CSquaredPlus3 has moved to ChrisyRoss.com. Thank you for checking in here, but please head over to the new place to say hello!
CSquaredPlus3 has moved to ChrisyRoss.com. Thank you for checking in here, but please head over to the new place to say hello!
I shared the Amazon link (pre-order the paperback, and Kindle format coming soon!) on Facebook and have tweeted news about my book...once. It feels funny to self-promote. In the same breath, I'm proud of the project and the content concept.
To Mormons, With Love is written primarily for an LDS audience, (Apologies to my mother's bridge group if you've been misled. She was confused.) but I believe there's cross-over potential. Several nonmember friends pre-ordered the book on Amazon. I'm flattered and moved by their blind trust and support. If you're not LDS, but have Mormon friends, neighbors, or a general curiosity about life in a predominantly Mormon community, you might enjoy my story and message. It's a quick and easy read, but tremendous thought is behind every word, illustration and design element.
I was asked to write a feature article for LDS Living based on the book. The article will appear in the November/December issue. To say that I'm honored and thrilled for the opportunity is an understatement.
Very shortly, like in a matter of hours, my new site will be complete. Ninjamatics, founded by Elan and Aidan Morgan (Schmutzie and The Palinode), did a fantastic job redesigning my blog. I'm so pleased. I don't want the project to end, because it's been such a pleasure working with Elan. A few of you have already taken a peek at the site because it's not password protected, but give me a minute, and I'll share it with the rest of you.
CSquaredPlus will have a new name and different look, but I'll continue to blog in the same manner—sporadically and about personal things. I'll also promote my book, but not ad nauseam. I promise. If you're a current subscriber to CSquaredPlus3, your feed will automatically be transferred to the new URL.
I'm excited! And nervous...
Several of you already know. I wrote a little book. I don't talk about it much in larger circles because 1) there are many people who have written books. Seems to be another new black; 2) there are many people who have written very good books who haven't been published, but should be; and 3) the process of writing a book, seeking an agent/publisher, or even self-publishing takes a long time. People who don't write or are unfamiliar with the process are impressed at first, and then they begin to lose interest as months turn into years because your book is not at Barnes & Noble, the giant advance all authors get didn't arrive, and The Today Show hasn't called. It's like you're the little writer who cried, "Wolf!", or the couple that announces they're pregnant before the bed has been made.
Well, the bed is made. My little ditty of a book will be available October 1st on Amazon.com as well as on the shelves of a few local bookstores. It's a niche book titled To Mormons, With Love - A little something from the new girl in Utah. It's bubble gum, but not the kind rolled in large sugar crystals. Nor is it the sour Warhead variety. Just pleasant to chew. I hope a few people like it.
There's more to share...the supportive, small publisher that believes in the project; the process of writing, listening to critiques, rewriting, and how the book ended up in its shorter, nichier (not a word, but it works) form; an upcoming feature article I wrote for a popular LDS magazine; and the importance of your local arts council. All of this later.
Today I'd like to direct your attention to an artist whose work I'm crazy for. His name is Darrell Driver and you can check out his art at www.darrelldriver.com or click here. I love his balance pieces, the colors he chooses, and his funky interpretations of...everything. I dig his wife, too.
Darrell agreed to create the cover art for my book. I wanted one of his beautiful signature balance birds, holding a daisy in its beak. The bird is a humble, polite messenger. The daisy is a simple offering.
After sketching my ridiculously uncomplicated concept no less than 15 times, this is what I faxed to Darrell...
His version is much lovelier, of course. Some cool folks are using Darrell's fabulous art to create the final cover design. It's getting exciting. The handful or two of you who still read this blog will get a sneak peek very soon.
Our five-year-old son loves stuff. Talking with friends, having two older kids, and remembering my own childhood quirks, I know it's not uncommon for children to keep trash and trinkets. Forever.
This child, the five-year-old, knows where every broken plastic toy, shred of ribbon, deflated balloon, popsicle stick with a joke he can't read, and object stolen from his older brothers, is located. When I stealthily purge a few of his items, no matter how deeply buried they were beneath the latest additions, he busts me. And hell hath no fury like... you know what I mean.
"Mom! Did you throw away part of my collection?"
"Honey, I donated a few things you don't play with. There are children without toys who would enjoy that... stuff."
Recently, I thought to myself how well our youngest son has been maintaining his room. Other than a few dozen lego creations displayed on his dresser, things appeared to be in order
The five-year-old has a bathroom attached to his bedroom that is basically unused. He bathes in the master bathroom, brushes his teeth in his brothers' bathroom and doesn't require much lavatory drawer space regardless.
While putting laundry away, I was tipped-off that there might still be a problem when I opened his closet. Balloons from his father's birthday that he claimed to have released to China!
I entered his bathroom, pulled back the shower curtain and found this:
Then I opened a couple of drawers and discovered my little hoarder is still struggling...
And, yes, I recognize we all have a junk drawer, but come on.
I'm both sad, that he's going underground... and proud. I enjoy a worthy adversary. I'm also impressed by his use of semantics.
Anyone else have a young, or not-so-young, "collector" in the house?
My mom and dad aren't really elderly. They're not 70, but almost. Like knocking on the door. But "elderly" is a relative term.
The past few years, visits to my parents' home in Arizona have provided several family take-away stories. There was the time I backed into their house... with Mom's car; the time I experienced heat exhaustion [Dad's diagnosis] or water intoxication [my diagnosis]; the time we debated the value of a Snuggie; and the time Mom and I learned that it's common for public bathrooms to have ice in the urinals. I continue to find women, elderly women even, who's husbands have neglected to share that last fact with them.
Middle Boy and I traveled to Arizona in June so he could attend a music camp -- we stayed with Mom and Dad. Chris and our other two sons remained in Utah.
The music camp culminated with a Friday night concert after a week of lessons and rehearsals. My parents and I happily attended the event to support our young rocker.
I arrived at the concert venue early so that I could snag some good seats. Sideways glances shot my way, warning me that it was not cool to save seats. I sat down in the second row, placed my purse on the chair to my right and a camera on the chair to my left. Seats saved, glances ignored.
The small auditorium filled quickly. With 15 minutes until show time, my parents still hadn't arrived and the only two seats remaining were theirs. People asked, "Are those taken?" I apologized to everyone and said yes. Where were they?
The couple sitting in front of me turned around and gave me a sympathetic look.
"I can tell it's poor form to save seats," I said. "But we traveled from Utah and my parents are so excited to see my son play. My brother and his wife are here, too, but they're on their own." Then I embellished, "And my parents are... elderly."
"Oh we understand," said the woman while her husband nodded in agreement. "Last year we tried to save a seat for my mother-in-law who'd just had hip replacement surgery. She could hardly walk. She got here late -- poor thing struggled in the dark parking lot -- and a rude woman plopped herself down in the seat we were saving. Said we weren't allowed to save seats and she was going to watch her child perform."
"How old is your mother-in-law?" I asked.
Mom and Dad finally bounced into the auditorium. They looked perky, were dressed in their classic yet contemporary styles, and moved very non-geriatric-like through the crowded aisles to where I was sitting. The couple in front of me watched my parents approach. "Your parents?" they asked, eyebrows raised.
