Friday, December 10, 2010

i'm sorry folks

I just don't have it in me right now.  I want to write but I am lacking the motivation to find the time.  And that's easy to do with the long list of to-do's before the holidays.

I'm not in the holiday spirit.  I don't want to do much of anything.  I certainly don't want to write a bunch of down-in-the-dumps depressing garbage.

So for now, I'm taking a break.  I hope you all will come back when I surface.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

experiences that make you feel older

I constantly profess how young I feel compared to my chronological age.  For years I was twenty-six.  It didn't matter what the calendar said, I was still twenty-six.  Within the past year or so, I've bumped my age up to twenty-eight.  Not quite sure why, but it feels right. 

Before today, I could not speak to the reasons that made me feel older or younger.  Today, however, today I did one thing which has caused me to feel older.

My Uncle passed away at a very awkward moment - it was literally less than 48 hours before I was to get on a plane with my three kids and head to Disney World for an extended Thanksgiving vacation.  My husband had separate travel arrangements and was meeting us there having been out of town all week on business.  My sister and brother-in-law and their three kids also were flying in for the holiday.  Being a practical person, I had no idea what his death would mean to the immediate plans.

My Uncle's wife, Karen, knew of our planned combined vacation.  She knew that sisters living 3,000 miles apart having the opportunity to spend a holiday together, with our families, cousins playing with cousins, was something that didn't happen often.  Karen, the beautiful, giving woman that she is, recognized the importance.  She knew that with the death of our Uncle, we'd need each other more than ever.   Being cremated and with no particular religious requirements, there was no rush for services.  Karen, as usual, gave of herself and gave my sister and me the precious gift of time.  Time for sisters to be together, to share in our grief.  Time for our families to enjoy what we could of our long-planned vacation.  And so we carried on with our plan.  We went on vacation. 

Now vacation is over and it's time to do what must be done.  Being the so-called "writer" in the family, I offered to Karen, no, I suggested, that I help write my Uncle's obituary.  There was a basic one put in the local paper back East, but I wanted more.  I wanted more of Uncle Mike in it because he was so much more to me.  I have never thought about having to write an obituary.  I don't recall my mother's obituary at all.  But today I wrote an obituary.  Today I feel older.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Tell Me More

My blog has been neglected.  I've been busy and my mind is too muddled right now.  But, in the spirit of getting back to normalcy, Kristen provided a fun little mindless exercise. 

Where do you live: Just outside of San Francisco - a nice little suburb that has a distinct country feel.
Favorite art: Monet, Van Gogh, Ansel Adams
Pets: Two cats, Tucker and Jade
Favorite neighborhood restaurant: Gaudalajara Grill - can't get enough Mexican food
Favorite cocktail: Belvedere Cosmopolitans, GOOD tequila, Bud Light
Who inspires you: My boss
Necessary extravagance: Bi-weekly cleaning service
Favorite place in the world: Lake Tahoe in the winter

Designer: None, sad but true.
Jeans: Old Navy Sweethearts or Jag
Underwear: Victoria's Secret
Sneakers: Brooks for running, otherwise my Vans
Watch: My soon-to-be-fixed Seiko, til then my phone
T-shirt: Anything reminding me of a place I've visited (I like to "collect" t-shirts as momentos).
Day bag: An old Kate Spade
Evening bag: A couple different ones, always black
Favorite city to shop: I hate shopping so I mostly do it online or at a mall.

Lipstick: None.
Mascara: Sephora, black (if I wear any)
Shampoo: Redken All Soft, or Finese, or whatever
Moisturizer: Something Nutrageena
Perfume: Never, not ever
Toothpaste: Colgate
Soap: Dial
Nail-polish color: Opal Pink Champagne for my finger.  Anything bright red for my toes.  But I haven't polished either in years.
Who cuts your hair: Jeanne
Who colors your hair: No one, never.

What would you say?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

death in the end

Maybe I have a sixth sense.  Maybe cosmic forces were at work.  Likely it was simply coincidence.  It was on my mind and I finally felt I had the strength to write about it.  About an hour after I posted this, I got the call.  Unc had arrested.   He is gone.  It appears he was on the six month plan.  Damn me for hoping.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

death in the middle

Back in May I got a horrible telephone call.  The kind that makes you feel like you've just been socked in the gut.  My Uncle was diagnosed with a mass, a mass so large it had collapsed his lung.  He couldn't breathe.  He was on oxygen.

I am a pragmatist and a pessimist.   Not only am I practical, but I also have this awesome mother ability to imagine every worst-case-possible scenario.  Ask my kids or, better yet, my husband (it is a frequent source of conflict).  I can't help it.  My mind immediately goes to those dark places.  To counterbalance that darkness, I have a bit of superstition:  I tell myself, if I imagine it, then it won't actually happen.   The unfortunate flip side to this is that I can never imagine myself succeeding, be a "winner" if you will, because remember, if I imagine it, it won't happen. 

The pragmatist in me makes it difficult in this situation to imagine the best possible outcome.  I am not hopeful and I have no faith.  Sure, there are miracles....maybe?   However, all my experience around anything medical has taught me that whatever crazy can go wrong usually will. 

Unc was down at my house this weekend.  He jokes about how he still doesn't know if he's on the six month or two-year plan, but he looks like he's failing and failing fast.  No one really knows how much time they have, but for him it doesn't look good.  My husband tries to console me telling me that he'll bounce back after the chemo.  I'm doubtful.  And to see someone who used to be all things "alive" looking so frail and sick, kills me.

My sister and I were talking about it last night.  I've been thinking how surreal this experience is for me and her comment was that watching my uncle's decline is a weird thing.  I agree.  Where is his mind?  Where are you when the circumstances dictate that the likelihood of living is slim to none, but yet you are not dead?  

Death is not new to me; I've experienced it before.  But the death of my mom was different.  She was sick for most of my life.  It was a roller coaster of ups and downs.   Just when you thought it was over, she'd recover.  A big difference is that she didn't have a time line.  Her diagnosis didn't lead to Google pages indicating single digit survival rates.  Even with the roller coaster, my mom's death, at the time, was unexpected and a shock.  

I got a text from my sister today.  Unc is in the hospital.  It might be some good news, or it might be more of the same.  Either way, it doesn't change much.  There is a finite period of time left, and the amount is unknown.  As my sister said to me, "at least I have the fortune of being close by and I am able to spend as much time with him as possible".  Indeed I am lucky and I will choose to keep this thought front and center.  I will choose to look past the bleakness and think of what still remains.  I will be optimistic and hopeful that Unc and hubby can make eggplant parmesan (and destroy my kitchen) a few more times. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Lessons learned from reality TV

Parenting a teen has been challenging lately.  It's all new.  There's no manual.  I am frustrated and sad.  I'm so far gone that I'm now learning parenting tips from reality TV.

If anyone ever said I'd learn something from reality TV, I'd laugh.  Are you kidding me?!  No way.  I am proud to say that I've never watched reality TV.  Crime-scene dramas peppered with a little paranormal activity are more my style.  As luck would have it though, I stumbled upon a winner:  World's Strictest Parents. 

Don't laugh.  I am inspired.  Taking rebellious teens and molding them into decent members of society, what's not to admire?  It gives me hope.  Oh, and that is so important right now.  After my marathon viewing this weekend I couldn't help but notice some common threads -  pieces of parenting that seem like the right thing to do.  I started paying attention.  I might have even taken some notes.

It's all about trust and it needs to go both ways.  And one thing is clear as the parent, until you can trust the child, nothing's off the table.

Manual labor helps.  For real.  Most of the "strict" parents I saw in my sampling of episodes lived on farms.  They had plenty of work to occupy the teens, and the parents made sure it got done.  There was an episode with the "strict" family living in the burbs but they ran a pizza business, so there again, manual labor was a positive influence.

There were some pretty good one-liners.  How about, "if you're going to expect, then you have to inspect."  This reinforces something we all know - it's all about follow-through.   Another favorite saying, "you can make your choice, but you cannot choose the consequence."  Set the rules, set the expectations, set the consequences, and then follow through.  It seems so simple.  Why is it so hard?

Another important take-away:  it wasn't all manual labor and rule-following.  These "strict" parents were lush with constant attention.  They set expectations for both good and bad behavior - they let the kids know how they could be successful.   They made sure they had fun times and showed the teens that life is both working hard and playing too.   It wasn't painted as a "reward", either.  It was positive reinforcement for getting the  work done.  There was no carrot to entice a job well done.  That was the expectation.  And, the emphasis was when you do a job well, you feel good about yourself, not....get a candy, or a trophy, or a dollar bill. 

