Sunday, November 7, 2010

Scouting Is...

For our family, Boy Scouts is something that we are passionate about. It may not be particularly in fashion any more, but I feel that it has value, and I will fight to make sure that the integrity of the organization is maintained, to the best of my limited abilities...and here's why:

Scouting is a strong foundation on which young boys and young men can plant their feet, in order to jump off and become anything that they wish. Scouting is meant to provide an echoing sentiment to the values that parents, schools and religion are supposed to instill in young men. For a Scout, his leaders and unit should embody and personify the kind of man that he strives to become, and they should be for him the role models which he aims to emulate.

For me, this has always been the compelling reason that I have wanted to be involved in Scouting. At times when the direction I should follow is unclear, and the action that I should take is uncertain, I have turned to the words of the Scout law to guide my steps and my hand, and in the ranks of my fellow Scouters, I have found kindred souls, who are just trying to do the right thing. There are most assuredly times that I have failed miserably at doing this, but at the end of the day, I have always tried. And that, above all, is what I have always wanted for my boy.

I want my son to see the word in terms of all of the things he *can* do, if only he wants to try. I want him to know that no matter how well he does a thing, there is honor in simply making a good, honest attempt.

I want him to know that loyalty to your friends and even your foes will always serve you in good stead.

I want him to know that if he can be kind to other people in all times and all places, regardless of whether he agrees with them, or even likes them, that he will be a man that is worth knowing and liking.

I want him to know that bravery isn't only about rushing in to a burning building, it is also about making sure that everyone has a chance to speak and speaking up for those that may not have a voice themselves.

I want him to see that reverence is not something to be embarrassed by or to hide, but is rather something that he should exude. You don't need a reason to be reverent, the fact that you *are* is reason enough.

I want him to know that keeping your word is not optional, being trustworthy is the only acceptable choice, and I want him to be able to trust that, what others say to him, they mean, that there is no double meaning, nor hidden agenda.

I want him to see the world in terms of how he can help to make it a better place. I want him to view every chance encounter as an opportunity to do a good turn, and to give back to the community and world that sustains him.

I want him to always extend the hand of friendship to those around him, and to truly believe that there is no one that is not worthy of being called friend.

I want him to know that common courtesy is not "uncool", that having manners is not stuffy, but instead is the mark of a good man.

I want him to know that bringing a smile into a room is better than any other gift you can bring, and that the simple act of being cheerful can actually make you healthier.

I want him to remember that obeying the rules means that he can spend more time learning from mistakes than he spends paying for them.

I want him to know that we do not live in a disposable world. Just because a thing is used or imperfect, does not mean that it is trash. This goes for people as well as things. Just because a newer, fancier friend enters the picture, it does not mean that you should bear the expense of losing an old friendship just to get the newer one.

I want him to be clean, but let's face it, he's a little boy, and that is an uphill struggle, so I will pick my battles there.

I want him to know all of these things, and to understand that it is not just mom and dad being stuffy and old fashioned for wanting these things...and this is why we have him in that he can see that it *is* cool to be Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, Reverent, and that we are not the only ones that think so.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


There is much in this life that I don't understand.

I DON'T understand why people like to toy with one another's emotions.

I DON'T understand how people fall out of love.

I DON'T understand how anyone can hurt a child or an animal.

And the list goes on.

But I think I am finally starting to understand a little bit about my father.

Recently my stepson reached out to me. It has been nearly 3 years since we had any form of direct contact. I am not sure what exactly prompted it, but he used every channel that he could to find me and get in touch.

He found one of my websites and emailed me.
He found me on Facebook and sent a message.
He created a Twitter account, and then found and followed me there.
He came here, and read some of this.

I proceeded cautiously, responding to his inquiries and letting him know we were happy to hear from him, while trying not to overwhelm him with over enthusiasm. A pleasant conversation emerged, and I was very encouraged and hopeful, though utterly mystified and frankly worried.


See, I have been him. I was that child who had NO CONTACT with my father for years. For reasons that I wasn't conscious of, or responsible for my father dropped completely out of my life. And I wondered why? Why didn't he love me enough to be there? How could he just turn his back on me and walk away?

My mother loved me so fiercely that I couldn't imagine how any parent could walk away. The only times that I ever really even considered finding him were those when something truly miserable was going on. In good times, the thought of going out on limb and tracking down someone that so clearly wanted nothing to do with me was much too masochistic.


I always knew that the day would come when he would come and find us. I knew this, because my day came. So I always figured that, when that day came, I would be prepared. I was not.

Hearing from him was wonderful, but the first thought that popped into my head was "Oh no! What's happened? Is he OK?"

So our careful guarded and wary little dialogue continued. Until the other mother cut it off abruptly. And then she called me.

To say that a very passionate conversation ensued would be putting it mildly. Accusations were tossed back and forth. Vitriol was spewed. I would like to think that some demons were perhaps at least moderately exorcised, but that may be an overstatement.

What did emerge was an understanding on my part of my own father that I don't believe I ever fully consciously realized that I had developed, until this turn of events. Or at least an understanding of his choice to walk away.

I always thought that it was out of a lack of concern and love that he walked away when he did. I always believed that it was a thoroughly selfish decision, and that it was because of how very little he loved me that he turned his back. Not being a part of my life was proof positive to me that he was something of a monster. The fierce, almost primal love of my mother by comparison made that all the more clear.

What I know now is that sometimes, SOMETIMES, loving someone means having to walk away.