Twelve bands. Twelve, young [ages 11-17], loud bands. All very good, I might add, and playing to a mature, seated house. Middle-aged parents, grandparents and a few younger siblings stared at the stage with goofy smiles on their faces and clapped courteously at the end of each performance. Not your typical rock concert crowd.
"Is that a boy or a girl?" Dad asked me. Repetitively and audibly. I played deaf and hoped the parents of the androgynous kids weren't sitting near us. His commentary continued. I can't tell. Seriously. Is that a girl? A boy? Can you tell? They all look the same. Ooh. That's a big kid. Look how tiny that one is. He can't be 11. Was that a good singer? Did you like that singer? I can't tell who's good. What about that one? Boy? Girl?
"They're all doing a great job!" I said loudly and fervently. Damage control.
As we piled out of the auditorium at the end of the night, I managed to make eye contact with the couple who had been sitting in front of us. I raised my eyebrows. Elderly.
Sunday, June 5, 2011, was a beautiful day in our microcosm. Blue skies, 70 degrees, no wind, smells of summer, and sounds of my sons and husband having an afternoon water fight in our backyard. I was born on a Sunday in 1966. For some reason when my birthday falls on the actual day of the week that my mother delivered me, it feels more... birth-day-like.
Still midlifing, I pinballed in my 45th year, bouncing off of spring-loaded emotions and experiences. Some good, some bad, but all intense. I don't know who's working the flippers, but I remain in play. I'm ready for a break. Let me go, move on, another ball is ready to feel the thrill of the plunger. Launch it while I catch my breath, oh great pinball wizard.
There are too many thoughts and personal stories to share from the past 12 months, but a few words are boldfaced in my mind's memory cyclone. They define areas of growth and struggle.
RELATIONSHIPS continue to fascinate and challenge me. Expectations can leave me feeling both hurt, when mine are higher for the relationship, and annoyed, when I can't meet someone else's. I read somewhere that the average person can realistically maintain 150 relationships. That sounds about right. I wish I could maintain more, because I enjoy connecting with and knowing people. Maybe I'm just nosy...
INTIMACY in new or rekindled relationships has been an issue. I'm doing it wrong. I either assume a level of familiarity that is inappropriate or out of someone's comfort zone, Hey, friend from 1975 who's bed I once wet on a sleepover! Great to see you on Facebook! Want to go on vacation together with our families? Surely we've grown in the exact same direction and have identical memories of our time together 35 years ago! Or I appear aloof because I'm trying to throttle my enthusiasm. Maybe it's called social anxiety...
NOSTALGIA is my crack. I can't get enough. I torment myself by watching old television shows, sifting through boxes of photos, reading journals from my youth, reminiscing with my husband and friends in an attempt to pinpoint details from that time when. Sometimes the reliving feels cathartic and other times it hurts. Maybe it's time to be more present in this moment...
PEOPLE I love and have loved grow in importance to me every year. I wish time wasn't linear so I could experience multiple people during a variety of calendar years... and all at once. Sounds like having your cake and eating it too. Maybe it's nostalgia again...
RELIGION shouldn't dictate our friendships, but I've lost friends due to belief systems. The more I experience, read, observe, pray, meditate, the simpler my views become. I believe God is in the beautiful, often messy, details of life. I don't believe He's in the details of dogma. Maybe they weren't really friends...
HEALTH in the fullest sense of the word as it applies literally to my mind, body and spirit, as well as my relationships, garden, finances, etc., is something I hope to never take for granted. Maybe great blessings come from the most heartbreaking experiences...
My mother has taken to making cards with old photographs... which fuels nostalgia. My birthday card this year from my parents had a picture of Dad holding me when I was a baby.
The inside of the card included one of Mom's clever poems...
"I don't have much time. I'm dying."
Her eyes were focused on mine, willing me to accept along with her the words she spoke.
I'd quasi-prepared in my mind to talk about death prior to my trip, but I felt numb -- almost tingly. She was dying. In the moment, devastation about Em's impending departure from the only world I know was replaced by stress about what I should or shouldn't say.
"Is there anything I can do for you? On your behalf? Help you do?"
"There's not enough time," she said softly.
We sat in silence for a few moments.
"Do you want me to call your pastor? Is your spiritual house in order?" Mine wasn't.
"No. I'm okay." She was so calm.
We continued to sit in silence. She looked at me for a long time before turning her head to stare straight ahead. Everything was slow, her movements, her speech.
On her bed that Thursday afternoon, my friend Wendy (nicknamed Em) released the team reins and decided to let her carriage coast to a stop. She looked at me again and said, "This sucks."
She was brave. I didn't feel that she was scared about where she was going, but at 43 and the mother of a young boy who's battling cancer himself, she didn't want to leave where she was.
We had that conversation on Thursday, March 31, 2011.
Throughout our friendship, which began in late 1985 [or early 1986], we processed many life situations together. Once we got to the root of our feelings, often the next step was... So, now what do I say to [friend, boyfriend, roommate, teacher, boss, parent, spouse, child]. We strategized the big communications.
I remained in Phoenix for three more days and was able to spend meaningful time with Em. At the end of my visit one day -- not the last, because I intended to return the next morning -- I approached her and let her know I was getting ready to leave. I didn't want to say "goodbye". I told her I would be back the next day, we hugged and kissed, but the reality was no one really knew when her time might be, so the ache was palpable when a loved one left her.
In her calm, soft voice, my sweet friend said, "See you later."
I returned the following morning. She was tired and she hurt, which were feelings she'd experienced every day since early January when she was told her ovarian cancer had returned. The fatigue and pain were like a boulder rolling down hill. Momentum roared her last few weeks.
That beautiful spring day, April 3, 2011, was the last time I would see Em. We both knew it. I had to return to my life in Utah. She scolded me for leaving that life to visit her, but stopped immediately when I asked her what she would do if I was the one who was sick.
Heavy moments were too much for Em. They're exhausting as a well person. She didn't want or need intense goodbyes with tissues and tears.
We hugged, kissed and exchanged I love yous.
"I'll see you later," I said.
She replied with one more, "I love you."
Wendy died on April 18, 2011, surrounded by her mother, two brothers, sister and sister-in-law. Amazing, compassionate, strong people.
There are already too many jokes about our parents -- the senior set in general -- adapting to social media. Just when some older people are comfortable consistently using email, we say... "Never mind. Start a blog. Tweet. Get on Facebook. It's fun!"
My mother took the Facebook plunge. Dad's holding strong. I believe hell really will freeze over before he signs up for an account.
I talked her into it. Poor thing. I wore her down during a visit last November. "It's SO easy. We'll be able to share pictures. You can keep track of Joe [my brother] and you'll find treasures in rekindled relationships from the past."
Mom bought the idea as I lied to myself as much as her. Facebook is a time sucking, angst causing, self-esteem crushing, bizarre life distraction. [Just me?] It's like the bowl of M&M's and Hot Tamales on my kitchen counter -- for guests, of course. I should have a piece of fruit or handful of almonds for a snack, but there sits that damn bowl of temptation. At the end of some days, I've grabbed too many of the wrong things and I feel oily. Too much candy... and too many clicks of the refresh/reload button on Facebook. Loser.
