Sunday, June 28, 2009

It Wouldn't Be Thunder Without a Little Rain

My hometown of Johnstown, PA hosts a big motorcycle rally every summer: Thunder in the Valley. We used to go every year, but when we gave the bike up, we gave Thunder up, too.

But now we have a bike again.

Now one of the (many) reasons I stopped riding last time was my husband's insistence on utilizing every safety precaution known to man. (Which completely counters one of the other reasons I stopped: I didn't think it was safe.) Now those of you who are cluck-clucking and saying, "Tammy, there is no such thing as too much safety. You are clearly a reckless gadabout and ne'er do well with no respect for life", hear me out. (Once again, isn't it eerie how accurately I can read your thoughts?)

Gearing up for a ride - EVEN IN SUMMER - consisted of long jeans, heavy boots, a leather jacket (with armor), a full-face helmet, gloves, and chaps. Yes, my friends, chaps. Now for those of you who don't know me or haven't seen me in a while, it is with a heavy heart that I inform you that of all the fruit shapes a body can adopt, mine has chosen the pear to emulate. The posterior? She is more than ample. The effect of chaps on an ample derriere is considerably less than delightful. Fat-bottomed girls, in chaps, assuredly do NOT make the rockin' world go round. It's like effectively drawing a circle around it for emphasis. "Oh, and in case you were in danger of missing it - HERE'S MY ASS!!!"

Man I hated those chaps.

And in summer, I hated it all.

We would go to rallys and bike nights and my husband would point out women - sometimes even my age and every now and then even my size - wearing cute, sexy little tops. "Why don't you ever dress like that?"

"Because I'd just have to cover it with a frackin' leather coat of armor! Geez, for all you or anyone else knows I might BE dressed like that under here!"

(I wasn't.)

Boys can be stupid.

No offense intended to my three esteemed male readers.

But sheesh.

So when we got this bike, the hubs assured me that he was ready to lighten up. He still insisted on full gear for highway riding, but for jaunts around town we could tone it down a notch or two.

The retirement of Safety Boy was a huge factor in my encouraging him to get a bike this time 'round. Being in danger of heat stroke doesn't feel safe.

He rode to Johnstown, fully geared up, while I followed in the car with the girls. We dropped our stuff (and the girls) off at my parents house and decided to hit Thunder. Just a little jaunt around town.

"You don't have to gear up, if you don't want to."

"Seriously? How much do I have to wear?"

"Whatever you want."

"So I don't have to wear boots?"

"Nah, you'll be fine."

"How 'bout a jacket?"

"We're only going a couple miles..."

"How 'bout a HELmet?" I asked teasingly. We're both very pro-helmet. I was really only kidding.

"Let's leave 'em. It's only a couple miles."


Riding through my parents neighborhood in a sleeveless top with no helmet was downright blissful. Freeing. I was giggling like the simple shit I am (right below the surface).

Then we pulled out onto the main road. Not a highway. A little road. But a busy one. And I didn't like it. I felt vulnerable and scared. I envisioned my smashed skull on the pavement at every turn. I thought about my soon to be inevitably orphaned children. I felt stupid beyond almost all reason. What had possessed me to DO this? Never again, I vowed (the way one is wont to vow to oneself when one is right smack dab in the middle of a stupid decision).

We made it to the festival and I was tempted to pick up a cheap helmet from a vendor. I know they're not the sort of helmets that actually offer much protection (other than protection from the authorities in states with helmet laws) but I thought one might give me some peace of mind for the ride back to my parents' house.

I was really getting nervous about getting back on the bike without gear. I felt naked, and not in a good way.

And then, with barely a warning, the skies opened up and it started to rain. Hard. I don't know why I didn't see it coming. this was Johnstown, after all. Known, if it's known at all, for it's floods. Now we were going to have to ride back to the house without gear in the RAIN. Even if it cleared up (which it did) we were going to be riding on wet roads.

Message recieved, universe.

As God is my witness, I'll never go lidless again.

Can't say the same about the chaps.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Other People's Kids

We used to have this kid in our neighborhood. He was loud and obnoxious and couldn't take a hint. He was also one of the most sincere kids I've ever met. The moniker 'rascal' would not be a poor fit. His age put him right between my daughters. My eldest couldn't stand him. My youngest thought he was a great playmate. And he WAS a great playmate - for the most part - but I never let her play with him if I couldn't be RIGHT THERE because along with loud and obnoxious, he was very impulsive. Hearing him say (scream) "Hey! I have an idea!" would send chills down my spine.

He moved away last year when his parents divorced. Dad was still our neighbor, but he went to live with Mom. My eldest and I breathed a sigh of relief. Every now and then he'd visit his dad - more over the summer months - and every time he visited, he always made a beeline for our house.

