While You Were Away

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Dear Mom:

It may not be as exciting as shaking scorpions out of your suitcase, or having howler monkeys next to your patio, or being laid over for 12 hours in a biker bar, but you missed some good times back here in the Northeast.

I know the news about threats of school violence worried you. The child who was making the threats on social media was a middle-school-aged girl who doesn’t even attend our schools. Nevertheless, there were many students who didn’t go to school the next day. I don’t know what happened with the 8th grader in V’s school who made threats, other than that the authorities were brought in and it was handled. Everything is pretty much back to normal. Still – it worries me that our children have to worry about this stuff. And that we, the parents, have to worry about this stuff.

We had some weather. We had some crazy winds. 60 mph wind gusts on Friday that brought an early dismissal, out of fear of fallen trees and power outages. At lunchtime I texted Todd to suggest he stay home. The three main arteries going south were all closed, thanks to the high winds on bridges and two overturned tractor trailers on Tydings bridge on 95. Thankfully, he stayed home and skyped his meeting.

BUT, he still thought he was going bowling an hour away. I texted him back that I wasn’t going. My nerves can’t take it. After that nailbiting hour and a half ride home in dense fog last month, I promised myself never again. He was climbing the walls by the time I got home from work, as you might expect, and he was insisting that the roads were clear and he would be fine. I told him he was nuts. He reluctantly agreed to stay home.

The power went out in my building 5 minutes before we closed, for about 10 seconds. I looked over at Kathleen sitting next to me, and I couldn’t see her. There was this audible sigh throughout the office that felt like the building breathing. I was in the middle of a triage call, and our entire system – with phones – went down. Thankfully the generator kicked on and lights started popping back on.

I remote-started my car before I left my building… the workers in the lobby all said good night and told me to be careful. I took a deep breath just inside the glass doors and braced myself for winds I haven’t experienced since I lived in New York. I kept my head down and walked quickly to the car, put my hand on the handle and … nothing. It didn’t unlock, and then I noticed that it wasn’t running. I cursed it, and then realized It Wasn’t My Car. My car was 3 spaces away, engine running. Fiddlesticks!

Back at home…  the animals. With Moses’ arrival comes Oliver’s seclusion; however, this time Mo took to our bedroom at night and so Oliver couldn’t even sleep there. Mo likes to move around a lot. He slept in the hall, in the living room, on our floor, and one night in Veruca’s room. He also, as you know, has a particular penchant for the top of the stairs – which has got to piss Oliver off.

After a few days of this nonsense Oliver must’ve decided, fuck it, and often wandered into the main living areas with enough distance between them to allow for escape. It takes exactly 3.4 seconds for Oliver to bolt from any room, and exactly a minute and a half for Moses to get into a standing position. I’d say the odds are stacked in Oliver’s favor.

Sabra returned to her buffoonery, skittering through open doorways like some invisible force slapped her backside, and refusing to go outside with Moses. I took to letting them out separately, for the sheer purpose of saving my sanity, and still she would go out the door and turn immediately back and stare through the glass waiting to come back in.

One time she actually went out and stood just around the corner where I couldn’t see her – well, all but her tail wagging – and waited a minute or two before running back to the door and wanting to come back in. And THEN she stood staring at me waiting for her cookie. She really thinks I’m stupid.

She has turned me into a criminal investigator – between checking her paws to see if they’re wet (which they would be if she’d left the deck) and trying to catch her pooping on the deck around the corner where no one can see her. There are currently 4 piles of petrified poop on that corner of the deck, and I know it’s all hers.

One night, though, she went out alone and came back all wound up like a rabid squirrel, bouncing around the living room and pushing at Mo to get up. She wanted him to go out there with her, and it’s dark and all I can think is – oh God, please don’t let them come back smelling like skunk. This is a legitimate worry, mom.

The animals are all crazy. Mo knows the cookie drill – so as soon as he comes in, he’s ready. Except that Sabra goes out next… and, depending on whether she actually leaves the deck, then she gets her cookie. Mo seems to think it’s handout time again, and so he comes over and expects another cookie. And then Oliver comes and stands by the cabinet waiting for his kitty treats.

I’m sorry that I had to close the door to all pets after a couple of nights listening to Moses licking his paws for the better part of two hours. You know how much I love that sound. He does it during the day, too, just a few feet away from where I’m sitting, you know, so I can enjoy it too. Have you noticed that yelling stop it! doesn’t really work with him?

For what it’s worth, however, he is by far the happiest animal in the house to see me when I get home. Even if I’ve only gone as far as the bus stop to drop the kids. That’s refreshing. We just have to do something about his body slamming “hugs” and leg-bruising head butts.

You may notice that I brushed him a little. I used the furminator that you included in his overnight bag, and let me tell you I think a vacuum cleaner would be far more effective. I brushed one side of him while he was lying down, and could’ve knitted a rug with the excess that the brush couldn’t contain. Obviously I thought better of completing this endeavor indoors, but the winds were still high and so outside wasn’t an option.

The kids are well. Opac is complaining about needing the driver’s ed class so he can get his license, but when I offer to let him drive home from workouts he says it’s leg day and his legs really hurt. I don’t know how he’s going to get his hours in, if there’s always a reason not to practice, but hey – I’m in no hurry.

V is already planning her birthday party, and asking when and where we’re going to the beach this summer. I told her to talk to you.

Hope your trip home is less eventful than the one out. You’ll be pleased to know that Mother Nature has conjured a winter event to commemorate your return from the tropics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Of Bullies

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Warning: Far-stretching, rambling rant ahead, and real life bullies exposed.

Veruca got a cell phone in 5th grade, in order to attend a birthday party. If it weren’t for diabetes, she still wouldn’t have one. It was an enormous leap of faith and I made sure she knew it. Two years later she still doesn’t use any social media apps and the only people she talks to, or texts, are family members. Mostly.

In September, there was a new girl. She latched onto V and called her her best friend, dominating her time at school, poking her to get her attention when she was talking to other friends during lunch, and the most concerning part – calling and texting her all day and night (once calling at 2 a.m.). She would text her and ask her why she wasn’t answering her, please call me back, can you call me, call me NOW, where are you? what are you doing?