So, Mom and I set up her Facebook account, selected a cute photo of her and started looking for all of her old boyfriends and that one girl who was mean to her in high school. I alerted my brother immediately.
Joe has yet to reply. It's been five months.
I told Mom that it's important to make an occasional appearance on Facebook. Lurkers are boring and selfish. [Harsh words from someone who lurks.] I encouraged her to, at a minimum, comment on friends' photos. So she tried. I posted a picture of my sons and Mom accidentally updated her status.
Mom has made additional attempts on Facebook over the past few months. I've seen her wish people a happy birthday and she enjoys the "Like" button. But she still gets confused. While trying to comment on something my cousin wrote, she again updated her own status.
Mom's traveling to Utah to visit us in a few weeks. I told her we would spend a little time practicing our Facebook skills. Writing status updates, commenting, liking, removing comments, un-liking and polishing our personal brands in case we've screwed up our privacy settings... again.
In the meantime:
Continued from Spring Break - Part I ...
And Then The Paramedics Arrived
But only after the resort's security guard -- a guy who's mannerisms and deadpan delivery reminded me of David Puddy on Seinfeld -- planted himself in our room to witness the scene on behalf of the resort's legal department. Puddy was convinced I needed oxygen.
"Do you think she needs oxygen?" he asked my husband.
"No. I think she's breathing just fine," replied Chris.
This exchange occurred several times before the end of the night.
The paramedics determined I did not have appendicitis or a gall bladder thing and was likely experiencing severe food poisoning -- pain and non-stop, violent vomiting. They were cleared to treat me immediately in the room. I received fluids and two rounds of Please-Make-The-Throw-Up-Till-I-Pass-Out-Stop medication.
The paramedics and Puddy stayed with us a while, watched me wretch, writhe in pain, and examined all body fluids I produced. They complimented my accuracy and tidyness as I contorted and crawled from the bed to the floor to be sick. They also loved my purple sand pail and the Star Wars Legos on the nightstand that I never once disrupted during the ordeal.
And Then It Was A New Day
I was sick a couple more times that night but managed to rest a few hours before the boys woke up, oblivious to the visitors and drama while they slept. I spent the day propped up under an umbrella with sunglasses on, like the guy on Weekend at Bernie's, bucket nearby, trying to keep an eye on our kids, while Chris moved all of our stuff to a new room.
There was no funny smell, we had a beautiful view, and the purple bucket was retired as a sick receptacle and sand castle tool. The boys wouldn't touch it.
And Then We Got On A Boat
The next day began to feel a bit more like a real vacation. We took a snorkeling excursion around the island of Lanai. I wasn't able to snorkel because I was still recovering from food poisoning and had a touch of sea-sickness [I'm a fun date]. But the trip was worth seeing the whales, dolphins, octopus, lava tubes containing the remains of ancient Hawaiian royalty, the blowhole, and the memories Chris and the boys made while I stood by the boat captain battling nausea. Kind of like motion sickness in a car, if a person is queasy as a passenger they often feel better behind the wheel. I tried not to annoy Captain Chad, and the 20 other seated passengers.
I left my post as co-captain for a photo op in front of the blowhole. The five-year-old-boy remained in diva mode. No pictures.
And Then Middle Boy Got Sick
We think it was simply TOO MUCH that caused Middle Boy to vomit eight times that night. Too much sun, too much boat time, too much rich food, too much gosh-darn fun. He felt better the next day, had no fever and was ready to hit the beach.
And Then We Decided To Reclaim Our Vacation
We were all weak-kneed at the beginning of Day Five. We hadn't experienced the laid-back island vibe we were hungry for. Chris and I extended our trip a few days. Reset button? Hit.
And Then We Got Our Groove On
We swam, explored, picnicked with friends, ate, drank and enjoyed ourselves.
Unfortunately, almost every attempt at a family photo failed because of the youngest Ross boy's unwillingness to participate.
A few shots kind of turned out, but we'd been eating [and drinking] at Mama's Fish House and this Mama took her shirt off. I had a bathing suit on, but I looked conspicuously unclothed compared to the rest of the family. It's Chris' fault. I will have a friend photoshop my tank top ON my body before I share.
And Then It Was Time To Return To The Mainland
Our red-eye flight was scheduled to leave late Thursday, March 10th. We were tan, tired, ready to head home, but also excited to plan our return trip.
And Then The Tsunami Warnings Blared
Unbeknownst to us, the tragic earthquake in Japan had occurred. The airport was intense and our flight took off 20 minutes prior to the scheduled departure in an effort to clear the island of as many tourists as possible. We made it on to the plane. A paradigm shift of epic proportions consumed Chris and me as we reflected on our Griswold-like vacation bad luck. No. We were lucky beyond comprehension.
And Then Two Of Us Were Wet
The five-year-old-boy and I were seated together on the flight home. Without going into detail, we experienced a personal tsunami-like experience while he was sleeping wrapped around my body. Our misfortune resulted in his pants and shirt, as well as my pants and shirt, becoming WET.
I chose to muscle through the next few hours in wet clothes, but our youngest son took the brunt of the wave. A kind flight attendant begged a diaper from another passenger and gave us a clean blanket. While he slept, Chris and I were able to remove wet clothes from his lower body, replacing them with the diaper and an almost fashionable red sarong/kilt.
And Then Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig
Inspite of the rough spots on our trip, we had a wonderful time. The tragic situation in Japan, the fact that we serendipitously caught a flight hours before chaos hit the island, and the request from a dear friend who is battling recurrent ovarian cancer to "drink for two" [I can't hang, but don't tell her] have humbled this family beyond words.
Spring Break 2011 was memorable, and I wouldn't change that for the world.
Here's to you, Emmy Lou.
The five-year-old-boy is quasi-civilized now. Spring break and vacation options are growing more vast by the day. We decided to travel to Maui late-February, early-March, for our sons' spring break. I inventoried bathing suits, purchased basics for boys who have grown a freakish amount in the last six months and tried to put a positive spin on our return red-eye flight.
We woke the kids up very early on Sunday, February 26th and headed for the airport to catch our 6:30 a.m. flight to L.A. where we would board a plane to Maui. We were stoked!
And Then The Flight Was Delayed
Unfortunately, our flight was delayed by a couple of hours, resulting in us missing our connection in L.A. We sat in the LAX airport for almost nine hours and arrived in Maui late that night. We'd had a few tears and discussed how life is messy and we need to handle bumps in the road... better. We weren't feeling as stoked.
[Oldest Boy and Middle Boy hanging tough.]
[The Five-Year-Old-Boy became a Diva and would allow very few pictures to be taken from this point forward.]
And Then They Lost Our Luggage
Oldest Boy , a type 1 diabetic, had carry-on luggage with medical supplies and most of his clothes. The rest of us had nothing. Middle Boy  was able to borrow underwear and pajamas from his brother, but Chris and the five-year-old-boy had to rough it. I mortified my sons and guaranteed my husband wouldn't touch me that night, by wearing a pair of Oldest Boy's clean underwear [boxer briefs] and his Mickey Mouse t-shirt after showering.
