Monday, September 29, 2008

Caffeine IV's

I am starvin' like Marvin! This could very possibly be a result of it being 4:30 pm, being up since 6:30 am, and only having coffee today...

But I love coffee! Hubby gets his one small mug and I get two and a half coffee bowls, which incidentally, is the rest of the 12 cup pot. I believe with every fiber in my being that caffeine adds IQ points, and at this stage of the game, I need as many booster IQ points as I can accumulate.

I am currently awaiting the advent of the caffeine IV, at which time I will mow down people to get to the front of the permanent IV line. I'd be Wonder Woman, I'm sure of it. I'm also sure that a patch wouldn't cut it. I need the direct, in-line-to-the-vein caffeine... like I currently get from my jumbo-mug (ok, mugSSSSS) of coffee.

I also know that soda doesn't do it for me. I don't zing like a speed-freak on skates without my java. Mountain Dew, Jolt Cola, you just can't put me at full Def con-5-alert like I need to be. And those so-called energy drinks? What the hell is up with that aftertaste? If I wanted to eat sweet-tobacco and dirt, I'd move to the Carolinas. I'm a smoker and those things taste nasty, I can't imagine if I actually had fully-functioning taste buds. Pitewey!

But I do realize that for all it's heaven-sent properties, that coffee doesn't possess a single atom of protein. I get this, I do actually eat (trust me on this, my pant size doesn't lie--I EAT!), but I prefer to drink my manna from Colombia--although, it must be processed. Regular coffee is swill. Espresso, cappuccino, French Roast, even Community Coffee's Between Roast, as long as it's not fully 'regular Colombian coffee'... That will be what I start drinking if I ever decide that I have a coffee addiction problem and need to go to self-imposed coffee rehab--I'd be clean in a matter of days.

One of the things that I love about coffee is how personalized it can be and no one looks at you like you're mental. Every coffee drinker is, in this one way, a snob. We want our coffee a certain way. We may-MAY- make do with what is served us, but then again, maybe not. We want our creamer or half and half or milk or sugar or sweet-n-low or splenda or our half-caf, non-fat, double mocha with shot of raspberry with whip (that's why the non-fat milk; leaves the calories for the whip--Duh!) exactly how we want it.

This is how Starbucks came to be the monstrosity that it is. The founders of that place respected and tapped into the God-given right to be as ridiculously precise as we are mentally able about one thing, the lifeline that is our coffee. We may not know how to match up a single pair of shoes for wearing in public, but we can tell you with surgeon-like precision, how exactly we want our coffee. Oh sure, Starbucks expanded to green teas and frappucinos, but deep down at it's core it is the on-every-corner-in-every-grocery-store-at-every-friggin'-tollbooth-for-crissakes-you-can-be-picky-as-fuck-for-only-five-dollars-per-inspirational-message-inscribed-cup Mecca.

Which makes me feel a little better because I'm not the only one. And also inspires me to work out, because how else am I going to batter down like a freight train all the other completely amped, strung out coffee junkies in the permanent IV line?

Better invest in some cleats and brass knuckles too... just like if I were going to a white sale.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Coming Down

It's hard to 'come down' from the last two weeks. They have been a roller coaster of determination, work, emotional stress and survival.

Horrified at the thought of loosing our home, no matter how bad a condition it's in, it's difficult to pack like you're never coming back and doing so in 48 hours... only to return and find everything still completely in tact, without so much as a gallon of spoilt milk in the fridge. It was a relief--a huge one, but also a bit embarrassing to have to phone those not in the area, who only got minimal Ike updates on their local news. To have everything working and standing, we must have been exaggerating our situation. I assure you, to hear the Houston stations tell it, we were not... Look at footage of the Bolivar Peninsula for an accurate look at what we were promised to be the devastated landscape of our little plot of earth.

Then there was setting the home front back to right. Thankful, YES, most definitely. But to be completely honest about it, a total pain in the ass. I still have 15 gallons of water under my kitchen table as well as all of my son's toys because hubby took this opportunity to re-arrange his speaker setup and I now have no place in the living room for the toys. Grousing? Yes, I admit it. I had managed to find a comfortable place for everything in the small space we have, and now it is disrupted to the point that I feel claustrophobic. It no longer feels like home. It feels disjointed and disrupted and overly small.

Add in the topic of my last post. While I am thankful beyond belief to still have my friend, and I am there for her 24 hours a day, I can feel her more acutely now. When she is going on a low swing, I can feel her and I start to swing with her. My empathic abilities suck sometimes. I call, we talk, she lifts some, and I do too. And although, the incident didn't happen 'to me', the after-affects have touched me at such a level that in a way, it did. Most likely, it will continue to for some time.

Yes, I know, I'm bitching about what I should be most grateful for...and I haven't even started on hubby (lol) which, by the way I won't... So I think it's fair to say that what I'm learning and want to impart to you is this; you can be grateful and still have issues at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive. The sun doesn't come out and shine and the Hallelujah Chorus doesn't play just because you're grateful or thankful to the universe for sparing you a worse fate. I also don't think it makes you a horrible person for acknowledging the difficulties attached to the blessings. Hey, you've remembered to be thankful despite the issues, that has to count for something.

