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

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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.

We ALL Deserve A Break Today Sunday, Sep 25 2011 


Yesterday while walking through the park and around the lake, I had another one of those episodes where somehow just putting in my ear buds and grooving to my raunchy yet oddly motivating booty music seemed to put me in my own little world. It’s really a bizarre character flaw and not nearly as cool as when the Potter kids throw on their invisibility cloak, though it works in a similar fashion. The loud thumping in my ears somehow hinders proper brain function and makes me think I’m invisible to the lowly peons around me. It happens at the gym all the time. Well, not that I’m actually AT the gym all the time. I just mean that when I AM there, it’s likely to happen and thoughts fly out of my mouth aloud. I know this happens because I’ve gotten weird looks from people right after they’ve gotten in my way and I’ve thought to “myself” how annoying they are. Barring the possibility that they are actual mind readers, it’s highly likely that irritated sighs and sounds escape from my mouth. My sister thinks I’m crazy. I think it’s funny. I need the music to keep me going anyway so there isn’t much of a choice and alone with my private thoughts (hell, maybe not so private if my thoughts become vocalized) I sometimes make sense of things in today’s hectic life.

As on any beautiful weekend day, the park was packed. There were hippies playing frisbee, couples sitting in the shade and on park benches, old men sitting along the seawall in their folding chairs with their fishing poles, boats launching, family reunions under the pavilions, and birthday parties. This Saturday night in addition to the flock of seagulls, there was a wedding party and groups of high school kids each with its own set of paparazzi taking pictures in front of the fountain all dolled up in their fancy gowns. So I ran. I ran so far away. I ran all night and day. I couldn’t get away. (Well, maybe I walked, but if I said that then you wouldn’t get the whole Flock of Seagulls song reference would you??) I didn’t want my picture snapped sans makeup in my funky sweat gear and ball cap photobombing all the beautiful people and becoming immortalized in family albums for years to come. I remember thinking when I saw the children’s birthday parties how I often wish my social set here would occasionally take things back to a simpler time when kiddie parties were simply cake and ice cream with pin the tail on the donkey.

Nowadays, things seem to be so much more complicated often resulting in unnecessary stress and expense. There are petting zoos and princess themes with teams of divas that show up at your house like Extreme Home Makeover to transform your daily “drab” inferior interior into a party fit for a queen but most importantly… the other parents. Look, I love those parties and the truth is, many people ENJOY throwing those kinds of parties so I don’t want to sound like one of the bitter people who simply can’t keep up and feels they must. I do think though that for the parents out there who feel discouraged and max out the credit cards trying to be the ultimate hosts and hostesses, maybe they should take a step back and think about what really matters and what it is their own children would really be comfortable with having. True, my own little ones attend these parties and want the equivalent, but perhaps they just haven’t been to enough of the simple ones where all they need is a bathing suit and sprinkler. Here’s what’s gone through MY mind when considering these options when money’s been tight:

  • Maybe my kid will feel like he’s the poor kid on the block – like the one who’s mama actually MAKES him where a homemade superhero costume on Halloween while Flash Gordon over there has real working light up stuff that shoots lasers or something at the big kids who get in his way of the candy. (GREAT! Now I’ve got Halloween anxiety which is quickly approaching after talking about my birthday party anxiety. 😦 )
  • Maybe if I don’t provide enough food for all the little children AND their parents, people will starve and kids will start asking their parents, “Where’s the pizza, Mama?” right in front of me so that I have to run and call Papa John like that was really the plan all along and give him my credit card so nobody passes out or worse… TALKS ABOUT ME!
  • Maybe if I go the cheap route and do it at home none of the kids will come. See, maybe their parents are kinda shy – or even bitchy – and feel uncomfortable having to sit on my couch with a bunch of other parents until all the cake has been eaten and the presents have been opened. That’s just awkward for some people and I TOTALLY get it. Maybe for them, sitting around on the backyard patio with all the properly coiffed mamas feels like high school all over again wondering which lunch table to sit at.
  • Maybe I need to casually walk my kid to and from class every morning and every afternoon instead of carpool line and chit-chat with the parents so that the new ones get to know me and think I’m friendly and won’t avoid the party because they don’t know any of the other parents.
  • Maybe some of these people can’t afford the barrage of parties every weekend and the presents that accompany them. I don’t want to make them feel like they HAVE to go, but I really WANT them to go just so my own kid doesn’t get disappointed that so-and-so from class isn’t there. (Don’t even get me STARTED now on the expense of birthday party presents every weekend when you’re trying to mask the fact that you’re flat broke at this particular stage in your life but are trying to please your own kids by allowing them to attend and the birthday kids by not disappointing them)