And Then We Lost The Five-Year-Old-Boy
We were all tired, our rooms smelled funny, and Chris was on the phone with the airline trying to find our luggage. We'd been up for almost 24 hours and were disappointed that our plan to hit the beach the afternoon we arrived had failed. A travel day that long should have landed us in Australia... or on the moon.
When I got out of the shower near midnight, wearing my son's underwear and t-shirt, I walked from room to room assessing our situation. Husband on phone, older boys settling in... but no little boy. I went through our rooms again like the Tasmanian Devil and screamed at my husband, "How did YOU let this happen?" when it was evident the youngest Ross boy was gone.
Chris ran out a front door while the two older boys and I cried and opened balcony doors in piercing fear and disbelief.
The phone rang and someone had found our son roaming the halls and walked him to the lobby. In our arrival commotion he'd been locked out of our funny smelling rooms. He was missing for five minutes, but they were terrifying moments.
And Then We Hit The Beach... Finally
After a long night with only three hours of sleep, our child and our luggage found, and a call made to request a room change because of the smell and bad karma, we donned our own bathing suits and marched our white bodies to the beach. The day lifted our spirits. Maybe this vacation wouldn't suck!
And Then We Went To The Luau
If things had gone as planned, we would have arrived in Maui on time, had a leisurely first afternoon, a decent night's rest and been ready for the Luau I'd booked for the second night there. Although tired, we were excited to attend the show that had come highly recommended. The Luau was entertaining, the food was good and when a storm rolled in and it began to rain, ponchos were quickly distributed to 600 guests. The five-year-old-boy fell asleep in my lap towards the end of the evening, but he was content. What a nice vacation...
[Oldest Boy helping Middle Boy make the "Hang Loose" sign, not to be confused with the "Rock On" or "I love you," sign.]
And Then My Stomach Danced
Not in a cute or jolly way. Trouble was brewing. Big trouble. I looked across the table at Chris in panic. "Something's wrong. I'm going to be sick. Take him," I mouthed as I almost threw our sleeping child to Chris.
I willed my body to not explode in the bushes at the Luau [I still owe God a follow-up conversation -- I don't remember exactly what I promised] and the miracle continued until Chris managed to get our car to the front of the facility, driving over 600 people, and loaded our three boys and me into the car. "Drive fast," I said, "It's going to be bad." And out of the parking lot we screeched.
And Then I Threw Up
We didn't get far. Chris pulled over the first time right outside the Luau. Headlights from the cars behind us provided the perfect spotlight for my show. We continued to our hotel, Chris stopped the car when I gave the signal -- which was any movement or sound -- and our three sons remained reverent and stoic. Chris maneuvered our rental car as close to a hotel entrance as possible. Oldest Boy and Middle Boy escorted me to our room while Chris parked, pausing to cover me as I defiled the resort's beautiful landscaping along the way.
I made besties with the toilet and a bucket, Chris got all three boys in bed and promised them I would live.
"I think I need help," I said when Chris asked how I was doing.
"Do you need to go to the hospital?"
Chris made some phone calls and discovered all Urgent Care facilities were closed. The nearest hospital was 30 minutes away. He wanted to drive me there.
"We can't get the kids up. They've only had three hours of sleep. And we can't just leave them." I thought for a minute. "Put me in a cab."
"NO. You're crazy."
"Just give me my bucket and call a cab." I was serious and I thought it was the perfect solution.
The next twenty minutes are a blur.
And Then The Paramedics Arrived
To be continued...
Valentine's Day circa 1996...
Chris would check tires, chains, brakes and ensure we had extra tubes and the proper allen wrenches for our bikes. I made sure we had snacks.
We'd head to the desert, ride for a while and stop for lunch. Pop-Tarts and water under a tree.
I frequently crashed -- usually pedaling uphill -- and Chris always sacrificed his water to clean my scratches. Sometimes I cried... pain, frustration, fatigue or nothing more than a bruised ego. Chris was never sharp with me. You almost had it. Take as long as you need -- we have plenty of time.
We don't have those bikes, that truck, or live near the tree. And my leg sports a wrinkled knee, a few scars and evidence of Pop-Tart consumption [as all of our legs should].
But we still have each other this Valentine's Day. Plus three handsome reminders of what intoxication on Pop-Tarts and water -- plus playing a little doctor -- can produce.
I chose to have braces put on my teeth two years ago. Just in time for my 25th high school reunion. Neato.
One friend commented that braces would give me plenty of blog fodder. But there wasn't much to say about them after the initial post introducing my new accessory. I carried Ortho Wax and knew which neighborhood kids to call when I ran out. My teeth ached occasionally and Mother asked, "When do you get those off?" EVERY time she saw me.
My braces seemed more visually intense than other mouthfuls I've seen. Maybe it was because I selected traditional silver, wore power chains most months, or have small teeth. Regardless, I felt like I looked like Jaws in the James Bond movies.
I met a little boy named Albert in an Anaheim laundromat last March. We were in California for a family vacation and I needed to wash clothes. Four-year-old Albert asked me for money and mints that night while his mother and I did our laundry next to one another. I gave him both as his mom said, "Albert! Eso no es amable." That's not polite.
He was round and dimpled. The plump kind of child that I was certain would pop if I stuck a pin in him. But I fell in love with Albert after he took one look at my smile and said, "Nice grill."
My braces finally came off in November. I apologize to my Facebook friends who have already seen the following photo, but I promised Gabi With An Eye a sans braces shot in this post.
So there you go. It took me a few weeks to get used to my new teeth. I felt like I looked strange and radically different. Like when someone Photoshops big teeth on an animal or small child.
Recently, I purchased two new pairs of glasses. One pair has progressive lenses. I get motion sick easily and I'd heard that adjusting to no-line bifocals can make a person nauseous. I figured the larger the lens, the smoother the adjustment.
My theory worked. A little vertigo for the first few hours, but the bifocal sweet spot is small compared to the large distance lens. I adapted quickly. Only now it doesn't matter that I'm not wearing braces, because I look like the smart turtle in children's books.
Labels are so unfair. As kids, they can be difficult if not impossible to shake. I had a buttoned-up image in high school. One day I wanted to dress grungey instead of preppy. Not only was I uncomfortable, but so were the kids around me. Like, "Whatcha doin?" Don't screw with the norm, man.
It goes without saying that we all have many facets to our personalities, but most of us settle into a recognizeable label or two, either by choice, or by allowing ourselves to be steamrolled into it. It took me years to have the courage to pick at, peel, and rip the labels off of myself that I didn't want there in the first place. I realized, Gee, that wasn't so hard.
I'm careful with labels and descriptors around our sons. Pointing out one boy's emerging interest or talent has -- at times -- limited the other two, unintentionally. All three boys are finding and creating their personal definition, and they deserve to feel comfortable editing well into adulthood. I don't want my parental power [and yes, I still have some] to influence who they want to be. Or, who they are.
Inspite of my careful word choice around the kids, they label themselves and each other. The boys have -- in their own words -- been a birdwatcher, bug-catcher, chef, artist, scientist, nature-lover, the athletic one, the diabetic, the creative one, the polite one, the tidy one, the sloppy one, the ornery one, school boy, and the rocker.
