Friday, January 27, 2012

week at a glance

"Seven Quick Takes" is a great way to get back into the swing of things with blogging. Here's my week at a glance, bloggy-style.

1. I got a compliment today, via email from my former boss. Now living and working in Italy, he took the time to send me a brief note complimenting the last issue of "my" magazine. It meant a good deal to me, mostly because he is a man with high standards who doesn't hand out compliments when they are not earned. It was also a good reminder that taking a few minutes to do something nice (an email, a sincere compliment) can make a big difference is someone's day.

2. I bought something for $7.99 that changed my life. It will save me time and money and make me look younger. I am VERY EXCITED about this. (Women of a certain age get excited about these kinds of things, trust me.)

3. My son John is 12 1/2 and in the seventh grade. He completed his science fair exhibit this week - completely without my assistance. This is a glorious, awe-inspiring, unprecedented event. He also told me last night that during the school day, right before lunch, he thought of me and really wanted to give me a hug. So he is the child of the day, my current favorite.

4. I have a new washing machine! Well, new to me. Last week my old one died a quick and painless death, and thanks to some networking, I was able to remove one in great condition from a friend's garage for a very good price. I also have a new to me coffee maker! Ask and you shall receive! Now, to replace Luke's glasses and find another car!

5. I started playing at Pinterest. Everyone is talking about it these days, and since I want to be popular, I figured I'd see what all the fuss is about. I started a board with some ideas for my son's August wedding. I'm not quite addicted - yet - but there is potential!

6. I have super cute grandchildren, and the littlest ones are now super-mobile! Jude is walking everywhere, and I swear, every time I see him he is better looking. Seriously! And Gigi is crawling. And totally rocking baby leggings.

7. It's my dad's 91st birthday. He is a WWII veteran, married to my mom for 51 years. He worked hard his whole life to provide for others. He is generous, creative, and an incurable flirt. I love him, a lot.

How was your week? Join the quick-take fun at Conversion Diary.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

sh*t my mom says

If you are a mother, you will repeat yourself many, many times.

"Stop touching that, leave your brother alone, be quiet, stop it, no, no, no, eat your dinner, we HAVE a dishwasher, get ready for school, where are your shoes? why don't you hang up your coat? do you have any homework? leave your brother alone, I said no!"

Like all moms, I say the same things over and over again. I know that words don't mean nearly as much as action, and that whacking someone in the back of the head, or taking away video game privileges, is far more motivating than the sound of my voice. Still, I talk. I talk and I talk and I talk. I'm Charlie Brown's teacher, white noise, a butterfly batting its eyelashes in a thunderstorm. So why don't I just shut the heck up?

I'm a mother, remember? Watch your attitude and don't you dare tell me to be quiet.

My kids don't seem to listen to me, just like I didn't listen to my mom. I know that I didn't listen because even though I am now old and she is older, she still says the same things to me. Over and over.

In a flash of insight something occurred to me today. Maybe she, like me, says these things over and over because {{GASP}} I need to hear them.

My mother has said something like 5,343,890 important things to me in my life, and twice as many unimportant things. (Love you, Mom.)But two sayings come to mind that I seem to have heard more than the others.

One: "Live within your means."
Two: "Everything in moderation."

I can't decide which one I dislike more. Living within my means? That's preposterous. And not fun, not fun at all.

Everything in moderation? Just as bad. Even chocolate? And wine? They are much more fun in excess.

I am very bad at both of these.

I struggle with the constraints of my circumstances. I have never been good with budgeting, planning, or staying home from the mall when I have no cash.I am one of those people who glows with self-satisfaction when I get something on sale - see how much I "saved?" - even though I paid for it on a high interest credit card.

And moderation? Someone famous said that complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation, and dang, that is so true. Once I start, I just don't know when to stop.

Now I know why my mom has repeated these sayings so frequently. It all makes sense. She repeats them because I do not listen. She repeats them because I need to hear them. She repeats them because she loves me.

I believe God gives us the right mother. Babies don't really get mixed up in the nursery, no matter what we'd like to believe, or what our older brothers may have told us. These things that she says that really get under my skin? It's all about not wanting to hear the things that will force me to look in the mirror and see someone who needs to change.

Mothers are for loving. Good mothers love both soft and strong - they will even tell us what we don't want to hear.

As often as necessary.

Now, go brush your teeth, put away your shoes, eat your dinner and don't forget - we HAVE a dishwasher.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

free expression

...there's no such thing.

Expression comes with a cost. If you join a protest, you might be attacked. If you put up a billboard, it might be vandalized. If you write about it on your blog, a coworker might mention it at lunch. And so it goes.