For two weeks, I've been keyed-up then relieved, then up again and down again, over and over... It's stressful. And the universe did hear me and provide even though I bitched at God yesterday during my thankful prayer. Today, we are at our friend's house. Hubby is outside with both of them chainsawing down their felled trees from the storm (yes I know, chainsawing in Texas... Ha Ha.). I am being given a rare and wonderful opportunity. They have a large home which is nicely decorated, a so-So-SO much faster computer set up and it's relatively quiet. And I am basically alone in here enjoying the peace and the quick computer. The baby is asleep and hubby is not talking non-stop in my ear about his J-O-B which is really becoming a drag lately; more so than usual.

It may seem a small relief, but it is allowing me to come down... restabilize... refresh my stores and get my personal balance back so that I am able to handle the next wave of the roller coaster that is life. And for that I am grateful--without the bitch.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Our Own Private Hell

This post is a departure for me. It is a letter to my friend of 15 years who attempted suicide the other day, and by the grace of God was not allowed to succeed.

Dear W,
You are not alone. We are all in pain, that is simply the human experience; as are mistakes.

I understand that you have been masking your pain for over 30 years with drugs and drink until it became to large and overwhelming to continue on under the strain of it. I understand. I feel you.

Your heart feels shredded with it's tattered ends blowing in the cold uncaring winds of a winter landscape. Your soul is screaming in an agony created by cruelty, injustice and horrors unfit to be bestowed upon any human being, never mind a child. Your brain is incessant in its determination to blame you for the images playing in constant loop in wide screen technicolor in your memories; unforgiving and unmerciless in the guilt and pain they deliver.

You have work to do to heal, my friend. And while I, nor anyone else, can walk through the doors that you must go through to bring light to the rooms containing the deep dark wells of the hell of your past, I can promise you this...

When you emerge from those rooms, on your bruised and torn hands and knees, blind from tears, I will be there... to help you to your feet, and hold you steady while you turn around and see the healing light pouring into those once dank places...just as I will help you to turn back around and walk away from them, tall and proud and strong as you are truly meant to be.

I am not in any way exaggerating when I say too, that I am not the only one that will be there. You are loved more than you know by more than you know. You will find yourself sometimes surprised by the hands that will reach out to you to give you the strength you need to continue on your journey... You will get and be better than you are today... this much I know as surely as I breathe.

My friend, and I am here, and I am so very thankful that you are still here too...

I love you,

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Difference Between Sisters

I told my sister last night that I was going to do a blog post about her. She laughed and said, "cool" even though she didn't think it would be very complimentary. I said that she was right considering that in the last two weeks, she has started throwing me over for calls from a new guy and to re-up her IV bottle for her current addiction, Heroes On Demand on her PC. She did all of season one from Friday evening to Sunday night--we are talking total addict behavior!

And while I'm sure I could be somewhat scathing in my K-expose, I will not let my current disappointment at coming in third cloud my writing. First of all, it is temporary. Secondly, my mother will read this. And last, but most definitely not least, my sister is one of the coolest people I know--and even though she is my younger sister, sometimes I want to grow up to be like her.

I have always been the proverbial fart-in-the-wind. I go where life takes me. I plan very little. Stuff just kinda 'happens' to me and I deal or bitch about it or both. I do the best I am able to in any given situation, but I am not someone who has the determination or focus to make a list of goals and set about crossing off my list one by one... My Name Is NOT Earl. I can make the list, but I'll loose it or loose interest in it before I get to item number two, if I even did item number one.

My sister, however, is one of the most focused and determined people I know. She has two college degrees, and is currently a Master or Journey level Electrician (in NJ it's called journey, in Texas it master--whatever the highest level is in your part of the world; that's what she is). She used to be a volunteer firefighter and still holds a current pyrotechnics license because she also used to put on fireworks shows for fun and profit... She is single, straight, and owns her own home, plus an extra attached lot and two vehicles.

I can't remember to take my antibiotics for 14 days straight...

My sister also has the sexual attitude of a man, and if she were one, she'd be a Playa'. Totally unfair is the gender bias, because since she is female, she'd be termed a slut. Which is completely inaccurate. She is however, the woman that mothers' warn their sons about when they start dating. She is currently rotating 4 men, and they all know that she is not exclusive, and they all still call or text at least twice a week. She has no real interest in keeping a single one of them, she simply wants to play with them like a shiny new toy until their luster wears off, and then return them to wherever in the universe they came from. No harm, no foul. She has no desire or need of marriage or children, and her love life is all the more active and physically demanding for it.

The most exciting thing that hubby and I do in bed is read--stereo mags for him and floorplans or novels for me...

For all her 'promiscuity' my sister is also the most loyal person you will ever meet. Almost all of her past 'boyfriends' become good friends and remain so for many years, even after they've married and had children with other women. In fact, she is able to be great friends with these women and do things with them without the men present at all. And, despite her not wanting her own kids, she is one of the first people on the list when someone in the family needs a babysitter. And she lavishes attention and common sense care giving on her nieces and nephews. They all love it when Aunt K comes to sit them.

I have my own two children, and they're pretty much the only kids I like... and some days I don't even like them all that much...

