Sunday, March 25, 2012

Now Boarding...

Tomorrow morning I head out for a business trip to Dallas, Texas. That’s right…I’m headin’ to the DFW. By the grace of God I actually have a direct flight…no silly connection to contend with…no racing from one gate to another, dodging golf carts, old people and babies only to find out my connection is not only delayed but indeed moved to another gate. Right by the one I was…just…at. (Thank GOD for email notification.)

I’ve not always been a big traveler. Until last year there were only occasional work trips and of course one or two with the gentleman. When I started my current job I was thrilled at the aspect of more travel. Break up the monotony. Experience new parts of the country. While I’m still so thankful to have that dynamic, after a series of trips made in a relatively short period of time last fall…I developed a love-hate relationship with traveling the friendly skies. As I look to tomorrow morning, don’t think I won’t be grinning ear to ear as I toss my children out of the car at school drop-off, peeling out and heading straight for long-term parking at the airport. But I KNOW…as soon as I retrieve my boarding pass and head to security…I’ll be quickly reminded of:

The Ten People With Whom I Hate to Travel:

1. “Expert” Traveler:
Sir, just because you’re sporting a suit does not in fact mean you are an expert traveler. There are indeed TWO lines here in security, the other of which is a little more up your alley. You see, in THIS line, people know ahead of time to take their shoes and jackets off and laptops out. OUT. And no, you DON’T need five trays all to yourself. The laptop bag can go right on the belt. Shoes, jacket…can share a tray. But, hey, don’t worry about the 25 people behind you…please, take your time

2. TSA Agents: Okay…I know these guys are just doing their jobs and at the end of the day I don’t really blame them. They ARE doing their very best every day to keep us safe, and I truly do appreciate it. Having said that. I firmly believe that some of them just wanna see me “nek-ed”. At least that’s what my paranoia tells me. Two years ago I took a trip with the hubs in January to Phoenix. While going through security at IND I was asked to remove my jacket (NO I wasn’t in the expert traveler line) and as I unzipped complete panic set in as I realized all I had on underneath was a significantly revealing cami. Now…some chicks are all comfy walking around in that kind of gear but I just can’t do it. BUT…when TSA says to do it, you do it. It was fifteen minutes of cross-armed glory waiting for my shit to pull through the scanner…but I made it. Fast forward to last fall, on a trip to VA, standing in line at Indy once again…I realized I was wearing a cami but this time it was under a pullover hoody. I was anticipating one of these agents suggesting the sweatshirt was a jacket and would need to be removed. As I approached the scanner on a fairly busy morning, helping my bag and trays along on the belt, the agent in front of me says “I’m going to need you to remove your jacket…” and before he could complete his sentence I snapped back “THIS is not a jacket, it’s a sweatshirt and I don’t have much on under it so I’m NOT taking this off for…”. I was VERY quickly interrupted with a biting “MA’AM, I’m not TALKING to YOU…I’m talking to him!” I sheepishly turned to see an “expert traveler” unknowingly glance down at his jacket as if he didn’t realize he needed to take it off. Sigh. “I’ll just go over here to the full body scanner now, unless you need me in that quaint little room over there with the rubber gloves.”

3. “Refuse-to-check-a-bag Johnson”:
You know who I’m talking about. The people who cram everything for their trip into the largest regulation carry-on bag they can find to avoid having to check a bag. On a lot of my trips, I hit regional airports and am therefore more likely to be on a puddle-jumper which naturally has very little carry-on space. When I fly I carry two things: my laptop bag and my oversized purse (complete with kindle, magazine, migraine meds, phone, wallet, snacks, water, etc). The purse goes under the seat while my laptop goes overhead. UNLESS of course they are out of overhead space by the time my non-preferred ass gets in line. The agents are kind enough to offer checking your carryon at the gate to save space…but does THIS guy roll his bag up to the desk for a tag?? Hell no! He jumps in line rolling his fat-ass-bag right on up to the plane determined to cram it in the compartment like a fat guy in little coat. “This. Will. Fit. I. KNOW. It.” Horse-shit. Meanwhile I’m sweating bullets in line with boarding pass in hand as the agent announces “We apologize but overhead storage is now full, all remaining passengers please check your carry-on at the gate.” I am NOT checking my laptop bag OR my purse. Ass-holes. Thankfully I’ve always been lucky enough to find just enough space to squeeze in my laptop….but I just know one of these jack-bags will ruin it for me someday and I’ll have to go all Katniss on him.

4. Johnny B. Reclining: This guy…is a douche. There is abso-freakin-lutely no need whatsoever to recline your seat when sitting in coach. None. There is no leg room, no room to sprawl…so what’s the point? Does it really lay you back that much to improve your rest mid-air? I think not. And neither do my knee-caps. I don’t want to smell your shampoo or unwashed pillow-head…nor do I want to count your bald-head-freckles or freakishly large dandruff flakes. So don’t mind my 5’11 legs jamming in your back the entire flight…or my instant perpetual cough (complete with disgruntled mumblings under my breath). How ‘bout you just return your seat to an upright position, mmmkay? Good.