I know some people who don't seem to know how to express themselves. Either they do it inappropriately ("Hey, you've lost weight! You're not nearly as fat as you used to be!") or not at all. I actually prefer bad expression to none. I'll never understand those who don't write, sing, draw, dance, construct things out of popsicle sticks, swear, or complain. I mean, how can they live? Sometimes I'm afraid of sitting next to one of those non-expressers at church or at the doctor's office. What if she suddenly explodes? I mean actually explodes - flesh and bones and emotions splattering everywhere. Isn't it inevitable, if you keep it all in?

I'd been clamming up lately, keeping a lot in. Facebook is nice, and I share some there, but who can really expressed herself adequately in a status update? I need more.

I decided to stop stewing and start writing again after reading some of my favorite and least favorite blogs. The good ones remind me that I want to write ("Wow, she said that so well! I have something to add!") and the bad ones remind me that I should write ("Why are people reading this? Why am I reading this, instead of writing my own?") It occurred to me that there are blogs that actually mean something to me. I don't read many these days, but the ones that I do make a difference in my day. Even the ones that irk me (maybe especially those) give me things to think about. They irritate me, make me laugh, inform me, inspire me. I started to wonder if maybe my blog had meant something to someone. I wondered if it still could. So I came back.

But as I said, there's a cost, a personal cost. I just can't write impersonally. Here you will learn what I'm really thinking and feeling, and sometimes I'm thinking and feeling boring or irritating things. But those things are especially difficult to get out of the carpet. So I'll just write, instead of spontaneously combusting in my family room.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

being broke

There is thick, dark brown goo leaking from the backside of my coffee maker.

The washing machine was worse off than we originally thought. The seal was rusted, and the the motherboard was shot. We put it on the curb. On the bright side, we didn't have to call for a special trash pick up; a Sandford and Son contingent swept the neighborhood yesterday afternoon, and my trash is now their treasure.

The blinds in my bedroom don't open; the bathroom drawer doesn't shut. The exhaust fan is exhausted. The kitchen cupboards are trashed. The fridge's ice machine works well most of the time, but when it doesn't, there is minor flooding. The futon frame is split. I can't imagine why, because boys weighing 100 pounds and more hardly ever jump on it. They do jump on Luke's bed, which is why that is broke, too.

Our printer does not print.

Luke's glasses are held together by electrical tape. You can hardly notice it, really.

The only thing that doesn't suck is my vacuum cleaner. Well, it sucks, but just barely. And makes a really scary noise.

The dryer made a scary noise for awhile, but I kept ignoring it and it finally stopped. I guess it realized that around here, whining gets you nowhere.

Everything is broke. We're broke.

However, there is a big difference between being broke and being poor. Broke people are experiencing a temporary state of inconvenience, which may last weeks or years or even decades. But they just know good things are around the corner. Even though they are without money, time, or reasonable house repair ability,they convince themselves that they will dig their way out.

The truly poor don't have the options that I have. They don't have the education or safe housing. They might lack the familial support and network of friends that I'm blessed with. They might deal with prejudice, abandonment or abuse. They might be homeless, jobless, disabled or ill in body or mind.

So I'm broke. But I'm not broken - at least not in anyway that God can't heal. He renews me and strengthens me, even when I am looking at yet another car repair or trashed appliance matched with an empty bank account.

Yesterday, my baby granddaughter spent the morning at my house. She napped like an angel in my room. I peeked in to check on her, and saw that she was awake. She wasn't crying. She was cooing to herself, lost in a frothy pink and purple afghan,her cheeks rosy. I lay next to her and looked into her round blue eyes. She smiled at me, and I stroked her face. She held my hand.

Later I stopped in to see my parents. My mom told me she liked her new doctor, and I almost cried because it made her so happy. I kissed my dad on the cheek before I left, and his skin felt fragile, like my granddaughter's but in a different way. He will be 91 this Friday.

This morning I went to Mass. I watched my young sons assist as servers; John too tall for his age, carrying one candle; Luke at his side, with his curly hair and broken glasses. After church we ate donuts in the school hallway - vanilla fluff donuts. They got powdered sugar all over their faces and coats. On the way home, John, who is too tall and almost 13, told me he loved me.

I'm not poor. I might be broke, but I'm rich. Richer than any woman has a right to be.

But I'm still hoping for a little break in all the broke-ness.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

watching weight

So I am a Weight Watcher.

For the past 18 months, pretty much every Thursday afternoon I've parked my butt at an official Weight Watcher's meeting. I'm the one in the third row, middle seat. I still have about 10 pounds to lose to get to my "doctor certified goal," which is nine pounds greater than the one WW has set for me.


In WW-speak, I need to "get to goal" and become "lifetime." What this means is that a magic number appears on a scale and I can come to these meetings for free, and have that $48 a month to buy more wine or pay a bill or something.

It's all starting to seem odd.

The people are nice, but the only thing we all have in common is that we are not happy with ourselves the way we are. This makes for some tension sometimes.

Barb, our leader, is perky. She is close to sixty, but from row three she looks younger. She is very tan and has cute clothes. She is always happy. But then again, she is "at goal," and "lifetime." So of course she is happy.

