formerly Diane's Addled Ramblings... the ramblings are still addled, just like before, and the URL is still the same...
it's just the title at the top of the page that's new

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I'm Begging Here...

Dear Ms. Carpenter,

First, please let me tell you what a great music teacher I think you are. I was absolutely blown away by what you accomplished at the 4th grade holiday concert. I know, all too well, the cacophony of sound that is the 4th grade – the squealing, shrieking, and screaming that comprises the female portion of that group; the monkey dialect, alphabet burps, and farting noises that make up the boy section. That you could make them sound so wonderful was truly an amazing feat and I commend you for your hard work and your ability to maintain your (apparent) sanity and good mood throughout it all.

All that being said, I do have a teensy-weensy complaint. It involves the instrument (and I use that term loosely) Ryan brought home last week… that unfortunate offspring of the forbidden union between the flute and the kazoo. Would that they had made like Romeo and Juliet and poisoned/stabbed/blown themselves up before they gave birth to… The Recorder.

Ms. Carpenter, I know this isn’t your fault. I know you must, to a significant degree, teach what the state dictates. I understand that the recorder has been part of the curriculum since Christ was a child. I don’t blame you. Honestly, I don’t. But I am here to tell you that I am one step away from sticking kabob skewers into both ears… simultaneously. Digging parts of my brain out through my nose would be preferable to hearing Hot Cross Buns. Even. One. More. Time.

Is there anything you can do? I wouldn’t ask, really, but Ms. Carpenter, I’m a single mom. Ryan needs me. She needs me to be here and not locked away in a padded cell, mumbling incoherently, my face screwed into the permanent ‘recorder squinch’. Maybe you could lower your expectations slightly? So that, say, Ryan doesn’t have to practice? At all? Or maybe she could pass the recorder class by helping you out a bit. She’s a really bright kid… I bet she could master the copy machine with little instruction; she’s creative and enjoys doing bulletin boards; she’s very organized and I feel certain she’d happily clean your classroom. And yes, I realize this sounds a lot like bribery (and probably breaks a lot of child labor laws, too) but I’m a bit desperate here. I’m on my knees, begging, tears in my eyes, cotton in my ears.

Please. Please. Please.

Sincerely,

Ryan’s Mom

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Honest and Truly...

I got tagged with another Honest Scrap Award by Hebba at JeepGirl17 last week. It dictates that I tell you 10 (more) interesting truths about me. You guys already know a whole lotta truth about me (‘interesting’ is debatable)… but here’s a bit more…

1. I always wish on stars and at wishing wells and fountains… and when I wish at wells and fountains, I always throw a quarter in because I figure it gives my wish 25x more power.

2. If there is such a thing as reincarnation (and I’m quite open to that possibility), I am certain I was a homicide detective in a previous life.

3. I’ve never owned an automatic car and I don’t expect to until I’m very old and my creaky, arthritic knee can’t manage the clutch anymore.

4. My dream home is a 1,000 square foot cottage on an old, tree-lined street… my ex’s is a 4,000 square foot luxury model in a new golf course development… and that difference is indicative of how our views about so many things diverged.

5. I’m addicted to magazines. I read 8 to 10 every month.

6. I hate to shop and pretty much only do so when I really need something, but I love getting catalogs in the mail, especially Pottery Barn and Soft Surroundings.

7. I’ve been in love twice and I’m very much afraid I never will be again.

8. If I could be 18 again, I’d start college with the intention of obtaining my PhD in psychology and working with children who have suffered trauma.

9. I have a 21-year-old cousin in Australia I’ve never met – Alyce. We’ve been corresponding for about 5 years now and she’s absolutely amazing… brilliant, funny, insightful, caring, socially/environmentally/politically-conscious. She’s who I want to be when I grow up.

10. I haven’t felt like I’ve had a real home – like I’ve belonged anywhere – for most of my adult life. It makes me sad. But I believe I’ll find it, so I haven’t given up looking.

Where's My Passport?

We had an ice storm last night and it's sleeting as I write.
The entire outdoors is basically a big skating rink.
School is out again today.
The recorder is this close to being flung in the trash.
Instead of the work I should be doing, I'm browsing Travelocity.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Snow Day!

I know those of you who have been snowed under for a couple of months are going to be cursing me, but... WHOO HOO!! We finally got some snow! School was called off (naturally) and Ryan was ecstatic. A tad thrilled myself, I went back to bed for 2 hours and rose to find Herself tugging on snow pants and boots. Here are a couple of photos of Ryan, her friend Carli, and our Sundance. The snow hasn't quite covered all the grass yet, but it's still coming down, so there's hope...
Those are happy, snow day faces!













Yeah, she's my kid.

My Boy!
And now, it seems, it's recorder-practice time. I wonder if I ram fistfuls of snow in my ears, would that render me deaf from frozen eardrums?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Music and Man-books...

So, tonight was my first book club meeting... you know, the book club I joined recently which is made up primarily of men (like I said, who knew they read?). I actually wasn't going to go because I joined late and didn't finish the book for this month. It was a man-book. A big book. Definitely not a fluffy, girly, mommy-book-club book (no offense to any mommy-book-clubbers out there... I'm just speaking from my own past experience). And though I wanted to read it, I was busy these past two weeks. Blogging. As you all know.

I debated all day... should I go? Should I skip it? Do I want to sit there with nothing to contribute? Should I just just make an appearance? It was decided for me, however, when Ryan got home. Today, in music class, she was issued the Instrument of Pain... also known as a recorder. For those of you who have never had a fourth grader (and who actually like music), a recorder is the retarded cousin of the flute. Even when played well, it makes a squinchy noise (that's the expression you get on your face when you hear it... all squinchy... like when you hear fingernails on a chalkboard and the fillings in your teeth hurt). It's high pitched and whiney (much like Troll Guy's elf voice) . Anyway, after about an hour of non-stop Hot Cross Buns played on said instrument (and I use that term loosely), I knew I had to get out. So off to the book club meeting I went.

There were 6 guys and me. I like being the only girl, honestly, and I'm quite used to it. I grew up in a family of boys; most of my career has been spent working in groups of men; most of my closest friends are guys. I'm comfortable in that setting. And I was tonight. They're a good group... a college professor, a high school teacher, a banker, a social services case worker, and 2 restaurant managers... all really nice, well-read, and articulate. It was the quietest I've ever been and will likely ever be at a book club meeting, but I didn't feel out of place for not having finished the book (Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond, by the way).

Oh, and there was beer.

Yeah, it was a good evening. Very good.

D'oh!

I completely forgot about an award that the hilarious Blognut bestowed upon me a while ago. Yeah, I suck. But I was (and remain) so grateful, as this Friends Award is a pretty big deal to me. I really feel as though I've made so many friends here in Bloggyland... I love hearing about your day-to-day goings-on and I love that you want to hear about mine. In this mad-dash we call life, when it's easy to lose touch with people and ourselves, it's nice to know there's always a life-line to humor, compassion, support, and friendship - most of all, friendship - here in Bloggyland. I could very easily pass this on to every one of you who reads and comments on my blog...

First, to Mel at I'm Not Weird, I'm Gifted (though she IS weird... just sayin'), as she's been my friend and my flesh-and-blood lifeline in so many ways, for so many years. I can't imagine my life without her in it and I hope I never have to.
To Heinous at Irregularly Periodic Ruminations... Jim has been a faithful follower from the beginning. I adore him, even if he picked someone else to be his BFF. Sniff.
To Heather at And Now I'm a Grown-up... my little bloggy sister, with whom I will consume some beer in DC in March!
To Coachblogger... He's funny. He's cool. I just like him.
To Amy McMean... she says she wants to be like me when she grows up. I think she's pretty fabulous the way she is.
To Sam I Am... a more caring soul you'll never find.
To Hebba at JeepGirl17... she's who I want to be when I grow up!
To Braja at Lost and Found in India... she's living large right now (at the beach... in India) and I'm mad at her for getting, like, 8 massages every day when I need just one in a serious way right now, but I'm going to give her this anyway because, even though she sucks at the moment, I still like her.

I'm stopping now, because I'm really tired of doing the linking thing, but please know that if I didn't mention you here, it's because I'm ridiculously lazy and definitely not because I don't value your friendship!! xox

Sunday, January 25, 2009

And the Award Goes To...

I've gotten a few beautiful awards recently and I want to pass them on to some really exceptional bloggers...

First, the I Heart Your Blog Award, from my friend Maithri (pronounced My3) over at The Soaring Impulse. I heart Maithri, so I'm happy he hearts my blog! Since he passed this on to 4 people, I'll do the same...

Sometimes Sophia is one of the blogs I visit first every day. She's a wonderful poet and a beautiful, funny person.
Live More Now is thoughtful and creative and smart... and she lives in Seattle, one of my favorite cities!
Stinking Billy... don't let the name fool you... Billy doesn't stink at all! He's lovely and a great big flirt and I'm tickled to a part of his little (but growing) bloggy harem!
Raw Cool... Michelle is full of energy (she runs 10 miles at a time!) and she always keeps it real.

