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

Saturday, November 30, 2013

That Boy-Girl Thing


Last year, my daughter, who was an 8th-grader at the time, took an anonymous survey in school, to gauge attitudes toward drugs, alcohol, and sex. It was designed (assuming the kids answered honestly), to determine who was doing what right then... and who might do what in the near future. I asked if she'd be willing to share with me how she answered.

I should note here that we talk a lot... about a lot. I grew up in a house where a boatload of talking went on, but not a lot of real communicating, and I vowed to make sure that would not be the case when I had children (or, as it turned out, child). With us, no topic is off-limits, and even if it makes me feel ooky on the inside, I try not to let it show... and if it makes Ryan feel ooky, I make sure she knows it's normal to feel that way and we'll talk our way out of it. And we always do. In fact, she has let a few things fly with me that have left me with my jaw hanging open, flabbergasted that they came out of my kid's mouth. But let me tell you, I'd much rather be flabbergasted at what she did say than blindsided later by what she didn't.

Anyway, back to the survey. She gave me her answers. And it was very clear she didn't just tell me what I wanted to hear (which was that she'd never do drugs and wouldn't drink or have sex until she's at least 30)...

She said that she really didn't expect to ever be interested in doing drugs (whew).

Alcohol was another story. She said she couldn't be sure that she wouldn't ever drink in high school.

OK. Honest answer. And though we've talked about alcohol in the past, her reply simply opens up a new avenue of discussion. It's all good.

Her answer to the sex question opened up a few more avenues as well... she said that although she didn't figure she'd ever have a boyfriend, if she ever did, she couldn't say that she wouldn't have sex.

Gulp.

Again, an honest answer. And honest is way better than dishonest, even if if's not what you want to hear. I can work with honest.

So... fast forward to freshman year in high school.

One month in...

Boyfriend.

Gulp.

Now, when I mentioned this little turn of events during a break in a training meeting at work, two women spoke up right away, declaring that they would never let their 14-year-old daughters have boyfriends.

They wouldn't let them have boyfriends.

I understand not letting your kid have an iPhone. I understand not letting her go to a concert un-chaperoned. I understand not letting her have the second piece of cake after dinner...

But not letting her have a boyfriend? That one seems like not letting the tide come in. It'll happen, whether you want it to or not (did they never see Romeo and Juliet? Or Westside Story?). But while the tide will come in before your eyes, the boyfriend thing will happen behind your back, because at 14, your children are not with you every minute of every day. They are in school and at social functions and they are living a big portion of their lives without you watching.

So it never occurred to me to say 'no boyfriend.' But ground rules were established right off the bat, with regard to what she could do and what I wouldn't allow (no car dating until at least her sophomore year).

And then I met him.

And he's adorable. He's also a year ahead of her in school... and since my girl is one of the youngest in her class and he's one of the oldest in his, there are nearly two years between them age-wise.

Gulp.

But he's adorable. And he's so nice. And he comes from a really nice, really involved family. And he shook my hand - firmly - when he met me. And when I speak, even if it's not to him, he looks right at me and he makes eye contact and he smiles genuine smiles.

There is not one iota of Eddie Haskell in this boy.

I like him.

My girl really likes him.

And he? Really likes my girl. He tells her she's awesome. And smart. And funny. And pretty. All of which she is. And when she puts herself down, he hollers at her, just like I do. And he's kind and funny and he respects his parents.

He's a good one, I think.

So, we talk about him. And them. And the stuff that comes out of her mouth flabbergasts me. Not in a lord-this-child-has-no-filters-! way (which happens often), but in a lord-how-did-this-child-get-to-be-so-wise-? way.

She knew, right from the beginning, that his being cute wasn't enough. He liked her before she liked him. And when I asked why it took her so long to work out that she liked him, because he's so stinkin' cute (i.e. how could she not?), she informed me that his being cute wasn't enough. She had to know if she really liked him, too.

She knows that this isn't a 'forever love,' the way so many teenagers look at every romance. She understands that it will end eventually and when it does, it will feel really bad, but it won't be the end of the world.

She understands that public displays of affection will make the people around them really uncomfortable (because she's really uncomfortable when people do it around her) and there is a time and place for them... and she understands that time and place is not behind a closed bedroom door in a house where no parents are present.

She understands that the words, "If you love me" will never precede anything she should feel obligated to do and that if a person is using those words? He/she needs to check him/herself. Immediately.

She feels good about this relationship. She genuinely likes this boy and she can give you a list a page long of all the legitimately great qualities he possesses and things he does that make him so likeable.

She also worries for a friend who is in a situation that doesn't feel good to my girl, based on what she's observing. She's worried that her friend has not figured out some of those things listed above... the things it's important to understand when you're diving in to a teenage romance. She's worried that her friend is going to find herself in a situation she can't get out of and that she'll wind up doing something she'll regret.

Last night, she said to me:

"If you're going to be in a relationship with someone, you have to be friends. You have to have things in common. You have to be able to talk about all kinds of stuff with each other... and not just make out on the bus ride home."

She went on to say that if the only thing two people have in common is that they like to make out with each other? They're doomed.

She's 14. If I had been so wise when I was 14... or 21... or 26... or 42, my life would look far different than it does today.

So the conversations will continue - the ones about drugs and alcohol and especially about sex. I'll do everything I can to make sure she's armed with all the information she needs to continue to make smart choices. I will forever worry about my girl, because I'm her mother and that's my job. But I have to say, I think she's going to OK. I really do.

Yeah. She's going to be just fine.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Bright Copper Kettles...

Today is Black Friday. I don't shop on Black Friday. The last time I set foot in a store on the day after Thanksgiving, I was 16. It gave me anxiety. Thankfully, I'm not terribly 'stuff' oriented (or Christmas oriented) and my kid has never wanted anything so specific or so much that I simply had to rush into a store a 4am to wait in line with 2,639 other crazy people. Honestly? I'd rather pay the extra money. Or tell her she has to wait for her birthday. In August. When people are sane.

So, to celebrate my Happy-to-be-Off-Work-With-Nothing-to-Do Friday (which has, thus far, involved sleeping late, a lovely bacon-egg-and-cheese bagel from my favorite bagel shop [far from the mall], a walk in the park with my fuzzy boy, and, just now, a cup of tea), I bring you the 3rd installment of my Favorite Things...