Yesterday my youngest and I were assembling some patio furniture on the back deck. We were determined to have it all together before my husband came home, because we (okay, I) didn't want to ask for his help. I am woman, hear me roar. We were working our way through the directions and sorting the hardware when up rolled our old neighbor. He parked his bike outside our fence and stood at the gate, clearly waiting for an invitation to join us.

"Whatcha doin'?

"Putting chairs together."

"I could help. If you'd open the gate. Never mind, I think I can jump the fence.'

"Don't jump the fence! We'll open the gate."

Turns out he was quite helpful indeed. Although I did have to stifle a giggle when he slid under my patio chair like it was a car on a lift. There was an easier way. But it wouldn't have been nearly as sweet. And he wouldn't have felt nearly as manly. My daughter ran into the house to fetch him a glass of ice water. He hadn't asked. So much for roaring women.

I'd effectively gotten out of putting together the furniture.

When they were done, they took to playing with the box.

"Oh, that's cute" I thought, as I turned my back on them and started preparing dinner.

"Can I play your drums?" that went about as well as you are imagining...

"Dinner's almost ready."

"Can I stay for dinner?"

"Of course. Call your dad and see if it's ok."

Of course it was.

As I turned my attention away from the task of preparing dinner, I was treated to the sight of pieces of box and packing material spread out over my entire first floor. This had taken less than 15 minutes.

It felt like I had toddlers again.


Then we sat down to dinner.

Our guest had impeccable table manners. He waited to eat until everyone had been served. He asked if he could have things that were right in front of him. He complimented my cooking.

Screeeeeeech! Rewind!

He complimented my cooking.

One more time -

He complimented my cooking.

I used to think I was a pretty decent cook, but my kids have complained so much about what I serve them over the last decade or so that I have completely lost my confidence in that particular arena. And here was this child - this child who annoyed me more often than he didn't - telling me it was the best he ever had and asking me for my recipe. He's twelve.

Could he have been Eddie Haskell-ing me? It's possible. But he's a pretty sincere little kid.

Could he have just been being polite? Also possible, but not likely - since ten minutes earlier, in the midst of banging the hell out of my daughter's drum kit, I'd heard him scream to her, "let's see how loud we can get before your mom goes crazy and yells!"

I'd made dessert, too.

We rarely have dessert, but last night we did.

Do I have to tell you it was the best thing he'd ever tasted in his life?

Do you have any idea how much I enjoyed being complimented on my cooking?

He also very happily remembered very specific gifts my daughters had given him at his birthday party two years ago.

He also told us his dad sold his house and will be moving.

Dang. I think I'm gonna miss that kid.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Spirit of St. Louis

Buoyed by your kind comments on some of my nostalgic vacation posts, I decided to do a series of them to collect for my parents for Christmas. The following is one of them. Let me know if you'd like to see more, or if these are really the sort of thing that only a parent could love...

In preparation for a trip to the Smithsonian Institute one year my mother, like any good mother, told my sister and I about some of the things we'd see when we got there. In child development circles we call that 'scripting' but, like many of the things we feel the need to label and discuss as though they're lofty philosophical/psychological ideas, it's really just common sense.


As she mentioned some of the things we were likely to encounter, one thing stuck out boldly from the rest: The Spirit of St. Louis.

Now I wasn't sure who St. Louis was, but I wasn't all that concerned about it with the prospect of actually encountering his SPIRIT in my near future.

I asked all sorts of questions about this spirit with just enough ambiguity that my mother was able to believe we were on the same page.

"How did they get the Spirit of St. Louis in the museum in the first place?

"How in the world do they get it to stay there?"

"We'll be able to see the actual Spirit of St. Louis? Not just a picture?"

The morning we headed to the museum I was beside myself. I could hardly eat from the excitement.

My parents were, no doubt, pleased that I was so excited about visiting a museum. They were probably also a little perplexed by my sudden and passionate interest in aviation.

As we entered the Air and Space Museum I got my first twinge of nervousness. I was still excited, but suddenly my excitement was tempered with just a little bit of fear. This WAS a restless apparition we were talking about, here. What if it chose today to go rogue?

We entered a huge open room with old airplanes suspended from the high ceiling.

"There it is." my mom said, pointing to I sure as heck didn't know what.

"What? There what is?"

"The Spirit of St. Louis."

Holy buckets, had I missed it? Had it zoomed right past me without so much as sending a chill down my spine to alert me to it's presence?

"Where?" I asked rather desperately, eyes darting wildly around the room trying to pin down the poltergeist.

"There." she said, coming down to my level and helping me to focus on - an airplane?

Then I noticed the lettering on the side of the plane. 'The Spirit of St. Louis'. I realized my error immediately and three thoughts formed in quick succession:

"How could I have been so stupid?" was the first.

"I mustn't ever let them know what I was really thinking." was the second.

