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 —

 

 

 

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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.

Blogging vs. Reality

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Photo copyright Taraka & The Tara Chronicles, 2018.

There is something that has been bothering me for a while. Like anything you read on social media, unless you truly know someone – know them personally – you can’t believe everything you read.

As bloggers we present ourselves the way we want to be seen – all our faults hanging out on the washline, or all our triumphs, adventures, and happy lives waving like a flag on a blustery day. The relative anonymity of the Internet allows us the freedom to be who we want to be. Our words influence your perception of who we are.

When I started a blog nearly 8 years ago, it was intended to be a creative expression of my life as it really was – and shared on my Facebook page with friends and family. I was honest. No names were changed at the time, though there were some that were left out for privacy. My readers were all people I knew personally.

Until there was one. I don’t know how she found me, I have to assume through a mutual friend, and our mutual friend reached out to me to tell me that her friend enjoyed my blog and that it inspired her. That bowled me over. I had no idea that anyone really cared that much about what I wrote, since I really was writing for me – albeit on a platform that could be readily viewed by others.

And then my life turned upside down and sideways. I wrote about it and suddenly, before long, there were friends pm-ing me to commiserate, and/or admit to feeling the same way about a marriage gone terribly wrong. It was an enlightening time, and also a time of personal growth for me – that I chose to share – and bare – for all the world to see, were they reading.

I started it for accountability. Because I needed desperately not to fall back into that trap of least resistance, where my stagnant and abusive life would continue indefinitely out of fear of the unknown. But then it became larger than me, and I realized that my words were reaching others who needed their own motivation to make their lives better too.

And I continued forward. I write what inspires me, I write my mind – so that I can free my brain weasels and not go comfortably numb, or just batshit crazy. I don’t think about what you want to hear, yet it is still a whisper in the back of my mind that it has to be somewhat interesting or I become just another self-serving jerk writing garage nobody cares about.

To that end, I started reading a blogger several years ago because he was funny and his content was relatable and incited some level of compassion for him because of his circumstances. He had published a book. I was envious – that 1) he had done it and 2) I had no idea WHAT I could write at such length that anyone would actually want to read it. But beyond that, his posts began to read more and more self-centered – more me, me, me and less how can I help/affect others? That’s how I saw it, and I stopped following.

I am careful who I follow – mostly because, Time. I don’t have the time to read every blog out there that interests me, and I think many of us feel the same way. And so – before I get too far ahead of myself – I just want to thank those of you who do follow and read me. I appreciate you more than you know. You keep me inspired to keep writing. Whatever it is.

I follow, literally, a handful of bloggers out there, all very different in tone than my own. That’s IT. I found Jenny Lawson by happy accident some years ago, and if you know her, there’s no need to explain why she’s still on my list. I NEED her humor. She is like a relative you look forward to seeing every holiday – a sentiment I’m sure is shared with the thousands of others who follow her. On her site I found another intriguing blog – and haven’t looked back.

It’s rated M for mature audiences for every reason why and I never miss a post. While she writes under an alias to protect her identity and those around her, due to the content, there’s an undercurrent of honesty and real-ness to her posts that is poignant and riveting. Like the book you can’t put down. She’s also very open to comments about her experiences and intelligent, successful in her own right. I’ve recently realized I’ve been following for 4 years! I talk to her like a friend, though I am keenly aware that she is only the person writing the blog and I don’t truly know her.

Through her blog I found two others – one that is truly unique and worthy of its own television series and I wish to God I could help him get this off the ground myself. And I like him. He’s like an old friend in a faraway place, we share occasional comments to each other’s posts and appreciation for one another – though we’ve never met.

The other, equally as entertaining but a bit more journalistic, is another blogger who also goes by his real name and has published books that I have on my ever-growing list of reads. He is a community servant nowadays so we see less blog posting and more – because we are Facebook friends – daily life stuff. I especially love his story about connecting with his wife – another epic second chance love story that rivals my own and it’s heartening to know there are others like us in the world who are that blessed. His face makes me smile. Especially when hers is next to his.

