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Monday, February 27, 2017

Mr. Flannigan Would Be Proud

When I was little, around age 9 or 10, my mom bought me a bare bones, toy-like metal detector from Radio Shack.  It could find bottle caps, things near the surface of the sand and not much more.  We lived in Ocean City, NJ at that time and I had an ENTIRE BEACH to search for buried treasures.  I loved it.

Around that time, I met a little old man, Mr. Flannigan.  He really was little - I don't think he was much over 5 feet tall.  He had no teeth, unless he was taking his wife to dinner (then he put them in).  He wore the same exact thing every time I saw him.  He was dressed in a brown work suit - the kind mechanics wear.  He had the fanciest metal detector I ever saw.  This thing could find anything - and it did.  He wore a gold lion ring that had emeralds or rubies for eyes and a big diamond in the mouth.  He had all sorts of stuff like that.

He took a liking to me.  He'd bring things up to the surface so I, trailing behind him, could find things.  Often it was coins but once in a while it was jewelry.  I suppose this is where my love of treasure hunting started.  I would see him every summer into my early twenties.  I clearly remember the conversation where I said he'd known me more than half my life.  He was a fascinating old man.

He saw me through braces, my first job (at the Habitat), my first forray into my love of purple hair.  We talked about and met each other's families.  He was important to me.

Now, flash forward thirty years.  A couple of years ago, Andrew got me a metal detector for my birthday.  Not the radio shack version this time - a real one!!  I have gone metal detecting a few times but not often.  I don't get a chance to use it on a regular basis.  But when I do get to go, I love it!

Last weekend, we went to Ocean City, MD.  I needed a beach day.  I needed to search for buried treasure.  It didn't really occur to me that no people on the beach (it is winter, after all) would mean no buried treasure.  I was out there for about an hour before the first beeps started.  There were several beeps over the weekend.  We left with a small haul of....stuff.


We found a few bottle caps (found by Mikaela and me), a hook (that one took me by surprise), a rusty nail (that was pretty far down so I'm excited to know it can react to more than the first inch), a piece of wire and a disfigured penny (found by Andrew).

While I was waving the metal detector from side to side, I thought of Mr. Flannigan and how much fun I had with him.  I hope he knew that.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Half a life done

I have been 50 for a week now.  Fifty.  5-0.  I never really thought about being 50, until I turned 49.  Then I thought about it a lot.

My kids say I don't look 50.  But really, what does 50 look like?  Or, what's it supposed to look like?  I'm okay with how I look but I think I'd be okay if I didn't dye my hair, wear make-up or do whatever else I do.  Really, I've been thinking about what I've done with my life so far.  I told my partner that I felt like my life was passing me by and this was the year to stop allowing that to happen.  But then I thought about what I've done so far.  It's not a bad list.

Ages 1-10:  I was a pain in the ass kid.  I was difficult.  I felt different, which I didn't like.  I had a not-normal family which made me feel like I was different.  I was also clumsy, which didn't help.

Things that stand out in my memory:

1.  I learned to love the beach (or, more accurately, the shore).
2.  I learned that I didn't love school.
3.  I learned girls are mean, except the ones who aren't.  I'm still friends with the nice ones.

Ages 10-20: I was still a pain in the ass kid, but I also learned how to change things I didn't like about myself.

1.  I realized that I really was different from a lot of people.
2.  I behaved badly.
3.  I moved out on my own - and that was great.

Ages 20-30:  I finally got a life.

1.  I moved to an entirely other state (that wasn't NJ).  I never thought I'd do that.  But I did and I never looked back.
2.  I fell in love.  Several times.
3.  I found a profession.

Ages 30-40:  I became a grown up.

1.  I got married.
2.  I had kids - and have become a good mother, much to everyone's surprise (that will be a different blog post).
3.  I learned that no matter what, I end up on my feet.  I can take care of my family and myself.
4.  Oh, probably most important, I didn't die even though I was told I very well might.  Fuck that.

Ages 40-50:  I handle responsibility.

1.  Well, that whole marriage thing didn't really work out so well but I lived through it.
2.  I surrounded myself with people who love me.  I hope they know I love them, too.
3.  I have two teenagers and haven't run away from home yet - major accomplishment.
4.  I learned the role of "daughter" changes.  My girls fill it one way; my role is different with my mom.  It's all okay but they are drastically different.

So, what do the next few decades hold for me?  Obviously, I can't predict anything but there are a few things I can assume with some certainty will happen.  I will have two kids in college.  That will be a shock.  I will get married again.  That will be less of a shock but still a change.  I will hopefully end up somewhere where I can see the ocean on a regular basis.  And hopefully, I will end up happy.  Though, I have to say when I look at my life and all that has happened, I'm surprisingly happy.  I bitch a lot but that's just me.  More happiness is good.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Strong Voice

Saturday January 21 was a good day.  It was a good day to be a woman.  It was a good day to be politically active.  It was a great day to be a mother.