Middle Boy  is a self-described rocker. He wears his label loud and proud, but I remind him that he's like a Colorform set. He's the laminated board and the labels he tries on in life, as long as he's careful and kind, are vinyl and easy to remove.
In an effort to get the following photograph for my parents' holiday card...
... we had plenty of outtakes like this one.
Christmas dinner was punctuated with exciting moments like this...
...and a tender moment -- where the young help the old make the "rock on" sign properly -- is captured below. [Although, no one is doing it right. But, shhh, don't tell.]
Even my mother and the son who chooses not to be a rocker, had fun playing with the vinyl label.
Middle Boy seems happy with his evolving identity for now. He feels good about himself and is enjoying the Colorform scene he created. Who knows how long it will last?
All I know is, my sweet boy thinks he's leaving me the "rock on" sign in the shower every day. But the wonderful thing is... he's signing, "I love you."
Before I share my little story, it's important for you to know that I am not seeking sympathy, expressions of, "Poor Chrisy," or any other obvious comments that might follow. We all have people in our lives who are much worthier of our sympathies, prayers and good thoughts. I'm fine.
All three boys are recovering from the virus dujour of the prior week. I assumed it was my turn when I felt feverish on Monday. Advil, Mucinex, Vicks Vapor Rub on my feet, and naps in between shuttling boys to and from school all began to fail me by Wednesday evening.
Chris arrived home late Wednesday night from a business trip and didn't realize how sick I was as he quickly kissed my head goodbye the next morning, took the older boys to school and headed to work.
I knew I had more than a head cold, but tested my abilities several times to prove to myself that I was in trouble. Sit up. Faint. Sit up. Faint. Sit up s l o w l y. Faintfast.
I called Supermodel about 9:00 a.m. "I'm sick."
"Do you need me to come over there?"
"Yeah. I don't even know where the five-year-old is."
And I didn't. I couldn't get out of bed.
Within moments I heard our garage door go up and her footsteps on the stairs. My bedroom door opened.
"How are you?"
"Sick," I said without looking at her.
"What do you want to do?" she asked me.
"I don't know."
"Do you need me to take you to the bathroom?"
"I don't know."
We remained silent for a moment. I saw my five-year-old boy standing next to Supermodel.
"Will you feed him?"
She knew me well enough to let the controlling and -- at times -- bizarrely indecisive parts of my personality fizzle.
She went downstairs, took care of things, then returned to check on me. I told her I was afraid I might have pneumonia again, but it seemed strange it would hit so fast. Her cell phone rang. It was her physician sister-in-law, calling for a different reason, but Supermodel was able to ask her about my symptoms. Physician-Sister-In-Law advised we go to the doctor.
Supermodel called my doctor, made an appointment for a couple of hours later and took the five-year-old to her house so I could rest.
When she returned later with my son, I felt slightly better and thought it was silly to go to the doctor for what was likely a virus.
"I think I'm better," I said.
"Your face looks red."
"My fever just broke. I'm sweating."
"I still think we should get you to the doctor," she said calmly, but without condescension.
"Look at my hair. I'm a mess."
"You're sick. I'll help you put it in a ponytail."
"What are they gonna do? I have a virus, I look terrible, I should be in bed," I whined as I tried to regain control.
"C'mon. Let's go."
Supermodel tied my snow boots, helped me cover my wrinkly, damp-from-perspiration pajamas with a large army green winter coat, and grabbed a 1-gallon ziploc bag [my choice throw up receptacle] and loaded the five-year-old boy and me into the car.
I tested positive for the flu and a chest X-ray confirmed pneumonia. While I sat on a chair in the hall outside the X-ray room, hunched over, my head in the light salmon pink vomit box they give sick people, the nurse pulled my pajama pants down and gave me a shot of antibiotics.
Chris arrived at the doctor's office in time to spell Supermodel. She needed to resume her own Mom duties; it was time to retrieve Supermodel Jr. from school.
Two days later, the antibiotics are working and so are fresh pajamas.
I told Chris I was writing a blog post about Sick Thursday and he said, "From what angle?"
"I don't know," I replied.
Maybe it's this. In an ideal setting, when a full-time caregiver/homemaker/child-rearer feels ill, they call in sick for work or arrange for a sub for a day or two. We all know that's not how it works. We're supposed to reach out to friends for help.
But it can be difficult.
There are people who take advantage of the help and support of others. They're in need all the time, not just a difficult season or two, but for life. Always asking, never giving. I like to think those folks are in the minority.
So, friends, let's all agree... when we're in need, when we're hungry, when we're sick, and can't get out of bed? We'll call Supermodel. I'll get you her number.
Head colds have come and gone the past week. Chris traveled to Connecticut and made it home on his scheduled flight, despite the east coast winter storms. I found a lump in my breast, had a mammogram and an ultrasound and all is well. I'm thankful for nuggets of fat.
Before Chris left town [because everything falls apart after his departure], he called me as he was driving the boys home from school.
"Middle Boy doesn't feel well. You'll have questions, so just talk to him."
Chris handed Middle Boy the phone. In between congested deep sniffs and a lisp I can't recreate, I could tell he was trying to hide that he was crying. He was difficult to understand, but I heard that his ear hurt... and something about his tongue on a pole.
"What? Did you stick your tongue to a pole?" Temperatures were well below freezing that day.
"Uh-huh," he cried.
It was like ordering Chinese food over the telephone, but eventually I got that another boy was successful removing his tongue from a frozen pole at recess so Middle Boy tried the same trick. I asked if someone dared him to do it or if someone yanked his head off the pole, suspicious that he might have been bullied into the situation. Nope. He made both the entry and exit decisions on his own.
Middle Boy described how his tongue skin was still on the pole, and how he couldn't eat his lunch because... there was mustard on his sandwich, and oh his ear... it hurt so badly. It had been a terrible day. Would I please call the doctor? Of course.
He went to the doctor that evening, had an ear infection and a bum tongue. Antibiotics for one, ibuprofen and tepid, bland liquids for the other.
I listened to Middle Boy vent from the backseat of his father's car on the way home from school that day, and responded with mom-speak. Aw. I'm sorry, honey. Shoot. It's okay. You can rest all weekend. I understand.
He was finished. He had purged his troubles for the time being, but still felt lousy.
One of Middle Boy's Christmas presents was a Muppet Whatnot. He was able to create his own Muppet online, and the completed gift had arrived a few hours earlier.
"I know it's been a rough day, but I have some news that might cheer you up. There's a package with your name on it waiting for you."
He sniffed a few times, "Wha?"
"It's your Muppet."
The first entry in my 2011 journal...
I also have specific writing goals, as well as general/specific personal and family goals. I don't feel the need to share here, but Chris has reviewed my lists and has agreed to be my accountability partner.
NOTE: If you show me yours, I'll show you mine. Email me. I've always been a good cheerleader. I may not be able to do the splits or a Herkie any longer, but I'll pull a hammy trying.
The last few months of 2010 I didn't blog much. Pretend the following are appropriate-length, funny, moving, entertaining [with attached photos and/or video] blog posts:
The five-year-old boy has already accomplished a 2011 goal. He learned to whistle. He's usually the last person in our house to wake up in the morning. He likes to creep down the stairs and startle me. I allow this to happen even though I hear his bedroom door open and feel his little presence behind me. And now I have to pretend I don't hear him whistling from the time he lifts his head off the pillow until he reaches the bottom of the stairs.