In every episode I've seen, the "strict" parents are compassionate and fair.  They've earned some respect from me.  I'm not completely bonkers.  I know there must be some Hollywood coloring.  But I look at the similarities between the "strict" parents and I don't think these things are coincidences.  Now, if I could only keep my voice as calm, my tone with confidence, react with less emotion, maybe, just maybe....I'd have a chance?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

top ten realizations from NYC

  1. It doesn't matter what you wear as long as the majority of it is black.  And, it's nice to know that men still wear suits.
  2. Public transportation - and so much of it - totally rocks.  You do, however, still feel like a rat in a maze even with all the abundant signage.  
  3. There is a Dunkin' Donuts on every corner except any corner on my walk to Penn Station.  I've been told there's one right in the station but I have yet to find it (see reference to maze above).
  4. You do a lot of walking when using public transportation and that's good for my butt.
  5. Reverse commute, moving against the tide of traffic, on foot is not nearly as enjoyable as when you're driving a car.
  6. People honk their horns all the time, just because they can, and I love it.  It makes me feel like maybe I'm not so crazy even if I'm the only one doing it in suburbia CA.
  7. It can be warm while rainy (unlike in Northern California).
  8. Humidity makes for a bad hair day (see above).
  9. The economy seems to be doing fine, at least in Manhattan, as judged by the hour-long waits to get a table at a restaurant.
  10. It's hard to read a menu in said restaurants' dim lighting making me realize that I need to go to the eye doctor and get a new prescription.  I literally cannot read the menus.
*Photo from Flickr, under the Creative Commons license, by Joe Schlabotnik.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's the little things

So this past week was a challenging one.  Nothing major, but at the same time, all those little things piled right up to make it one heck of a week.

For starters, at the end of last weekend my dryer broke.  Um, let's see - a familiy with five people (four of whom are "adult" sized) makes for a considerable sum of laundry.  Truly inconvenient and such a drag.  I had no time to deal with it during the week (see paragraph below) so I headed into this weekend not knowing where I'd land.  The not knowing caused a certain amount of angst, but I'm happy to report that $180.00 later, the laundry is back in action.

It must have been appliance crap-out week because my rice cooker broke, too.  Maybe that doesn't seem to be altogether such a big deal, but one of my kids has to eat gluten free, which means rice is a staple.  And, with my schedule, who has time sit by and "watch" the rice cook?  Damn.

Then, work had it's own set of challenges.  There were some management changes recently which has resulted in quite an upset in my work life.  Add to that, one of my new team's first project reviews in front of executives and then the subsequent grueling planning sessions.  Top it off with the fact that my manager, who I love to pieces because she listens to me whine, is out on vacation.   Anxiety abounding, no clear direction and only further chaos in sight.  Change is challenging.

My pool game happens to be in a slump.  This translates into my night out with the girls for some fun, drinking and relaxation has turned into pure torment.  Failing to execute consistently, especially when the pressure is on does not make for a good time.

And, speaking of drinking, hubby and I decided to give up all alcohol for a month, until Thanksgiving.  It's not that alcohol is a problem, but it just seemed like it'd be good to take a conscious break prior to the holiday season hitting in full force.  So, my "one night out whether I need it or not" now consists of playing shitty pool and not even having a drink while at a bar.

I think I need to re-think things a bit.  Maybe my work-related trip to NYC this week sans hubby and children will help me center myself and come back a new and improved person.  Let's hope anyway.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Rain, Rain, Here To Stay

This week has ushered in the onset of rain. It's forecast for the entire weekend. And it'll last through til April or May, hopefully regularly because California always needs the rain. And, rain in the Bay Area usually translates to snow in the Sierras which makes for fine skiing, something I always look forward to.

But, with the onset of this rain, with the onset of Fall, also comes the onset of this melancholy feeling. I find it odd that I know Fall to be my favorite season, yet it brings on such sadness for me. The heater now turned on with the opportunity for fires in the fireplaces, the darkness late into the morning and quietly descending as I leave the office, the rain as it falls outside presenting the opportunity to both be productive or enticingly unproductive leaves me feeling discontent.

I welcome Fall. I dislike the endless, hot days of summer. However, as much as I know Fall to be my favorite season, my spirits start to sink. I become introverted and reflective. Just as the clouds come and blanket the sky, enveloping the landscape in gray, my mood often seems to follow suit. And it stays this way, getting darker and darker towards the holidays.

This darkness surrounding me, enclosing me, leading up to the holidays is not uncommon. My logical mind knows it's true. I can tell you that I suspect I know why my mood darkens as do the days. When I was eleven, my grandfather passed away. It was right after the New Year and after he had just spent the holidays with us. I had a great relationship with him and his loss, my loss was the first significant one in my life. Then more recently, in 2002, I lost my mother on January 9th. To say that it was devastating is insufficient. The pain continues to be so great that I simply have willed myself to bury it deep. I am convinced that the hole will never go away and I fear revisiting the emotions which ripped me apart in the early days and months following her death.

What I know having experienced this regular down-turn of spirit at this time of year is that it will pass. Soon it will be ski season and the best time of the year for our family. The time we spend together skiing thoroughly bonds us for the remainder of the year when the disparate schedules of swim team, boy scouts, school sports and sleepovers seem to pull us apart. I've learned to appreciate the fires in the fireplace, the pretty leaves (yes, they even change colors in Northern California) and the comfort of rainy days knowing that it's okay to cuddle up on the couch and do nothing.

*Photo from Flickr, under the Creative Commons License, Red Sycamore by John-Morgan.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Toy Soldier

As I'm going through these days of parenting my first teen, I'm realizing that these days are just as hard as the sleep-deprived, newborn days, or the terrible-two's or the early days of elementary school with the "impulse control" problems, or the transition into middle school and the necessity of learning how to deal with six teachers and six different processes as opposed to the single teacher in elementary school.

Each phase has it's challenges, but these teen years, it's almost more difficult. And frustrating. Things at this point are out of my control, mostly. The foundation for "goodness" has been laid, or not. When your kid is towering a full nine inches above you, long gone are the days of picking up your kid to put him in timeout. The respect is there, or not.

I think I've done a good job - or at least as good as I can. I think I have good kids. Perfect, obviously not. But good enough. They know right from wrong. They know their manners, although regular use of said manners is sometimes forgotten. They've been taught some modicum of work ethic through chores and conversations with direct applications to my husband's and my jobs. They know that you have to do good job to get ahead. They know that there are performance reviews and "grading" even in the professional world and that (can) lead to raises and bonuses. These are real-world applications, not just theory, floating about to support these notions.

But it's still frustrating. There are times when they don't do what they're supposed to do. Times when they know they've made bad choices. And, as a parent, it amazes me that this parenting thing is not getting any easier. I know I've presented good, tangible lessons to help my kids be "good" humans, but they still have their moments. They fight and bicker. My husband says it's because they're boys, but I'm not convinced (having only one sister makes my sphere of personal experience lacking in this regard). The old adage "just when you figure it out, it changes" still applies.

And lately I keep returning to a lesson my father taught me. A lesson provided when I was a young adult, in the early days of my parenting. I'm not really sure it was a lesson, more than his observation to me about raising kids. He said raising kids is like managing a wind up toy soldier. You wind them up and set them down on a path. Every once in a while something will cross your toy soldier's path and cause it to stray. As the parent, your job is to tap that soldier back onto the right path. But you can only tap lightly. Tap too hard and the toy soldier will fall over. Ignore it and the toy soldier will continue down the wrong path.

I often come back to this lesson when I'm full of doubt about the "right" thing to do. My inclination is to rule with an iron fist, but that will only break a spirit and cause rebellion. But it is so hard to just tap lightly. It is so hard to admit that you actually have very little control at this point in their lives. But tap lightly I will. My job is not done yet.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Dear Dad - A New Note

Dear Dad,

We know I wrote before about our relationship and where we are with that. Well, I wanted to write this time to say thank you. Thank you for visiting. I know it wasn't a particularly happy trip. I know we weren't first on your agenda, but I appreciate the effort and time you spent nonetheless.

It was good to see you. I am glad I got to share my version of beef stroganoff with you.

I'm glad you made the time to hang out with Mike and go to your first NFL game.

I'm glad I got to see Aunt Susie, although her health is disconcerting.

I'm glad that we shared a cocktail or two.

I'm glad that we chatted while we relaxed, listening to the kids bicker in the background. Your recollections of my sister and me from our youth doing the same. Your comments to mom about said bickering by my sister and me. Your recollections of yourself with your brother in your youth.