Next is the Premios Dardo Award given to me by my sweet Heinous over at Irregularly Periodic Ruminations... this award acknowledges the values that every blogger shows in his or her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values every day. Cool, huh? I'm passing this one on to 4 people as well...

Life, Work, and Pleasure... if you're not reading my friend Z's blog yet, you're missing out. She is quite amazing... born in Slovakia, raised in Sweden, transplanted to North Carolina for 10 years, now living in Denmark! She is a scientist by trade but she has the heart and soul of an artist.
A Woman of No Importance... Fhina is one of the loveliest people I've had the pleasure to meet here in Blogland. I have just one thing to say about her blog. Read it!
Shut The Front Door!... Denise has an open mind and an open heart... she's someone you just know you'd love to live next door to!
Matter of Fact... Sherri is one of those wonderful people who gives me real hope for the whole world. We sit on opposite sides of the political and religious fences, but we keep finding out how alike we are... more than I ever thought possible... and it's a very good thing.

Last is the Biggest Heart Award, given by the lovely Fhina at A Woman of No Importance. I have to give this one to Maithri at The Soaring Impulse. Maithri is such a beautiful man, inside and out, and he truly has the biggest heart of anyone I've ever met. A doctor in Australia, he is also a poet and a musician... and he spends a lot of his time bringing attention to global issues that affect us all. His blog always touches me deeply and I try to repay him by making him laugh... it's a nice arrangement that seems to work for us!!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Appalled and Horrified and Disgusted... Oh My!

Ryan has been eating in restaurants since she was just a baby. My ex and I used to like to eat out on the weekends and since we didn't go to fancy places, she always came with us. I have always been very strict about restaurant behavior, though. Very strict. I would never, ever allow her to disrupt other diners, so the rules were (and remain), sit in your seat and sit still, no getting up from the table at all (unless it's to use the restroom), no loud talk, no whining, no crying, etc. Basically, I have always expected her to act like a small adult during the hour or two we spend in a restaurant and I always used to come armed with books, crayons, paper, etc, to ensure good behavior. There were a couple of times when she was small (and not as in control of herself as she is now) when I had to take her outside and have a little chat in order to prompt an 'attitude adjustment.' We only had to leave a restaurant once (because we'd arrived late, had to wait for a table, and she was grumpy), when she was about two. And there was a period when she was a toddler when we simply couldn't go out at all, as she just couldn't sit still long enough for us to have a peaceful meal. But in general, I've always been able to take her anywhere and feel confident that she would behave (her behavior at home, however, can be a completely different story!).

Anyway, I don't think I realized just how seriously she takes my 'out in public' rules. And I had to laugh this afternoon when I found out.

We went to Wendy's today for our Saturday afternoon chili fix. The line was long, so while I waited, Ryan got our napkins, straws, and spoons, and found us a table. When I finally got our food and sat down, she was shaking her head, looking aggravated.

Me: What's wrong?
Ry (whispering loudly, pointing discreetly to the table behind us): Those two children.

You should note here that Ryan is not terribly tolerant of small children. She never has been. She doesn't really like babies (she never even played with baby dolls) or toddlers and when they cry, no matter where we are, she gets very aggravated and makes rude (albeit hushed) comments. I am constantly reminding her that, given the fact that she's only nine, she was actually a small child quite recently. She doesn't care. The kids at the table behind us were a girl (about 2-years-old) and a boy (about 5).

Me: What about them?
Ry (still whispering loudly): They have been climbing all over the booth, smacking each other, making burping and farting noises, getting out of their seats, and running around! And neither their mother nor their grandmother has done a thing! Their behavior is appalling!
Me (snickering): Apalling, eh?
Ry: Completely appalling. Horrifying, really. I'm disgusted.
Me: Wow. Appalled, horrified, and disgusted. That's pretty serious. Do you think you can still eat?
Ry: Very funny, Mommy.

At least I know I won't have to worry about my grandchildren misbehaving in restaurants.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Humble Pie... Tastes Like Chicken

I am not one of those ‘do as I say, not as I do’ parents. Well, I try not to be. I’m usually not. I really do believe in living by example.

But sometimes I fail.

And when I do, it usually hits me like a brick.

Last night Ryan and I were discussing the issues she’s been having with her cousin (again). After going over the whole ‘she said/she said’ thing, I reminded my beautiful, bossy, stubborn-as-hell child that you get what you give in this life. If you give good, you’ll get good back. I reiterated The Golden Rule and pointed out that she hasn’t been treating her cousin the way she’d like to be treated herself.

As the words were leaving my mouth, I was suddenly struck by the fact that I haven't been living by example. At all. I haven’t spoken to my brother or sister-in-law in nearly three months. Ryan knows this. I’ve justified my behavior and hidden behind the fact that the falling out wasn’t my fault; that it was my brother who accused me of things I didn’t do; he didn’t care about the truth; he said horrible things to me; I was the one maligned and hurt; I have every right to be angry and absolutely nothing to apologize for.

But when I was telling Ryan she has to try to get along better with her cousin, I realized that none of my justifications matter. I failed my child – and myself – because I couldn’t move past my own anger and resentment. And I felt like crap.

So last night and this morning I fought an epic battle in my head and my heart. What I wanted to do (stay angry and hurt and silent), was kicking the ass out of what I should do (swallow my pride and extend the proverbial olive branch; set the right example for my daughter; try to make peace in my family for Ryan, my niece, my mother, and my other brother and sister-in-law, who are all suffering).

Though she doesn’t always, the better person in me won this time. So before I started work this morning, I wrote a letter (I trust my pen more than my mouth when I have something important to say). I explained why I was breaking the silence; I addressed the most important issues between us; I apologized for my part in the whole situation; I asked that we put it behind us. And then I mailed it. It’s only going 12 miles, so they ought to get it tomorrow. We’ll see what happens.

When I picked Ryan up this afternoon, I took her out for ice cream. As we enjoyed our Frosties, I apologized to her. I told her I had set a bad example and I’d been wrong to expect her to do something I wasn’t willing to do myself. She said she had realized it and was bothered by it all, but she hadn’t felt comfortable pointing it out to me. That was a kick in the teeth, let me tell you, and I made her promise that if she ever felt that way again, she would tell me.

So, I ate a serving of Humble Pie today. A big serving. It tasted like chicken. Chicken Cordon Bleu. Have I mentioned that I hate Chicken Cordon Bleu? I do. But I don’t think it ever killed anyone.

It hasn’t ever killed anyone… has it?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Writer's Workshop: Troll Guy

Writer’s Workshop time… head over to Mama’s Losin’ It for details. This week I chose the prompt:

Tell us about a memorable blind date.

Though it was difficult to choose which memorable (and by ‘memorable’ I mean ‘terrible’) date to tell you about, I settled on Troll Guy (yes, they all get names and yes, his was appropriate).

Back in October, I did a post about an email I received from Troll Guy. Many of you found it funny (strange how you all seem to laugh at my frequent misfortunes… it’s really not nice, you know) and several of you asked me to tell you more about him. Here you go...

I met Troll Guy online. Yes, I’ve done the whole Match.com thing. Don’t judge (or laugh). I’m a single mom who works from home and other than my (ultra conservative) family and their (ultra conservative friends), I knew no one when I moved here. The Pigsknuckle dating pool is more like a puddle and since the idea of having sex again before I die appeals to me, I put my Wellies on from time to time and splash around.

There was no splashing with Troll Guy.

He seemed normal. At first. He had a bunch of photos posted and he assured me they were recent. He was pretty average looking, which was fine, as 1) I'm not looks-oriented, and 2) I think I’m pretty average looking. We talked via email for a while – longer than I normally do, but he was chatty (and we all know I'm chatty) and it just sort of progressed. As it seemed we had quite a bit in common, we agreed to meet at a restaurant downtown one evening for an early dinner and then go for a walk at the university arboretum. Note that we did not speak on the phone before meeting.

Now, I might be weird in this, but I like first dates. I spent a good portion of my career interviewing people and I’m good at it. I’m also good at being interviewed (I’ve been offered every job for which I’ve ever applied). And I see first dates as interviews. They don’t bother me; I usually don’t get nervous; I’m good at putting other people at ease. So I pretty much always anticipate an enjoyable time.

Sometimes I'm a moron.

So, I got to the restaurant a little early. There was no one else there (he wanted to eat at the geriatric hour because, I found out later, he expected us to hit it off and he wanted our date to last a very long time). I sat facing the stairs he’d have to come up, so I caught sight of him before he saw me...

Ohhhhhhh… no. Nope. Can’t be. Can it? No. Please don’t let it be.

Well, crap.


First impressions mean a lot, don’t they? OK, let me backtrack a bit and describe the Troll Guy I saw in the photos… about 6 feet tall; dark, greying hair, cut short; average build; nice smile.

Now, let me describe the Troll Guy I met in person… possibly 6 feet tall, however, as a distance runner who did absolutely no upper body work, he was sort of concave, which made him slouch and appear approximately 5 inches shorter; longish hair, dyed a strange yellow-orangey color (a color not found in nature); his head perpetually tilted at a peculiar upward angle, which caused him to have to always look down his nose; one tooth missing (not a front one, thank God).