Like my own mother, the other mother loves the boy with a savage ferocity. She and my husband don't mix well, and have clashed tremendously over the years. Battles have raged and this poor child, whether he was fully aware of it at the time or not, was stuck in the midst of it. For a time, I was able to force a calm over the group. Constant effort and engineering on my part kept most of the animosity at bay, but not enough. When we would see the boy, we could see the inner conflict, the confusion, the sense of betrayal.

When the storm became something that I could no longer control, we let it roll over us and wash us away. And then, to get the boy out of the line of fire, to prevent him from having to continue to be tossed around, we backed off. It hurt, and it sucked, but we wanted a good and stable life for the boy more than we wanted anything else, and we recognized that our presence in his life was not bringing love and stability. It was bringing suffering and confusion. We knew that with other mother, other father he could have a "normal" life. With four parents, he could not. And that was what we want most for him. To have a home life that brings him peace and comfort, rather than turmoil and frustration. Too young for full disclosure, he needs the protection that youthful ignorance can bring, and this situation only stood to rob him of that.

So we let go.

And waited for the day when he would seek us out.

And somewhere, SOMEWHERE, in the back of my mind, a connection started to form. I could remember my father offering me an explanation for his absence. I had thought it an excuse. He gave up fighting for me, because he realized that the fight would never end. That I would always be trapped between two different parties that wanted the best for me. That I had two parents that wanted me to be with THEM. That I would be, as he put it, a ping pong child. Forever destined to bounce back and forth between the two of them. And he didn't want that for me.

At the time, I felt relieved to have an explanation that didn't include my mother being painted as a monster or myself being depicted as unlovable. But I also felt it was never his choice to make. I remember thinking "How dare you decide to walk out of my life for my own sake??? That wasn't YOUR decision to make! It was MY life!"

I was 17.

At 25, I still couldn't understand it.

When I became a stepmother, a mother, and a mother again I still didn't understand it. If you have a child, not being a part of their life is not an option. End of story. Only the very weak would ever give up, right?

It wasn't until I matured more as a parent, and started to see clearly the toll that this was taking on my stepson, my first baby, that I finally started to get it. But I didn't even realize what it was I was getting.

It was not until that phone call, that fateful phone call, when I was forced to put my own thoughts into words, that I truly realized that for the first time, on some small level, I get him. Though his later actions I may never be able to move past nor understand, that one choice, that one PIVOTAL choice, I get.


I am still not sure what exactly prompted our brief reunion. What I do know is that he wanted to speak to his siblings. Which he has. Once. And then nothing more has been heard from that front. And I am torn between wanting to let him have his space, and wanting more. I want to know how his day went, and about the girl that he likes. But I also want him to have what he needs.

There is also a part of me that wants to cry out that it is not fair to my children to dangle their brother in front of them and then take him away again. But I know that I can dress those wounds for them well enough.

For now, I will wait, with my leaves and my limbs and my trunk intact, ready to be taken if they are needed.

And Rabbi, I finally get it.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Girl Child on Doggy Birds and Bees

Upon hearing that Grandma & Grandpa's miniature dachshunds are expecting puppies :

"So what? Did they fall in love and get married or something?"

Yeah, I'd say that falls deeply within the "or something" category...

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Family I Never Really Had

I have a secret to life? It has been the stuff of a made for TV movie.
An afterschool special if you will. So many cautionary tales, all rolled up into one.

Want divorced family? We've got that here.
Want blended family, struggling to succeed? We've got that too.
Want said blended family crumbling to pieces? Check!
Want long lost family reappearing and reuniting? Double check!
Want vile actions driving people apart? Score!
Want alcoholism, drugs, abuse, suicide attempts? Tune in.

Basically any cliche you could dream up, you can find here.

There are people that I am related to that I do not talk to. These people have never met my husband, have never seen my children, have not spoken to me or me to them, for over a decade. And before that, they had only seen or talked to me for a handful of years, following a nearly 2 decade absence.

I was raised by my mother. For better or worse, she has been my family, my WHOLE family, for my whole life. The only child of an only child, with no living grandparents, it was just the two of us.

At times, I have had a stepfather and step siblings. I desperately wanted them to be real. I wanted to be a big, happy family. And she wanted that for me. She endured years more of a bad situation than she had any reason to, in a brave attempt to give me a family. There players were all there: mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle and cousins. Except that they weren't. They were the family that I never really had, but sort of did.

I picked up a stepsister, who is as close to a real sister as I will ever truly understand having.

But when you dig down really deep and push comes to shove, it has really always been mom and I.

My father sent child support through some convoluted state managed process, which meant that there was never an address or contact information attached to either end of the monetary transaction.

We moved alot.
We were not the easiest people to keep track of.

At the end of high school, with the cost of college and more immediately, the cost of college applications looming on the horizon, I got back in touch. It had been more than 15 years since he had seen me. I had no memory of him.

We had a whirlwind courtship and moved in together.
I had a family?

The next 7 years were a hellstorm of ups and downs, as we struggled to forge some sort of relationship. Years of expectations and wild imaginings about the true nature of the other crashed headlong into the reality that was one and other, and it wasn't always pretty. After several attempts at being who I thought he would love, and trying to fit myself into that shape, I realized that it was me or him. And hard as it was, I chose me.

I chose to cut myself off from the only person in the world that I looked like.
I cut myself off from the object of my fascination and longing for most of my childhood.
I rode off into the sunset, while I still had one or two unblemished, genuinely fond memories intact. I hoped that on some level, I would be missed.
I made myself nothing more than a blip in the story of his life. And the life of my stepmother, stepsister and the rest of the family that I never really had.

The intervening decade has been an incredible ride. I got married, had children and embarked upon the wild journey of raising my own family. Mother, father, sister, brother, and yet...

