Not Always How It Looks

I’ve had a plethora of thoughts about my next post, one of which was planned last week on a topic that has long bothered me about the business I’ve grown up in. I didn’t get it written before the weekend, and damn if it didn’t happen again and it not only pissed me off that it happened again, but that if I wrote about it NOW, someone would assume it was because of THEM. So, I’m putting that post off for a few days while I process some other stuff. Yes, I’m cryptic sometimes. Deal with it.

I went to bed last night exhausted, but my brain wouldn’t shut off and I was turning over some thoughts about Life. Profound thoughts, some with sadness, some with gratitude, and some with just more questions. I fell asleep then and, as always happens, those great thoughts got sucked into the black hole of my dreams and it may take me a few days to conjure them up again. Am I being cryptic again? Okay – I’ll be direct – just this once.

Exhausted – because one of my BFFs came for two days and we didn’t get much sleep. Profound thoughts – because a friend from high school just lost his battle with cancer two days ago.

But before all of that, I was putzing around this closed group I joined under the probably somewhat misguided notion that we were all there because we were fans of a certain blog. Which is mostly true, but many of the posts mentioned troubled lives, inability to get out of bed and/or leave the house, insecurities, and so on. One girl posted how her life was so messed up while everyone else on Facebook is living the dream and have families and kids and great jobs… you know the story.

We all know the story. Who hasn’t been on Facebook and seen how great some people’s lives are? And maybe felt like, wow – I wish my life was like that/better.

Well, here’s a newsflash: NOBODY’s life is perfect. And I told her so. I also told her that social media is a place where one can be whoever they want the world to see. People do it every day.

A friend gushes on and on about how smart her kids are, how they made distinguished honors again, and what great athletes they are. Another calls her husband the best husband ever because he did something nice for her – maybe he brought flowers home, or made dinner and took care of the kids one night. Another travels all the time to wonderful places.

About seven years ago I reconnected with a friend who – in a nutshell – was living her dream. Great job, great husband, beautiful house, beautiful kids, lots of great friends. I felt a pang of jealousy, mingled with joy for her at having those things that she so deserved after years of struggle. It was another card stacked against the deck I was living in back then. I couldn’t ignore the feeling of, why can’t I have all of that too?

Appearances are deceiving. Some people gush to cover up their own shortcomings, insecurities, or fears that they don’t measure up to “the dream.” Some of those people will experience divorce, illness, job loss, money and stability, loss of a parent or loved one, or – heaven forbid – the loss of a child. The mother who gushes over her children? She has lived the last 18 years without her mother. The friend who has money and is always traveling? Lives a lonely single life and is struggling to find love.

I write a lot about my own life. People who know me personally, know who I really am. I write tough sometimes. Sometimes funny. Sometimes I write about my weaknesses. I try to be honest. I live in a nice home, drive a nice car, have beautiful kids, wonderful friends and neighbors, and the love of my life. Gushing?

No. I count my blessings. Because 7 years ago my life looked very VERY different… and I was the one wishing it could look more like hers, or his. And I am not so naïve to believe that anything can change in an instant. And that – my friends – is a truth I will share today. Inside myself lives a terrible fear of losing those who are most precious to me. I don’t focus on it, and I push it down, but it is the demon who occasionally whispers my darkest fears.

I have this God-awful anxiety that I cannot explain, that came to roost in the cobwebs of my sanity and steals my inner peace with wordless whispers. Not every minute of every day. But it’s there. My life is far from perfect. It may look like it is, to outsiders. I struggle with bills, I don’t work enough or earn enough of my own money. I have debt. A lot of it. It’s not Todd’s burden, but mine.

I don’t get enough quality time with my kids. I don’t get enough quality time with Todd. I wish I could travel more. I wish I had money saved for college. I wish I hadn’t given away 13 years of my life to abuse and unhappiness. I wish I didn’t still hear his critical voice in my head. I wish I didn’t have to work weekends. I wish my knees didn’t hurt, and that I could run again. I wish I was more this, and less of that. I wish, I wish, I wish.

And all any of that does, to repurpose a meme – is steal today’s joy. Which is my long-winded way of saying:

  1. The grass is NOT always greener on the other side and
  2. Don’t believe everything you hear/read.
  3. Don’t kick yourself for what you haven’t done. Do what you wish you could.
  4. Nobody’s life is “perfect.” The only world that’s perfect is heaven.
  5. Count the blessings you DO have. (In religion-speak, that means you praise God for what He has done for you. You reap what you sow.)

 

I’ll just leave this here…

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

~ Walden, Henry David Thoreau

Destination San Fran – The Anti-Climax

There was exactly one flight out before the storm – the next morning, Monday, at 6:30 a.m. – with enough seats for us. The rest of the flights – particularly Wednesday – were already booked.

So, our trip cut short – the shortest trip I’ve ever taken to California – we missed our tour of Alcatraz (already purchased tickets and paid for) and never rode the trolley, never got close to the Golden Gate Bridge. I really, really wanted to walk the GG, since the steel for the bridge came from my hometown in PA. Those 3 activities topped my list for our trip, and I missed all three of them to fly home again at the crack of dawn to beat an effin snowstorm that should’ve happened two months ago. PSA #1 : Never, ever, plan the best stuff for last.

