Tuesday, December 27, 2011

You're not gonna die.

Well, as they say about the best laid plans...they get screwed up. Or something like that. (Sorry, John Steinbeck.)

Our holidays plans were just that: best laid. And screwed up.

Midget got hit with a moderate case of the flu Thursday night and spent all night Thursday curled up in bed or hovering over the toilet. Friday morning, I sent Hubs and Big Man off to my in-laws so at least they could enjoy the holiday festivities (and so they, too, wouldn't get sick). I wasn't worried about myself because I never get sick, save a sniffle here or there. My immunity is top-drawer, so I don't get too worked up about being exposed. We got through Friday fairly well and by the time 8pm rolled around, Midget was able to keep down solid food and was on the mend. Fortunately for her, she didn't run a fever for more than a couple hours and wasn't hit with worse symptoms.

Then came Saturday.

And the end of my health as I knew it.

I will save you the graphic play-by-play, but to say that I was sick is the mildest understatement of the year. I haven't been that sick since 2006. It's now Tuesday and I'm still running a low-grade fever. Because I don't get sick very often, I forget the longevity of illnesses and what's serious and what isn't. Also, if I don't have to take meds, I won't. I believe in letting the body heal itself when it comes to illness, so unless I'm absolutely miserable, I won't take anything.

Fortunately for me, I have great friends to keep me grounded. The following series of texts took place Saturday night between my bestie and me:

Me: I'm gonna take some Tylenol.  If I can't get this fever to go down, I need you to take me to the hospital.
AM: *blink* How freakin' high is it?!
Me: It's over 102° now. I'm most worried about dehydration.

(Keep in mind, I took a bath, drank a LOT of water and used cold compresses for the prior four hours, trying to get the fever to come down naturally.)

AM: Oh. No need to panic yet til it hits over 104 but drink water or suck on ice cubes.
Me: I'm trying but its not doing any good.
AM: Is this the first dose of Tylenol?
Me: Yes.
AM: K. Keep me posted.

A half hour later (Tylenol, ice, cold compresses and water).

Me: Gonna try to sleep. Fever's 101

Shortly before 2:30 a.m.:

Me: Still 101. Dunno why it's not coming down more. Tylenol, ice chips & water.
AM: Mel...its only been an hour since you took the Tylenol.
Me: Two.
AM: It was only an hour since you told me.
Me: How long does it take?
AM: Depends, but 101 is nothing. 106, on the other hand. Well, that's when it's time to talk hospital. Keep taking fluids and try cold compresses on your forehead and the back of your neck.
Me: (dying) K. I'm sorry for being paranoid. I don't get fevers very often.
AM: (no doubt, sighing loudly and rolling her eyes) LOL Its okay love.
Me: My normal temp runs at 96.8, not 98.6 like most people, so my 101 is everyone else's 103.
AM: Rabbit's had chronic fever syndrome since she was a baby, so I'm a little more lax when it comes to fevers.
Me: Big Man did too.
AM: Then you should know you're not gonna die. (I sense more eye rolling.)

God bless her for putting up with my paranoid ass.

But, just as she predicted, I didn't die. I still feel pretty rough (thanks to that fever I still can't shake), but I did, in fact, live.

And...I got to watch my Celtics play on Christmas day. Not that I could actually focus on the game, but I heard Marv Alpert's voice, so that counts for something, right?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas, New Year's and other random crap

After a blow-out about Christmas gift exchanges and my annual "Dooooo I haaaaave toooo?" argument with my hubby, I've settled into dealing with Christmas. The tree is up, about half the presents have been bought and I've heard "Feliz Navidad" approximately 14,472,903,562 times since Thanksgiving. Ho, ho, ho and a fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la to you, too.

We're still deciding what to do for New Year's eve. It may end up being just us and Dick Cla...oh, wait, Ryan Seacrest took his job, didn't he? Anyway...I was supposed to be in New York for New Year's this year, so I'm a bit bitter right now. Don't mind me.

The NBA finally pulled their heads out of their asses and the season opener for the Celtics is when? You guessed it. Christmas Day. I won't be watching it. Why? Because joy and merriment abounds, people. *eyeroll* But, you can bet, I will have my basketball watchin' ass planted in front of the TV for every other game this season.

My recipe blog has taken a hit this last month. Between allergies, stress, depression and a heapload of don't-give-a-shit-if-you-eat-Chef-Boyardee-for-the-rest-of-your-lifeness, I just haven't had the creativity to come up with new recipes lately. I've pulled some old ones out of the archives, but other than a cake mix cookie recipe and one for Mexican Lasagna, I haven't been cooking much this month.

Since depression has been kicking my ass this holiday season, I've decided that now's as good a time as any to get back to the gym. My body has been feeling the results the last year or so of me not going and honestly, it can't take much more. I haven't been sleeping right, eating right or even functioning normally for quite a while and something's gotta change. So...it might as well be my waistline, right? January will see me back in the gym. Let's see if I can't get back down to that size 14 I worked so hard to get to in 2009. (I'll go lower, but that's my goal for right now.) Roughly, that means about 40-50lbs. I've done it before and I'll do it again. Sadly, it also means giving up soda. And sweet tea. And most everything else I love to eat, but if it means not wanting to kill the people I live with, then it'll be worth it. (I'm sure they'd agree.)

I've been trying to disengage from things that get me too riled up, so I'll refrain from commenting on our national debt, teachers/coaches who have inappropriate contact with students, ex-husbands, junior high kids who make my daughter cry and people who abuse animals, kids or the elderly.

This disengaging thing SUCKS.

Monday, December 5, 2011

UPDATE: No, I'm not with PETA but...

In following Jen Lancaster on Twitter and Facebook, I've been made more aware of the unfair treatment of pit bulls and other dog breeds who society looks down upon. I've met Jen's dogs, Libby, Maisy and Loki. They're the most darling, loving, enthusiastic animals on the planet. Seriously. My dog Lucky may be smarter (hehehe) but Jen's three dogs are awesome! So when I see petitions like this one regarding a policy proposing the killing of specific breeds that are brought to a shelter in Fayetteville, North Carolina, I get absolutely outraged.

Let me state clearly that I'm a cat person. I've always loved cats, always will love cats, but I will also always be an advocate for the fair and ethical treatment of all pets - dogs, hamsters, lizards, pigs, birds (especially birds), etc. Cruelty is unacceptable when it comes to these animals who we've adopted out of love and a desire to share our lives with. I hate seeing dogs tied up outside. I don't like seeing dirty aquariums or cages. I come absolutely un-fucking-glued when I see someone yelling at or beating an animal of any kind. 

When Jen brought this petition to my attention earlier today, I didn't hesitate to act upon it. Aside from signing the petition, I also sent a letter to each of the members of the council as well as the mayor of Fayetteville, NC. They will meet in less than an hour to decide the fate of these animals. What will you do to help?

TO: 
jcouncil@co.cumberland.nc.us
cevans@co.cumberland.nc.us
jkeefe@co.cumberland.nc.us
bking@co.cumberland.nc.us
emelvin@co.cumberland.nc.us
mayor@ci.fay.nc.us
jlauby@co.cumberland.nc.us
kedge@co.cumberland.nc.us
wmfaircloth@co.cumberland.nc.us

To whom it concerns,

I come to you today with a plea to oppose the policy you will be discussing at tonight's council meeting regarding a new kill policy on certain breeds of dogs at the animal shelter(s) in Cumberland County. The policy suggests that certain breeds of dogs considered "vicious" be killed without being given a chance to be adopted -- dogs that have not personally shown aggression, but because of their breeds, people are being (falsely) told they're dangerous and should be put to death.