Time with all the siblings. Good photo ops, and I took them. We need to remember the family for it is painfully clear that memories are all we'll have.

Thanks Dad. I hope you come again. It was nice.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dead Poets Remembrance Day

I heard on the news this morning that today is "dead poets day". This intrigued me. I never heard of this before, so I did what any curious person would do and looked it up on the internet. Sure enough, it's real. (A word of warning, if you click over, wear your shades - the site is rather bright.)  Part of this celebration includes traveling around to dead poets' grave sites and doing a poetry reading. I checked it out and none are very close to me, but I really wish I could participate.

To that end, I post two of my all-time favorite poems. If you happen to be in Bennington, Vermont, feel free to stop by Robert Frost's grave and read Nothing Gold Can Stay.

Nature's first green is gold, 
Her hardest hue to hold. 
Her early leaf's a flower; 
But only so an hour. 
Then leaf subsides to leaf. 
So Eden sank to grief, 
So dawn goes down to day. 
Nothing gold can stay. 

If you're close to Cambridge, Massachusetts, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is buried there and you could recite The Children's Hour.
Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
O'er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,
Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And moulder in dust away!

I like poetry but only the simple kind.  I'm not a fan of any type of work that requires someone with a Ph.D. to explain what "it" means.  For me that kind of dissection interferes with the beauty of the piece.

Do you like poetry?    Do you like to dissect and analyze?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Emotional Stability

Today is one of those days where I'm painfully aware that I lack emotional stability. Every little thing is too much, or not enough. I am hard on those around me, and hard on myself.

My demeanor rises and falls with my blood sugar and hormones, my lack of sleep or night of restfulness. And there are the intangibles. The inability to logically assess from where these emotional states come.

I am sure it's confusing for my family. The same behavior elicits quite different responses. One minute I'm espousing all my husband's endearing qualities and the next, a series of complaints. One minute I'm kind and gentle, the ideal parent. The next, I hear the sharp tone in my voice I so often remember from my mom in my youth.

It's the same at the office. One minute I am energized and challenged with the volume of work. And the next, simply feeling like I'm drowning, destined for failure.

Life requires so much energy. Maybe it is the plain fact of needing nourishment, or the curse of being a woman, or the lack of a good night's sleep that diminish my ability to maintain. But the logical part of my brain thinks those are just excuses. That somehow, I should rise above all that and be better.

Monday, September 27, 2010

One Lovely Blog Award

Saturday morning I was unable to sleep.  Tossing and turning before the morning light crept softly through the windows, I finally gave up and decided to make the most of it. The weekend chores are plentiful, but instead I chose to get caught up on my blogs. I came across an interesting comment from my last post from BigLittleWolf over at Something about cuppa, cuppa and no high heels required. I didn't understand what it meant and was further perplexed because she had already left a comment on that post. As I was going through the blogs in my reader, her's of which I'm a regular, a most pleasant surprise awaited me. A blogging award! Many thanks to you Ms. BigLittleWolf, you know I am thrilled!

The rules for accepting the award:

1. Accept the award. Post it on your blog with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.

2. Pay it forward to 15 (okay I don't think I can do that many) other bloggers that you have newly discovered.

3. Contact those blog owners and let them know they’ve been chosen.

So, in my attempt to pay it forward, let me share with you some of my favorites. Some are tried and true, others are quite new. Go check out:

Jana over at An Attitude Adjustment. Trust me when I say you don't want to get in her way.

Amy and her Never-True Tales. Mom of three boys, we are kindred spirits.

Belinda at the halfway point, almost my neighbor.

Sarah and Jen - two sisters, each with three kids (I can relate!) of Momalom fame.

Secretly I stalk Judy at Just One Foot to catch a glimpse of what is coming for me.

Amber at Making the Moments Count is simply as sweet as can be.

Gale at Ten Dollar Thoughts, who always makes me think.

Last, but surely not least, TKW at The Kitchen Witch. The person I have to thank for introducing me to this blogging community.

Cheers ladies! And thanks again, BLW.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

This Sunday I Run

Sunday I am doing the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in San Francisco. I signed up for the 5K timed run. I'm a little worried now because I haven't been running due to a nagging knee issue. But still, I'll run.

I run for my best college friend, diagnosed at 31. Wife and mother of one. A survivor. Now a mother of two.

I run for my husband's best friend's mother. The mother of three boys. A second mother to my husband and me. A second grandmother to my children.

I run for my former nanny's mother, taken from her when she was only 21. Never to be known by any future husband or grandchildren. Never to have her grandchildren know her.

I run for my neighbor taken in the prime of her life, a few mere years older than myself. The mother of three boys. A fellow parent at my sons' schools. A fellow parent on the soccer and baseball fields.

I run for my friend and co-worker. Again, another so close in age. Only a year or two separate us. A survivor. Go Team Shimamura!

This Sunday I run for a cure.

Monday, September 20, 2010

I cannot wear a veil

One thing I've been trying to wrangle with is my blogger identity and how much of myself to reveal. Actually, it's kind of funny to be thinking about this now considering how much I've posted already.

On the one hand I find it amusing because most people that read this blog know me and so there is no mystery. But on the flip side, there is the risk of exposing too much. I haven't done much research on "hide your identity" aspect of blogging, but I read plenty of blogs and have seen every end of the spectrum.

The simple truth is that I've been unable to make a decision but I didn't want that indecisiveness to hold me up. It took a lot of courage to start this blog and it takes even more to spread it around. I don't pretend to be a writer, but I like the aspects of writing out all my thoughts. It's good for my soul. Some day I'll actually get to the part where I'll preach or teach about something, sure to offend someone because that's what I do best.

As my title leads, I cannot wear a veil. I cannot mask who I am. I am direct and I wear my emotions for all to see. Unabashedly. Maybe sometimes regretfully. But that's who I am.

It's plagued me all my life. "Cathy, it's not what you say, it's how you say it." While that may be true, there is nothing straighter than a line between two points. Who has time for anything else? Life is too short to get caught up in words. (Oooh, isn't that an odd comment coming from an avid lover of blogs?) I don't want to be perceived as harsh, although I am at times. And, unfortunately I have a streak where I cannot shut my mouth when really I should. It's cost me potential friendships, and maybe even some friends. But, shouldn't a friend accept me for who I am, even if I lack certain social skills?

Ever since this word quietly popped into my head. I have been noticing interesting corollaries in my life. For example, I almost never wear makeup. My philosophy on makeup is that if I wear it daily, how are people going to know when I'm feeling "special" or dressed up for a "special occasion"? Sure, I might look better with some on, but doesn't that just cover over what I really look like? Would you agree that makeup is a type of veil?

I also find it interesting that following my wedding ceremony, in the car on the way to the reception, the first thing I did was rip the veil off my head. I was no princess. I was a normal girl. It was itchy and scratchy and got in the way. My mom freaked as soon as she saw me and made me put it back on. In her words, "I paid $150 for that bleepity-bleepity-bleep thing. Put that back on your head NOW!" I acquiesced for the formal reception introductions, but as I look through the later pictures, it was soon gone again.

I know this condition causes me some pain. I've been formally documented at previous places of employment and cited for "being direct". I, for sure, cannot play poker and win. But if you ask me, It's tough for me to have it any other way. I am me. Take me as I am. I know myself and I know my heart - and I am a good person. I just have this condition.

And so, back to where I started, this is likely a fundamental reason why I have unconsciously chosen to go without a virtual veil either. It just wouldn't be me.

Now, if there is anyone who thinks it's a huge mistake, please do let me know. I know there are some creepy creepers out in blogland. Maybe it's a bad idea and I should reconsider. Please, do let me know.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Marriage and why mine works...

I was in the car the other night, driving somewhere, and this song came on the radio. Do you recognize it?

I do. Sheryl Crow. Her words. Love her.

This is why my marriage works. I'm not perfect. Far from it. This song, it pulls me. Read it through.

Really, read it, all the way through.

God, I feel like hell tonight
Tears of rage I cannot lie
I'd be the last to help you understand
Are you strong enough to be my man?

Nothing's true and nothing's right
So let me be alone tonight
Cause you can't change the way I am
Are you strong enough to be my man?

Lie to me
I promise I'll believe
Lie to me
But please don't leave

I have a face I cannot show
I make the rules up as I go
Just try and love me if you can
Are you strong enough to be my man?

When I've shown you that I just don't care
When I'm throwing punches in the air
When I'm broken down and I can't stand
Would you be man enough to be my man?

Lie to me
I promise I'll believe
Lie to me
But please don't leave

I Can't Stop The Tears

Enveloped. Grief.

Have you ever been able to stop the tears?