At first, V was annoyed and would come to me and complain. We suggested she establish boundaries and tell her friend to stop calling/texting so much. The girl ignored her wishes. We told V to block her, but she was afraid to because then this girl would be “mad at” her.

When it got to the point where the girl texted her, “I guess I should just kill myself, then,” I called the assistant principal and let him know we had a problem. But mostly because no child should say that to another and have it go unreported. She may have been saying it for attention, but what if she wasn’t? Not on my watch.

The whole thing culminated in meetings with the guidance counselor, moving lockers (their lockers were right next to each other), seat changes in the classrooms they shared, and V completely cutting her off. And then this girl was telling people it was because of V that she “got beat” by her parents.

This girl later physically “handled” another girl, which didn’t last long because – as the victim told me herself – the next time she came around “I gave her a look and she walked away.” That look, let me tell you, even coming from a 4’10 little pistol, made me uncomfortable.

Worse stuff is circulating around middle schools everywhere, like social media posts with pictures of the victims, telling them they’re fat and should just “kill” themselves. This is happening right here in our school.

I was a victim of bullying in school, and I can’t begin to imagine how much worse it could’ve been were there cell phones and social media. Three girls in 7th grade – Laurie, Farrah, and Jean – decided one day that I was their mortal enemy, or at least a worthy butt of all their jokes. Laurie, the ringleader, would make fun of me in class, make fun of my small breasts (because really, WHO has small breasts when they’re 12?), and – on one occasion, one of them followed me down the hall poking me with a pin.

When I was in 9th grade, a 10th grade girl on my bus loudly announced me as Tarabitch every time I got on, and threw a sandwich at my head once. Lori, and her friend Julie, must’ve had a lot of fun at my expense. I had exactly zero interaction with either of them before this, and roughly zero after the fact. I never quite understood what I’d done to garner her attention.

Later on in 9th grade, on a class field trip, I was walking with a group of friends when I was confronted by a pair of twins – whom I had known and never had any trouble with before. Apparently I had offended one twin in some way (probably by just existing) and the other, loudmouthed twin Denise confronted me and warned me to “watch [my] step or [I] wouldn’t have a step to watch.” Kinda funny now, but really, WTF?

Hey – I survived. But today kids are mocking and bullying others on social media – posting pictures of them and calling them “fat,” and “ugly,” and “why don’t you just kill yourself?” (This was reported at my daughter’s school, but we know it happens everywhere.) Before the internet, social media, and cell phones, your bullying ended when you left the school. At least until the next day.

Well, here’s a question: Why in hell do these children have cell phones and social media access? These are 11/12 year olds doing this. If our children have unlimited and unsupervised access, then the problem lies with US.

Some of them have had cell phones since elementary school. WHY? What reason is justified in giving your 4th grader a cell phone?? Why aren’t parents monitoring how these phones are used?

Parents need to step up and take the responsibility back. The bullies are able to reach their victims in a wider spectrum because they have access to social media. The victims are being further victimized because they have access to social media. And before I’m misunderstood – I am in no way suggesting that the victims are in any way responsible – because, in truth, they don’t need to have social media to feel the burn. Because if everyone else in school can see what’s being posted about them, even if they can’t, they will surely hear about it.

Parents also need to take responsibility for their ROLE in bullying. Because you know what? Even grownups are guilty of this BS. Case in point: A night out with friends from high school revealed ill-feelings expressed toward them by other people – even NOW – 30 YEARS after we graduated high school. What the actual f*ck??!

Are we really so petty that we are still shunning people we disliked in high school? And, for the record the woman who experienced this was not a friend in high school but I came to know her in these later years and she is one of the kindest, most caring people I have ever met. I’m proud to know her today and call her a friend. I also realized, through our conversation that night, that those persons who still “dislike” her actually “unfriended” me, presumably because of my friendship with her?

I say again, WT actual F? 40+ years old and still acting like a juvenile? I guess this is a great illustration of how some folks have not matured, and why the bullying issue has to be addressed at the parents’ level, don’t you think?

Full disclosure: I wouldn’t talk to any of those aforementioned girls/women if my life depended on it. I’m not bitter. Forgiveness is not mine to withhold. But self-preservation IS. And I hold absolutely no ill-will when I say I’d be happy to tell them where to go, if we were ever face to face. They owe me an apology, which I’m sure I’ll never get. However, I sincerely hope that their children aren’t bullies, or worse – children who have been bullied.

Yet – where does bullying begin and end? How do we as parents address it? How do we as adults set the right examples for being good humans who accept all people?

 

My Left Foot, His Left Ear, & Other Things

Every morning I drive my two up to the bus stop, and every morning they find something stupid to piss each other off with. Usually it’s Opac pushing V’s buttons at 6:57 a.m. and she – being an already moody child who is also in the ugly grip of adolescence – gets instantly pissy with him, telling him to SHUT UP, loudly. And he, grand-instigator-of-instigating who never misses a beat, says something equally biting back that he knows will set her teapot whistling. And then there’s me, stuck in the ever-shrinking space of the car’s interior rubbing my eyes and envisioning how peaceful it’s going to be when I get back inside the house. EVERY morning.

This morning, though, was peaceful enough… Veruca pointed out that she heard me snoring last night. You did? I said. To which O pointed out that my door was open. I asked if it was loud, and she said no, and then demonstrated.

Yes – I snore. I have sinus issues. And currently on antibiotics for a sinus infection. (More on that later.)

Anyway. V continued to demonstrate the sound I made which, for what it’s worth, wasn’t that bad. Opac, in the back seat, ordered her to stop it – it was making his head hurt worse, because he’s congested. She fired back at him something about being stupid, or who cares, or something like that, and now he’s the pissy one.

I might have said something to him like calm down and, as he was exiting the car, he bitched about how he can’t calm down because she was “snoring at me.” He stalked away from the car toward his bus and then suddenly turned back, because in his pissy-ness he’d picked up the tissue box I keep in the car (which is bright pink, btw)… stalked back to the car, opened the back door, threw the box in, and took off.

Meanwhile, back in paradise, we had a snow day after my last post. V’s friend, the Boss, came over again and the two of them shook the roof down. If I ever had my doubts about who makes more noise – girls or boys – I’m sure now. They wanted to play Xbox, which Opac will not share because he doesn’t trust them not to use up all his data or delete something important. I suggested they play on a different system, and of course there were no AA batteries in this house. I sent out a desperate plea to my neighbors, and was soon walking down the street to retrieve 4 AAs so these girls didn’t make me go completely insane.  Opac left the house to go to his friend’s up the street, and I told him it wasn’t fair that he was leaving me alone with these two. He was hardly sympathetic.

