Resolutions Update: How Am I Doing Now?

Okay. We are now more than halfway through 2011 so, time to check myself.

Currently, I’m sorry to report, my Joy meter has been running a bit low. Hence the absence of me in the blogosphere. I’m still feeling it, but it has been tempered by my preoccupation with some pretty heavy issues (details upcoming). I don’t – or can’t – write when I’m overburdened with stress. There hasn’t been too much after-dinner kitchen dancing to the rousing sounds of hip-hop, nor any top-of-my-lungs versions of popular songs. This is something that just dawned on me, by the way… and a revelation that something’s gotta change, soon.

Giving back where I can? Well, I keep seeing friends of mine going through different struggles, and I feel this really intense need to help. I think of ways to do so. T has recently told me I need to take care of me first, resolve and get my own life straight, before I can truly help others. I reluctantly agreed. However, a recent religiously motivated email offered this prayer: “Lord, let me be a blessing to others.” So, with that, I offer my smile, a hug, and an affirmation to you that you are important to me and I’m here for you, whenever you need me.

Fulfilling one dream this year? I think I have. No, I didn’t publish a novel or climb Mt. Everest (ok, I really don’t want to tackle that mountain), but I did find my way to feeling real, raw, unobstructed JOY that nobody could squash (well, except me). And I found Tara, again.

To the people I love and cherish – I still love and cherish you!

I spoke my truth. Some didn’t like it. Many more did. Thank you for that.

I ran and finished my first 5k. As it turned out, it wasn’t on May 14th – a series of ridiculous mishaps in the week leading up to it prevented that, including a mysterious leg injury that halted a routine run and – the icing on the cake – a stoopid accident in my backyard two days later involving a trash can and my head that left me with five most attractive staples less than an inch above my forehead. My first 5k was actually a month later, benefiting the local chapter of another cause near and dear to my heart, the American Cancer Society. I ran that race for my grandfather whom I lost in 1983, and my uncle, who lost his third go-around with it in 2004. As my feet hit the final leg of the race and I had sight of the finish line, I had to fight back the tears that threatened to publically expose me for the blubbering fool that I am. But – it was AWESOME. I finished 88th out of 167 runners, and 7th in my age group. And, I’m ready to go again.

Diet. Ok, here it is: I fell off the wagon. It couldn’t be helped. It seems when I’m under a certain degree of stress, I eat whatever poison is closest at hand. Today it’s potato chips and oreo cookies. Tomorrow? French fries and Berger cookies. If it comes in a package, it’s mine. If I’ve got to clean it, cut it, cook it or otherwise process it myself – it’s going to be pretty lonely in the refrigerator. I do manage to swallow the offending material with the calculated deception of an addict – the kids are in the dark about my cookie “habit,” since when they see me, I’m eating carrot sticks and cheese. (See? It’s not that bad.) In any case, after a recent weigh-in and self-intervention, I’m clawing my way out of the junk food gutter with small, green leafy steps.

Taking time for me. Done.

No more excuses. As they say, I made my bed and now I must lie in it. Very few choices come without consequences – good or bad – but I made mine and I am NOT sorry. No more apologies.

I remain focused on my daughter’s health and well-being – I am vigilant day and night as always, keeping her blood sugars low and testing every two hours to ensure her safety. Diabetes can’t beat us! Still praying for a cure as the diabetes community remains focused on exciting developments to that end. Looking forward to our JDRF Walk coming in October, raising money and awareness for this devastating disease.

And, too, I am focused on my son’s health and well-being – knowing his easy-going nature even as I am acutely aware of what he’s not showing, or saying.

I AM a great mom.

A new development: I’ve gone “back to school.” It’s nothing big, and no mean accomplishment, just another “leap” I’ve made as I transition to a new life where I can be there for my daughter and have an income. In life there are no guarantees, but without risks how will we ever know our full potential? (Will keep you posted.)

And finally – in spite of some emotional upheavals and feeling like I’m drowning in stress some days – I’ve had to remind myself,
Every day I wake up has been a new opportunity to be “me” again. It is a divine blessing to live in the light, even if it is “always darkest before the dawn.”

Pokeback Mountain

School’s out. Summer is here. We all wanted it – we all said we “couldn’t wait.” Then, faster than Gloria Allred chasing a naughty politician, all of us moms out there posted retractions on Facebook. “Oh no, wasn’t me.” “When does school start?”

On the second full day after school let out, my two were already screaming at each other over something stupid… at ten o’clock in the morning. So, I drove to the community pool, slapped down my checkbook and demanded a membership. The first day at the pool we seated ourselves on a small patch of grass next to another mom whose two children were in the pool a few yards away, bickering. I smiled at the mom as my two gingerly entered the water. She smiled back at me and said, “I brought them here to stop the fighting.” Oh no. It’s going to be a long summer.

So last weekend we’re driving home from my dad’s, where we enjoyed swimming in his pool for several hours. The kids started a game of I-Spy.

A – “I spy… with my little eye… something…YELLOW.”

O – “My water bottle.”

A – “No.”

O – “A sign.”