Again, to be really clear, I’m not looks-oriented at all. I’m not. I have no ‘type’ and I tend to be attracted to men who are not conventionally attractive. I’m all about personality and sense of humor and intelligence and kindness. Yeah, they have to be attractive, too… attractive to me. That can mean 1,000 different things and I don’t know from one date to the next what those things will be.

But Troll Guy’s looks? Not even the best (and by ‘best’ I mean ‘worst’) part…

Remember how I said we hadn’t spoken on the phone before we met? Yeah. Well, if we had, we wouldn’t have had a date. He looked down at me, grinned a gappy grin, held out his hand, and said, “Hi, Diane! I’m Troll Guy.” (Except he used his real name). And he sounded like…

An elf.

It was the most bizarre voice I have ever heard come out of a human man. High and squeaky with a hint of nasal whine. Bizarre. The voice of an elf. The face of a troll. Oh, and he brought me a bouquet of daisies… daisies dyed in neon colors. Swear.To.God. So it wasn't even like I could pretend it was a business dinner or something. It was clear... to all who would see us that evening... it was a date.

It was not going well. And that was only the first 5 minutes.

So I made the best of it (and by 'made the best of it' I mean 'I drank'). And I listened, trying not to cringe outwardly at his elf voice, as he over-shared to an alarming degree and told me things I had no business knowing on the first date. Or the 10th date. And I drank some more. When I got up to go to the bathroom, the waitress asked me if we needed the check. When I growled at her to bring me another beer, she laughed, nodded in understanding, and had it at the table before I got back. I drank until it was simply too late to go to the arboretum. He was disappointed. I was relieved. It was over.

Or so I thought.

On the way home, he called me to tell me he’d had a great time and couldn’t wait to see me again.

Ummmm… no, Troll Guy. No. No way in ever-lovin', holy Hell.

The next day I followed up, as is my normal practice. I always send an email to say thanks for meeting me; it was nice. Even if it wasn’t. In Troll Guy’s case, I wanted to be sure there was no misinterpretation so I was tactful and kind but I added that although I enjoyed his company (lie) and would like to be friends (bigger lie), I didn’t feel any physical chemistry (true) and didn’t want to pursue a romantic relationship (much bigger true). He replied promptly...

“No one has ever called me ugly.”

Ummmm… WTF?

Because I try hard to be a nice person and because he really was a nice person (albeit a weepy, needy, troll-like person), I spent the entire day explaining via IM that I hadn’t called him ugly (even though I might have wanted to). I made clear (or I tried to make clear) that my not wanting to pursue a relationship didn’t have anything to do with looks… it had to do with chemistry, which is completely different, simply cannot be predicted, and is necessary for any sort of romance to begin or flourish. After about 6 hours (I’m totally not exaggerating), I finally apologized one last time and told him we needed to just stop.

He still pops up every now and then… like a zit. He popped up in October. You can read about here if you’d like

When Sanity Slips Away...

This is me.
Today.
In my imagination.
This is me.
Today.
In reality.
This is my sanity.
Slipping away.
Fast.



Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It's Official...

Pigsknuckle is now officially the Redneck Capital of the US (and maybe the world)...

Not because we have two (count 'em... two) WalMart stores (and only one high school)...

Not because pick-up trucks outnumber kids two-to-one...

Not because the tallest building in town is the feed mill...

Not because you could wear camouflage to any restaurant in town and not feel out of place...

Not because the social event of the year is a Brooks and Dunn concert followed by a monster truck pull...

Not because the average man-on-the-street would be hard-pressed to name five authors but you can be damned sure he could give you the names, stats, birthdates, and family histories of the top ten NASCAR drivers...

Not because beef jerky and chewin' tobacco are impulse items located at the counter of every convenience store in town...

No.

Pigsknuckle is now officially the Redneck Capital of the US (and maybe the world) because I heard on the radio this morning that local grocery stores have been receiving numerous requests for the 'new dark meat'...

Raccoon.

Yes, it would seem that simply running Bandit over with your Ford F150 and scraping him off the highway to make a week's worth of stew isn't good enough for the discerning redneck... now the little critter has to come skinned and frozen in the meat section of the local grocer's. Yee ha!

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to head on over to the cement pond to do a few laps before the inauguration of our new President (who happens to be the antithesis of 'redneck'... unlike others who have passed before him). But first, I'm going to load up the old .22 'cause I might be able to pop off a possum on the way (I'm partial to white meat, you see).

One Person...

I do believe one person can make a difference. Barack Obama already has. He has given people hope. And hope is big. But it isn’t enough, is it?

I’m cheering today, along with much of the world, but my optimism is tempered with concern. My hope is that this man – this good man – can deliver on his promises; that he can lead us; that he can bring us all together and somehow make it work.

One person can make a difference and I do believe this man is going to try. I believe he’s going to do his best. I just hope his best is good enough.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Eyes Wide Open...

Last week I told you about a boy… a boy who changed my life... a boy who taught me how important it is to look past our external differences to find our inherent commonalities… a boy I loved.

Today I’m going to tell you about a book… a book which changed my life… a book which set out to show people how important it is to look past our external differences to find our inherent commonalities… a book I love.

The book, Open My Eyes, Open My Soul, was released late in 2004 as a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., and it hit the bookstores just before his birthday in 2005. His daughter, Yolanda King (who, sadly, died last year), was the driving force behind the project. Along with Elodia Tate, she collected a series of essays about diversity and human connection from amazing people like Maya Angelou, Robert Kennedy, Jr., and Stevie Wonder… and from average, every day people… like me.

I submitted an essay about that beautiful boy who changed my life. Unfortunately, I just missed the submittal deadline and though I knew getting in was a long shot anyway, I was disappointed to realize my essay wouldn’t even be considered. My disappointment didn’t last, however. A few weeks after submitting the piece, I received an email from Yolanda King, telling me how much she liked it and how she was going to find a place for it in the book.

And she did.

It was the proudest moment of my life. The book is beautiful. It’s important. It’s so relevant and so necessary in today’s climate of global intolerance. It is a tribute to a great man and to everyone who has ever crossed a racial or religious or cultural barrier; to everyone who has looked beyond external differences to find – and embrace – our inherent commonalities.

It’s not as easy to find the book now as it was in 2005 but if you can, it’s worth a read… in fact, it’s worth reading over and over. It can open your eyes… and your heart and your mind… and your soul… if you let it.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Weekend Recap...

Well, it’s Sunday. Just in case you didn’t know. The weekend’s nearly over (how does that happen?!) so I figured I’d give you a recap (plus, I'm a little brain-dead at the moment and I've got nothing more interesting to say)…

The ski lesson went pretty well. It was cold as crap on Friday night, so I bundled Ryan up, squeezed her into her ski boots, and left her to brave the elements for nearly 2 hours. I settled myself in the lodge, near the window, with a Peppermint Patty (hot chocolate spiked with peppermint schnapps… it sounds nicer than it was, actually, which was too sweet). I needed it, though, after the trek through the rental building...

While we were waiting for the teenaged rental guy to calibrate Ryan’s ski bindings, I was telling her how my first job had been at the resort and I’d worked in the very building in which we were standing. The rental guy looked up and said, “Oh, when was that?” I replied, “About 27 years ago.” He looked at me and exclaimed, “Good God!” Then, realizing he might have just insulted me, he back-pedaled… “I mean, it’s just that you don’t look that old.” I snorted and said, “Yeah, nice save.” It was one of those lovely ‘ouch’ moments that happen when it dawns on you that just maybe you really do look your age.

I managed a photo or two from the deck of the lodge (I had to leave my drink inside, so I didn’t stand there long).

Ryan opted for no poles but after sliding backwards a few times, she’s decided she’s going to try them next week. She said she wasn’t cold at all but the big old snotcicle frozen to her face begged to differ. Regardless, she enjoyed it a lot and can’t wait for next Friday. So, good stuff.

Last night was dinner and a movie with The Republican. It was a really good time, actually... mostly because there was no political chat. We ate at this great Italian place and a few glasses of Merlot made everything rosy. Then we saw Last Chance Harvey, which was good… not as good as I’d expected, but good. So, it was a really nice, much needed night out. No complaints. And before you ask, no love mojo either. For all you (deluded) optimists who keep telling me ‘you just never know what can happen’… I do know. But friends are always good.

So that’s pretty much it. I’m off to read my man-book for my book club meeting a week Monday. I joined a club made up of mostly men (who knew they even read?! Hee hee… just kidding, boys). Anyway, the book is massive, non-fiction, and not exactly engrossing, so I’m struggling a bit. I’ve got a week to plow through it.


Hope you’ve all had a wonderful weekend!!

Friday, January 16, 2009

TGIF...

It’s Friday. Yeah, I have a knack for stating the obvious, I know. It’s also cold. Again with the obvious. It was minus 2 degrees this morning. For those of you in places which use the more modern method of determining temperature (i.e. nearly everywhere else in the world), that would be minus 19 degrees. Yes. Brrrrr. With the wind chill factor in play, it’s about minus 15 (-26) right now. When I took Sundance to the park this morning, he pooped ice cubes. That, my friends, is cold.

