Friday, October 12, 2007

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Bebeto the cat

Goodbye my old friend. Left on the vet's doorstep with a broken hip, they took him in, fixed him up and then let him live in the back with the boarding animals. His original name was B-ball. He ate all his food at once, like a dog. He hid behind furniture and ran out to bite our ankles. He destroyed thousands of dollars in furniture. He survived the worst housesitters ever and a case of fleas that seemed uncurable. He snuggled our newborn. He endured our two year old. He watched our children get older and learned to live with all the girls who tried to snuggle him. He sat on the margins of the room but always in the room full of people. He bit us if we petted him too long. He always came to the door to greet us when we came home. He reliably accepted three sibling cats over the years with the same patience and weary acceptance. He endured the addition of a dog. He never ran away and really never went far from the front or the back door at either house. He always had a bumpy and pimply chin. He had two white patches on his haunches. He was always fat but never the fattest. He wore red nails. He always used the litterbox. He never got sick. He caught a few mice in his time. He would run from the room if you yelled "GOAL" like a soccer announcer. He generally made noise when he walked unless he was hiding from the cat carrier--then he could be as quiet as can be. He had his diet changed many times to accommodate all the other pets and he never complained. He woke us up early in the morning by throwing up when he thought it was time to eat. He liked to sleep next to us, but never in our laps. He rarely meowed, even if accidentally trapped somewhere.
He died peacefully.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Today I remember

I just returned from an emotional trip to New Orleans to see my dad who is recovering from surgery. He's receiving chemotherapy and although tired, looks and acts just about the same. Maybe he's more weary than tired and that's certainly from living through Katrina and its aftermath, FEMA trailer included. Like my dad, the Greater New Orleans area and the Gulf coast also look weary but for the first time in two years, I can also see hope. There are finally some, dare I say it, signs of recovery among individuals which is unfortunately how our federal government left it to be handled in the end. The papers and news broadcasts show people finally in real progress of renovations post-Katrina....floors being installed, dry wall being put up, roofs for the most part without blue tarps...the intermediate touches on two year projects that are actually making the houses habitable. I saw a very encouraging thing in that Lowes has projected a future building site in East New Orleans. A very good sign that 1) people are coming back and need supplies and 2) it's safe and viable for retail to think about returning. Along the coastal highway in Pass Christian and Bay St. Louis, MS, where the beautiful beach mansions stood, people are rebuilding but up on stilts and maybe fifty or a hundred yards further back from the coastal highway, as if building so close again to the Gulf would tempt fate. Those houses and their contents were swept out into the Gulf in their entirety, leaving behind a concrete slab and in many cases strangely, the stone staircase that led to the house. It's almost a natural landscape in some ways, but different and raw in its lack of underbrush and pines. Only the live oaks withstood the storm and they sit few and far between along the coast struggling to recover from the salt water deluge. I tried to imagine what the missing beach houses might have looked like by trying to focus my eyes on their ghostly staircases. What was at the top of those stairs? A wraparound porch or a screened one...a brick or stucco house, columns, shutters on the windows, striped awnings, a front porch swing maybe, adirondack chairs on the lawn...My dad prefers to look out Gulf side while driving that highway. He's looking for things that make him feel good right now.
So, today I hope and pray especially hard for recovery for my beloved father and my beloved city.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Summertime and the living is easy?

It has been established that I don't like my job--but I didn't quit. I have a plan to quit, but it's a two year plan. But, I was so happy to be done for a few months and relax at home. School nursing is an excellent career June, July and August. But it's mid-July and I am getting bored. I am kind of reassured and relieved...because by the end of May, I was at the end of my rope emotionally and thought I would never want to go back to work. But being industrious for me is important and powerful. We all like to feel useful, don't we? We all should anyway. Some of us make work for ourselves because there isn't enough real work to do...I think some of my friends make their children their life's work and I am not sure that is good for any of them. I have always tried to balance family life, work life and my own needs. I happily have moved to a phase in my life where I don't feel like I have to explain why I want to do something just for myself--selfish as it may seem. Or more importantly, I don't feel like I have to explain why I don't want to do something. I used to feel guilty and under the microscope if I wasn't pulling my share of the community work to be done. I have done more than my share--PTO, Town Watch, fundraisers, babysitting/playgroups, etc. and all the while working part time and/or going to school. It's given me the power to occasionally go to a potluck without a dish or bottle in hand...and I don't think anybody is looking at me or judging me. More to the point, I don't care. That's nice. But going to work for money is a different thing. Compensation motivates and empowers. I am paid over the summer so I am trying to enjoy just not being busy. But it's hard. I feel like I should be cleaning, throwing in laundry, home improving, gardening....something! To be able to enjoy doing nothing...gotta move into that phase next!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Old Love