A – “A car?”

O – “What is it?”

A – “I’m not telling. You HAVE to guess.”

O – “I give up. My turn. I spy…Gabe’s Auto Service.” Owen, you’re supposed to give a clue, not the answer.

A – “What the heck is THAT?!”

O – “It’s a new version of the game.”

A – “That is IT!! I quit! You’re cheating!” Silence follows, then… “Okay, it’s sharp, it picks up dirt and…it smells like potato soup.”

O – “WHAT?!?!” Laughter erupts from the back seat.

A – “Look!! It’s Dave Keene!!….. And he smells soooooo good!!” This time I cracked up, and the two in the back amped it up in stereo.

So, this is how my summer was shaping up. Loads of boredom hovering like rain clouds on a hot day… threatening to open up but never quite making it. The kids, when they’re not fighting or playing nicely together, are marvelously entertaining.

Meanwhile, I decided to create my own entertainment recently with a “Poke Fest” on Facebook. I’d actually been planning this for months, this fun and – I must say – funny experiment. I have about 160 friends on Facebook. I wondered what would happen if I poked them all on the same day. Would they all poke back? Who would poke first? Who wouldn’t poke? Who would get pissed off and “unfriend” me? Who would wonder if I was “making a pass” at them? Because, after all, what does a Facebook poke really mean?

This has apparently been a subject of debate around a water cooler or two. I’ve had people ask ME what it means. Well? What does it mean?? Like I told my mom, who enjoys poking me almost weekly, that I think it really depends on who one is poking. She pokes me, I poke her… we’re just a mother and daughter having fun with each other. I poke a female friend, it’s like an elbow in the ribs, or a “hey, what’s up?” I poke a male friend, it gets tricky. How well do I know him? How do I know him? Is he my girlfriend’s husband? Will he wonder what I was doing? Would she get pissed off at me? Is he an old boyfriend? Truthfully, there’s only two on Facebook, one of whom is again my significant other and for whom the meaning of the poke would not be a question and the other, while no longer a close friend, has recently married his longtime love and – being a fun-loving guy – would have been, had Facebook existed in high school, voted “most likely to initiate a Poke Fest.” However, the other large contingency of male friends out there presented a bit of a challenge: what would they do?

So it all started on a Monday afternoon. I told my significant other about my intentions, both because he appreciates my little quirks and silliness and because I didn’t want him to keep poking me all day and throwing off my numbers. So I started the poking. And I was cackling like Long Duck Dong all the way through. After about the first 20, I realized two things: how labor intensive it is to Poke 160 people, and how I just might want to offer an explanation on my wall as the Fest is getting started. I did provide some teasers in the weeks and days leading up to it. “It’s coming folks, brace yourselves.” “It’s not the cool breeze of a Peppermint Patty. But it’s guaranteed to add some spark to your day…and I’m no sharpshooter but my aim is pretty good… brace yourselves… it’s coming…” “And here it comes! Let’s see how many of you can take it!!”

So my explanation looked like this: “In honor of my grandfather’s birthday (Daniel Joseph Keene), who loved a good prank as much as a good joke, I have initiated PokeFest today!! So, by now you know you’ve been poked and I’m anxious to see how many will poke me back! ♥” And the fun began! People were already poking me back before I finished poking all the rest. One of my friends, who saw my explanation and unfortunately (for whom, I’m not really sure) falls at the end of the alphabet, poke ME before I poked HIM. Cheater! I called him out on it and poked him anyway.

The first “Pokeback” winner is my cousin, Alisha. Thank you Alisha! She was on it. The next two Poke-back honors go to my “sister in Sigma” Anne, and my most tolerant and easygoing bff Erikah. The next 30 came in rapidly, mostly girls. I have my Blackberry linked to my Facebook, so over the next two hours the thing was “dinging” off the hook while I was making dinner and I expressed no small concern over whether the phone might actually implode. It did eventually slow down and I felt the need to once again offer an explanation, just in case…

“Just in case you’re coming in late…in honor of my late grandfather’s birthday, I am celebrating with a little PokeFest! Join in! Get poked, get even, get mad… it’s all in good fun!” Initially I had been concerned that I would actually annoy someone enough to unfriend me, and then it occurred to me that if they were that uptight, I wouldn’t miss them. So I poked with wild abandon.

So what are the final stats? Well, no one unfriended me. A few came in days later, as if they were just logging on to Facebook and were unaware of my game. I do realize, you know, that not everybody uses Facebook every day. More came in after I thanked “everyone” for participating. These, by the way, were by the majority men-friends, so I might assume my theory of them being perplexed by my intentions prevented them from poking back. One did NOT poke back, but only posted on my wall to “keep sticking me.” Perhaps he didn’t get the previous explanations. Another acknowledged, but didn’t poke back. A couple of friends admitted to never having been “poked,” and so to that end, I am honored to be their first. The final count, as of today – nearly two weeks after it began – is 70. Not bad, almost half. I had so much fun with this, just hearing the notifications come through on my phone, and I thank everyone for making my days brighter. I hope I did the same for you.