"Dang. I'm not gonna see a ghost." was the third, final, and most devastating of all.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Soylent Green is People

And flan is gelatin and gelatin is animal parts.

My youngest daughter is a vegetarian and she loves flan. She is not vegan. But lately I've begun to think she may be leaning that way.

She loves flan. Almost as much as I do. Which is, in case you may not know, an awful lot.

I've never made it. I get it at restaurants. And sometimes the grocery store, but not often. And once a student made some for me. But I've never made it.

So I was unaware of the ingredients.

I never thought gelatin.

And frankly, if I had, I probably wouldn't have gotten very excited.

But she did. Very excited indeed. Agitated, you might even say.

She is pretty firm in her conviction, a conviction the rest of the family does not share. As she is never obnoxious or preachy about it, I find it easy to be respectful of her decision. She never says, "you shouldn't do this", she just says, "I won't do this". PETA take note. Much easier to take someone seriously when they express their opinions respectfully. Just sayin'.

The more she is able to research things for herself, though, the more difficult it becomes.

She won't wear leather. Shoes.

Wait'll she finds out the upright bass is held together with hide glue.

Wait'll she hears about the conditions dairy cows endure.

Good bye, milk.

Good bye, cheese.

A little ignorance can be bliss. And bliss tastes a lot like flan.

Monday, June 22, 2009

King of the Road

Yesterday Tom and I rather spontaneously entered Phase II of our collective mid-life crisis.

We got a new bike.

We used to ride, then we stopped - for reasons that don't seem so important anymore.

Yesterday, for Father's Day, we headed to the dealership and signed the papers on a new to us Harley.

Gorgeous, no?

She is so like us.

With the tour pack and windshield on, she is really quite practical.

Off, and she is so damn badass.

We rode around a little today - just getting a feel for it again.

It came back like - um - well - like riding a bike.

As we put her in the garage I made a connection I hadn't made at the dealership: She is exactly the same color as my first bicycle. My Schwinn Fair Lady with the white sparkly banana seat.


Probably. But still...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Good Day, Sunshine

It's time I came to terms with something - a truism that has been in place since my infancy. an addiction, an affliction, a compulsion, an obsession.

My name is Tammy, and I'm a sun-worshiper.

I rise with the sun, and start my existence. ~ The Partridge Family

Mom says from the time I was wee, I was an early riser. It didn't matter if she put me to bed early or late. If the sun was up; so was I. It's still so. It took me a while to figure out what Mom figured out in my infancy. I'm getting up with the sun no matter what time I go to bed. I'm in a much better mood for this if I go to bed earlier.

When I was a youngin and the collective consciousness did not include terms like SPF and melanoma I played happily from sun-up to sundown sans sunscreen. True - Dad didn't allow us to be out in the 11-2 sun at the beach, but that wasn't to fend off skin cancer. That was just so no one got a bad burn and ruined our whole vacation. I never burned. I went increasingly yummy shades of brown. My Teutonic mother called me her little brown bean.

As a teen I was out by 10 wearing as little as the law (and my mom) would allow. Soaking up that Vitamin D and helping it along with baby oil.

It's a sunshine day - everybody's smilin'. ~ The Brady Bunch

As a young adult I tried really hard to become a night owl, but the pull of the sun was too strong. It never really took.

(Sorry Twilighters, Interview was the shiz!)

Up all night, sleep all day. ~ Slaughter

Big surprise to anyone that I developed SAD (seasonal affect disorder) as an adult? I thought not.

Sunshine go away today. I don't feel much like dancin'. ~ Jonathon Edwards

But hey! None of that now! On accounta today we'll see more sun than any other day this year. Happy Summer Solstice, ya'll!

I'm walkin' on sunshine - and don't it feel good? ~ Katrina and the Waves

***I know, I know, it's Father's Day, too, but my Daddy's (80th, holy cow!) birthday is just a little more than a week away and I've planned to do an homage of sorts to him, then.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Got Cheese?

'Cause I'm bringing a little whine. Just a little taste, not a full on drunken orgy. Watch out, you might get what you're after.

We got home about an hour ago. When we pulled into our driveway, it was like I'd sat down at the shoulder press after a competitive weightlifter without bothering to adjust the weight. I quite literally felt the tears welling up before I was even out of the car.

My house was never in danger of being featured in Better Homes and Gardens (or, as they accurately spoofed on The Simpson's once, Better Homes Than Yours). But two weeks worth of weeds and grass growth didn't serve to make it any more welcoming.

Inside was better, but not by a lot.

I hate my house.

I didn't love it before we left, but it was adequate. It was what it was. It's where I keep my stuff.

Walking into it today was walking into a prison. A prison, of course, of my own making - which is small darn comfort.

