October 20, 2012

The One with the Bright Light and the Helium Balloon

Birthday cards are funny things, aren't they?  We go to a store, pick out a folded piece of paper with someone else's sentiment written on it, pay $3.95 for it and hand it to the birthday boy/girl at dinner.  Bizarre waste of money in my opinion, unless of course, you get a laugh. 

My mom picks out cards for me she thinks are funny, then gives them to me UNSIGNED so I can pass them on to someone else.  I love it.  Cracks. Me. Up.  The one she gave me last year said, 
(on the front)
"Another birthday?  Hey, look on the bright side....
Okay, there is no bright side.
There is, however, a bright light, but you're gonna want to stay away from that." 

This morning I received an early birthday card in the mail, signed by SEVERAL lovely people, but the treat to this card was the sonnet, written just for me, by my favorite Kayla (a fun, smart, quirky teenager I'm privileged to know).  It went something like this:

"Ode to Birthdays"
Birthdays extend across the calendar
They are like helium balloons
Rising higher and higher with age
The flames of life burning bright!
The sandbags drop, much like gravity in old age
But you...
You are ageless and wonderful
You sail high with age, but do not deflate!
Your sarcastic hot air keeps you young!
Let your spirit rise with age
And stay young with your humor
And when the height of your age can no longer be measured
Let yourself float and sail with the wind
And be joyful.
 Because you're pretty fabulous.
Yeah.  This has all the makings of an outstanding day.  I'm going to put on some sparkly shoes and go out and enjoy it.  Happy early Birthday to me.  

October 10, 2012

The One with the 50-Yard-Line

It had been a particularly icky day.  I was chatting with two of my besties about it, when one of them suggested I just go to bed and have sweet dreams.

"I don't dream," I told her.

And I don't.  I mean, hardly ever.  On the rare occasions I do, my dreams are anxious, unhappy, desperate... definitely not sweet, and waking up is usually a relief.  But mostly, as in 97% of the time, I just don't dream.

This friend, however, dreams elaborate fantasies... castle dwelling, nice dinners with friends, theme park vacations, etc.  Fun stuff.  She says she is always a little bummed to wake up to the reality that is her life, and I think she was rather taken aback that I don't experience the same nighttime escapes.

But that very night, after our conversation, I had a dream, and the next day I informed her of such. 

"You DID???" she replied excitedly, "I prayed that you would dream!!!  What did you dream about?"

"I dreamed there was a football field." 


"That's it.  I dreamed there was a football field."


October 07, 2012

The One Where I Just Wasn't in the Mood

So, it was one of those "I'm in a funk and just don't feel like working today" days.   I had been chatting with Kacey the better part of the afternoon as a distraction, when finally she told me I had been completely unproductive and needed to get to work.  I said, "I have NOT been completely unproductive.  I cried earlier today AND I posted a picture to facebook." 

She said, "That doesn't count.  I'm talking methodical, calculated, non-emotional WORK."

And I replied, "But I don't want to have sex."

She laughed.  A LOT.

October 05, 2012

The One Where We are Indecisive

So, it was a Wednesday at 4:32, and Sara texted, "What are you doing for dinner?"
              eating food
What are you PLANNING for dinner?
            nothing yet, you?
Trying to see what my husband is doing and then what you were doing
             well, I already told you, I'm eating food.  
              what do you want to eat?
Dinner.  You name where.  My house or elsewhere.
Grrrr.  I HATE this part.
               grrrr. Me too.
Give me 3 choices.
               What SOUNDS good?
Food.  :)
               You're no help.  
Do we stay on this side of town?
               No, we have time for whatever.
Anything then.  Pizza. Mexican. Asian.
A.g.RddfchXekdjdjncjz  (Her toddler got the phone)
Panera.  Tribeca.  You name an alternative.
               I don't have an alternative. 
I couldn't think of other options either.
That sounds great.
It's 5:30 now.
             Then NOW. 
Ok.  Meet there?
               I'll meet you at Walgreens and we'll ride together from there?
             Sara, we made a decision and it only took us 34 texts and 58 minutes!
Go us!
               I know.  We rock.