5. Mr. Important: Okay…I get it. You’re important…you’re in charge…people NEED to know where you are at all times and you don’t care who else knows it. Well…we on AA flight 3843 know. We’re well aware. I could do without this guy each and every trip. The one who walks into the plane screaming directives into his BlueTooth, causing surrounding passengers to duck and cower. Yeah. He’s the same guy who hits the “on” button of his crack-berry as soon as the landing gear kisses pavement. “Yeah…Larry…I just landed. I need you to get your ass over here and pick me up (as nearby moms cover their toddlers’ ears) we need to talk about the Smith account. Yeah! Now! I need a beer (it’s 10am)…but I gotta hit the head first.” Really?

6. Mr. Pee-body: Unless you have just pulled a “Home Alone” and sprinted to the gate to board just in the nick of time, you had plenty of time to piss before you got on this plane. It never fails that there are several of these weak-bladders when I’m stuck sitting in the last couple of rows. Literally as soon as the seatbelt light dims, he is craning his neck around to see if anyone is in line for the shitter yet. I know what this means…it means you’re not only going to hover over my seat for 20 minutes while waiting to leak your tank but you’re also going to delay the drink cart…and dammit I need a COKE today. (AND some peanuts.) Can’t you take care of this crap in the terminal? I get when there is a 3 hour flight…and needing to go mid-trip…but 15 minutes into? Really? Your poor mom…you were that kid weren’t you? The one who didn’t have to pee when before you left the house…but 5 minutes into an interstate trip you threatened to soak your pants if Mommy didn’t stop somewhere. I got your number.

7. Hungry Hippo: I always have snacks with me when traveling…can’t live on peanuts and coke alone. Water bottle, protein bars and trail mix are a staple. I’ve even been known to pop open a little turkey sammie from the ‘Bucks when grabbing a much-needed coffee for the flight. Innocent eats, really. But God help me if I get stuck next to one more misguided passenger that thinks it’s cool to peel open a foot-long Subway chicken teriyaki with a pound of onions. These things are tough enough to eat at a full-size dinner table, let alone a tiny tray. Did a black olive just fall into my purse?? “I’m sorry, I believe this is YOUR lettuce. No…no worries, I’ll get that mustard-covered pickle that dropped onto my foot. Need a napkin…or…10?” PLEASE save that shit for the terminal or the cab ride…whatevs. I prefer not to exit the plane smelling like Subway Jared.

8. The Octopus: You DO realize we don’t all get two armrests, yes? I’m already contending with Lazy-boy in front of me and onion boy on the other side of me, at least give me a God-blessed arm rest. Please. I don’t require much on a flight but an armrest would be nice. And while you’re at it…could you NOT sit slouched and spread-eagle taking up half of my leg room? Just know…if you DON’T comply, I won’t hesitate to kick the SHIT out of you as I cross and re-cross my legs repeatedly through the flight…giving a good strong elbowing here and there along the way. Ass-bag.

9. Mr. McHurry-Pants: Look. I know we’re all excited that we’ve finally come to a complete stop. And as tempting as it can be to leap over the people in front of you to grab your shit and bolt off the aircraft first…that sort of stunt is slightly frowned upon. Is it really necessary for you all in rows…oh…10 through 27 to leap to your feet as soon as we halt? All you’re doing is blocking those who are actually ahead of you, from getting out of their seats. Are ya goin’ anywhere anytime soon? Hell no…have a seat…thank you very much. I’ve been elbowed in the head more times than I care to count because some guy two rows behind me has ants in his pants and is already up in my shit way up here in row 7. Nothing pisses me off more than being in my window seat, trying to stand crouched over like Quasimodo while Mr. Six Rows Back is shooting me the “good luck getting out” glance. “Oh I’ll GET out. You haven’t seen me stand up all the way yet, buddy. Bring it. “

10. The Bag Molester: I was warned before I started traveling regularly to purchase a piece of luggage of a unique color or pattern to simplify baggage claim. Perfect. While my bag isn’t exactly a sexy leopard print…it’s not the standard color. I know my bag and find it quickly. I’ve seen people use ribbons, bungee cords, colored tape, etc, to identify luggage of a more common color. Great. But to you sir, seeking your black roller-bag? Do you really have to pull every single suitcase off the belt to inspect? Is it necessary to pull my maroon bag as well just in case your black bag magically transformed while en route? No. Next time I see you, I’m handing you some hot pink duct tape to get that shit marked. No, thank YOU…good day, sir.

I feel better now…really I do. Truly this is all tongue in cheek…make no mistake that I have been LITERALLY every person on this list at some point in time. Most of which before I understood what air travel etiquette should look like. Nonetheless, I’m no exception here. I guarantee I’ve pissed somebody off or irritated SOMEone to the point, at the very least, of posting a snarky Facebook status in my honor.

I love it though. All of it. I enjoy traveling. My pissed off inner monologue. My own little life soundtrack which plays with every self-pronounced-expert-traveling step through the terminal. Experiencing new places, new breeds of travelers, varying landscapes.

Most importantly? I don’t have to clean, wipe butts, cook, do dishes, put kids back to bed 10 times a night…so really…what is there to complain about? “Sure buddy…there is PLENTY of room for your legs over here. And by the way can I have a bite of your sandwich?”