I was born into a family with a German Shepherd. There are pictures of me riding this dog when I was just a toddler. His name was Omar. I was thirteen when that dog died and I wept as though he'd been my own brother. He was protective, but gentle. Omar knew only how to love.

When my son was two and my daughter was just a few months old, we adopted a Siberian Husky puppy. He was black and white with bright blue eyes. Dakota slept in my son's bed with him at night, played in the snow with him and the neighbor kids and was the first to step between my children and I when they got into trouble. Not to snap or bark at me, but to detract the attention from them onto himself. He literally cried when they cried.

My sister owned a pit bull who was very much the same way. When my children were put in time outs, Chance sat with them, facing the corner and looking as scolded as they did. When he got into trouble for piddling on a carpet or chewing up a shoe, he knew he was in trouble and would put HIMSELF into time-out.

The fact of the matter is, I've been bitten by dogs before - Jack Russell terriers, cocker spaniels and dacshunds. I would trust a full-blooded pit bull, husky, doberman or rott before I'd leave my child alone with a cocker spaniel or a terrier. The point is ALL dogs can be dangerous if given the right circumstances. It depends on how they were trained and in what environments they've been raised.

The breeds listed in the proposed policy change aren't bad breeds. They shouldn't be judged by what other dogs of the same type have done. That makes as much sense as saying anyone who lives in Harlem should be shot upon sight - not because they're a specific threat, but because everybody "knows" ALL residents of Harlem are dangerous criminals who rape, murder and pillage. Ridiculous (not to mention unconstitional) to make those assumptions!

Are there bad dogs? Yes. Is there an over population of dogs? Yes. But killing a specific breed of dog isn't going to make those problems go away.

Instead, I would encourage the shelter teach classes (an excellent opportunity to raise funds for the shelter and the county) on how to train dogs. In fact, make the class mandatory for anyone choosing to adopt an animal from the shelter. Education is so important when it comes to owning a pet.

By approving the policy set forth tonight, Fayetteville isn't teaching anyone anything except how to be afraid and intolerant. And in a country when fear and intolerance runs rampant enough, is this really what needs to happen?

Sincerely,
Melanie

 My brother and me with Omar

Our Great Dane, Dalton 
(who would share his food and water bucket with the cats)

Dakota, our husky

My sister's dog Chance (look at that face!?)


UPDATE:
Our voices were heard and the animals will continue to have the same chances all other animals at this shelter have to be adopted. WE WON! This update from the Fayetteville Observer clears up some mistakes we were told in the wording of the petition and describes how the meeting went down last night. Thank you to everyone who signed the petition and forwarded the links to others. :)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Grow up!

In an email exchange the other day with a family member, I was told I needed to "grow up." Apparently, the person doesn't think that the way I approach life is mature enough...grown up enough...that for whatever reason my choices in life are wrong.

To that, I say:


Sorry. It had to be done.

When I was six years old, my biological father was killed by a drunk driver. Six. Years. Old.
When I was twelve, my mother was diagnosed with cancer.
At thirteen, my step-father left my mother without any warning.
A year later when I was fourteen, my mother's cancer returned.
I was fifteen when my mother died.
I miscarried a baby at the age of eighteen.
When I was twenty, I delivered my son 2½ months early. We both nearly died that day.
At twenty-five, I was a single mom with two kids trying to make ends meet without screwing up all our lives.

You want to talk about being grown up? Let's talk. 

Being grown up means not using your misfortunes or mistakes as excuses for not doing the right thing. It means drying your eyes, standing up straight and carrying the hell on. And you save the tears for later, because rising to the occasion with dignity and grace is more important than getting sympathy. It means that even when you want to throw in the towel and have someone else take care of you for once, you trudge on...oftentimes without support from family or friends - not that you don't have them, but because they just don't know what to say. Being grown up sometimes means you have to bury your own pain because dealing with it hurts worse than pretending it doesn't exist. It means that when you've got hungry mouths to feed, you do what's necessary to quiet those tummies. Being a grown up doesn't mean you get to rely on drugs or alcohol to smooth out the edges, nor does it mean abandoning the people who depend on you most. It means you forgive those who have hurt you and those you disagree with and you put yourself in their shoes for just a few moments and look at life from their perspective. It means you move past the anger and bitterness, not because you necessarily want to, but because it's the right thing to do. It means not holding grudges or keeping someone hostage in or from a relationship with someone else. It means you give of yourself until it hurts because that's what you do for the people you love. And for those who love you back.

Being a grown up means that when you've done all these things and the opportunity comes along to have fun, you take it. You take it because you didn't have that chance at six. Or twelve. Or fifteen. Or eighteen. Or even twenty-five. You take it because finally, for once in your life, you've done what you had to do and you refuse to let someone else make you feel guilty for enjoying your life and all the fun you have living it. You take it because you're tired of being told to "grow up" when you know damn well you did so thirty years ago. And not because someone told you to, but because you had no other choice.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

So...when we gettin' married?


Meet my husband.

He and I met online before meeting people online was cool. In fact, in 1999, it was pretty damn scary still. You didn't know what kind of psycho you could end up with. Fortunately, I was less scary than the other psychos who answered his personals ad. Go me!

We had an insanely brief courtship. We met in August and just a few weeks later, as I came out of the bathroom wearing purple leggings and my stupid orange sweatshirt (yes, the one I wear in 90% of my Bubbletweets), he proposed to me.

"So. When we gettin' married?"

I laughed at him. 

Keep in mind, I'd been separated from my ex-husband for several months when we met, but had only been officially divorced six days when we had our first date. Marriage was not what I set out for when I responded to his email.

I asked him if he was kidding. He insisted he wasn't. I kept giggling, but when I saw the light drain from his eyes, I knew he was serious. This man wanted to marry me! Me and my kids (who were 2 and 4 at the time). Me, my kids and my insane family. Me, my kids, my insane family and an ex-husband who would be none-too-thrilled with the idea of me marrying someone within a year of my divorce. This guy was either amazeballs or a complete idiot.

I thought quickly and decided that in case it was the first option, I should say yes and we were married two months later.

Over the course of the last twelve years, I've given him a lot of guff over his spontaneous and less-than-romantic marriage proposal. A LOT. And, he's taken it in good stride, God bless him. 

Tonight, I showed him the link to this story about man who proposed to his girlfriend and had their proposal secretly photographed then gave her a framed photo of that magical moment on their wedding day. I thought it was the sweetest thing I'd ever seen. Hubs, however, looked at me and with the saddest look on his face, said, "I wish I'd put more thought into your proposal."

It made me think back to how I would have liked to have been proposed to. Would there have been a horse-drawn carriage? Perhaps candlelight and soft music? Skywriting with an airplane or on a billboard at a ballpark? 

Nope. 

It would have been me coming out of the bathroom wearing that stupid orange sweatshirt and him catching me so totally off-guard that I laughed at the absurdity of it all. Anything more romantic wouldn't have been the real him. And the real him is who I fell in love with all those years ago. 