I remember last year when a friend of mine went through a similar dilemma. She was on a strict budget with three little ones and was pregnant with her fourth while her husband was serving overseas. These moms get my applause on a daily basis but ESPECIALLY when trying to throw together a birthday party all by themselves. I couldn’t remember all of the details this morning so I asked her about it. She actually had to ask WHICH party “disaster” I was referring to from this year. Was it the one where she stopped to pick up pizza and ice cream making her late for the party and arrived home with the only key to find the guests waiting in the front yard in the middle of January in COLORADO? Or was it the other one that she posted about on Facebook where hardly any kids showed? Damn! I felt bad for her, but I remember TONS of people commenting on her status and fessing up to trying to keep up with other PARENTS when what really mattered was the CHILDREN. She did a great job and her little man was happy which was really all that mattered. This is what she posted when she felt discouraged and all of  the festivities were complete:

Threw the world’s lamest birthday party this afternoon. But the guest of honor was happy so it wasn’t a total flop. My house was a mess. I took a nap instead of making cupcakes. (Luckily there were enough gluten-free ones that my friend brought for her son with Celiac to go around for all the kids.) We sang him happy birthday but there were no candles to blow out. He probably set the world record for speed-opening of gifts – all 6 in under 75(?) seconds. Then he played his new Wii games while ignoring all his guests.

I woke this morning to another old friend’s pictures from her son’s birthday party on Facebook. SHUT UP!!! I had no idea they still have birthday parties at McDonald’s. Are you KIDDING ME?!?! It looked like she had a few close friends for her son’s 5th birthday party and all those sweet little booboos wear wearing party hats and big ‘ol smiles. Not a grimace was to be found (and I DID look for that big purple blob. What IS he anyway??) I had a couple of birthday parties at Mickey D’s myself and lots of my friends did too. I have memories of the that chocolate cake with Ronald on top and the whipped icing with sprinkles. I still remember hand clapping to the all beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame seed bun song. Who did NOT climb to the top of that big hamburger jail that used to be on all of the playgrounds and bounce on those spring-loaded Fry Guy things on Mayor McCheese’s turf? That was before Chuck E Cheese came into the picture and when the only THEME your party had to have was for the plates and napkins. I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite because I LOVE a good theme party, but I’ve caught myself sinking enough money into these themes to where I’d have sworn Hamburglar came along and wiped out my checking account. This year we simply couldn’t swing the super fancy party favors that are a gift themselves to every tiny party goer so I took the kids down to Party City with instructions to get some little things to fill the plastic goody bags. After roaming the aisles and perusing the party picks, we finally found the Cars 2 display and the sales clerk asked me if we needed any help. Leave it to my kid to smile and say, “No thanks! We’re buying a bunch of cheap stuff made in China to put in the goody bags!” CRAP!! I was mortified but crap is what we bought and none of the kids OR parents seemed to mind when we handed them out. In fact, I think I’m super lucky. We got strong armed into having the festivities at the roller rink but I seriously doubt any of those other parents would have said a word if we’d blown up balloons and thrown streamers around at the park. My own anxiety about these kinds of things gets to me, but I’m thinking that I’m not alone. Retro is in, and if any of the other sometimes-anxious-overly-eager-to-please-their-child-and-live-up-to-the-standards-set-by-today’s-world folks wanna give it a try, cop a squat at the local park and don’t feel inferior to the folks with the back-yard carnivals at their McMansions. I promise you’ll see others doing the same, and don’t we ALL deserve a break today?