Aching. Wanting.

Can you make a deal that will save?

Do you want to?

Holes. Holes too big to fill.

Crushing. I can't breathe.

Time to role play, be that person.

Breathe. Center.

Tomorrow is another day.

Time to Think

I'm stopping to take some time,
to think about how much I have going on right now.
It is a time where I am going through the motions,
slightly numb, fighting back tears.

But if I stop to think, I'll be overwhelmed.
And crush under the weight.
And show how weak I am.
It's not enough for the day to be over.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Hey Teach, It's the KIDS in School

I cannot count the times that I have had homework. And I'm talking about as an adult. And not when I'm taking a class, but as a parent. I mean, really. Is it me? Am I wrong to think that the children should be the ones with homework, not me, the parent? I'm not even talking about the help you have to give your kid to do his/her homework. I'm talking about your homework, as a parent.

My first experience with parent homework was when my oldest son went into second grade. He had this really "artsy" teacher - totally a mismatch for him because he hated all things art. My second grader came home with a note (instructions) from the teacher and some card stock in his backpack. Apparently my task was to put together and decorate a "writing journal" to house my kid's creative streak. When I say "put together", think two pages of typed instructions with words like "sew" and "fabric". Really? Are you kidding me?

Now I'm all for creative writing. And pretty journals are nice too, I guess. But, to put this task on me? I'm not creative. I think the only person who has no appreciation of art more than my first-born is me, and this is my homework? I don't sew. I don't have "extra fabric" just laying around. I am the mom of boys. We have trucks. And cars. And Legos. And maybe some crayons and markers. I was livid. I sat and stewed and tried to think of any excuse imaginable to get out of it, cursing the whole time to my husband. He didn't really care because this sh!t doesn't land on him. No way, arts and crafts, that's a girl thing (no offense). I despised that teacher thoroughly and was ecstatic to learn that she retired last year. No longer do I have to worry that my youngest will end up in parent-homework hell. And, for the record, that was only the first of many parent homework projects that year.

This year my first grader came home with parent homework to create a collage of pictures of him and his family to help "inspire" his writing. More parent homework. Now, again, a worthy cause. And maybe on the surface it doesn't seem like much, but for me it was a challenge.

First, I didn't get the note til Sunday evening. My bad - I should've checked the kid's backpack prior to Sunday night. The next hurdle was figuring out where to get the pictures, no small task. We live in a digital world now. Gone are the days of drawers full of photos. Okay, I can't tell a lie. I do still have drawers of photos. They're the required school and soccer pictures, many years old, still in their paper sleeves. Those didn't seem very "inspiring" for a first grader.

It was at this point that I started stressing and cursing the teacher for parent homework. Homework hitting during the stress of it all. Single-parenting it, two back-to-school nights, product launches - the last thing I needed was unplanned homework. I have enough on my plate, thank you very much. So teacher, please, remember that it's the kids who need the homework, not the parents.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


This morning I woke up feeling restless. The possibilities are endless, but I cannot decide. I have no desire to decide. I am disengaged. There are plenty of chores to tackle. The lists are long yet I just can't muster up the strength to make anything happen. There are plenty of fun things I could wrangle up but again, I can't muster up the strength.

I find it odd that I get into these moments. Moments where I feel like I'm standing still while the world keeps spinning, revolving around me and I'm not partaking. Minutes tick by on the clock and I am devoid of emotion as I remain motionless and indecisive. Most of the time I'm running half-crazed, my life planned to the Nth degree, always pressured for time trying to beat the clock. I am driven to cross those things off the list so I can finally relax knowing all my chores are done. But not today.

Why do I always feel like I need to be doing something? I feel uncomfortable without a plan, without action or accomplishments.

These moments I spend living in a bubble watching the world go by make me feel guilty. Guilty because it highlights my inability to live in the moment, to be present for my life. Guilty for all the should's and could's that pass me by, falling away with each circle of the second hand.

Perhaps it's the long weekend with no plans when everyone else has something going on. Perhaps it's that I've made it through another long work week with no babysitter, and back-to-school nights, and anti-climactic project launches. Perhaps it's that my husband has been gone more than two of the last four weeks and I miss him. I miss us. I miss my best friend.

The good thing about being in this place is that I know it won't last long. I just need to figure out how to enjoy it.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Stress Of It All

I feel comfortable saying that everyone has these periods in their lives where the stress of it all feels overwhelming. And I happen to be there now. In fact, it's making me sick. And I can't really eat. But I actually do, choking down whatever I can.

There is one thing I've written about, the mugging. And the fact that I have to face this bastard when I really want to forget about it. And as much as I would like to think that this hasn't been a big deal, I can't avoid the reality of the emotions it is stirring in me. I am more affected than I want to be. I am angry. I am angry because I feel vulnerable. And that sucks.

There are things I haven't written about yet. I can't because the distress runs too deep. Know that it's huge. I can't think about it let alone write about it. It's buried for now, but it will rear its ugly head one day.

Then there's the fact that my babysitter abandoned me with no notice two weeks before school started. Keep in mind I work full-time. I, of course, immediately put an ad in at the local college, my usual reliable source. Unfortunately it hasn't panned out this time. Only two responses, and they're not available until next week. Their school year doesn't begin until after Labor Day so most of the students aren't on campus yet.

I am in uncharted waters. I've never been without a babysitter. This means a huge amount of stress for me. I have to be on and I mean ON one hundred percent. There is no room for the unexpected, like last week when the CTO called a meeting at 5:00 pm. Everything is planned to the Nth degree. Dinners have to be planned, lunches prepared. Three kids in three different schools lends itself to a whole new game when you are only two parents, and no babysitter. So now I have to figure out how I'm going to be at one Back To School Night at 6:30 and pick up a kid at his soccer practice at 6:45. Anybody have a way to replicate a body?

All this and my big, no make that huge, project at work is launching this week. The demo went well and it's time to open the flood gates. You see, it's counter-intuitive. The launch of this particular project just means that the volume of work is going to increase.

The irony of it all is that I have to plan and be prepared. I say it's ironic because the way to avoid feeling overwhelmed would be to just take it one step at a time, one day at a time. But I can't. If I don't have a menu for the week, and the food for it, dinner just won't get made. That'll mean cranky kids and cranky mom and result in trips to Burger King. Burger King, yuck, a place where I won't even eat anything on the menu. I guess that's okay. I can't really eat anyway.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Should I Let Them Sleep?

These past seven days or so have been busy with all those back-to-school tasks. Go through clothing and toss that which no longer fits or simply is not presentable, throw out old markers run dry through use or time and, of course, get new stuff for the new year.

These tasks and to-do's as a parent are so easy and clear. There's no questioning, no debate. However, there's been this one back-to-school item that's been nagging at me for a few weeks now and that's the schedule and being on a schedule.

As an aside, any parent out there can tell you all the advice they rain down on you about getting your kid on a schedule. I am a very scheduled person. I like schedules. I like knowing what to expect and when to expect it. The concept, while appealing, doesn't necessarily hold true for all kids, but there was a time in my kids' lives where we were pretty darned scheduled. While it was good when they complied, it was nerve-racking when they didn't. No one ever told you what to do when your kid wouldn't stick to the schedule.

Anyway, now that my kids are getting older, they are naturally staying up later. No more 8:00 pm bedtimes. Even the six-year-old has been staying up late, well past 10:00 pm almost regularly. That's what you get with the third kid. And who cares? He can sleep as late as he wants. I like that. I like that a lot because that means on weekends, I get to sleep late. Win-win if you ask me.

But that all needs to change, starting tonight. And hence my dilemma for the past week. I kept saying, the kids need to go to bed earlier and get up earlier so the start of school is not a shock. My husband and I agreed, but secretly I struggled. I mean, hey, it's their summer vacation. Shouldn't they be allowed to stay up late and sleep in late, especially the teenager? It is particularly difficult for me because I remember being that age and I remember sleeping until noon, until my mom came in and made some wisecrack about sleeping the day away. It was wonderful and I still enjoy long mornings snuggled under the covers.

And so I've waffled and indecisive. And husband was no help. He doesn't care. And guess what? The kids really haven't been going to be earlier. Well, I've had them shutdown the computers and stop the TV and get in bed. But the sleep-time is still basically the same - way late, especially when I think that school starts tomorrow.