Tonight is Ryan’s first ski lesson. I called to see if they were still on, given that it’s about 10 degrees colder on the mountain and they will have the snow blowers going. Yup. They’re on. The girl on the phone (helpfully) told me to dress Ryan “for the weather.” She clearly has a knack for stating the obvious, too. I expect Ryan will look very much like the little brother in A Christmas Story. You know the scenes where he can’t put his arms down and then he falls in the snow and can’t get up because he’s all puffy with his snowsuit on? Yeah, that’ll be my kid tonight. I really hope she doesn’t fall down. She’ll be like a big turtle. Actually, she doesn’t feel the cold so much (I’m always hollering at her to zip her jacket or put her hat or her shoes on), but I think at 20 below, I might hear a little whining. Of course, that will likely be coming from me. Thank God they sell booze in the lodge… where I will be immediately after getting her dumped into her ski gear. I might take a photo or two. From inside. If the window isn’t all steamed up. And I can hold the camera and my glass of wine at the same time.

So, tomorrow is Saturday. Which makes sense, I guess, since I already said today is Friday. Anyway, I’m going out tomorrow night. With The Republican. But it’s just a 'friends' thing and not a date. Really. We’ve agreed that although we like each other, we hate each other’s politics and we disagree (vehemently) on some pretty serious issues (plus, I’m just not feelin’ the love mojo, you know?). However, I have discovered lately that not all Republicans are right-wing, fundamentalist, evangelical, gun-totin’, Bush-quotin’ (who said I wasn’t a poet?!), scary, scary people. Some of them are nice folk who happen to be misguided. Hee hee. Just kidding, Sherri! Sherri (if you don’t read her blog, DO! She’s fabulous!) is actually my kind of Republican. God, I never thought I’d say those words. But it’s true. And her husband, Big Al, is yummy, too. He laughs at my jokes and thinks he loves me. Figures, doesn’t it? The only guy who’s loved me in ages is married and a Republican. Story of my life. Sigh.

Anyway, that’ll be my weekend. Hopefully I won’t turn into an icicle tonight or implode from keeping my liberal opinions to myself during dinner tomorrow night. I hope all of you have a fantastic weekend, too!!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

An Exercise in Futility...

Ryan had a bad day today. She and her cousin had words. They're more like sisters than cousins and they get on each others' nerves. A lot. They each know all the buttons to push to completely irritate the other... and they push them often. And Ryan is easily irritated.

On the way home, because she brought it up, we had a chat about how she actually creates or perpetuates a lot of the problems. I try hard not to lecture her, as that does no good, but I pointed out, with examples (several examples), the ways she 1) pushes the buttons, and 2) reacts to the button pushing. We've talked about it before (and we will again, I feel certain). The talk went well and I thought maybe it was finally sinking in.

So, when I tucked her in tonight, she brought the issue up again, this time giving me "but, but" every time I reiterated my earlier points. So I made them again (but quickly this time, as The Office had started). As I finished speaking, she said,

"Why is it that I hear every word you're saying, but in my head, I'm imagining bananas doing ballet?"

Sigh.

Sometimes being a parent is an exercise in futility.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Post In Which I Say Absolutely Nothing...

It’s Writer’s Workshop time (go to Mama’s Losin’ It and see) and I’ve got diddly-squat. Nothin’. Nada. Zilch. Zip. None of the prompts spoke to me this week. I can’t tell you about my significant other’s best quality because I don’t have a significant other (I don’t think Sundance counts). I’ve never stolen anything (and if I had, I probably wouldn’t tell anyone about it). And I don’t recall any scary encounters with any of my professors (encounters where I wanted to kick a few in the shins maybe, but not scary ones). The last prompt is about poetry… take the last line of your favorite poem and make it the first line of a new poem. Right.

Here’s the thing. I suck at poetry. Instead of waxing poetic, I wax pathetic. My poems sound like a 3rd grader wrote them. A 3rd grader who rides the short bus. I can’t really even read poetry. Well, I can’t read a lot of poetry. Most of it makes me feel stupid because I just don’t get it. See, I don’t want to have to break down each line to find some hidden meaning. That just takes too much energy. I want the meaning to sort of slap me upside the head. I want to read it and just know.

Now, having said all that, I’ve read some poetry lately that I’ve loved… J. Cosmo Newbery, for example, is an amazing poet… sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, always wonderful. And I actually get his stuff (most of it, anyway). He tends to keep his lines short and he likes to rhyme… I think that makes it easier for me to keep up. And Sometimes Sophia has done this fantastic series on the little field mice who keep taking up winter residence in her house… they’re brilliant (the poems, not the mice). And StuPidasso and justsomethoughts are two of my favorite bloggers who write really good stuff (and I usually understand their poems, too).

I wish I could do it. I do. Not being able to write or read poetry makes me feel inadequate… unintelligent… unsophisticated. I keep hoping I’ll acquire a taste for it or learn enough to understand it without having to try so hard. It’s very much like how I used to feel about wine. You know how some people are beer people and some are wine people? Well, I’ve always been a beer person but I always wanted to be a wine person… they seemed so sophisticated to me and I was (am) so… well… not sophisticated. And it all tasted icky. Then I had the good fortune to visit my cousin in England – my cousin who owns a fabulous restaurant and has a stocked-to-the-rafters wine cellar; my cousin who has never seen an empty glass; my cousin who knows a lot about booze in general and wine specifically; my cousin who loves to see me drunk. He gave me wine lessons and I soaked them up (literally). I found out what I liked and didn’t like… and I stopped buying wine just because the bottle was pretty. Now I’m a wine drinker. Yeah, I’m still a beer drinker, too (nothing beats a pint, or several, in an old pub!), as there’s room for both in my life (and the occasional tequila shot, too).

So anyway, that’s what I’m hoping will happen with poetry. Hey… something just occurred to me. Maybe if I try my hand at poetry while I’m drinking wine… hmmmm… I might be onto something there. Boozy writing could work for me! It did for Hemingway, right? I can see it now… The Merlot Diaries… I might even have to change the name of my blog. Now, where’s that corkscrew?

PS… Sorry Kathy. I failed miserably at this week’s assignment. Sigh. If you’d just included a prompt about wine (or beer… or tequila), I would’ve gotten an A+!

Wordful Wednesday... Tubing!

Angie over at SevEn cLoWn CirCus does 'Wordful Wednesday,' where you post a photo and tell about it...

This picture always totally cracks me up!

We were tubing at the ski resort near here a few years ago. Ryan was 6 and although she was small, she insisted on riding in a tube by herself. She might just have been too small, though, as all the bouncing down the mountain resulted in this... she was stuck but good! I nearly wet myself laughing and had to get a picture before I un-stuck her.

She starts ski lessons on the same mountain this Friday evening... hopefully she'll manage to stay vertical, eyes uncovered!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Do You Know What I Think?

Do you? Huh? I do. I think you are all lovely. Every one of you who reads my posts and leaves the nicest, sweetest, funniest, most encouraging comments. You're all lovely. Every last one of you. And I'm glad I've 'met' you ~ every single one of you lovely, lovely bloggy people.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Defining Moments

Defining moments… those unexpected moments that come from nowhere and hit you like a brick; that alter your life or your perspective and change your course – or steady it; the ones you can pass right through without realizing their significance until much later; the moments that give you parts of yourself and show you who you are and what you’re made of.

Though I’ve certainly experienced many life-changing events and made many life-altering decisions, I’ve only had a few defining moments. Each lasted mere seconds… and each changed me profoundly.

I wrote about the first one the other day (you can read about it here). Though I can look back on it and laugh, I wasn’t laughing then. My 7-year-old self was terrified. But the moment I looked the bully in the eye and told him I was willing to take whatever he had to dish out, I realized I was braver than I’d ever believed. That moment gave me power.

The second happened when I was 15. I’d fallen head over heels for the most wonderful boy... a boy who made me feel special and beautiful (things in short supply for a gawky teenager). He was funny and smart and utterly charming… he was also black. And my parents – my ultra-conservative parents – would not have approved of me dating anyone who was not white. Certain the repercussions would be severe, I was afraid to disobey them, and though I could have lied to him (and I debated doing so), I decided I owed this beautiful boy the truth. So on a hot summer day, sitting in the shade of a massive oak, I looked into his eyes and explained that although I cared for him deeply, I couldn’t see him because my parents wouldn’t allow it. I was afraid he would be furious. Instead, he took my hands in his, smiled at me, and said he understood. Instead of anger, I saw pain and sadness in his face. My heart ached because I knew I was hurting a wonderful, kind, loving person and because, in that moment, I knew beyond all doubt that my parents were wrong. That moment changed the course of my life forever. It changed the way I would see the world and the people who would cross my path. In it, I gave myself permission to dissent; to open myself up to people and experiences I’d never encounter in the small world in which I’d grown up. That moment gave me freedom.