Cottages... I love love, love little cottagey houses. Years ago, when my then-husband and I were looking for a house to buy, his ideal was a brand new, 3,000+ square foot monster on a golf course. I wanted a little old gem, like the one above, with a porch and a picket fence, in an established neighborhood, within walking distance to... everything. He said I didn't dream big enough. Well, I might not dream big, but I do dream beautifully!


Letters... Real, handwritten letters make me so happy, but they show up in my mailbox so rarely. Of course, I don't write as many as I used to either (I should really remedy that) but I still love (and collect) beautiful stationery and notecards, pens, and stamps. The idea that someone might sit down and take the time to express their thoughts to me in writing gives me the warm fuzzies. If anyone wants my address, let me know!


Camping... Being out in the woods, in a tent, is one of my most favorite places to be. It's one of the few places I can completely unplug and unwind for a few days at a time and do nothing but breathe. And camping with friends? When everyone is unplugged and unwound and breathing? Even better!


Hot Baths... I love to soak in the tub... in the dark... with a candle or two... and a glass of wine. It's got to be one of the purest forms of relaxation I know.


Swimming... The pool is my sacred space. It's where I meditate. It's where my head empties and all I think of is 'one breath in, one breath out.' I don't do it nearly so often as I should.


Calvin and Hobbes... This little boy and his tiger are so much more than a comic strip. They are full of such insight and wisdom, kindness and humor... of so much Life. I have all of the books... and I never tire of them. Recently, when I did a bloggy 're-interview' with my daughter (the first interview took place when she was 9), I asked what cartoon character she thought I was like. She said I was Calvin and she was Hobbes. That? Made me extraordinarily happy.


The UK... England and Scotland, and specifically London, are my happy, shiny places. The UK is the place I feel most at home... it's where some of my favorite people are... it's where I was born and it's where I shall wind up one day. When I visit, and I step off the plane, I just exhale, as if I've been holding my breath for months, and I know I'm where I'm supposed to be.


Watermelon... You know that story about Adam and Even and the apple? Well, if I'd been Eve, we'd still be nekkid in the Garden of Eden... unless that apple had been a watermelon. Because that is one fruit I cannot resist, that's why. I wish it was in season all year long, as I could happily eat it every single day of my life.


Inspirational People... I love stories about ordinary people who do extraordinary things. They give me hope for humanity... and for myself. The man pictured above? He ran a marathon... at 100-years-old... and he's still running. If that doesn't make you want to get up off the couch, I don't know what will.


My Dog... My dog is very often the best part of my day. I feel sorry for people who don't love dogs, because I know what they're missing (though I can't explain it in a way to do it justice... the feelings are just too big). I've had a dog (or more than one) in my life for the past 40 years... and I'll have one (or more) for the next 40. For me, Life is incomplete without one - it's that simple.


Fresh Flowers... They just make me happy. A big bouquet, from the garden or the grocery store, sitting on the corner of my desk? Well, that'll make me smile on even the busiest, most stressful day.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Writer's Workshop: The Thanksgiving I Almost Died

It's time for another Writer's Workshop post from Mama Kat's prompts...

I chose: A Thanksgiving Memory

When I was a kid, Thanksgivings were so much fun. We usually spent them with the New Jersey leg of our family. We would drive there from Virginia or they would come to us -- my Aunt Maisie and Uncle Jimmy (they were like my grandparents), Aunt Jean and Uncle Ernie, and the three boys – Michael, Stephen, and Richard. The boys were basically the same ages as my brothers and I, so we were sort of stair-step kids – oldest (Michael) to youngest (Richard) – all towheads, with me, the only girl, in the middle.

I loved being the only girl. I really did. We had a lot of fun, the six of us – we’d all crowd into the same bedroom to sleep in sleeping bags; we’d play games (and cheat); and oh, how we’d all laugh!

But the most memorable Thanksgiving I can recall with my cousins didn’t involve a whole lot of laughing. Not at first, anyway.

I was 10-years-old.

And it was the Thanksgiving I almost died.
 
It was the Thanksgiving I got shot.

That’s right.

Shot.

OK, so it was with a pellet gun. And OK, so I didn't really almost die. But it was a gun. And I got shot, people. Right in the chest.

I happened less than an hour after the whole NJ crew arrived. We were outside, down by the creek, and my brothers were showing off their pellet guns to our cousins. Stephen, the middle cousin (and the one closest to my age – just 6 months older), was handling one of them. My younger brother showed him how to load the pellets, how to ‘pump’ the rifle (10 times for maximum distance and power), and he demonstrated the ‘safety’…

And then Stephen hoisted the gun to his shoulder…

And, standing about four feet from me, pointed it right at me.

“I’m going to shoot you.”

I wasn’t askeerd of him.

“Pffftttt. You are not.”

“Oh, yes I am.”

“Yeah, well, you’d better not.”

You know what I learned that day?

I learned that boys? Never listen.

I heard the click of the trigger and the puff of air, as the bullet… er… pellet was released from the gun, right about the same time I felt the impact of the bullet… er… pellet in my chest, just below my collarbone.

YOU SHOT ME!! OH MY GOD, YOU SHOT ME!

I think Stephen was as shocked as I was. He thought the safety was on.

For the record? ‘Thought’ was the operative word in that sentence.

He dropped the gun like it was on fire and ran to help me, but I was half-way to the house by then. I cleared a 4-foot chain-link fence like it was 6-inches tall and barreled into the kitchen, screaming about having been shot.

The adults?

Were not happy.

All the boys came flying in behind me… and let me tell you, how they managed to concoct the biggest, fattest, lyingest lie that ever was, to save their behinds, in less than 60 seconds, is beyond me.

As my dad checked me out to see if any real damage had been done, and my Uncle Ernie was hollering about packing up and heading back to NJ, my brother stepped up to explain.

(And by ‘explain,’ I totally mean ‘lie through his 9-year-old too-big-for-his-face teeth.')

He said they’d only pumped the rifle 3 or 4 times… and that Stephen had been pointing the gun toward the creek… and that the pellet (bullet!) had ricocheted off a tree… and accidentally hit me… because I was standing in the wrong place.