Todd had a bowling tournament on the 10th. I worked in the morning and came home to shower and change. I lost my footing in the shower and slipped, doing the Scooby shuffle before my left leg went completely out and my toes broke my fall on the frame of the sliding doors. I was sure I’d broken a toe and I was in this weird juxtaposition of hysterical laughter and pain. I couldn’t wear the shoes I’d planned to wear because now 3 of my toes were swollen and turning black and blue, and I couldn’t walk on them.

Then I burnt the back of my neck with the curling iron. I sat down on the couch to avoid further injury to myself, and texted my bestie to tell her I almost died and I wanted her to know, in case it happened again and I didn’t make it, that I loved her. I sent a similar text to my dad, who was hundreds of miles away in Kentucky (another post for another day) and he called me immediately and made me feel bad for worrying him as I laughed myself silly. I reminded him that if it were true, I certainly wouldn’t text him so casually.

And before you judge me harshly for fooling with my dad that way – when I told him what really happened, he laughed at me. Laughed. Obviously my sense of humor came from somewhere.

So two days later I was back at work because one of my coworkers got The Sick. Hers was the stomach variety and I briefly worried, since we’d worked together on Saturday, if it was coming for me too.

Well, dodged that bullet, but by the end of the day my head was swimming in congestion. I’ve had so many sinus infections I know one before it’s fully arrived, so I called for a doctor’s appointment. I waited for an hour and ten minutes before being called. The front desk people never acknowledged my wait and when I asked if I’d been forgotten, the lady said, oh – they must be running behind. I’d love to try that line on for size at my job, and see how long it takes a parent to spontaneously combust.

So the NP I saw checked me out with the door never fully closed… which I thought was odd and not private, but I hardly cared. I just wanted to go home. She left the room to call in my prescriptions and then I was on my way. Four hours later the pharmacy still had no record of my prescriptions, so I called the office. I was on hold, and then suddenly someone picked up and started talking really fast about Medicaid and so on. I had to interrupt to let her know I wasn’t who she thought I was, and then she asked me if I wasn’t calling about Mr. Peterson – hello! Huge HIPAA violation. This isn’t my first rodeo with this practice and this is just another in a long list of mistakes.

I was supposed to work at the restaurant on Valentine’s Day but was too sick to do it, and I had to work the next day so I needed the rest. Opac woke up that morning with a 102 fever and sore throat, so I gave him Motrin and care instructions and went to work. I checked in on him frequently and he mostly slept. When I got home I fixed a fast dinner, and then he and I drove to urgent care. His symptoms were different from mine, but he felt equally as awful.

I was worried about flu, like so many people are, but he had nothing going on in the chest. His left ear was inflamed and so the PA prescribed him antibiotics. We were there for 2 hours. The waiting room, when we arrived, was three-quarters full of sickly people, and the mask box was empty. When someone restocked, I grabbed two for us. Someone in triage was vomiting violently and the sound was echoing through the entire clinic, and my own stomach filled with dread. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

In other news, Todd lost his glasses on an airplane and they were not found, both pets are spring-cleaning their digestive tracts, I’m drowning in dirty laundry and sleep deprived, there’s a missing drone in the neighborhood, and the car hasn’t been washed since November.

This week, things are on the upswing… the temps reached 78 yesterday and the Bible thumpers took advantage of the sunshine by dropping by my house. I got a hug from my mom and got some major scrapbooking done while bingeing Gran Hotel. There’s also the promise of some Walmart footage from Kentucky by way of Silverfox, who’s taking Bourbon County as we speak.

What Happens At Our House… Ends Up On My Blog

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Copyright Taraka  & Tara Chronicles, 2018

When you put a group of boys in a room together…

It doesn’t matter how old they are.

 

We had a poker party last weekend. Technically, it was Todd’s poker party, but I’m the wife and therefore hostess and so it became our party that included food and pool and video games and other things.

I had to leave to pick up Veruca around 3:30, who had been at her dad’s, and it’s a stupid story that defies even my own logic and I don’t want to talk about what happened or why.

Of course I ran out of time to get ready and so when I got back I wasn’t dressed and my hair was a mess, and there were already 3 cars in my driveway. Todd and the three guys were sitting around my dining room table with no beverages and immersed in a discussion about immigration. I said a quick hi bye and ran off to my room to change.

I am very good at pulling off a quick change. Probably an old habit from my former life, where my needs were forced to find a way or forget it. But – we’re not going to talk about that either. Anyway, I was back in 15 minutes – a freaking miracle even by my own standards – and properly greeted the guys. Chris stroked my ego and told me I was getting younger. Jonathan didn’t mention this time that there was less of me than the last time, and I’m pretty sure it’s because he’d be lying.

Jason showed up shortly thereafter, and soon Todd was suggesting they grab some food and prepare for poker, as the others appeared to be running late. So here’s the scenario: The five of them circling the island and chattering about the college, because they all work there and share this knowledge of its inner workings not unlike brothers of some fraternity.

Todd was putting hot sauces on the table for the pulled pork. Jonathan – an innocent-looking man who is the instigator of mischievous shenanigans (recall the vibrator bribe of San Francisco) – throws down a fiver for the first one to do a shot of hot sauce. A SHOT OF HOT SAUCE.

THIS is what happens when grown men are left alone, people. I was invisible at this point. That is, until Todd picked up the glass and looked it over, and I jumped in to inform him I was not going to the ER tonight for anyone. Bunch of middle-aged men acting like frat boys.

So, they moved on to the buffet and the shot sat on the counter with the five dollar bill under it. I told them my brother would do it, because I know him and he’ll do anything for a challenge. This is the same child who spent summers by the pool naked until he legitimately hit puberty. Who can drink virtually anyone under the table and still maintain the appearance of sobriety. Who brought a $150 bottle of Don Julio 1942 to our summer party a few years back and handed out shots to our whole family.  The bottle was empty in twenty minutes. Not a Gemini, but he flies by the seat of his pants, like me. Except that I would never do a shot of hot sauce. Not for FIVE bucks. FIFTY, maybe.