My husband has a family. Always has had one. Whether he wanted them or not, his parents and siblings were always there, in the periphery. He has cousins. Lots of them. Plenty of spares that he chooses to have space from.

He also has a son that is not mine.

When we met, my husband was a mess. Emotionally fragile and permanently fractured from the failure of his first marriage and subsequent loss of his son from his day to day life, he was completely immobilzed by his loss and depression.

I set off to try and make it right.
I provided the solution to all of his fatalism, forcing him to find positive outcomes and ways to get at least a little of what he wanted.

Through time and a mammoth effort and sacrifices on my part, I was breifly able to turn 7 people that had very little chance of ever interacting civilly into the most unusual of family units. It was complicated. It was exhausting. It was the juggling and balancing act of all balancing acts, but it seemed to be working. Mother, father, sister, brother, brother, other mother, other father. It was the family I never really had.

A few strong gusts of emotional wind, and the delicate house of cards that I had worked so hard to build, for my children, his child, myself was scattered on the wind.

But something was different. Mother, father, sister, brother. We were still a family. A damaged family. A family reeling from the loss of losing a part of itself, but a family nonetheless.

Time and technology has given us ways to keep tabs on the people that we have lost over the course of our lives, and I have used it liberally, as a virtual bush to cloak myself in, while I search for clues of what is really going on in their lives. A glimpse here, a long hard stare there, and I am able to comfort myself that at least they appear healthy.

I can see my father, looking much the same. I can read his blog and gain his persepctive of the world. I see alot about him. I see him fondly referring to his daughter, an unrestrained measure of pride in his voice. He speaks of my stepsister, with whom he has had more than twice as many years with than we ever shared. The one thing I never see, is an absence of me. But he seems happy, and that matters to me. I am happy for him, and the family that I never really had.

I can see my stepsister, aunt and cousins. Bolder now, I have reached out, and been granted permission to watch the parts of their life that they choose to share with the internet unfold. As people that I am blood related to, I sometimes yearn to be a part of their lives. To be missed. However I never expect it. I have no idea how my absence was explained to them, and I am not sure that I want to ever see the picture that was painted for them. They seem happy though, and that matters to me. I am happy for them, the family that I never really had.

I can see my stepson. Tiny glimpse. Just a blip. I can see the other mother and other father, a glance here, a glance there. I know that they are alive. I know that they are together. I can only assume that things are good for them. And I am happy for them. The family that I never had.

I often wonder what I would do if, from my long distance perch I saw something terrible happen. Would I, could I find a way to make it better?

I might just get that chance.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

It's Just That Kind of Day...

One of my articles got flagged for plagiarism...the article that I am accused of potentially plagiarizing from? An article that I wrote on the same topic about a week ago.

Can you plagiarize yourself?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Well, our little family has just embarked upon a new and unexpected little journey...we former "city mice" have decided to go a little less urbane with our diet and have started drinking raw milk.

Raw milk, for the uninitiated is simply milk fresh from the cow. It is not pasteurized (cooked) as typical, store-bought milk is, nor is it homogenized. This means that the cream will separate out. It means that our whole milk is *truly* whole.

On average, our family of four drinks about 6-8 gallons of milk a week. (What can I say, the kids and the husband are milk drinkers...) At current local prices nearing $4/gallon, that is a healthy chunk of the grocery bill. This past Sunday, after church, we went to a small local diner with some friends. In typical diner fashion, the placemats had little ads all around the border. One of the ads was for raw milk, $2.50/gallon. This prompted a lengthy discussion, and the decision to venture out and try it.

So Monday afternoon I drove out to the dairy farm, picked up a gallon and we gave it a test run. It certainly has a slightly different flavor, but the kids and the hubby have decided that they like it.

There appear to be many potential health benefits to drinking raw milk, and it is certainly less costly, so we'll just have to see how this works out over the next several weeks.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sick...of Being Sick

It is now Day 2 of the great green days of May for me. I know, I know you never even knew it was Day 1...Last week the girl child was stricken with a nasty stomach bug, that her firmly parked on the couch for 2 days. What had started as a perfectly ordinary morning quickly changed, leaving the boy child to trudge on to the bus stop alone, and the girl to practice her mad vomit aiming skills. Thankfully, as these things typically do, it passed.

Yesterday morning I got up and felt ill. Like rollicking, going to toss my cookies, just what did I eat last night ill. Ill enough that when it was time for me to venture out, to pick the kiddies up at school and take them for piano, I didn't bother to put on a bra. Or proper pants. I ventured out in my lovely pink puppy fleece pajama bottoms. Because I am especially classy that way. Oh, I didn't brush my hair either.

I had hopes that today would be better. And in brief shining moments it has been. Then there are all of the *other* moments. You know, the ones where I wish I at least had had a really good night of drinking under my belt to show for all of this nausea.

**side note: The proper way to say it is that you feel nauseated, not that you are nauseous. Nauseous refers to an odor, so if you tell me that you are nauseous, you can expect me to plug my nose. It is a pet peeve of mine, and I know it is a bit OCD, but I decided to embrace my inner Mr. Monk a long time ago. **

OK, now back to my regularly scheduled whining.

Anyway, all of this queasiness has led me to the same cold sweat fear that I always land at when I feel sick for more than a millisecond...

Which led me to wonder if I am normal to always jump to the same unlikely yet terrifying conclusion, or if this is something which ALL women - or at least all women that have had children - immediately default to?

Because the only other times that I can recall feeling this sick for this long for no reason were those times that I was pregnant.