I'll share the summary and affirmation paragraph from the Twenty-Eleven Goals entry in my journal. You have permission to roll your eyes, remind me of my words when I bitch about them, join me in the cheesefest, or... nothing.
I've decided to add one more specific goal to my personal list. I'm going to teach the 5YO boy to whistle with his two fingers in his mouth. Just watch.
Happy New Year.
This crazy blog has provided me joy, frustration, stress, therapy, feelings of self-doubt as well as feelings of self-assuredness. I'm not closing the doors, although I've considered it. People who currently blog or have blogged in the past, know these feelings well. Those who don't blog wonder what the big deal is. It's your blog, write what you want, when you want. Pfff!
And those who don't blog... are absolutely right.
I'm looking forward to closing out 2010 with Chris and the boys. We have a few things to accomplish before the end of the year, but mostly we hope to enjoy some unstructured time, a visit from my parents, and the magic that is Christmas. [I still believe!]
Chris worked hard lighting the too-tall tree that takes four adults to get in our family room. As he balanced on a borrowed 20-foot ladder, moving ornaments a little to the left -- no, back to the right... wait... the blue sparkly one needs to go to the other side -- he accused me of trying to kill him for the life insurance money.
The tree is beautiful. Middle Boy sat on the floor every morning before school, quietly looking at the lights and ornaments. He seemed to be meditating, almost soothed by his private moments with the tree while the house was still.
[Chris and boys decorating.]
I've intercepted the glide slope for 2011 and I'm ready for a solid and safe landing. Bear with me and if I make it, I'll keep fiddling around with this silly blog.
I was sweet on a neighborhood boy. He was in the sixth grade, I was in the fifth. A younger girl rarely caught the eye of an older boy in those days. He was popular and had a little sister who knew how to make pom-poms out of tissue paper. She was pretty and he was athletic. They were a sibling power couple.
"Kirk's such a fox. He's tuff," I remember saying to a friend within earshot of my dad. "He's the best basketball player in the whole school."
Basketball is a religion in Indiana, or at least it was in the 70s, so the fact that my little Hoosier crush played the game well, elevated his celebrity.
"You like Kirk?" my dad asked. "That kid spits all the time."
It was true. Kirk was a spitter. Maybe he still is. But the way he spit as a kid was neat. He'd walk down the sidewalk, sometimes dribbling a basketball, look to the side and spit with speed, force and precision. He spit with equally precise frequency, like a high-pressure lawn sprinkler, ticking methodically across the grass. It was awesome. It also might have been a compulsion, but it melted my butter.
I was looking at family video recently. Chris and the two older boys braved a thrill ride at a local amusement park in August. The five-year-old boy [he was actually still four when the video was taken] and I are a crack team of backpack watchers and videographers. It was the end of the day, which is my excuse for putting a four-year-old in charge of belongings. I think he bummed a smoke from the people next to him, and karate-kicked potential abductors in the stomach.
"Spit" is a small part of the video, but I know my family will appreciate it.
I'm beginning to lose count. It was either my 28th, but possibly only my 27th, moving violation.
People gasp, wonder how I continue to drive legally and ask me how much my insurance costs. It's not that bad. Over a 28-year time period, I've received tickets in a handful of states and have watched the total leap when I've been at fault in a non-injury accident... or four. Did you know a person can receive multiple tickets in ONE accident? I learned this when I was 18.
NOTE: It's important for me to remind people that alcohol has never been a factor in any of my moving violations. As a matter of fact, I only recall one ticket occurring at night and it was a [w]reckless driving ticket [I wasn't even speeding]. I was on my way to my then boyfriend's [now husband's] apartment, and became distracted because a bug the size of a small bird was flying around the cockpit of my car. The police officer pulled me over -- something about erratic driving -- helped me get the bird-bug out of my car, then ticketed me. He sympathized when I said I was afraid the bug would get caught in my hair, but told me I should have immediately pulled over and battled the bug on the side of the road.
The 28th, but possibly 27th, moving violation occurred in July. Middle Boy and I were in Colorado for a week so he could attend a daily music camp. I was driving to the hotel after dropping him off one morning, chatting with my mother-in-law on my HANDS FREE DEVICE, driving with the flow of traffic [I think], when I saw flashing lights in a side view mirror.
"Oh my gosh! I think I'm being pulled over. I don't even know what I'm doing wrong," I said to my mother-in-law.
The police officer was on a motorcycle, noticed me noticing him in my rearview mirror and pointedly gave me the "PULL OVER!" sign with his hand. He almost jerked himself off his motorcycle motioning so wildly.
I was offended.
"I need to go," I said to my mother-in-law. "He's huffy."
I gave the police officer the JUST-A-MINUTE sign with my hand followed by the I'M-ON-THE-PHONE sign [resembles the "hang loose" sign], and politely wrapped up the conversation with my mother-in-law.
I probably shouldn't have done that.
The police officer was a small person. Literally. The two of us together might have weighed 225 with my weight contributing more than his to the total. Although, he did have that big gun.
I drive a mid-sized SUV. The officer was not amused when I used his mirrored sunglasses to fix my bedhead, and I don't think he appreciated it when I apologized for not noticing him on his little motorcyle. He said, "I've been trying to pull you over for quite some time."
"Well, I am SO sorry. I was on the phone with my mother-in-law, and we hadn't spoken in a while. We're trying to coordinate dinner plans for my son. And I didn't see the little motorcycle."
He asked me all the usual questions. I said all the usual stuff. No, I didn't know I was speeding. Yes, I realize it's dangerous. I'm sorry. I have no business behind the wheel of a car. I'll be more careful and pay attention. I'm an idiot. Are points shared between states, yet? Thank you, Officer.
I drive legally. My insurance is a little on the high side, although not as high as one would think. I have a few photo radar tickets [I don't think those should count.] and the majority of my speeding tickets are for slightly over the limit.
I simply get caught when I break the rules, even unintentionally. Always have. Snitching cookies, sneaking out, skipping school, accidentally speeding or changing lanes too quickly [who knew?]... busted. I view my bumbling criminal abilities as life's way of watching out for me. I've been spared.
So my ticket history is shameful. I'm aware. But, I've only had one cavity in my life. That should count for something.
When both of my grandmothers died, nearly twenty years apart, the importance of moments and not mementos was never more profound. Especially with the people I feel connected to in life.
Although, I admit my desire to occasionally visit each woman's last apartment as it was when they died. Furniture they'd each had for years, arranged just so; clothes pressed and hanging in closets; and kitchens organized similarly -- one grandmother preferred vodka in her liquor cabinet, the other bourbon.
A Graceland-like shrine in memory of Georgie and Jane would be nice some days.
But it's just stuff. The older my grandmothers became, the more they shrugged their shoulders at their own belongings and boxes of sentiment.
When Georgie died, my mother's mother, all Mom wanted was one of her rose bushes. Mom dug up a pink rose bush, placed it in a plastic bag, sat with it on the flight home after my grandmother's service, and planted it in her yard.