And I'd still say "yes."

(Author's note: By the way, it WAS the first option: he's totally amazeballs. He puts up with my endless array of shit on a daily basis, after all.)

P.S. Dear Hubby, this does not get you off the hook for not bringing in the Christmas decorations from the shed while I was gone last week or for snoring every. single. night. of the last twelve years. But it does mean I'll stop giving you shit about your corny proposal. I love you.)

P.P.S. Regardless of what you've heard on television, NO. I am not leaving you for Dane Cook.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Catching up

Needless to say with all that's gone on in the last week, the fact that I recovering from a sore throat rather than a bender should be evidence of my ability to cope with stress.

It's seriously been a week from hell. I've been trying to figure out how to grieve for a sister I never met (all the while being ignored by her entire family). So far, it seems crying when I feel like crying is the best method for me. I've been reclusive and snippy with those around me. Thankfully, they've been understanding and haven't expected too much from me.

I've surrounded myself with friends and family who love me and are here for my every whim, whether it be letting me spend the day in total Mopeville or by dragging me out of the house for dinner and a movie. I am SO thankful to you (you know who you are).

The stress did take its toll, however. I came down with the symptoms of strep throat over the weekend and after gargling colloidal silver, radiating my ouchies with a laser pointer and downing glass after glass of OJ mixed with Airborne, I am thrilled to report the beast has been slain. Once I set my body in motion for healing itself, I did "cheat" and took Tylenol for the pain and Benadryl to help me sleep. But I didn't resort to antibiotics, so there's that.

My biggest triumph this week, however, was the reconciliation with my son. As I didn't go into the details surrounding the falling out, I also won't be going into the details of what happened with the reconciliation. Suffice it to say, we both learned a lot these last two months and I'm confident we won't be in this place again. Such a relief to have my son back.

This weekend, I am looking forward to a girls' weekend in Chicago with Midget. We're babysitting a friend's son so she and her husband can celebrate their anniversary. Then Sunday, we're meeting with an idol of mine for coffee. We'll spend the remainder of our weekend perusing Michigan Avenue. This is the first trip Midget and I have taken since she was about 6 months old, so it's long overdue. I hope to take a similar trip with Big Man sometime in the spring.

I'll be finishing out the month of November by spending eight days in New York. It's been almost eleven months since I was there last and my inner city girl is clawing at me to get out. My sister-in-law, niece and I will spend 2-3 days in NYC, then head upstate to spend Thanksgiving with my nephew and his wife. This is another trip that's been a long-time coming.

After that? Christmas! New Year's Eve! More travel in 2012! Until then? Day by day.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Processing

I've lost a lot of people in my life: my parents, step-parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, even a great-nephew. I've suffered a miscarriage and grieved over broken relationships/friendships and my divorce. To say that I've learned how to process my grief is an understatement. It's become a pretty typical process for me and while it does vary slightly from rote sometimes, it's usually a fairly compact process for me.

And then there's this.

Mary was my sister. She's as much my sibling as anyone else in my life has been that I've called a sibling. Yet because I didn't grow up with her (or even knew she existed until I was an adult), she's always seemed distant, so that closeness I share with my brother and sister I grew up wasn't ever there between us. We loved each other and I don't question that. But through the last few days I've felt almost guilty for my grief and sadness over her death because I didn't know her well.

Our sister Linda grew up with Mary. She shares memories and stories and a history that I never had. They had Christmases and birthday parties. They shared Sunday dinners and family vacations. Mary was also close to her children and grandchildren. She spent every day of her life (from what I gathered) focused on her relationships with her family.

Mary and I shared a few emails and two phone calls. Yet, she's still my sister. She was the only person who told me that my father (also a man I never knew) talked about me constantly and loved me deeply. Mary, upon discovering how much I want to move to New York asked me instead to move to Texas where "you have family." She accepted me, sight unseen, circumstances unknown. Mary loved me unconditionally. I was her sister and that's all she needed to know.

So while her family is grieving for the woman they knew, I'm grieving for the woman I didn't know...can never know.

This is something I've never dealt with before. Grieving for lost memories is one thing. Grieving for memories that will never take place is totally different. This is new territory for me and I hate how it feels.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

My lost sister

It's 4:30 a.m. I found out a little more than an hour ago that my sister Mary Lee was killed early Friday morning. There's speculation (and with it come the judgments) as to what happened. I am going to try to be free of judgment (a true test for me...one of the most critical people I know) and state what I know for fact:

1. A sister I never got to meet face to face is dead.
2. The man arrested for her murder is my nephew John, who served two tours in Iraq and suffered from a severe case of PTSD.

I can beg for knowledge and wisdom and answers from everyone all the way from the firemen to God himself and I will never understand what happened or why. I guess it's not meant for me to understand. I can hope that my sister wasn't in pain in the last moments of her life. I can hope that my nephew wasn't at all responsible for what happened to his mother. But hope doesn't change the facts: my sister is dead and my nephew was arrested for the crime.

I have my own share of regrets and visions of how my relationship with my sister should have gone. So my pain here is different from what most of her family is dealing with. While I appreciate the prayers and condolences, please don't forget her children...her grandchildren...but most of all, please don't leave out John. I can't begin to fathom what demons he's dealt with that could've led to these tragic events between him and my sister. I've got a support team a mile wide and while it will be difficult, I'm emotionally equipped to deal with my grief and the pain I feel right now -- he's alone. He's probably scared. And he's got pain deeper than anyone can possibly imagine.

A month ago, my sister's Facebook status read:
I am sitting in a very small room waiting for John to be discharged from the VA hospital. He has an extensive treatment plan with a lot of therapy for PTSD. They believe they have the medication correct. I hope and pray that we can get him the help he needs. he is almost 29 and has been to iraq twice and has been through more than I could ever comprehend. my son means the world to me and I pray he can finally find inner peace. Thank you for your continued prayers....and if you have any advice for me...i welcome it.
And this, posted just a week ago:

I am struggling about how to help my son with PTSD, as a mother I just want to make everything okay for him. It breaks my heart that I can't fix this for him. He is getting help through the VA, but it doesn't seem to be enough. I pray for him every day but nothing seems to quiet the flashbacks that he is experiencing on a daily basis.


No matter whatever Hell my sister endured before she died, I know that she wanted peace for her son. Mary's at peace now. I have to focus my prayers on John's peace. I ask that you do, too.

Thanks.

(For those who don't know the story behind my relationship with Mary Lee: Lost Sisters )

Friday, October 28, 2011

Reality Check

I was told last night that I am that person.


I fooled myself into thinking I was the positive influence in people's lives. That I brought humor and fun and entertainment into the mix and that my sarcasm wasn't mean and my snark wasn't hurtful. That my silliness and mockery wasn't racist or rude. 

Boy, was I wrong.

I've taken everything people said to me last night to heart. I looked back in my timelines, at the interactions between myself and my friends, conversations I've had with loved ones and the 'advice' I've so carelessly shoved down people's throats, whether they've wanted it or not. 

I make no excuses for my behavior - there aren't any. I will say, however, that my intentions have never been to be mean or offensive. I wish only to entertain with my sarcasm and snark and to protect those I love with my advice and suggestions. I will also say that I can't help how people take me. Because even when I say the most benign thing, it can be (and will be) (and has been) taken wrong. I can only state that I am a work in progress. Always.