Which is obviously not actually true...because I know that this is at least the 4th time that I have had this same fear in the last 2 years. Which means that it has happened, I just have chosen not to remember it.

And is not even really possible, since I have successfully had an IUD for the last nearly 5 years. (This November I will need to get a new one...aren't you relieved to be in the know on that??)

So is it just me? Or does every woman "go there" every time she feels like technicolor hurling?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Great Expectations

As Mother's Days go around here, yesterday was pretty decent. Typically, almost any day that is used for the purpose of celebrating any single individual within this household is met with an underwhelming lack of fanfare. Sure, sure I make a big deal about the kiddos birthdays but the husband usually manages to effectively mar those efforts by being a complete and utter asshat. There is apparently something about birthdays, Mother's Day and other "Hey, this is YOUR day" type events that triggers some mild form of psychosis in the man.

Being that this is the custom, I have learned to pretty well dread these otherwise festive occasions, and do my best to shield the kiddos from the nasty demon in the the daddy shaped flesh suit that comes to visit us on those days.

This year started off about a week ago, with the husband actually asking me what I would like for Mother's Day. Which nearly made me swallow my own teeth. Recognizing that I had a rare possible window of opportunity here, I put in a quick plug for the porch swing that I have been wanting since the very day that I first set eyes on our home. For four years I have wanted one. For four years I have been forbidden to purchase one because, and I quote "That's a ripoff, I can build one much cheaper."

Yes, yes I am sure you can. Of course it will take you until the 5th day of Christmas 2033, and by the time that you are done, NONE of us will be speaking, you will have insulted EVERYONE involved in the process and it will weigh enough to keep any portion of the Titanic that may have considered floating to the surface firmly pinned on the ocean floor.

At any rate, I offered the coveted swing up as a wish list item. Which was met with the rejoinder, "Get the %$$%@ Christmas trees off the porch, and we'll talk." For the record, there are *no* "Christmas Trees" on my porch. There are two lighted fir trees in pots at either side of the door. Sure, I had originally purchased them as Christmas decorations, but thought "Heck, why not use them year round to spruce up the porch."

A few days later, I jokingly pointed out a very.expensive. car stereo and claimed "That's what I want for Mother's Day." This immediately elicited a sneering remark about putting something like that into a Ford.

Anyway, the mere fact that he remembered that Mother's Day was coming and was making noises like it was going to be acknowledged set me completely off balance. But in a good way.

Exceeded expectations.

A few days later, he called from work and mentioned that there was no.way. that I was getting that stereo, as he had priced it, and it was waaay more than he had ever spent on a deck, but that maybe Kenwood or Clarion make a model that I would like. Honestly, that was the closest I think I have come to swooning in a dog's age.

Far exceeded expectations.

Saturday arrived, and he informed me that the odds of him coming to church the next day were slim, as the Chelsea/Wigan game was coming on at 11, and he wanted to watch it. Which would mean that I would be in church with both kids, dealing with any behavior hiccups that might occur, on my own, on Mother's Day. Typical. A little part of me started screaming "DVR the damned thing and come to church you asshat!!!" Unfortunately, that little part was not connected to the mouth bone, so no one heard me shouting it.

Meets expectations.

Sure enough he stayed home from church. ANd I could feel my aggravation level r-i-s-i-n-g QUICKLY. Someone suggested that perhaps I would walk in to a great spread that he was getting ready for me? I responded saying "Yes, if that happens, you can visit me at the hospital, as it will be the big one Margaret."

Meets expectations.

So I loaded the kiddies up and contemplated NOT going home. But I had on sandals, and my toes were cold, and I wanted socks. As I turned onto our street, I immediately noticed that the garage door was opened, his car had been moved and was backed up to said garage, and he was stalking about in the garage with a broom and a large stack of wood.

Potentially exceeding expectations.

I walked inside and found flowers - granted inexpensive, last minute, purchased at the grocery store flowers, but flowers none the less.

Exceeds expectations.

My aggravation quickly changed to cautious hope, thinking wow, he is DVRing the game and building me my swing, at long last!!!!

I ran upstairs and got changed.

He called me out to the garage.

And started asking me my opinion - which we all know he doesn't REALLY want - on whether it would be better to leave the boards at their original thickness or to rip them in half. Because they would likely be too thick for the desk that he wants to build. For the kids.

Meets expectations.

Ripping boards is one of my least favorite things to "do together". I am alway sin the "catcher" position on the far end of the board, which he feed it along the table saw. And I always manage to "Do it wrong" and get yelled out.

My blood started to boil realizing that he had the notion that I should help him rip boards on *MY* day.

Meets expectations.

I went inside and seethed for a minute or two.

He came inside and started watching the recorded game.

We never discussed the boards again.

Apparently he can get a clue every now and again.

Exceeds expectations.

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful, with me going to the store and picking out what I wanted for lunch and dinner the rest of them be damned.

For our household, that is a fairly successful personal holiday. It would be fair to say that it exceeded my original expectations.

And then, after the kids went to bed he said to me, "So I saw you were looking a the Crutchfield catalog. Did you find one that you liked?"

Exceeds expectations.

Perhaps he is learning.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Me: I think I killed my lawnmower.

He: Oh? Why's that?

Me: It started smoking, then the oil cap shot off, and oil flew out of it in all directions.

He: Yeah, that's typically not a good thing.

Monday, May 3, 2010

I Smell A New Family Hobby Brewing

This weekend we tried our hands at a little outdoorsy adventure with some friends and the kiddos. As they have gotten a bit older, daddy has been chomping at the bit to get them outside and into the wilderness, to re-enact all of his days of scouting and tromping through the woods. Visions of backpacking, hiking, camping and "roughing it" have danced through his head for years now.