It ricocheted off a tree and accidentally hit me because I was standing in the wrong place!

As I stood there with my mouth hanging open, incredulous, stunned at the enormity of the lie and the fact that he made it my fault, every one of those Fibber McGees nodded in agreement.

And then my Uncle Ernie looked at me.

“Diane, honey, is that true?”

I could smell the sweat and the fear from those five delinquents. See, my Uncle Ernie adores me and all I had to do was tell the truth and… and…

And he’d have loaded them all into the car and driven the six hours back to NJ.

Well, he might not have… but at that moment, I believed he would have. And that would have been awful.

So I glared at those boys and, through clenched teeth, I confirmed their story.

And they stayed. And our Thanksgiving was, as always, wonderfully fun and funny.

Except for, you know, the gaping hole in my chest.

And that bullet… er… pellet? It came to the surface (sort of) about a week later. But we couldn’t get it out, not even with tweezers. So I had to go to the doctor and have it dug out of my chest with a big needle and pliers. I kid you not. It hurt like hell.

I nearly 40 years later, I still have a scar.

Oh, and Stephen? The cousin who shot me?

Guess what he does for a living?

Yeah. He’s a police officer.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

If I Lived Here...

If I lived here...


I would hang a whimsical little sign in the front garden, declaring the cottage's name Wit's End. That way, when people visited, they could say they were at Wit's End with Diane. And since the cottage is by the sea, we would be at Wit's End at land's end... and everyone would smile at the play on words.

I would paint the front door yellow, so everyone would know they were entering a happy, sunshiny place... and I'd plant peonies and Gerber daisies and yellow sunflowers along the stone path to the door, to greet all my guests with smiles straight from the Earth.

If I lived here, you could come visit... for a week... or a month... or a year. You'd be welcome, always, and for as long as you wanted to stay.

When you visit, we could sleep late, under cozy duvets (because even in summer, the sea breeze is quite cool). In the mornings, we'd have steaming mugs of tea at the kitchen table by the window overlooking the blue water, and bowls of fresh berries and clotted cream for breakfast.

On warm, sunny days, we would sit outside and listen to the sea... and the sea would listen to us, as we talk and talk to catch up on all we've missed in each other's lives.
 

And when the sun is settling a bit closer to the horizon, we could walk on the beach with the dog... and we could look for seashells while he chases gulls.

On rainy days, we could sit inside, by the fire, and read. You could lose yourself in stories of pirates and time travel and brave heroes who lived before... and I'll fall into a mystery set in a rainy North Sea village or in a story told in beautifully-written letters between lovers.

In the early evenings, we could stroll to the village, and stop by the pub for a pint or two. We'd have to stop to chat to the owner of the local cheese shop, of course, as he's a lovely man and always keeps a bit of Halloumi aside for me.

And at night, when all is quiet except for the sound of the waves lapping the shore and the fire crackling in the hearth, you could write letters home, telling everyone what a glorious time you're having... and I'll write in my journal about how I hope you'll stay for a long, long time.

If I lived here...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Post in Which I Tell You 19 Sort of Random, Yet Completely True, Things About Me...


I am... known in certain circles as Princess Apostrophe. It might be my favorite nickname.

I’m not... known for my math skills. Mainly because I haven’t got any.

I will... laugh hysterically if you fall. Even if you’re hurt. I will also feel bad about it… but I’ll still do it.

I won’t... buy an automatic car until I’m really old and my knees stop working.

I have... and wear regularly, a Virginia Tech sweatshirt I got in 1995.

I haven’t... ever found a sweatshirt I like better than that one.

I should... probably go shopping more often.

I shouldn’t... ask the Jehovah’s Witnesses who knock on my door to come back later, because I’m in the middle of my weekly sacrifice to Beelzebub. I shouldn’t. But I do.

I can... recite the names of all 50 states. In alphabetical order. When I’m drunk. And sober. Just sayin’.

I can’t... poop at work. Ever. Not in the history of Ever. So that nasty smell? Yeah. It wasn’t me.

I do... use punctuation and capital letters when I text. Because I’m Princess Apostrophe, that’s why.

I don’t... judge people who get to, two, and too mixed up. Or you’re and your. Or their, they’re, and there. Or then and than. OK, that’s a lie. I totally judge. But I don’t like myself when I do it.
 
I once... ate a chocolate-covered cricket. On a dare. There might have been alcohol involved.
 
I never... watched Pinocchio again because seeing Jiminy Cricket made me feel guilty.

I love... Gerard Butler. Or, as I like to call him, ‘Ryan’s New Daddy.’

I hate... the fact that it’s entirely unlikely that I will ever marry Gerard Butler. Unlikely... but not impossible, people.

I believe... I might need a therapist.

I don’t believe... I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t need a therapist at some point or another… so I’m in good company.

And finally…

I wish... on stars and at wishing wells. Every single time. And if I’m at a wishing well? I throw in a quarter instead of a penny, because I figure it gives my wish 25x more power.
 
True story.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Project: Next Step

So, I mentioned that I got a new job recently. I was hired in September, as an Adult Career Coach, by a private company, contracted to manage a federally-funded workforce initiative. In that capacity, my job, in a nutshell, was to assist unemployed people find work, or get them the training they might need in order to find work. There is an eligibility component to the program, which mainly involves income (or lack thereof), so we work with a population new to me, as most of my previous resume and career coaching clients were not considered "low income" by state standards.

Our clients often have other issues, too. For example, my first client was a felon -- a felon who broke my heart, quite honestly, and made me fall all over myself trying to help him. I was a bit concerned, I'll admit, as the business community in general doesn't exactly embrace convicted drug dealers, but I was able to help him find a job and I wound up feeling crazy-good about the whole thing.

For the first time in a long time, I felt I might just be where I'm supposed to be with regard to work... that I might finally get to do work that feels worthwhile -- work that really matters.  

Things weren't/aren't perfect, though. My company was thrown into the contract, with little-to-no prep time. We've been cleaning up an enormous mess left by the previous contractors, too, and all of us -- all new to the company -- need training. The expectations are huge. The obstacles are many. Additionally, I was hired to work in an office 30 miles from home and after traveling less than 2 miles (or, you know, 20 steps) to work for the past 8 years, 60 miles a day was a rather rude awakening to the cost of gas and the wear a lot of travel can put on one's car.