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Honeymoon: Take 3

With the birdseed still dripping from our heads, adorned in our fashionable post-wedding outfits, we waved good-bye and blew kisses to family and friends who spent their day celebrating our love for each other. We held hands as the gentleman swept me away in a limousine to a five-star hotel downtown where we would continue our celebration, hoping to get a slight bit of rest before being magically whisked away to Hawaii early the next morning.

Well…at least that’s what I had HOPED my honeymoon would look like 11 years ago. Best laid plans, eh?

Instead…after what was admittedly a whirlwind of a day, very little of which I remember AT all (it was a “dry” ceremony”, no less) we experienced a slightly subdued version of my “ultimate” honeymoon. Slightly. After a lovely but rather tame reception (which incidentally ended during daylight hours), the gentleman and I did in fact change clothes, however I would say they were more “Kohls-chic” and not entirely uber-fashionable. No limousine was awaiting us curbside, rather we had a decked out, message covered navy blue 1992 Oldsmobile Cutless Ciera. Yeah, that’s right. Be jealous. Instead of the five-star hotel, we thought it more inviting to head to a nearby quaint, crafty town and stay in a bed and breakfast. Sweet. Have you ever stayed in a bed and breakfast? I liken our experience to coming home from college with your boyfriend and sneakily sharing a room in your grandma’s house. We jumped to “hand-check attention” every time we heard the old Victorian floor boards creak. There was, however, a beautiful state park nearby which was a significant draw to the area. Although when it’s only 50 degrees and pouring rain, the park has little to offer. Sigh…

I gripe now, but back then not so much. We were satisfied. We didn’t require much. We were broke and financed the whole shebang ourselves. So…a Brown County bed and breakfast, it was. The random hand-checks kept the weekend exciting, the food was home cooked none of which I had to prepare, and the rain simply meant I didn’t have to exercise…a great reason to simply relax. We didn’t need the fancy honeymoon distractions…the material “stuff”.

Having said that…seven years later, we needed the “stuff”.

Four years ago we were surprised with a bonus check from our health insurance company for having met various preventive care measures within the year. What in the hell are we going to do with this money?? Quick answer…think fast…something fun.


Holy crap, we had NEVER taken a vacation together. The thought of being kid-free for three or so days was enough to inspire cartwheels in my front yard. Leaving the kids like that would be a first…they were still quite young (2, 5 and 6 years old). Buuut I was willing to give it the old college try! We weren’t sure where to start…but eventually we landed on what I’ve been told is the Wal-Mart of resorts…Sandals. It was within our budget, it was all-inclusive, there would be sun, sand and water…no brainer. Sign me up. Honeymoon…take two!

We booked it, secured our passports, made child-care arrangements, bought fun beachwear…we were ready. At that time in my life I was by no means an expert traveler but had been on enough post-911 flights to know what to expect. I couldn’t say the same for my husband. We had no idea how the other would operate on such a trip. I tend to fall slightly on the Type A end of the spectrum. Before traveling I study airport terminal schematics, knowing precisely where my arrivals will land and departures will, well, depart. My goal is to make connections as SMOOTH as possible. I hate feeling like an ignorant tourist, and would rather refer to myself as a nonchalant girl while traveling. You will never see me slack-jawed, with distracted side-to-side glances while meandering to my gate. Won’t happen. The gentleman on the other hand? Sigh.

The flights TO Jamaica were fairly smooth, and any slight mishaps were overlooked by the sheer excitement of soon arriving in paradise. I don’t even recall where our connecting flight occurred on our way to…my preparation kept us on track and cool as cucumbers. As we began to descent into Montego Bay, I set my eyes on the water and fell in love. Okay…we’re here…let’s get checked in, suits on, to the water…GO. Not so fast. You see…we were now on ISLAND time. We were slowly herded through customs, then steered toward the resort waiting area where we would “soon” be picked up by our resort shuttle. In 90 degree heat and 150% humidity, sipping on warm coke, we waited for our shuttle driver to ever-so-slowly load multiple couples’ luggage onto the bus. We finally made our way through what I would safely consider a “no-tourist-zone” to our resort…an oasis among scary armed men. Five minutes later we were dropped at the doors to check in and be escorted to our rooms. Not so fast. Island time, remember? In what was admittedly a very cozy room overlooking the beach we were handed cool towels, the beverage of our choice and some awkward convo with the other couples awaiting room keys. All I could see was a vibrant blue sky meeting the warm blue water. It was all I could do to keep from busting through those doors and nose diving off of the beautiful veranda onto the beach and into the water. The daiquiri helped. We saw endless beautifully tanned people lazily walking by the windows of our “holding cell” sipping mouth-watering beverages, with windblown hair and smiles on their faces. Me! That could be me! That WILL be me! Let me out!