(For anyone interested: Check out this article from retrojunk.com I found when I started looking for picture. THIS will take you back!!) http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/4432/

The Tales of Mother (and the) Goose Wednesday, Sep 21 2011 


I often think, speak, and write in analogies. It’s just the way I am, and it helps me to make sense of things around me especially when life gets a little chaotic. The other morning while sipping coffee on the balcony, a tiny little hummingbird flew up to me, hovered about five feet in front of me for about 15 seconds and then flew away. We looked at each other and for once I did not attempt to take a picture for fear of scaring off the little creature. I was Quick Draw McGraw on the symbolism according to Google however and posted my discovery on Facebook to share:

A hummingbird just flew up to me on the balcony & stared at me for about 15 seconds so I googled symbolism: timeless joy and the Nectar of Life. It’s a symbol for accomplishing that which seems impossible and will teach you how to find the miracle of joyful living from your own life circumstances. Right On!! Today is MY day, suckas!!

I’ve never seen hummingbirds near my new little castle, and it’s not like I was wearing a big red hummingbird feeder costume to entice some new little creature into my blogging realm. As I continued my research and delved into all things hummingbird related, I also discovered that the sprite little creatures also represent perseverance. Have you ever realized that unlike other birds who can just glide and coast through the air, the hummingbird must constantly beat its little wings to stay aloft? That’s like people too, isn’t it? For some people, at certain times, things just seem to come easy to them allowing them to coast through life while others must swiftly and continuously flutter their wings to keep from falling. Somewhere in my reading, I found some theories that spoke to me that morning and talked about savoring the Nectar of Life. These tiny birds are constantly beating their wings, but they are also capable of hovering in place in order to take their time and savor their nectar. Their ability to fly backwards can show us how we may all be able to look back on our past in order to learn from it yet not hover and dwell on it forever. I’ve never seen a hummingbird ONLY fly backwards! I want to be like a hummingbird!! And if I were ever to get a tattoo, it would be a hummingbird. (But I won’t. Because I don’t like needles. Or permanent body art that could sag and morph with an aging body. And because I’d be embarrassed if 30 years from now someone looked at my sweet little misshapen bird and mistook it for a vulture once everything stretched out and spread.) That hummingbird was a MESSENGER bird and my Google app said so!!

I carried on with my day and headed into The Shop with an extra spring in my step despite the dreary weather and Monday blahs that float about and seem to hover over so many people. I call our store, “The Shop” because that’s simply what we’ve called the beauty and cosmetic business for 50 years now, but I like to think of it as The Family Dynasty and since I run a lot of the daily business that makes me The Empress. All the women on Mama’s side of the family have worked there at one time or another – my grandmother, mother, aunt, cousins, sisters – and drama is the norm as in the televsion version of Dynasty. As I was covering some of the menial duties that should really fall onto servants and perhaps some day will, Mama scurried into the store with her OWN bird tale from that morning. She was visibly shaken and her feathers were all in a ruffle as she recounted what had happened to her while walking along the seawall that morning.

It seems somewhere along her route, Mama encountered a flock of geese. Assuming they were harmless and that she herself appeared friendly and non-threatening to all of God’s creatures, she continued along the walking path and approached their ground. THAT’S when all hell broke loose. According to Mama, the birds began squawking and the flock of furious feathered fowl chased her! Mama got flustered and sped up to no avail. Apparently there was a ringleader in the bunch and as it closed the gap between the group and Mama, she quickly responded like any modern-day woman would and threatened it with the pepper spray attached to her key chain. By threaten, I mean she screamed because it was doubtful that the goose would have been worldly enough to simply catch a glimpse of her unsnapping the spray and been all like, “WHOA!!! We picked the WRONG mama to screw with! This wild-eyed crazy bitch is armed with SPRAY! And that’ll burn my eyes and throat sumpin’ FIERCE! This goose is COOKED!” No. Uh-uh. Holding out the menacing mace in a threatening manner and screaming at it to move did NOT work on the flock, and unfortunately Mama couldn’t get the little twisty nozzle to twist open. God help her because the curious fisherman watching the spectacle most certainly did NOT. She did her best to racewalk like an Olympian with full on hip swinging and arm pumping and managed to escape the menacing bunch and seek shelter in her car with the doors LOCKED I’m sure for added protection. This is the point in the story that Mama came to the conclusion that the foul ringleader was RABID. She watched it fly out onto the lake after the group retreated and feels pretty confident that its feathers were all astray like a MAD goose’s feathers would be. “Oh. Dear. God,” thought Mama when she next realized what was happening; the other geese had TURNED on the ringleader and were trying to peck it to death. There is no way Mama could be wrong about this either because she saw it happen with her own two eyes and surmised that the other geese had realized the rabid nature of their leader and turned on it. “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” thought Mama and smugly watched its evil demise as she rounded the corner to retreat to her own side of the lake.