When the boy entered scouts last year the excitement started as a dull humming, but has consistently built to a near deafening roar in the last several months. Insistent that we stay true to his childhood memories, he has scoffed at all of the new fangled conveniences that have come onto the market to make "roughing it" more like "temporarily-relocating-your-fancy-modern-ass-outside-ing it". Not surprisingly, he has long contended that GPS devices are one of the great evils of the world, and that we should all throw them out and just learn to use a *&^%$#@ map.

Seriously. You would not believe the long winded rants that this man has embarked upon for the singleminded purpose of extolling the many flaws and evils of the little box with the voice on the dashboard.

Some of his sparklier gems of wisdom include:

"That thing will tell you that you can drive from here to Paris if you let it!"

"If it told you to go off a cliff, would you?"

"It can't even pronounce the street names correctly!"

"All of you GPS users are lemmings!"

Many a time have I been severely chastised for either using a GPS, associating with someone else who uses one or even doing something as depraved as printing out and using directions from Mapquest. But then I am just an ugly sinner like that.

But I digress...

It seems that we have finally found a place in his world for GPS. We went geocaching with some friends yesterday and had a blast. Our local council scout camp has a geocaching course that is open to the public, so we hopped in the car and drove up...

using a dashmounted GPS...

which, (wait for it)... kept giving the wrong directions...

making the hubby simultaneously crazed and smug...

and leading him back to his original assertion that we should just use a compass and a map...

which threatened to turn this first foray into a torturous endeavor.

Thankfully, he was quickly taken in by the ease and simplicity of just following the darned
directions. (One has to wonder if his own constant mantra to the non-computer Geeks of RTFM was echoing somewhere in the back of his head)

Armed with the trusty handheld GPS of our fellow treasure hunters and dear friends, the kids were able to uncover many a fine treasure and even a few trackable items. For the uninitiated, geocaching is a form of modern day treasure hunting. Cachers post coordinates of a cache box on the geocaching website, and intrepid hunters then embark on a journey to find said cache. Inside there can be any number of items, including a log book, where one can record their visit to the cache, small items that you can take, as long as you replace them with another similarly small item and even numbered items that can be tracked on line, and delivered to other caching locations around the globe.

The kids found many small things, such as a baseball, a sewing kit and an emergency flashlight.
The also uncovered a couple of trackable treasures, one of which was a rubber ducky, that is a "travel bug". Cindy Duck has been stealthily making her way around the globe since 2006, and comes to PA from the Netherlands originally. This was, for the kids, the single coolest thing that could possibly have happened!

Seeing how many miles this simple toy has traveled and checking out the points on a map was a great (fun) lesson in geography, and one that they are excited to be a part of. We have plans to go again, and I can see this quickly becoming a part of any family roadtrips in our future.

Of course the next time that we go, we will probably not use the dashboard GPS to get us to the general spot, since it apparently can't read a map.

The Birds Are Back

And with a vengeance.

Those of you that have been following for a while, are familiar with the great bird saga of 2008. Those of you who are not, may go and get caught up here and here and here and here and finally here.

Last year, I thought I would outsmart those persistent pains in the arse by skipping out on the hanging baskets altogether. Which seemed to have genuinely done the trick, though making me a bit sad in the process.

Much to my dismay I launched into this spring sans beautiful hanging flowers, just to avoid such antics again.

I am t-h-r-i-l-l-e-d to announce that it is once again Robin mating season in the PA and apparently our yard has been voted one of the top 10 sexiest places for robins this year.

We have nests. 4 of them at last count. Each complete with eggs and babies.

That is one on the front porch, ON THE RAILING(!!!!!!), two in the tree in the front yard, and one in the forsythia bush around the side of the house. In the dog's yard. Where the nest can be a constant source of temptation, frustration, confusion and anxious whimpering for three 100+ lb dogs. Excellent.

The front nest has already begun hatching, and I frankly have neither the energy, nor the courage to investigate the others. On the upshot, at least my neighbor with all of the 100's of birdhouses that go vacant each year can hear and see the birds, and at least *pretend* that they are living in her avian housing development.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Message to a Long Lost Friend

I understand your silence and can forgive your unease. I know that the actions of my youth caused you great pain. I reach out, not to bring you back to that dark time, but instead to reach beyond it.

Every chance encounter, every acquaintance, becomes a part of our individual story. I know that I am a part of yours, just as you are a part of mine. I bear a permanent mark to remind me of that, in the most literal of ways, as do you.

There are facets of who I am that simply would not be, had I not met you, all of those years ago, and for the most part, I am glad to have each of them.

I am sorry to intrude upon your personal distance, but I just want to know where life took you, and who and what you have become. When I knew you, I had every intention of being a part of the rest of your story, but a few plot twists here and there, and I wrote myself out of the story.

I suppose it is somewhat selfish to assume that I have any right to know, but I guess on some level, some part of me feels a sense of responsibility in shaping at least the next road that you took, and I wonder what awaited you there. I hope whatever greeted you, whatever new adventure beckoned, led you somewhere wonderful, because it is what you deserved.

"A pistol shot at 5 o'clock
The bells of heaven ring
"Tell me what you done it for"
"No I won't tell you a thing

"Yesterday I begged you
before I hit the ground -
all I leave behind me
is only what I found

"If you can abide it
let the hurdy-gurdy play -
Stranger ones have come by here
before they flew away"

I will not condemn you
nor yet would I deny"
"I would ask the same of you
but failing will not die

"Take up your china doll
it's only fractured -
and just a little nervous
from the fall"
- R. Hunter

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Teachable Moments

As a parent, I sometimes see our day to day lives as little more than a string of teachable moments, held together with moments when we can attempt to live out those lessons. At times, I try to seek out as many teachable moments in our days as I possibly can. Sometimes though, it is the moments that you don't even see coming that are the best.