Then a position came open here in town...

For a Youth Development Coach...

The position works with kids, 16 to 21, in school and out (drop-outs included), and helps them finish their diplomas, develop leadership and practical skills, and get into post-secondary education and/or find work.

And these kids?

These kids need help. They all have to fall into that income eligible category (which means they're in families that are really struggling) and they have to have another 'barrier' to education/employment (which could mean they're 'skills deficient', pregnant or parenting, disabled, in foster care, etc.).

This job?

Is an important one.

And I wanted it.

Nothing is ever easy, though. I had to apply... and interview... and wait... just like the other candidates.

But unlike the other candidates, I got the job! Squeeeee!

So I've spent the last couple of weeks just getting my bearings and trying to figure out what I need to do. There are issues, of course, as it's a federally-funded program, running out of a state building, in coordination with a state agency, managed by a private company.

Can you even picture it? Lordy.

But today, after a grueling 2+ hour conference call, during which objectives and goals were laid out (holy hell, there's a lot to do!), I spent the afternoon brainstorming a name for the youth program (which encompasses 3 offices/counselors in a 10-county region). With some help from my favorite co-worker (as you know, titles are not my forte), I settled on:

Project: Next Step

We're going to build an entire marketing campaign around it... and I think it'll be good.

Interestingly, this job and, indeed, this whole time in my life, feels like my Project: Next Step.

I feel like I'm finally pointed toward something I've been looking for, for a while, even though I'm not quite certain what it is. And I have this very strong feeling that on my way toward that something, I might just stumble across a few other things I need, even though I don't know what they are just yet either.

Time will tell, I guess. My primary objective, right at this moment, is to be open -- open-minded and open-hearted -- to whatever might come my way... to whatever my next step is going to be...

Wish me luck.

And you know I'll keep you posted...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Invitation Declined (But thanks for asking!)

I come from argumentative people. Confrontational people. Always-have-to-be-right people.

And I can be -- and have often been -- an argumentative, confrontational, always-have-to-be-right person.

The apple never falls too far from the tree, does it?

The thing is? I pretty much never like how being argumentative, confrontational, and always-have-to-be-right makes me feel.

Over the years, I've gotten into some face-to-face doozies, mostly with my mother and brother, whose ideological views are often diametrically opposed to mine. Our "debates" have degraded to ugly screaming matches, where no one is even listening. In fact, I think it would be a safe bet to say that, in these situations, no one was listening from the start. We held our opinions and simply felt the need to spout them, knowing we'd never change the other person's mind.

And we never did.

When I joined Facebook, I found another argumentative, confrontational, always-have-to-be-right environment. And I joined right in. It was so easy. There is so much information (and misinformation) spread around the Internet, especially with regard to politics, and everyone has an opinion. When I would see an opinion different from mine, especially if I felt it was based on misinformation, I would join the fight -- the valiant fight -- to bring the misinformed (idiot) 'round to the truth. And like many people who enter into those sorts of "debates," I would often be condescending and snarky, doing my best to make the person who disagreed with me feel like the idiot I believed he/she was. And the same was done to me.

And I never changed anyone's mind.

And no one ever changed mine.

And I usually came away feeling unsettled and low, ashamed of my behavior, and disliking humans in general.

After a while, I tried a new tactic. I tried to "debate" in a respectful way. I tried never to get personal or sound condescending. I tried not to make sweeping generalizations or speak from opinion only.

But it didn't work. People in that argumentative, confrontational, always-have-to-be-right mode can see respect as weakness, and I often felt attacked instead of respected-in-return. And people can be so damned ugly when they're in that argumentative, confrontational, always-have-to-be-right mode.

And I never changed anyone's mind.

And no one ever changed mine.

And I came away feeling unsettled and low, ashamed that I'd allowed myself to get sucked in, and disliking humans in general. Again.

Then, I saw this:


"You don't have to attend every argument you're invited to."

What?! Really?! I don't?! Are you sure?!

Turns out? It's true!

Who'd a thunk it?!

So I started to put it into practice -- this not attending every argument to which I've received an invitation (express or implied... or simply grabbed by me, whether it was intended or not).

I just stopped taking the bait. In person, I started simply walking away or I just stopped talking. Online, I started hiding posts (or people), or just skipping right past them. I stopped posting controversial ideas which I knew would do nothing but incite arguments.

And it felt good. Mostly. Sometimes I had to bite my tongue. Even now, months after enacting this new 'no arguing' policy, I'll get ready to comment or enter into a "debate"... sometimes I even type out or prepare what I want to say, and I'll stop. I ask myself these questions:

What is your point here?
What do you think you're really going to accomplish?
Do you really want to deal with the backlash your comment is sure to generate?
If you enter into this, how will you feel about yourself when it's all over?

When I answer those questions honestly, I find that very, very rarely is the comment worth it. So I don't make it. And on the few occasions lately where I have, it almost never ends well, reinforcing my idea that it's better to just walk away.

Now, this doesn't mean that I don't believe true debate and the exchange of ideas is healthy and necessary. It certainly can be healthy and it absolutely is necessary, if we are to reach common ground and make progress about real issues. And I'm not saying that I'll never present an idea that's not popular because I don't want to generate real debate.

I'm saying that in the personal (i.e. familial) and online (i.e. Facebook) forums in which I've participated, I have not found it to be so.

I have finally found peace in knowing my own mind... in realizing that what I believe is right for me... in recognizing that I no longer feel the need to try to bring others around to my way of thinking, or to even spout my views (most of the time)... and in understanding that it is never my place to judge, or condescend toward, or attempt to belittle anyone to make a point.

And Life is so much more peaceful.

And I like peaceful.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

And Whiskers on Kittens...

Here's Round Two of my most favorite things (in no particular order)...


Walking in the Woods: I find that being out in is nature restorative and peaceful and... completely and utterly necessary to well-being. Sometimes the woods are close to home, in the park... sometimes they're on a nearby mountain... and sometimes they're far away, in a place I've gone deliberately to get away from it all. Wherever they are... they're where I want to be.