The third occurred the day I found out I was pregnant. Learning I was to be a mother, however, wasn’t the defining moment (although it certainly did change the course of my life!). I called to tell my parents, hoping such good news would make my dad, who was very ill, feel just a little better. After I told him, I asked lightheartedly, “So, you think you can hang on ‘til your grandchild gets here?” He answered, “I’ll try.” I’ll try. My dad was an “I’ll do” sort of person, not an "I'll try". It was in that moment I knew I was going to lose him… that he was really dying. I hadn’t been able to face that possibility – that reality. Hearing those words forced me to look at death – and life – in a way I’d never seen it. That moment gave me profound and lasting sorrow.

The fourth happened just over three weeks later – the day of my dad’s funeral. I was supposed to deliver the eulogy but I really didn’t think I’d be able to do it, as I was a complete mess. But as I stood by myself in a small room off the chapel, I felt a strong sense of peace settle in and around me. I felt my dad. Never a religious person, I’d struggled to find some sort of faith my whole life. I’d bounced from atheism to agnosticism and back and back again. But in that moment, for the first time ever, I believed with all my heart that there is something beyond this life; that our spirits don’t just die. And finally, I needed nothing more – I was satisfied. That moment gave me peace.

The last moment happened shortly after my marriage ended. Ryan had just started kindergarten and she was struggling with an intense new schedule and more structure than she’d ever been used to, so, not wanting to disrupt her life any more that was necessary, my ex and I decided not to tell her we were splitting up right away. He was working away from home during the week, so it was relatively easy and when he came home on the weekends, he didn’t sleep with me ‘because he snored’, an excuse Ryan accepted readily. The weekends were incredibly difficult for me, though. Trying to provide some semblance of normalcy for my little girl was eating me alive. Luckily I’d just gotten Sundance and, to avoid being in the same house with my ex, I’d take him out for hours. During one of our long walks, I noticed a little girl, about 7 or 8-years-old, standing in her driveway with her mother, a small suitcase at her feet. They were obviously waiting for someone and when I saw a man pull up, I assumed it was her father. The little girl got into the car but her mother never went near it. She just waved at her daughter from the driveway as they pulled away. No greetings, no forced pleasantries, no acknowledgments of any sort were exchanged between the adults. In that moment, my heart broke for a little girl I didn’t even know – and for my own little girl as well. The two people she loved most in the world couldn’t be civil enough to one another to say ‘good morning.’ All I could think about was how devastating it must be to feel pulled apart, divided, by the two people who are supposed to make you feel whole. I walked back to my house and told my ex that I didn’t care what we had to do, we would make sure Ryan would never feel the way that little girl must have felt. I had no idea just how hard keeping that commitment would be, but I’ve never regretted it. That moment gave me strength.

Those are my defining moments to date. I figure I'm probably due for another, so I'm hoping my next defining moment will give me thinner thighs… or money to pay all my bills… or a date I want to go out with more than once... or a housekeeper… or…

In the Nose of the Beholder...

On the way to school this morning, we were stopped at a traffic light when a rather strong smell seeped into the car from outside.

Ryan and I spoke at exactly the same moment…

Me: I smell poo.
Ry: I smell chicken.

We looked at each other and burst out laughing. It was one of those great, silly, unexpected laughs, too, where you can’t stop, and you can’t breathe, and the tears are streaming down your face. I finally calmed down enough to speak (and drive) again.

Me: I’m not sure what that says about my cooking!
Ry: What do you mean?
Me: Well, if the smell I equate to poo is the smell you equate to chicken, what does that say about the chicken you’ve been eating?!

More laughter...

Ry: I think it says we should eat out more!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

One Fish, Two Fish...

Ryan and I went to the pool today. We try to go fairly often, as it's the only exercise that doesn't make me groan or limp the next day, and she needs to keep fit for the summer swim team.

My kid's a fish. Always has been. I love the water and I wanted to make sure she loved it as well, so I've had her in it - and under it - since she was just an infant. When we lived in Charlotte, we used to go the YMCA several times a week in the winter...

Here she is shortly after arriving at the pool one afternoon (she was about 4 here)...

Doesn't she look happy? She still looks that way when we get to the pool.
Here she is that same afternoon... after I made her get out of the water...

I know. It made me laugh, too (which seriously pissed off my little fish).

And here she is at one of her meets last summer...

Recognize that happy face? That's my little fish!



Feedjit for the Eedjit...

Or Leave Me Love, You Lovely Lurkers!

Note: Before you start reading, please understand this is really not a whine (or a whinge, if you're from the UK, Oz, or NZ). It's simply me being obsessive and dorky (and if you know me at all, you know that 'obsessive' washes over me in an occasional wave, and 'dorky'... well... 'dorky' is pretty much my perpetual state).

OK, so a while ago, my friend Mel told me I should totally get this Feedjit thing for my blog. Feedjit? What’s Feedjit, says I. Only the coolest thing ever, says she. Turns out, Feedjit is this thingy you can load onto your blog which tells you from whence your visitors come (yes, as a matter of fact, my last name is Shakespeare). For those of you living in the 21st century, it tells you where your peeps come from (9-year-old slang and dangling participles aside). It shows each visitor’s city, country, browser, OS, arrival time, and whether or not they access you directly (like from their favorites list… awww) or from a blog. And it gives you a map with flags to show you where each place is, in case you’re geographically-challenged and think Aarhus is in Canada instead of Denmark, for example (which I did not, as I’m actually not geographically-challenged, but I’ve talked to some of you long enough now to know… well… just sayin’).

Anyway, it sounded cool. So I gave Mel my password (which I changed right after she was finished, ‘cause I totally don’t trust that woman since she’s not very integritous) and she added it to my blog for me. I would have done it myself but it required import of a widget (or something like that) and I don’t know what a widget is (I thought it was like a thingamajig but apparently it’s a real techno-thing).

So now I have Feedjit. I spent the first day with it feeling pretty much like an eedjit (which is ‘idiot’ for those who don’t speak Scottish). It took me a while to figure how it works exactly. OK, ‘exactly’ might be a slight exaggeration. I sort of figured out how it kind of works. It does stump me sometimes, like when it said one of my bloggy friends arrived at my site from England when I happened to know she was in Pennsylvania at that very moment. Mel explained that someone in England probably came to me through her blog (which made more sense than her catching the Concorde to Heathrow and reading my blog when she got there).

So it is cool, but there are a few things about Feedjit which are driving me slightly nuts…

Before Feedjit, I didn’t know how many people visit my blog. Now I do. Lots of people visit. Not nearly so many comment. Some come back over and over and never say a word. Why? Don’t they like me? Am I boring? Do they hate my writing; my subject matter; the way I tend to go on and on and on…? That doesn’t make sense if they visit over and over, right? Why oh why won’t they comment?!

It’s kind of making me sad and bringing back memories of that complex I had in high school.

I’m also constantly trying to figure out who everyone is. Some people are easy, especially if they access directly and I recognize their cities. But some are hard… like, the person (or people?) from Edinburgh who visits often. Did you know I was born in Edinburgh, dear lurker? I’d love to talk to you! And the people in Virginia (especially the ones in Pigsknuckle and Charlottesville)… do I know you? Talk to me! I’m nice! I’m friendly! Really! Send me an email if you’d like. I did that with Lee, way back in the beginning of my bloggy adventure. I didn’t know protocol and I felt weird commenting out of the blue, so I sent him an email to tell him how much I liked his blog. And he replied! We’ve been trading bloggy love ever since.

The cool thing is, I can now see when my family and closest friends (who pretty much never comment... talk about giving a girl a complex!) come to visit. Iain, I can see you (and you should be working, you slacker). And Todd, even though you have totally sucked at emailing lately, I’ll forgive you because I know you’re watching me (in a totally non-creepy-yet-still-stalkerish way).

Anyway, I’m weighing the positives of Feedjit with the negatives. I know I’m an eedjit to be over-thinking it the way I am, but over-thinking things is what I do. And the truth is, I actually do understand it all. Really.

~ I understand you’re not going to like every post you read.

~ I understand that some posts will be too long (like this one, perhaps?) and you might not have the time or inclination to plow through them.

~ I understand that even if you do like a post, you just might not have anything to say.

~ And I understand there are people out there who just like to peek into others’ lives (like I do into windows when I go for a walk at night and people leave their curtains open) and they have no desire for any sort of relationship.

See? I am perceptive (it’s actually one of my best things). I’m not really as needy and pitiful this post makes me sound (I said not really)... I’m just someone who thrives on connection and knowing there are potential connections just outside my grasp is driving me nuts!

So, regardless of whether I keep or chuck Feedjit, I’d love it if all you lovely lurkers left me some love! And if you’re loathe to leave love, well, I still love that you lurk so lurk for as long as you like!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Because I Know You're All Chomping at the Bit...

Here are the rest of the interview questions my buddy Heinous gave me... I know you've all just put your lives on hold 'til you could read them and I didn't want to hold you up any longer... you know, 'cause I'm nice that way. You're welcome.