Our church is very involved in community outreach programs. One such program is a produce outreach, where low income and needy folks in our community can get fresh perishable food goods on a monthly basis, in the parking lot of our church. This happened to be the day that those goods were distributed.

Today is also the day that my daughter's Daisy troop meets at the church. I happened to have both kiddos with me when we arrived to a very full church parking lot. My children surveyed the scene and marveled at the sheer number of cars. Seeing a small girl with her parents, my daughter asked if this was another new Daisy, come to join our ranks. I explained quickly that no, these were people coming for the fresh food outreach.

My son, playing the older and wiser sibling role immediately attempted to translate for her and explained "Yeah, those people are collecting food for the needy..."

I gently corrected, "No honey, actually those people *are* the needy."

To which he looked up at me with wonder and surprise in his soft brown eyes and said simply, "But mom, they look just like us."

There is no better lesson that I could have hoped to teach my children today than that: there is nothing that separates us from those that are less fortunate but luck and circumstance. There is no "us" and "them". No superiority. No distance.

I only hope that message can stick with them as long as it will stick with me.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

There is Alot I would Like to Say

But I am not sure that I can even begin to muster up the energy to do it. And I am not entirely sure how safe it is to say it anyway. For one, saying things "out loud" is like ringing a bell. You can't unring a bell, and there is nowhere that is more out loud than the internet. For another thing, I am afraid to get to attached to an idea right now. I need to remain open minded and truly consider the paths that stretch out ahead of me. I know myself well enough to know that I can latch onto an idea and turn off every other possibility, and that is not a luxury or expense that I can afford right now.

The only thing that I do know is that here? This place that I am in right now? Its not good for me. It not good for my kids. And based upon how he acts, it is clearly not good for my husband. It cannot be possible for someone to be as unhappy as he apparently is and *not* need a change.

My heart is ripped into so many tiny shreds and I am so tired of hiding it. There has to be a way that I can take control of this situation and make it better. Before I can truly do that though, I need to have a few contingencies worked out. You can't make a threat that you aren't willing to follow through on, and I can't follow through on them, should I need to, without getting my ducks in a row.

I just wish that he even noticed that this was going on.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

And By the Way...

Can I just say, I really enjoy that Google has placed this ad on my blog in response to my "garbage cart adventure"?:

Nothing Doing

Not too much to report around this neck of the woods right now, which is primarily because we are all so busy that I don't think there is even a single, solitary spare second to to or say anything even remotely amusing or "blog-worthy". Between the hubbers stepping up to take on the role of Cub Master (and all of the additional work that entails for ME, ya know, the one that *didn't* volunteer for the position), my Daisy troop having their investiture ceremony, and normal kid's activity/PTO/Church stuff we are go-go-go all the time around here.

The Daisy troop has been an interesting experience thus far. Mainly because of the other leader. I have learned that I am not a terribly good follower. I know that I am capable of taking direction, and I am capable of giving direction. What I am not so good at is having NO direction. I am supposed to be the Assistant leader of this little venture. Unfortunately, the leader has no leadership experience. And is shy. And a bit disorganized. And not a good communicator. So I am staging a coup. Because this is too important to my little girl, and my friends' little girls. And it was making my teeth itch.

Don't get me wrong, I have tried to guide her and mentor her and offer her assistance and leadership advice. She doesn't ever take me up on any of it. When I was just letting it go, it meant extremely unstructured meetings that were nothing more than a weekly playdate for the girls, where they would color and play. Which is nice and all, but I have no desire to pay for. Nor do any of the other mothers.

I had set out *not* to be the leader because I wanted to have one thing that I was *not* in charge of. Now that is the case, and it is not working out for me. So I have grabbed a hold of the horns and taken off with it.

On the one hand I feel badly about running right over this other young woman. On the other, my kids come first for me, and I want all of our girls to have a good, solid program that they can learn and grow from. I want them to make memories, and learn to be strong, fair, independent women. So...she'll just have to either grab on and come along for the ride, or deal with the skid marks.

Start your engines....

Friday, January 22, 2010

Oh My Goodness...

I have just discovered that I am married to an 80 year old woman...

My husband just looked at my son, and asked him to go fetch him his 'housecoat'.

Understandably, my son looked at him as though he had just asked him to bath in a tank of hungry piranha.

He said "What sir?"

And he asked again for our son to go and fetch him his housecoat.

The poor boy looked helplessly at me and I simply said "robe."

My husband looked at me and said "What? It *is* a housecoat."

OK Ethel.


Have you ever had one of those days, where you were just waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel? One of those days when nothing is going particularly wrong, but it also isn't overwhelmingly right? Somehow though, despite the overarching mediocrity of it all, you truly believe that something good and right it meant to come of that day? Well, today is one of those days. Even the weather seems to agree with that fact, being at times gloomy and nasty and at others, letting small streams of golden light through.

And if you haven't ever had one of those days, just bear with me...humor me people, I don't get out much. Or don't. The door is over there ---->>.

Today was a dear friend's birthday. Unfortunately, her big day was overshadowed by the loss of her beloved grandmother. Though not a surprise, it is still very clearly, painful. I want to comfort her, but I don't even begin to know how to. I mean really? Is there anyway of comforting someone on the death of a loved one that isn't sort of meaningless?