I also started following a “girl” via Ann’s blog (mentioned above) and once I started reading I couldn’t stop. She self-described as a woman in an abusive relationship from which she was trying to extricate herself. Her feelings and experiences were palpable to me, and I commented often with my thoughts of what she should do. Some of her content disturbed me. I won’t say I’m clairvoyant by any means, but rather that experience has taught me well and I can read a situation. She seemed to know what to do about it, but it seemed also to be taking longer than I would’ve allowed. And then – just as suddenly – she disappeared. She blogged all this shit about her abusive ex who threatened her very life, and then she ….disappeared. I allowed myself to get sucked into this stranger’s “life” and now have no way to know if she’s okay, or dead. Had to let that one go.

And, so it goes – I learned a valuable lesson in getting caught up in strangers’ lives. Who’s to say she was who she said she was? Or that any of her story was real? Could this be true of Ann, too? Or the other women I loosely follow? Or those two men I mentioned above? What if they aren’t who they say they are, but just truly creative and fictional writers? **

So, in a way, this might be considered a public service announcement about the world wide web and the social media contained within: nothing is as it seems. Don’t believe everything you read. Double check your facts, especially in cases of news reports. And take those bloggers with a grain of salt.

Even me – though I hereby solemnly do declare that my real name IS Tara and everything I write herein is as true as I can accurately write it based on my failing 48-year-old brain. I like to write with a younger voice, because I feel like a kid sometimes, but I am 48. Some names are still changed for privacy.

I write what moves me, what motivates me, what makes me laugh, love, and cry… and I do write to those I think are reading me.

What do you want to see more of, here?

Addendum: I do want to clarify that I’m not suggesting that the bloggers I follow aren’t authentic. They ARE. I am simply pointing out that “anyone” can start a blog and write what appear to be real stories about their lives which may, or may not, be true. I even called myself out – just to make the point that – if you don’t know me, how can you be sure I am who I say I am? Or that Todd exists? Just food for thought, that’s all. Don’t avoid the blog world – there’s so much good stuff out there. You’ll know when you’ve found a bard, or when you’ve hit gold.

 

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.

4 Parties and a Hangover

 

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Our Griswold squirrel. Filling a large hole in our tree. And yes – there is an Octopus – because they’re buddies.                                                      Photo copyright TKA and the Tara Chronicles.

 

 

Party #1

Probably the biggest, most decadent party I attended. Always crowded, the room with the bar bursting at the seams, as we bump and squeeze ourselves through the throng of holiday well-wishers in fine dresses and Christmas sweaters. Hors d’oeuvres of tomato bisque and grilled cheese triangles, jumbo shrimp cocktail, sausages, lollypop lamb chops, stuffed sweet and hot peppers, deviled eggs, duck, stuffed mushrooms, fried green tomatoes, grilled scallops wrapped in bacon, oysters. Main buffet with brisket and short ribs and collard greens and Caesar salad and paella and roasted potatoes and chicken. A dessert and coffee station with crème brulee and other sorts of little cakes. Everyone ate and ate and ate.

The hosts moved effortlessly from room to room, chatting with everyone. Three magazine-worthy Christmas trees made the rooms festive. I shamelessly envied the beauty as I pictured my two trees at home, the one in the rec room still without ornaments. Christmas music danced above the noisy heads of chattering folks.

I stood in the kitchen looking out toward the front door as the evening drew later, noting our hostess smiling and laughing with guests who were leaving. Our smiling host stepped up beside her as she talked, tipsily throwing an arm over her shoulder. She never missed a beat as I saw her reach up to touch his hand – I thought, a silent moment of warmth between them. She continued talking, reaching up again to shove his hand off her shoulder in the most inconspicuous move possible. If the guests noticed it, their expressions never changed.

Party # 2

This was our first holiday gathering/unbirthday for Todd I wrote about here. Not much to add there, so we’ll just move on.

Party # 3

Work brunch whereby all Secret Santas revealed themselves. I carpooled with two of my coworkers, which made the ride less stressful and we had a lovely time. We were greeted with mimosas upon. The room in this historic building was chilly – duly noted for next year’s planned outfit.