My sister also travels, wherever she wants whenever she wants. K will plan a trip and go come hell or high water. She planned a white-water rafting trip to the Grand Canyon, tore some muscles in her knee at work, did rehab on her mangled knee and went to the gym to be ready for the trip, because she was going to have to hike I-don't-know-how-many miles in to meet up with the group. She did, and can't wait to go do it again. She also has an astounding sense of direction which makes day-trips in the car a breeze for her and she takes them often.

I can't even plan a weekend getaway if I get started on Monday, and I'll get lost about 20 times on the way there if I'm driving myself...

The only thing that we did manage to inherit equally was our sense of humor and our lack of judgementalism towards one another. We are very lucky in this respect, because it makes us the best of friends. We crack each other up with jokes so black-dark that other people would gasp-out-loud and wonder how anyone would or could laugh at such a thing. We talk a lot, we laugh a lot, we have each other's backs always, and we play psychologist to each other whenever it is needed without the condescending looks (or tones--we are 1200 miles apart!) or the second-mortgage price tag.

Because for all my meandering, and her determination, despite the distance, and given the roller-coaster rides that our lives and our relationship has experienced, we are best friends. I can't wait for her to finish all the back episodes of Heroes so we can commiserate over the latest ones, same with all the new episodes of the shows we both watch. But I have one thing to say, K...

Chicks before Dicks... answer the phone!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Relaxation and Bloated Whales

This is me relaxing--writing my blog. I suppose that makes total sense for someone who has been a slave to the word since childhood. From the time I started reading, I have either had a pen and paper or a book to read in my hands. I love words. It could also be indicative of a Sunday at home with my family...maybe...

I do other 'odd' things to relax... Whenever money is tight, I figure out how I would budget and spend whatever the expected take from the next lotto jackpot would be, including taxes, charitable contributions, living expenses, the works. I did that Friday.

I also love reiki for relaxation and rejuvenation, but lately, I've been burning the candle at both ends and doing the reiki on myself puts me to sleep with all my chakras open, which is not such a cool thing. I've done that three times this week.

Eating cheesecake with a terrific cup of coffee is great too...but too often will turn you into a bloated whale. Speaking of relaxation and bloated whales, let me tell you about breakfast today and my attempt at Sunday morning relaxation...

Normally if I fix hubby pancakes for Sunday breakfast, I will serve him up and proceed to return to the kitchen to fix myself an egg and cheese on whole wheat toast. Today, however, for some bizarre reason, I found myself wanting the pancakes too. Rationally, I know better than this. They are far too rich as well as protein-nonexistent for me to eat them--especially in the morning. But, my brain still snoozing, I somehow convinced myself that pancakes would be wonderful and very relaxing! All golden brown with butter and syrup, it couldn't get more 'comfort food' than that. I got hungrier as I cooked and by the time it came to serve them up, I had-had-had to have three! Yum!!!

YUCK! Thick, over sweet, syrup drenched, butter-laden bread disks. I managed to gag down about one half of my three-high stack, my son running happily back and forth between my husband and I for bites which I willingly gave him to diminish the amount on my plate. Finally, even he wouldn't eat any more, and I could barely stand to look at them, much less smell the remainder of maple syrup on the plate. My stomach felt twelve sizes too big and my tongue was sickeningly sweet tasting. Thank goodness for coffee to lessen the sugar-induced coma that was sure to descend at any moment. I took the plate outside and threw it to the yard cats & the chickens. It was gone inside of three minutes. One of the first times ever that I was thankful for those mini-vultures. So, no go on the relaxing pancakes (I won't make that mistake again for, oh... 10 months or so).

I had woke up early in a female "unfriendly" state that required an immediate launch from the bed. I was very tired, and extremely uncomfortable. It's better thanks to the God given Life-Force-In-A-Cup that is coffee--which by the way, I swear increases IQ points-- but the relaxation thing has still been something of a bust.

It's basically like every other day except that hubby is home because it's a weekend, so there is something Disney coming from the sound system, but it's too loud, I can't sit on the couch cause he's draped across it, watching the too loud movie with more interest than my son. The bathroom is, by now, most likely a disaster. And I have no doubt what so ever that my bed has page upon page of stereo specifications spread across it for his perusal whenever he returns to them.

The only "safe" place for my relaxation is back here, in front of my beloved 'Puter. The chair is horrible to sit in (especially today!), but it's my only place of relative peace. So, today, my blog is my relaxation... Not exactly what I was hoping for... but it will do, it will do.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Psychology and the Reverse

I have never particularly enjoyed being told about myself.

If it is in-person praise, I tend to be embarrassed. Inwardly, I'm thrilled, but having the direct attention thrust upon me is very uncomfortable for me. It always has been. Reading praise of myself is easy though, cause I can do it in the privacy of my computer room (so keep those great reviews coming, I eat 'em up!) I joke about how I'm waiting for Oprah's call, but truth is, especially in this day and age, I'd hate to be famous. If the praise is genuine, but I feel unworthy, I will bust my hump to live up to the hype. I crave praise, even if it's for doing the dishes--again and it is always appreciated. But hearing it may be uncomfortable.

Flip side of the coin, if it is criticism, well, that can go one of two ways... If it's tactful and presented gently, I vow to myself to do better and reverse whatever I'm being called on. I don't find it too difficult to look at myself--if the pointing out is done kindly and is from someone that I know is not trying to be malicious. I'm good with that kind of constructive criticism. I take it to heart and examine it and make an honest effort to correct my behavior if I determine that it really is my behavior and not just someone else's hang-up.