A friend and daughter arrived shortly thereafter; B – nicknamed The Boss by Todd during softball season – was having a sleepover with V. (Incidentally, Todd has renamed Veruca “Havoc.”) So, we had Boss and Havoc playing Xbox with my brother and Opac, and later using the Oculus Rift in the guest room, squealing to a little game called Face Your Fears – which I refuse to do since I don’t need to be crawling with spiders or being chased by clowns. The rollercoaster one might be fun, or I thought so until both Todd and V said it made them want to hurl when it was over.

The poker game commenced, and Melissa and I picked at the 7-layer dip and veggies and deviled eggs and buffalo chicken dip upstairs for a while, sharing relationship horror stories because isn’t that what women do?

My brother, another bloodhound like Veruca, made his way upstairs to the food table and immediately noticed the shot glass with the 5 dollar bill under it. And like a true 20-something, knew exactly what was going on. He asked what was in the glass and –I told you so – he picked it up, threw it back, and pocketed the bill.

Chris#2 and Brenda arrived shortly after and so we all went down to the poker area together. I asked them if anyone said goodbye to them the last time we were here, because these were the folks I passed out on at our last soiree. Brenda laughed it off and I felt a bit better that Todd had walked them out.

Pool commenced with Melissa and I both proclaiming “it’s been a while,” and then neither of us played too badly except that Jamie – who doesn’t play poker but loves a good game of pool – was whispering under his breath and bugging his eyes the entire time like a coach biting his tongue.

I drank more Dogfish than I had planned, but had the good sense to filter it with water in between bottles so I remained buzzed, but lucid. Two more guests arrived, and I led them to the food and beverages, and Dan dropped his non-alcoholic beer where it exploded on the floor – just like at frat parties! – except we adults immediately cleaned it up. I suggested it was a sign that he was supposed to start with a nice scotch.

Back downstairs….Jamie jumped into the pool games and otherwise sat on the sidelines next to me, speaking in the low tones of a golf announcer, calling the play by play of the action on the table that had us all in stitches. Todd and Fred played a game I recorded nearly all of, with commentary from Jamie and myself about blue balls in pockets and scratching balls, and I thought we’d all pee ourselves over our cleverness and humor.

Brenda sat with us for a bit and shared relationship horror stories. What IS it about me? I have met more women in the last three years who have apparently seen a neon Open For Business sign on my forehead. I think I’ve chosen the wrong career path. And, before I sound snarky and insincere, I do often wish I had gone into social work and/or counseling. I might have done some good for others; I really do want to help.

Except for my one friend, whom I spoke to last night who would probably disagree since I had no new advice for her on her dilemma over her offspring. Raising kids is tough. Raising adult kids who appear lost is maddening. My conflict, too, is while I would suggest that tough love is the way to go, I am also a mother who loves her son beyond all reason and I know that I would feel exactly the same way that she does. I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite. She’s another of those whose ex sounds like a work of fiction – behavior so outrageous and narcissistic, he can’t be for real.

Oh wait —

 

 

 

The Delicate Balance

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I never think about how the dynamic of our household is laid out. How it affects the alkalinity and salinity and compatibility of all its elements like a saltwater fish tank.

The kids come and go from their dad’s house, which changes the dynamic, but it’s not unmanageable for me. At least not anymore. It is more so for Todd, who experiences his home in bursts of alternating quiet and chaos. I think I’d have a better appreciation of this sort of whiplash if he’d pick the kids up one Sunday and I waited in silence at home.

Houseguests change the dynamic, yet it’s temporary and joyful and also joyful when they leave. Don’t get me wrong, I – we – enjoy having people over. It’s one of the reasons we have an established guest bedroom.

Overnight guests don’t upset this balance. Weekend guests don’t really upset this balance. Permanent houseguests? Well, now there’s a whole blogpost.

I’ve recognized and shamelessly admit that I enjoy – no, I REQUIRE – the dynamic of our house just the way it is. I don’t do well with change as it is, and when it occurs in my house in the form of another human living here indefinitely, it’s a recipe for a volcanic disturbance.

We had a friend in need who stayed with us for a few months. It wasn’t terrible, but at some point I started trembling at the very thought that there was no end in sight. I don’t recall how it ended, exactly, or how my tremors evolved. And I’m okay with forgetting.

And then couple of years ago we had Neph. Neph moved in and we welcomed him, because he’s family and not a friend and he was young and we had rules and he was going to follow them and it would be wonderful to have another “kid” in my house. And I do love him, truly, but he has a tendency – like all males his age – to Neanderthal his way through life, refrigerators, and bathrooms. He also has his own habits that had to fit into our dynamic. However, his habits occasionally bulldozed over ours (mine) and I learned valuable lessons about speaking up without bitching, reminding without snarling, and buying food in bulk.

Furbaby houseguests can also ramp things up a bit. When my mom goes away, she leaves her beloved furbaby – which is at this very moment funny to me because he’s no baby – he’s 140 pounds of white fluff – with us. Moses is sweet and wonderful, well-behaved and easygoing. Well, except for that one time he went after Oliver in an unprecedented move that both startled and impressed me.

He and Sabra used to be boyfriend and girlfriend, when our dogs were living with my mom and her dogs. They adored each other, followed each other around, and – early one morning on the deck outside – decided it would be fun to have sex and freak my mother out. (This was followed by a few days’ speculation about whether it was true that Moses was truly neutered, and whether Sabra was knocked up.)

Nowadays, like an old married couple, they greet each other with a sniff and a tail wag and then go lie down in their respective places. So, anyway, Moses came to stay with us a couple of weeks ago, and this time my mom brought his bed so he’d feel more at home and, hopefully, not sleep on my couch.

Sabra commandeered his bed the minute he arrived, and I spent an entire week chasing her off of it. She’d lay her 38-pound body down in this giant fluffy bed, leaving her half-the-size bed for Mo, who – do the math – is 100 pounds bigger than her. So, then of course, Mo would jump up on the couch, because – comfort – and I’d walk in and holler at both of them. Rules, people!

I thought I was bad at adapting to changes in the “force,” but Sabra becomes a spoiled brat who thinks her shit doesn’t stink. Literally. It’s really quite impressive, how far she’s come from Pi’s shadow and the follower mentality.