Oh, before I start, thanks for all the great comments about yesterday's post! For everyone who said it reminded them of A Christmas Story, you guys DO know I didn't grow up in the 40's, right? Funny thing, though... whenever I watch that movie, it totally reminds me of the neighborhood my dad grew up in (the same neighborhood I lived in 1972, in fact) and it's set in the same decade as his childhood. I think that's why I couldn't watch it for ten years after he died. I bought it for him 20 years ago because it made me think of the stories he told me about when he was a kid. Watching it made me think of him... and miss him too much. So maybe the fact that my story reminded you of that movie is a good thing after all. Maybe it proves I'm accessing my inherited storyteller gene. Just so long as you know I'll only be 44 on my next birthday and not 74 (not that there's anything wrong with 74, Billy!).

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program...

What one talent do you wish you had that you don't?

The ability to dance. And I don’t mean just the ‘boogie at a club’ sort (does anyone even say 'boogie' anymore?). I mean the Ginger Rogers sort… the ‘ballroom, swing, salsa, put your leg so high in the air you look like a pair of open scissors’ sort. I have no internal rhythm whatsoever. My completely deaf brother dances better than I do. I would so love the ability to just sail across the dance floor, looking all elegant and graceful, in the arms of Fred Astaire. OK, well, not Fred Astaire, ‘cause I’m pretty sure he’s dead, and if he isn’t, he’s, like, a year younger than Christ… but in the arms of some equally dashing-on-the-dance-floor fella. I can’t believe I just wrote ‘fella’… I need to get out more.

We all have our reasons for blogging but what would be your ultimate goal for your blog or as a blogger?

Oh, man, that’s certainly changed in the last few months. I started this just to keep family and friends updated but I had no idea what sort of community was out here in Bloggyland; no clue how many wonderful people I’d meet or how much I’d want to be a part of their lives and have them be a part of mine.

I guess my goal is twofold… first, I want to keep writing things that make people want to come back. I love watching my numbers rise – I am a complete and unashamed comment junkie! But it’s more than that, really… it’s about connecting with people. I love when I do my 100 Things posts and I get comments from loads of people, each of whom laughed at something different! That never ceases to blow me away and it’s just so cool. Or when someone tells me that I’ve touched them in some way or made them think… it’s an amazing feeling.

Second, my goal is to hone my writing skills; to develop my style into something that will, at some point, make me money. I’d love to write a human interest or humor column for a newspaper or magazine but I’ve always been worried that I just didn’t have enough – enough talent, enough material, enough skill. Blogging, and doing it every day, forces me to keep moving forward… to see what people like and what they don’t; to see what I’m good at and what needs work.

You can trade lives with any one person for a month. Who would it be and why?

My daughter. I would like to see the world from her perspective; to know what truly goes on in her head and her heart – all the things she can’t yet (or won’t) articulate. I want to know what’s going on inside when she has a colossal meltdown, or when she lies to me, or when she’s scared and I can’t understand why. I want to know how she really feels when her dad hasn’t called her in over a week or when I’ve had a bad day and snap at her for something insignificant. I think being Ryan for a little while would make me a better mother.

There's a fire and your family is safe but you have the chance to save any one item from your house. What would it be and why?

My computer. It’s my livelihood, my lifeline to many of the people I love, and it has, all tucked up inside its confoundedly complex and confusing workings, much of me, in the form of words and photos. I could live without it, certainly, but I wouldn’t want to.

You have the chance to go back in time and warn yourself before making a bad choice. What choice would it be and what would you tell yourself?

I would go back to the day I got my first credit card offer in the mail and tell myself that credit cards are the apron strings that will keep me forever tied to Hell. I’m not a money-oriented person at all… I’ve never wanted or strived for loads of it. However, when I think about all the money I’ve wasted on interest and late fees and general poor money-management skills and decisions, I feel sick. So much of my life would be different, I think, if I knew then what I know now.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

That Day (An Interview Mememememe!)

The other day, one of my very best bloggy buddies, Heinous, did an ‘interview meme’ post. Another blogger came up with questions just for him and after reading his responses, I asked (and by ‘asked’ I mean ‘begged’) him to come up with questions for me. So, because he loves me (and by ‘loves me’ I mean ‘he wanted me off his back’) he did. He gave me six great questions, the first of which I answered below. Because the answer (and this damned introduction) was rather long, I decided to post the other questions/answers at a later date, so as not to overwhelm you (and by ‘overwhelm you’ I mean ‘bore you to tears’). I know you’ll all be waiting on the edge of your seats, right? Right. So… off we go!

What is the bravest thing that you feel you've ever done? Physically, emotionally, or whatever.

It was 1972. I was a happy little first grader in Mrs. Veith’s class at Franklin School in Kearny, NJ. I liked my classmates and my teacher and life was good. Until that day… the day that would be forever burned into my psyche… the day I accidentally knocked Patrick O’Brien down at recess.

Patrick was a little kid, much smaller than I. Blonde and scrappy, he came from a big Irish family and his older brothers (of which there were 4) were known for their foul mouths and quick fists. The youngest (and the runt) of the group, Patrick was a little trouble-maker, often stirring things up and then getting his big brothers to bail him out.

Anyway, as I said, I knocked Patrick down. It was a total accident. We were playing tag, running helter skelter, and I somehow clipped him in the mouth with my elbow (he was really short). Down he went; blood on his lip, fire in his eyes, and revenge in his little black heart. He didn’t cry (the O’Briens never cried) but he jumped up as I was apologizing and got right in my face (well, he got right in my collarbone), yelling, “You did that on purpose! I’m going get my brother after you!”

Uh oh. My blood ran cold. He had to mean Kevin, the only one of his brothers who still went to our school. Kevin O’Brien was a big, red-headed 3rd grader, quick and mean, and he ruled the playground. I was scared. Correction: I was terrified. Kevin was not known for showing mercy, even to girls. And you must remember, these were the days when kids solved their own problems; the days before they were instructed to run crying to teachers or parents because some other kid committed an unforgivable sin, like calling them a name. Tattling was not an option.

I spent the rest of the morning in a cold sweat. Every time I looked over at Patrick, he was glaring at me. He kept pointing to his lip (which had stopped bleeding after about 30 seconds), sneering evilly. I gulped a lot that morning. When the bell rang for lunch, I was first out the door. Only the last half of our lunch break overlapped with the 3rd graders’, so I knew I’d be safe on the way home, but I still ran like Satan himself was on my heels. I figured I could talk my mom into letting me stay home for the afternoon. Pfffttt. Was I ever wrong. So I took the long way back, using my best Agent 99 skills to get me back into the building through a side-door, undetected! I didn’t see Patrick until the bell rang and as he sauntered past my desk, he leaned down and whispered, “Just wait until after school.” I didn’t swear back then but you can bet that if I had, “Shit-oh-dear” would have been coming out of my mouth. A lot. I spent the rest of the afternoon shaking, my stomach in knots. If I’d been a smarter kid, I would have told the teacher I was sick so I could have gotten sent home. Yeah, hindsight’s 20/20.

When the 3:00 bell rang, I left the building with my classmates, hoping to get lost in the crowd. But it was like I was a reverse magnet that repelled everything around me… everyone scattered and I was left alone (I’m sure you’re wondering why I didn’t have any friends to back me up… I’m wondering that myself as I tell this story. I did have friends, I swear… so where the hell were they?! All scared of Kevin O’Brien, that's where!).

Anyway, I was nearly out of the school yard when I saw them coming toward me; Patrick in front, leading the way, a ‘you’re gonna get it now’ look on his sniveling little face; Kevin behind him; several other 3rd grade boys following.

I stopped dead in my tracks… and peed in my pants. I did. I was actually wearing a skirt, so it wasn’t readily apparent, but it did not feel good, let me tell you.

When they got to me, Kevin stared at me with his little pig eyes, smacked his bubblegum loudly, and bounced a small pink rubber ball on the pavement (the same one he bounced against the wall of the school every morning, trying to bean the little kids on their heads as they dodged past on the way to their kindergarten classes). He cocked his head at me and said, “This her?” Patrick, the little weasel, replied affirmatively. I stood there shaking, pee running down my legs and into my socks and Buster Browns, ready to just close my eyes and fall to the ground in a fetal position.

And then it happened.

I don’t know where it came from but I looked right at big, ugly Kevin O’Brien and I said (in a shockingly defiant tone that belied my Jell-O, pee-covered knees), “Look, I knocked him down by accident. I didn’t mean to do it and I said I was sorry. But if you want to hit me, then just go ahead and get it over with.”

Then I waited, not taking my eyes off his freckled face. Kevin looked back at me for what seemed an eternity, chomping his wad of Bazooka, bouncing that ball all the while, and finally said, “Nah. Forget it. I don’t wanna hit a girl.” Then he clipped Patrick on the back of the head and turned and walked away, followed by his gang.

And I ran all the way home to change my underpants.

And that, my friends, is by far the bravest thing I have ever done in my life!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Writer's Workshop: Little Brown-Noser

It’s time for the weekly Writer’s Workshop! If you’re not familiar with it, head over to Mama’s Losin’ It and check out Kathy’s prompts, then visit some of the other blogs listed in Mr. Linky… you won’t be disappointed!