The cab we ordered to pick us up at the hotel arrived quite timely – and we later learned he hijacked us from the cab that was ordered. Todd and I decided to grab some breakfast at the terminal – this place was the bomb with made-to-order omelets – though I was in no position to eat anything but a bagel and a coffee. PSA #2 : Never, ever, eat Mexican the night before a 6-hour flight.

Todd ordered a hot chocolate with NO whipped cream. When he picked it up at the end of the line, it had whipped cream on it. See what I’m talking about? And what’s worse – he ordered a cinnamon roll and the girl bagged him a cinnamon muffin, which everyone knows are two entirely different things. So, while it happened to him again, I have to add that I ordered a blueberry muffin for later, and I didn’t open it up until we were airborne somewhere over Colorado and it was definitely not a blueberry muffin. I still don’t know what it was, but I ate it anyway.

We couldn’t get a direct flight so we had to fly into LA and catch another plane, and when we arrived we learned there was another flight leaving for Baltimore RIGHT NOW with 3 seats left if we wanted it. We took it. And of course it was a pain in the ass finding seats, and absolutely no overhead storage left so we had to check our carry-ons. I sat between a sweet elderly lady from Connecticut, and the young guy on my right kindly helped me pick up my pile of shit I spilled on the floor, and kept himself busy with games on his iPad. All appearances were it was going to be a nice easy flight.

And then Todd came up and invited me to switch with the woman seated next to him who’d offered. So I found myself sandwiched between my husband and this guy on the window seat who wasn’t much bigger than me but you’d think he was an NFL linebacker by the way he commandeered both armrests and sat with his knees further apart than a hooker in Alphabet City. He encroached on my personal space for nearly 5 hours and I haven’t wanted to punch somebody that bad since – two days ago.

We arrived in Baltimore in the afternoon, and had to wait for our carry-ons to come to the baggage carousel, which is like waiting for the dog to poo on a winter walk. And then we were directed to the wrong carousel, watching the same poor bags circling (which is positively maddening), until Todd looked over his shoulder and just happened to spot my carry-on on the carousel behind us. PSA #3 : Always use carry-on, and if you can’t – buy a really colorful bag that stands out.

The drive home wasn’t horrendous, but since Ex was sick with the flu, I had to drive all the way to his house to pick up Veruca, praying to beat the snow. Which, for those unfamiliar, is roughly two hours from BWI. So, after 13 and a half hours of traveling, I finally had V in the car and we drove home in the first flurries of winter storm Stella.

 

Destination: San Francisco, Day 2… Hey!

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Photo copyright TKA and The Tara Chronicles

I was wide awake at 5:30 a.m., and Todd and Jonathan left early for the conference at 6:30. It was still dark out. I stayed in bed, thinking I’d go back to sleep, but instead started reading the hotel’s guidebooks.

Not expecting the boys back before lunch, I took to Google maps to see exactly where we were and what was around us, contemplating what I would do with myself to fill the morning. Sure, plenty of shopping. My God, could I shop! But, alas, appearances are deceiving and I don’t have money to spend like that.

My plan was to go to the coffee shop down the street for pastry or a bagel, some fruit and yogurt, and then walk over to Old Navy and buy a cheap pair of sunglasses (I left mine at home). Suddenly, I heard somebody yell, Hey!

Hey! I heard it again. Hey! It was loud, and it was coming from the street outside my window, which – by the way – is good for nothing except keeping the birds out. Hey!

Curiosity got the best of me and I slid out of bed and opened the curtain to see what was going on. Hey! Across the street was a man loitering about 10 feet from the corner, yelling Hey! at every car passing and at people on the street.

Hey! Then all of sudden his pants are down and, oh….he’s going to urinate. Perfect. Hey! He turns back toward the street and he’s still yelling hey! at cars going by. With his pants down. He’s holding his penis, which is fairly impressive if I can see it from the fourth floor, and he’s shaking it around and yelling hey!

I’m fairly open-minded, but it was just too damn early in the morning for this. Not to mention the fact that I really wanted some coffee and there was no way in hell I was going out there while the Schlonger was out there. I don’t know when he was gone because there’s only so much penis a person can take before breakfast and I’d gone back to my reading. Eventually I showered and dressed just moments before Todd texted he was on his way back.

The three of us ventured out for food and walked several blocks in search of some “diner” they had seen from the cab and were trying to recall exactly where it was. We stopped at Old Navy for sunglasses and noticed a line forming outside the store that wrapped around the building. Somebody from the Golden State Warriors was scheduled to appear and sign autographs. I always wonder at people who stand in lines three-hundred people strong just for an autograph.

The weather – absolutely beautiful – and architecture juxtaposed with scores of homeless we passed. The smell of weed, legal in here, floated on the air with nauseating frequency. We checked out a handful of places on our way, but any worthwhile ones had ridiculous lines (it was Sunday, after all). We finally found Mel’s Drive-In – which is I guess what they had in mind – and were seated right away.

Todd has this luck with places when we eat out where something always happens to him. And only to him. I pointed it out, casually explaining to Jonathan that he’s a magnet for this shit. Todd protested, but I swear to God it happened several times on this trip and he couldn’t deny it. Case in point: #1 – the lettuce/tomato/pickle incident at John’s Grill the day before.