Moses is a good boy always eager to go outside. Sabra refuses to go outside with him. He’ll run out the door and she will circle just inside it, and then run back to her bed. And then I’ll make her go out because why should I monitor the dogs and the door twice? But you know what she does? She stands by the door and looks in. And then has the audacity to come back in with Moses and expect a cookie.

So the only way she’ll go out and do her business – is when Moses is not with her. Weird. But now, Moses took to urinating on our deck within view of the sliders, and then Sabra started doing it too. Meanwhile, I’m losing hair on the top of my head.

And Moses has long been home again, and she’s still doing it. I heard Todd scolding her yesterday morning and he was pissed. She did it again this morning, and when I scolded her she looked away, feigning shame, because if she really was sorry she wouldn’t be standing there staring at me after the fact like, well? where’s my cookie?

Meanwhile, Oliver lives life on the edge when Mo is here – which I feel terribly badly about, but I do accommodate him more then and so I’d say he wins in the end anyway. He gets more treats, more love, more attention, even more than normal. What could be better? He would tell you that better would be, how about that fucking white beast go home? Except he probably doesn’t use the f-bomb because he’s so angelic. But I can see it in his eyes when he looks at me. We share silent conversations, he and I, with our eyes.

He stares into my eyes for long moments, like he is telepathically telling me the secrets of the universe and eternity and I have no idea – and then after a moment he’ll break the connection and run over and rub up against me and act like a cat again.

Maybe that’s why he loves Todd so much. Equally frustrated with me for being so unaware. He lies next to us on the couch, and I can tell he loves Todd more in those moments, as if he’s like – it’s you and me, dad. This chick doesn’t know jack about existentialism.

But that’s also part of the delicate balance.

Of Blogging, and First Dates

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I wasn’t going to write today. I don’t typically write every day. I had a few thoughts rolling around my brain of what I wanted to write about next; they’re an eclectic and somewhat schizophrenic collection of ideas that have little to do with one another.

Todd and I worked on one of them together, several arctic nights ago. It began by the fire and ended in bed. We slid our bodies between silken sheets and soft blankets, he picked up his toy and I picked up mine and….

He continued his Angry Birds game and I pulled up the Notes icon on my own mobile device.

I took down notes on my phone about one of my creative thoughts (coming soon), because if I got up again the animals of the house would have expectations.

So yesterday I posted about blogging vs. reality and I didn’t expect the reactions I received. Hell – I didn’t expect any at all. The most I ever see is a “like” here and there; otherwise the readers are really just ghosts that come and go, silently.

So. Now I’m wondering if this will affect my output and content. To be relevant, and not just a “whatever” poster. I guess. Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe I just say thank you and keep moving forward.

I really want Todd to guest post. He seems reluctant. And while he shares my ridiculous and often bizarre sense of humor, he has a preference for privacy that rivals my salacious Gemini nature of the shock factor. He is amused by my naughty jokes amongst friends, my improper remarks about our sex life to him in intentional earshot of others; however, to write about what really goes on behind our bedroom door, or when the kids are away and the cat is sleeping at the foot of the bed … is that-which-shall-remain-sacred.

I once made a remark to a gay friend that had everything to do with my mom’s shop vac – I said, Todd’s is much bigger. It truly wasn’t spoken out of turn, but when I saw his reaction, I winked. Todd, however, laughed it off and really – who in their right mind would be angry with that implication? Besides, on the heels of yesterday’s post and in the interest of honesty, Todd really does have a big… shop vac.

Anyway. As we careen toward another shiny object… on a different arctic night (we’ve had several here in our region of the world)… Todd remembered! At least we think he remembered, and since I’ve rendered what facts he presented to support this memory as highly likely… I think he uncovered the mystery of When Our First Date was.

A number of times I had admitted to not remembering our first date, and Todd was equally perplexed though perhaps it was irrelevant anyway because, today. I said before that while I don’t remember our first date, I do remember spending New Year’s Eve together.

Well, the mystery has been solved. I think. Through a series of what should have been the most obvious deductions… Wait! Back up.

Todd and I met in the fall of 1984. But, as my mom taught me that girls don’t call boys (or wear black, whatever the hell that meant in the 80s) and I was shy anyway and would never have flat out told a boy I was interested (which really deserves a separate post), and therefore he had no idea that I was because he’s also oblivious – and yes, that’s in the present tense because he IS and shamelessly admits to it – we never went out.

There was an awful lot of “let’s insert myself near this person so they can’t miss me” behavior, but it wasn’t until the fall of 1985 that we danced around each other again. And it wasn’t until another young man named Tom told Todd he’d better ask me out before someone else did, though I have no idea what insight he could possibly have had since I never spoke two words to him. Sometime thereafter, the timeline of which remains a mystery, Todd did ask me out.

However, the following deductions have led to the conclusion that the actual real First Date was, in fact New Year’s Eve. (Which would also explain why we can’t remember another first date – because there wasn’t one.)

#1 – Todd’s birthday is in mid-December, and we didn’t spend that day together, nor was it acknowledged.

#2 – Wrestling was ongoing, so there were meets and tournaments going on on Saturdays, which meant we likely wouldn’t have gone out then either. Except for maybe a rendezvous or two in our cars, though I can assure you I was Not That Kind of Girl. Yet.

#3 – We both had jobs. He worked for KFC after school and weekends, and I worked in my family’s restaurant which was over 45 minutes away.

#4 – We didn’t exchange gifts or acknowledge Christmas.

Therefore, my Murdoch man determined that New Year’s Eve had to be the night. Not that night. Just the first date night.

I’m so excited by this revelation, if only because I’m sick of forgetting and/or not remembering shit. It’s embarrassing. And annoying.

And to think these memories were triggered by someone else’s first date. Yes, there was a first date around here recently. And that’s all I’m going to say about that, because, privacy.

New Year’s Eve 1985/86 was spent on the floor in my bedroom, two floors away from my parents who I am still shocked allowed this first boy into my bedroom on our first date and trusted us. I had a stereo system on which we played my collection of Prince vinyl and talked for hours about lord knows what. I’m certain that his lips found mine somewhere during that long conversation. I’m certain that I melted in the glow of this intensity I’d only written about in journals before.