This week I chose “Ask a loved one to describe you with 6 descriptive words. How well do they know you?”

I asked my 9-year-old daughter, Ryan, to do it for me, as I figured her words would be quite funny, though potentially quite embarrassing! But I promised myself I was going to tell you whatever she said because I’m brave that way (and by ‘brave’ I mean ‘stupid’). As always, she went above and beyond expectations. It took her over two hours (she even skipped Hannah Montana!), and not only did she give me six (really wonderful) words, she also detailed the reasons she chose each one. Here they are, exactly as she wrote them (well, with a few very minor spelling corrections)…

1. Open-minded – You always make sure I hear both sides of the story even when you feel really strongly about one side. You also tell me I have to make my own choices and not believe something just because YOU believe it.

2. Highly Intelligent – You always know the answers to the questions I ask you. And if you don’t know the answer then you look it up, but you don’t have to look stuff up that often.

3. Beautiful – You always show me that true beauty comes from within but I still think you’re beautiful on the outside too.

4. Funny – You make me laugh so hard that sometimes I snort stuff out my nose and that’s really AWESOME!

5. Interesting – You have lots of interests and you always make sure you take me to interesting places like DC, museums, the theater and historical places.

6. Amazing – You just ARE! And here is why:

a. Every kid I know loves you.
b. You’re not scared of ANYTHING! (She obviously didn't see my Barnabas Collins post... shhhhhhhh... don't tell her!)
c. You take me camping to the coolest places. You make the best fires and can put up a tent FAST! You’re not scared to sleep in the woods and I’m never scared when I’m with you.
d. You coach on my swim team and you cheer the loudest of all the moms. And you tell me to swim like HELL and no other mom I know would say THAT!
e. Sometimes you’re scary when you get mad but then you hug me instead of yelling at me, and that’s really nice and makes me feel better.
f. You talk to me like I’m not a kid and you always tell me the truth (at least I think you do. You better!!!).
g. You help people like at the homeless shelter.
h. You teach me that doing things is a lot more important than getting stuff, but you still always buy me a souvenir when we go to new places!
i. You’re just the best mom EVER!

Honestly, I expected to read words like strict, tough, goofy, weird, dorky, and possibly even mean. I figured I’d get some nice ones, too (I am the one who hands out the allowance, after all), but I wasn’t expecting what I got. It made me cry. It completely and thoroughly overwhelmed me.

The prompt asks, “How well do they know you?” Well, I don’t know, really. Everything she said I do, I do, but still, I don’t always (or often) feel the way she described me… fearless, beautiful, and amazing are not words I ever apply to myself. I will say, however, that Ryan’s list describes, in large part, not just the mother I want to be, but the person I want to be. So maybe all I have to do to be that person is strive to be the woman my daughter already believes I am. And maybe I also have to try harder to see myself the way she sees me, instead of the way I do.

And I very seriously hope she isn’t just brown-nosing because she’s planning to hit me up for a Wii next week.

Random Acts of Kindness...

A woman died yesterday. A woman I knew. She wasn't someone I knew well -- just in passing, really; just well enough to smile and say hello. Our daughters swam on the same team last summer. It was Ryan's first year and her daughter's last, so we didn't move in the same swimmy circles. She was old hat at the swim-mom thing; I was just learning my way.

I'd volunteered to coach the youngest swimmers on the team... 'My Little Sinkers', I called them. Actually what I did was not so much coaching as it was simply preventing them from drowning, and even though I was the oldest (by far) on a coaching staff made up of gorgeous 16 to 22-year-olds, each with about 8% body fat, I had a lot of fun. But there were nights when it took major effort to get me to the pool.

One particularly chilly evening, I got out of the water at the end of practice and stood, wrapped in a towel, shivering. The woman who died yesterday came up to me and said, "We all think you're pretty brave to get in the water on nights like this." I chuckled and replied, "Brave? Or stupid?" She burst out laughing. Then she said, "You are so good with the little ones. We really appreciate what you do."

It was such a simple statement. "We really appreciate what you do." But it had such an impact on me. She didn't have to say it. I wasn't even working with her daughter. She wouldn't be returning to the team next summer. We'd never spoken and she'd probably never see me again after the season was over. But still, she took the time to say something kind; something that affected me a great deal and made those chilly evenings a lot easier to take.

Of course I thanked her for her kind words. I suspect she was the sort of person who said kind things often but I wonder if she had any idea just how much they were appreciated by the people to whom she said them. Maybe she did. I really hope she did.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My Bags Are Packed!!

I just got what might be the best ever bloggy award!

My cute bloggy boyfriend Andy (and yes, I’m fully aware that I have t-shirts older than he is… and that he has a "real" girlfriend(Pffffttt)... what’s it to you?!) over at Wild ARS Chase designed this one himself. In fact, he had the presentation of The Wild ARS Bloggy Awards over at his today… it was sort of like the Golden Globes or the Academy Awards… except without Billy Crystal or Rosie O’Donnell… or any other famous people… and the award is for blogs (duh) and not movies or television programs... and it was online instead of in a big, fancy theatre with booze and food and after-parties and stuff… and no, as a matter of fact, there wasn’t even Diet Pepsi… or Twinkies either. OK, so maybe it wasn’t exactly like the Golden Globes or Academy Awards at all. Oh, stop being a killjoy and just let me have my moment of glory, will you?! Geez.

Anyway, this is what I won…

Blog Sure to Go Big Places in 2009: Diane's Addled Ramblings. Her comment totals keep growing and growing as she gets funnier and funnier.

Cool, huh? So very cool. And it’s so very cool because I think Andy is quite brilliant, a great writer, and hysterically funny himself (and I’m not just saying all that because he’s my boyfriend… and yes, I’m fully aware I’m old enough to be his mother… shut it).

So thank you, Sweet ARS (I’ve always wanted to call him Sweet ARS… and yes, I’m fully aware I could go to jail for that in several states… geez, you are a killjoy, aren’t you?!).

Oh, by the way, Andy, what big places do you think my blog and I will go? ‘Cause I’m thinking the Galapagos would be nice this time of year. And I’ve promised to visit Protégé in Denmark soon. Oh, and I’d love to get down to Oz to see Lee. So, does Wild ARS Chase fund these trips? Is this how the award works? Let me know the details (you know, like credit card info and stuff) before I book my flights, OK? Appreciate it! Love ya!

I Blame Barnabas Collins...

Or the (Very Long) Story of Why I Haven’t Slept in Four Nights…

I don’t watch scary movies. Correction: I can't watch scary movies… even the bad ones that lots of people find funny and not scary at all. And I’m not talking suspense/thrillers (love those!). I’m talking horror… those starring Jason, Freddy, Pinhead, Chucky, and any of their lovely friends. When I do watch one (and by ‘do’ I mean ‘am forced to’), I’m transformed from a reasonably (being the key word) confident, intelligent, rational individual into a blubbering, quivering, wild-eyed shell of my former self.

I blame Barnabas Collins.

For those of you younger than 40 (or not residing in the US), Barnabas Collins was a deliciously creepy, blood-sucking character in Dark Shadows, a gothic/horror soap opera that was on from 1966 to 1971. At 6 years old, I watched with relish (not the hotdog kind) and thus began my lifelong nocturnal dance with nightmares. And insomnia. My dad finally dictated that Barnabas Collins was off limits. I was crushed. But I did sleep a bit better… for a while.

As I got a bit older, I developed a real penchant for ghost stories. But ghost stories and kids with overactive imaginations don’t mix. So they were forbidden as well. Sigh. Older still (and in control of my own reading choices), I went back to them and discovered writers like Stephen King and John Saul. My creep addiction was fed regularly with few debilitating side effects, so I walked the scary movie route again. I did well. Well, I did pretty well… until the summer I spent at my Aunt Jean’s in NJ and I watched horror movie after horror movie until my nerves were frazzled and I jumped out of my skin if someone sneezed. One evening I was sitting on the front porch by myself, reading. Unknown to me, my dad had crept out the side door and around to the front of the house. He suddenly pulled himself up over the porch railing and screeched at me like a thing possessed. My (blood-curdling) scream was so loud the people across the street came to their windows (those would be the people on the third floor who were having a very noisy party). My dad, doubled over with laughter, went back into the house. When I’d just about recovered from the heart attack, I turned to say something through the window to my aunt. Instead of her, all I saw was my dad’s face, pressed against the screen, distorted and grotesque, as he howled at me again. An aneurysm followed the heart attack and I nearly died. I was finished with horror movies from that point forward. F.I.N.I.S.H.E.D.

Then some time later came The (edited for television but not edited enough) Exorcist. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this but my older brother (the one I like) is deaf. And while most television programs and movies have been closed-captioned for a long time, that showing of The Exorcist on our local station was not. So he asked me to watch it with him and interpret. I would have, honestly, had my eyes not been closed, had my fingers not been in my ears, and had I not been rocking myself, singing ‘la la la la la la la’ over and over in an attempt not to hear the horrific sounds emanating from Linda Blair. He kept coming over and pulling my fingers out of my ears, asking me what was being said. I still feel bad about letting him down but there’s a part of me that thinks he was just torturing me and he actually read their lips through the whole movie (he is my father’s son, after all). Needless to say, it was my last horror movie for two decades.