And, speaking of outfits, I had washed and pressed a black sweater dress for the occasion and when I went to put it on discovered a small hole in the right sleeve that I swear was not there before it went into the machine. Todd was like, I can fix this. No big deal, right? Yeah, no big deal until I discovered hole #2 in the left sleeve while I was in the restroom hours later. Classy.

So, the food was great, my Secret Santa got me some gifts I truly love and have been using. The recipient of my gifts was, now that it’s been revealed, Veruca’s doctor. So – seeing how daunting and maybe not so daunting, all at the same time? I got her two wine glasses painted like snowmen and two beer glasses with Santa’s suit and belt painted on them. I loved them, and hope she did too.

The venue, as I said, was an old historic site… the entryway had gorgeous stone and wood floors and there was a “tree” in the foyer that was actually a dress form with a red taffeta sleeveless top on it and tree branches falling away from it like a long skirt with ribbon threaded through. It was amazing. Wish I’d gotten a picture.

Party #4

Aptly named, holiday gathering 2.0. My father-in-law’s birthday and so everyone who missed party #2 made it to this one. We settled on a brunch that was to start an hour after I got home from work last Saturday, but doesn’t everyone show up late anyway and so the actual start time was more like 3.

Scott brought Todd a bottle of Knob Creek Smoked Maple as a belated birthday gift. I think Todd had one dram of it and a few hours later Scott was seated at the dining room table, adjacent to our liquor cart, with my mother-in-law and aunt, my bestie and me. Scott drained that bottle faster than water leaving a bathtub. I watched him with interest, wondering at what point incoherency takes over, and to my astonishment he never seemed to lose it. In fact, no one did. This time.

Christmas Day

So I got drafted to work Christmas Eve at the restaurant, due to staff shortage (imagine that). Todd worked too, because the grill chef wasn’t coming either. We were so f***ing busy and I had to keep reminding myself it wasn’t New Years’ Eve, though every time I did I wanted to cry because I already knew I was coming back for that.

We had a large party seated in the largest dining room, the hosts longtime guests. It was lovely to see them again, as I’ve known them since my early twenties and I feel a sense of melancholy as the revelation of their ages washes over me. They are essentially part of our extended restaurant family. The hostess, petite and beautiful, hasn’t aged in these 25 years.  The host, always the wine connoisseur, insisted on Burgundies and French wines and I felt his frustration as he speaks so very softly now and is difficult to hear. All in all, it was a great night, nobody flipped out, no trays were dropped, only one person complained about the Christmas music, and we got to celebrate with friends too. B52, anyone?

Anyway. Todd and I spent a luxurious morning in bed opening presents before getting ready to pick up the kids and go to my mom’s for dinner. We arrived about 4, opened gifts, and then started dinner. Todd and I each had a glass of wine from the house pour. And apparently mom decided to bring over two bottles of wine for dinner, and the wine was flowing like water and I forgot my own advice about drinking water. Empty stomach.

We had an eclectic selection of food for dinner – steamed clams in a garlicky broth (my fave), grilled shrimp wrapped in bacon, filet, mashed potatoes, and Andy’s homemade ravioli with mom’s marinara sauce. Still no water. You know where this is going, right?

The three of us (okay, Toddit was just mom and me) finished off two bottles of red wine and I spent half the night crying like my grandmother does every time she sees us, because Opac asked me if he could go to the Eagles/Dallas game on New Years’ Eve with friends and he’s growing up and I’m conflicted because there are no adults going and I’m scared to death of losing my kid in some freak accident. And then I cried because V is looking beautiful and grown up and soon she’ll be seeking more freedom of her own and what is THAT going to look like from a T1D perspective? And I cried about other things I’ve now forgotten about, but it doesn’t matter. It’s hereditary and there’s not much I can do about it.

The drive home was reasonable until we got within 2 miles of the house, when I suddenly had an uncontrollable need for fresh air and so opened the window and allowed the arctic blast inside and everybody in the car yelled at me including Todd. Anyway, I had a nasty headache and queasy stomach most of the next day from the wine and NO WATER… that lasted all day.