I saw a movie today, Away from Her. It was an amazing story of devotion and deep love and sacrifice and the unconventional things a partner might do for the other's happiness. It was about separation and regret and retribution. It was about good memories and bad ones and saying goodbye. It was about a marriage--simply and at its most complex. It's not a generational movie--it's a very private look at the "every" couple, alone to deal with the desolation and decline of one partner succumbing to Alzheimers. This movie stirs up sadness and fear from a very insecure place down deep where I don't look every day within myself. The place where I realize I could ultimately be left alone if the one person I have alternately run to and pushed away for all of my adult life could become unrecognizable to me or me to him. I cling tight to my marriage while everything is good. I am thankful each night when it's been a good day. Life is mercurial--it feels optimistic to admit that to myself and to be grateful and be present in my marriage now. No guarantees that there will be time later to make up for lost time now.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I am the Hawaii Superferry

It's a rollercoaster when you have the tendency to gain more weight than you want to...I go down with a little bit of discipline, do a little weight watchers, walk the dog a little faster. But then I get bored with thinking about it. So, I naturally tend to eat a little more than I should. I always have. I like junk. I don't have the green gene. I have tried to eat vegetables. I think they suck. They really don't taste good to me and I marvel that they do taste good to some people. Eating veggies is like early rising. I am a real wannabe of these two traits and yet I can sleep until noon and I like me some bread and pasta over a salad anyday.

I get the occasional urge to eat something green... asparagus, arugula, southern style greens. I know it's a vitamin deficiency so I go with it. Vitamin B I guess-my body sends a warning flare that I am borderline malnourished. But inevitably, I start eating a little more bread and a little more butter and a few extra cookies and some beers and two hamburgers instead of one...and all that lazy eating, I start packing on the pounds. And not a pound at a time, either. I stay the same for awhile and then like a little kid who grows in his sleep, I wake up five pounds heavier. It's weird, but it's true, in my mind. Then, I just get a little pudgier month after month until my clothes are sausage casing as I ascend in the fatty rollercoaster toward obesity.

I am back on WW. Not fitting into size 12s at this point and that is a major problem for a woman my height. 14s are just right around my ass, but they are really for tall girls as well and that is a problem for me and my 28 in. inseam. I kind of could go for a swim if I inflated the legs. So, I need to get down to a skinny 12 again and I will be happy. A fat size 10 will be even better but I dare not dream. I have decided however, that I will not count my extra glasses of wine...just my first. Surely, nobody got fat on pinot grigio alone.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

How do I quit a job?

It has always been a little embarrassing for me to know that I have never had to tell a boss I quit a job because I was tired of it or didn't like it anymore or was sick of the people and the policies and the work itself and I wanted to move on....I have quit all my jobs for all of these reasons but that's not what I had to tell them...because I am a sneaky thing. What I said was,

"I really love it here but I'm moving. I'll miss you all!"
"I'm GETTING MARRIED!! HURRAY FOR ME! But, I'll miss you all!"
"I'm having a baby and we're moving! I will miss you all!"
"I'm moving....I'm moving...I'm having another baby..."

Starting in 1980 right through 2002. It's an impressive string of lies, really.
Never what I imagine is an uncomfortable yet empowering "I resign" moment in my past...I just shed a few tears, enjoyed my goodbye parties and accepted the gifts and warm wishes of people with whom I worked who felt sad for me because I was being uprooted. Mentally, however, I'm zippity-doo-dahing and clicking my heels together in a victory jump about getting out of whatever situation has grown tiresome, irritating or limiting in some way. I do it every five years just about and it's come due...only no more babies, no more moves, no more excuses. And I don't want to get sick or divorced or anything unpleasant that I haven't tried yet. I am stuck and I am frantic.

At 43 years old, I finally have to quit a job and tell them the truth.
"I don't like being a school nurse. It's making me crazy. Thanks for the opportunities you have given me, and I hope you will consider writing me a nice letter of recommendation some day. Have a great summer. I won't miss you or the job."