If, however, my flaws are presented to me in anger, it is a whole other ball of wax. My Taurus ascendant kicks in and I dig in my hooves with all I've got; even if I'm digging them into quicksand. I don't care one whit that it's quicksand! I am stubborn as a stick, and I'm gonna prove you're ugly accusations right. Oh, you think I'm lazy because I don't want to do activity A.
Let me show you what lazy really looks like--because now, not only am I not going to do activity A, but I am going to cease and desist with activities B through Q as well! How do ya like me now?!?!? Reverse psychology doesn't work with me, it will only make things worse. I know this about myself. You can not get your way by telling me what I'm not doing, thereby motivating me to do what you want. I will not do it in spades and prove your point for you with bells on.

Hubby is the exact opposite in this respect. He is an Aries ascendant. Reverse psychology works beautifully on him; IF he respects you. His fighter instinct kicks into high gear and he will go all out to prove you wrong. He will butt his horns against every obstacle to change your mind and be worthy in the utmost of having your opinion reversed. In fact, if he tries his damnedest and your opinion is not swayed, he will carry it within himself for the rest of his days--unless of course, you come to your senses, see that he's changed and go out of your way to let him know it.

The problem that tends to arise when these two mindsets get together is their approach to each other during an argument. Neither approach works on the other, and if emotions are running high, neither one sees it, save for the argument progressing from not good to horrible in a short period of time.

Thanks Ike for this lesson. Picture eye roll here!

So, two things... One, even if the other person is driving you to crazy with the throttle full open and the nitrous button broken off, you have to bite your tongue, take a deep breath and speak, not shout at the other person. Your point has a much better chance of being heard if you are quieter and don't appear as angry as you may be. Two, if your approach isn't working, don't continue with it. If you tell me I'm lazy and I get lazier, obviously it's not working. Tell me that you appreciate all that I do for you, and any time I try to be in a lazy mood(during regular work days--I still value my down time!), that praise will come back to me and spur me on to work past the lazy spell.

I'd tell you how to handle the opposite end, the reverse psychology that works on hubby, but I haven't figured it out yet...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ike'd Out

I have had enough of the SOB that was Hurricane Ike. I am Ike'd the fuck out. This may be incredibly insensitive of me since I came home to a trailer that was still standing, usable water, the power working and no fallen trees strewn across my property, but I have had enough.

Since last Monday, we in the Houston area have been warned on every news cast about the possibility of Hurricane Ike hitting us. As of Wednesday, they were sure of it, even if the exact location of landfall was uncertain, with the size of the storm, we were sure to get some Ike. As of Thursday, all regular programming in the area was preempted to bring 24 hour coverage of Ike... the school closings, the mandatory evacuations, the voluntary evacuations, the people with special needs--like medical conditions or no vehicles to evacuate in--being evacuated by bus to Austin or Dallas or San Antonio... On and on it went. We boarded windows, taped kitchen cabinets closed, moved all electronics to the living room floor where they were bagged in plastic and cushioned to sustain blows from falling walls or ceilings. We disconnected gas lines and areal antennas and moved all heavy possible projectiles from shelves to the kitchen floor. We went around the yard moving and securing as best as possible. All the while listening to the continuous Ike coverage of where and when and how strong.

We left at 2pm on Friday, and after 8 tries, we found a hotel room an hour and a half away, where we hunkered down with our kid and our cat and ate pizza from the only open store or restaurant in town. Everywhere we went, the windows were boarded up. Even in the town where we wound up, because Ike was supposed to hit farther down the coastline in the earlier projections. It's an odd site to see all the windows boarded in what is usually a vibrant town. It's surreal and somewhat eerie. We watched a movie to take our minds off of Ike. Then, we watched more Ike coverage, with those poor reporters standing in the rain with their legs splayed to keep their balance against the mounting ferocity of the wind. Finally, Ike made landfall and we fell into a short, but coma-like sleep that comes from several sleepless nights in a row combined with the stress of not knowing if you're going to have a home tomorrow and having to pack your important belongings and your entire family unit with the thought in mind that you are never coming back; into one of the smallest cars ever mass produced, a Toyota Echo--the forerunner of the Toyota Yaris.

Saturday morning, with our continental breakfast, we tuned in to see what Ike had done in our absence. We returned home about 3pm to find that God had spared us almost any discomfort, and we began the long process of un-bracing, and unpacking, and putting the little-trailer-that-could back to right. Hubby went to visit his friends that 'sheltered in place' and they had shot video of the first two rounds of Ike to hit over here; for the third round, they were all huddled in the middle room, wondering with every second if the house was going to withstand the 80+ mile an hour winds without damage. And, wondering when the power was going to go out because all the news people had said to expect that--it never did.

By Sunday the home front was livable and we watched movies to make sure the sound system got re-hooked up properly (you know that hubby of mine!) interlaced with Ike coverage. The images of the 15 foot deep by 10 foot high debris pile on Seawall Blvd in Galveston taking center stage, but with other footage filtering in along with stats of power outages, warnings to boil water, reports of flood and storm-surge data, and of course, no coverage would have been complete without the requisite fatality count.