I struggle with how to handle death of a loved one. Not really having any family that is aging out and passing away, I can't really understand what it feels like. My own grandmother passed away rather violently and unexpectedly when I was a small child. My mother has no conscious memories of her own father. My paternal grandparents have never really been known to me. I am aware that one of them is alive and one of them has passed on, and I have met them, but I have no connection with them. So how you are "supposed" to act and feel is a mystery to me. When I try to ponder it, by imagining losing one of my loved ones, I just want to curl up and cry. And the tears? I have never been good with the tears. They send me into a crazy place, where I just need to organize things. Someone starts to cry and I need to bust out with a list.


We did celebrate the occasion, but the celebration was decidedly subdued. Though my normal inclination is to make a birthday a REALLY BIG DEAL, and to go a bit over the top (go big or go least when it comes to birthdays. That's always been my theory) I kept myself in check, so as not to be disrespectful. We enjoyed ourselves to be sure, but I'm still not sure if we hit the mark on that one or not.

At any rate, as the day has worn on I have been busying myself with taking out parts of my neverending to-do list and writing my articles (all about nutrition today!! Wooo!!! At least there are no dildos on the reference site!), taking breaks between each one. On one of my regularly scheduled breaks, I checked in with one of my favorite bloggers. (Yes, I have favorite bloggers. They are like friends, and I have never even met them. Most of them I have never even gotten up the gumption to comment to, so they don't even know that I exist. So yes, I am a dork. See above re: I don't get out much...) Lo and behold, what should I see but that *my* blog has been added in her links of places she likes to go.

I feel like a rockstar. At least in my own little world. And that my friends, is the light at the end of my tunnel for today.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The One In Which I Channel Oscar The Grouch

So, I really needed to vacuum today. Three dogs, 2 kids and all that will do it to you. So I needed to empty the canister on my Dyson vacuum. Which I did. Into the trash cart, out in our garage. Unfortunately, in the process of doing so, I also dropped one of the attachments to my vacuum into the trash cart. (gross)

In retrospect, I probably should have left it there.

But I didn't.

I tried to go in after it.

I lifted the lid, got up on my tippy toes, bent over the side and flailed about desperately, trying to retrieve it.

And then I fell in.
And the lid slammed shut behind me.
I threw myself out.

But wait, that's not enough mortification for one day. We eat embarrassing situations for breakfast here at Casa Pandora!

You see, the trash cart is neatly stored below my pantry shelf, in my garage. You can lift the lid *most* of the way, but not quite enough to flip it all the way open, so you always have to hold it open.

So, finding myself at the bottom of the trash can (did I mention: GROSS) I immediately jumped up and tried to fling the lid open. Only to have it crash back down upon my head. Which hurt. My pride and my head. Not sure which one most.

Regaining my composure, I lifted the lid again and attempted to climb out. But with one hand occupied with the business of keeping the lid lifted I couldn't quite get the leverage to get out.

At which point I got the brilliant notion to throw myself against the side of the cart in order to rock it over onto its side. Which would have probably hurt alot more than I ever considered, had it worked.

It didn't.

You see, the trash cart, as I may have mentioned, is in the garage. Do you know what else is in the garage? Cars.

I crashed the trash cart into the side of the car, with me in it. And the lid? Now was wedged under the side view mirror.

I was still inside the cart.

My thoughts? &^&^%^^#@^$#@$^#@$#@

I did finally manage to bounce it along well enough to get the lid somewhat open and scramble out. Which may or may not have involved me getting stuck, one leg in, one leg out for a rather longish time.

All I could think the whole time was that the kids were going to come home and find me in the garbage can.

really? There are not enough showers in the world to make me feel clean today.

Related: I tweeted about this...and Dyson responded! Apologized for what I went through, wished me well with getting it back and offered a URL where I could buy a replacement. I think they deserve a round of applause for being so quick to notice and to respond with a human voice!!!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Who Needs Sleep?

From the Bare Naked Ladies Song "Who Needs Sleep"

Lids down, I count sheep
I count heartbeats
The only thing that counts is
that I won't sleep
I countdown, I look around

Who needs sleep?
well you're never gonna get it
Who needs sleep?
tell me what's that for
Who needs sleep?
be happy with what you're getting
There's a guy who's been awake
since the Second World War

My hands are locked up tight in fists
My mind is racing, filled with lists
of things to do and things I've done
Another sleepless night's begun

Seems that sleep has always been a somewhat fleeting phenomenon around the Pandora household. As a kid, I suffered occasional bouts of insomnia, whenever something exciting like going back to school was on the horizon. My husband was such an insomniac that he almost burned his house down as a child, reading with a lamp under a flammable 1970's blanket. (Yes, he's older than I am).

In college, I would routinely be up until 2, 3, 4 5AM every night. Every morning, as I dragged my butt to class (or didn't) I would promise myself that I would go to sleep at a reasonable hour that night. Every night I would fall well shy of keeping that promise, as some drama or other always seemed to beckon my attention.

As a young couple, many of our deepest and most passionate conversations took place in the wee hours of the morning, when most people were fast asleep. Our insomnia was an aphrodisiac of sorts - we fell in love because no one else was awake. The night we met, we talked for 36 hours straight. Then we napped for about 2 hours, then went our separate ways for the day.

Our first date started at 10PM one night, took us to Denny's, Walmart and the beach, finally ending at 7:30AM, when he could no longer put off leaving for work. And 100% of that time was "pre-intimacy". All talk, no action.

Pregnancy, though planned, took us by surprised. The overwhelming exhaustion of the first trimester was horrifying, as I became essentially narcoleptic. No matter how badly I wanted to regain my swerve after that, I just couldn't. The sun went down, and so did I.

