strings like a puppet master that caused me to look like some comedic poltergeist had taken over my body and those of my family for far too long. We hid him away like a crazy Aunt Edna that we kept in the closet so that we could all look perfect and proper. Well, guess what. Not anymore! Dude is coming along with me EVERYWHERE because he’s funny. He’s WAY funnier than his cousin Despair. I’ve made the mistake of actually INVITING that guy in and I’ll never do it again. It was my own fault really because I was the one the let that guy into our castle. The husband and the kids and even the dog had to pick up his mess. That’s the guy that you do NOT want around. He’s the one who makes you cry and sleep and cry again until you fall asleep. He’ll plop his tush on the couch and settle in with a bag of Cheetos and then have the nerve to ask you to bring him a beer and wipe his orange fingers on your lovely upholstery and there won’t be anything funny about it. (more…)