And that brings me to nearly present day. When I was in London in October, I somehow wound up watching a creeper with my friend Todd. That would be Todd, the horror junkie. He actually writes horror movies. Being scared out of his mind is not an issue for Todd. So we’re in the middle of The Grudge with Sarah Michelle Gellar and the music and the creepy little Japanese ghosts are totally wigging me out. I’m holding Todd’s hand in a death grip because 1) I needed to be touching another human being and 2) I figured if I was holding his hand, he couldn’t grab me with the intention of scaring the ever-lovin’ shit out of me (which he would totally do). And just as it’s getting seriously scary, Todd announces he’s going to bed. "What? Bed? Now? In the middle? But… but… but… I can’t be left alone," whimpers I. "Tough. I have to work tomorrow," replies he (with absolultely no sympathy I might add). "Shit. Shit. Shit-oh-dear," whines I. I had to change the channel, of course, as there was no way (in stinkin' Hell) I could watch it on my own and I had to get the creepy out of my head before I could sleep. But nothing worked. I lay there, all alone, listening to the creaking of an old London flat as it settled; to all the unfamiliar sounds that normally wouldn’t have fazed me. I had the blanket over my head (and if you knew how hot Todd keeps his flat, you would know that I nearly suffocated myself... willingly). I couldn’t sleep. I was so scared I almost crawled into Todd’s bed. He’s a big guy and he has a black belt… not that a black belt would have helped against ghosts, but I figured it was still better than my defense method (screaming and peeing in my pants). Am I right? I did make it through the night (by myself) but those creepy little Japanese ghosts stayed with me.

So, four nights ago I was watching HGTV… House Hunters International to be specific. A woman was looking for a flat in Hong Kong and some of the places she was seeing were real holes (half-a-million-dollar holes, but holes nonetheless). I was thinking how creepy it would be to live in those dumps. So when I went to bed right after, who came to visit me in my sleep? Those scary little Japanese ghosts from The Grudge, that’s who! And yes, I totally know that Hong Kong is in China and I don’t mean to sound all ignorant and un-PC by mixing up Asian people… errr… ghosts (it was a dream, people! And my friend Rae, who is half-Japanese was in it, too… not sure what relevance that has to this story, but she was). Anyway, I woke up, after being nearly murdered by the scary Japanese ghosts in the creepy Chinese flat, paralyzed and in a cold nightmare sweat. God, how I hate that. After about an hour, I managed to get back to sleep… ONLY TO HAVE THE NIGHTMARE CONTINUE (which has never happened to me)! I woke up again, paralyzed and sweating, at 4:30… and I never went back to sleep. Nightmare ends. Insomnia ensues.

And that, my bloggy friends, is the (very long) story of why I haven’t slept in four nights. I’m so friggin’ tired, it’s not funny. I really think if I had someone to sleep with, I’d be OK.

Soooooo… anyone want to join me tonight? It’s OK if you snore. Or hog the blankets. Really. I don’t mind. Anyone? Anyone? Whimper… sniff… anyone?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Truth a la Diane...

I got this cool award (at least I think it’s an award… maybe it’s just a tag and I’m getting all full of myself again) from the lovely Sam.
In order to receive it, I have to tell you 10 (interesting) truths about myself. Hmmmm. Interesting is subjective, I think… actually truth, when you’re talking about yourself, is pretty subjective as well, isn’t it? Anyway, here you have it – Truth a la Diane…

1. I simply cannot hide my feelings, no matter how I try. My heart? Always on my sleeve. You’ll know just by looking at me if I love you, loathe you, want you dead, etc.

2. While I make friends easily (and I can make conversation with a stump), I find it difficult to put myself in situations where I’ll meet new people, especially if I’m doing it alone. For that reason, since I moved here as a single mom who works from home, I’ve spent quite a bit of time lonely. I’ve discovered, though, that loneliness is a good motivator for stepping out of one’s comfort zone.

3. I think about sex more often than a teenaged boy. And I am ever so thankful (on a daily basis) that I don’t have any body parts over which I have no (obvious) control.

4. I am a huge proponent of gay marriage. I don’t think any government has the right to dictate the legality of a partnership between adults, especially one that involves love and commitment, something so sadly lacking in our society. I’m sure my stance on this issue has been affected by the fact that I have two very close gay friends, but I’d like to think I’d feel as strongly even if they weren’t in my life.

5. A few years ago, I had an essay published in a book of essays about diversity compiled by Yolanda King, Martin Luther King’s daughter. It was the proudest moment of my life and there are (many) times when I’m terrified it was the only one like it I’ll ever experience.

6. I have been truly, madly, deeply in love twice in my life. Neither time was with my ex-husband (though I did love him). I'm still looking for the third love of my life.

7. I don’t believe in religion or a divine plan or an all-knowing God and I’m not a Christian, but I do believe in a creative force and that there is something beyond this life. I also believe strongly in tolerance for others' beliefs, as in the end, not a one of us really knows for sure.

8. I used to hate it that I was never the ‘pretty one’ among my friends (I have beautiful friends) but now I (finally) really like my face (my ass, however, is another story entirely!).

9. I love my daughter more than life and I believe that being her mom is the most important job I’ll ever have. I also believe there is a lot more to me than being a mother and I don’t want to be identified solely by that title.

10. My greatest fear is not that I won’t live up to my potential… but that I may have already done so.

OK, I’m supposed to pass this on to 7 people but I’m just going to leave it up to you… do if you’d like (and if you do, tell me, so I can read Truth a la You!).

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Shalom...

Note: Though I swear I looked it up and you can find it all over the Internet spelled 'yamaka', I've been corrected by two very smart (albeit obnoxious) people. It would seem that 'yamaka' is (very possibly) meant to be spelled (by picky people) 'yarmulke'. Damn it.

Ryan got this very cool fashion design kit for Christmas, full of all sorts of fabric and embellishments. She's been creating scads of slinky evening gowns and pretty sundresses from yards of silky, satiny, lacey material. A few minutes ago, she came in here with a piece of pink lace cut into a circle. She put it on Sundance’s head (and no, he was not pleased).

Me: A pretty fancy hat for Mr. Man, don't you think?
Ry: It’s not a hat. It's a Yamaka (Yarmulke).
Me: Really. I’ve never seen a pink lace Yamaka (Yarmulke).
Ry: It’s what all the fancy, French, Jewish dogs are wearing.

Have I mentioned that my kid is weird?

And how did I not know my dog was Jewish? Or French? Or, very possibly, gay?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Somebody's Lyin'...

(Note: If you didn't read yesterday's post, you might want to, otherwise this one probably won't make any sense. Of course, I don't always make sense and you might be used to it by now, so whatever works for you...)

(Also note: for those of you who don't reside in the US and might not know their names, Mary Matalin and James Carville are very outspoken and well-known politcal analysts... she's a Republican and he's a Democrat. They also happen to be married...)


How do Mary Matalin and James Carville do it?! Bipartisan, my ass. I think somebody's lyin' in that house. How can two people whose views are so diametrically opposed -- and held with such passion -- have a solid marriage? How can they raise children in a world they see so differently? I get that there are some simliarities in conservative and liberal views... I do. And I suppose if you both feel similarly about religion and faith in general, you can find some common ground (admittedly, I don't know the Matalin/Carville views on religion). But damn... how do you find the common ground otherwise? Maybe if there's enough chemistry between you, there's an incentive to try. I guess I've just never encountered that sort of chemistry with a Republican. Well, I did once, actually, but when he told me that my half-Hispanic (i.e. 'mixed race') daughter was a difficulty he didn't want to have to deal with in a relationship, the chemistry was Shot. To. Shit.

All I know is that I want someone who feels the same (or similarly at least) as I do about some pretty major social issues. And it's not about politics or being Republican or Democrat (I don't label myself in that way). It's about what I believe... about the world, about people and their rights, about me. And while I accept that not everyone will see the world the way I do, and while I truly respect everyone's right to their beliefs and opinions, I've discovered I'm not willing to compromise my own or give my heart to someone whose heart isn't in the same place as mine. Period.

PS... I also re-discovered my love for raspberry margaritas last night (especially when they're made by bartenders who really know what a tequila shot is!).

PPS... The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was very good, even with Brad Pitt (when you're not ready for a nearly-3-hour movie to be over, you know it's special). It's worth a go and full of reminders that life, no matter what direction it's moving, is something to be lived fully and not experienced half-assed.

PPPS... Thanks for your very funny (very visual) comments on yesterday's post! You guys are the best and you totally crack me up! Oh, and Jane!, yeah, I'm pretty sure he had a penis. A Republican penis. And he's a really nice guy (I'm sure his penis is nice, too)... but nice doesn't equate to compatible. Oh well. Back to the drawing board.