Monday, it was reports of FEMA and the Salvation Army and their distribution centers. Where there was still gas to be had, and that everywhere was out of ice as over 2 million people were still without power. More video came in as reporters spoke by satellite phones about the devastation they were witnessing on the ground. Trudging through the 6 inches of sand, silt and mud only to realize that they were on a main highway. The power poles at 45 degree angles to the ground. The homes off their pilings and foundations. Not just in Crystal Beach where they are currently showing, but in Baytown where the next reporter has footage from, and Kemah's new destruction video, and on and on.

I was on overload. I had been served a non-stop daily diet of Ike for 5 days. First the fear, then the destruction and chaotic aftermath. We were so tired of seeing it and hearing it, that we watched Finding Nemo followed by The Road To El Dorado so we didn't have to see the devastation anymore. Hubby went to bed, and I went back to network TV only to be bombarded again. I watched Cheaters (a show specifically geared for the Jerry Springer set, something I'd rather have a root canal than be subjected to!) for the first time ever simply because it wasn't news.

Not a single speck of un-Ike, non-Houston area news is being broadcast at all. If it weren't for my ex, I wouldn't have even known about the SoCal train crash. For the first time in my life, I'm desperate to know what Brittney Spears is up to. Isn't that why movies were so popular during 1940's wartime, so that people could take their minds off of the war? Give me a break already! Let me see what Rachael Ray is cooking, let me cry with Oprah, or dance with Ellen. Anything, anything at all, please, besides that motherfucker Ike! I tried to watch PBS last night because they are normally my salvation when there is nothing but garbage on TV. Even they let me down. Not more Ike coverage, but a special on the earthquakes in China. I want to go cold turkey--No More Destruction Input.

So now, it's Tuesday morning, and again... all Ike news all the time. I want to know what color Matt Lauer's tie is today. I want to see Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts. I miss Ann Curry. I want to know what is going on in the world beyond the 80 miles to my east. I want to return to the land of the living. I want to smile and laugh, and not feel guilty about it because of all the Ike victims in my figurative back yard. Sustaining this kind of negative input makes a person loopy... So loopy, that I'm considering watching Barney this morning just to escape.

Yeah, I am that Ike'd out.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ike Imposed Hiatus

Dear Aria'z Ink readers,

I regret to inform you that this will be my last post until Monday, September 15, 2008. I will be back at my post earlier if mother nature allows.

As it stands tonight, Wednesday, September 10, 2008, Hurricane Ike is gonna come 'a knocking on our door. We are in the midst of packing up anything worth two cents to get it to safety tomorrow along with our little family.

For those of you familiar with my posts, you will not be surprised to know that hubby's stereo system and my beloved 'Puter are to be some of the first things aboard the train outta Dodge. I am hopeful that we will still have a residence to return to when this is all said and done.

Rest assured, if we don't, I can still post from the computers at any local library. They are brick buildings, and will survive even if our little trailer doesn't. At any rate, if Ike shifts paths and we are spared, I'll get some great housekeeping done before I put things back to right.

Whether we are on the move or not, our thoughts and prayers are with any and all of you facing this situation along with us. God Bless, and until I post again, stay safe.


SAH Mom-Only Vacation Package

I have been fortunate to be a stay-at-home mom twice. I recognize this is amazing good fortune despite wanting upon occasion to pull my hair out by the un-dyed roots in great fist-sized clumps.

And while I love my children with every drop of blood in my veins and every cell of my plus-sized body, there are times that I want to get away. Far, far away. Not just in location, but in total daily routine.

I want to implore travel agents everywhere to come up with a S.A.H. Mom-Only Vacation package. It would include...

5 star hotel accommodations, with the comfiest queen sized bed imaginable-extra pillows obviously and no alarm clocks on the entire floor. Mom can sleep in to the hour of her choice without fighting for mattress or pillow space with anyone or anything under or over 3 feet tall. In her cozy comforter bliss, mom will not have to shift repeatedly to remove child-limbs from painful places on her anatomy, nor will she need to whip the covers off to reduce the temperature from her portable adorable heater.

The enormous bathroom comes with a whirlpool tub that could easily double as a swimming pool, can handle a liter of bubble bath and has enough shelves to use enough candles to light lower Manhattan. Also included--peace and quiet and privacy. No questions about why we cannot have snakes and frogs and every stray cat and dog in the neighborhood as our most cherished pets posed to mom while she is on the potty. There is a separate shower with three customizable shower heads, a seat and salon quality shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. The towels and washcloths come in a dozen per size, are oversize no matter the type, and could easily belong to the Trumps for all their lavishness.

Next, there is the living room of this luxury suite. If mom ever makes it out of the bed, there is a sumptuous couch with no stains or questionable cushions. There is a desk with Gucci stationery, a custom writing set, stamps, postcards, and a huge-screen laptop with high-speed Internet. She will have time to do whatever for how-long-ever she wishes on the computer. The TV is a work of art that would make any electronics-type man drool himself to drowning, and the remote belongs solely to mom. She gets every channel known to the free world except; Noggin, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and PBS Kids.