So last night, as I'm laying in bed trying to fall asleep, I convinced myself that I needed to wake the boys up before I left for work. Wake them up at roughly the same time they need to be up tomorrow, so it isn't such a shock. But then as I was going through my motions in the morning, I somehow convinced myself that they didn't need to wake up. That depriving them of sleep for an additional day in the week would only make them more tired tomorrow. After all, the adrenaline of the first day of school will take care of any residual tiredness, right? And I let them sleep.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I Feel Like I'm Gonna Puke

I had this little incident last week. It definitely knocked me off balance but I think I did a good job of maintaining. I held it together, likely because Mike was out of town and I had the two youngest at home with me. I had to keep it together.

I thought for sure when Mike came home I would fall apart. I would finally be able to release. But it didn't happen like that. I was pretty matter-of-fact about the whole thing. Everyone was wondering what his reaction would be and I really couldn't predict. Turns out he was "worried". His word, not mine.

Over the past week, the memory and fear of the whole incident has faded, just like the bruises on my arm. They're barely even noticeable at this point. And I like it like that. It seems so distant, so unreal.

But then I got this letter yesterday. From the District Attorney. Demanding me to appear (and yes, it says demanding) in court. I've been subpoenaed. I am a witness. I need to testify. It came with this one-page pamphlet explaining the process - the subpoena and what it means, the preliminary examination, the trial.

I read it. I re-read it. My heart started thumping. My palms were sweating. Tears tried to sprout from my eyes but I held them back. Can't I just pretend like this never happened? Can't I just crawl back under my rock? I feel like I'm gonna puke.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Will I Ever Shine?

Yesterday was a nice, relaxing Sunday. My husband just returned from a High Sierra adventure with our oldest; 50 miles backpacking. He was gone, unreachable at a time when I needed him most. But I hung in there and the sweetness of his return allowed me to fully breathe again enveloped in a blanket of security and safety.

We immediately fell into our routines and that meant a quick round of golf, this time taking the two youngest. Golf is so frustrating even though I love it. Sick sense of humor? The need to torture myself? I don't know what keeps drawing me back to that game, but I go every time.

On one particular horrible shot I cried out, "why can't I ever be good at anything?!". And my husband was great, attempting to provide consolation with the gentle reminder that we hadn't played in over a month. While he did have a point, I still sulked. The horrible shot was a sharp slap in the face about how I'm simply not "great" at anything.

My life of mediocrity is so glaring I found myself stewing, dwelling and keeping me awake last night. It is particularly frustrating for me because I have this sense about myself that I am destined to do something great, to shine at something and yet there is nothing.

Growing up I was always in the shadow of my sister - prettier, more petite, better at every sport, a natural ear for music...blah, blah, blah. Whatever it was, she was better. The only thing I excelled at was school. I could get good grades, and even that started to pale when I moved on to high school with a larger set of folks to compare myself against. Still, high school and college were easy. I didn't have to try to get good grades, but they weren't great either.

And, that's pretty much where I stand in my adult life too. Good, but not great. And there definitely is no shine.

I'm okay as a parent - I wouldn't even say good. I have times like this and this. Clearly I don't shine there.

I'm not the primary breadwinner in my family. As a consequence, I'm the one with primary childcare duties so I am not great at my job. Constantly interrupted and distracted, my working world is often rocked by flaky babysitters, routine doctors' appointments and the not-so-occasional emergencies. I frequently wonder how other women manage in an environment much less flexible than my own. I'm sure they're just better at it than me.

For awhile I wanted to be a great pool player. I'm good, but not great. Our team often finishes in first or second place, but the fact is, I'm more of the weak link than an asset. Out of our five man team, three are in spots one, two and three on the top shooter list. But not me.

It makes me wonder, why do I even try? All I end up with is disappointment. I am never as good as I want to be. I am tired of trying and not getting great, of not shining in ONE single thing. There are so many things that I have and want to do, that I wonder if it isn't an impossible objective. But still, I just want to shine at something, one thing, anything.

Friday, August 13, 2010

An Inconvenient Experience

I preface this with a note that I am not writing this for sympathy or accolades. I am writing this to process my feelings.

The other night I had the unfortunate experience of being mugged. Take a minute and think about what it is to be mugged and I will tell you my story. You can see how it matches up.

I work in a sketchy area. It's part professional, part drug-infested, part homeless. On any given day, you'll see the range. You'll see the lawyers - mostly dodgy women in their mid-calf skirt suits; men with their briefcases and cheap shoes. You'll see the homeless begging you for change, most of whom stand themselves on opportune corners calling out as you pass by. You'll even counter the random hostile who'll shout "'Po-Ass-Bitch!" when you reply that you don't have a quarter to spare. Whatever, all in a day, right?

I left work on Tuesday and headed to the BART, just like every other night. The sun was bright but the air was cool with the onset of the fog. I ran the gauntlet - that stretch of sidewalk from my office building to the BART station - that section where I am never quite sure what I might encounter. I made it to the BART entrance and descended the stairs into the station and, upon reaching the flat, opened up my purse to grab my BART ticket. I remember thinking how convenient it was that the ticket was right on top; I didn't have to dig and fish around in my purse to find that dark blue envelope. I noticed the guy walking towards me but didn't think twice about it. He was headed for the escalator next to the stairs I just went down. This is a BART station. People come and go all the time. That's the nature of public transportation. And as I took that five seconds to look down and grab my BART cards, this punk decided to try grab my purse.

Let me be a little more precise. That punk tried to rip my purse right off my arm. Unfortunately for him, I had a firm grip on it myself and my feisty instinct took over. There was no way in hell I was going to allow this punk to steal my purse. I don't know why. I know what they say - let the guy have whatever and just get away to be safe. But, in that instant, that never even crossed my mind.

I saw red. There was no way I was going to let this punk steal my purse if I could help it and I grabbed on. I grabbed on to whatever I could of him and I refused to let go. I don't know how it all went down specifically. All I know is that I was pissed and I wasn't going to let him go if I could help it. I heard a rip of his sweatshirt. And then I heard another. He was trying to break free and dragging me around in the process. My shoes went flying off and I'm sure it must've been a spectacular sight. But but I still held on. Eventually he escaped my grasp and fled up the stairs.

Immediately the tears started flowing. I didn't mean to. I'm not sure I even realized it. It was one of those weird experiences where instinct prevailed on all accounts. The fighting back. The crying.

Just as the dirtbag fled, the station agent came out of the break room, lunch sack in hand, probably from eating his dinner. My belongings were scattered and I sobbed as I crawled around to gather them up.

One of my co-workers, one of my cube-mates actually, came down the stairs just in time to witness the chaos, to see me crying, crawling around picking up my things. He's this young, fresh out of college Indian guy. He was so sweet. He offered to stay with me and refused to leave when I insisted I was "fine". But the thing that I think about was how he kept asking me to "please stop crying". Three times I think he asked. And I kept telling him that I was trying, but the tears just wouldn't stop.

The cops came. I gave them a description. I told them what was missing from my wallet. Thankfully it was only the cash and my commuter checks. The dirtbag dropped my wallet and he didn't get my license (which of course has my home address), or any of my credit cards. I recounted the incident and just wanted to go home. Could I please go home now? My kids were there without a babysitter - I had called her to say I was on my way and she could head out.

No - I couldn't go home. The cops thought they might have caught the guy, so I had to stick around to ID him. At first I thought I couldn't. I had a description; felt super confident in it. But ID the guy? Not sure I could, much less have the strength in me. But it wasn't up to me. They drove me over a few blocks to where they apprehended a "suspect". Cops were everywhere. They had this guy, were holding him and made me look at him. And, FLASH, it was him. They sealed it when they searched him and he had my commuter checks and cash, but also receipts from things I'd purchased since last I cleaned out my wallet.

From there I finally got home. The cops were so nice. I thought they'd drop me off at the nearest BART station, but instead they drove me all the way to my car.

My neighbor, the sweetest person ever, came over to hang with the kids after I realized that I was going to be seriously delayed in getting home. We enjoyed a few glasses of wine once I put the kids to bed which was exactly what I needed.

All things considered, this really was an inconvenient experience. I could've been knived, shot or beaten in my attempt to save my purse. My wallet could've ended up in the hands of a dirtbad who would then know my name and address from my driver's license. I could've spent days trying to recover lost credit cards, driver's license and whatever other personal stuff I carry around day-in and day-out. But it didn't happen and I am lucky for that.

Now I just have to deal with that sense of insecurity. Can I walk to BART by myself? Is that person walking quickly towards me going to try to attack me? Am I going to have to testify against this guy, or will he plead out? I don't know, but I know that I am lucky and this really was just an inconvenient experience.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Drugs, Part 1: The Conversation

The night started out as a typical, normal night, whatever that means. A sleepover had been arranged and I was driving my oldest son over to his best friend’s house. My mind was full, filled with a personal tragedy that I will likely share some other time. Still, being true to form, I managed to engage with some idle chit chat. Pieces of conversation devoid of meaning creating the illusion of engagement, feigning interest in some part of a video game I could care less about. But then it struck me. I could meld this tragedy and parenting - do something meaningful and make it a teaching moment. And so I naively wandered into a conversation to teach cause and effect, to show the dangers of activities hazardous to his health.