As someone drank all the tequila and most of the vodka before we left, I reached for my only other go-to comfort. I drew a warm bath and threw in some scented bubbles. I had just achieved my best "Calgon, take me away" pose and was nowhere close to the Calgon mood when one of the girls walked right in and sat on the edge of the tub. She started right in on the take me, drive me, I need, I want's. I was in the frackin' tub! Is nothing sacred? I couldn't have relaxed anyway, because the bathroom is part of this house and - did I mention? - I HATE this house!

I got dressed and set about trying to cope with the fact that I LIVE in this s**thole when the other one started practicing her drums. I usually don't mind - I'm so used to it, I tune it right out - but I'm SAD! It is going right down my spine, the drumming is.

I look over to ask her to stop and she is grinning ear to ear. She missed her drums so much. She missed her dog and her rat. She was actually homesick for this place. She is as happy to be home as I am unhappy.

I can't ask her to stop being happy because I have.

So I'm home. I'll start weeding. And landscaping. And cleaning. I'll do what I can to make it liveable.

But not right this minute. The weeds will be here tomorrow. The unpacking will be here tomorrow. The laundry will be here tomorrow.

God knows, it will all still be here tomorrow.

Right this minute I'm gonna go ahead and be sad.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Do You Have the Time to Listen to Me Whine?

I got an e-mail from my good friend Rosa the other day. She expressed hope that my vacation was actually as much fun as I was making it out to be on my blog. I wrote back complimenting her on her astuteness. And also on her ability to read between the lines. And also just because Rosa is awesome and deserves to be complimented daily.

The very next day Anita left me a comment telling me I have great adventures. I assured her that nothing could be farther from the truth. (Anita is also awesome and deserves to be complimented daily. Scoot on over and compliment her right now, if you haven't already!)

I figure no-one wants to hear me ramble on about old family rivalries or personality conflicts or all the damn mosquitoes unless I can find a way to make those things funny. And if I was suddenly hit with the inspiration to make those things humorous - or at least entertaining - I'd share those things.

Because no-one wants to hear me whine all the livelong day.

Except maybe Tom.

He loves it.

He thrives on it.

When we were dating, 'our song' was Basketcase by Green Day(referenced in the title of this post).

We did indeed have the time to listen to each other whine. About nothing and everything all we wanted. So we made a commitment.

But none of you have made that sort of commitment to me, so I try to keep the whining to a minimum. Besides, it's been my experience that people NOT on vacation tend to have very little sympathy for the whining of people who ARE on vacation.

I'm sensitive to your feelings that way.

You're welcome.

Anyway. Just me? Am I the only one pulling trivial details out of mundane days and turning them into virtual essays, or are the rest of you actually living the lives of mystery, intrigue and intellectual discourse presented in your blogs?

I imagine everyone living more exciting lives than mine, then I'm told I present mine as exciting! Lightbulb moment! Maybe THEY'RE (you're) big exaggerating exaggerate pants who exaggerate, too... Maybe my mundane little life isn't as comparatively dull as I think it is. Maybe - just maybe - I'm normal.

Nah, who am I kiddin'?

a note to my peeps: I'll probably be off the grid for a couple days as we drive home NOT in the camper of every convenience, but in the car it towed down here. Miss you already!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bird is the Word

So we're running a quick errand today - Tom and I in the front seat, the three girls in the back. A low flying bird flies right in front of the car. Busy street, no room or time to swerve. Thud.

Tom and I exchange "Oh shit" looks and he checks out the rear view mirror. No squashed bird in sight.



We had all heard that distinctive thud.

"Did we hit it?" came tentatively from the back seat.

"I don't know."

Nervous silence from the animal lovers in the back seat.

Nervous glances between the adults in the front seat.

And then...

And then...

Several miles down the road, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, we see a bird take flight from out of nowhere.

That's not exactly true.

We saw a bird take flight from the grille on the front of our car.

"Did you...?"

"Was that...?"

A huge collective sigh of relief came from everyone in the car.

I have never seen anything like that.

That's not exactly true.

Because I watch a lot of cartoons. Or I did. Or I do. Whatever.

This is the sort of behavior one sees a lot of in cartoons.

We imagined what we did not actually see. The bird ran into our car, wings spread out over the grille, two 'X's taking the place of his eyes. Smaller birds circle his head in a drunken game of ring around the rosie. He shakes his head like a dog with a mouth full of slobber, complete with sound effects. You know the one. You've watched a cartoon or two, too.

Yes you have, shut up.

He shakes it off, flexes his little bird muscle wings, and flies off into the sunset. Or - erm - noonday sun.

The evil forces that would hold him down foiled again.

There's a life lesson here, but I have no intention of getting sappy in a post about cartoons. Learn your own damn life lessons.

Th-Th-Th-That's all, folks!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Wash Me

We are staying on a small island just off Marco Island in south Florida. Goodland, where we're staying, is a little fishing village with a post office and 4 bar/restaurants. That's about it. To get to anything else we have to go through Marco.