Room Service is a stunning affair with candles and good china and crystal for every meal and snack. Mom's waiter, Pierre, serves her the finest of whatever fare she has ordered. And sticks around so she can talk to someone while eating. He happily refills her beverage, serves her more potatoes without a condescending look, and listens intently to whatever she has to say. When the meal is over, he blows out the candles, cleans up the dishes and vanishes without so much as a trace that he was ever there.

Mom has full service access to all hotel services, such as the day spa with high end salon for all of the personal maintenance needs that she has ignored in order to hop out of the shower as quickly as possible because she imagines thuds even when there are none. There is a sensory deprivation tank available 24 hours a day with no time limits. While mom is enjoying any or all of these services, the maid service has descended upon mom's room to clean it spotless, as well as wash, dry and put away all of her laundry so she can come back to her room with it as refreshed and cleaned up as she is.

Mom's Vacation package includes the rental vehicle of her choice, with nary a car seat or McDonald's wrapper in sight. She can listen to any radio station and sing along if she chooses without commentary or interruption. She can go to any store, gallery, museum, park, movie, place or event without having to take into consideration parking, strollers, noise level, time restraints or mess factors.

This wonderful dream Mom-Only vacation would of course be very inexpensive, for two reasons... One; otherwise mom would feel guilty about how much money she was spending while away from her home and family. Two; once she gets over that crap, she'll have some money to spend as she pleases instead of blowing it all on the accommodations.

The whipped cream and maraschino cherry topping on this Mom-Only vacation package is this; for the entire length of the vacation, S.A.H. Mom's significant other has to stay at home themselves, and care for the children and the house in the same manner that mom would without any outside assistance. Including, but not limited to, all errands, chores, homework help, playtime, and scheduled events.

Forgive me if I leave it at that... I'm going to loose myself in this daydream for a while... well, at least until my son wakes up, my hubby calls, it's time for lunch, I have to fold laundry, it's time to wash the second round of dishes, vacuum floors, cook dinner...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Suburbanite Complaints

I grew up in East Coast suburbia. I spent my childhood in the sheltered quiet neighborhoods of northern New Jersey. At 14, I moved in with my father who lived in a town of 1 square mile that is the first of many on the Jersey Shore. It was a bit more rough-and-tumble than my previous suburban existence. Springfield was a town where the most exciting thing to do when the community pool was closed, was go to the library. I adjusted fairly quickly to my new surroundings, and enjoyed myself as easily as a sullen teenager can.

When I was 19, I moved with a girlfriend from high school out to Northern California. We arrived on the 4th of July--Independence Day. It was as sure a sign as is possible that I had made the right move, and I lived there for 17 years. Building most of my adulthood in a quiet (but quickly growing) suburbia between San Francisco and Sacramento. Life was by no means always easy, but it suited me and I enjoyed a close relationship with my family despite being 3000 miles away from them. Considering the crap I pulled in my twenties, the distance was probably why we were able to remain close.

And now here I am in the countryside in Texas, roughly 50 miles west of Houston and about 50 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico. There was absolutely nothing in my entire suburbanite existence that could have prepared me for living here. The line from the movie 'Sweet Home Alabama' rings in my ears frequently, "...people need a passport to come down here." Reese Witherspoon, I couldn't agree more.

I used to complain about loading and emptying the dishwasher. I used to complain about doing laundry. I used to complain about the garbage trucks making too much noise in the wee hours of the morning. I used to complain about upstairs neighbors walking like their feet were made of cement. I used to complain about too many people at the grocery store and not being able to get a parking space in the same zip code as the entrance. I used to complain that the city water was too hard and undrinkable as well as being hell on showers. The universe heard it all, and karma is now kicking my ass.

I no longer complain about the dishwasher, because I no longer have one. I still complain about laundry, but now I would be thrilled to have my washer and dryer next to each other instead of having one in the house and the other on the back porch. I don't complain about garbage trucks anymore because we don't have garbage pick-up out here in the country, we have to take all of our garbage down to the dump ourselves, and it's only open two days a week. After two years, I now consider the local grocery store crowded if there are more than three customers in there with me. We don't even have city water, now I have well water, a drainage ditch, and a septic system. The universe is laughing itself sick right about now.

I also get to hear the neighbors' chickens which have adopted us, and wake us up daily to let us know it's time to put out food for the outdoor cats so they (the chickens) can eat it all up. I sit outside, and watch the other neighbors' cows over the back fence. I haven't had a pizza or Chinese food delivered since I've been here. Instead of a garbage truck, I have become accustomed to the buzz of a bi-plane crop duster a few times a week during the season. I'm more than 20 miles away from a Walmart in either direction. Even the closest gas station is 5 miles away, and I pass many cows, corn & cotton fields to get there. The nearest hospital; 26 miles. And the biggest change, is the constant need to pay attention to the weather, no longer for mere informational purposes, but for actual survival.

On the plus side, it's quiet aside from the noises within my own home, and I don't have upstairs neighbors. I have a washer and dryer of my own instead of having to frequent the laundromat. Those three people in the grocery store are friendly, and there is always parking. I learned to make my own homemade pizza and fully appreciate Chinese food because it is such a treat. Garbage only costs us $1 per bag to dump. The well water is nice, although the drainage ditch part sucks no matter what I do. I talk to the cows, who are very good listeners; and my aim is improving greatly from throwing rocks at the chickens.