I relayed the account of the attack to my friends on Facebook and even posted a couple of pictures of Mama telling her bird tale as a follow-up post to MY morning encounter with MY bird. The whole bit was ridiculous really and had turned into a farce of sorts as people made their suggestions as to what they thought was the significance of our separate encounters. One friend pondered that perhaps my messenger bird had been sent to warn me of Mom’s impending attack. Maybe. Could be. Who knows. I didn’t throw out all the crumbs of information to my own flock of Facebook followers at the time though.

What many people don’t know is that my mother is an amputee. Just a few years after my father died suddenly, Mama was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive form of cancer. In layman’s terms, a cancer of the sweat gland in the heel of her foot caused her to lose a portion of her leg below the knee. She rarely limps, never opted for any handicapped type parking permit, and people who meet her or even see her walk have no idea that she has this disability. She wears pants and long skirts and boasts a collection of cute little Mary Jane shoes that work for her and keep her in step with the fashion forward set for the most part. What she cannot do – and really has no desire to do – is run… EXCEPT when she’s been chased by a rabid goose. When she was telling us about her real life re-enactment of The Birds, she said that when her pepper spray failed to flip open, she quickly had to think of another option should she not be able to out pace the flock. Never one to just simply sit back and take things as they come, Mama devised a plan whereby if 1 or more geese were to get within brain or eye pecking distance, she would use what the good Lord had given her…. and beat hell out of the birds using her artificial leg as a club. Better not mess with THIS Mother, Goose!!!! I wonder what the by standing fisherman would have done if THAT scenario had actually played out?!

Mama left the store shortly after her tale and returned with a brand new purple can of mace. She was a little disheartened to learn from the clerk at the police supply store that the spray may not turn a goose into a quivering heap like it would for a HUMAN attacker since geese are not capable of inhaling the fumes in quite the same way that a boogeyman would. That’s OK. Mom is up to the challenge. She will aim directly at the offenders eyes taking especially careful aim if a predator is of the non-human variety. I will not be surprised if I pull around to the back of the house and find her practicing her shot in the wood pile while properly choreographing her ninja-like moves and KAY-YA noises in preparation for her next encounter. She will NOT stop walking the seawall because of geese nor will she let the mockingbird types keep her down.

I warned the kids that night to stay away from Mimi’s new purple can and that it will burn their eyes like fire if they even get anywhere near it which means that I have also relayed the two vastly different bird encounters of that day to them as well. Sometimes, kids say things that really help you to see things in a whole new light and shock you with their simplistic wisdom. As we talked about what I had Googled relating to hummingbirds and Mama’s big adventure, my daughter made a pretty insightful analogy. She recently auditioned for the lead roles in The Little Mermaid and drew a couple of parallels. She won’t be playing her dream role of Ariel, but she WILL get to play a mermaid and isn’t that like the “miracle of joyful living from your own life circumstances” as I had copied to my Facebook status that morning?? And HEY!! What about how the three of us installed our very own wireless modem and wireless printer ALL BY OURSELVES without calling anyone to help us?!! That is a HUGE accomplishment and people would never have thought we’d be able to do THAT if they’d seen the two-hour long drama that preceded it.

Really, it wasn’t until late that night while sitting on the balcony and listening to the frogs that I was able to recall the events of the day and put them into perspective. Tons of analogies flew straight into my brain while I pondered what I’d observed and learned from the day. I think I’m fortunate. In fact, I think I’m incredibly fortunate, and I’m also very grateful. I think life’s circumstances can vary so much from year to year but your outlook on life is what can make or break you. Sometimes that outlook is learned from the families we were born into or the people we choose to fly with. I think we can even learn valuable lessons from people with whom we choose NOT to associate. The geese in Mama’s story were the aggressors, and I know plenty of those types, but I also remember what my dad used to tell me about geese that relates to how we are as a family. Daddy taught me that geese fly in V formation. The lead bird at the point of the formation has a tough position. His job is tiring while the geese that follow benefit from the upwash of his position allowing them to reduce air resistance and better glide. The birds take turns leading the formation to reduce fatigue, and I guess that’s also how the birds in this family flock fly as well. We stick together, keep each other in our sights, and take over the tough exhausting positions when it’s our turn. We’ll squawk and honk at you too if you hang back and try to coast on our efforts for too long though so everyone has to toe the line.