Today we went shopping in Naples. Off Goodland, through Marco, to Naples.

Now Marco is quite an affluent area. When we went swimming at a pool there yesterday, we did not use a trash can. We used a rubbish bin. This cracked us up, for some reason, and we spent a good deal of the rest of the day saying "Oh, rubbish!" in our best fa-fa-fa voices and our most affected accents.

On our way back to the island after our shopping trip today, someone's lawn sprinkler hit us just as we were entering Marco. My niece, Shelby, asked from the back seat, "What was that?"

"Sprinklers, what did you think?" answered her mom.

"I thought maybe they didn't want to have to look at our dirty old car on Marco, so they were washing it for us."

Shelby is a funny little chickadee.

is 10 years old and has just started her own blog to talk about her dog and her life.

My daughter Lea, who is 13, just started a blog too. It is chock full of teen angst, as you would expect.

Stop by and give them some love, if you've got the time. And if you know any other young bloggers who might be interested in following, I'm pretty sure they'd follow back.

(I am fully aware that it's positively shameless to use this forum for promoting two of my favorite girls, but shame is overrated. If you do visit them, read Shelby's older posts and scroll on through for Lea's first post... just sayin')

Monday, June 15, 2009


I had decided before we left for this vacation that I was going to attempt to say yes more during these two weeks. Not yes to buying things, necessarily. Because how many souvenir stand trinkets does one really need? (hint - the answer rhymes with pun and starts with an 'n') Yes, instead, to increasingly rare requests for me or my time. Not "when I finish this row" (I left my knitting needles at home! Those of you who know me IRL know this is like saying "I left my index finger at home") Not "when I finish this chapter" (that one's been tougher, 'cause I sure as shootin' didn't leave my books at home!"), just, "yes".

Today we were all feeling like we needed a break from the rather harsh rays on the beach, so my sister and I decided to take the girls to the pool.

What a great decision that turned out to be.

It was a beautiful pool - large, immaculately maintained, beautifully landscaped.

We had it all to ourselves.

Seriously, ya'll. Traveling off-season rocks so hard.

And I had a lot of opportunities to say yes.

My girls are not too old, apparently, to play "look what I can do".

And I really looked.

I watched their feet flail around while they were under the water and knew that in their minds they were performing feats as graceful as any Olympic diver. I told them they were wonderful. I meant it.

"Did you see me Mom?"


"Do you want to play a game?"


My sister and I both played the pool games they made up. My sister - who NEVER gets her hair wet (her mother's daughter) was splashing and allowing herself to be splashed. She indulged in a little "look what I can do", too.


I found myself diving low just to do it - not to swim a lap, not to get to the side, just because it feels really good. And it DOES make you feel graceful! And LIGHT! For a big girl like me, that is an almost inexplicably wonderful feeling. I FLOATED! Stiff as a board, light as a feather...

When I got out, my fingers were wrinkled.

When's the last time you JUST PLAYED in the pool until your fingers were wrinkled?

"Can I pick you up again, Mom?"


"Holding you like this is fun."


Oh, hell yes.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Pam at Pam's Perspective tagged me, so I guess I'm it! (I always suspected that I might be, but it's nice to have confirmation!)

The object of the game, in this case, is to open your first photo folder, open the 10th photo and tell a story about it.

I'll be honest, folks. This wasn't my first photo folder. The first didn't even have 10 pictures in it. The tenth photo in the second was so dark I could've told you anything and you would've had no choice but to believe. So this is the tenth picture from my third folder.

This was taken at Lea's tenth birthday party (right in keeping with the '10' theme, no?)

She had a makeover party.

The two girls in the near background are having pedicures and manicures. In the far background, at the table, girls are having facials, getting a light make-up application, and having their hair done. (Also in keeping with the '10' theme, many of them ended up with elaborate braids. It's almost like we were anticipating this post)

I thought we'd make things as beauty-parlory as possible, so we had a wide array of magazines in the waiting area. I bought every tween mag on the news stand. Because I am just that cool. At least that's what the woman at the checkout counter thought. She didn't think my apparent obsession with Zac Efron was weird or pervy at all.

I had four adults helping me with the party and they all went home with spa gift bags, just like the girls did. Except theirs included wine and chocolate. And pictures of Zac Efron. Which I thought was the least I could do after they gave up a weekend night to help me deal with a house full of ten year olds.

Now I am to tag a few more folks, but ya'll - I'm on vacation! So I'm gonna be just a little lazy and say, if you want to play, consider yourself tagged!

Because you? Are it!

Friday, June 12, 2009


'My beach', growing up, was Myrtle Beach, SC. With the exception of the two times we crossed the country, we went to Myrtle Beach every summer in my memory until I was eighteen.