And one more thing, I have learned not to complain...well, as a general rule. No matter how bad you think it is, it can always be worse, or at the very least, more inconvenient. And if you make a habit of complaining, the universe will gladly do whatever it has to in order to make you grateful. It is usually not a nice process, nor is it overly fun... unless you like throwing rocks at chickens.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Work is a Four-Letter Word

Work is a four letter word both literally and almost always figuratively. And yet, it has to be done despite how many one-fingered salutes we want to give it. Sometimes you get lucky and feel like you have accomplished something with your day when the work is done. Other times, you're just glad to have it over so you can cuss out the fact that you had to do it at all, and do your best to keep out of your thoughts that you will have to do the same expletive-deleted job again tomorrow, or next week, or whenever... because the other thing about work, is that there is always more to do.

I have tried to instill in my daughter (and I will do the same with my son when he's old enough to understand) that work comes first. I have done this with my words as well as my actions for as long as I can remember--once the concept finally sunk into my hard-headed skull. So I was surprised to find out last week that she had been given a state report two weeks earlier and it wasn't even close to finished. It was two days from the due date when my ex found out about it and relayed the information to me. I could tell he was exasperated from the whole situation.

For the many not-nice things I can say about my ex, not paying attention when it comes to our daughter's education would never once be included in the list. He is excellent in that respect, partially because he was raised by an elementary school teacher mother. So, when Josie dropped this little bombshell on him he was stunned and so ticked-off about this that he had to vent, and I got the call. He had managed to keep from exploding on her, but she got quite a talking to in his consummate guilt-trip salesman style, and he was still wound up. He relayed how she spent the last two weekends at the pool or out playing with friends all the while knowing about this report and he was beside himself because he would have taken her to the library over one if not both weekends so she could do what she needed to with books and computers.

He said that he had talked to her at length about this work ethic not cutting it. How if she got an F on the report that she deserved it because F equals zero, and that's how much effort she had put into getting this thing done. When I spoke to her, I added that as hard as 5th grade seems to her, this is as easy as it's ever going to be for the rest of her academic career, especially considering that she has been going on with single-minded determination for the last 4 years about how she's going to college and will be a doctor. By her age I had over 15 different career paths chosen including ballerina, singer and teacher. She only ever had the one; doctor. And at almost 10 years old, she is well aware that this means an extra 4 years of medical school and a residency to follow. So, for the last two years, since honor roll was introduced in 3rd grade, she has made sure that she's been on it. I explained that this was an issue of time management, and that she had to get that part of her study habits in order or doctor was out of the question. Not to mention that the rest of her life would just be more difficult in general. Time management was the key to her attaining her goals.

I spoke to her about how I always, always, always stressed to her the concept of work comes first and when I asked her to tell me why (because I also always told her why...), she answered with a bored, sullen, "because work is more important." I couldn't believe it! That was SO not the answer that I had been giving her for forever.

"No!" I quickly and emphatically replied. "It's because if you do the work first, then you can enjoy your playtime without the work that you didn't do hanging over your head. Playtime is just as important as work, it's how a person keeps their skull screwed on straight. But you can't enjoy downtime fully if you have 'have to's' left to do, and you won't get as much benefit from whatever you are doing to relax and enjoy yourself." So she assured me that she understood and I could tell that she was relieved that it was an answer that didn't negate the play ethic. She promised to get the report done on time (which she did), and to never make the same mistake of poor scheduling again.

The next day, I found my own words ringing in my ears as I tried to pass the sink full of dishes on the way to the computer. Doesn't matter who you are, being right sucks sometimes. And work is still a four-letter word.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Holy Ghost Experience

I do not consider myself a religious person. For a time I watched Joyce Meyer on a daily basis; she was my church. Other times, I would find a local preacher that I could feel was anointed, and I would go to services until that particular church changed preachers. I can quote a few things from the bible, but to tell you what chapter and verse, I'd have to admit that I had no idea. I have gone through life taking whatever teachings from the many religious affiliations in this world and keeping what I felt in my heart to be right, and discarding what I didn't agree with. This is what has worked for me. And yet I pray frequently and believe that I have a personal relationship with God--I call the creator God because that's how I was raised, whatever you call the one supreme being of the universe is completely up to you and it makes no never mind what the name. I believe it is all the same; something of a Shakespearean attitude..."a rose by any other name...". In spite of this attitude, or maybe because of it, I consider myself non-religious, but very spiritual.

I have had many visions and experiences in my life, that maybe for some people, would have led them very deeply into religion. I prefer to skirt the edges and keep my spirituality in tact, undiluted by religious practices. I must add at this point, that I know some very religious people and they seem very happy and content being so. I wish them well and do not cut myself off from them. I do not try to dissuade them or offer up arguments for their beliefs. That is what works for them, this is what works for me. Glory be, lets get on with our association...

I have prefaced all of this in order to point out that one doesn't need to be the highest pillar of the church to have a Holy Ghost experience. I have had one, and I was stoned at the time. At the time that I had this experience, I was a full time stoner. I'm not proud of that particular fact, but it is the truth, and so I included it for reference as it will be relevant later on in the story...