Being only a freshman in high school, I had no idea what his level of exposure is to some of the more common hazardous activities. You know - smoking, drinking, things like that. All those parenting books keep blabbing about how communication is key during these years, so I bluntly asked if he knew anyone that smoked. I was stunned with his reply: “Weed or cigarettes?”

Um, okay. Wow. “Ah, um, well I was asking about cigarettes, but do you know people that smoke weed?”

The answer, of course, was yes to both. I was dazed. I was perplexed about why I would be unprepared and shocked by the response. After all, I know what I did in high school and when I started doing it. Still trying to get a grasp of those three words, I continued to probe, the details of which I can't clearly recall. My brain kept whirling, swirling in an effort to process. And in that moment of fog, that dead zone of parenting when you wish you could push a button and make time stand still to figure out what you are supposed to do or how you are supposed to respond as a "good" parent, the bomb dropped.

“Well mom, have you ever smoked weed?” And, there it was. Twice now, in a period of under five minutes I was stunned again. Again, why did I not see this coming? Again, how could I not be prepared? Of course there is no button to stop time which left me about 500 milliseconds (that's half a second for those of you unaware) to figure out my response. Do I tell the truth? Do I lie? And in that moment I thought of my own youth and how I always disliked my father’s refusal to admit his youthful transgressions, and so I went with the truth.

“Yes, yes I did.”

You’d think that would be enough torture for the night. But no, it had to go on. The hammering had to continue. Cathy needed to be taught a lesson. Heh, the irony of it all. I asked for it by starting this conversation. I was going to "teach" him, remember? Now I've got to ride it out.

“Well, how old were you Mom? Were you in college?”

It was at that moment that I truly failed. Clearly I must have hesitated and, just as clearly, he saw it. Right then he knew. I didn't even need to answer. He's a smart kid, you know.

“You smoked in high school, didn’t you?”

What do they say? Three strikes you're out? I was busted. It was too late. No longer able to deny; no longer able to turn back. There are some things in life where there are no do-overs. The conversation had run its course and I handled it all wrong. I must have forgotten to read that chapter of the manual. Oh wait, they don't come with one.

I dropped him off at his friend’s house, full of misgivings and regret, and sped home as quickly as I could to consult the husband.

I relayed the entire conversation to him, looking for forgiveness or dismissal of my concerns, some sense that I didn’t really screw things up. Husband’s response, “He’s fishin’ for permission.” My heart sank.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Backpacking with the Boy Scouts

I know. It’s been awhile. Where have I been? Well, you can probably guess judging by the title of this post for one. Last weekend I went backpacking with the boy scouts and now, as I write this post, I am sitting on a houseboat on Lake Shasta. I am enjoying summer's finest moments.

Every year the boy scouts do an annual four day, 20+ miler backpacking trip and I go with them, although I'm not quite sure why. I guess it's enjoyable? This year it was hot. It was very, very hot. But it was also very, very beautiful. The mosquitoes were fierce which meant that as soon as dinner was done, everyone retired to the bliss of their tents; behind that wonderful invention called mesh providing the much-needed protection from those nasty little suckers. Tent time provided some writing time (in a journal of course) which I am starting the process of copying over to my blog.

The early retirement also meant that I got to spend some nice one-on-one time with the second son. I failed to bring any games (too much weight to carry as it was!) and so these evenings were made of conversation. On our last night, the second son and I put together our list of superlatives from the trip which I now share with you, from his perspective and mine.

Best of
Mom: The views

Echo Lakes - where it all began.
Lake Aloha
Gilmore Lake
First glimpse of Lake Tahoe in the distance!

Son: Snowball fight, in July, when it's HOT!

Worst of
Mom: Mosquitoes
Son: Mosquitoes

Best Quote
Mom: “Staring at nylon” which is what you do when it’s seven o’clock, still light out and you don’t feel like getting eaten alive.
Son: “C’mon coach. Put me in coach. C’mon, I can do this!”

Mom: The thought of bears in the night, especially when you have to pee, by yourself, in the dark.
Son: Slipping on snow, next to a cliff. Yes, that’s right. Mid-July and there’s still a TON of snow in the Sierras.

Best Equipment
Mom: Big Agnus tent, for two.
Son: Deet (bug spray in case you don’t know).

Best Luxury Item
Mom: Wipes
Son: Cheese Whiz, in a spray can.

Best Meal
Mom: Spaghetti with meat, freeze-dried, just add water and wait.
Son: Sheppard’s Pie, freeze-dried, just add water and wait.

Worst Ache or Pain
Mom: My stupid knee. Grrrrr. Uphill, fine. Downhill, not so much.
Son: Back – all that twisting while lifting the backpack to actually get it on your shoulders.

Best Article of Clothing
Mom: Mosquito net hat! Duh!
Son: Same.

Best Moment
Mom: When second son comes and says, “Mom, I think I’m going to sleep with you.”
Son: The tent – and being in it away from the mosquitoes.

Most Impressive
Mom: Seeing two families, with five kids under the age of five, hiking up (and I do mean UP) two miles to the first lake. One lady had a full pack on her back and an infant in a front carrier. Damn, that IS impressive.
Son: Hiking up Dick’s Pass. Two straight miles of steep grade, the view from the saddle – WOW! And, the sense of accomplishment when it was done.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Back from the East!

The husband and I have just returned from a week-long trip to the East Coast. It was unplanned and unexpected, and it was fun despite the somber nature of the trip. You see, we were called back to celebrate the life of a true matriarch. A wonderful woman, with three sons, my husband's best friends, who unassumedly took on the motherly and grandmotherly roles for us and our children after both of our mom's had passed. There is no comparison to this woman or the positive impact she had on everyone around her. She was loved by us and will be missed greatly.

In the true spirit of this wonderful woman and her wish that we celebrate her life, not mourn her death, I've prepared the top ten list of my trip back East:

1.) The food! Can you say cheeseburg and meatball grinders? Dunkin' Donuts, medium regular please. Thinly-sliced deli meats for the perfect sandwich. Stuffed cabbage, homemade. The Colchester Bakery and the perfect pumpernickel rye.
2.) Quality time with family - my sister and her fam; my father-in-law and even my Dad!
3.) Meeting up with old friends not seen for 20+ years.
4.) Spending time with old friends that are more like family than friends, and seeing how their kids have grown.
5.) Celebrating my nephew's birthday in person for once!
6.) Picking out presents for the kids left home.
7.) Four, yes FOUR, rounds of golf!
8.) Central air (hot and humid are not my friends).
9.) The wondrous nature of bug repellent - you NEED it!
10.) The luck to get the heck outta there before the heat wave set in.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A New Member of the Family!

It all started when he turned eight. My hubby decided (without consulting me first!) that our oldest was old enough to get a pet. I'm not sure how the conversation started between them, but it was a rather unplanned and rash decision. All I know is that it was Sam's birthday and they were running errands. Upon their return, they had an extra body - an adorable black kitten. Rascal was his name.

Rascal became a part of our family. He also turned into a fierce warrior. I apologize if this offends any of you, but he was a lean, mean killing machine. He would bring home "presents" almost daily. Most of the time they were mice, but once he even brought home a jack rabbit! Yes, you read that right - a rabbit! I still have no idea how he managed to get it up? over? through? our fenced backyard.

Fast-forward three years to the middle guy's eighth birthday and now it's his turn to get a kitty. Being good dutiful parents, we schlep everyone down to the local rescue foundation and Danny picked out his new friend - Tucker. Before we brought Tucker home, we did the research on introductions and socialization between cats. I followed the rules and did everything just the way they said. Rascal was not happy. There was no acceptance. One day I opened the door to let him in, he paused just at the threshold, took a few sniffs and high-tailed it right out of there. That was the last time we ever saw Rascal.

After weeks of searching the neighborhood and countless trips to the animal shelter, we all came to understand, if not accept, that Rascal was never coming home. In our last and final trip to the shelter, I asked Sam if he wanted to get another cat, and he did. That day we brought home Daisy. Daisy was a two-year-old tabby and she was delightfully sweet, the perfect lap cat. And she provided comfort in a time of need, and we all were thankful for that.