Prior to that - prior to what I can actually remember - I summered on the beaches of New Hampshire where my dad went to grad school. I'm told I felt quite at home there. I have no cause to doubt that information.

During my mad running away from home trying to find myself years I visited many fine beaches in Texas and Florida and up and down the east and gulf coasts. I didn't make any of them my own, but I loved them all.

When I settled in the eastern PA/south Jersey region, I claimed the Jersey and Maryland shores as my own. I spent as much time there as I could, drawing something vital from the salt air by day and the boardwalk by night.

I love the beach.

So I moved to Ohio.

Yeah, I don't know. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

A couple years ago my sister introduced me to her father-in-laws place just off Marco Island in southwestern Florida. My sister and her husband have a boat and use it to get to small uninhabited island beaches.

With all those beach going years under my belt, I have never seen anything like it.

The first time she took me I was completely awestruck.

The shells are insane.

The privacy and quiet and freedom are something I've never known on a beach before.

The water temperature is perfect.

It truly is a paradise on earth.

This is the first time my family has been here.

I could not wait for my kids to experience these beaches.

Don't get me wrong - they loved it. They had a great time. They ran, they played, they swam, they shelled. It was a great day at the beach.

But they weren't impressed. They most assuredly weren't awestruck.

The things that bring delight and wonder to my middle-aged soul were viewed very matter-of-factly by my children.

Do you think kids in general are just jaded? Or do you think they just expect wonderful things to the point of taking them for granted?

I remember traveling with my own parents and having my mom get all excited about something we were going to see or do and giving it a big build up. When we finally got there, more often than not, my sister and I would say something on the order of, "That's cool, I guess.", shrug, and look for something to play.

We were certainly not jaded.

We hadn't seen it all.

But we had no reason to believe there shouldn't be wonder all around us. We enjoyed it - as my children enjoyed their day on the pristine isolated beach - but we weren't amazed.

Expecting wonder.

Jaded, as I've implied? Unappreciative, as my mom expressed?

Or just the opposite?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Commencin' to Live in the Real World

In true Griswold fashion, the first leg of our road trip involved visiting family. My cousin had one daughter graduating from high school and another graduating college. Rather momentous.

Now these two girls have always had a more than special place in my heart. K. was probably the first baby I ever fell truly, madly, deeply in love with. I adored her. Is that redundant? No matter. It can't really be overstated.

A few years later, when my cousin had J., I learned a lesson most folks don't learn till they have their own second child. J. taught me how our hearts can grow. When my cousin asked me to serve as J.'s godmother I was flattered beyond words.

So this weekend my cousin had a party to celebrate her girls. K. graduated college with a teaching degree and J. graduated high school. As we arrived at the party, both girls were there to greet us with hugs. J. got to me first. I hugged her and said, "I'm so proud of you! Congratulations!"

She said something on the order of, "Yeah, thanks."

Then I got to K. I said the same thing to her. "I'm so proud of you! Congratulations!"

She said, "I know, isn't it sad?"

It seems like an odd answer, but I totally understood. I squeezed her a little tighter and said, "I know. It'll be ok, though, I promise."

But I lied a little bit.

Not a lot. Not a big lie. Not even a lie, really, I guess. Because things, of course, will indeed be ok.

But they will never again be college.

K. loved college. She found her peeps in college. She fit. It was good. And now it's over and you know what? That IS sad!

I remember my own college graduation. My parents had a little get together at the house afterwards and I remember watching people arrive and thinking, "Why are so many people coming to celebrate the end of my LIFE?"

(when I complain about my daughter and her drama, I never say she didn't get it honest)

And that was the difference between J.'s experience and K.'s. In semantic terms, J. had a commencement. Finishing high school (with high honors! go J.!) was just a stepping stone - an important step towards the next exciting chapter of her life. A beginning. She is excited about her future. (and K. is, no doubt, thinking right along with me, "well, what's not to be excited about? Her future is COLLEGE!!!) K. had more of of a graduation. An ending, leaving something behind - something beloved. Something she wasn't quite ready to say good-bye to. Where she's going next is a little more uncertain.

Oh, K.

Oh, sweetie.

The post-collegiate world IS scary. And it ISN'T the same. But it can be pretty wonderful, too. Just a different kind of wonderful.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

On the Road Again

Howdy Hi from the open road. I'm writing today from my sisters camper. We're going 65 m.p.h. down the PA turnpike as I write. We are in a decent sized motor home, pulling a car behind us. We were our own mini-convoy. You got a copy on me? Come on.

So I'm typing away. My laptop is connected to a wireless router which uses an air card. Liv is listening to CD's and drawing illustrations for a story she's working on. Lea is sleeping off the last of the Dramamine. Shelby is reading us jokes from a joke book. Wendy has just cleaned up after lunch and is headed to the back bedroom to read. Tom and Mark are taking turns driving and sleeping. When Lea wakes up, they'll probably watch a movie.