October 03, 2012

The One with the Small Print

So we were in this restaurant... great food, dim lighting, menu with entrees listed in 8-pt. font.  At least, that's my best guess, as all I can see is something that looks like this.   I retrieve my 1.50 reading glasses from my purse, but they are not enough.  So I unzip the side pocket and get out my back-up pair of reading glasses and put them on ON TOP OF the other pair and hold my cell phone toward the menu as a faux flashlight just about the time the waiter arrived at the table. 

I now have an emergency pair of "dark restaurant, small-font menu, 2.5 strength, because-I-don't-want-to-be-embarrassed" reading glasses with me at all times.

October 01, 2012

The One Where Steph Changes Clothes

So, there was a tornado warning... lightning, wind, sirens, the works.  Usually I sit out on the front porch and enjoy the intensity of the storm, but this one seemed more ominous than most.  Thinking I might not want to pick today to learn to fly, I took refuge in the interior hall of the house.  Sitting there, cell phone in my pocket, looking down at my clothes... "If I'm left sitting here among the rubble, THIS is not what I want to be wearing."  So I went to the bedroom and changed shirts. 
Three times.

Just so you know, when they uncover me from the wreckage, I'll be wearing a royal blue henley. 

August 16, 2012

my best day ever

The following story is true and is intended for mature audiences only.   This blog contains:  unspoken language, mild peril, sexual innuendos, processed food,  and swashbuckling action - not necessarily in that order.  Do not attempt to try any of this at home without the oversight of a professional.  This blog was manufactured in a facility that uses tree nuts and soy.  Oh, and multiple mice were harmed during the making of this production.  That's all.  Sit back and enjoy.

My name is Stephanie.  I'm wearing wedges.  The blog you are about to read is overdramatized.  The names were changed to protect the innocent, but since there were no innocents, I changed all the names back. 

The story started back in March when I decided to fully embrace REAL food.  No more processed junk,  no more bleached white flour, no more high-fructose corn syrup, no more artificial sweeteners, NO MORE FAST FOOD, and no wire hangers.  EVER!   

Some time later, several of my friends organized an organic food delivery, which for now, would have to be picked up once a month, 60 miles from where we are.  Sara set us up as a 'satellite group' and she is our contact person for the company.  If there are issues, they will coordinate with her.  The rest of us simply have to make the 2-hour round trip when our turn rolls around. 

Last month it was my turn.   I was to meet the Covenant truck on Monday afternoon at the designated truck stop.

Since this was my maiden voyage, I left early to avoid any complications.   I arrived 45 minutes before the driver was scheduled to be there, drove around the truck stop, but seeing no sign that he and his Covenant semi had also arrived early, I parked and waited.

And waited. 
And waited.

The driver was now a half hour late.  At 4:00 I texted Sara to be CERTAIN I am in the right location (a moderate-sized truck stop), and to verify I am looking for a semi with 'Covenant' on the side.  She does not return my text.   I drove through the truck stop again, just to be sure I was not missing something.

At 45-minutes past time, I CALLED Sara.  She did not answer my call.  This is NOT normal.  I drove around the truck stop another time, again just to be sure.  My stomach was starting to growl, but the only food off this exit is a McDonald's and, as I said earlier, fast food is NOT on my Real Food Agenda.  

At an hour late, I called Randi (she had picked up last month), and she verified the semi does, indeed, say Covenant on the side, and added the fact there will likely be 2 people in the truck.   A few minutes later she called back with phone numbers.  So I called the organic grocery company, who gave me the number to the trucking warehouse, who gave me the truck driver's number, who chased the cat, who killed the rat, who ate the cheese...  who didn't answer his phone.

Another quarter-of-an-hour later, the driver called back to say he'd had a breakdown (I assume he meant mechanical and not emotional).  He had left a message with Sara earlier in the day, but she hadn't responded.  He apologized, but said he wouldn't arrive for another 2 hours. 