Kissing: Granted, I don't get to do it as often as I'd like, but when I do? Ahhh. And first kisses? Whether they're anticipated, long-awaited, or complete surprises? Well, let's just say that one of the best parts about being single is the idea that yet another first kiss is possible.


Bookstores: They prove there's a Heaven. Right here. On Earth. Wherever I am, if there is a bookstore nearby, you'll find me in it. I don't even have to buy (though I usually do)... just being in a place filled with real, tangible pieces of bliss is good enough.


Chocolate: Yeah, I'm pretty sure I don't have to add anything here, do I?


Wine: All I'll say here is red. Merlot or Pinot Noir. With friends, preferably.


Swim Coaching: I've been doing this for 6 years so far and it's the best part of my year. I love my little sinkers... and my big sinkers. I love that it allows me to share something with my daughter that she loves and is so good at. And I love the family we joined when we came to our team. I can't imagine my life without them now. Winning has never been our primary goal... but it's what happened to me 6 years ago, and every year since.


Bagpipe Music: It's not for everyone, I know... and I'm sure it's simply in my blood, given my Scottish heritage... but I love the pipes. And a song like Amazing Grace? Can bring me to tears.


The WWII Era: This time in history fascinates me, particularly with regard to the Holocaust, the victims of the war, the families left behind, and especially the everyday people who became heroes. I've always thought I was born too late and should have lived through that time (and who knows? Maybe I did). Studying it doesn't bring me joy exactly, but learning the stories of love and triumph over adversity and evil does my soul good.


Stonework: I love things made of stone. I'm not sure if it's the permanence stonework represents for me, or if its simply the beauty of it, but I love it. One day, I shall live in a stone cottage by the sea. Even if only in my dreams.


Writing: I love to lose myself in a piece of writing and come out on the other side changed in some way. Writing helps me to clear my head and my heart of clutter; it helps me to clarify my thinking and understand things I'm struggling with; it helps me to find solutions to problems niggling at me (or smacking me upside my head. With a brick). It's good for me -- body, mind, and spirit. And if someone else enjoys something I've written? Well, that's just the most amazing icing on the cake!


Fresh Peas: Of all the wonderful things that come from a vegetable garden, fresh peas, eaten straight from the pod, still warm from the sun, are the best. Better than candy. Better than chocolate, even. True story.

To be continued...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Writer's Workshop: A Love Story

It’s been a long time since I did one of Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshops, but since I’m trying to write daily again and I’m struggling to come up with topics… here I am.

I decided to write about an outfit I loved.

OK, well, that’s not entirely true.

Since I couldn’t really think of an entire outfit I was crazy about (I’m not terribly clothes-horsey), I decided to write about a pair of shoes I loved.

Well, saying that I simply loved them is not doing them justice. At all.

I adored them. I was passionate about them. If they’d been human, I would have dated them. Hell, I might have married them. After all, they were more useful, more loyal, and (far) more trustworthy than my ex-husband.

You think I’m kidding, don’t you?

They were the Be All, End All, folks.

They were:

My Land’s End Mary Jane Trekkers!


Ta da!

These shoes… these paragons of comfortable footwear… these (dare I say it?) friends… BFFs, even… well, they got me through it all. For nearly five years.

I bought them when I developed an excruciating case of plantar fasciitis. I needed a shoe with some support and a back, since flip-flops and sandals were out of the question. I didn’t want to spend a fortune, though, and I found these beauties on sale for $20.00.

Twenty dollars. I kid you not. And it was the best $20.00 I ever spent. In my whole life. I kid you not.

And when I say they got me through it all, I mean it.

They cradled my poor right foot for two full years of that hell called plantar fasciitis, and for more than two years after it went away (because I was askeerd it was coming back, that’s why).

They faithfully managed four summers of swim coaching on a hot, concrete pool deck, and they kept me from landing on my arse on wet, tiled, indoor pool decks in the winter.

They provided safe shelter for my feet after walking 60 miles (each) in three separate Susan G. Komen 3-Day Events (even though my “friend” Anne wouldn’t let them in the tent with us at night because they “smelled”).

They took me on countless hikes, camping trips, puddle-stomps, and treks through the park with my dog, in all sorts of weather (including snow, because no matter what my daughter said, they were NOT, in fact, sandals, and it was perfectly appropriate to wear socks with them. Damn it).

But then? On December 31, 2011, they… died. They expired. They simply gave up from sheer exhaustion. The sole of the right shoe split in two.

And then my heart split in two. I know that sounds melodramatic… hyperbolic, even, but I was devastated. I cried. Real tears (and not from the “smell,” thank you very much).

But then?

I had an epiphany! And it was called:

SUPER GLUE!

I literally squeeeeed at the thought of my Trekkers going another mile… or 100.

And they did. They traveled onward for another several months…

Until…

I went for a walk on a hot summer day in 2012… and the super glue…

Melted.

It melted clean away, leaving the bottom of my foot exposed to the elements.

The devastation returned. And I knew it was permanent this time. My Trekkers were done for. I had to finally admit it. And my “friends”? Even my daughter? Instead of feeling sympathy or empathy (or even apathy), they were overjoyed! They went as far as to suggest that I burn them… but not before I contacted the CDC and the EPA to be on the look-out for possible environmental contaminants and airborne diseases.

My “friends”? Are horrid.

I didn’t burn them, though. I didn’t even throw them out. I couldn’t. Could you?! Could you simply discard a friend with the trash (and I mean a real friend, not one of those, “Ew, get rid of those smelly shoes” “friends”)?! I think not.

So I kept them. I still have them, in fact. They sit in a place of honor in my closet. And when I open the door, I look at them wistfully, remembering what was... and what will never be again.
 
Sigh.
 
Eventually, I ordered another pair of Trekkers.

 


But they weren’t the same. They were… wrong. The color was wrong, the fit was wrong, the feel was wrong… even the criss-crossy straps (that made the coolest tan lines) were wrong. You see, they’d been tweaked. Why (oh, why?!) do manufacturers insist on tweaking perfection?

And the new pair didn’t last either. You should see them today. They look worse than the old ones... and after only a year! Sigh.