Birds of a feather flock together.

There’s always more to every story, and there’s more to mine that not everyone knows as well. Just as Mama had a very rare type of cancer, I too was diagnosed and overcame cancer. Mine was an extremely rare cancer of the eye that was diagnosed when I was 6 and resulted in me losing my left eye. Not all mother-daughter-duos battle the odds and get brand-spankin’-new body parts custom-made for them either do they? It’s another way that we are unique. Mom’s cancer and recovery occurred while she was an adult so she had to adjust to new ways of doing every-day things and living while mine is just something that I grew up adjusting to so I can’t tell you that I’ve ever known anything different. I suppose people could look at both situations and make their own determination about which situation would be worse, but again I think it’s all about perspective. I sat through a law class one time in college when the professor used an example to illustrate personal damages in a way that stunned me. He was a wonderful teacher who had NO CLUE about my personal circumstances and neither did the rest of the class. He proposed a scenario whereby we had just gotten into a class fight and someone lost an eye from a hurled piece of chalk and the class was challenged to discuss all the damages and reparations that could possibly result from being left with a life long disability. Assumptions were thrown out and even tasteless jokes only because they had NO idea that I lived with the “disability” they were describing. At nineteen, with my whole life ahead of me, I silently sat and listened to people describe what my life SHOULD have been like; freakish looking, would never be found attractive therefore limited ability to date, marry and have kids. One guy actually suggested that he would rather die and no amount of damages could be awarded to appease him. Certainly anyone without any depth perception could never compete in sports and some of these kids did and would have a limited set of skills that would hinder future jobs and earning potential. It was pretty grim and the jokes weren’t really funny, but after Dad did his best to console me that afternoon my perception changed and more depth was added to my character. I decided that I was pretty lucky to have the positive outlook and family support with which I had been blessed. Those poor little shits must not have come from a family that teaches you that when rabid geese attack, don’t lay down and die just because you can’t run!! Pull off your custom-made state-of-the-art artificial leg and BEAT THE FIRE OUT OF ‘EM!!!

I think that hummingbird WAS a messenger. It’s appearance set the tone for that Monday – a day that is sometimes easy to just coast mindlessly through while wishing for the far off weekend. I started my day actively looking for what it was that God must have meant for me to see. I have no way of knowing what I was supposed to have learned, but maybe I didn’t even HAVE to learn anything. Maybe the point was just to recognize the joy in the little things in my life right now. They are everywhere and most anything can bring on an appreciative grin or even belly busting laugh if I look at it right. I know that philosophy isn’t always easily maintained, so I’m going to do my best to be like the hummingbird and persevere while savoring the nectar. There’s ALWAYS some there and I just have to remember to look for it.

Cajun Mermaid Ballad Friday, Sep 9 2011 


I live in a state that ranks first in a lot of areas, mainly the undesirable ones. We have high poverty, illiteracy and obesity yet our culture is one that embraces the traditions of fun, family, food and revelry so everyone knows how to pass a good time. There are still areas where Cajun French is spoken  and not just back in the swamps. I’ve often heard old timers in public using it as a sort of secret language that allows them to express their heritage and keep outsiders from eavesdropping. The language and dialect are like music to my ears and in my mind I can almost hear those old accordions and fiddles playing the ballads of a time long ago.

I grew up fishing and crabbing the waters around here on the weekends with my family so this past weekend seemed like the perfect opportunity to take the kids out and make our own memories. Tropical Storm Lee had just passed through and left sunshine and cooler temperatures so Mother Nature seemed to be calling us to the Cajun Riviera. I guess my upcoming birthday was also on my mind and the idea of reliving my youth and the nostalgia such a trip would provide sounded enticing. On a whim, we grabbed our towels, binoculars and bucket for collecting shells and headed for the coast. Against my better judgement, I also phoned my mom just to let her know where we would be heading for the day and received a barrage of nervous chatter about my clunker of a car, bridges and AAA Emergency Road Services. I assured her that we would be fine and would indeed call if something happened. I also promised to stay in the car if we broke down and not sit on the side of the road like alligator bait.