I was supposed to have dinner with my kids, as they were passing through town that night.  I phoned them to say "that ain't happenin," as I won't be back to the house before at least 8:30. 

I then called Mike to see if Sara is alive.  She is.  Her phone, however, is not.  Seems their toddler had been curious to see just how much toilet water an iPhone could displace.    

Now all the girls are texting and calling and wanting to know what time they can expect their healthy goodies, and I'm scrambling to return their texts, and all the while I'm stuck at this truck stop exit for another two hours waiting on my organic avacados and steel-cut oats and sweet potato crackers, which I should happily be snacking on at this point instead of listening to my tummy rumble.

Okay, I know you're starting to get bored with the story, but not as bored as I was... hang in there, it's about to get good.

Since I have time to kill, I look around for something - ANYTHING - to do besides languish in the van another 120 minutes, sweating and grumbling.  It's 104 degrees in the shade - and there IS no shade - the only things that ARE here are the truck stop, an interstate, a McDonald's and a large tacky touristy gift shop.   I don't need diesel, I'm not eating fast food, so "Eenie, meenie, miney... tacky gift shop!"

I spent an hour taking pictures of gaudy gadgets and sending them to my daughter:"Things I am buying for your house."   I was especially fond of the 4-ft-tall-Mystic-Fairy-statue.  This amused her somewhat and kept me entertained for a bit.

After strolling past the ceramics and do-dads and knick-knacks and bric-a-brack and CRAP that nobody should ever spend money on, I perused the candy aisle.  Mmmmm.... gummy worms and orange marshmallows.  I was starving now, as it was 6 p.m. and I hadn't eaten since my 11:30 bowl of field greens. 

So, while I waited on my organic fruits and veggies and whole grains to arrive... I drove through McDonald's for some pink slime  and a cup of sodium phosphate.   Yeah, okay, it was delicious.
At least I was less grouchy now, and since it was nearly truck-arrival-time, I returned to the truck stop just in time to see a Covenant Transport truck - with two men in the cab - pull into the line of semis in the back.  I drove in front of them and waved (as they would be expecting me).  They didn't acknowledge me with anything other than quizzical looks.  I had a hesitant feeling, as they didn't look like truck drivers so much as vagrants in a police line-up, so I pulled back around to the front to wait some more. 

After a couple of minutes, my brain started to reason with me.  "Steph, you've been here HOURS longer than you were supposed to.  You have missed dinner with your kids.  You are tired and hot and bored and there is a Covenant Truck parked back there, likely with your boxes in it!  Go back there and ask!"

Bravely I got out of my car and walked over to the cab of the Covenant Transport truck.  There was now only one man in there.  He was wearing a gold necklace and a sweaty black tank top (I'm assuming to coordinate with his sweaty black hair) and holding a brown glass bottle.  He lowered the window and looked down at me.  I called up something like, "I'm here for my Azure pick up?"  But because there are dozens of trucks lined up here, and it was very loud, and because I got so hot sitting in the van that I took off the camisole under my shirt that WAS keeping the girls tucked in, I'm pretty sure he heard something like, "I'm here to ensure a pick up". 

Naturally, he invited me up for a beer. 

And that's the story of how I was mistaken for a truck stop hooker.

The end.

July 16, 2012

act justly, love mercy, walk humbly...

*Lindsay Jordan says:  But the thing that has been on my mind lately is forgetting and forgiving.   I am not the forgiving  type. I still feel I will do something regrettable if I ever ...

First, let me say, your momma had the personality of a lion when someone she loved was treated unfairly.   She wanted to pounce, bite back, be protective, and there are good and bad qualities in that.  The loyalty part is great.  The vengeance part, not so much.