I will try and be less judgmental and keep my advice to myself unless it's asked for. To change more than that would make me someone different from who I am. I may be opinionated and stubborn, but I'm also funny. And loving. And I have the best intentions at heart.

It's your choice whether I stay in your life or not. I won't make that choice for you, nobody should. But I hope if you stay that you'll accept me, flaws and all and for those times when I do offend you or cross a line that you'll have the courage to come to me privately and say "Tone it down, honey. You're being that girl again." I'd do the same for you. 

It's what friends do.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dear Melly,

Dear Melly,
I read your blog and I believe it was divine intervention from God. I've been struggling with my self-worth as a person and [at work]. I don't know where this is coming from. I'm not normally a negative person and not sure where to go from here. Any advice?
Sincerely,
A new mom (who has also been dealing with health issues)

Dear New Mom,
I suspect the majority of what you're dealing with comes from the stress of managing a career and a family as well as dealing with the health problems you've had going on. Everybody handles stress differently, of course, but in light of everything you have had to deal with since the baby was born, I highly suspect that's the biggest culprit to your emotions.

I'm sure you know by now that I don't support or encourage the use of medication to treat issues like these, so it should come as no surprise when I suggest that you NOT immediately resort to medical attention from an M.D. or a psychologist. So many times, at the urging of whatever pharmaceutical company is on the agenda for that week, they push to prescribe medications that sometimes may help the symptoms, but in the long run don't fix the problem and most often times, they only create more problems. In fact, did you know the most common side effect of most anti-depressants is "thoughts of suicide?" That's irony, huh?

Anyway...my suggestions are easy in context, but will require dedication on your part. I know for a fact they help and overall instead of creating bad side effects like medications do, they create good ones.
1) Exercise. Join a gym, sign up for a class or two, even just get out a walk a half mile or more. SOMETHING that gets your body moving, increases your circulation and helps your body create more serotonin (the body's natural "happy pill"). You may find tanning will help your moods too. The UV rays help boost the happy stuff. :)

2) Take time for yourself. Have dad or the grandparents watch the baby for a little while and you spend a couple hours at the mall or a book store or some place that gives you a smile. If you're able to, find a hobby you can do with other people. Scrapbooking, for instance, is a great way to create positive energy. It's what got me through a lot of the tough times. It's also what led to my photography career. The point to this is that you can't be a wife and mom 100% of the time or you'll lose confidence in yourself because your entire identity is wrapped up in someone else's life and your happiness becomes dependent on how happy THEY are. #nothealthy!!

3) Eat a more-balanced diet. Heavy carb foods like pasta, potatoes and breads can really weigh you down physically, but emotionally, the sugars that they bring will take you on a roller coaster that you don't need. So ease up on the "comfort food" and reach for fruits and veggies instead. Drink less caffeine and more water. JUST PLAIN WATER. (And, don't substitute real sugar for some chemical crap. Sugar substitutes have often been linked to psychological issues such as depression and episodes of mania. They're NOT worth what they're trying to do. You're better off weaning yourself off real sugar or, if you MUST use a substitute, use Stevia in the Raw. It's a natural sugar substitute that isn't filled with chemicals and doesn't use chemical processing like some others). The purest diet you can eat is the healthiest for your body AND your mind.

4) Breathe. This is the one I'm the most guilty of. I have a horrible habit of taking short, shallow breaths. Sometimes, when I'm under stress, I even find myself holding my breath. That's not good. We need to take long, deep, even breaths as often as possible. It helps the lungs expand and blood flow reach everywhere it's meant to reach, but especially the brain. It also helps us to take pause and reassess our emotions. You've heard the phrase, "count to ten." It's not because you need to cool down. It's because your body needs time to catch up to your mind and the blood needs to flow evenly again.

Most importantly, though....remember that you're human. Don't hold yourself to a higher standard just because you're a mom now. We fuck up. We make mistakes. We're going to send our kids screaming into therapy at SOME point in their lives. And that's okay. Our parents screwed up, too. And our kids will screw up when they have kids. It's a cycle and it's unavoidable. So embrace it. Have fun. Remember that at the end of the day, if the kid is clean, fed and sleeping, the day was a success. And if he's not so clean or a little hungry or can't sleep, there's always tomorrow to get it right.

I have to take things moment by moment some days. I've been dealing with depression since I was nine years old. NINE. YEARS. OLD!!! That's a hell of a long time to deal with feeling miserable. You can see with the history of depression that I've dealt with how easy it is to fall back into old habits and let myself get down. But I have to keep plugging along. There are days (like last week) when I just say "to hell with it" and I crawl back into bed and succumb to the demons. And that's okay. But the next day, I get up and I press onward. That's all I can do.

We aren't meant to be happy 100% of the time. And unfortunately, that's what we're led to believe and if we fall short of that, we're made to feel defective and less than human. Screw that. Have a bad day. Have a bad week, even. Then get back up, brush yourself off and flip the middle finger to it before you move on. Those sad times or the times when we're feeling less than ourselves are necessary so we can appreciate the good stuff more.

Nobody can fix you. Nobody can snap their fingers and make things better. It's something you have to do for yourself. But if you need to vent, scream, cry or wail...I'm here.

Hang in there, babe!
Mel

** details have been generalized to protect the anonymity of the person sending the message
***Again, I am NOT an expert in ANY field, but I have done my research on this particular topic. This advice is NOT meant to replace medical care of any type. I just encourage you to find out more and do the research yourself before blindly following medical advice.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I choose happy.

I spent the first ten to twelve years of my adult life wallowing in self pity. I blamed the death of my mom for my lack of drive and motivation. I blamed my drinking on the death of my best friend. I blamed my partying phase on the fact that I got married too young and had kids almost immediately. I blamed my negative attitude on genetics. I pushed the responsibility of everything in my life onto other people, so that way when I felt like a failure, it wasn't my fault. I was married to someone who was equally cynical and twice as conniving. Though, when my marriage ended, I wanted nothing more than to have it back. Why? Hell if I know, neither of us were happy.

And like the train wreck I was at the time, I didn't take time to figure any of that out. I headed ambitiously into a second marriage. With it, I brought the baggage I carried at the time. How my husband and I lasted the first five years of our relationship is still a miracle to me. It was not a positive place for either of us. We both fought depression and I battled with bouts of agoraphobia. My doctors prescribed medication after medication for me, but none of it helped. If anything, it made things worse for me. When we hit the rockiest part of our marriage in 2004, I'd given up. I had no job, no marriage (legally, yes, but emotionally, we had both checked out), no savings, no car. I had two kids and no where to go if I did leave.

I was at my breaking point.

Over the course of the next two years, I did a lot of self-searching and determined the only thing that was going to help me out of my downward spiral was to change my attitude. I started seeking out old friends. I started new hobbies. I started seeking natural alternatives to medicine. But most importantly?

I cut ties with the toxic people in my life.

I thought about all the bullshit I'd dealt with in my life and the friends I'd surrounded myself with. And I came to the conclusion that the bullshit and the toxicity were directly linked, not only to each other, but to my happiness, as well. I'd spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on therapy and medication when all I needed to do was ditch the drama.