Louisiana is known as The Sportman’s Paradise and the Creole Nature Trail is refered to as Louisiana’s Outback. I remembered visiting the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge as a kid and thought my own little ones would enjoy walking out to the wooden lookouts and spotting all of the beautiful flora and fauna native to our area. A day spent exploring and appreciating in the great outdoors was set to provide the refuge I needed from the TV, internet, and irritating video games the kids are obsessed with. In the spirit of full disclosure, we do not all live off the land like what you see on The History Channel’s Swamp People though the folks around here do not need subtitles to understand what’s being said like the rest of the country does. I’ve been to bars around here that are indeed only accessible by boat like The Prop Stop – home of The Worm Bucket – but that’s the exception to the rule and girls like me typically like to go out without the windblown hair and eau de swampwater smell.

As we cruised south with our windows cracked, I tried to spot gators sunning themselves near the road, but I had no help from the backseat. I could hear the reason why; that damn Mario and his friends, Luigi, Peach and Toad has joined us for this journey. I resisted the urge to throw the shiny little hand-held devices through the open windows and into the marsh and simply drove a little faster to our destination. The kids were excited and ready to see the alligators… UNTIL the youngest realized that we were indeed in the wild and that any alligators present would not be contained in cages.

It appears HE was the one disturbed and determined NOT to be food for the gators

We spotted several tourists but not a single alligator much to our disappointment, so we headed for the refuge our car, picked up steam and headed towards The Gulf of Mexico. A few minutes later we arrived and drove straight out onto the sand. We kicked off our shoes and grabbed the bucket  for the shells and bread for the birds and THANKFULLY the Nintendo DSs stayed behind as well. The water isn’t blue here and the sand isn’t white, but my kids love it and I reminded them of how lucky we are to live so close to the coast; Not just ANYBODY can go look for alligators and wade in the waves on merely a whim! I watched as the kids enthusiastically gathered shells of every size and color though what we took was merely a drop in the bucket. They soon realized that they couldn’t take EVERY cool shell and became more selective with their treasures. I promised them that we would keep some of the shells in a bowl at the apartment just like the one I left back at the house for them to enjoy with their dad. Hot damn! I even think I’ll let the little artists use HOT GLUE and create picture frames to display memories from this impromptu coastal excursion. There are plenty of smiling shots to choose from, but perhaps the biggest grin was from Sis when she explained to Bubba about all the sea life that had probably peed in the exact same where he had chosen to soak.

We tossed bread to the seagulls and named one of them Scuttle after the bird in The Little Mermaid. I watched lovingly as my daughter sculpted a mermaid in the sand and shells as she sang songs. She seemed to be channeling some inspiration. She had a milestone of her own approaching; auditions for the musical, The Little Mermaid, were just days away and MY little mermaid had gathered the courage and confidence to audition with all of the older girls for a singing speaking part. Though she’s the youngest of the cast, she chose to audition for the two lead parts because as she has explained to people who’ve inquired, “How would I EVER get my dream role if I don’t even TRY?!” The pride I feel when I see and hear her make such simple yet profound statements makes my heart jump out of my chest and flip and roll like the waves that tumble ashore. That’s MY girl, and I’ll be the lunatic fan in the audience that claps and cheers for her with whatever lines she utters.

The Little Mermaid

As the sun set, we set back out for home and a bite to eat. Much to my son’s dismay, I bypassed the fast food for some sit-down seafood, and he declared that he would SEE the food but not EAT it. Someday he’ll appreciate it though, and the smell will bring him back to a time when we went scavenging for shells on sand. He claims to appreciate what we have here but that doesn’t mean he wants to eat alligator OR be eaten BY an alligator so I let him get his “cajun” chicken strips and promised to cross the street and let him see the alligators that were fenced into a special CONFINED habitat. After all of the lecturing I had done throughout the day on appreciating our natural resources and native species of animals, plants and birds, a stranger came to us and helped put it all into perspective. While searching for the alligators behind the safety of the chain link fence, a nice tourist from out-of-state kindly pointed out the baby gator floating amid the algae. He quipped about how odd it must be for the alligator to smell the fried seafood wafting across the road yet it smelled so delicious that he and his family may just wander into Steamboat Bill’s for a bite. He explained that they had just driven past the beautiful old homes along the lakefront and how fortunate those people were to live there. His family had stopped here and checked out the area on their way back onto the interstate. I don’t think he just HAPPENED to stop there though after driving around the lake and the home where I was raised. Something brought that man to exactly where we were at exactly the right time so that my children could hear from someone who had just discovered the treasures of our area.