Second, one of the best gifts you can give yourself is to do a good, thorough evaluation of yourself.  On paper.  Write down all your faults, everything about yourself that isn't perfect.  Keep a running list and add to it.*  The things you've done wrong.  The lies you've told.  The times you have cheated or stolen or gossiped or made fun of someone less fortunate than you ... very "My Name is Earl" like.  Make your list.  I dare you to find a single area of ugliness where you aren't guilty on SOME level.  I did this several years back and was SHOCKED to discover that I'm not actually perfect.  (Unbelievable, huh?)   See, I always thought I was a "good girl", which made it pretty easy to sit back and feel self-righteous and judge others and hold on to some false sense of self-worth.  But a good self-evaluation will do wonders to make you feel pretty rotten about yourself, and THAT serves two purposes:  
1) It gives you an honest starting point to work on your own integrity, 
2) it helps you be more compassionate to others. 

We're all a mess, Lin.  Every single one of us.  People aren't mean and hurtful on purpose (okay, SOME are, but it's because THEY have been hurt so badly the only thing they know is to lash out and hurt others), but all of us need the same thing:  to be loved and accepted.  And we all live in fear that people will find out who we really are, and we WON'T be loved and accepted. 

And there is nothing more painful than someone promising to love you forever, and then choosing not to.

A couple of weeks ago I sat in on a class on justice, and our response to people who hurt us (or those we love).  We have two responses:
1) We can seek vengeance.  Seek to hurt them right back.  Seek to 'make them pay'. Talk ugly about them.  Rally people on our side.  (And, really, what good does this do anybody?
2) We can let it go.  We can ignore their injustice.  We can walk away and feel like the bigger person.  (But does this really accomplish anything either?

How about a third choice?

3)  We can seek to bring about CHANGE.  This is the hardest option, but the only one that makes a difference in the end.  It requires kindness, confrontation, and love.  TALK to the offender ... not to accuse, but to be honest.  To say how you feel about what they did.  To help them see that their actions were hurtful.  It may not "fix" what happened, but it very well might help them grow.

Parenting example:  A child steals something from a store, and the parent finds out.  The parent can:
1)  Blow up.  Yell, scream, punish.  This makes the child feel intimidated, unloved and worthless.  It makes the child want to defy the parent, and teaches the child that getting caught must be avoided at all cost.
2)  Ignore it.  The parent can pretend not to know, or worse yet, act like it's no big deal.  The child learns that selfishness pays off and that there are no consequences for his actions... which is NOT true in adulthood.
3) Confront to help them grow.  Talk to the child.  Ask why.  Ask the child how he would feel if something was stolen from him.  Explain that being selfish is not how we choose to live.  Make the child return the item and apologize... and even work off the offense in some additional way.  The child learns there ARE consequences, but that he is loved and expected to live up to his potential. 

Bottom line:  Hate breeds more hate.  Avoidance breeds animosity.  Love, bigger than yourself, changes your world, one relationship at a time.

You may not be the "forgiving type", but thank God we all have the chance to grow and change and become better every day.   Never stop growing and changing.  

You have the ability to change your world. 

* I use Galatians 5:19-20 NLT as a guideline.

June 27, 2012

the tragedy is not knowing


Images run through my mind.  Memories.  Words that replay in my head.   
Images... that are no longer part of my reality.  
Memories... with loved ones I'm no longer able to share.  
Words... I understood as promises that turned out to be illusions.

We all have them, to one extent or another.   It's what we do with them that determines how they shape us.

Lindsay*Jordan* said...  with Mom's death date just a couple of days ago, I can't forget about it. Every year I try to forget and ignore, but every year Parker wants to talk about her and everyone posts something about it on Facebook. It's not easy for me to move on. Everytime I think about her all those images just come running into my mind. It never gets any easier. Got any advice for that?

Lindsay, when your mother, my sister, died suddenly in a car crash, my world came crashing down with it.  It was like every memory of my childhood was erased (my sadness) and every hope for the future was stolen (your sadness).    

Even after all these years, I still NEED to call Stacey sometimes to brag on my kids or complain about my day or cry on her shoulder.  But in all fairness, I had her for 28 years.  God gave me closure with her the night before she died. (Did you know that?  Have we ever talked about that?)  I KNEW her, maybe better than anybody, and though I MISS HER terribly, as do your grandparents and your dad, we realize that you and your brother are the ones who suffered the true loss.  Remembering her is the toughest for you.  Parker was too little to remember, too little to understand - he just wants to know ABOUT her.  But YOU... Lin, I'm weeping as I write this because YOU were just old enough to remember the tragedy, just old enough to remember what life was like with her and then without her, but you weren't old enough to have KNOWN her, and THAT is the tragedy.