#2. His iced tea glass at Mel’s appeared to have something on it. And then his omelet wasn’t fully cooked. Everyone else’s food was perfect.

We passed a store called Good Vibrations with a poster illustrating the evolution of vibrators for each decade since the 1970s. The catchphrase: Creating a Buzz Since 1977. This cracked me up. Jonathan said he’d give me $20 to buy one and try to get it through airport security. I told you he was a man of few, but calculated words.

We walked back past Old Navy, the line now stretching two city blocks. We considered taking the trolley, but the line was as long as the day before. I suggested we save it for tomorrow, since we could take it to Fisherman’s Wharf to catch our Alcatraz tour.

We decided to take a cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf anyway, and were surprised at the stark difference between environments – Union Square vs. Fisherman’s Wharf. No less people, but it felt much less humanly-chaotic. Opac called me while I was on the cable car, to update me on Veruca’s condition and to suggest that maybe he should skip school tomorrow since there’ll be a snow day on Tuesday anyway. I failed to see the logic in this and told him to forget it.

We walked around the waterfront and took pictures. My friend Dave, who lives out here, warned me to avoid touristy things, but it really wasn’t all that bad. I found a place called Hard Water, with a wall of whiskeys, bourbons, and single malts. Looked like a good place to stop to me, with only 4 people seated around a u-shaped bar; however, we pressed on.

Eventually we hopped a cable car back to Union Square, where Todd realized his cell phone had officially crapped out and lucky us – there was a T-Mobile store right there. So J and I sat down while Todd handled his phone situation, and Opac called me again. I was completely parched and dehydrated, so I stepped outside to see if there was anywhere nearby that might sell water. No dice. I called V to see how she was feeling – she only had a fever which left her very sleepy, but certainly NOT flu. Her dad did have the flu, and he actually joked that I know how he is when he’s sick (giant wuss on his deathbed) and I remarked he was lucky to have his wife, to which he simply said, ah, she just ignores me.

Anyway, we had plans for dinner with another colleague and his wife at 5 so we returned to the hotel to clean up. The boys took the elevator and made fun of me for taking the stairs. But I told you, I’m not dying on an elevator in San Francisco. Besides, I passed other people who chose to take the stairs, thus confirming my concerns.

We met them at their hotel and walked to Tropisueno, a Mexican restaurant with divine food and even better margaritas. The place was already bustling but the ambience lent intimacy and felt comfortable, not rushed. The conversation melted away from shop talk into personal stories and speculation about the impending snow storm on Tuesday.

Afterward, Jonathan and Rob grabbed some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and we continued walking. We passed the Disney Store and went in. There’s a lot of Beauty and the Beast stuff, which I love, though thank God I didn’t have money with me because I had just enough of a buzz to have bought stuff. There was a short lightsaber battle by the front door, and the cast member there showed me a secret Jedi handshake, which I’ve completely forgotten now. And that’s when our night abruptly ended, when J got the email that our Tuesday morning flight had been cancelled.

*Many of us are familiar with the slang, schlong, but have you heard of a schlort? Urban Dictionary defines schlong as a penis of fairly good length, so then it’s not difficult to guess what a schlort is.

Destination San Francisco: Dazed and Confused

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Photo copyright  TKA and The Tara Chronicles, 2017

Part 1, continued

So we get off the plane and head toward the exit where Visitor Information gives us a thousand instructions on taking BART into the city. Todd is the only one paying attention. She lost me after the third step of the directions. We opt for a cab, which they said would cost about $65. After six hours on a plane and no sleep, it was a no-brainer.

We crossed the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge, where I caught my first IRL sighting of the Golden Gate Bridge. Outside my window, people walking everywhere, pushing strollers, wearing St. Patrick’s Day attire, and I saw a woman digging through a trash can. I watched the cab’s meter ticking. We racked up $60 faster than a slot machine swallowing money, and by this time Todd was getting antsy. Because today was the St. Patrick’s Day parade and every other street was closed to traffic. He made the call to exit the cab at $85 and walk the rest of the way to the hotel.

The Hotel Bijou, billed as a boutique hotel, is themed after the cinema, and located on the corner of Mason and Eddy Streets. There was a homeless man sitting cross-legged against the hotel wall, the sole of one shoe all but gone, smoking what appeared to be a very fat spliff. I ambivalently followed Todd into the hotel lobby which, at half the size of our kitchen, disproportionately resembled the online pictures.

The 65-room hotel was built in 1911. The lobby walls were eggplant colored and two canary-yellow chairs faced the double doors. The counter resembled a retro movie theater counter, part of which had a glass display case with the standard movie snacks. There was an apprehension behind me that was palpable, before Jonathan seemed to hear my thoughts and said aloud, this should be fine. Todd, ever chatty, told the clerk he liked the theme of the hotel. She informed him that they were renovating and soon the cinema theme would be gone, which explained the discrepancy of the pictures and the large black curtain ominously covering one wall of the lobby. She explained that beyond the curtain was a space large enough to cater to 150 people, and that the renovations were intended to open up that space as a restaurant/event space.