After giving us a blow by beautiful blow description of what to expect at our resort, we were finally escorted to our rooms. I shit you not, as SOON as our key hit the door the clouds came. And why wouldn’t they? The gentleman had been yawning for the previous hour or so…hinting at the need for a nap. As our bags hit the floor, his ass hit the bed. Really?? We have three days in this paradise…there is NO room-napping in Jamaica. I glanced outside as I berated his need for sleep and could see more clouds rolling in. Fine. Rest and I’m getting into my swimsuit and cover-up…and doing my hair. After tying the strings on my fabulous new hot pink little cover-up and applying a generous amount of sunscreen all over, I was ready to hit the beach. Clouds or sun, we’re going. Ah, look at that. Asleep. No shit. Fine…it’s raining anyway. With a pouty face, and that lip quiver that is so hard to control, I grabbed my book and decided to wait out the rain on our little private porch facing the water. This isn’t so bad, right? It’s beautiful here…we still have plenty of time to…wait. Do I smell…is that…weed?? Of course it is, dumbass, you’re in Jamaica, mon. Well, maybe if I take a few deep breathes I’ll reap the benefits of our upstairs neighbors’ fun. Keep reading. It’s humid and the clouds are starting to part…I think I see the sun coming…wait. What is that sound? Are they...uh…doing it??? Jesus. I am in God-bless-ed paradise where people are getting high and screwing…and I’m reading The Count of Monte Cristo on my G-D lanai. Fuck this.

The sweat dripping from my forehead soon mixed with the hefty layer of sunscreen applied to my face and slowly cascaded into my eyes…intensifying my already overwhelming tears. Get UP! You are NOT napping in Jamaica. Get dressed, get lubed, and let’s go get our rum on! And we did. We actually had a fairly enjoyable evening, soon correcting our sore start. Until of course…the allergic reaction to seaweed. You’ll soon find that my husband does not travel well. At all. We’ve taken two vacations ever and both trips resulted in some sort of ailment or injury. In this case, sunburn mixed with an allergic reaction on his feet and legs spelled disaster. He spent the next night laying in hotel our bed shivering of cold. COLD…in Jamaica. To this day when one of us complains of a chill, we suggest that “it’s as cold as Jamaica in here”.

We made it through our last day on the resort in one piece and having a good time along the way. I wanted to savor every moment, bottle it up, and take it home with me. While some scoffed at the idea of a Sandals stay, I was actually pleased…had a great time, no worries about needing cash, and it was close to the airport. No three hour donkey ride to the resort required. But our trip was indeed over and it was time to hit the airport. Again.

Departure was ridiculous. A two hour wait in line to check in followed by an hour delay on the tarmac due to Island Time luggage loaders. Guess where our connection was? None other than ATL. Dear God. Have you no love for us?

Naturally a late arrival at ATL means missed gate and another long wait for a new assignment. Wait! No! I already knew where we were supposed to land in relation to where we were departing! This doesn’t work for me. As many of you may know in Atlanta, there are ohhh…five parallel terminals connected by an underground train of sorts. We landed in E…and by the time we exited the plane, we had 45 minutes to get our luggage, get through customs and to terminal B. Yep. B. Now, I’m a speed walker from way back. The hubs, not so much. In fact, he’s more of a grumpy old man walker. Seen those? Yeah. That kind of walking is NOT conducive to getting to connecting flight on time. At all. I nearly ran over an old couple, cussed out a woman who had no clue what she needed to remove to get through security resulting in three trips through the metal detector, huffed endlessly at the hubs to pick up the pace…and finally, FINALLY made it to our plane. Needless to say he was not happy with my uglies…nor I with his relax-ed-ness. We sat silent in the back of the plane, not speaking a word until we got to our car. We made it. We still loved each other. Had a new respect for each other (in his case, a slight fear). And we knew someday if given the chance we would take that trip again in a heartbeat.

Here we are four years later. Haven’t taken a trip by ourselves since. We’ve talked endlessly about going again but never made the commitment. Until last weekend. That’s right…the gentleman insists.

We’re going to Jamaica, mon! This Christmas we will clean up the paper and bows, put away our new toys, kiss our babies good-bye and we are heading south for FOUR full days this time. Hell, high water, slow hubby or allergic reactions…we’re going. And that’s that. Honeymoon…take three!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Objects in the Mirror

“Mom…why does this mirror say Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear? Why does it matter?” My daughter was lazily propped against the car door as we headed home, when she noticed the pale inscription on the side-view mirror. And then it occurred to her, “Oooooh, that’s for when you’re being followed by the police.”

Right. Exactly.

She knows my record all too well. Driving record, that is. In fact my kids had a front row seat for what I would say was not my finest 15 minutes of neighborhood fame. But I’ll come back to that…

I’ve always had a lead foot…it’s in my genes…it can’t be helped. My formative driving years took place on the expressways of the Windy City. I successfully and necessarily learned how to change lanes unharmed in two seconds flat without signal, along the likes of the “beautiful” Dan Ryan. Don’t get me started on my parallel parking lesson in Chi-town…it bears a striking resemblance to a chance game of bumper cars. But I loved it…it felt like home surrounded by others LIKE me. I relished every opportunity to let my driving freak flag fly.

Unfortunately not everyone appreciates my skilled and ever-so-slightly aggressive maneuvering. ‘Round these parts, I may even be considered a menace…or so says the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles. My interactions with the men of road law have been scattered about my driving history, starting when I was probably 18-ish. I’ve been required to attend driving school twice. Yes, I said it. Twice. I’ve never caused an accident, I’ve never been reckless…I simply have a need. For speed.

