Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I want the green grass

The grass is always greener on the other side.

I want the green grass.  I want to be on the right side.

This all started playing out in my head yesterday.  Well, that's a lie.  It's been mulling around in there for a while.  When I was a stay at home (SAH) mom, I wanted to be working.  I've been working full time for several years now and I want to be a SAH mom again.  Okay, not a full time SAH but I want to be home for my kids after school.  They need it now more than they did in elementary school.  I remember reading a blog post (can't remember from where) years ago that explained why middle school (girls especially) need a parent home after school.  Whoever wrote it was spot on.  My kids see/experience bullying, get teased by teachers, feel overwhelmed by the massive academic expectations, try to manage an age-appropriate social relations - all while coming home to an empty house.  Granted, it's often not empty for long.  But still.

My bf talked to me about how I manage my time and expectations.  It wasn't a sit-down, serious sort of talk.  It was a passing remark that went something like: "You know how when you're on a plane and when they review the emergency procedures, they tell you to put your mask on before you put one on your kids?  You might need to remember that."

Easy peasy, right?

No.  At least not for me.

I can't imagine putting the mask on my face before making sure my kids were okay.  This goes against my grain.

However, I'm very well aware of the fact that the advice is correct.  And smart.

There's got to be a way to balance the needs of my kids, my mom and me without any one person feeling slighted or losing out on something.

I think having an Alice (brady bunch), Mrs. Livingston (courtship of eddie's father) or Mr. French (family affair - and don't you dare call me old) would be awesome.  Someone who would take care of the mundane things so I could do the important things.  Oh, how amazing would it be if I put my dirty clothes in the hamper and the next day they were in my drawers, folded and clean!!  Or if all the plastic containers I don't wash in the dishwasher magically became clean before I needed them for lunches in the morning!  The excitement I would feel knowing my toilets were clean every day would be overwhelming.  That person would show my kids love - but not too much.  And dinner would be ready every single night.  Oh, the joy!

A girl can dream, no?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Adjusting my expectations

Maybe this should be titled "Honey, I was wrong".  But I can't do that.  I'll leave it at "I had to adjust my expectations".  That's as apologetic as I get.

Boyfriend and I went to Colorado for a wedding last week.  Yes, I did say Colorado.  The land of all the flooding and destruction.  The land where I have been several times before and enjoyed very little of it.  The land where there are mountains!!  I'm a beach girl who doesn't like breathing funny.  That Colorado.

We arrived in the middle of the rain.  The rental car guy didn't want us driving an itty bitty car into the mountains so we got a car so big, bf's regular Honda could fit inside of it.  Really big.  Our voices nearly echoed in it.

We made it to our destination (Silverthorne), went to a fun wedding (Dr. Who themed!) and I didn't die.  That was all successful.  Breathing was, um, fun but I didn't stop.  So that was also a success.  The advice I received - drink water! - was helpful.  Still, I was happy to be off the mountains several days later.

BF planned most of the trip.  That's a first - me letting go of control of everything.  Letting go is kind of fun.  Yes, we went to places I had NO interest in going.  But what a great surprise to find out I am sometimes wrong!  Leadville.  Yeah, Leadville - with the Mining Museum (,  When asked "do you want to go to the Mining Museum?"  The answer in my head was "um, NO!"  But then I would have missed all the cool stuff inside!  That was cool!  I'm glad the voice in my head was squelched by my regular voice.

BF: I want to go the scenic way.

Me: (inside my head: shit!) (out loud): Um, okay.

Had I not agreed to that, I would have missed driving through a rainbow, seeing amazing scenery, goats - all sorts of stuff.  We met nice people, saw cool towns and had a great time.  I was, my expectations needed adjusting.  Yeah, that's it.

We went from Leadville, through a bunch of towns, past Pike's Peak, past the floods and ending up at Colorado Springs.  First, it's big.  I had no idea.  It has bowling alleys!  That was a fun way to spend an evening.  It has friendly people.  And flooding.

We were at Focus on the Family (don't ask - my very-atheist-boyfriend had a need to see it and I have to say, it was surprising).  Thankfully it was Sunday and it was closed.  That limited the amount of trouble we could find.  But I found proof that the Universe does indeed have a sense of humor.  As we were wandering around the empty campus, a voice came out of nowhere!  It told us the water was rising and to seek higher ground.  That made me laugh.

Colorado Springs has the Garden of the Gods - a super cool place from the looks of it.  Why only from the looks of it?  Because just as we were preparing to leave the visitor center to enter the park, the water gods decided to piss on our trip and start flooding.  Nice timing, dudes.  It was beautiful from the outside.  We'll have to wait until the next trip to see if it's as beautiful on the inside.  I don't doubt that it is.

We finished our trip in Denver.  Denver is much nicer than I expected (there are those nasty expectations again).  It has a beautiful downtown (with weird sounds that come from the subway grates, thank you Sound Walk {}).  Again, at bf's suggestion we visited something I didn't really want to do.  The Denver Museum of Nature and Science (  I'm used to the various Smithsonian museums so I didn't expect much (there's that word again!).  I was wrong!  It was cool!

It was a fun trip.  I even survived the cootie-filled woman next to me on the plane.  Between her sneezing and wheezing, she gave me an US magazine.  I can forgive a lot for a good trashy magazine.  Escaping reality for a bit was nice.  Now I've tasted freedom.  I'm going to want to do this again.  Soon.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

It's a different world now

I remember life before 9/11.  Clearly.  It was an easier life.  My kids were born 4 months before September 11, 2001.  Their life is so different than the one I imagined for them.  Living in the metro DC area, the changes are all around us.  Here's my take on things:

Pre 9/11
Post 9/11
There was little security at federal buildings.  This meant I could take my mom to NIH to walk around, go into any Smithsonian museum at any open hour and that the federal agencies were pretty much like any other building.