I do admire my colleagues who have stayed with it over the years, and find accomplishment in taking kids to the dentist or getting kids put on Ritalin. I complain constantly to anyone who stands still for a moment within earshot of me. I can't stand the sunny, naive dispositions of teachers who think things like breakfast and eyeglasses and alarm clocks are the keys to success even in families where poverty, drugs, neglect and violence are part of their everyday life. And my favorite? All kids are smart! What the hell is that?

The problem is, I am gonna have to just quit...walk into my boss' office and submit my resignation. She's going to be surprised...a little or a lot, I am not sure. But, whether she asks me why I am leaving or she says nothing, I am going to immediately begin to blather about why I can't take it anymore, and how I have never really been happy and all that's wrong with the public school system and society and families are falling apart....and it's all going to be a disastrous, blistering mess of a "quit". I need to man up. I need to make no apologies. I can do this.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

For Dannielynn, we love you

There's a high profile baby in the Bahamas right now without a mother, and with more than a few men claiming to be her daddy, for the money of course. My friend with three boys desperately wants a little girl. She's got a plan to drive the eight hundred miles to the Bahamas in a diaper to fetch the baby and leave the estate to the idiots--my friend doesn't want one dollar. It's an excellent fantasy. To rescue a baby from undeserving jerks who will likely never provide the stability and love this baby and every baby be the hero in a child's life and get a daughter at the same time...what could be better? I was crazy once, too.

I had a fantasy for many years after my second daughter was born, that if a third child was meant to be, it would happen spontaneously. I have some distant and unknown to me cousins spread throughout the US, and we used to live deep in the heart of a big city with poverty and unplanned and unwanted pregnancies by the thousands....surely a remote cousin would come out of the woodwork and ask me to raise their child....or a stranger would abandon a baby on my porch in a basket (wicker, I imagined)....whatever, it didn't matter but it would happen. I never told anyone this besides maybe my husband because even then, I thought it sounded crazy. Until one day, one of my friends confessed quite unabashedly that she also had this fantasy after her second child. It was a relief to know I wasn't the only person who ever had this fantasy. The notion of divine intervention or karmic circumstance that would convince our husbands that a third child was our family destiny! It was unplanned! We were chosen! You can't deny our true mission on this earth! Okay, express train to Kooky Town....All aboard!

Now almost ten years later, I'll never be truly sure but I think I must not have really wanted a third child. My husband surely did not and that was obviously a big stumbling block back then. But every other decision in my life has been one of action and determination so if I had wanted it, surely I would have gotten my way as I always do. We didn't plan the second kid exactly, but it was understood all along that we were not a one-child couple so I don't count that minor misstep of the rhythm method as one of undetermination or indecision.

During my fantasy years, I became quite preoccupied at times about exactly when this act of random providence was going to happen? I waited and waited. I watched for a basket on the porch each morning I went out to get the paper. I kept my eyes and ears peeled for opportunities that would yield my third child. I even knew a single woman during these years who was completely taken by surprise by a first and unplanned pregnancy at age 45. She had very little money, a tiny apartment, no family locally, and few community ties that would help her raise a baby. She was a lovely woman and during the months after her son was born, I helped her occasionally with babysitting, laundry and even helped with money and clothes. She was overwhelmed and at times I worried about what the future would be for her and her son. Hello? Anybody home? This was my third baby! He had arrived and on my literal doorstep! He was a darling little boy, too and Olivia and Allison adored him. And yet with this possibility of my fantasy becoming reality, I look back and realize I never once thought about having that particular baby as my own. It never occurred to me that he was the one--because of course he wasn't....because my fantasy is a fantasy and life rarely turns out like a fantasy, does it? If it does, they make a movie out of it or put it on 48 Hours because it's quite extraordinary. My fantasy was just a last gasp, a primal tug at the soul of me that once literally ached for a baby--a primitive, cave woman urge that came on in my mid-twenties...a feeling so urgent and desperate that I had more concerning fantasies of grabbing babies out of strollers or cribs in the hospital. Then a whimper, a gasp, a puff of smoke....all gone now for me. I don't want a baby anymore. I'll still walk a mile out of my way to hold a newborn, don't get me wrong. But if some crazy cousin comes out of the woodwork now, I am going to take a pass. However, if it's a girl, I am going to send them to my friend so she doesn't have to get in the car and drive to the Bahamas.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Snow day

Hallelujah! A snow day. Bloody cold temperatures today is what keeps the schools closed in all of southeastern Wisconsin. What is it about school snow days that bring out the utter child in me? I did a ridiculous dance with fist pumping action this morning… alone….in the dark of the kitchen…at 5:30. It isn’t just that I work in the school district, although an unexpected day off is completely awesome, don’t get me wrong. But I have always been delighted by snow days, on behalf of children in every city I have lived, despite my work situations. Most of my work life, I have often been one of the few workers in these cities who actually has to go to work in very bad weather…and yet I am always delighted for the school kids. It’s like Christmas morning!