I remember the day I realized my mom was a bad ass.  She had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease and was losing her ability to walk - but she wasn't giving up.  She came to DC by train and joined me at the Million Mom March.  She was tired of the random shootings (that was just the beginning of a terrible trend) and wanted to do something. Anything.  So she came to participate.  She couldn't actually march so we volunteered and worked at a booth.  She was a rock star. (Once I became a mom and then a single mom, I realized just how much of a rock star she is.  This was one of the first moments of recognition of that fact.)

For those of you too young to remember the march, here's some info:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Million_Mom_March

I've participated in protests when I feel strongly enough about a topic to do so.  But my kids hadn't really had that opportunity yet.  And it's a sticky situation when I teach them one set of values and their dad doesn't agree. While I don't agree with his politics, I do take his feelings into consideration and bringing my kids to a large gathering that had the potential to have violence was tough.  I sat with my partner the night before trying to gauge the potential for problems.  Luckily, those concerns were unwarranted.

My girls were excited but didn't really know what to expect.  None of us did.  I clearly underestimated the number of people who would be on metro.  But folks were fun and friendly and passionate about their (our) rights.  I cannot accurately put into words the feelings of pride I felt while listening to my girls respond "this is what democracy looks like!" to the call of "show me what democracy looks like!"

In the week since the march, the world has changed greatly.  In Russia, domestic violence is no longer a crime.  In the US, the road for women's healthcare has become bumpier. Refugees are suspected terrorists - including children.  The list of marches we'll participate in and the number of times I have to call a member of congress to beg they use their brains increases.  It's like a full time job keeping track of all the changes happening and who to call to stop some of them.

My brain and heart hurt over it all.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Having a part time life

In some of the posts I've written but not published, I wrote about being an oreo.  I'm not fond of the term "sandwich generation".  I don't eat bread and it makes me think of bologna.  I prefer thinking of myself as the fluffy white stuff in the oreo.  One cookie is my mom and the other is my kids.  That works better for me.  It just doesn't feel better.

I have spent much of the last 7 years or so choosing between my mom and my kids.  No, we can't do (whatever activity) because I need to check on my mom.  Or no, I can't go to cvs to get your endless list of stuff because the girls need (fill in the blank).  It's an awful feeling and one that doesn't improve with time.

This week, all four days of it so far, have been different.  I deliberately scheduled a light week for myself.  It because lighter with a day of cancellations.  I like this.  A lot.  I'm a part-time everything this week.  And I'm happy.  So far, I've been able to:

1.  Spend two not rushed, not stressful hours with my mom doing the things she wanted to do.  That included trying on clothes (takes a lot of time with her and isn't easy to do in a wheelchair), cleaning and inventorying her jewelry and just listening to her talk.  I have visited her twice this week and if there's no snow, there will be a third time.  This is highly unusual and yet something I really need to do.

2.  I've cooked every night this week.  We have been adventurous in our cooking, too.  The garlic snow pea shoots were great.  The teriyaki beef was good.  The lo mein wasn't but I made up for it the next day with fried rice with left over stuff and too much soy sauce.  My girls are excited  (!!) about their lunches at school.  In fact, M came home to tell me her friends think I'm "LIT!" because of what we cooked.  I had to clarify that yes, it was a good thing to be lit.  Sigh.

3.  I've had time with Andrew just to be his partner, not running around accomplishing things.  We've enjoyed dinner and made coffee in the morning - things most folks get to do but doesn't happen often in my world.

I am loving every part of this.  I just need to figure out how to make it last.  And now I'm so happy I've made myself tired.  So maybe I'll take a nap.  Because I can!!

Monday, January 2, 2017

It's a new year....again.

I've taken nearly a year off from writing.  Well, that's not entirely true.  I continued to write occasionally.  I just didn't publish anything.  It all seemed angry.  I write this for several reasons but among them is the idea that if I were to suddenly die (not hoping for that), my kids would have something to look back on that tells them something about me.  I don't have much of that from my dad so I want them to have that for me.  Hopefully I'll live a long life and they won't need to read this to know who I am but in the event that isn't in the cards, there's this and I didn't want it to be angry.

Lots happened last year.  I am raising two 15 year old girls.  They have presented challenges that I never imagined.  I think this is the hardest year so far.  There are lots of positive things but the moods, the language, the drama is overwhelming sometimes.

My mother is still alive.  I think that's a good thing, but I'm not sure she does.  I took a temporary job scheduling for an interpreting agency for the last three months which was overwhelming so I feel like I neglected her.  That's not a good feeling.