When our first child was born, we learned how to operate on the worst kind of sleep - interrupted sleep. Many a night were spent jolting in and out of the jagged kind of sleep that comes from keeping one ear open for the inevitable cried that will rouse you from your slumber ever hour or so. The boy never slept for more than 2 hours at a clip. For the first 10 months of his life, he ate every hour and a half to two hours, round the clock.

When our daughter was born, she was a sleeper. Right out of the hospital, she slept an unbelievable 5 hours at a clip, ate, then put herself back to sleep. Right up until the very moment that I went back to work. Within less than a week, she started sleeping through the day and nursing through the night, as she deemed all bottles entirely objectionable.

We co-slept for most of the next year.

Finally, once our kids hit the year and a half and 3 year mark, both of them were sleeping soundly, for 12 hours a night. And we were free to go back to our own insomniac ways. Admittedly, having kids cured me of much of the night owl ways that I used to hold so dear. Days left running from work to mommy mode left me longing for bed sometime around midnight every night, which was like turning in when the sun was still up to my former self.

Now, with the kids 6 and 8, we suddenly have a sleep problem. The boy, it seems has developed an acute case of insomnia out of NOWHERE. He was fine. A regular Rip Van Winkle, for the last 5 years. Both kids had adopted the wonderful habit of sleeping for 10-12 hours, regardless of the time that you put them down. If they went to bed at 8, they would be up around 7. If they were up until 10, they were out until at least 8:30.

All of this suddenly changed for the boy on Sunday, January 3rd. He simply could.not.sleep. No matter what he tried, he was UP. Attempts to fall asleep were fruitless. Any slumber that he did drift off to, quickly interrupted. This went on until the wee hours of the morning. He finally succumbed to a good, deep sleep around 5AM. Just in time for his alarm to go off at 7:30. Needless to say, we missed the bus that morning.

The next night was even worse, with him in hysterics because he was so worked up over his inability to fall asleep.

That morning I took to Twitter and Facebook with my sleep deprived angst over what to do. I was greeted with a plethora of suggestions, ranging from giving him melatonin to rubbing him down with lavender. There were suggestions of massage, meditation and letting him read.

We decided to let him read. Which seemed to work. Sort of.

The first night with the lamp and the book he was asleep for good around 1AM.

The next night it was closer to 11:30PM.

The next night he was up about eleventy million times, but then Saturday night, he was asleep by 9:10PM and slept straight on through until about 8AM.

So we thought we were finally in the clear last night.

Not even close.

So now I ponder, what is at the root of the problem. Is something bothering him (he says no)? Or has he just inherited insomnia from dear old mom and dad? Do I move on to something more radical, like giving him melatonin, or do we just whether the storm, remain calm and keep the pressure off until his body regulates itself again?

This is the part of parenting that stinks.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Nature of Friendships and the Happiness Project

Recently, a blogger that I follow closely has blogged that she intends to embark upon a personal happiness project. I am not entirely sure what that means, but then, neither is she and as she has admitted repeatedly, she is making it up as she goes along. The first part of her project included creating a list of the 10 things that she likes most about her new, adopted hometown. At the end of her list was her group of friends, which are the reason that she and her family moved to the city that she now lived in. She qualified it by saying that although it was not truly about her hometown per say, she would be remiss to omit them. She then left an invitation to link your own "Top 10" about your hometown.

Which got me to thinking...

I love it here. I really do. And I am fairly certain that I could rattle off 10 highpoints with no problem whatsoever. The biggest part for me though really is the friends that I have made in the last 3 years, since moving here. I have some of the best, most fulfilling friendships that I have ever had in my whole life with the people that I count as friends here.

And I mean no disrespect to any of the friends that I have that are not from here. If you are still around, you are obviously an important and special part of my life. No, the "old" friends to whom I will be referring are, generally speaking, not really a part of my life any more.

I am the only child of an only child. I have step siblings, with whom I am close and I refer to them as my siblings, but as a kid, I was definitely by myself. Singletons have a different sensibility about us, as so many of our earliest experiences dealing with people are with adults. What this translated to for me was that any time one of my girlfriends and I would fight, and ugly words were exchanged, I took those words at their face value. After all, when a grown up says something to you, generally they mean it! I just assumed that rule applied to everyone. More than once, statements from my best friend that she never wanted to speak to me again sent me home in tears, convinced that she never wanted to speak with me again. My surprise was palpable when she would start talking to me again, the next day at school, as though nothing had ever happened.

For about as long as I can remember now, the friends that I have had have been great. Fun, funny, smart ladies (and gentlemen) that I really cared a great deal for. Funny thing though, nearly without exception, they have all been friends that, if I did not call them, I would not hear from them. With the sole exception of when they specifically needed something, every interaction that we have had, every plan that we have made, nearly every conversation that we have ever had has been initiated by me. If I stopped calling, there simply would be no friendship. I tested this more than once and in some cases am still waiting for that elusive phone call nearly 4 years later.

Today, not quite 3 years after moving to PA, I am truly blessed. I have made friends and all of these friendships are true give and take friendships. They call me as often as I call them. Heck, sometimes, when I am having a bad week, they call more often. When they call, it is not just because they need something, rather it is just because. And I cannot even begin to tell you how awesome that is. Having always been the initiator for so many years, I found that I became reticent to ask to do anything, for fear that I would become a pest. Today I don't think twice about calling up any of my girlfriends and saying "Hey, wanna get lunch?"

So if I were to make a list of the top 10 things I love about this town, you had better believe that my friends would take up quite a few of those spots!