So what's been running through my mind for the last couple of days is:  You can't seem to forget her, but because you didn't REALLY know her, you can't seem to remember her either.  .  In a weird way, it's like your faith. (WHAT?)  If all you know about Jesus is that he was crucified, and the only time you make him part of your life is during communion when you focus on His death... well, eww.  How much impact does that have on you, except to make you feel sad and a little guilty?  Very little, I think.  It's in KNOWING who He is, in choosing to live the way He calls us to live that allows us to move past the "death scene" and into LIFE.

It's the same with your mom.  You can't just forget her.  Every time you look in the mirror, she's there.  Every time you talk to me, she's there.  Every time you go to Nana & Papa's house, she's there.  But all you see is the tragedy, because all you really remember is her death.   Yes, I know you and I have shared a lot of stories about her, but it's time to know WHO she was, to choose to live the way she wanted for you, to move past the "death scene" and be grateful for life.

I can't give you memories, but I can keep giving you stories, and I can share her heart with you and what she wanted for you.  (Incidentally, they're the same things I want for you too.  We'll let this unfold as it will.)  I hope you know how much you are loved and how much you have to look forward to... and how amazing I think YOU are.

For now, we live in a broken world, filled with every imaginable pain and suffering.  Children are thrown in dumpsters and left blinded and alone.  Young men die from brain tumors.  Young mothers are killed in car crashes.  Love breaks our heart and we are never the same again.   

And all I have to say is:  We have two choices.  We can LOSE hope or we can BE hope.  

About your mom:  She was crazy about kids.  Her favorite jobs and activities always included children, and all she ever wanted in life was to be a mom.  She was that little girl who played with dolls constantly and slept with 28 stuffed animals and babies.  She LOVED your dad.  LOVED him.  But you and your brother were her pride and joy.  I'm going to ask Papa to send you a book called "Jantzen's Gift" because it's an amazing story, and reading it will help you know your mom's heart a little more.  Love you, Lu. <3

June 25, 2012

all of your life advice...

"You have to write something. I gobble it up. You are my life inspiration. I plan on running my house and raising my children almost exactly like you.  (Deleting her comment about getting advice elsewhere.)  Meanwhile, Kacey and Kevin are two of the most amazing, well-rounded individuals I know. And even though you were on a budget and lived like the Amish, your house was my favorite place in the world. Still is. So in summary, write whatever you must, as long as I get all of my life advice..."

My precious niece, Lindsay, left this ridiculously "can't-possibly-live-up-to-her-expectations" comment on my last blog.  And while I can't argue about her description of my kids - they ARE amazing and well-rounded - the idea of getting all her life advice from me is daunting. 

For today, Lin, you get this life advice:  NEVER MAKE THE EASY CHOICE.

About anything. 

You know the episode of Seinfeld, where George decides his life sucks because he always makes bad decisions?  

George : It's not working, Jerry. It's just not working.

Jerry : What is it that isn't working?

George : Why did it all turn out like this for me? I had so much promise. I was personable, I was bright. Oh, maybe not academically speaking, but ... I was perceptive. I always know when someone's uncomfortable at a party. It became very clear to me sitting out there today, that every decision I've ever made, in my entire life, has been wrong. My life is the opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have, in every aspect of life, be it something to wear, something to eat ... It's all been wrong.

Waitress : Tuna on toast, coleslaw, cup of coffee.

George : Yeah. No, no, no, wait a minute, I always have tuna on toast. Nothing's ever worked out for me with tuna on toast. I want the complete opposite of tuna on toast! Chicken salad, on rye, untoasted, with a side of potato salad ... and a cup of tea!

Elaine : Well, there's no telling what can happen from this.