I had no idea where that night would end. Living in the moment and flying by the seat of my pants is an earmark of Gemini existence. I’m sure I’m a young soul, still learning the lessons old souls like Todd have known for centuries. It still thrills me to kiss him and smell the very same smell of his 17-year-old skin. It stirs something in me I’m afraid I’d need another blog to specialize in. Nevertheless, I remain blown away that that night was over 30 years, and several relationships and a marriage ago, and that we ended up here anyway in spite of it all.

2017 – The Year in Review

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April was by far the busiest and most eventful month of the year. I started working at CHOP, Veruca started her softball career, Opac had oral surgery, my maternal grandfather passed away, a week later my uncle unexpectedly followed, a high school friend lost his battle with cancer, and Todd and I attended the college’s posh annual gala.

Work

I got a new job, and Todd stepped into the Pathways Coordinator position, in addition to teaching and serving on multiple committees. I had a one-day orientation in Philadelphia spent a week training on the EPIC platform in early May, and learned my way around the city I’ve never loved. It’s been a great experience so far – I love the people I work with and the opportunity to be a part of this organization. I’ve given up my weekends at the restaurant, and I think they’re doing fine without me.

The Kids

Veruca quit cheer for good and took on softball. Her first season – her team won the division with an impressive, nearly undefeated record, and she has another trophy on her shelf. Girlfriend can knock a ball out of the park and it turns out she’s a great catcher.

Opac moved up to varsity football this year and spent most of the season pacing the sidelines, with only quick bursts of time on the field. I don’t know how but the team was the second worst team in the league and the head coach resigned. A new coach is coming in to kick some ass and we’re all excited to see what he’s going to do to turn this team upside down.

Furry Kids

Oliver and Sabra are healthy and happy. One is overweight, and one is underweight. Guess which is which?

Moses, my mom’s dog, has spent several days with us over the past year while mom was away on vacations and hospitalizations. He nominated me as interim mom, and I’ve never had a furbaby happier to see me come home from work than him. Makes me wonder what the other two are for.

We adopted a black kitten we named Shadow back in March, who cost me $1200 and 6 emotional hours at the emergency vet. After only 3 weeks with him, I got to be the one who had to decide to let him go. It was horrible and turned me off from ever wanting to adopt another pet.

Adventures and Travel

We attended two weddings, one in May and one in November. Both were wonderful events and we were so blessed to be a part of their special days. We also attended the Lymphoma and Leukemia Man & Woman of the Year gala in Baltimore, for which I rented my first Rent the Runway gown. A floor-length black and gold Marchesa Notte that made me feel like royalty, and I highly recommend RTR. It’s the perfect way to wear a gorgeous dress that costs more than your last paycheck; it’s affordable; and you’ll always have something different to wear. (You’re welcome, RTR, for the free publicity to my 3 followers.)

Todd and I went to San Francisco for a conference that was cut short thanks to the Nor’easter back home. It was a nice respite, even though I missed out on Alcatraz. We also returned to Ocean City, Maryland over the summer.

This year’s State Bowling Tournament was held locally, so we didn’t have any traveling to do.

Cars

We got 3 new vehicles this year and no, we’re still not rich. We replaced my out-of-warranty Explorer with a brand new Edge – if you don’t already know, we do so much driving to and from PA that a car with 4-wheel drive under warranty is an absolute necessity. Todd acquired a beater truck: a 1990 F-150 for less than the cost of my RTR gown. I’m not sure I’m allowed to officially mention car #3; so let’s just all agree to keep it on the down low and I’ll tell you the coveted 2017 GT California Special was acquired around the same time as the Edge for a deal that couldn’t be turned down.

The new Edge just might be a lemon – it spent 3 weeks on hiatus at the Ford dealership while I learned exactly why I don’t want an Expedition. Ever. And not just because V fell out of it. Twice.

Extended family news

Neph has been on the move and working a lot, but he calls his auntie occasionally, which I really appreciate. Nephtoo graduated high school and started college 3 hours away, and posts beautiful photos of the water there. I have yet to send a care package. I’m not a very good auntie.

Gloria, my illustrious maternal grandmother to whom I credit my tough-as-shit attitude, turned 92 and not only interrupted the pastor several times during my uncle’s memorial because “WHAT’s he saying?” and claimed not to remember his ex-wife,  is still kicking it like a rockstar. I delivered her a bottle of J&B for NYE, after she called my mom to cry about her forgetting to bring it to her. Almost as much fun as the Teddy Bear delivery of 2012.

Health

My mom had laparoscopic surgery over the summer that turned into major abdominal surgery, and we were both blessed to have a dear friend present during the procedure to hold my hand. Todd also had surgery later the same month, and was equally as hilarious coming out of anesthesia as my mother. They’re both lucky I am too thoughtful to consider video-recording.

I’m proud to report I passed my very first drug test and received my first flu shot. I also had two doses of tetanus (I’m still pissed about this), and received an MMR booster because my titer said I needed one.

I ordered Veruca a new pump through Animas – our pump provider – only to learn the day after it arrived that Animas was closing down operations. SO, we will be transitioning God-knows-when to a new pump from Medtronic (who partnered with Animas) – whenever Animas decides they’re done producing supplies too.

Opac had his wisdom teeth out and I got a root canal and crown.

I stopped drinking for just over 3 months and lost 11 pounds. I guess it’s a good thing when your friend tells you that “there’s less of you” when he sees you at the holiday party.

Celebrations

V had her first birthday party sleepover last spring and everybody seemed to have a great time. Well, except for the one girl who’s apparently allergic to cats.

Opac turned 17, exactly eight months after he obtained his learner’s permit. He still has a long way to go before he gets his license.

We ended our 2016 with parties for both Todd’s birthday and my father-in-law’s…one impromptu night at the restaurant Christmas Eve and a planned work night on New Year’s Eve.

I can’t wait to see what 2018 will bring.

The First Days of 2018

As another year turns the corner, I cleanse my inbox of useless emails and spam, browse the pages of social media for inspiration. I get emails from a website that offers design inspiration for your home and garden and life. One included a reminder about, and how and where, to start decluttering your space.