I used the bathroom while the vehicle was moving. Awesome. I kept thinking about that lady I saw on the Today show last week who was using the bathroom in an airplane when they hit some turbulence and she hit the roof or something and was paralyzed. I was pretty sure that wasn't gonna happen in a camper, but I peed fast anyway, just to be safe.

As I came out of the bathroom, I glanced back at my sister, sound asleep in her queen-sized bed with her book beside her. It was hard not to remember traveling with her when we were the wee ones.

(Scene blurs, lines squiggle and fade, indicating that it's time for the flashback sequence.)

I've mentioned before that my dad was a teacher and my mom was a SAHM. In the summer of 1970 they decided it would be super-fun to spend the full summer traveling across the country in a little car pulling a travel trailer with a 7 year old and a 5 year old.


It goes without saying that said car and camper did not have anything as luxurious or frivolous as air conditioning. We rolled down the windows. Manually. It goes without saying that there were no DVD's or CD's or iPods. There was an AM radio and we all listened to the same thing. Should I try to do some more? Twenty-five or six to four... We played license plate bingo and we counted cows. At 7 and 5 we knew every state capital. These were good ways to pass the time. Another good way to pass the time when you're 7 and 5 and confined in the back seat of a small car is to fight and pick.

"She touched me."

"Her foot is on my side."


And, of course, the requisite:

"Are we there yet?"

We all survived to tell the tale. Wendy and I had perpetually bruised wrists that whole summer from my mom holding on to us a little too tightly as we shared campgrounds and state parks with what she called "hippies, weirdos and druggies".

But we all survived, and were better for the experience.

Coming out of my flashback I look at out three girls. Books, snacks, CD's, DVD's, iPods, phones, games, computers... they have it so good!

And then I heard it.

"I'm bored."

"Are we there yet?"

Are you freakin' kidding me?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Drugs Can Hurt You, Man

In the late 70's/early 80's I smoked a little pot. In the late 80's/early 90's I snorted my fair share of coke. Ok, maybe my fair share and a little bit of your share, too. Every now and then my share, your share, and your Aunt Fannie's share, too. And Aunt Fannie likes her some blow. Just sayin', By the mid 90's my only remaining vice was liquor. And the occasional M&M. And love. Addicted to love, baby. Might as well face it.

Somewhere along the line, though (line. heh.) I lost my tolerance for drugs of any sort. Last spring I broke my arm and couldn't tolerate any of the pain meds that were prescribed. Those first two weeks on nothing by aceteminaphine were rough, let me tell you, but it was all I could handle.

Today I took two dramamines. We were going to be traveling in my sisters motor home and the last time I'd ridden in it for any distance I had motion sickness something awful. I've always been prone to motion sickness. I don't get it every time, but I do get it often. Those of you who experience it know that it doesn't end when the ride does. It ruins your whole day.

So to fend off potential motion sickness, I took two dramamine. This is on the high end of the recommended dosage, but still within it. Half an hour later I couldn't hold my head up. Four hours later I woke up refreshed and not at all carsick. But I fully and completely crashed for four solid hours.

So I'm thinking dramamine is the bomb.

I'd given one to Lea, too, as she inherited my motion sickness gene. She crashed, too. Her re-entry into the land of the living, however, was not as smooth as mine.

At a rest stop on the turnpike, Liv comes running over to me - "Hurry up! Lea is sick and she's on the ground! Come see!" She hadn't passed out, but her vision had gone blurry, her skin became instantly clammy and she lost all her color. Her lips were completely white. It was scary. She was too weak to stand.

It passed - the worst of it, anyway - and we got her back to the camper and into bed where she slept a little more. When she felt a little better, she ate. Then she slept a little more.

She's fine, now. But when we hit the road again Sunday, no dramamine for her. (I will try to pick up some of those pressure point wrist bands for her between now and then.) Momma, of course, will be fully dosed.

Once in the late 80's/early 90's - when I was transitioning from one drug of preference to the next (and therefore dabbling a bit in both) - I was at a party. This one guy was stoned on who knows what. He fell down the stairs. As I passed him, his face was squashed on the floor and his body was spread out full-length up the stairs. He opened one eye as I passed and said, "drugs can hurt you, man." Then he closed his eye and crashed, in an inverted position on a staircase.

True dat, my brother. True dat.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Love Hurts

So my daughter's heart is breaking. And I'm making it worse.

Parenting is so hard.

She likes this boy. They've liked each other for four months. In thirteen year old time, that is an eternity. And, as the song says, they've gotta say good-bye for the summer. Three months. Another eternity. We're traveling, his family is traveling; you don't have much control over things when you're thirteen.

Next year she will remain in Jr. High and he will move on to High School. Their future as a couple is tenuous at best. She is feeling a little desperate.