I went through every relationship I had with a fine-toothed comb. I determined the positives and the negatives of each relationship and what they brought to my life. If the good outweighed the bad, they got to stay. If it didn't, they were gone. Even now, when I find myself being pulled under or dealing with excessive anxiety (like the freight train that slammed into my psyche last week), I step back and reevaluate what negative influences I'm dealing with. If I can see those influences are temporary, then I take other steps to deal with my attitude. If those influences aren't temporary, then I cut those people loose.

It may seem wasteful and even hurtful to some that I pull back like I do, but if you've ever overcome depression, you understand the importance of surrounding yourself with positive people. It's too easy to get sucked back into negative energy and before you even realize it's happened, the toxicity has consumed you. I refuse to spiral down again.

I have my down days and I have my moments of snark and cynicism, but most of the time, I am positive.  I smile. I laugh. I joke around. I can find the silver linings so much more easily now than I used to. I recognize the bullshit more quickly now and I cut it out before it can grow roots. Of course, I also have those moments when I try to rescue those I see being sucked into the vortex. Unfortunately, not everybody wants to be rescued and I tend to feel frustrated when they allow themselves to sink back down. I've learned to identify those behaviors ahead of time before I spend my own precious energy trying to fix them. Hell, for that matter, I've learned that I can't "fix" anybody. They have to fix themselves.

I've determined that happiness is a choice you actively make. Everything in your life happens for a reason and things are going to happen regardless of whether you want them to or not. So you can choose to be upset in those circumstances or you can choose to be happy. Either way, you can't make them go away. Why choose anything but happiness? Anything less is allowing yourself to be vulnerable. The more vulnerable you are, the less control you have over your life and where it takes you. The less control you have, the more susceptible you are to things like addiction and depression. Why would you purposely choose that life?

Sadly, I know far too many people who do chose that life. They do nothing but constantly complain about their circumstances, their marriage, their job, their relationships, their kids, etc. Granted, we all have days when we'd like to run away, but if you scrolled back through your Facebook statuses or Twitter timelines, would you see more complaining or more embracing? We're all entitled to have a bad day. Even a bad week from time to time. But when your life is consistently filled with complaints and crappy days for months on end, you may want to take a closer look at yourself.

These people are the ones I have to turn loose -- Set myself apart from them. It's not that I don't love them. It's not that I don't want to help. It has nothing to do with feeling like I'm better than they are or that I don't agree with their decisions (although sometimes I don't agree with them).

The bottom line is this: I choose to be happy and I can't be around those who don't.


(Thank you, Cynthia Occelli for the inspiration for this blog and for reminding me to "clean house," again.)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I have the craziest conversations.

If you follow me on Twitter, you probably already know that I hang with some pretty funny peeps. But since many of you don't follow me, let me give you some examples.

Exhibit A
(Friend's name has been changed to protect the privacy of her hoohah)
My phone rings.
Me: Hello?
Julie: (right out of the chute) You know how sometimes you have specific friends who are there to answer specific questions?
Me: Yeah?
Julie: You're That Friend right now.
Me: Um. Okay. (Thinking, "This must have something to do with sex.")
Julie: So I'm thinking about getting my hoohah waxed.
Me: Uh... (Toldja.)
Julie: I figured you've done it, so I thought I'd ask you what you think about it.
Me: First? Not sure why you'd automatically assume I've done that.
Julie: Well, have you?
Me: Yes. Well, sort of. But that's not the point.
Julie: See? I came to the right person. So...what do you think?
Me: *digressing* I think it's the most painful thing you can possibly imagine and God himself would have to issue it as a commandment for me to go through with it.
Julie: So you'll go with me and we can get them done together?
Me: Oh, totally.


Exhibit B
(A discussion with my bestie in regards to a psychic reading she recently had done and referencing one of the ghosts who frequently camp out at my house - that ghost being her mother)
AM: (paraphrasing) So the reading I got back from Jess says my spirit guide is a loud-mouthed Portuguese woman who won't leave her alone.
Me: It isn't me. I swear. Although...that would explain a lot.
AM: Right? She says it's a great-great-great-howevermanygreats grandmother of mine.
Me: Huh. That's interesting.
AM: Well, I could be Portuguese, I suppose. I don't know anything about my mother's side of the family.
Me: true. I could see that.
AM: I wonder if it's my great (x20) gma that talks to you.
Me: Yes. Because I'm totally unaware of the difference between a Portuguese accent and a Filipino one. #Gibbsslap
AM: Ow! I didn't know it was distinct, dude!


Exhibit C
Midget: (On a note taped to my office door) Wake me up when you get home. I have some great news!
Me: Psst...(waking her up) What's up?
Midget: (sleepily) D___ and I are going out.
Me: That's great news! Congratulations!
Midget: Thanks! (beaming smile)
Me: He knows he has to meet us, right?
Midget: Yeah. He's nervous, though.
Me: As he should be.
Midget: Dad won't be cleaning his gun, will he?
Me: You can count on it.
Midget: That's what I was afraid of.


There's never a dull moment at our house. Ever. Conversations like these take place on a constant basis with everyone we know. Some topics are a bit more private, so I can't/won't share them, but trust me when I tell you, these are the milder of the funniest convos I've been a part of this week.

And while I'm thinking about it...if you wouldn't mind signing this "Hold Harmless" agreement...that'd be super! Thanks!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dear...Melly?

By now, you've probably told yourself, "Damn, that Mel knows her shit!"

Okay, so maybe you haven't. BUT, you can't deny that sometimes I give some pretty spot-on advice. Of course, sometimes I'm a little out there, but hey, at least I'm funny, right?

People have told me for years I should have my own advice column. Well, as soon as the AP gets my phone number, I'll get right on that, but until then, I'm here. In the interwebz.

Now, I realize I'm no Ann Landers (Did you know even Ann Landers wasn't Ann Landers?) and I'm no Dear Abby (again, neither was she). I'm sure as hell not Miss Manners and I'm not Heloise or Dr. Laura. I'm not even Dr. Ruth (though I could TOTALLY rock a sex column!). I'm just me. I've got 37 years experience in this crazy train called life. I'm not an expert in much, but if I can't provide you solid advice, I can sure as shit make you laugh.
So let's hear your questions! Tweet or email me now. (I will keep you as anonymous as you choose to be.)

*DISCLAIMER* My "advice" is for entertainment purposes only. Any information I may provide is not meant to be taken as professional advice, therapy or a substitute for medical/psychological/financial guidance. In other words, don't fucking take me seriously because while sometimes I'll have some good suggestions, I am not a professional. If you do decide to take my advice, you're liable for the repercussions, not me. Don't be a dumbass, that's my job, k?

Friday, October 7, 2011

It's never too late.


This is my dad and me.

This picture was taken in 1983, just a few weeks before my father's heart attack.

I will remember August 4th, 1983 forever and honestly? I hope that I do. It's a lesson everybody should learn - what not to do with your health (I'll save that blog for another day, though...you know, when I'm not stuffing myself with hot wings and liquor and won't come across like such a hypocrite). Anyway, he was an over-the-road truck driver, so he spent Monday through Thursdays on the road. He'd just come in off a run. He was sweaty, hungry and in need of a bath. He complained through dinner about not feeling good, and for some reason, our phone wasn't working (small town Iowa in August, what can I say) my mom drove into town to alert the First Responders. While she was gone, he started running bath water. He never got that far.