Purging is one of my favorite things to do. So Tuesday, after everyone left the house and me in it all alone…. I did what any jacked-up-on-coffee housewife would do. I started cleaning out the kitchen drawers, cabinets, the kitchen antique cabinet I use for cookbooks, office and diabetes supplies, and the china cabinet in the dining room. I threw stuff away. I started filling a box to be donated next week to the Purple Heart.

Extra, unused glassware packed up for the bar we haven’t built yet. Old coffee mugs going to Todd’s office. Several hundred corks I’m deciding what to craft with. Trivets for everyone! Or maybe a bustier? Just kidding. I’m not that energetic.

The Christmas tree is still up, though yesterday morning I started pulling ornaments off with the branches attached. This was not intentional, by the way. In this case, the tree completely died before we took it down. And when I say completely, I mean the only stage left from here is petrification.

Todd’s brilliant idea was to get the garden loppers and cut off the branches and carry them out separately. That was supposed to be my job yesterday. Then he would carry out the trunk. I thought I’d get creative and make it look like the Charlie Brown tree. However, I have a very bad elbow and the loppers weren’t working very well and I decided I wasn’t doing it. V picked them up and went all Edward Scissorhands on that tree, making an impressive transformation, and I only stopped her long enough to remind her not to cut off her own fingers or the curtains on the windows.

Together we cleaned up that entire space and I carried what was left of the tree out the sliders and dropped it off the end of the deck. It’s Todd’s problem now. And when he got home he expressed surprise that I’d done it, and I made sure to point out how difficult it was to lop off the branches with my bad elbow, you know… and he picked up the loppers on the counter and said, “you used these?” Because, apparently, those are bush loppers, not branch cutters like the ones in the garage and really – how was I supposed to know the difference, I screamed. But I only screamed in my head, because he’d only just gotten home and I didn’t want him to feel unwelcome.

En medias res, I am still cleaning up the aftermath of the holidays and at least one kid who doesn’t know how to put. shit. away. AND, doing eight loads of laundry, including Todd’s which I swear we just did three days ago but he insists was over a week ago. With the way things are going for the two of us, in another 10 years they’ll be putting us in a home because one of us left the stove on.

And that’s only if we survive ourselves until then, since Todd damn near aspirated a Jolly Rancher last night and I was afraid I was going to have to Google the Heimlich maneuver while he turned blue. Thankfully that didn’t happen. Meanwhile, my body parts just keep turning on me in ways that are not funny and I wonder sometimes if the only way left is down.

Anyway, I have books to read and books to give away, drawers and more drawers in the bedroom to empty and sort, and that walk-in closet with the fallen rod that is overflowing with ironing and other stuff that the cat has assumed is his new bedroom. I have renovations I am capable of doing that are awaiting another day and another pot of crack coffee.

It’s day 3 and I have already finished 6 loads of wash, ran the treadmill, and set up the Roomba – which, by the way, was hilarious. The cat left his coveted spot under the tree to check out this thing running through the dining room and seemed nonplussed by it until it doubled back on him while he was eating from his bowl. Sabra of course jumped out of her bed when it neared the living room and took off for parts unknown, until the kids came home and the thing had recharged itself to vacuum my bedroom.

Veruca came running to tell me it had sucked up the strings of my jacket. The chaos that ensued was nothing short of a circus. Todd called just as I was running to rescue my jacket and, as I stooped over to retrieve it, Sabra body-slammed me from behind and I almost face-planted onto the Roomba. Both kids were hysterical but I was NOT. Todd asked if he could call me back. Because he can’t handle a conversation that includes two hysterical kids and a hyper dog and a screaming wife.

The current temperature is 22 degrees and snowing and 50 mph wind gusts, up from 4 on Monday, and the kids have a snow day. The half-assed lights on the bushes out front are still up, and so are our Christmas pumpkins. We have Christmas pumpkins ya’ll, because we are on the cutting edge of new holiday trends. I was going to put lights on them, but… remember – half-assed. Anyway, it’s too cold to take any of that away.

The only thing I accomplished outside in the 14 degrees on Tuesday was going out back on the deck to toss the cranberries I’d used for decorating into the old horse field for the birds, and getting gas in the rented Expedition, because My Car Is Coming Home – which turned out to be a great big LIE and we still don’t have the car back because some asshole put the whatever-was-being-replaced in backwards and it was screwing up the timing and it took another whole day to figure this out. These are the people who are supposed to know how to fix my car the right way.

Anyway, I was going to put away the holiday wreath made with Christmas balls that I repaired before party 2.0, but since Todd took it out with his backpack as he was entering the house I no longer have to. He was so sweet to collect all the balls that had scattered like a broken string of pearls.

There are more goals for this week and the coming one… but… I’ll save that for another post. Todd will be home soon and I need to look like I’ve been busy all day.

Conversations With Todd

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I got home from work Saturday a little after 12:30, after being up since 5:50 a.m., found Todd seated on the couch with the cat on the ottoman at his feet and the dog sleeping nearby. We shared hellos and some basic updates before I launched into a continuation of what he described as a soap opera earlier that morning. There’s this foster mom who recently took on two more children – siblings – and the county gave her very little information about them including, but not limited to, conflicting names and no medical histories. I was the lucky recipient of her first phone call to get them seen in our practice, one of the longest and more frustrating of patient calls I’ve had so far. The background noise on her end sounded like a daycare and made it very difficult to understand, and then I think she stepped outside to hear me better and the sound quality escalated to something resembling an airport landing strip.

So anyway. She had an appointment on Friday afternoon, the day of the blizzard, and she called to cancel it and reschedule for Saturday morning. You could say I’ve learned a thing or two about scheduling and I’m getting more savvy with it. I offered her an appointment immediately following another already scheduled. Some of our physicians don’t like Saturday mornings being stretched into eternity and I knew that. She asked for something later, because she was worried about road conditions in the morning. I didn’t want to say it, but I said the latest I have is 11. She took it. And I knew I was going hear about it the next morning.

I called it. Our doctor, who I predicted wouldn’t be happy about this 11:00 appointment if we didn’t get any more sick calls (we did…phew!), did ask me what happened when it was rescheduled for that morning. It was awesome. She discreetly told me she has a problem with some people making later appointments and then being late for those. Which I completely understand. Word to the wise: if you are consistently late and inconsiderate to your healthcare providers, don’t think for a moment they won’t remember you. Fastest lesson I learned this year: don’t be late for appointments.