I don’t kid myself into thinking that I’ll ever find another pair of Trekkers. I don’t. Miracles don’t tend to happen to the same person twice, do they? But I have faith that, someday, I’ll stumble across an on-sale pair of close-to-heaven pool-deck-camping-hiking-rainy-day-snow shoes that I’ll love.

I am an optimist, after all.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Back when Ryan was 9, I did a bloggy meme interview with her, to see how well she knew me. Turned out, she knew me pretty well. I thought it would be fun to see how she would answer the same questions today, at 14-years-old. Turns out, she still knows me pretty well. And she still makes me laugh!

What is something I always say to you?
9-year-old Ryan: That you love me.
14-year-old Ryan: GET UP! (When she was 9, she had to wake me up.)

What makes me happy?
9-year-old Ryan: Me!
14-year-old Ryan: Sundance. (I'll say it again... he gives me no lip and no attitude.)

What makes me sad?
9-year-old Ryan: When I'm rude and act like an idiot.
14-year-old Ryan: Dead animals. (Not the answer I expected, but true.)

How do I make you laugh?
9-year-old Ryan: By acting like a dork and telling fart jokes.
14-year-old Ryan: Fart jokes. (Some things never change.)

What was I like as a child?
9-year-old Ryan: How the heck should I know?!
14-year-old Ryan: I don't know. How would I know? (Again, some things never change.)

How old am I?
9-year-old Ryan: 44
14-year-old Ryan: 48 (Damn. I should do these surveys more often.)

How tall am I?
9-year-old Ryan: Ummmm... 5'2"?
14-year-old Ryan: 5'6" (And the doctor said I was finished growing at 13.)

What's my favorite thing to do?
9-year-old Ryan: Go hiking.
14-year-old Ryan: Write. (I'm always afraid she's going to say "eat." Not that it wouldn't be true.)

What do I do when you're not around?
9-year-old Ryan: You're on the computer.
14-year-old Ryan: Work. (I need to get a life. Obviously.)

If I became famous, what would it be for?
9-year-old Ryan: Writing a book.
14-year-old Ryan: Writing a book. (Clearly I need to get a move on.)

What am I really good at?
9-year-old Ryan: Making chili.
14-year-old Ryan: Writing. (She's a one-trick pony, my kid.)

What do I do for work?
9-year-old Ryan: Write resumes for people who can't write them for themselves.
14-year-old Ryan: Help unemployed kids get jobs. (So she doesn't tune me out all the time.)

What's my favorite food?
9-year-old Ryan: Umm... complicated foods that I don't like.
14-year-old Ryan: Wine. (I should be embarrassed. Shouldn't I?)

What makes you proud of me?
9-year-old Ryan: When you get the little kids on the swim team to stop being afraid of the water. And that you're really funny and all my friends love you.
14-year-old Ryan: Your sense of humor. No one else's parents are as funny as you. (Aw! Wait, that's 'funny ha-ha'... right?)

If I were a cartoon character, who would I be?
9-year-old Ryan: Jerry from Tom and Jerry, 'cause he's really smart.
14-year-old Ryan: Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes. And I'd be Hobbes. (Heh. I like it!)

What do we do together?
9-year-old Ryan: Go camping and hiking and swimming and to the movies. We have fun!
14-year-old Ryan: Um, like, everything. (She didn't say that with a frown. I promise!)

How are we alike?
9-year-old Ryan: We both talk a lot. And we like to read. And we're both sarcastic.
14-year-old Ryan: Same sense of humor. Same nose. Same laugh. (The last two really cheese her off. Heh.)

How are we different?
9-year-old Ryan: I'm dark and you're really white.
14-year-old Ryan: I have more sass. (Which gets her more stink-eye.)

How do you know I love you?
9-year-old Ryan: 'Cause you're my mom. Duh.
14-year-old Ryan: It's sort of a given, isn't it? (Duh.)

What do I like best about your dad? (Uh oh...)
9-year-old Ryan: That he lives in Alabama!
14-year-old Ryan: Child support. (Heh. And? Heh.)

Where is my favorite place to go?
9-year-old Ryan: England!
14-year-old Ryan: England. (That answer will likely be correct for a long, long time.)

Monday, November 18, 2013

If I Had a Nickel...

... for every time someone said to me, "You should write a book," I'd have... well... I'd have a bunch of nickels.

I've tried.

I have!

But I get stuck, usually a few chapters in. Also? I edit as I go. And I'm starting think that's a terrible practice. I get so caught up in perfecting (as it were) the minutest details, I lose sight of the bigger picture... which really ought to involve, you know, actually finishing the damned thing.

When I start a project (of which there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 84 [unfinished] saved on my hard drive and flash drives all over my house), I usually have a fairly abstract idea of the direction I want the story to go.

An abstract idea.

Don't get me wrong, ideas are good... it's the abstract part that's a problem. If you can't turn 'abstract' into 'concrete,' you wind up with something that looks like the word version of a Picasso painting... some people will get it, but most will just scratch their heads in bewilderment.

But...

I've had a new idea.

And it's more Monet than Picasso (i.e. a little watery and unclear, but no one's got an eyeball stuck in an armpit or anything).

So, I've done the outline. I've written background for the main characters and I'm working on the secondary characters now. I have direction. I can see the beginning, the middle, and even the end.

And that? Is new.

I expect I'm going to get hung up along the way. As I do. But I'm going to try hard not to sweat the small stuff until all the big stuff is down.

And that? Is new, too.

I'll keep you posted.

But just to be safe?

Start saving up those nickels.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Raindrops on Roses...

If I'm in a not-very-good mood, I generally do one of two things:

1) I wallow

 2) I figure out a way into a better one

I don't much like to wallow and lately, my go-to get-in-a-better-mood thing has been Pinterest. My daughter and I discovered it at the same time, quite a while ago. It was addicting at first, let me tell you. For me? A visual person? Finding a place where I can pin pictures of pretty much everything I might like/love/want? Well, I have one word for you:

Squeeee!

So Pinterest has become an online Happy Place for me. And now, more than 8,000 pins later, it's where I can go to look at all my bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens...

Julie Andrews? Would seriously love Pinterest.