I was in my first marriage, living in my beautiful one year old home. It was the first time I had come to be the only person there in the very late hours of the night. My husband was staying the night in a motel after being bailed out of jail for beating me severely; and my daughter was down at my aunt's, as I had her spirited away for safekeeping after the dust had settled from ex-hubby's arrest. I was alone, bruised, battered and beyond miserable. I had been smoking pot for hours.

I was also praying out loud and crying. I felt so low and bereft, that I asked God over and over again, "Why am I here? What is my purpose? I can't do this anymore, if you don't answer me I'm not sure I can go on..." I said this or something equating to this many times, begging God to make me understand how he could have told me to marry this man that was so completely horrible to me. (God did, but that's a story for another time... I digress...)

All of a sudden it happened. I felt my heart grow inside my chest like I have never felt before or since, nor did I even know was possible. The only description I can give someone who has not had a Holy Ghost experience is very juvenile, but here goes... I instantly pictured the scene in the original animated version of 'Dr Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas' when they show the Grinch's heart growing three sizes. That is the closest description I've got. I felt it grow, just like that, and a peaceful calm took over my entire being.

In my head I heard... well actually I understood, there wasn't any real voice to it... "You will be a philanthropist." I started crying again, but this time they were tears of pure unadulterated joy. That, to me, was the coolest, most wonderful and fantastic purpose to have, ever! And if the peace, and the growing heart didn't convince me that this was the Holy Spirit, then one simple thing about the answer would; I would never have come up with it. That answer would not have occurred to me if I'd been given a million years on this Earth. And in that moment, I could see it; it made perfect sense. I was specifically designed for it, and I had no idea. So many things that drove me nuts about myself and my personality would serve me perfectly in fulfilling that one purpose. My purpose.

The joy spread out into my entire body, and I knew that I had to walk the house; every room in the dark, to clear it and know I was safe there. I got up from the couch and did it. No lights save what filtered in from the street. When I was finished, it had gone from being a house to being my home. I was forever after safe from harm there, and I knew it as surely as my body knows to breathe air. I understood deeply that when ex-hubby finally came home, it would be very different. The violence was over; completely and for good.

It had escaped my notice entirely that my body didn't hurt at all anymore. I went up and down the steps with measured calm determination, but no pain. For about two weeks after that, I was positively giddy. I went to lunch with my aunt when she brought my daughter home, and she accused me of being stoned. I laughed, because it was the one time that I wasn't. I hadn't touched a drug or drop of alcohol since that night. I had left it behind with the pain and didn't suffer a second of the usual 'come down' I normally experienced when I stopped smoking pot.

It has been over 5 years now. I'm still dirt poor, but I know that one day I won't be, because that promise was put into my heart. No one and nothing can undo that. But, I also know that God does things in his own timing, and ours is not to question why...

So I wait... and I believe...

Monday, September 1, 2008

Not Carrie Bradshaw

Damn Carrie Bradshaw straight to hell. She made it look so easy to write. She'd sit there at her non-desky desk, poised over her laptop, think about something that happened with her girlfriends or boyfriends and away she'd type...always pithy and profound in her nice quiet NYC apartment.

In fact, that character made almost everything seem easy--yes, even the ups and downs of dating. You mean to tell me that with all those men, and in the middle of Manhattan, she, or any of the other friends, never found out that they were dating a closet alcoholic or a successful coke head? I mean really... Never got into a nasty cab... Never had to hear the neighbors' bass-cranked music?

And as far as the outfits, may I just say that her friends were not friends if they didn't have the heart to tell her that at her age, playing dress up was not appropriate, and Halloween had come and gone. Fashion forward was what all the magazines would say. I'm sorry, I call it blind. Sometimes, an outfit would very much be edgy, and look great, but most of the time--Yikes! Making SJP go out in public and be filmed for generations to see her in some of those outfits was simply cruel. Also not a one of them wore jeans; sweats, but not jeans. That's just unnatural.

How about the heels? OMG!!! Never heard of any one of those girls complaining about having corns or bunions or even Achilles Tendonitis from wearing those foot daggers! And yet, they're traipsing around NYC, walking quite a bit like it's nothing. OK, I used to wear heels, when I worked for the credit union. I couldn't wear them every single day, and even then, by the end of my year working there, I had corns from my toes rubbing inside the leather. When I left that job, I was pregnant with my daughter. The heels got relegated to storage, never ever to be seen again. And my feet thank me for it.

And puh-leese! When Carrie quit smoking, yeah she waffled a bit, but she didn't fly off the handle or eat her weight in ice cream or get all antsy. Hell she didn't even chew a boat-load of gum. No massive nic-fits? If she had been detoxing, the writers of that show wouldn't have even given her the shakes.

Maybe I'm a tiny bit jealous, but I really don't think so. I couldn't stand being a Barbie. I don't wear heels, I wear tennies. I wear sweats and jeans as well as more upscale outfits. I cannot have my roosters removed with a simple phone call, and I ran into all sorts of unsavory characters when I was out in the dating world. And lastly, I usually cannot just sit down whenever and start typing with all the time and quiet in the world... There is noise, there are other people, there is laundry to swap over and phone calls coming in. There are nic-fits to assuage and coffee mugs to refill. There are children with diapers that need changing and meals to prepare for more than just myself. There is real life to live. And for that, I am oh so happy that I am not Carrie Bradshaw. Well that, and those horrible outfits...