My mom showed up with the First Responders and the ambulance came shortly after that. He was rushed to the hospital 30 miles away and within a few days had two more heart attacks. When they went in to do an angiogram, he died on the table.

Three times.

My father was clinically dead three times. Yet he miraculously made it off the operating table. We still don't know how it happened. We were told he had a hole in his heart the size of a quarter and his life would be cut drastically short because of it. His heart was too weak for surgical repair and they weren't even sure if it would fix it. He was told to quit smoking, start exercising and take it easy on the truck stop food he'd become so reliant on over the fifteen years he'd been a driver. 

Typically, this is where the story would end. Somebody dies three times, they realize the error of their ways, they fix those problems and they live a long life. Or, worst case scenario, they don't change their ways and they die from the heart problems their doctors told them would kill them.

My father, however, was stubborn. He didn't learn his lesson. Ten years later, he had three more heart attacks and was pronounced dead three more times. Apparently, it took my dad six deaths to finally realize they weren't kidding back in the 80's. He retired from driving, quit smoking, lost weight and moved to the country. While he still went to his cardiologists regularly, he was in pretty good health.

We always expected it would be my dad's weak heart that would kill him.That's what was in his cards: death by myocardial infarction. He knew it. We knew it. His doctors knew it. But God had a different plan.

In late 2004, my father developed lung cancer. It spread to his lymph nodes and finally took over his brain. He was gone within three months. We buried him just three weeks before his 65th birthday.

The point I'm trying to make here is that we may think we know exactly what we're meant to do...what our destiny is, what our lives are supposed to look like. But the fact of the matter is, nothing is set in stone until we're buried beneath it. Heart problems killed my father six times, but he defied it. He refused to let anyone tell him what to do or that he was stuck with the cards he'd been dealt. While brain cancer is not the route I'm sure my father would've chosen to go if given the options, he did decide that a heart attack wasn't going to define him.

You may think that your life is paved out the way it was meant to be. It's not. Every minute that you have air in your lungs and a beat in your heart, you have the option of doing something different, being someone else, chipping away a different path for yourself. 

Don't squander it. Don't settle. Don't give in. 

Reach. Trust. Change. 





Sunday, October 2, 2011

I'd hate to be them.

You guys know me by now. I live life to the fullest and deal with the consequences later. I sing loudly when the mood strikes me (and usually off-key). I dance when the beat moves me (and usually it's to some 80's tune). I drive fast. I wear high heels that make my feet hurt. I drink when I get the urge. I'm me and I make no apologies.

Tonight, I went to my husband's class reunion with him. There was a social hour and dinner, then there was karaoke later in the night. I made new friends and got reacquainted with old ones I made at the last reunion. I sang, I danced, I laughed and when one of his classmates handed us the keys to his convertible, we didn't hesitate to take it for a test drive. Life on the edge!

I stepped back for a bit tonight and I realized just how happy I am being able to live out loud. The majority of people sat in their chairs and didn't even so much as nod their head to the music. I would hate to be so hung up on what people thought of me that I allowed their opinions to cripple me into being a stick in the mud. 

I guess the lesson in all this is: sing when you're given a mic, dance when music plays and when somebody gives you the keys to his baby, you slam it into drive, baby.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Dear Kobe Bryant,

For months, I've been on the edge of my seat wondering whether or not there will be a 2011/2012 NBA season. While most of my friends and followers don't care (although, if they do, it's probably because it means less cussing in my Twitter timeline - maybe), it's important to me. And while you may not follow basketball closely (and that's okay), let me point out that not having a 2012 season will still impact you financially. Stick with me through the basketball talk and I'll explain.

I'm passionate about a lot of things, but Celtics basketball takes the cake. I was raised to root for Boston regardless of the sport, but basketball has always been my favorite. I've rooted for the Celts since I was knee-high on Lucky the Leprechaun.

That being said, I'm pissed as hell right now at my team and every other player in the NBA. I'm not hopeful that there will be a season at all. It'd be nice if the players would pull their heads out of their asses today and finally make some progress in their bargaining sessions, but in all honesty, I'm not expecting anything. Why?

Egos.

We're dealing with thirty teams full of players whose egos are bigger than the names they sport on their chests. That's, on average, 400 people who've been told they're the best of the best for years and are paid hefty salaries to back up the claims. They skirt around legal issues and, if we're being honest, moral ones, too, on the grounds that they're untouchable. In their minds, they're worth seven and eight figure paychecks. They've earned it.

This, my dear players, is a reminder that you haven't earned shit, except my respect as a player. I want to see you play ball. Period. I don't care what you buy, how you party, where you vacation or how big of a rock your fiancé wears on her left hand. You're here to play basketball. Leave the theatrics and drama off the court. You weren't recruited for that.

And let's discuss for a moment these salaries you're asking for. Since they vary from player to player and team to team, we'll, for the sake of argument, discuss Kobe Bryant's salary. He makes $25,000,000 per season. That's not counting any bonuses, brands or side work. That's JUST the pay he gets for being a Laker. Broken down, the man makes $6,351 a minute. He's on the court for a minute? $6,351. He's on the bench? $6,351. He's in the locker room? You guessed it, SIX FUCKING THOUSAND THREE HUNDRED FIFTY ONE DOLLARS per MINUTE.

PER MINUTE!!!!!!!!

Do you realize, the average high school basketball coach makes less than $25k a year? Kobe makes that in less than 4 minutes.

And you bastards want MORE?!

Make no mistake. I love basketball and honestly, I don't know what I'll do with myself this winter if there's not a season, but I think it's exactly what these players need to shake up their lives a little bit. However, I'm torn from a financial standpoint, too. If there's not a season, there will be a huge financial impact on the entire nation.

Let's look at Staples Center, shall we?

The average ticket price, per game, is $113 and the revenue the Staples Center takes in just from the Lakers is $214,000,000. Without the Lakers bringing in that money, do you honestly think Jerry Buss and Phillip Anschutz are going to plunk down nearly a quarter of a billion dollars from their own accounts to cover the losses? I don't hardly think so.

So where's that money coming from?

You guessed it: us.

In the form of concert tickets, other sports and non-entertainment related events. Which means instead of spending $120 on those Rihanna tickets, you're gonna be spending $250 (or more). That $8 beer just shot up to $15. Because regardless of what's going on in L.A., the bills still have to be paid. The contracts with concession companies like Levy Restaurants (who handle the concessions for over thirty arenas, not just the Staples Center) are still legally binding. If the Staples Center and Levy  have worked out $X for their service, it doesn't matter if they handle 250 events or 200, they're still paid the same. And, if Levy isn't making money from canceled games due to a lost NBA season, you can bet they've got a clause in the contract that says the arenas have to cover those losses. Bet your $15 beer just shot to $30.

There's also the less-direct impact of businesses in the areas around arenas: hotels, parking companies, restaurants. We also can't forget airlines and other travel-related companies.

This? could be pretty financially catastrophic.

Do you think Kobe Bryant gives a shit? Nope. He's over in Italy right now working out the details for a $3 million dollar deal for forty days of playing ball. He couldn't give two shits about your $12 hot dog back in L.A.

The saddest part about all of this? My opinion (or yours, for that matter), isn't going to change a damn thing. That's the part that pisses me off the most. There's nothing we can do.