One of the maids appeared with a steam machine, with which she began to clean the art deco carpet not more than 8 feet away while we were still checking in. I glanced at Todd, waiting for a reaction. I looked over my shoulder at her for a millisecond, and watched the clerk for a reaction. None from anyone.

After we were all checked in, she instructed us to make sure we pushed the elevator button hard. I’ve never been afraid of elevators, having attended NYU where nearly every class I had involved riding an elevator. I pushed the 4th floor button hard and….. nothing. I pushed it again. And again. This elevator made me nervous. Jonathan stood silently still. He’s a man of few, but calculated words. Todd reached over and pressed it and suddenly the doors closed and we rumbled upward. All I could think was, I didn’t fly OPEN SEATING for SIX hours on a plane with a screaming child to San Francisco just to die in an elevator.

Each room door has a plaque emblazoned with a movie title. Ours was After the Thin Man, a movie I’ve never even heard of, and J got 48 hours. The bare-bones room contained art deco-ish furniture well past its prime, a forest-green carpet, and yellow walls. I threw myself back on the bed and stared at the ceiling, while Todd pulled out his laptop and connected to the wifi. I snapped a couple of selfies never to be posted on social media. No matter what I do, I can never find a good angle that doesn’t look like Quasimodo.

After freshening up, we ventured out in search of food…by this time it was about 3 p.m. which to our sensibilities was really 6 p.m. and, after eating only breakfast, was a long overdue dinner-time. The man outside the hotel was gone, but there were several others in the vicinity talking to themselves or shouting at each other. Where were we?

We stumbled on John’s Grill, a lovely, albeit small little establishment “since 1908” with dark wood-paneled walls covered with black and white photos of famous people. It was the setting for the Maltese Falcon, and apparently a landmark self-described as having excellent service.

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Photo copyright  TKA and The Tara Chronicles, 2017

Jonathan had the salmon, which was the best he’s ever had. I opted for comfort food with the Ravioli Primavera in a creamy tomato sauce. Todd ordered a New York Steak sandwich, served open-faced with seasoned fries. One side held the steak, the other side lettuce, tomato, and pickle. Todd apologized and asked the waiter for another half without tomato (he’s allergic). Sure! Said the waiter, and never came back. I don’t know what you consider “excellent service,” but a waiter with no more than four tables who can’t remember who ordered what (including drinks) and forgets to check back at the table, like ever, wouldn’t last a day in my restaurant.

When he finally did return, he pulled a classic pass-the-buck by asking, they never brought that out to you? And then redeemed himself by bringing us flan with fresh berries on the house, which is not only my most favorite dessert ever, but was killer. The boys were kind enough to be stuffed and only ate a few bites, leaving the rest to me. Opac called while we were there, informing me that Veruca and her dad had come home from softball practice with the flu.

As we were finishing up, I overheard a homeless man enter the restaurant begging for just a cup of coffee, and the hostess quietly shooed him outside. Summary review: The food was every bit as good as the exiting patrons promised when we arrived. Definitely check it out.

We walked around afterward in balmy temperatures reaching a breezy 70 degrees, encountering a homeless man in a wheelchair having a lengthy conversation with the air, and eventually made our way to Market Street. We passed the cable car turnaround, with a line of maybe 80 people. Major stores, street performers, and such a cultural diversity it was almost as if we weren’t in Kansas anymore.

An organized but small rally of black Americans was standing near The Gap corner, yelling about the black man and the white man and I-don’t-know-what-else, but it immediately threw me back to my first excursion out as an NYU student when I encountered a similar message delivered slightly less emphatically by men dressed in white robes. Something about it made me feel more uncomfortable this time.

A group of college kids ran by us wearing banana headdresses. There was a 3-piece scrappy-looking band playing really good music, and folks were stopping to listen, video, and dance. The earlier police presence during the parade had all but vanished.

The boys were on a quest for coffee that wasn’t Starbucks, and we ended up at a corner coffee shop about a block from our hotel. We sat in front of the huge glass window. I drank water while they talked shop, listening with half an ear and watching people outside, trying to process the day and not to make eye contact with anyone. Which is hard to do when you’re sitting in a huge window like an animal in the zoo.

The conversation turned to the impending winter storm hitting the east coast that threatened to derail our plans to return Tuesday. I’d faded into the background as one would in a dream sequence, hearing and seeing everything but feeling very much apart from it. And, just as suddenly, my heart was pounding and I was feeling a crushing anxiety. Todd, so attuned to me, turned and asked if I was alright. No, I said.

I knew it was just fatigue, and said so. I’d had just 3 hours of sleep and none on the plane, and everything compounded my sensitivities until I felt like my chest would explode. We walked back to the hotel, crossing the street behind a group of young men being chased by a woman screaming give me back my money! over and over. I turned quickly toward the hotel and missed one of them punching her until she fell over in the street.

Once inside the room I felt the hot tears pushing through the ducts like a birthing baby. Everything just fell to pieces. I pulled myself together and changed into pjs, laid on the bed while Todd skyped with J and Matt back home on the presentation. I posted on FB lamenting on the overwhelming homeless situation here, and promptly passed out – at roughly 6:30 p.m. Pacific.