So I’m telling Todd all about the roads, about the entitled white-haired lady in the Mercedes who wasn’t content to be behind me at 75 mph, about seeing someone from V’s school and the conversation we had, and about how pleasant everyone was coming in this morning. We conversed about this and that, sharing opinions and then I went on to share more thoughts about that and this… and I watched him from across the room… his expression silently shifting as I spoke.

So I said very matter-of-factly, they don’t have any decaf in the office. And Todd burst out laughing at me. What? At least I went with a light roast. It could’ve been worse, I told him. That was only four hours’ worth. Imagine what 8 would be like.

Meanwhile, today is house-cleaning gift-wrapping finish-decorating baking laundry put-shit-away day… and we’re expecting a very important delivery that I was worried about missing, because I know there are criminals out there following UPS and FedEx trucks waiting for them to drop packages on empty doorsteps and I will not be a victim.

And Todd and I have been texting back and forth all day because he’s taking my car to the dealership tomorrow and I told him he must take the rental car they’re offering because SNOW, Todd. And I also wanted to know if he had an ETA on that delivery so I could actually leave the damn house for some necessary items at the grocery store without missing the truck, and he of course called me because he’s driving from campus to campus today for meetings and other things that make his life busier than mine… and he wonders aloud if mercury is still in retrograde and I’m like HELLO! of course it is – why do you think the engine light is back on in my car??? Which it actually isn’t – because it went off again all by itself, which is NOT reassuring by the way and I’m not buying it.

So, I looked up mercury in retrograde and it appears that it is and it’s in the “intensified” stage – and I don’t really know what that means in the universe but it’s bad enough in the regular stage so… this really doesn’t bode well for the rest of the mechanical shit in our lives so maybe we’d best just stay home and drink for the next 5 days until it passes.

Meanwhile Todd is expressing frustration over work-related bullshit and I used my best Todd-impression to tell him that he can’t fix it and why would he want to and just go to work and enjoy it without the responsibility of leadership and he actually agreed with me. And I said to him, patient, you are not. Which of course reminded him of Yoda, and then the rest of our conversation was dominated by Tara’s side being answered by Yoda. He does a mean Yoda impression, which is adorable except when you’re trying to have a serious conversation about delivery trucks and Christmas gifts not yet purchased.

When I was looking for Yoda gifs, I also saw this one. Does anyone else feel slightly uncomfortable watching this?

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Where I Wake Up Next to Another Man

Probably not the best followup to my last post but, as they say, what happens tonight goes on Facebook tomorrow.

We planned a small gathering of friends and our parents, and Mother Nature planned a winter wonderland to otherwise shut down what would have been a house-quaking party. Okay, not really a house-quaking. But nearly everyone north of the Mason-Dixon bagged out due to the icy road conditions and the danger of driving home later.

On the menu: lasagna with hot Italian sausage, white vegetarian lasagna, pulled pork, Cuban sandwiches, white bean and spinach soup, mixed greens salad, buffalo chicken dip, chips and salsa, and the standard crudité. The in-laws, who were bringing the cheesecake, opted out of the drive too – so Todd pulled a homemade apple pie out of the freezer, and thank God someone brought brownies and a wicked cheeseball that would put any fancy wedge of cheese to shame.

For such a small crowd, we ATE. Even the crudité, which is always at a party and really – who wants to eat raw vegetables at a party? Would you like some chocolate cake layered with chocolate mousse? Oh no thank you, I’ll just chew on this chunk of raw cauliflower.

And, like anything we do in this house which ends up with all the appearance of half-assed – even spending all of Friday night prepping food and 4 hours Saturday prepping the house – the guest room was still unmade and the vacuum lying on the floor next the bed, which to you sounds like no big deal but the room was doubling as a play area for the Oculus.* The artificial tree we put up in the rec room was assembled by Opac and my brother in the final hour, with only lights and no ornaments. (There are still no ornaments on it.)

One of my Christmas boxes with decorations in and on top of it, remained in the living room next to the couch the entire evening. In fact, it’s still there. The wreath I made last year with Christmas balls was lying on an accent chair behind the couch, apparently awaiting hell to freeze over until I could repair it and hang it on the front door.

We have four bathrooms in this house: the master bath, the hall bathroom (aka the kids’ bathroom), the powder room off the living room, and the bathroom downstairs in the rec room. The latter is desperately in need of a massive renovation. As for the hall bathroom, anyone with kids they don’t share a bathroom with can attest to the horrors within the confines of this room. It wouldn’t be a normal day if that toilet was working, and this evening was no different. Thankfully, no one attempted it. Well, except for V who will continue to use a clogged toilet until it rivals the look and feel of a port-a-potty.

Todd found some time to throw some lights on the two trees against the house, which at the time I thought was great until the next day when I saw that a tree and a half were lit. I said, Todd – what happened to the lights? He said he ran out of lights and forgot to look for another strand. And guess what? There’s still a tree and half a tree with lights on them.

I’d work on that today, but it’s freakin’ 19 degrees outside and I just spent 10 minutes righting the recycling can in gale force winds, collecting all the cans and cardboard that blew into my neighbor’s yard. And, if she’s reading this – Kay, I’m very sorry if I missed anything and also I apologize for any strange noises you may have heard in the backyard on Saturday night.

And, while we’re on the subject – I put the brakes on two drunks and one twelve-year-old with a recorder who wanted to go caroling, so neighbors – you’re welcome.

Anyway, the guests. We had a low turnout which was actually nice because of who showed up. The staggering of the arrivals made for pleasant and equal conversation. We got some chat time with one of the couples from our San Francisco trip, and later with a couple Todd used to bowl with whom we shared our Pittsburgh experience, and the last couple were new to me so I had some time to chat with them towards the end before Todd sat down next to me and I promptly passed out fell asleep.

Yes, I had wine. I had wine, because hello! It’s a party. I wasn’t drunk, not even once, but I was definitely pacing myself through food and wine and water until sleep overtook me in the presence of two people I’d only just met. I’m so good with first impressions.

And the next thing I know – I woke up at 3 a.m. on the sectional by the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree and the hearth, the lamp next to the couch still lit and the television still on at a volume reserved for rowdy football games… and the room empty but for Robbie, who was asleep completely upright, snoring like a bear at the other end of the couch.