They planned to spend today together, their last opportunity to spend time together in a while.

She got into an argument with her dad a couple days ago and he said she couldn't see him (among many other punishments he threw at her). We talked and decided he'd acted rashly out of anger, so he told her they could 'renegotiate' her punishment. The other restrictions stood, but we'd let her see the boy today. One of the other restrictions was phone privileges.

Last night the other daughter had a few friends sleeping over. In trouble daughter took advantage of sleepover daughter being distracted by her friends. She snuck into her sister's room, 'borrowed' her phone and called the boy. And she would've gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those pesky kids. They busted her. And when they did, she grabbed her sister's arm and pleaded with her not to tell us. Obviously she did not respect that request. (Good girl.)

The hubs and I were in shock. How could she have done this? Why would she have taken a risk like that when we had just granted a rare reprieve? I think both of us were more disappointed and shocked than we were angry.

We didn't even have to say anything.

She'd tied our hands.

There was nothing anyone could do to make it right.

There would be no seeing of the boy.

No one was angry. Everyone was sad.

She cried in my lap last night. Cried for things she doesn't fully understand yet. Cried for a romance that was dying a natural death. Cried for her lack of judgment. Cried because it's all so confusing and hard. Cried because she knew she'd brought it on herself. Cried the frustrated tears of a woman-child.

I held her, and stroked her hair. I remembered puppy love and how angry I would've been if anyone had called it that. That's a title only earned with hindsight. I remembered, in her tears, the reality of that hurt. That desperate feeling that nothing was ever going to be ok again.

Of course things will be ok again. I know this. She doesn't. Not yet.

She brought back every heartbreak I'd ever experienced. I lived through them all again. Puppy love, young love, not quite the right time yet love. I needed all of that hurt to be able to fully appreciate the goodness and fullness of the real thing when it finally came 'round. Again. More easily experienced through hindsight.

My teen years were hard. Watching her live through hers - so far - seems like that might be harder.

So today? I enforce the punishment. As I must. I enforce the punishment as a necessary part of the mother/daughter dynamic. But my heart breaks as I share her broken heart - a part of the old woman/new woman dynamic.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

School's Out

Back in the early days of my squealy fangirlhood, when I first got interested in going to concerts, the first show I really wanted to see was Alice Cooper. Mom's foot spoke hard on that one. No way, no how, not gonna happen. I hear he kills babies. (Yes, Mom. He kills babies. On stage. With no consequence other than parental disappoval. Sheesh.) The very next month I was allowed to go see my actual first concert. Nazareth. I think she might have thought it was Christian rock. I neither confirmed nor denied.


I have to wonder if Alice Cooper (the band or the man) had any idea how iconic the song "School's Out" would continue to be, decades after its 1972 release. I'm quite certain he couldn't have anticipated appearing in the 2004 Staple's commercial featuring the song. Funnier than Gene Simmons' Dr. Pepper commercial and even Ace Frehley's Dunkin' Donuts commercial. Suck it, KISS. Alice did it all first. And he did it all better.


My girls were singing "School's Out" this morning - and I'll betcha a nickle I haven't heard it for the last time, today.

And I'm a-scared.

I love my girls. I do. But that line, "Well we got no class. And we got no principles." was written, I think, specifically with them in mind.

And they're gonna be here all day. Every day. For three months.

Didn't Alice also say, "lines form on my face and hands"? (totally out of context, I know, but work with me here.)

Didn't Alice also say "only women bleed"? It's a big 'ole hormone cocktail 'round here. And now there will be no respite. For three months.

Someone hold me.

Or pour me a shot.

Or shoot me.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Return to the Sequin Box

The BMC retreat I told you about yesterday was actually a birthday party for one of our founding muthas.

My sister designed and commissioned official club shirts as a birthday gift.

I made the project that necessitated a trip to the sequin box. It's a little wrist bag. We like shooting Patron, so it's a lime, get it? Cute, right? (Pattern and more pics are posted on my craft blog.)

Of course I wanted one for myself, too, so that gave me the opportunity to show you the bag with and without sequins. Sequin-haterz, admit it: It looks better con than sans, no?

Crafting took place at our retreat, too. When our little club formed, on the island in January, our host had her own little club. She and a few other women got together - often - to hand paint wine glasses. Our birthday girl requested that we do the same. So we brought wine glasses and martini glasses and shot glasses and salt shakers (a must have accessory for bad-ass tequila shootin' mamas such as ourselves), a slew of paints and paintbrushes, and our imaginations. (bonus points if you said 'imaginations' in your best starry-eyed Spongebob voice).

Yeah, I'm gonna stick with fiber arts, thanks for asking. There won't be any pictures of my work with the paint brush, 'cause those of you with pre-schoolers have better stuff hanging on your refrigerator right now. But it was fun, all the same.