So I started pulling pictures of my favorite things for this post, figuring I'd wind up with a dozen or so. Ha! I have enough photos for 5 or 6 posts now.

Also? I'm in a much better mood than I was earlier. Try it. Think about your brown paper packages, tied up with string... I bet it'll work...

Here are some of my favorite things, in no particular order...


Laughing... I love to laugh and I find a lot of Life funny. All laughing is good, of course, but what I mean here is serious laughing. I mean the kind of laughing that makes your cheeks and your belly hurt; the kind where you can't breathe and the tears are rolling down your face and you wind up doing the silent, whole-body shake, until you snort and have to gasp for air. Man, that is some good stuff!


Lemons... I love 'em! I love the color, the smell, the taste. I love to cook with fresh lemons and squeeze the juice into my tea. I put a bowl of them on the dining room table and if I haven't used them before they start to turn, I slice them and boil them in some water on the stove to make the whole house smell good.


Rain... I crazy-love rain. I love all sorts, from soft drizzles to the heavens-just-opened downpours to summer thunderstorms and sun-showers. I love to walk in it and to come in from it, and I still stomp in puddles every chance I get.


Sheep... I adore sheep. If they're baby sheep, even better. If they're baby black-faced sheep? Be still my heart.


Old Houses... I've been having a serious love affair with old houses for a long time, especially if they've been abandoned. I believe old buildings have souls and seeing them neglected and empty makes me sad. I imagine all the lives that crossed their thresholds, and the happiness and sadness that occurred within. I have always had the ability to recognize a house's good bones and the ability to see what can be, rather than what is, so I restore and heal them in my head.


Tea and Books... Here are two of the best things ever invented. I have an e-reader but I still prefer the feel of a real honest-to-goodness book. And settling in with a beautiful story and a hot cup of tea (British Breakfast with cream and raw honey)? That'll make my whole day.


Line-dried Laundry... Laundry, especially sheets, dried in the sun and breeze? Best. Thing. Ever.


The Sea... I was born on the North Sea and someday, I'll once again live near the water. It soothes my soul and brings me peace. And when I feel that all my stuff is just too big to deal with, the vastness of the ocean reminds me just how small I really am.


Word Art... I love it when someone takes beautiful words and makes beautiful art with them.


Sky Watching... One of my favorite-ever things is taking my dog to the park on the weekends. When the weather is nice, we always have a lie-down in the grass after our walk. He snoozes, I use him for a pillow, and I just watch the clouds pass by. It's pretty much the best hour of my week.

So, when the dog bites, when the bee stings, when you're feeling sad... what cheers you up?

To be continued...

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Rambling Toward Clarity

I've thought about changing the name of this blog for a long time. Diane's Addled Ramblings is not at all the name I would have chosen had I realized what this place, this project, this piece of me would become. But Blogger forced me to pick a name before I could do any actual writing, and because I only intended to jot down notes for friends and family in a centralized location, I didn't think too hard about what to call it. Truth be told, I've never liked the name (even if it has been appropriate a lot of the time).

So, as I say, I've toyed, several times, with changing my rambling title to something else -- something more sophisticated or witty or charming. But over time, I developed a nice little following and I didn't want to lose anyone. I'm also not the most tech-savvy person in the world and I wasn't sure how to jump from one URL to another without causing confusion or a big mess. And I didn't want to make searching difficult.

Also? I simply didn't know what to change the name to (though I considered 'The Dangling Preposition').

After a while, as seems to happen to many people who camp out for any length of time in Bloggy Land, I changed my focus to other things (Facebook mainly) and moved away from my ramblings. Oh, I still rambled (make no mistake)... I just did it elsewhere. And many of my bloggy friends joined me in FB Land, which has been ever so nice.

But every now and then, I'd come back here. I'd jot a few words down and leave again. Every so often, I'd check my feed to see if anyone was still visiting. Strangely enough, several people came consistently, even when I wasn't writing at all. I'd recognize familiar city and country names in Feedjit and it gave me great comfort (and validation) to know that a few people were still looking at and for my words.

So I came back.

And here I am. Writing again. Hoping people are still reading. But doing it for me instead of for comments or followers (though comments and followers are mighty nice!). Doing it to regain a piece of myself I seem to have lost. Doing it to improve my skill and craft. Looking for some sense of purpose.

Looking for some clarity.

And still not liking the name, Diane's Addled Ramblings (even if it's still appropriate a lot of the time).

I brainstormed for a few hours the other day and came up with several potential new names... none of which felt right. I played around with my header, plugging in possibilities... none of which felt right. I was all set to just give up and resign myself to rambling addled for the foreseeable future, when it hit me...

I'm rambling, yes. Still. Maybe always. But I'm rambling with purpose. I'm rambling, not just to ramble, but to get to something, however indirect the route. I ramble, yes. I start at Point A and then I get sidetracked and sidelined and more than a little lost at times, but I'm still moving toward Point B (even if I go by way of Points C, D, R, and Y along the way). And my Point B?

Clarity.

I'm rambling toward clarity -- clarity in my thinking, in my life, in my heart, and in my soul. I want to be understood... I want to understand... I want to be clear and to see clearly. I want to live Life in a brilliant, bright, lucid, sharp, clear way.

I'm Rambling Toward Clarity. And I figure if I ramble long enough, I'll get there.

So there you have it. I'm still rambling. And I'm still easy to find. I'm definitely still addled, much of the time.

I'm still me. Always.

Would you like to ramble on with me? I'd love to have you come along...

Friday, November 15, 2013

The More You Cry...

Sometimes you just need a good cry. I think that's probably true of everyone. Right? It doesn't feel good, exactly - not while it's going on, anyway - but I know I usually feel better when it's over. It's especially good when it's an ugly cry. You know the kind... the sort of cry that if anyone took a photo of you while you were doing it, you'd smack 'em first and then make them burn the picture. The ugly cry is loud and serious and soul-wrenching. And it'll clean you out like nobody's business. It'll exhaust you and make you feel like you can sleep for days.

That? Is a good cry.

Some cries aren't so great, though.

You know... like the one you're trying to fight because you're not in a situation or place where crying is acceptable; the one that wells up and overflows, all silent and drippy. I hate that one.