So remember people – Tara drank too much wine. Tara didn’t drink any water. Tara was stupid. Don’t be like Tara.

 

 

 

Words of Wisdom This Holiday Season

When your phone rings at 8 a.m. on Christmas Eve, don’t answer it.

When your cell phone rings 10 minutes later and you can see it’s your mom calling from her restaurant, answer it anyway, because you can run but you can’t hide.

Some dogs don’t like jingle bell elf slippers. (Seriously, as of this writing, she’s still hiding in her bed.)

Jingle bell elf slippers, all four pairs going at once, recreate the magic of Santa’s sleigh landing on your lawn. Okay, not really, but it does wonders for tinnitus.

When your cell phone service pisses you off for the last time, switch providers and get new phones for everyone! Still wish I had video footage of Veruca’s face when she opened up that iPhone 8. First hug she gave Todd in 5 years.

Best way to keep the cat off the dining room table? Put up a Christmas tree.

Make sure there’s a tree skirt for him to lie on under the twinkling lights, you know, because that’s the real reason it’s there. And for the love of St. Nicholas, don’t you dare put presents over the cat’s new sleeping quarters.

If you buy a cut tree the weekend after Thanksgiving, fully expect all the branches to be petrified by Christmas day. Ornaments found on the floor at this point are no one’s fault but your own.

When returning to alcohol to celebrate the season, do remember to drink lots of water and pace yourself.

Beware of bourbon-loving party guests who bring gifts of bourbon. One full bottle of Knob Creek kicked in less than 4 hours. (FYI: Knob Creek Smoked Maple smells like French toast. Too sweet for me.)

There’s no such thing as too much food at your holiday gathering. And, adding lasagna to the brunch buffet will ensure you’ll have sustenance later to offset the alcohol.

Be grateful for free rental cars, even if they resemble an army tank. There’s nothing more reassuring to drive in foul weather, even if your feet don’t touch the floor.

When your prescription glasses disappear for three hours at the restaurant while you’re working, don’t send everyone else into panic mode. Remember the St. Anthony’s prayer. Even when you can’t.

The most important thing to have ready at a holiday gathering when time is short: clean toilets and some hors d’oeuvres. Nobody will notice anything else.

Also, turn the light and fan on in your kids’ filthy bathroom and shut the door, to scare off potential users from entering. (P.S. this only works when guests are sober.) Caution tape works well too.

While we’re on the subject, teach your 12-year-old how to use a plunger properly, so that she doesn’t turn her toilet into a mountain of soiled toilet paper.

Don’t try to drag a 70lb box of punching bag from your front steps to the garage by yourself. Remember last year’s weight-bench-in-four-parts debacle.

Set up auto-pay on bills, at least for the duration of the holiday season.

Movie-goers? Buy your tickets ahead of time for the epic movie release of the season. Even if you’re attending the 9 a.m. showing on a church day.

Gifts do not have to be wrapped until Christmas Eve. Unless of course, you don’t enjoy stress and nosy children.

If you suspect your child is getting sick, don’t wait until Saturday before Christmas, thirty minutes before closing, to call your pediatrician. Also, if you are told by the triage nurse to go to urgent care the night before and you choose not to, do not be upset when there are no appointments left on Saturday morning.

When your kid’s sleepover gets cancelled through no fault of her own, take advantage of mother-daughter time by slathering on charcoal face masks and sending selfies to grandma.

Xanax works wonders on nervous energy and anxiety, I’ve heard.

Repeat after me: I WILL NOT get it all done before Christmas, and no animals will be harmed and no one will die because of it.

 

 

 

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 Drive In Snow

December 13. It was my mom’s birthday and Todd thought it would be nice to surprise her Wednesday, because he thinks of others and is thoughtful like that. So around 6 we all pile into my car, which has decided to be festive too and light up the engine light on the dash. It’s doing that wobbly thing again in idle mode that reminds me of a standard transmission about to conk out. (This fun feature was fixed at the dealership, you may recall, but now it’s back and they want to do a more thorough investigation tomorrow.)