Two incidents in particular will be forever burned in my memory…ready for retrieval at the sheer hint of a need for laughs. First…let me just ask…did you all know that cops on motorcycles can pull people over?? Well. You all are smarter than my dumbass 22 year old self. Much. One morning I found myself running particularly late to work. I was a site director for a YMCA summer day camp on the opposite side of town, requiring a 45 minute commute each way. Dressed in my YMCA uniform (a fancy-schmancy t-shirt) I high-tailed it around our interstate loop to get to my site on time. On a three lane highway I generally stay in the far left lane. Chances are I’ll be the one passing everyone else so why waste time moving back and forth. As I came around the bend, I saw the motorcycle. I saw the attached red and blue lights. I saw the uniformed officer straddled on board. As I approached his rear at a gentle 55 mph (teehee…yes I’m a 12 year old boy at heart) I had two choices…remain behind OR tenderly pass him on the left. With a subtle turn of my wheel to the left, I convinced myself that he was not in fact the variety of sheriff who pull motorists over (Did I not EVER watch an episode of CHiPs??). And JUST as quickly as that thought entered…it swiftly flitted away. Right about the time I found myself adjacent to Mr. Estrada. The look on his face was confusing…to this day I’m not sure if it was disbelief, anger, or sheer sympathy. (Dear GOD I swear I’m a smart girl.)

Soon thereafter I was parked safely along the shoulder of the interstate as officer friendly tapped on my window. I’d done this before I knew the drill…my license and registration were already in hand for his review. No need to ask. I swear the man snickered before even opening his mouth…he asked me about my YMCA shirt and what that organization would think of my lack of responsibility (YES one of our four core values, dammit). Guilt?? Jesus. As you know, I HATE disappointing people. I would have much rather had the man be a cocky ass-bag and stare at my jugs. (They didn’t look THAT bad under my baby blue golf shirt.) No…rather, he allowed me the time to wallow in my guilt, making me sweat, only to offer me a warning, the chance to run free, no money owed, no driving school. Amen. Good day, sir.

Which brings me to my second instance of erroneous driving notoriety.

It was a bad day at work and a Friday, no less. A little red wine was on the menu for dinner…hell let’s face it, it was the ONLY thing I was planning to have for dinner. A day filled with frustration at work and an hour long commute home in the dark spelled a stop at the grocery store for mommy’s special juice. Thankfully we had a Kroger right in front of our neighborhood, literally a pit stop away from my front door. As I made my way back to my car with some ciabatta (I did still have the fam to feed…and making a big Italian dish always calms my nerves) and two bottles of soft red in tow I got a call from my next door neighbor. I can’t recall the topic of convo but suffice it to say that as I saw the red and blue lights quickly burn through the dark behind me as I turned down my street, the discussion soon turned to my fate at the hands of our town police.

I could hear the excitement in her voice as she dropped the call and headed out her door to watch from her stoop. At this point I was simply pissed off. No other way to describe my mood. This jackass was pulling me over in my own neighborhood…in my own damn driveway. Lovely. He approached my car as I flung my door open, heaving the bags of sweet red angel kisses (wine) and tossed him the usual…my Lic and Reg. (I should probably just keep them laminated together as one document and in my console.) I clomped in my heels up my driveway, through my garage and in to my kitchen as he sat in his cruiser running my record. I swear my neighbor was pissing herself with laughter as the gentleman then pulled up with all three of our innocent sweet babies on board. Of course he was all a wonder as he requested entrance from the cop to our own garage. (Although I’m sure he had a strong guess as to his reason for stopping by.) Just as my kids were exiting the car the officer was on his way to my door to hand me my gear. Of course. The kids started questioning the officer as to the reason for his visit…and with all seriousness my son asked if he was taking his mommy to jail. I swear I could hear my neighbor crying with laughter at this point as I hung my head in complete humiliation…and of course, still pissed.

The officer (in the soft glow from the light of my kitchen was actually significantly attractive but completely beside the point) choked back a giggle and assured my children that mommy wasn’t in any trouble, she wasn’t going to jail, she simply needed a reminder that we must be careful as we drive through our neighborhood. In my defense, I wasn’t IN my neighborhood when he initially flashed his pearly red and blues…almost but not quite. Before you get your panties in a bunch, just know I wasn’t playing chicken with the neighborhood kiddos in the middle of our street. But I digress. The kind occifer smiled sweetly, as he glanced over my shoulder at the pretty red bottles sitting on my table, and my loud crew of preschoolers filing into my home and again I was offered a very generous warning and a good evening. Noted. Done. Now where is that corkscrew, honey?

Did I learn my lesson? Eh. I have been awarded a couple of tickets since then and my second round of driving school. I get it. Safety first. When my kids are in the car I’m a good girl. But I’ve got a little wild-child in me when I’m alone, the sunroof is open and the music is blaring. I need to let her out once in awhile.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

It's a Major Award! F-R-A-G-I-L-E

I have now been a member of this dynamic blogging world for just about two months…and so far not a single regret. What was intended to simply be a venue for airing my laughs, frustrations, snarky commentary…has swiftly developed into a new little virtual community, circle of friends, never-ending source of laughter and tears. Who knew???

I entered this sphere with the understanding that I may never have a single reader that isn’t a blood relative, merely perusing my ramblings out of sheer obligation. I was and still am fine with that reality. I didn’t necessarily start down this exhilarating path to entertain anyone, rather to spout off the overflow that my husband (“the gentleman”) couldn’t manage to absorb on his own.