Another not-great cry is the angry cry... when you're so stinkin' mad and you want to give the person you're mad at what-for, but all that comes out is blubbering. And sometimes bubbles. Man, I really hate that one.

One that gets me is when I'm trying to relay story to someone and I break down in the middle. I always feel like such an emotional sap. And even if the story is 25-years-old, it can still happen. There appears to be no statute of limitations on The Weep.

The one that comes out of the blue and whacks me upside the head, though - that one gets me every time. I don't expect it... I might not even be thinking about the thing that's about to make me sob... but then I'll hear a song on the radio or I'll see a commercial or I'll read something that reminds me and WHAM-O! There it is.

In the end, though, crying is cathartic. It's cleansing. It releases pressure we've allowed to build up in our hearts and in our heads. So it's all good, I guess.

Also? As someone mentioned to me today, the more you cry, the less you pee.

I guess that's a good thing. Right?


Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Bottom of the Bun

When I was little - around 6 or 7 - I watched a telethon about starving children in Africa. Little souls with dark skin filled our black and white television screen, their bellies swollen, feet bare, eyes sad, and expressions hopeless. I was stunned. To that point, the only exposure I'd had to Africa was through Curious George and Babar; I'd never even seen any brown children in person; and no one around me was hungry... not that I knew, anyway. Though my parents had little money, I didn't realize that. We ate big meals together, around a Formica table in a happy, orange-painted kitchen. My days were filled with friends and school and the playground one-street-over; my nights were spent tucked into a cozy bed with clean sheets, in a room filled with dolls and books housed on shelves my dad made for me and painted pink.

I did not understand this desperate need.

I remember tearfully begging my parents to send money to save all those sad children. When they declined (we must help people in our own country first, you know, and the money you send to those organizations doesn't make it to those children on the television, anyway), I offered up all my dinners for the next month or two (the liver and meatloaf especially).

And I remember crawling onto my dad's lap and asking how God could allow such bad things to happen.

Now, my dad was no philosopher. And he wasn't always good at explaining things on a child's level (his description of communists gave me nightmares for years). He was also not a religious person (though he was a Believer), and my throwing God into the mix threw him. He told me later, when I was much older and we revisited this topic, that he knew even then I wouldn't accept the pat "God's plan" sorts of answers.

I could be a difficult child.

I thought the way he wound up explaining it was pretty good. Pretty damned good.

"You have to think of the world like a hamburger. You know how there's a top and a bottom to the hamburger bun, right? You can't have two tops or two bottoms, can you? You must have one of each. And the top part of the bun is bigger than the bottom, right? Well, think of the good things in the world as the top part... and the bad things in the world as the bottom. You can't have the good without the bad... or the bad without the good. And, hopefully, the good in the world is bigger than the bad."

To my discerning little-girl psyche, it made perfect sense.

To my discerning big-girl psyche, it still makes perfect sense.

I'm not a religious person. I'm not even a Believer. I feel so terrible for people who, when faced with a great loss, plead to God to help them understand why; why he felt it necessary to take from them. I don't need to ask why bad things happen... I don't try to understand how... I simply accept that they do. They have, they do, and they will -- forever and ever.

Amen.

It makes it easy for me. But though I don't try to look for reasons, I do try to look for lessons. I try to learn something from every bad situation I see or face myself. I try so very hard to pull the good from the bad and I believe so strongly that there is something positive to be found in every terrible thing that befalls us.

And lately? I've tried to be grateful for the bad things.

Grateful.

That's not easy, let me tell you. But if you think about it, it makes sense.

When you've been sick, you appreciate your health so much more. When you've been in pain, you appreciate the relief that comes from being pain-free. When you've been sad, you appreciate the happy. When you've been flat broke, you appreciate the security that comes from having money.

You understand. Good with bad. Light with dark. Up with down.

The top of the bun with the bottom of the bun.

When you're in the midst of the bad stuff, though, it's hard to believe the good will come back. But it does.

It always does.

Because nothing lasts forever. Not the good stuff. Not the bad stuff.

Nothing.

So right now, at this time of year, when everyone is thinking about and listing all the wonderful things they're grateful for, like family and friends and health and jobs -- the top of the bun -- I'm going to think of the bottom. I try hard all year to be grateful for the good things in my life, so right now? I'm going with the crap.

The bottom of the bun.

I'm going to be grateful for the pain, the fear, the hurt, the loss, and all the dark stuff that makes me want to crawl under the covers and hide. Because when I make my way back out into the light?

And I always make my way back out into the light...

It's good.

It's so very good.

It's top of the bun good.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Life is Funny

Life is funny. Sometimes it’s funny ha-ha… sometimes it’s funny odd. Sometimes? It’s not funny at all.

Life is also difficult and painful… and wonderful and beautiful.

And funny.

Did I mention that?

This year has been funny. This year has also been difficult and painful… and wonderful and beautiful.

And short!

This year has been short. Sort of. On one hand, it seems as though the New Year just rolled in. On the other, it seems like forever ago I was trying to stay awake ‘til midnight so I could see the ball drop.

As I say, Life is funny.

This year I plugged away… I mothered… I worked… I coached… I got sick… I found out I had cancer… I dealt with it… I took my girl on an amazing trip to NYC… I got a new job… I fell apart completely… I came back together… I rediscovered a few things I love… I got a new job within that new job… and I connected and reconnected with amazing people. I was busy and lazy and tired and happy and sad and uncomfortable and at peace. And occasionally? I was all of things within the span of 24 hours.

Life is funny.

On one hand I feel as though I moved forward this year (at times just plowing ahead with my head down and eyes closed). On the other, I feel as though I made little progress toward goals and desires and fulfilling needs.

Life is funny.

One thing I know for sure, though, is that Life never stops moving (even if we want it to stop for a little while). And I also know for sure that Life has a lot in store for me yet… a lot of difficult, painful, wonderful, beautiful things. I’ve felt for a while like I’m perched on the edge of something big… and I’m trying to work out whether or not I’m supposed to dive right in (but into what? That’s what I don’t know yet) or just sit still, allowing it to come to me – to envelope me in its enormity.

I just don't know.

But I'll let you know when I figure it out. 

If I figure it out. 

...

Yeah, Life is funny.