In other areas of the world, they don’t have the same sounds and smells and sights that we have here. I want to see these places and experience their cultures and appreciate their differences, but this is where I want to ultimately be. New people, places & things are exciting and valuable, but they don’t whisk me back to simpler times when my Sunday nights were spent sunburned and smelling of saltwater while complaining about Monday morning school. This place and this land makes me proud just as my children do even if we aren’t always on the “right” lists. It’s a place to be cherished and preserved, and visiting here should be on everyone’s Bucket List but I don’t have to tell that to anyone around here. I’d just be singing another old Cajun ballad to the choir.

I’m Officially TRASHY Tuesday, Aug 30 2011 


SCRAM!

I’m trashy and it’s OFFICIAL so you can add that to my list of character flaws. Actually it’s the fault of my self-diagnosed A.D.D. that will force you to add it to the laundry list so I’ll carry on and air my dirty laundry via my blog and maybe someone will relate. Guess what I did yesterday! I took my trash to work with me. Yep!! NO, it wasn’t like one of those “Bring your daughter to work” days designed to raise any kind of awareness or educate the nation’s youth. I simply brought my trash with me on accident, but I did educate myself a little and manage to bring about a higher level of self-awareness. Let’s hope it sticks and congeals.

This is how I handle the unglamorous chore of taking out the trash which makes a LOT of sense I think: I bag my trash at night and then put it outside my front door in my direct line of sight where I can’t simply get distracted and walk around it. Then when I leave the next morning, I carry my bag of refuse to my car and place it on the hood since my SUV does not have a trash platform/trunk. See, no matter how junky the inside of my car is, I refuse to carry refuse INSIDE my car whether it’s bagged or not. What if garbage juice leaks out onto the floor or seats of my car?!? That would stink LITERALLY! I then drive VERY SLOWLY AND CAREFULLY to the dumpster since my view through the windshield is somewhat obstructed depending on how much trash I’m towing and toss it gingerly into the receptacle on my way out of the complex. Sure I get looks when I sometimes hang my head out of the window to see where I’m going but I manage to navigate my way safely around the obstacles and reach my destination which is not far away.

I decided yesterday, after some yahoo threw me a dirty look like he was hurling a rotten tomato at me the day before, to double bag my trash and carry it in the backseat down to the dumpster on my way to work. Well, Hell! I got distracted and forgot to dump my baggage before starting the new day. CRAP! I didn’t realize til I was half-way into work so I trucked along and pulled out the trash when I exited the car and disposed of it outside the mall where the security guards were probably watching me on camera and shaking their collective heads. Whatever.

My mind started going on some analogies though that I HAVE decided to try and carry along with me now. I should’ve stuck with my guns no matter how quirky I sling them. If I’d ignored the guy’s stupid look, then I’d have carried on with what works for me and slung my baggage into the proper bin without carting all the way across town. I’m doing that from now on so that I don’t get discombobulated and one day TOTALLY forget the bag in the hot steamy car while putrid gases and who knows what accumulate before I have to sit in the carpool line. I’ll embarrass the hell out of myself if the duty teacher opens the door to THAT so driving a little eccentrically through the complex is nothing. It’s a simple theory so why make things more difficult and complex for myself?

I’m going to take my time, in my own way, and leave all of the trash and baggage behind in other ways too. I think it’ll start my day off right and help to keep from cluttering up my mind and schedule. What if I actually took all of the mistakes made from the previous day, threw them into the trash and started with a fresh new silver lining for the new day?! THAT’S what I’m going to do!! Wallowing in my collected trash will just make me grouchy like Oscar anyway. I may carry it around for a minute for the world (wide web) to see while pondering things on the blog, but then I’ll toss it out for someone else to carry away and start fresh. If anyone gives me dirty looks again I’ll just tell them to SCRAM! God probably doesn’t want me weighed down and towing everything along as it accumulates like a big ole burden anyway. I’ll just hand things over, recycle what can be made better, and toss the rest. It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, and I’m feeeeeeling good!