In the two months since introducing my family, thoughts, laughs and hurts through my writing to the blogosphere I’ve met some amazing people in return…writers, mommies, comedians, runners, cooks…some of which are all of the above. The warmth and friendship in my life has flourished exponentially because of all of you. To discover that two different women thought enough of what I’ve shared with the world to mention me for blogging awards is more than flattering…it’s certainly unexpected and humbling.

A couple of weeks ago, Roe from Ramblings From an Upside Down Life listed me along with many wonderful bloggers as a recipient of the Kreativ Blogger award. And just this week, the lovely You Know It Happens At Your House Too granted me the Sunshine Award. I adore both of their blogs as well…so PLEASE do check them out if you aren’t already devoted readers (while simultaneously forgiving me for SUCKING at appropriately placing blog links in my text).

Although there is no red carpet, golden statues or Joan Rivers commentary involved…I have to say I’m very thankful for this. I know how I feel about what exists in my world…but to know that others can identify or at the very least, glean a few laughs from my blab then it is all well worthwhile. The true reward for ME is to read what YOU have to share…I love laughing, crying and learning with you all. I don’t know that I can list every single blog that I read regularly within this post along with why I think they’re all so spectacular…it would be a never-ending read. Instead please keep your eyes open for my blog list to the right. I keep it updated and swap in some new links from time to time so please do check these talented people out…you may just find someone you connect with, who may make your day that much brighter.

In addition to giving some bloggy love and shout-outs the requirement upon receiving the award is to share 10 things about myself…some of which you may have already gotten from my posts. BUT…I’ll try to dig up a few unknowns:

1 – GLITTER: If you get nothing else from this list, know that I abso-freakin-lutely detest any and all things glitter. ALL. Birthday cards, apparel, decorations. All glitter. It never comes off. It’s a mess. No matter how long I scrub I will forever have that one speck of glitter on my nose, tormenting my eyeballs and making me crazy. Needless to say, my children’s exposure to and experience with glitter has existed only in school. I’m good with that.

2 – CROCS: I hate Crocs with all that I have and am. They have no place on the feet of anyone but a gardener or MAYbe a preschool girl. That’s all. They most certainly do NOT belong on a grown man who particularly enjoys wearing them two sizes too big and of course with SOCKs. Know that it is not a good look and could very well get you tea-bagged by yours truly.

3 – WATER: I know you’re sensing a trend…and no I’m not just going to tell you about all of the things that make my skin crawl. I do actually enjoy quite a bit out of life. Water is one of them. Although I’m a landlocked, Midwest born and raised, girl…I am a water child at heart. When I’m near the ocean I am tranquilized. The tide rolls with the beat of my heart and I feel complete with my toes in the sand. I’ve taken my family on vacation once (with a second coming this summer) where we spent a week at the Outer Banks, NC…and I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to find that my kids, too, were happy spending morning to evening at the water’s edge. We woke to eat breakfast, pack lunch and snacks, donned our beachwear and hit the sand until it was time for dinner. Every. Day. Now that’s MY idea of vacation.

4 – GEEK: I was a band geek in school and frankly, I still am. And I wasn’t just well-versed in one instrument. Oh no. No…I completely immersed myself in the world of school band. I played flute, piccolo, tenor saxophone, I twirled a flag, a rifle AND was the drum major for two years. Yep…head band geek right here. So…feel free to give a virtual wedgie or shove me in my locker. The only thing I had going for me (thwarting potential bullies) was my freakish height…wait, no…that WASN’T working for me was it. Not a single athletic bone in my body. Damn wasted height.

5 – DRIVING: I’m an aggressive driver, in a very skillful and calculated way. I have little tolerance for shitty drivers…including my husband. That would be why I’m at the wheel 99.9% of the time. I spent my formative driving years in the city of Chicago so really, the aggression was thrust upon me…I had no choice but to acquiesce.

6 – FOOD: Despite little to no direction in the kitchen through childhood, I somehow managed to self-teach (and by self-teach I mean watching copious amounts of Food Network). These days I LOVE to cook, bake, experiment, add twists to traditional recipes, all of it…I love being in my kitchen. Sometimes, standing in front of my chopping board with my psycho-lookin’ Cutco knife and a bottle of red can actually be quite therapeutic…and tends to keep interruptions at bay. Solitude.

7 – BORING: I’m not a risk-taker by nature. Rather, I tend to be a creature of habit who will forever have the voice of change biting in my ear. I typically ignore that voice but I have been known to succumb from time to time in the past. When I was 21 I was drowning in the midst of a grueling daily routine of two jobs and full-time college coursework. My day started at 5:30am working at the gym, moving on to my afternoon job from 2-6pm, then class until 9pm…almost always squeezing in a workout afterward, getting to bed typically around midnight. So you can imagine after a couple of years I was exhausted. My best friend and I decided to just pack it all up…and move. I decided to take a much-needed break from school, arranged to work at a local gym affiliate in our new town, secured an apartment via phone, sold all of our furniture, packed up our cars and moved to Florida. It was an adventure…the experience of a lifetime that I wouldn’t trade for the world. Needless to say, being the homebody and family freak that I am, I was back home within six months…again, wouldn’t trade THAT for the world either.