(The title of this blog and my choice to use Kobe Bryant, the L.A. Lakers and the Staples Center in Los Angeles was for generalities, not to single out a particular player, team or arena. Blah blah and all that legal disclaimer crap.)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Who's gonna stop me?

Over the course of the last few weeks, I've been inspired more than once by @CynthiaOccelli, whom I saw, but didn't get the chance to meet at Sherri's wedding. She's a woman of amazing substance and between you and me, this is one woman who has her shit together.

Today she tweeted,
When I was 19, I was a 9th-grade-dropout, welfare mom who lived in a garage. When I was 29, I was a law school graduate (with honors), successful business owner who'd just finished building her dream home. Want to know the secret to my success?
I didn't listen to the statistics, family, friends, news reports or professionals who told me I couldn't do it. I listened to my inner knowing that God doesn't make mistakes, the Universe is friendly (ask Einstein), and all things are possible for one who helps oneself. This is as true as it ever was.
This went along perfectly with a conversation I was having with a friend at almost the exact same time she posted this. We were talking about jealousy and what a wasted emotion it is. I explained that because of the opportunities I've been afforded in life that I've collected a handful of people who would rather spend their time being jealous and hateful than doing something about their own situations. "I'm nothing special, I'm not gifted in any certain areas, I don't know any secret handshakes, don't have a genie in a bottle. I'm just me. I've gotten what I've gotten because I'm myself....well, that and I decided a long time ago that I wasn't going to take no for an answer on anything."

And that's the absolute truth. I'm not a rule breaker, but I am a rule pusher. I put myself out there and yes, many times, I'm shot down when it comes to getting what I want. All it does, though, is just give me reason to come up with a way around that no and turn it into a yes. My ex-husband would argue that I'm manipulative and spoiled. I don't agree with that observation at all...I'm resourceful and determined. I think there's a big difference.

This quote seems to say it all:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Power of a Woman

Growing up, though I didn't consider myself popular, I didn't lack friends. Like every girl in the history of time, we fought. And often. But at the end of the day, my best friends were always there. They still are.

My elementary years came before the AIDS scare, so like idiots, we were out there on the playground with cotton balls, rubbing alcohol, needles and the promises of whatever being a blood sister meant to us. We spared each other in tag and underdogged each other on the swings at recess. We drank out of the same Coke bottles and shared our Snak-Pak's at lunch. How we didn't end up with some incurable disease is beyond me, but we didn't. 

Junior High wasn't much better. We shared brushes, curling irons and clothes on those impromptu sleepovers. We swapped spit with boys in the neighborhood and probably shared a few punches, too. Boys were dumb. At least that's what we told each other when one of those little bastards would play tonsil-hockey with the slut down the street. We always had each other's backs, unless of course our enemy was bigger than our best friend, then we were on our own. Seriously? Who the hell was gonna go up against Large Marge or The Gooch? 

High school is when things became a bit different. We still had each other, but as we developed more of our own interests and personalities, we also developed hormones. Your best friend may be your best friend one day and your worst enemy the next. And you never knew from day to day which day it would be. I made a lot of friends during these years, but I lost a lot, too. As graduation drew near, we seemed to mend fences, though and swore to keep in touch no matter what the future held. Or at least that's what we wrote in our yearbooks.

But we didn't always keep in touch.

In fact, some of us lost touch on purpose. We went off to school or careers or marriage or families - sometimes all four at once. Regardless, those girls who knew us better than we knew ourselves were left in the past. We developed new friends and relationships. As we grew older, we became "couples friends" with neighbors and coworkers. We did things as families instead of with our girlfriends. Hell, by the time our thirties rolled around, we didn't even have girlfriends anymore.

Somewhere along the way, though, I realized that wasn't good. My only identity came from those around me - _____'s wife or ______'s mom. So-n-so in accounts payable. What's-her-name from next door. That gal who teaches children's church. I no longer had interests for myself - music was whatever was on the radio, tv shows were whatever Disney or Nickelodeon offered, clothes were whatever fit and wasn't (too) dirty. My hairstyle became a ponytail. Every. Day. Of. My. Life. Even photography and scrapbooking was focused around my family. Who the hell was I anymore?

Nobody I even recognized.

I always thought that "contentment" was what I strived for in life. And truly? I was content. I loved my husband, my kids and the things we'd accomplished in life. But something just didn't feel right. Almost like something was missing.

Oh yeah. ME!

When New Kids on the Block announced their reunion tour, it gave me an excuse to get in touch with old friends from high school who'd shared my love for the group. We called, emailed and visited each other for the first time in over a decade. They gave me a reason to find my inner "girl" again. We reminisced about the music and the videos, but we also recalled the times we spent together as kids just being silly. And we became silly again. We became US again. College-educated, stable, well-established in our relationships...we found ourselves smiling and laughing about things that had nothing to do with our husbands, kids or careers. 

We started spending time together without our families. Dancing. Dinner. Movies. Drinks. Road trips. Weekends away. We rekindled relationships with each other that we'd left behind years ago. And in all our adventures, we'd met and developed relationships with new girlfriends. We share our lives on a daily basis. We vent, we joke, we plan, we support, we love. We love. We love.

Some people I know would like to think that I'm immature or need to get my priorities straight. That I'm cheating myself and my family out of time spent together. They don't understand what it's like to have everything you ever wanted and not have it be enough. They don't get that being a mom and wife is a full-time job all by itself. Sure, there are good times. But overall, you're too busy doing laundry, grocery shopping, or wiping butts, noses and counter tops to really enjoy it all. All you want is some semblance of the life you had before you did those things....before your life went somewhere....else. 

The strength of a woman's abilities are immeasurable, but for God's sake, don't doubt the power of a friendship with one, either.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Summer and the City

I'd be a lying sack of crap if I said I was going to miss summer.

I hate summer. I don't like being hot. I don't like to sweat. I don't like the beach (unless I can see the bottom of whatever body of water it's touching). I don't like the bright sunlight in my eyes. I don't like bugs. I don't like planning every meal of the day for the family because school isn't in session. I don't like school not being in session. I don't like heat indexes and sunburns. I don't like high pollen counts. I don't like the neighbor kids traipsing through our yard from sun-up to sun-down (and beyond).

I'm a cool-weather baby. Give me crisp leaves that crunch when I walk through them. Give me warm tones of gold, orange, red and brown in the trees. Give me the scent of apples and cinnamon mingling together in their intoxicating aroma. Give me hot chocolate and mittens at a football game when you can see your breath at the end of the third quarter. Give me the window cracked juuuuuust a bit to allow the brisk fresh air to settle into freshly laundered sheets.

That being said, when I went with my husband to Kansas City for the day today, sitting outside in the sun was exactly what I did. And it was the perfect ending to my summer. He had a meeting with some clients in the area, so he dropped me off at Country Club Plaza at the 4-level Barnes and Noble, aka Utopia.

It's rare that I'm in a bookstore by myself with time to kill. Usually I've got a purchase in mind or someone with me and because I know how long I can spend browsing, I am usually overly self-conscious about not wasting time when I've got someone with me. Today, however, I wandered aimlessly, perusing shelf after shelf of books I added to my fall reading list. I found some great gift ideas for myself (my family is always asking me "What do you want for Christmas?") and came up with some ideas for friends and family, too. I've always been able to spend days in a bookstore. Honestly, I could've walked out of there today with a good $200 or more in books to read. But I didn't. I picked up the latest Candace Bushnell I'd had on my list since spring, made some small talk with a fellow writer who worked there and left two hours after Hubs dropped me off. It was fantastic.