About six months after getting Daisy, I noticed that she looked thin. I dismissed it at first thinking that it was just because summer had arrived and she was losing a bunch of hair. I kept a close watch and eventually I knew something was wrong, and so we took a trip to the vet. Several tests and several hundreds of dollars later, Daisy was diagnosed with an incurable disease. She was gone in a few months, just over a year from her arrival. Sam was crushed.

It was one of the worst experiences. I, of course, had my own grief. Daisy took her last breaths in my arms. But, to see my son's broken heart, that was worse. I was powerless to help; powerless to provide true comfort. I knew this was something only he could work through and only with time. He proclaimed that he would never get another pet again, and that made me sad to think that he had shut down his heart to the possibility of experiencing new love over fear of loss. I told him that was fine, I understood, but if he changed his mind, I would take him down to find another.

It was last month when he announced that he was ready and wanted to get another cat. For several weekends we drove all over the place visiting shelters and rescue foundations. He wanted a tabby, but we simply couldn't find one. On Saturday, he eventually relaxed his criteria and settled on a lovey, female dark gray kitten. We couldn't bring her home on Saturday because they still needed to spay her, so yesterday was pick-up day. She's home and her name is Jade.

I am excited and I am happy. I am excited to have a new kitten in the family. I am happy because my dear boy has finally worked through his grief and is learning to open up and love again. It is one of life's most important lessons and it is something I could not teach, but he has learned on his own.

Monday, June 28, 2010

How Do You Keep the Memory Alive?

Today happens to be my mother’s birthday, or should I say used to be? The past eight years have gone by without her, but my thoughts still turn to her on this day.

A few weeks ago I was putting Henry, the youngest, to bed and our conversation turned to my mother, his grandmother. I wish I could recall the circumstances and conversation a little better. I even took notes because I knew I would want to write about this. Unfortunatley, they are far too abbreviated to make much sense.

Be his grandmother
Choc chip pancakes
Did sam and dan know her?
Thinking it’s Nonna
Picture? Will you show me tomorrow?

He was curious. Who were these people called grandmother? He’s never known either of them – they both departed this world before he made his entrance. I found in trying answer his questions, there was very little to say and I struggled.

So from the notes, let’s see – “be his grandmother” I have no idea what that means. The chocolate chip pancakes reference is easy. My mom was the best cook ever. Sure, everyone says that about their own mother’s food. (Actually, maybe not everyone because I know my dad had no affinity for his own mother’s chow.) But in all seriousness, my mother excelled at cooking. It was her thing, especially baking. She taught me everything I know and it has proved a valuable skill with Danny’s celiac disease. One thing that she always did was make pancakes. They were easy and they were loved and they were always chocolate chip and awesome. I’m happy to say that my kids are the next generation in this tradition. Pancakes on the weekends – and chocolate chip if you so desire.

Sam and Dan did know her, but all too briefly. Danny was barely three when she died. Sam was six. Sam’s comment when my mom died – “Mom, everyone has to die.” Matter of fact. Unemotional. Like it was just part of life. I remember that comment and feeling betrayed. How could he not feel the hurt and sadness? Maybe in answer to Henry’s question, the answer should have been that they didn’t know her. Or maybe they were just too young.

There was one point in the conversation where Henry got confused. A few years ago my grandmother spent a few weeks at our house. Nonna was unable to fend for herself and was living up at my Uncle’s house in Sonora, but he was going on a trip or something and she couldn’t stay alone so she stayed with us. While it’s been a few years since then, Henry still remembers her. I think his memory of her is fresh from attending her burial late last summer. But no Henry, that’s not your grandmother – that’s your great grandmother.

And then Henry asked if we have any pictures, he wanted to see one. I said no problem…we have pictures out in the living room. Two to be exact from two weeks before her death. And the next morning, as soon as his eyes opened, he crawled out of bed and immediately asked to see the pictures. And I showed him.

Since then there have been no more questions. But it got me thinking. How much do I talk about my mom? Not much if at all, really. Why not? Well, let’s see, it’s still painful. It’s clear to me that I’ve become an expert at pushing all those sad feelings down. It’s been eight years and I can now talk without spontaneously crying, but it still hurts. What hurts most is that she’s gone. There’s now an empty hole – a part of my life has been extracted, ripped out. It simply doesn’t exist anymore. What’s there to say? With the suppression of all those sad feelings, it looks like I’ve inadvertently also suppressed everything!

But, I do want to keep my mom’s memory alive. I know she would want that too. I notice as time has passed by, I seem to be remembering less. Memories are fading. Maybe that’s how I control my emotions on the whole thing. But I think I don’t want to be here. I want to move to a place where I can share. What do I want to pass along to my kids? Will it really have any true meaning to them? Do I want to drag out the photo albums (none of which I have by the way)? Do I just bring it up in conversation? Family anecdotes? Stories of the past? I don’t know. But I think I need to start talking about it, or it won’t happen – that I do know.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Dear Dad

Dear Dad,

With Father's Day this weekend, I found my thoughts turning to you and reflecting on our relationship and how it's changed over the years.  As with all long-term relationships, there have been highs and there have been lows, but I thought I'd chronicle and highlight some of the key memories for me in our shared lives.

When I was young,  I proudly wore the title of "daddy's little girl".   We'd trip around together doing whatever chores or errands needed to be done.  If we were shoveling snow, you had a shovel just my size.  If we were raking leaves, again you had one just my size.  You even got me my own axe so I could help you cut the small branches off of the fallen trees.   Mom was always so focused on the first born, but you were my pal and my teacher.

You are a fix-it-yourself kind of guy and all the time we had together was a learning experience.  You taught me cool things - like how to change the engine in my VW Bug after I blew a rod through the block.  I was proud to say that I knew how to bleed my own brakes, change my oil, gas and air filters and how to protect my cracked distributor cap so that my bug would start in the rain.   I helped you rebuild the cam shaft on the Reliant K and other random automobile repairs.  And the teaching didn't stop there.  We soldered pipes (plumbing was your nemesis), fixed electrical things, fixed pool parts and repaired bathrooms.  It didn't really seem like work either, although you did most of the heavy lifting.

The teen years were a bit difficult.  Mom was sick all the time.  You were at work all the time.   I was up to no good, and you knew it.  You tried to call me out, but due to lack of evidence, there was nothing you could prove.  Mom with her naivete would force you to back down, and you did.  Fortunately, even though Mom was right, I managed to keep myself good enough to move forward, graduate high school and then college.  I found the right man and you quietly let me go.  Oh how I cried at my wedding when we danced.

Miles have separated us since then - you in Connecticut and myself in California.  Honestly I was glad to be away.  You know the stress we were all dealing with - can you blame me?  I didn't realize it at the time, but our relationship started to fade around then.  I'd come back for holidays but it was always a whirlwind tour.  I had to visit everyone so no one got very much of me.

Aside from lack of visiting time, I realize in hindsight that it was really because I used Mom as a crutch.  She was the intermediary.   I'd call her and she'd relay to you.  She'd, in turn, relay back to me.  We never spoke and I never realized it.  I still felt in touch with your life.  But then Mom died.

You tried to change.  You tried to reach out, but it just wasn't you.  Mom filled that role for too long.   It's almost like I lost two parents instead of just one, and now we are here.  Phone calls that are awkward and uncomfortable, and far too long in between.  We talk on holidays because I call.  You never call me.  There are no birthday wishes for me or the kids.  You've visited twice in nearly 18 years even though I've asked a million times.  My kids don't know you and it's a shame because they could learn so much. 

For a long time I was angry and upset, quite bitter actually.  Then I was sad and disappointed.  I'm not sure, but I think I'm almost at the point of acceptance.  I will take what I can and be thankful for that.   But Dad, there's still time.  There's still time to get to know your grandchildren.  There's still time to know the young woman (okay maybe not so young anymore) that I've become.  We'll always be here if you decide.

Love, Cathy

Saturday, June 12, 2010


64 blog posts sitting unread in my reader. 64. Really?

I've been super busy with work. My big project that's been in the works for the past six and a half months is now in the last six weeks (hopefully) and it's crunch time. I'm not checking personal email or Facebook much at work, which I'm sure my employer is happy about. I'm certainly not posting much either, not as much as I'd like.

But 64 unread posts. When is it too many? When is it too much? I need to find that balance that folks like Kristen over at Motherese struggle with as well.

I am hesitant to give up any of them - blogs or friends. I connected with them for a reason. Regular or not, they are a part of my life. How would I choose? Who would stay and who would go? Most importantly to me, what would I miss? I don't mean miss as in the sense of loss.  I mean miss as in failed to experience - the little nuggets of goodness from the funny stories, the calls to think, the things that keep me connected.