8 – STORMS: I am fascinated with thunderstorms and tornadoes…downright obsessed. In Indiana, we’ve seen our fair share. I grew up completely terrified at the mere sight of ominous clouds in the west. Heat lightening on a hot, humid July night could spark insomnia at the first hot orange flash. To this day when the news warns of inclement weather I am GLUED to the tube…when I’m not watching from my porch. There is something about the rumbling of the earth with the clap of thunder, the electricity in the air with the blinding flash that energizes my soul. I firmly believe if I could safely experience a juicy storm while sitting on a beach, my spirit would be complete.

9 – PETS: Ugh…I hate admitting this because I know it generally falls on unsympathetic and sometimes slightly judgmental eyes/ears…but I’m just not a pet person. Not one bit. Our children, however, are naturally a whole different story. In the last decade or so (Jesus, has it been that long??) I’ve thankfully been allowed the defense that we simply cannot house an animal due to my husband’s severe allergies and asthma. Fine…works for me. I’m good with that. In recent years, our children’s repeated pleas for a family pet has met unwavering resistance from the both of us. I just can’t do it. I can barely (and by barely I mean not in the slightest) keep up with cleaning this house spoiled by the wreckage of three children. There is no way in hell I can manage cleaning up after a pet who is essentially a child times ten. Or in other words, a 2nd husband. Who needs that?? I don’t expect the children will fall short of begging for their own pet anytime soon…we’ve received threatening letters, pointing out every inconsistency in my defense for no pets and I’ve been asked TWICE now if after Daddy’s demise, can we THEN get a doggy?? I’m sure the quest will continue. I’m prepared.

10 – BLISSFULLY DISCONTENTED: It means just what it says and it is at the very core of who I am. I enjoy wanting more. There is something rewarding about the hunt for something more fulfilling. It has been a point of contention over the years between the hubs and me…but I firmly believe he is starting to see this as my strength…as an important quality that will forever keep our family moving forward. We are a good balance, the gentlemen and me. He loves stability, non-rocking boats, predictability, routine, safety…all of which I appreciate while at the same time detest. My body will forever be on a “semester” calendar…must be the 15 years it took me to get through undergrad and grad school. It’s that cyclical nature of my existence that keeps me itching, pushing, yearning for something new and different, better, exhilarating, unknown. If I were on my own, I firmly believe I would be on a never-ending self-destructive path of one adventure after another. Likewise for the gentleman, without me he would be comfy and cozy in safe little hermit hole of a life, never stepping out or taking a chance. Together we fit…it works for us. I am thankful each and every day that he keeps me grounded…and blissfully discontented.

Monday, March 5, 2012

To blog or not to blog...

When I began my journey into this wonderful world we know as the blogosphere I knew there were going to be moments that were a blogging-MUST…my occasional off-color reference to kid-craziness, hubby antics, fun friend escapes, you know the bit…slice-o’-life. I knew also that there would be those instances better left to a private venting moment (or hour) in my car or shower. I made the decision to publicize my blog to those not only connected through my Facebook blog page but also through my own personal Facebook page. Why? Well, my friends know me…and if I can’t have a little fun amongst them then, well…maybe they’re not that good of friends to begin with, no?

But what about when I find myself so deep in an emotional funk that I can’t even be pried out with the giggles of my sweet babies? The kind of week where you are so completely overwhelmed with the feeling of grief and disappointment that you’re not sure if you would prefer the fetal position in an hour-long-shower…or a rant toward the source that is so heated it could cause spontaneous combustion. Can I blog about that? Will my relatives take it so seriously they’re at my door with a counselor and hefty SSRI in tow? Will my friends be able to look me in the eye or question the ability to have a normal convo with me the next day? I don’t know. I just…don’t.

What I do know is that I’ve hit a low that I’ve not experienced in years and rather than pay a counselor money that I’d prefer to spend on something fun, I’d rather use this venue to its therapeutic potential. Besides…I already know what a counselor would say…her words are on repeat, constantly playing but never entirely sinking in.

I won’t exhaust you with what I should be sharing on a fancy brown leather chaise…the truth is, my childhood bore nothing notable or abnormal. No physical abandonment or neglect. No abuse or instability. I lived a rather plain, predictable life as a child. I was the oldest of three girls and forever the seeker of approval. The mere thought of having disappointed my parents could send me in a tailspin of tears and self-hatred. That same fear of disappointment haunts me today. Some days it can be downright crippling, in fact. That bitch of a fear sneaks up on me when my life seems to be void of any variety of reinforcement…positive or otherwise. When it seems as though I’m simply drifting through life…not bounced by any road blocks nor excelled by any tailwind…just there. Am I doing it right? Am I fucking up? The unknown is stifling…it literally halts me as it did this weekend. While my primary fear since early childhood has always been disappointing my parents, it now extends far beyond that. Does my husband think I’m a good enough cook, housekeeper, wife, or mother? If he were looking to replace me what characteristics would he seek in his “re-do”? Do my in-laws pity my husband for his choice in marriage? Do my superiors at work feel conned…as though I’m not nearly as qualified as they once thought me to be? Do my friends wonder how in the hell I ever made any friends to begin with?