Destination: San Francisco, Part 1

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Three hours into a six-hour flight on Southwest Airlines. Had no idea about “open seating.” WTF is up with open seating? Whose idea was this? We were literally among the last five to board, so Todd and I were separated, but luckily were across the aisle from each other in the middle seats. AKA, the seats nobody wants. But I got to sit with someone he knows from the college, so it made it a little better.

I just got up from a bathroom break. Jonathan is in the last row by the window and he’s holding the bag of soft pretzels, so I grabbed it on my way back to my seat. They were yummy. A bit salty, but buttery good. Todd is drawing on his iPad. “Fritos in the sky.” I love his whimsical stuff right now. It’s fun. And weird. Like me.

There’s a very small child two rows ahead of us who’s been serenading us with variations of screams and exclamations. I was almost asleep during a lull and then Blam! I opened my eyes and made eye contact with the woman in front of me, who was standing in the aisle. We gave each other that look of OH MY GOD. Three more hours of this.

There are several people on board from the college who are also attending the conference, so it kinda feels like a class trip. Except this is more subdued, and there’s alcohol. It’s going to be fun. We were already socializing in the airport waiting to board. We’re invited to the president’s dinner on Monday night, which should be great fun given who’s along for the ride.

Confession: this is my first plane ride in 19 years. First trip back to California in 22. How did so much time get away from me?? So, in reality, flying hasn’t changed all that much, but some things are definitely different.

Last night we went to the bowling alley. I wasn’t going to drink because we had to get up at 4:30 this morning, but then Connie showed up and asked for a recommendation, and like a good friend I told her to have a Long Island Iced Tea. We hung out at the bar watching these 5 old guys flirting with the girls on the opposite side of the bar; it cracked me up so I took a pic. One of them offered us shots too, but that was a road I wasn’t going down last night. I had 3 Coronas, and that was enough. I was up until 1 packing and organizing. I think I managed 3 hours and maybe 50 minutes of sleep.

1:06 p.m. (EST) Tried reading my Nat Geo article about Vikings. Sleepy. Think I dozed off for a few, but baby starting screeching again. Ugh. I’m getting stabby.

2:30 p.m. We had a reprieve for about a half hour, but she’s back. Practicing for a very bad opera, or a heavy metal band. Doesn’t matter to my ears at this point. They are bleeding. My nerves are completely shot. The captain has informed us that we’re about 40 minutes out yet. Sweet Jesus! I can’t wait to get off this rocket.

Oh hooray! It’s going to get bumpy and we’re starting to clean up. If there was any way to clear it with the FDA and the AAP, I would seriously lobby for mandatory Valium dosing of children under 5 on flights longer than 2 hours. Apparently these parents haven’t heard of Benadryl. Seriously. All mommy did was “ssshhh” every time she screamed and by the fourth hour I was ready to throw my cell phone at them both.

I’ve recently been heavily reminiscing about Opac’s baby days. But I’ve never been more glad than I am today that my kids are way older than this now. Holy shit. Nobody wants to be the most hated people on the plane.

Time to put the tray tables back in the upright position…

Random Thoughts – March 10th

It snowed this morning. First snowfall that actually laid, this year. It was 41 degrees and misty at 7 a.m., and twenty-five minutes later it was 37 degrees as I drove Veruca to school and chunks of wet snow started falling. There were 200 black birds in the tree next to the driveway, all shouting at each other in an agitated way, like a crowd queued outside the mall on Black Friday.

Todd has been on the phone for the last 2 ½ hours, shouting at some poor soul 8,000 miles away who isn’t very good at customer service. It seems somebody screwed up our account update and we can’t listen to Sirius XM on the Mac anymore. This was an accidental discovery occurring like a series of dominoes falling, after I tried to log on to continue listening to Howard interviewing Ed Sheeran when I got home from errands yesterday.

By the way, Ed’s girlfriend is an old classmate of his. Which is really cool. I love stories like that. He seems pretty secure and I enjoy the self-deprecating commentary. Makes him seem more accessible and down to earth.

While we’re talking romance, a friend who is a very big, extremely huge, incredibly lucky fan of Pat Monahan and Train, recently became engaged while on the cruise that Pat was singing on. He sang Marry Me and then broke from lyrics to introduce his friend – her fiancé – who had a very important question for her. Un-effing believable. And she SO did not know this was coming, and she got the proposal of a lifetime in front of a hundred people. I saw the video, which I’ve now watched exactly four times, and cried right along with her every. single. time. And I’m gonna do it again.

Veruca went to her first school dance yesterday. A boy asked her to go, and she turned him down. She was excited to go with her bestie, and didn’t want to be pinned down to some boy she doesn’t even like. That’s my girl! Of course, I felt a little pang at the thought of this poor kid who got up enough guts to ask and then to get turned down. L

Opac changed deodorants and now he’s fumigating us with Old Spice… Swagger. Which is really funny, because he comes into the kitchen the first morning and asked me how I like the smell of swagger. Actually, it’s quite nice. I’m a sucker for nice smelling men’s products, I will admit.