I'm not much of a shopper, especially when I don't have much money to spend, so I stayed on the straight and narrow, not allowing myself to become distracted by the great shops the Plaza has to offer (I'm so sorry I neglected you today, Anthropologie. Next time, sweetheart. I promise). Well, I almost made it through, that is. I did stop and pick up a cupcake at a little shop off Wyandotte before making my way to JC Nichols Parkway to sit fountain-side and enjoy my newest indulgence.

As I sat in the sun, eating my cupcake, I caught up on Twitter messages, chatted with a friend who called and enjoyed the solitude. In trying to become a better writer, I'm trying to focus on things that can't be seen. So I sat there surrounded by people who'd also sought salvation in the park with my eyes closed.

I breathed.

I listened.

I absorbed it all.

I'm an autumn girl, but as far as I'm concerned, today was the perfect day for summer and the city.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

On the anniversary...

In 2001, my family and I were living in southeast Iowa. My husband worked full-time, my kids were in preschool and kindergarten and I had returned to college. My everyday life was completely separate from anything happening on the East coast. But it affected us just the same.

We didn't have television at the time of the attacks, so in some ways, we were blessed not to have the images of September 11th bombarding us every time we went into our living room. But at the same time, not having television also makes the day seem somewhat far off and surreal.

I visited Ground Zero in 2009 for the first time and was so overcome with grief and sadness that I couldn't even speak. That's unheard of for me. And as I sit here tonight, still in Iowa, my heart is heavy. I suppose it always will be, no matter where I live.

My love is with those who died on that horrible day in 2001 and the loved ones they left behind. Your sacrifice will never be forgotten.

9/11 Revisted

Never. Forget.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A good cause

I don't remember when I found out my best friend has polycystic kidney disease, but I do remember my reaction. There was no hesitation. No question. No doubts. No concerns. It was automatic: "Fuck it. I'll give you my kidney." That's what sisters do.



Now, I don't know that my kidney's a match. It may not be. I trust that it is, but reality may slap me in the face when the time comes to be tested and I won't match, but until then, I'm counting on PKD affecting me as much as it will affect my "sister."

Polycystic kidney disease affects 12.5 million people, yet most people don't know what it is or, furthermore, have never heard of it. That's where we need your help. On September 18th, Ann Marie and I will walk in the annual Walk for PKD in Des Moines. We're asking for your support. There are several ways you can do this:

1) Walk with us. It's free (although every donation helps) and there are no requirements or minimum donations needed to participate in the walk. Register now.

2) Spread the word through RTing our Tweets on Twitter, sharing our links on Facebook or sending the link to this blog to people you know. The more people aware of what we're doing, the better.

3) Donate. Donate a dollar. Donate a hundred. Donate a set amount each month. EVERY. PENNY. HELPS.

The day will come when PKD will make life hell for my sister, but I'm hoping it doesn't get to that. The only way to stop it from happening is to spread the word and find a cure.

Monday, September 5, 2011

12 o'clock and all's well

It's been a rough week. I won't go into it, except to say that the things that have happened have made me question my competence as a mother. I'm sure that would make some people very happy to hear, but when you're in the midst of it, it's a horrifying fear that I hope no parent has to deal with. Unfortunately, I think at one time or another, we've all been here.

This morning, however, put almost everything back into place. It started out with breakfast in bed, which my darling Midget made for Hubs and me. He and I laid there afterward just talking about the chaos of the week - he's been gone quite a bit with work, hobbies and other obligations that hasn't allowed us much time to talk about it all. After we'd talked for a while, we pulled Midget in and the three of us laid there talking about stuff. I asked her some questions about what she thought - about us as parents, about the situation from this week, about the potential move. She surprised me straight across the board. I'm not easily surprised, so I was caught a bit off guard, but in a good way.

If she had given me a report card about the job I'm doing as her mom, I think I'd be making the grade. She asked her dad and me to play more video games with her, but overall, she's happy with how much time we spend with her. She's got some reservations about the move, but overall, she looks at it as an adventure. And the situation with her brother? She's hurt over it. I think she carries a bit of guilt because he said what he said to me because he was "standing up for her." She thinks it's her fault. I reassured her that she had no reason to feel guilty - everybody does what they do for their own reasons, right or wrong.

Bottom line, her brother's problems are not her issues. And knowing that, makes me feel better.

Now, I'm off to beat the pants off of my daughter at Crash Bandicoot, but before I do that, she's got some apartments she wants to show me.

Have a great Labor Day!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Crack of a spine

If you know anything about me, you know how hard I've fought against the e-reading trends. I've been a huge advocate for the physical book all my life. I don't like reading stories online. I don't want to read what's going on around me on my newspaper's website. I took online courses in college about ten years ago and didn't like that either. I will admit that I have downloaded a Kobo reader for my Blackberry, but have resorted to it only when I've forgotten to take an actual book with me or I've found myself waiting somewhere unexpectedly.

I want a physical book in my hands. I want to underline phrases and highlight words and dog-ear my pages. I want to feel the paper between my fingers. I want to hear the creak of the spine when you first open a new book. I want to smell the age of an old book. I want to be able to flip back to a certain spot if I forget something. 

And when I've loved my book too much, I want to smear rubber cement on its broken spine, glue the cover back on and wedge it between the others on my bookcase where it will dry. You can't fix a Kindle with glue.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

All you can do is love them anyway

I've been trying to sleep for hours and it won't come. Too much on my mind and no clear starting point to even begin sorting it all out.

Many of my readers are parents - some with grown kids, some with infants, some in-between. But I'm sure you've all been where I am at some point in your life: standing there rejected by your child and wondering where you went wrong. How to fix it.

I've raised my kids to be respectful of us and all adults. I've always taught my kids there's nothing wrong with questioning someone's actions or authority (even my own) as long as it's done with respect and with the understanding that while you're entitled to your opinions, you may, in fact, be wrong. I've always encouraged them to come to me when they have a problem with something I've done or said and I try to live by that rule, as well.

I make mistakes. I make the wrong choices. I screw up. I've never pretended otherwise. If there was a parenting handbook, I'd memorize the damn thing, but there's not. There are no right or wrong answers across the board. Like I told my son tonight, we have to take what we know and combine that information with the opportunities we're given and hope it turns out all right. Sometimes we succeed. Sometimes we don't. I'm not perfect. None of us are.

I won't go into details because overall, it's a private matter, but my son and I had a pretty massive falling out last night. I've spent most of today licking my wounds and trying to make sense of the fallout. He had opinions, which he is entitled to but went about delivering them the wronnnnng way. When I took some deep breaths and tried to approach something resembling an intelligent response absent of the hurt and betrayal I was feeling, I managed to put together an email addressing each of his points and sent it to him. I don't know if he'll read it. In fact, quite honestly, I'll be surprised if he does. But I did take the time to respond and I did so without letting my wounded heart influence my words. I did what I wish he'd have done.

But most importantly, before I addressed anything else, I told him I love him.

Sometimes, that's all we can do as parents - love them. Even when they don't love us back.