Do my children (and God damn it I can’t even type this without crying) feel lonely, sad, emotionally abandoned, unwanted, unloved, uninteresting, unnecessary or frankly not worth my time? Do they look at their friends’ moms and wish they could be miraculously adopted by another? Do they think THEY’RE doing something wrong and that somehow they have inadvertently disappointed ME? I have GOT to cease this sickening cycle.

I love my parents. I would do anything for them and to this day I do all that I can to make them happy…to make them proud…to make them want to be around me. I’ve never wanted more than their love and affection not only toward me but as I grown older I need that more importantly for my children. So why is this so hard? Why are they so absent? They live 25 minutes from my home…and yet…I’ve not heard from them in over three weeks. Sadly this is our “normal”…quite frankly we’ve gone two months in between phone calls before. My mother has never called and asked me to have lunch with her. I’ve never gone shopping with her. I’ve never been invited to come over for movie night. We don’t have random phone conversations… only those spurred by a family event, celebration or trauma.

From the time I left for college, I knew things were different from other families. My roommates would get their Sunday night phone call from mom…while I snuck back to my room to initiate the call home myself. I often wondered if I was annoying my parents by calling each and every week. But I kept at it. I called them for birthdays, family cook-outs, to let them know how I was doing, how their grandkids were doing and to check on them…just because. I was fine being the instigator…until about three years ago. Three years ago my father-in-law unexpectedly became very ill and within six months passed away after an excruciating battle with leukemia. We were crushed. He was my husband’s father, our family protector and my sweet little Ben’s very best friend in the whole wide world. Just gone. For three solid weeks after he passed we received nary a call from my parents. Not one. Not a voicemail. Not a knock at the door. Not a covered dish. Not an offer to help with the kids. Not one. I don’t know that I had ever been so heartbroken…for so many reasons at once. At that moment it stopped being my responsibility to make the effort…so I stopped calling. I’m convinced if it hadn’t been for my birthday, those three weeks could have easily turned into four or five…or more.

I wonder if my mom even likes me. Did I annoy her as a child? Was I in her face too much? Did I keep her from living a dream that would never come to fruition? Did I say something wrong and not realize it? Does she just want to be alone? If I thought that were the case, I could deal with the fact that she has her own set of troubles preventing her from connecting with her own children. However, she doesn’t seem to struggle connecting with my youngest sister…and her three children. In fact, they live down the street from each other and visit nearly every day. She knows my nephews like the back of her hand…their favorite foods, colors, toys. Yes, she has been commissioned to be the full-time babysitter for them, so it’s not all fun and games. But they get to have her. And don’t think my kids wouldn’t gladly take a time-out or scolding from Grandma now and then just to spend a quarter of the time their cousins get with her OR my dad. Because they would. In a heartbeat.

This weekend my six year old niece spent the night with my parents…their attempt to make up for missing her birthday party two months ago. While my mother was away fulfilling her daily babysitting duty for my youngest sister, my niece asked my dad whether Grandma had died…because she hadn’t seen her in so long. Died. The next day my son asked me if Papaw could come and play LEGOs with him…and I swiftly told him “no” accompanied by some random yet realistic, non-personal excuse as to why he couldn’t come over that day. Why? I couldn’t bear the thought of his little face falling at the sound of no answer and an outgoing voicemail message on the other end of my dad’s cell phone. And I just don’t think I can stomach any more disappointment…not without a regrettable, explosive and very likely irrepirable response from yours truly.

As I mentioned above, a wise counselor once told me that it is in my best interest to come to terms with the relationship that actually exists and simply grieve the relationship that will never be. I’ve tried. And just when I think my expectations have hit a comfortable and all-time low, I get a fool’s gold glimmer of change. Despite multiple attempts to voice my concern and hurt with my parents, our cyclical dynamic remains the same. I wish each day that maybe they didn’t really hear me when I told them how much it hurts…because maybe then ignorance could explain it all. I wish they lived hours away…because then there would be an excuse for their absence. Selfishly, I wish they ignored my youngest sister and her kids as much as they ignore my family because then it wouldn’t feel so personal. And well, that just makes me feel as shitty as the shitty relationship to begin with.

Despite the cycle of torment these intermittent weeks of silence bring, the one thing I’m thankful for is the relationship that has developed organically over these years between my middle sister and me. As we’ve grown and mutually experienced the detachment and elusive nature of our parents, we have found solace and validation in each other. With her I never feel ridiculous for feeling this hurt when others would suggest I am actually quite lucky to have living parents who have never laid a hand on me. She doesn’t make me feel like a spoiled baby when so many would BEG for “normal” parents like ours.

We’ve done our best to cushion the blow to our combined six kids…each being there for fun sleepovers when the kids need a get-away or when momma needs a night out. She and I have each survived some life changing experiences in the last few years…and I’m convinced, speaking only for myself, that she keeps me sane. She assures me that I’m not imagining this irritant that has burrowed under my skin, nagging and provoking my periodic emotional and unhealthy self-deprecating response. When I want to rage, she is behind me…calming me when necessary and cheering me on when a rage (or blog) just might be what the doctor ordered.

And I’m thankful for that.