My house is still a shit hole.  But now I'll have some time to get the things done I wanted to get done.

I hate New Years resolutions.  But I make them.  Among the ones I've made in the past and never accomplished:

1.  To stop swearing. (Fuck that.  I give up.)
2.  To get more organized (A girl can hope.)
3.  To get financially set (I'm better than I was.)

Things I did accomplish:

1.  I eat better.  I eat vegetables a lot.  And for me, I mean A LOT.
2.  I take time for me.  I go to weight watchers every week, no excuses.  I take a jewelry class (but I still feel guilty about it).  I don't alter that schedule.  I have 4 hours every week (3 for class and 1 for ww) that are all about me.  I like this.
3.  I love a lot.  I think my children, my mother, my partner and my friends know how much I love them.  I try to make sure of that.
4.  I laugh a lot.  I have a lot of fun.
5.  I can't think of a 5th thing but I'm sure I accomplished something else....

This year's goals:

1.  To enjoy the time I have with my girls.  I'm well aware it will be over quickly.  College is already on their minds.
2.  To spend better time with my mom.  Instead of worrying about how much time I spend with her (which is still a concern), I want to make sure we do something she enjoys with that time.  I don't want to look back with regret.
3.  I will never be organized like Martha Stewart organized.  But I can reduce the amount of paper that stays in the house.
4.  I'm already eating healthier.  I'm down nearly 40 pounds from this time last year.  But I need to really stop the flour/sugar cycle.  I feel better when I do that.  I just like bread and pasta.....
5.  I want to go somewhere every three months.  It could be a weekend away in a car or a bit longer by plane. I feel like my life is passing me by and I'm still stuck here.

So those are the goals for the year.  No resolutions.  Oh, and maybe I'll write more.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Fortune Cookie Knows

Normally, my girls and I eat out once a week.  It's on a day when we have something to do and won't be home until about 7ish.  This week, our schedule is a bit off so when the idea of cooking dinner last night came up, the three of us looked at each other and shrugged.

We went out for Chinese, one of our usuals.  All was going well when the fortune cookies arrived.

A's was pretty generic.  M's was philosophical.  I got the good one:


"Now is the time to try something new."  I listened.

Today I started my first (of many, I hope) class at Creative Metalworks School of Design.  The way this came about is odd - or usual for me.  I found a class of interest at Montgomery County but that was going to be a tough one to pull off.  So I remembered that about 10 years ago, we went to the White House Easter Egg Roll with a couple of other families - one of whom is a jeweler.  It took a bit to remember his name but I searched and found him. An email later, he recommended this class.  I went and met with Michael, the owner and instructor. I knew I found the place for me.

I got to hammer stuff, use a torch, dip stuff in acid, hammer more stuff, sand, polish, ask questions, feel stupid, understand things and feel smart again.  I got to use my brain in a way I haven't for a while.  I made mistakes and learned stuff.  I. Learned. Stuff!!!  And used fire!!

I started with a scrap of metal and ended up with this:


I'd like to say I made that but really I helped make it.  The design is mine (hammering stuff!) but Michael did the soldering and explaining of it all.  I have another one I'll work on again next week, maybe with a little less help.

It's been a while since I've been this excited.  Next week, more hammering!  More fire!  More being creative!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Year That Flew By

It doesn't feel like end of the year.  It doesn't feel like a year has gone by.  But it has.  And so much has changed:

My kids are in high school.
My mom is in a nursing home.
I grew a bunch of food.

Okay, that's not SO MUCH. That's a kind of short list.  But it's all I can come up with.

Lots has stayed the same:

I worry about my mom (though this year is dramatically different from last year - she's safe now).
My dishwasher still doesn't work.
I'm still in the same field that I should have left years ago.
I'm still living in this house.

There's more but that list depresses me.  I asked my girls yesterday what personal goals they had for the upcoming year (response: silence) and what accomplishments they had for 2015 (made it to high school, had their first job).  It got me to thinking about my own stuff.

Personal goals:

1.  Keep walking.  It's good for me.
2.  Maintain life on the healthy track.  I miss some stuff but I feel better.
3.  Find out what I want to do for the next few years.
4.  Fix my house (youtube videos, here I come).
5.  Get my life in order.

Accomplishments:

1.  I didn't kill anyone.  Yay me!
2.  I started walking/paying attention to what I eat.  I no longer feel "allergic" to vegetables.
3.  I maintained a successful business.
4.  I stopped drinking soda (except for the rare occasion).
5.  I saw a HUGE amount of fireworks.

We'll see what 2016 has to bring.  I hope it's a quiet year.

Happy New Year to you all.