It is especially sweet telling my own kids they have a snow day. For example, my exchange this morning…I wanted to catch my daughter before she got up and into the shower…
“Olivia, are you awake? It’s a snow day, honey.”
“FOR REAL?” (She doesn’t believe me)
“I CAN TURN MY ALARM OFF?” (She still doesn’t believe me)
“YOU AREN’T KIDDING?” (Aha, she doesn’t trust me.)
“No, go back to sleep.”
“ARE YOU SURE?” (She doubts my intellectual function.)
“DID YOU HEAR IT ON THE RADIO?” (She wants independent confirmation due to doubtful intellectual function.)
“Well, the T.V., but yes.”
“THIS ISN”T A TRICK?” (Ooh, that hurts… the trust issue is big.)
“No. Go back to sleep.”
What a cruel trick that would be. I would never pull it. My kids are excellent students and enjoy school, but they LOVE to skip school legitimately any chance they get. Quite an awesome combination of personality characteristics in my opinion—it is what will make them party girls in college, in a good way.

I remember as a kid lying in bed in the cold, winter-morning darkness, hopin’ and a prayin’, hopin’ and a prayin’… listening to my dad get up and go downstairs to flip on the radio…trying to listen for a change in the usual morning kitchen noises that indicated a potential snow day. When I was older I would listen myself on the AM dial of my old clock radio for the school number on KYW News radio 1060…..”302, 302 302 pleaseohpleaseohplease…” I grew up in the Philadelphia area so there were many, many numbers to read and it was excruciating waiting for the numbers for our county. “In Montgomery County, 101, 102, 103, 106…” Waiting for the three hundred numbers was almost too much to bear. The cruelest turn of events was when the announcer read 301 and 303, skipping 302…I shudder when I think about it…how 301 and 303 could be closed and not 302. In my linear universe, how could 302 be open when 301 and 303 were not! But when I was younger, my dad would come up to my bedroom, knowing I was lying in bed, again, hopin’ and a prayin’ and break the good news…or he would try to fake me out (he never did—he had no Oscar worthy acting skills in this respect because I think he too was delighted about snow days on our behalf). There were other times, I couldn’t stand it and I would creep downstairs and peer hopefully into the kitchen for some good news, without ever asking because that would jinx it of course. Snow day! No school!…a succession of phone calls organizing a sledding party to Cleveland Avenue if the streets had yet to be salted….had to get out before the salt trucks ruined everything. It was the steepest hill in the neighborhood. Really remarkably dangerous in retrospect….a crazy downhill grade that ended at an intersection with no traffic signals and a busy road. It was death defying sledding down Cleveland Avenue especially on those wood and nails Flexible Flyers that probably accelerated to 40-50 mph if you had waxed your blades—somebody usually always had a candle in their pocket so that everyone could wax up and go faster. Thrilling, of course, and since we were the last generation of kids in the suburbs left alone to make decisions, we often made questionable choices that resulted in pee-your-pants fun as well as serious injury. Nobody died while sledding, thank God, although there were quite a few angry motorists at the bottom of Cleveland Avenue who had to swerve or brake and many sled wrecks resulting in concussions and twisted necks that most parents never knew about. Just as well, I think.

My kids live a very different life than I did, but I am happy to say they have been imbued with the anticipation and joy that comprises the magic of a snow day….I consider it a triumph of parenting and I can die happy.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Launching a blog

I didn't know it was this easy. Just a few clicks and I have a blog. Now what? I am inspired by my friend's blog and I want to try this. I am tired of my job. I feel like writing but I don't know what or how. It's exciting to be a woman and my age. I don't care much what other people think anymore. Maybe still a little, but really not enough to stop me from trying things that might have been embarrassing just five years ago. My husband is coming up the stairs and asking what I am doing, and I tell him don't come's private. Ok, well, maybe I still have a way to go. He tells me he thinks I am looking at porn but I tell him if it was porn, I would let him come in.