Recently a friend of mine posted on her Facebook status, "I've just deleted 104 friends!" At first I was surprised. Why would anyone do that? But now that I've thought about it more, maybe I should prune too. It feels like pruning would equate with simplification. I like that concept. Prune my Facebook friends to those that are core; prune my blogs to only those I regularly read.  I want to see more of the people I truly like. I need to to disregard the rest so I can focus on them, to be more connected to them. 64 is too much.

Do you prune? Do you think pruning equates to simplification?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Kids Are Expensive

This evening was a pleasant one. Dinner was light and early. Everyone surprisingly was in a good mood. The boys were actually playing together nicely!

After pulling three dead mice and two live ones out of the pool (we suspect our cat has found a nest and is enjoying the torture), we decided to play a little wiffle ball. Round and round we rotated the pitches and at bats. Stealing bases, running around. Good times. Nothing but smiles.

Until Sam lost his balance and fell in the pool. With his phone and iPod Touch in his pocket.

He wasn't doing anything wrong. He simply was enjoying playing with all of us (a rare thing now that he's in high school and all) and didn't realize his foot was too close to the edge of the pool. Total accident. He bought the phone (because he lost his last one and I wouldn't buy another). He got the iPod for his 8th grade graduation.

My only silver lining in this story is that he feels as bad as I do. I'm gonna take that as a sign of maturity. Poor guy.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

You Have To Make The Time

The headline surprised me but the story made me sad.

We all know people separating or divorced. Sometimes it's for the best and I know that it's not my business to pass judgment.

Here is a couple that a lot of people believed had the real deal. Sure they were in the spotlight, but they were together. They endured family drama. They persevered through success and failures. And now, when they should be planning their twilight years, they instead are planning how to divide things up. I am not judging them. It's their lives. But I still feel sad for them. Their relationship died.

This particular quote tugged at me, "The Gores were telling friends they "grew apart" after 40 years of marriage and there was no affair involved..."

The snide comments and jokes about the cause of this break-up are flying about. And while I read constant barrages on him - suggestions of infidelity and the like, there were two people in that relationship and each bear responsibility for "growing apart". It happens all the time. Marriage, and really any type of relationship, requires work! Dual careers, children - they all create a stress on a relationship. They cause separation.

I see it with my friends and family. I've seen it in me. Two young people in love tie the knot. Kids happen. Stress happens. For plenty of varied reasons, husband and wife start pursuing interests without each other. For me, it was lack of an affordable babysitter. I'd go do my thing while hubby was home with the kids, and then he'd go do his, and I'd stay home. And slowly you grow apart. You don't even realize it's happened.

But one day I did. And life was rough for awhile, but that's a story for a different day. I realized the separateness needed to stop. It had to end, or our relationship would.

And so I've made a conscious effort to stay close, stay together. We DO things together - I make sure of it. We have fun together. We have fun together without the kids. We keep our relationship alive.

I never really had any desire to golf. Never grew up with any golfers in the family and had no appreciation for the sport. But, I knew that Mike enjoyed hanging out for hours without the kids, drinking beer with this buddies, enjoying good weather. Man was I jealous. I wanted a piece of that. And so - I learned how to golf. And now we golf together. Me and my best friend. It is so nice to be able to spend time with just the two of us. Having a kid old enough to be your babysitter really helps!

Then, when football suddenly became an interest in his life, sucking Sundays away, I first resisted. It was irritating. He never liked sports before; why now? Finally I wised up. If you can't beat 'em, might as well join 'em. And I did. I would go to a couple of games with him and I joined a fantasy football league to see what it was all about. It gave us something to talk about on Sundays while we watched all the games - together. I suggested to my sister that she do the same - and remarked how much it helped our relationship. She joined my league and by the end of the season, she was chirping about players and the game - and about how it helped her and her hubby get closer too.

To make a relationship work, you have to put yourself out there. You have to work at it You have to make the time. At times you may feel like you are making concessions. I don't look at it like that. I think learning golf and fantasy football has opened up new realms of entertainment and time together with my husband. How could that ever be perceived as a concession?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Silver Strand

A silver strand running through my hair,
First there was one, and then a pair.
They keep popping up, and I wish they would stop.
Although I thought I never would care.

It's not vanity that's changed my mind.
I simply want my appearance to reflect in kind,
That young adult I still feel I am inside.
Not the older woman I want to leave behind.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Secret I Won't Let My Kids Know

It's almost June and you know what happens in June.  School is out for summer!  I can hear that refrain from Alice Cooper's rockin' song repeating endlessly in my head right now.  School's out for summer!  School's out forever!  While it's not out forever, it is out for summer and things change, for the better. 

Anyway, the little secret I won't let my kids on is that I love school being out as much as they do, maybe even more.

No more rushing to get them off to school.
No more arguing over homework.
No more rushing to the store for printer ink because "my report's due tomorrow!"
No more rushing to the store for "________" because "the class party is tomorrow and I said I would bring ________".
No more "consequences" for unacceptable grades, due to lack of effort of course!
No more open houses.
No more parent-teacher conferences that make me feel like I'm a kid in trouble all over again.
No more band concerts.
No more football, soccer or lacrosse practices and games.
No more carpools to coordinate.
No more boy scout meetings.
No more music lessons.
No more early bedtime mandates.
No more rushing home to feed the kids due to said early bedtime mandates.

You see, this year is an interesting one.  I have three kids in three schools - one elementary, one middle and one high school.  This means that I have three times everything - three different locations with three different start times, three band concerts, three open houses .  You get the point.  I know parenting in the early years is difficult.  At this stage though?  I can't say it's really any easier, it's just different challenges.  I feel like a drill sergeant.  I have to be to get it all done.

Ahh, but summer is almost here.  I find myself longing for it.  I will be able to sleep in just a little bit longer.  I'll be able to function with much less structure.  The household calendar will not be my lifeline, only a mere crutch.  Yes, it's true.  I love summer more than my kids.

And so I go about my summer secretly relishing in the downtime.   You might wonder why I won't let my kids in on this secret.  Primarily, I want them to like school.  I don't want them to see it as work, even though we know it is.  I don't want them to enjoy lazy because I fear they will become lazy.  I don't want to raise kids like that.  I want industrious kids; kids who like to do things.  People who complain when there's work to be done only make things harder on themselves.  It's the outlook you approach to life that makes it "work" or not, and that's the behavior I want to model.  Am I good at it?  Not likely.  I tend to wear my emotions in plain view.  They know the scoop.  Whatever, that's fine.  I'll still try anyway.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Where Did The Time Go?

Forgive me, but this story is a bit meandering.

I was at the elementary school the other day picking up my six-year-old. When we were walking by his classroom, I noticed that his teacher's room was still open so I popped my head in to say 'hi'. Mrs. C has been the Kindergarten teacher for all three of my boys and she is awesome. A 50-something year old former P.E. teacher, she is loud, active and real. She's the only one I know that will call my kids out in a heartbeat, in front of me, without skipping a beat. She commands respect through adoration.

We chatted briefly and I let her know that I was heading out for my annual trek to Las Vegas. She gave me "the look" which I instantly interpreted as "Cathy what are you doing to me?!" You see, the Husband is great at a lot of things but staying on top of three active boys' schedules is not one of them - and she knows it. Without hesitating she says that I have to do ONE thing for her before I leave. And, without hesitation I said, "I know. I have to get a baby picture of Henry in by tomorrow, or else!"

I got home and started pulling my stuff together and remembered the baby photo. It's part of the open house project - all the kids bring in baby photos and then the class goes around trying to match everyone up. So in keeping with my promise, I ended up rifling through a bunch of old photos. At first I couldn't find any baby pictures of Henry! Yikes! But eventually I did, and it was such a wonderful trip in time. Oh, for days gone past! I cannot believe the time is gone.

As it turned out, I shared that sentiment with a friend of mine and his response was really intriguing to me.

Is the time really gone? I think you use your time wisely, so I wouldn't look at it like that.

Wow. I can't explain why, but this really struck me. It made me think - is the time really gone? Is time "gone" if you use it well? We have fun. We do things as a family. We enjoy life. We create memories, even if it's doing nothing. Instead of being sad or wistful of days gone by, I can celebrate the time we've had - the experiences shared. Getting to know my kids for the people they are becoming. I find this concept to be exciting and liberating. It motivates me to set the chores aside and enjoy myself and my time with the kids. There will always be dishes to wash, laundry to do, dinners to cook. But I will not always have my kids at home with me; to share with me moments to be captured in a photo, or not.

So I think my friend is right. I use my time wisely so the time will never truly be gone.