Next up: Get a job!

The Joy of…. Negotiation?

So today began like any other ordinary summer day. Well, okay, maybe not quite. I’m beginning to shift the kids’ sleep schedules back after a long weekend of late nights and agitated days, so they were both awake by 8:30am and ready for breakfast, sliding right into a schedule-less day of Wii gameplay soon after. I, on the other hand, had a laundry list of things I wanted to get done today, not the least of which involved driving around to multiple locations.

For once in my organized, unstructured life I got a decent night’s sleep myself… Ava’s father took over nighttime blood glucose testing until 1am, so that left me with several hours of uninterrupted sleep. And I woke up feeling rested – a golden moment in an otherwise dark cloud of sleep deprivation – jumped (yes, I JUMPED!!) out of bed and threw on my running clothes, my iPod and, this time, my can of pepper spray should I meet up with one of the neighborhood dogs who feels compelled to defend both sides of the street in front of his house. Stellar start to the day. My first run since my 5k ten days ago, and it went well. My pace was good, my breathing was even and unlabored. No attack dogs or whole roadkill bodies to vault over.

The rest of my plans today included donations for building a community library in our immediate area, getting gas (my favorite thing!) and driving to the library we currently use, to renew and return books for the summer reading program. AS IF my kids are actually reading anything other than the score on Super Smash Bros. Owen doesn’t care about the prizes anymore. Ava, on the other hand, wanted her prize tickets NOW, even though she failed to read any of the previous books cover to cover. My explanation of making a more concerted effort to reap the “rewards” of reading fell on deaf ears. “I want them NOW.” Time to test! I felt a low coming on. And, indeed, Ava needed some sugar. Lollipop, then off to our next stop – the creme de la creme – Game Stop.

The kids and I gathered a pile of old video games to trade in; they both wanted a new DS game. I explained, very clearly, that the credit we got had to EQUAL two DS games…
otherwise, they had to choose ONE Wii or PS3 game for the family. I told them, in English, that I was not spending one dime of my own money for any more games. Or, I. Am. NOT. Opening. My. Wallet.

So we get there, and the gentleman who works the store tallies up our trade-in and tries to talk me into a PowerUp Card for $13 that will offer me more savings throughout the year. Strike 1! I already am defensive about the allusion to opening my wallet. Both kids run up to me, each with a DS game in hand. Remarkably similar games. I reminded them of what I said before we got there.

“But it’s only $25!” Yes Owen, YOURS is “only” $25. How much is yours, Ava?
“Hers is only $25 too.”
“I want it,” whines the princess of injustice.

Meanwhile, the total trade-in we received was….. drum roll please….. $26. Well, I was sorry to tell them again, it looks like we will have to choose a Wii game we can all play. This was where it got interesting. Ava clutched her game tighter to her chest, and Owen continued to argue with me about how “they” could work it out. Or, how Ava could use her own money to pay for it. Money, by the way, she not only didn’t bring with her but money she refused to part with. Each of them insisted on their own way. So, the red-eyed evil witch reminded them of “the deal.” And they still insisted on their own way. I stood there and told them it’s ONE game, or NO game. I warned them. I threatened them. They stood their ground.

SO, I took the credit. And WALKED OUT. Both of them trailing me, but the door hadn’t closed behind us when Owen said to me, “what’s WRONG with you?” within earshot of the man behind the counter. Silently I walked on, until the door fully closed, and then I turned to Owen and lit into him like a wasp without a nest. Ava stood indignant, and the Prince of injustice burst into tears of frustration at how unfair and mean I am. How I never listen to him. Now there’s an accusation. The proverbial pot calling the kettle black. Um, “one game for the family” deal… HELLO!

More whining, disrespectful accusations and cries for the injustice of it all. Owen, God bless him, takes after his mother a little too much. He doesn’t know when to, excuse the expression, shut up. Always yapping, and always having to get the last word in. So he’s going on in the backseat and then he said it. He said he’s tired of being bullied. So, I pulled over, turned around and asked him to tell me just who is bullying him. Well, he didn’t mean it. Too late, I tell him, and launch into my own tirade about showing respect to your parents, and how he’s now had a glimpse of adulthood where you have to juggle the priorities of wants versus needs. How bills get paid first, so you have running water, electricity to play your gad-dang video games, heat in the winter and food on your table and a roof over it with a bed to sleep in. (!!!) How NOBODY has extra money to spend right now, and how the cost of gas has many people deciding how far they want to drive every day.

The silence in the backseat was deafening. Well, they probably heard none of it, really. When we got back to the house, the bickering began until an all-out war ensued over who had rights to occupy the living room. But they each ate lunch in silence, and halfway through Ava went to grab a granola bar and when she discovered it was the last one, offered it to her brother. OMG.
Did hell freeze over?? And he took it, with a polite “thank you.”

Two hours later, they had “negotiated” that Ava would pay a 20, a 5 and a 1 for her game and Owen would use the credit for his. Nice, I said. They hatched a truce, but apparently the offer was only good today.

“Now can we go to Game Stop?”