I have a few things from each of my grandmothers. There are no family heirlooms or valuable antiques, but some old books and a photograph or two bring me great comfort and joy.
And a desk. When Mamaw died last summer [Dad's mom, Jane], I had the space for a few pieces of her furniture. A dresser and two night stands have been sanded, painted and repurposed in our home. But it's the old, mahogany desk with drawers that stick and darkened brass hardware, that speaks to me every day. "Come over here and sit. You're not too busy. Talk to me. Think. Write."
After some refurbishing, we placed the desk in a small area in our bedroom that has become my writing space.
I don't always sit at the desk. Sometimes I sit on the small couch, or the rocking chair with the computer on my lap. But I feel supported, encouraged, and inspired. Not to mention reminded of the difficulties women endured in prior generations with fewer opportunities.
I don't have a piece of furniture from Grandmother Georgie, but the roses from my own garden are reminders of her fortitude and love.
The tequila bottle the flowers are displayed in? A gift from my mother, who is very much alive, and collects them. Mom does not drink the tequila [anymore], but asks bartenders at nice restaurants to save the expensive, unique looking bottles for her.
Mamaw would love the tequila bottle vase. Grandmother [Mom's mother] would say, "Oh, for god's sake, Kaye Anna. I think we can do a little better than that."
I love it all. The desk, the roses, the tequila bottle, but mostly I love the reminder of the interesting, smart, strong women that are mine.
It seems like everyone is doing it. Everything. Go! Go! Go! Visiting, seeing, doing, going, experiencing, documenting... LIVING.
We're a family that requires and thrives on more structure and routine than most of our friends. There are medical and personal quirk [not just mine] reasons for our adherence to a simpler schedule. At times it's been necessary, other times it's been preferred, but moderate activity has prevented one or all of us from going apeshit.
The summer of 2010 we challenged our semi-rigid norm. With older kids -- the youngest boy almost civilized -- we were ready to lighten up. Bring on the fun, the excitement, the spontaneous memory making activities and the seductive busy that everyone else wedges into life! We abandoned schedule and routine. And it almost killed us. Me. Us. We're pooped.
There were birthdays, day trips, weekend trips, week-long trips, music lessons, writing classes, projects, trail races, doctor appointments, speeding tickets, a traveling husband, parasites, junk food, organic food, new friends, old friends, laughs and a few tears. We had slow-paced days, but not enough.
I've always admired life's mustangs. I want to run with them, but I also want to sit on the porch and watch them run by.
Next summer, I'm going to do both... better.
[Photo courtesy of Google images.]
I liked the Grapenuts in my cauliflower fondue at the Renegade Canteen. Dinner with my parents, minus the kids was what Chris and I needed after a long 4th of July weekend in the Arizona desert.
It's become a family tradition, the July pilgrimage to Scottsdale, Arizona. We stay at Mom and Dad's for a week, swim, celebrate the 4th, visit family and friends, and try to relax. There's usually a little drama. A boy finds a scorpion in his room, runs into a jumping cholla, and someone gets a speeding ticket... or two.
[Chris and the boys - funky white.]
[This jumping cholla was stuck on the 4YO's ankle.]
[Dad sleeping, the boys watching TV.]
Mom, Dad, Chris and I were enjoying food, drink and conversation at what has become another family tradition, the End-Of-Vacation-Adult-Dinner. Poor Uncle Joe and Aunt Stephanie [my brother and his wife] were graciously babysitting the boys, foregoing the grown-up outing. Unfortunately for them, this is part of the tradition. [Joe, I love you, man.]
[Enjoying dinner... Mom and Dad. Chris and me - braces off in October!]
Mom and I excused ourselves and went to the ladies' room. When we returned to the table, Mom said to Dad, "Our bathroom was nice. How was yours?" Because as most women know, it's all about the bathroom.
"It was fine. There was ice in the urinal."
We all laughed. Dad made a funny.
"Seriously. There wasn't ice in the urinal, was there?" Mom asked as we both studied our husband's faces for signs of lying.
Dad nodded, yes.
Chris nodded, yes.
Dad and Chris explained that ice in men's rooms is common and nothing new. Mom and I still weren't convinced. How could she be married to my father for 47 years and not know about ice in the urinal? I felt the same.
"Why haven't you told me about ice in the urinal?" I asked Chris.
"It's not a big deal."
"I think it's weird you've never mentioned it. ... And I still don't believe you." It might have been the Chianti fueling my fire, but I wanted proof.
Chris and I walked to the men's room. He wasn't thrilled, but he's a good husband and he knew his wife had had enough Chianti to do it by herself if he didn't cooperate.
"It's empty. Have at it," he said as he opened the door for me.
And I'll be damned...
We returned to the table and I showed Mom the pictures. The guys were telling the truth. But now we wanted to know why. Why was there ice in the urinal?
Dad and Chris shrugged. Not only had they kept it a secret all these years, they had never bothered to ask why the ice was used.
We asked the waitress. She had been a server for a decade and had never heard about ice in the urinal. How did she not know about this? We asked the busboy, but the slight language barrier resulted in smiling, scurrying and more ice in our drinks.
The waitress said she would talk to the manager and get back to us. Dad left her his card and he recently received an email that said in part:
...here's the answer for your questions. There is nothing special about it. It was out of necessity. They had issue with not enough flow of the water to flush urine at the time. So they used ice to add water flow.
Regardless of the ice, or the reason for the ice, what I still can't get over is that I'm 44-years-old, my mother is... older, and neither one of us knew about this.
I wonder what I'll learn next summer.
I miss you.
Training isn't the same without you. I've muddled through most of the workouts, but the solo 16- and 18-mile trail runs were tough. You weren't there for me when I saw the snakes. Two of them. I miss how you let me scream, jump behind you and push you sacrificially towards danger.
I miss how you hold my hydration belt so I can go to the bathroom... and I miss holding yours.
I miss our conversations that go from light to intense and everywhere in between. And when we end a long run with scribble marks over our heads and curt goodbyes, one of us always calls the other later that day to share a new recipe, borrow an ingredient, or to see how the other guy is feeling.
I try to meet new girls on the trail. They're either too gritty or too pretty. I know you know what I mean. The gritty girls don't smile at me; it's all business. They run solo, but I can tell they prefer it that way.
The pretty girls run in elite packs. I can smell them coming, all flowery and clean. They have silky hair, spaghetti-strap cami tops, their boobs don't move, and I bet they shave their legs every day. They smile and hop off the trail, yielding to me with gorgeous white grins. I feel their pity. They know I'm not a gritty girl, but they also know I can't hang with their pretty set. It's obvious I don't shower before a run, and... the boobs.
I've seen a few trail runners like us -- in between gritty and pretty -- but they're already paired off. They look at me sympathetically as if to say, Don't worry. You'll find someone. Like you. Like us.
I get that you're tired of running. I understand the desire to broaden your workout routines and connect with other friends, although it stings a little when I see your new training partner drive by my house with you in the car. She's friendly, fit, pretty, speaks Portuguese and is good with hair. I'm sure the Boot Camp you attend with her is very exciting! I was sorry to hear about her misfortune on the hike the two of you enjoyed... with several other people. I'm glad she's feeling better, but for the record, you've never had to call Search And Rescue for me. Eleven rescuers? Just sayin'.