Speaking of scents, my mother-in-law asked me a while back if I like candles. Sure I like candles. She wanted to give me one she got somewhere that she didn’t care for. I asked her what it smelled like, and she said – I don’t know, what does Celebration smell like?

The things parents say. They’re getting sillier as they age. My dad was telling me a story about dining out with friends when he was suddenly hit with a wave of nausea and had to exit the table quickly. The details are unimportant. What matters is that he was trying to explain what he did with his napkin, which he called a … are you ready for this? … a lap towel.

I hate cat diarrhea. Yeah, I’ll just throw that in, right here. It wasn’t the best segue. And neither is this…

I’ve been going to McDonald’s too much. That’s what Todd told me, when I mentioned some recent observations. First, the cashier in the drive-thru had a giant hickey on her neck. On the drive-thru window side. You’d think she’d plan better and have him aim for the side furthest from the window. Then, I noticed the regular lady that hands you the food bags was sporting a very raw looking open wound on her face. I wondered who decided not to suggest a bandaid. Which we all know looks ridiculous, but what would you rather look at when you’re picking up your Large #7?

At this time tomorrow, I’ll be on the West Coast for the first time in 22 years. There will many tales I expect to gather on this excursion, if by no other means than pure observation of humans doing their thing. I can’t wait.

Call Me Honey

I don’t know how it happened. Somewhere along the way after I moved south, I became Honey. Everywhere I go, somebody calls me honey. Every time I’d enter the elementary school, which was often thanks to a T1 kid, the girls behind the desk would call me honey. Hi honey. What can I do for you, honey? Bye hon.

At first I was a bit offended, if only because – though I may not always look my age – I am at least as old as they are. After the third or fourth time, I realized it wasn’t that big a deal and felt familiar in a way I could appreciate. Like becoming part of a tribe.

But the tribe spread to other places. The doctor’s office. The pharmacy. The liquor store. (Not that I go there that often to be recognized as a regular or anything.) And then – the Asian-owned nail salon – hi honey, when I walk in the door. Honey, pick your color. Even the men who work there call me honey. Which, under any other circumstances, might be considered weird and/or offensive in our currently heated feminist world.

No biggie. I find it amusing. They don’t even know my name, I’m SURE of it. But I thought it was kinda nice and familiar, welcoming. Until I realized that everyone is Honey and, well, I kinda felt a little less special. Which might indict any of the above people for laziness since by calling everyone honey, they never have to remember any names. Brilliant!

Even Todd calls me Honey. Shocking, I know. But I’ve never been a big fan of such an old-fashioned endearment between married folks. Not wanting to crush his affectionate gestures, I just let it flow. And now, much to my dismay, I find myself calling him Honey.

And what’s worse? I caught myself calling my co-workers Honey and thought, Good God how did this happen to Me?? But we are a tribe at the restaurant. A motley mismatched tribe, but a tribe, nonetheless.

There’s something in that old-fashioned endearment. I shied away from it because it felt unnatural to use it. Perhaps I didn’t consider myself old enough to use it without it sounding false and condescending. I don’t consider myself old, like the original Honey who graced my life for only a short time.

The summer of 1989, I took a job as an ancillary aide at a nursing home. Among the many colorful characters who graced those halls (which could comprise a whole other post), was a woman in her 80s we called Honey. We all called her Honey, because it’s what she called all of us. Constantly. I didn’t know then that she was in the early stages of dementia, though it should’ve been obvious after she told me one afternoon that she was a having a baby. Honey was having a baby!

So, now I’m in my late 40s, thinking about how I was Tara, and somebody’s babe, baby girl (I’d kill to hear that again), Miss Tara, and then Mommy, which evolved to Mom, to Todd’s Honey, and now to the public at large – just, Honey. No one calls me Mrs. anything. Most likely because hardly anyone can pronounce it correctly anyway. There are also a handful of nicknames that I won’t mention here. Even Veruca calls me Honey, which is incredibly annoying and sort of unintentionally condescending.

I briefly considered renaming the blog The Honey Chronicles. But that seems to imply a different genre of blogging, and would leave a trail of disappointed visitors in its wake. Nothing wrong with that genre, but it’s not where this Honey’s blog is going.

Where I’ve Been – February/March 2017

I have a confession to make. I’ve been on the lam. Avoiding writing, reading, and general responsibility. Although the latter seems to catch up with me every time.

In the last two weeks or so, I’ve been to CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) four times, gave Todd a homemade Valentine’s gift, attended Baltimore County’s wrestling tournament (aka, “counties”), submitted 3 resumes, had one job interview, got an x-ray, took care of one sick child for 5 days, upgraded our cable service, got in a heated telephone discussion with the electric company, adopted a kitten, worked 2 very busy Saturday nights, and got my every-two-years eye exam. Oh – and I managed to kill another plant.

There. That’s it. If you’re pressed for time, you can stop reading now. If you want details that will deliver more than April the giraffe, read on.

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The Details.

#1. Veruca had her quarterly endo check-in, and all is well and her A1c is still 6.1, which – translated – means her average blood sugar is around 146. That was CHOP visit number one. Number three was a sick visit to primary care for a sore throat and 3 days of fever. Yes – she was my sick kid for 5 days, and home for every single one of them. No strep, however. She has made a full recovery.