Me being the worrywart I am (which, you may also recall, is the result of BDCPTSD, broken-down-car post-traumatic stress disorder, which is REAL, ya’ll), I said – we better take another car. We took the Mustang. The kids, who have absolutely no appreciation for a muscle car, complained about the lack of comfort in the backseat and I channeled my inner Jewish mother and reminded them that it was Nannie’s birthday and this is for her.

If you reside in the mid-Atlantic, then you already know what happened on Wednesday. The forecast said snow – AFTER MIDNIGHT. Well, they lied. We enjoyed a lovely dinner and I offered to drive home. The flurries started about 10 minutes into the ride. No worries, said Todd, it’s not laying.

Twenty minutes later it’s not only laying, it’s building a fortress. And I’m driving a Mustang. I took my time, but when I went under an overpass the backend fishtailed and Todd said, oh my God, pull over. I momentarily recalled that advice he gave me about riding with Opac and not grabbing onto the door handle, but decided this wasn’t the time to point out hypocrisy.

So we switched seats and he put the car in gear, and somehow was able to get a car that should never be fully stopped in a snowstorm moving forward again. By this time my nerves were wrapped around my chest, and I was gripping the sides of my seat and breathing shallowly. Todd reassured me that he had everything under control, which is really like telling a feral cat that you’re not going to hurt it.

It took us two-and-a-half hours to get home. Nearly twice the time under normal conditions. But we made it, because Todd learned to drive in the snow and he’s really good at it. And when we pulled in the driveway I finally let go of the seat and all the air in my lungs, excavated the sleeping kids from the backseat, and went inside to pour myself a pint of bourbon.

Fast forward: Friday. Todd drove my car down to the dealership first thing in the morning, Opac was home sick with fever, headache, and a sore throat, Veruca went off to school as usual, and I decided to drive the Mustang to work. I had a choice of three vehicles – the special-needs Fiesta, the beater truck, or the V6 Mustang. What would you choose?

Apparently, for those who actually pay attention to the weather, they might have chosen differently. I got to work and one of my coworkers said something about snow and I said, whaaaaaat? Oh yes, snow this afternoon. And then, within the hour, a message from the school announcing early dismissal at noon. Fuck! Fuck fuck fuck fuck!

I texted Todd and said something like, oh my God it’s starting to snow and I drove the fucking Mustang today and I’m gonna die on the way home and I don’t know what to do.

It’s okay, he said. I’ll drive up and switch cars with you and take the Mustang home.

He showed up at my office about 3 I think, dropped off the keys and told me to drive safe. My coworkers all thought he was so sweet to do this for me and, without an ounce of Humble, I said he’s the best. And he is. I joked that he was really just protecting the car from me, but truly, he can’t live without me, so. But here’s the problem – I’m not exactly always the best.

An hour later: I love you and I don’t want to sound like I’m scolding, but please don’t ever leave the car with less than 15 miles to get anywhere (smiley emoji).

I forgot to tell him. I forgot all about it. I knew I needed gas when I left in the morning, but I figured I’d get it on the way home so I wouldn’t be late to work. Having no idea, mind you, that we were even getting snow.

People coming into our office were talking about the snow. They’re saying we could have a white Christmas. First time in years… yes, snow all weekend. Which is all lovely and romantic and all, WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE TO DRIVE ANYWHERE. But I do, and I know we will just because I don’t want to.

I left work early, and got home about 45 minutes later. It wasn’t terrible, at least until I had a horrific thought and suddenly my chest tightened and I couldn’t breathe. This must be what a panic attack feels like. I opened the car window and gasped for air. Stop this, stop stop stop. It’s not real. I changed the radio station and Def Leppard soothed me back to reality. Because metal is good for anxiety, right?

My car goes in for eval tomorrow, and Todd told me they were going to give us a loaner – an Expedition – and he’s thinking it’s not necessary and I’m all like, have you lost your mind? They’re paying for it and IT’S GOING TO SNOW.