My first race is this weekend. It should be our race. I'll drive to Park City, Saturday morning... alone. I miss trying to convince you that we need to be there early, and stressing about your inability to get to bed at a reasonable hour.
I'll think of you, Supermodel. I might have to "love the one I'm with" once in a while, but I'll never stop loving you.
Chris and I had been married just over a month and were excited to purchase our first Christmas tree together. Our budget was $20. Not much, even twenty years ago.
We visited two Christmas tree lots and both times I immediately told the lot owner, "We want the biggest tree you can give us for $20!" Neither lot had a tree taller than three feet available for that price.
As we got in the car without a tree the second time, Chris said, "Please don't say anything at the next lot. Let me do the negotiating."
I tried. Chris patiently followed the lot owner from tree to tree, nodding his head, whittling the price down. I dutifully stood beside Chris and tried to look young and sweet... and poor. Things weren't moving fast enough. I felt an opening, sensed a softness growing in the lot owner. "This tree is perfect for our apartment, but we only have $20," I said.
We left the lot without a tree again.
Purchasing cars, houses, negotiating in general, is not my strength. I show my hand too quickly... Would you like to see our bank accounts? I pay more than is necessary because I trust the seller... He TOLD me this was a good deal. Why would he lie? Or I kill the transaction because I spastically blurt the wrong thing at the wrong time... Are you trying to screw me?
We bought a car recently and Chris reminded me several times to please just shhh. He's kinder than most partners would be with my track record, "I know you're only trying to help, but you've got to let me handle this. Don't say anything about money. Try not to say anything at all... in front of anyone. You and I need to talk privately."
It was hard, but I did it.
Yesterday, we had a new guy do some yard work for us. He gave me a bid for the work a couple of weeks ago. It sounded... fine. [What do I know?] The man worked hard in the hot sun all day, the bushes and beds looked groomed and tidy and he was a pleasant person.
I gave the guy a check, came in the house and told Chris how pleased I was with the work that had been done. I said, "He tried to charge us less than his original bid. But, I reminded him... it was such a hot day... plus he's got to haul all that stuff away and unload it."
"So, you paid him more?"
"... ... ... I don't want him to feel like we're taking advantage of him," I said.
"So, you negotiated up?"
Chris was calm, but he added, "Don't do that."
I have a little money. Anyone want some?
[Image courtesy of Google Images]
It's my mom's fault. My inability to explain things to the kids with straight talk. My brother only wanted to know what the word "virgin" meant that summer evening while we ate dinner as a family in 1980. After a lengthy explanation where Mom described "purely driven snow", "virgin wool" and things that had never been touched, she asked him, "Now, Joe. Are you a virgin?"
He replied, "Nope. I'm a Gemini." He was eleven.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in the Salt Lake City airport waiting for my two oldest sons to board a Southwest flight to Denver. Because they're 12 and 10, I decided to forgo the $50 each way unaccompanied minor charge. They've flown many times with Chris and me, and were excited to travel alone to spend some time with their grandparents.
The boys didn't seem nervous, until I finished the Mom Pep-Talk.
"When you get on the plane, don't pick an empty row. You won't have control over who chooses to sit with you. You're small, clean and quiet so you'll be attractive seatmates to everyone. Do NOT sit next to a man. Any man. Not that all men are bad. It's just that the majority of crimes are committed by men. Look for a woman. A clean woman... with kids. But if she doesn't have kids with her, look for someone who looks like she probably has kids. Or an old person. Old women are usually very safe. You can sit by an older man as a last resort, but only if he's really old and doesn't look creepy. Not that you can tell if someone's creepy or bad by how they look. Because sometimes someone can look nice and clean, but they're creepy... don't worry about that right now. Avoid a large person if you can. Large people aren't bad, it's just an issue of personal space. Does that make sense to you? I don't mean to sound unkind... I'm talking Jabba the Hutt large, not normal large. You know, where they might leave some DNA on you. But look out for the slender people who are shedding skin or don't seem clean. It's a hygiene issue. Look for someone who has good hygiene regardless of their size. Know what I mean? It's important not to judge people by their appearance. Just look for a clean, mom-type woman... although women commit crimes too... just not as often. You'll be okay..."
I babbled and confused and worried them. They wanted to know what kind of crimes people would commit on an airplane. I explained I would hate for someone to lift one of their iPods.
Oldest Boy is a germaphobe like me and can now add to his growing pile of nightmares, the vision of a Jabba the Hutt-like person invading his personal space and sharing germ-ridden DNA, then stealing his iPod.
A woman, the clean kind with a handful of children, was in earshot of my terrifying pep-talk and instructions. She understood everything I was trying to convey to my sons and assured me she would keep an eye on them, even offering to sit with them if necessary.
The boys made it to Denver, had a great time, and returned safely with no tales of traumatic events [other than my pep-talk], no flesh-eating diseases, and all of their possessions. Oldest Boy told me he scouted the moms in the boarding area for the return flight and found one to sit with them. [He still listens to me and values what I say. Good news, bad news.]Oldest Boy and Middle Boy in Colorado - June 2010
In case anyone was wondering... I'm not a virgin either. I'm a Gemini.
It's my birthday today. I had a nice trail run this morning, the house was festively decorated when I returned, Chris offered to chaperon the four-year-old at a birthday party for me this afternoon [the best gift EVER], while the older boys and I shopped at REI and a running store. It's been a good day.
[Mom, Dad and me on my 1st birthday. 1967]
In my 44th year, I lost my grandmother, completed the Triple Trail Challenge, attended my 25th high school reunion, celebrated my 20th wedding anniversary, tweaked some relationships, felt what it's like to be bullied as an adult, had pneumonia for the first time in my life, and am reminded of the importance of living in the moment, thanks to my friend Em.
[Mom and me on my 1st birthday. 1967]
In the past 12 months I've learned...
... to trust my instincts [more than I already did] and not ignore multiple red flags that flutter and shake right in front of my face.
... closure and peace is best achieved privately.
... bullying feels like someone is squeezing the back of your neck with sharp, bony fingers and forcing you to walk down a path, not of your choosing, while you whimper.
... if someone's not well-liked, there's usually a good reason for it. Life's not a popularity contest, but there's a difference between having a funny walk, and walking around while swinging a stick.
... relationships, both old and new, family members and non-family members, continue to intrigue me. The cream consistently rises to the top.
... that my handsome husband is okay being the lust of my life versus the love of my life. How frickin awesome is that? I think that makes him the love of my life, for sure.
... I have no real problems and am one hell of a lucky woman.
[My second birthday. 1968]
My friend, Em, is the mother to a sweet, seven-year-old boy. He was diagnosed with brain cancer in early February. This treasured family is battling the disease with strength, courage, determination, and the knowledge that they will WIN the fight. Please join Chris, the boys and me in sending healing thoughts, prayers, and an abundance of good juju to Em, her husband and their son, Super T. She's been telling me to live in the moment, enjoy the simple gifts each day offers, and smile and laugh as much as possible. She's preachin' good, people. Let's listen to her!