#2. CHOP visits two and four have nothing to do with V, and are actually job-related, and that’s all I’m saying about that right now.

#3. You don’t really want to know about Todd’s homemade Valentine’s gift, do you? Details, stolen from Pinterest: take a glass jar with a lid and fill with little notes, three-different colors– which I made heart-shaped, because I was trying to be a little craftier than throwing scraps of paper in a jar and calling it romance. White for a song lyric, pink for a memory, and red for what-I-love-about-you. Original idea called for one for each day of the coming year – which – do the math – is THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY FIVE.  Since I was pressed for time and didn’t have six months to produce all these “things,” I stopped at 100. And, by some miracle, when I did the math for that – February 14th is exactly 100 days from our legal anniversary. What luck!

#4. Counties. Nephtoo was wrestling his final tournaments of his high school career. I was very proud to be there, in spite of a hot gymnasium filled wall to concrete wall with sweaty boys and their cheering families… for seven hours. Including one guy who briefly sat next to SIL, screaming his bloody head off at his son on the mat, waving his arms around and any one of us risking becoming collateral damage by sheer default of being too close. Meanwhile, Todd made friends with a dad from another school who never stopped talking for a minute, which was shocking that someone had literally shut down my ever-talkative husband.

#5. Side note: Neph was there too, against his better judgement because I’m convinced all of his symptoms screamed !!!FLU!!!. But he went to support his brother, which I thought was wonderful and sweet. By phone from across the gym, he told me he’d stay away, but I made him walk over anyway. He was supposed to visit us two days later, but obviously that didn’t happen.

#6. I got an x-ray of my left knee, where I have been experiencing recurring sharp pain when I run. I gave up road-running and took on the treadmill, and the pain disappeared. Until now. It’s been several weeks, and I’m feeling that sharp pain even when I’m walking on it though it’s not constant – more like chronic. If that makes any sense. The NP I saw said I have degenerative joint disease/mild arthritis in the left knee and said she’d call in a r/x for Celebrex. Well, guess what? That’s not good enough. I’m seeing our orthopedist.

#7. Biggest news – our new addition. Veruca and I have been going around and around this discussion about adopting a cat, and the final decision hinged on my readiness and a little negotiation with Todd that wasn’t meant to be taken seriously but here we are. We saw one for adoption at the pet store where we buy our dog food. Her name was Raven and she was solid black, with a small tuft of white on her chest. I finally put in an application and waited. The day to bring her home finally came 10 days ago. I went to pick her up and the ladies in the store weren’t expecting me (someone didn’t tell them I was coming) and so had to go looking through the file for her papers. They pulled out a sheet and , as I’m reading over it, I tell them this isn’t hers because this is for a male cat. A male cat that fit her description, but male all the same. They said she IS a male. I said, what? Now they’re confused, and so they pulled her out to check, and lo and ballsacks… it’s a boy! The card on the outside of her cage actually never did mention her gender, but I just assumed by the name that he was a she. Nevertheless, after a long period of laughter – from me, whereby the ladies were beginning to wonder if it was alright – HE came home with me.

More to come.

Life After Midnight

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Home from work at 1:36 a.m. and enjoying a little leftover Ferrari-Carano Siena Red, which is delicious by the way, while the kitty snores behind me and everyone else sleeps. It sucks working Saturday nights, if only because I come home and Todd is sound asleep at 1 a.m. because he rises so early.

Veruca is with her dad this weekend, as she is most weekends, since we changed our custody agreement. Meanwhile, Opac chooses whether he stays home on “my weekends” or goes to his dad’s. This weekend he’s home. Because he has a football day planned with his pack tomorrow.

Anyway, I checked in on him when I got home, and woke him up by accident. Oh well. Todd barely moved when I entered our bedroom, so I figured I’d sit out in my space and have some wine and write nonsense. We’re having breakfast with mom-and-dad-Todd, at what amounts to the crack of dawn after a work night for me but not for the rest of the world, tomorrow morning.

The pets are SO excited when I get home from work, they follow me into the darkened bedroom where Todd slumbers and where I try to peacefully unzip my boots, and I wonder if anyone remembered to feed them tonight while I was gone. Which is anybody’s guess, since Todd is really good about that and yet the pets will lend me the impression that Oh My God no one has fed us since you left 16 hours ago! And then of course I have to hand out the treats and fill up their bowls and they gratefully accept it all like they have been waiting forever.

The remnants of tonight’s dinner appear to be a crockpot full of vegetarian chili (Todd’s), and two cold slices of pepperoni pizza. By the way, cold pepperoni pizza goes well with the aforementioned wine.

I’m not tired yet. I should be, but I’m not tired. It’s customary to have A drink after work – years ago we’d all sit around the bar after closing and drink together. Those days are long past. I can’t drink because I have an hour’s drive home. I fixed the last-girl-standing a martini, and Stevie B got a Long Island Iced Tea that was too wicked even for him. I might’ve been offended, but I accidentally poured tequila in my friend’s martini (she wanted vodka) and so… I thought, hey! Let’s make Stevie B a LIIT. Still, it had just enough too much tequila to burn the hair off his chest, if he had any. Not that I’d know if he has hair on his chest, just sayin’.