There are huge fences up around many federal agencies.  You can’t just walk around the open suburban ones any more.  You go through metal detectors at every Smithsonian museum – which often means waiting in line.
I didn’t need to arrive at jobs a half hour early.  15 mins was plenty of time to get to where I was going.

I must have an escort at most of the places I work in.  This is a massive hassle, though one that has become normal
There were no “report suspicious activity” signs on the metro, above the beltway or at large public events.
This makes me nuts, especially when I see it on the beltway.  It makes my blood pressure go up.  How can I drive and look at suspicious activity?  Everyone here drives nuts……

We weren’t at war.
We have been in one war or another for the entire time my kids have lived on this earth.

Hatred wasn’t a part of my daily experience.
My kids are growing up knowing that hatred between religious groups, ethnic groups, countries is prevalent.  I knew they’d learn it eventually but I was hoping they’d make it out of elementary school first.  They didn’t.

I never thought about emergency supplies or an escape plan.

We do now.
Terrorism wasn’t part of my daily life.
It is now.

I have been reminded that during my lifetime, we have always had terrorism.  Planes were hijacked.  Bombs happened.  But I don't remember those days as vividly as I do 9/11.  They just feel different.  But they aren't really.  

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A few of my favorite things - black raspberry ice cream

Every now and then there's something I want to write about because it has a special meaning to me.  I'm going to start a sporadic series called (now sing this with me) "a few of my favorite things".  I'm starting with Friendly's Black Raspberry ice cream.  It has to be Friendly's, no other.

I was in elementary school when my brother was in high school.  He had a part time job working at Friendly's.  I don't remember much about any of it - except one part.  I remember going there with my mom and ordering dinner (likely clam strips!).  When it came time for dessert, he brought me one of those metal ice cream dishes that Friendly's has filled with purple black raspberry ice cream. The ice cream was covered in black chocolate sprinkles.  I remember them.  I had never had so many sprinkles on one cup of ice cream.  Because it came from my brother, it was special.

We've had many ups and many downs in our life.  He and I are nothing alike (or so we like to think).  We butt heads and disagree on a record number of things.  Yet we always find some common ground on which we can mend our relationship.

Today I was still recovering from the loss of Bobcat (see previous post).  Although I have been busy and occupied all weekend, I still shed a record number of tears.  My brother, who has been through a similar experience, reached out to me, my ex and my girls.  It meant something to me.  So when I was walking through Giant after a (less than awesome) visit with my mother, I saw Friendly's Black Raspberry ice cream and I (who doesn't eat ice cream often and rarely keeps it in the house) felt it calling to me.

I just happened to have some chocolate sprinkles (called Jimmies in my world) in the back of the cabinet.  This bowl of purple and black made me smile and made my insides all happy.  This, my friends, is one of my favorite things.

(Now it's stuck in your head, isn't it?)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Pets break hearts

I don't own pets (except my whore fish).  I had a few pets when I was young.  Shep was our dog when I was little but when we moved to a townhouse when I was 9, my mom took him to my grandmother in Maine where he would have more space.  He threw up in the car pretty much the whole way there.  My mom had to wait until a perfect weather day to sell the car.  It still smelled bad years later if the weather was hot and humid.

My mom got me a cat when I was 10.  That lasted a few months.  I couldn't breathe.  As in I Could. Not. Breathe. The house was scrubbed (professionally) several times after that.  Years later (like more than 10), the washing machine flooded and made the rug in the family room wet.  Whatever was left in the rug filled the air and I couldn't breathe again.

This is why I don't have pets.

But I know people who do.

My brother had a dog, a Bernese Mountain Dog - Chester - who didn't realize he was a dog. He thought he was a boy. That was the most spoiled and loved dog ever.  We had had several human deaths in our family around the time Chester lost his fight with cancer.  I handled the human deaths okay but the loss of Chester (who was not my dog) still brings tears to my eyes years later.

My boyfriend had two cats when I met him - Shiva and Freya.  Shiva is the mighty hunter who likes to attack my toes in the middle of the night.  Freya loved me.  And she didn't interrupt my breathing.  Her death still appears in my dreams sometimes.

Now I want to tell you a story about Bobcat.  He's not really a bobcat.  He's a cat that got his name because of my father -in-law, Bob  He became Bob's cat, hence the name Bobcat.  Bobcat is somewhere around 23 human years old.  And I love him.

My mother in law rescued him from a house where his former owners had abandoned him.  I joined the family a few years later.  Bobcat ruled that house.  I knew my place was well below him.

He stayed and comforted Bob through a lengthy battle with Alzheimer's Disease.  When the disease caused Bob to be aggressive and frustrated, Bobcat brought him comfort.

When my mother in law, Ruth, first battled breast cancer, Bobcat stayed by her side.

When her son and I split and my children had two homes to deal with, Bobcat made them feel loved and safe.

When Ruth developed breast cancer again, Bobcat scared the nasty nurse that we didn't want there.  That was fun.

At the end of Ruth's life, she said she wanted to go home to be with Bobcat. He brought her comfort, laying in her bed with her when that's all she could do.  He was Bobcat.  He was loved.

Now it's Bobcat's turn.  He's sick.  He's at least 23 - we don't know an exact age.  I laughed when I saw the vet's report - she couldn't hear his heart murmur over his purring.  That cat can purr.

This is why I can't have pets.  Saying goodbye is too hard.  Goodbye Bobcat.  You were very much loved.  I hope you knew that.  You leave broken hearts behind.