(Just so you know, my brain was tossing around yesterday’s post combined with this one and hummed the TRASHY lyrics from She’s Crafty by The Beastie Boys the whole time I was writing this. I almost started with, “Now here’s a little story I’ve got to tell…” but I’ve just thrown in a little Nina Simone into the mix and the soundtrack for today seems a little garbled like it’s all mixing up and being crunched together in the back of my big truck compactor. I should make a disc… a COMPACT disc!! BING! Nevermind… I’m going to work :-/ )

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. 🙂

The Mouths Of Babes Friday, Aug 5 2011 


Mom

What

Guess what!

What

I’ll tell you what! Some people are allergic to things. Did you know that?

Yes

How’d you know that?

I just did

You know what else?

What

I think I’m allergic to lots of things.

No you’re not.

I think I’m allergic to vegetables and pasta and rice and meat and fish and shrimp.

No you’re not.

How do you know that??

Because you’ve eaten those things before.

No I haven’t! I don’t like them.

Well, you did before you can remember and before you decided not to like them. And just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean you’re allergic.

I never ate shrimp!!

Yes you did. I gave you popcorn shrimp from the deli at WalMart to keep you quiet every time I grocery shopped. You just don’t like shrimp OR being quiet anymore.

You GAVE me SHRIMP?!?!!!! I could’ve DIED!!!

But you didn’t.

But I could’ve!

But you DIDN’T!!!

You didn’t know that when you gave it to me though!!!

Well…. But…

I can’t even believe you DID that.

Well, I gave you peanuts too and you liked them and you’re not allergic to them either. HA!

But I’m allergic to peanut butter though.

No you’re NOT!! Just because you somehow love PEANUTS but hate peanut butter & jelly sandwiches does NOT mean you are ALLERGIC to that. You just don’t LIKE it. TOTALLY different.

No it’s not.

Yes it is. I’m not arguing with you.

Mom

What

Guess what

What

I”ll tell you what. I need to find out what I’m allergic to.

Fine. When we go to WalMart, I’ll get some foods that lots of people are allergic to and you can taste each one so we can see what happens. Maybe you’ll find something new to start eating that you like.

Are you KIDDING me?!?! I saw that show where the guy’s tongue got real big because he ate cinnamon.

Then we can put cinnamon on our list.

MOM!!!! NO!!! I mean if I eat something then my tongue could get fat and you’d have to take me to the hospital.

Then how do you want to find all this out?

You said Aunt E had an allergy test. I could do that.

FINE!!! We’ll go there and they can stick a bunch of needles in you to see how you react if that’s what you want.

HUH?!?! Why do they use NEEDLES??

So they can get under the skin and see how your skin reacts. YOU are getting a little under MY skin now.

Huh? I don’t have any NEEDLES!! Who invented needles anyway?

Probably Mr. Needle and named it after himself because he was VEIN. I’m so funny!

Why?

Nevermind.

Mom

What

What does REACT mean?

It means if they poke you and if a bump comes up like a mosquito bite that itches, then BINGO! You get to be allergic to something and I’ll be very happy for you.

I’m not doing that.

Then quit talking about it.

Why?

Because you’re giving me a headache.

Are you allergic to something you think??

NO!!!

Can you be allergic to people?

I’m starting to think so.

Maybe I’m allergic to you even though I like you like when people eat a good dessert that has allergic stuff on it. How far is the hospital?

1 mile. It’s where you were born. I’ll just bring you back.

Nevermind.

(35 minutes later)

MOM!

What

Gueth Wha (Sticking out tongue to show me something)

What

Thumthing’s comin oudda my tongue (shows me the veins beneath his tongue)

You’re fine. Those are veins.

FANGS!!??!?!!!

NO, NOT FANGS!!!! You ARE starting to suck the life out of me though. Your tongue is not swollen. You just ate the same fruit you eat every day of your life. You are NOT allergic to anything INCLUDING me. Those are VEINS. They are all over your body. We all have them. Now, let me write my blog.

Fine. What are you writing about?

You being allergic to things

I’m not allergic to anything. Why do you think I’m allergic to something???

(To be continued…)

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