Anyway, I drove myself home in the Mustang – which is always a joy late at night because it’s stick and there’s no one on the highway that late so I can really fly – and it helps keep me awake. I look forward to having a drink when I get home, which would be a lot more fun if someone else was awake with me (well, except for Opac, which would be completely inappropriate). And before someone says it’s bad to drink alone, I say it’s actually better, since no one is there to tell you you’ve had enough, or witness the tomfoolery that follows half a bottle of wine… except two cats and a dog you’re talking to. Which, technically, means I’m not drinking alone. Or alone drinking. And they listen really well, always agree with me, and never argue about politics. Best drinking companions, ever.

 

 

 

Melancholy

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I went to Walmart yesterday with Opac. He was adamant about stocking up on his favorite hair glue, so much so that he was spazzing out because I didn’t want to go since my brother was over and Veruca is overdue for a haircut and I wanted to kill two birds with one stone (hairdresser is in the same shopping center). And Veruca wanted to stay home with her frizzled hair with Uncle Matt and play video games.

Side note: this is an interesting stage – this age 11-going-on-12 stage. She’s obsessed with the clothes she’s wearing, and little else. She ransacks her room for clothes every morning, and right now every drawer is open on her dresser, and clothes are spilling out of them onto the floor. The ones that have escaped the dresser are covering the floor like measles on a sick kid. She obsesses over the leggings and t-shirts/sweatshirts she wears every single day – nevermind all the nice stuff I got her from Justice – but never remembers to brush her teeth. And her hair? Her hair makes me nuts. It’s tough keeping quiet, yet I know there are bigger problems worth arguing over, like the snacking without bolusing that continues like a blister on my heel. And I do know, thank you very much, that this will all shift in some blindsided way and suddenly the raging hormones will render her certifiably irrational.

Meanwhile, back to Opac. It’s always nice when we get one-on-one time, even if it’s simple like going out to eat or a trip to the store. He will always say he’s glad when it’s just the two of us. We shopped together. It was nice. He shares things with me. Although initially I was reluctant to go, I later realized it was something he needed. An old friend of his from middle school, whom he hadn’t seen in over 2 years, was killed in a car accident yesterday morning. The news spread through the high school like fire; he told me there were people crying everywhere. One of his good friends, was this kid’s best friend. He said it was weird. He feels weird, not sure how to feel at all. We talked about it. About my own experiences with this – how it’s difficult to understand why something like this happens, and what I believe is at work spiritually, behind it. He swiped at his eyes once or twice.

I’ve fallen into that delicate place, the “life is a tragedy for those who feel” part of Shakespeare’s prolific words, and I was already feeling emotional, as I always do, on my Nana’s birthday. I can’t explain what I feel, though I often speak of her with love and honor. My kids know who she is, even if they don’t remember anymore. I’d give almost anything to talk to her today. If even just one more time.

The news of this young kid dying struck me senseless, left me weeping in the car this morning after I dropped V off at school, as I literally felt the physical pain those parents are feeling. It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. For a moment I felt the inside of their hearts, and I felt sick. I don’t know how one goes on living after such a loss. I don’t know that I could. I call myself strong, I think many people see me that way, but on the inside is a weakness, a compassion or emotion for tragedy that I must consciously block out sometimes, for nothing less than mental survival. Please Father, don’t take my children. I will die.

I was also reminded of another friend of his, when he mentioned that even “John” had tears in his eyes, because about a year ago “John’s” mother died a horrific and tragic death that left me crying for days. She suffered from some form of mental illness, and believed to not be getting the proper care and support she needed. She told John one night where all the important documents were kept in the house, and told him to go upstairs to bed and not to come back down, no matter what. What followed is a police account of what happened. They were called to the darkened home with reports of an intruder, only to break in and find her seated in a chair in the dark holding what appeared to be a gun. She ignored repeated requests to put down the weapon, and when she raised it, they fired on her, killing her. The sorrow I felt for John was overwhelming. How does a 15-year-old boy recover from that?

The sadness was overwhelming, not because I knew them, but because his was a familiar face and I just wanted to reach out to him. And because I remember seeing him and his mother in the grocery store, weeks before, and I attempted to smile at her to be friendly but she never once looked at me. And in retrospect, I can’t help but wonder if she had – would it have made a difference in her day? In the future?

Of course I’m not that powerful. But the takeaway is, it’s always better to offer a friendly smile to anyone – because we’re all fighting battles that are sometimes less obvious than a grumpy face. If you can turn one person’s day around with a simple gesture, would you do it?

Meanwhile, my other grandmother, a life-long smoker and drinker, is approaching her 92nd birthday. She has type 2 diabetes, and now takes insulin to manage her blood sugar levels. She told my mom the other day, she doesn’t know why she’s still here. She has body failings, that upset her and add to her overall depression. My mom reminded me that the body as it ages is only going in one direction… that improvements, while small, will ultimately only hold up until they don’t. The body, at 92, is slowly deteriorating, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it. That revelation made me sad too. What must it feel like to be where she is? Will I approach it with today’s half of Shakespeare’s quote, as my mommom does, or will I approach it with Tara’s usual MO – the other half that says, that “life is a comedy for those who think”??