No one else is happy, unless the magic scale said they were down .2 or more. Then the happiness is overwhelming.

There's one gal, let's call her Anita, because that is her name. She sits in row two and has lost over 100 pounds! Anita joined WW the same week I did. I have not lost 100 pounds, but then again I never needed to. Barb calls her by name and practically bursts with excitement when Anita has any sort of victory. Anita still has quite a bit of weight to lose, but she is a winner. I'm not, because I haven't lost 100 pounds. This is starting to not make sense.

Teresa (also her real name) sits in the front row, and she pays herself a dollar every time she drops a pound. (I'm using real names because if any of these gals have the misfortune of coming across this, they will recognize themselves right away anyway. Might as well be upfront and honest.)Teresa has lost about 60 bucks worth. She pretty much glows with self-assurance and good advice about weight loss. She should know; she's done this before. I happen to know that because she used to work with my husband. He told me that the first time she got skinny, her husband bought her a sports car. By the way, her husband is fat in a sort of Humpty Dumpty way, and he used to come to meetings, too, but for some reason he doesn't anymore. Maybe he's pissed that no one ever bought him a sports car. Anyway, I don't think she will be able to buy herself new wheels this time, if she's counting on the cash in the jar. And no one is buying me a sports car. So what will motivate ME, huh? What's keeping ME from looking like a character in a nursery rhyme?

Every day I count points and track food. Pretty much every evening I drink wine and eat things like croutons without counting them, and the scale pretty much stays the same. Has for about six or eight months now, but still I spend 36 minutes every week hearing how Anita is now able to walk for three miles at a time and Teresa has extra dried peanut butter to sell, because she just bought a case online and it is low points and delicious.

This is all starting to seem odd.

But I'm not quitting anytime soon, because "getting to goal" and "becoming lifetime" takes my mind off the real problems in my life. Watching my weight is way more fun than watching cars get repossessed or children make life-altering decisions or parents grow old. And besides, Teresa might order low carb tortillas next. And I really am wondering if she'll get a new car.

Monday, January 16, 2012

a story about important things, like Feelings

Once upon a time there was a girl who liked to write.

From the time she could pick up a pencil with her chubby little fingers, she wrote. She learned to read at an early age, and discovered that while stories were fun to read, it was even more fun to write them. So she wrote stories, about orphaned children and puppies and fairies, and she wrote other things, too. When she was in the second grade, she and her best friend wrote a play about Easter bunnies, and in the sixth grade, she wrote one in honor of her country's bicentennial. There were parts in the play for everyone in the class, and her teacher told her she was good at type-casting. She didn't know what that meant.

As she got older she wrote poems, mostly about clouds, and stars, and boys, and sex, but sometimes they were about important things, like Feelings. Sometimes they rhymed but mostly they didn't, because rhyming was lame and everybody knows that violets are purple, not blue.

She, of course, wrote in a journal, which was called a diary back then. But she stopped that when she was 20 and her mom read it and found out more than any mother needs to know. She never really got over that.

Well, that girl, she wrote and she wrote and she wrote some more. She liked to do it and convinced herself she was good at, even though she maybe wasn't that great. Or maybe she convinced that she liked it, because she really was good at it. Doesn't matter either way. What matters is that she wrote, and it felt good, and necessary, like breathing.

Then the girl grew up. She grew and she grew and she grew. She grew up so much that she had girls of her own, and boys too. Before she knew it she had grown so much that she was a grandma, with a full time job and no money to spend on fun things. She still wrote, but now she got paid to do it, which meant she had to write when other people told her to, about things they wanted her to write about. She was happy, mostly. At least she pretended to be. But she missed being that girl who wrote.

She never wrote stories, or plays, or poems. Once she wrote some haiku on Facebook, but that doesn't count. She never wrote about boys, even though she really wanted to, because she still didn't understand them. And saddest of all, she didn't write about important things, like Feelings.

She wrote so little of what was in her heart that she even stopped talking, too. It was as if her voice got small, smaller and smaller as she grew bigger and bigger. It was as if she had so much to say that she might burst, but she just couldn't speak.

She had lost her voice.

Sometimes, that girl cried a little bit, but only when no one could hear her. She didn't write about it and she didn't tell a soul, not even herself, because if she did she just might be tempted to write about it; to write about It. And she just couldn't so she kept it all hush hush.

And that's why you don't hear from her anymore; she stopped and because you can never go back, never go back to the Not Knowing, she may never have another word with you again.

But maybe someone, or something, will force a pencil into her chubby hands, and tell her it's OK to write about boys, and Feelings, and they'll promise not to laugh, and they won't read her diary when no one's looking. Then it might be safe again.

Then again, if it was safe it wouldn't matter, and she wouldn't be drawn to it like a moth to a white hot light.

So that girl thought about writing, and one day she wrote something, something silly and more than a little scary, because it was true.

And that girl, she may or may not live happily ever after.

The End.