Jerry : You know chicken salad is not the opposite of tuna, salmon is the opposite of tuna, 'cause salmon swim against the current, and the tuna swim with it.

Yeah, this is kinda what I'm talking about, only without the coleslaw.

If you don't want to do it because it's too hard, that's exactly what you need to do.  Cook or grab take-out?  Cook.  Walk away from the new jeans or buy them on credit?  Walk away.  Watch tv or work out?  Work out.  Study for an A or wing it for a B?  Study.   Be comfortably introverted or walk up to a stranger and introduce yourself?  Make a friend.  Accept what's in front of you, or wait for what you know is right?  Wait.  For heaven's sake, wait. 

I'd love to be able to tell you that's what I've always done, but OBVIOUSLY it's not.  I have MUCH TOO OFTEN taken the easy road, sometimes out of laziness, sometimes out of impatience, sometimes out of thinking it wouldn't matter in the long run.   I can tell you from more years of experience than I care to admit, I have always regretted those decisions.  But the times I have been intentional... the times I have been disciplined... the times I have thought through the consequences... THOSE are the times I can look back on and see the results and know I did the right thing.

Make the hard choice.  Yep, it's not usually the most fun, and it's often difficult.  Hence the words "HARD choice".  But today you'll have taught yourself a little discipline and tomorrow you will like yourself a little better.

Although I still don't make my bed, even though Mom required us to do so every day growing up.  I just don't get it.  Like Jim Gaffigan says, "It doesn't make sense.  It's like tying your shoes AFTER you take them off."   But even though I won't MAKE the bed today, it's Monday, which means I WILL wash the sheets today.  Even though I don't wanna.


June 14, 2012

here's to pushing

This blog, much like its author, is in transition.  I'm trying to decide what to do with it.  For the last 3 years, I've continued to TRY to find humor in everyday life, but I don't seem to think much is funny anymore, outside of my Facebook conversations.  

I've toyed with making this a Childbirth Blog or a Parenting Blog or even a Real Food Blog (though I'm not quite ready for that one yet), but everytime I start to write and I think, "Who am I to be writing about this?" and that causes me to put down my imaginary pen.  

So, back to transition.  In childbirth, transition is the most difficult part.  There's intense pain and inward-focusing and often screaming.  BUT, once it's over, you push out something wonderful.  Or at least something human.

Here's to pushing.

May 24, 2012

mattress mayhem

Many moons ago, when we lived in our little one-bedroom apartment in Georgia, my family came to visit over Easter weekend, and brought an air mattress with them. My sister slept on the couch and we inflated - manually - the balloon-bed on which Mom and Dad would sleep. And when I say "manually" I mean "orally". Yep. No vacuum inflaters back then. Not even a measly little foot pump. We huffed. And we puffed. And we huffed. And we puffed. And we blew that giant overpriced pool float right up. . . over the course of, say, two or three hours.

Later, while we were all sleeping peacefully in our respective beds, the apartment complex came under attack. In the wee hours of the morning we were startled awake by an explosion akin to a sonic boom or an 8.2 earthquake:


It hit us so hard we literally screamed ourselves awake. "WHAT WAS THAT?! ARE YOU OKAY? ARE WE UNDER ATTACK? IS EVERYBODY ALIVE?" I ran the 5 steps from my bed to the living room to witness the following: the air mattress had exploded, Dad was lying FLAT on the floor, Mom was draped over him like the wreath on a winning racehorse, and the remaining air (and saliva) in the mattress was poofing out past their toes. Recalling this story still makes me laugh out loud.

I'd give anything to have an actual photograph of "Ground Zero" following this mattress-mayhem, but then again, the mental picture in my head is so worth these thousand words.

May 10, 2012

it's tough to be a SAHM... or how I survived four days without folding laundry

That's SAHM - Stay At Hyatt M.E., just to clarify.

Four days in the Hyatt place with my Mayah.  (When I say "my Mayah", I fully understand that I share her with three other grandparents, five great-grandparents, one aunt, two uncles, two cousins, an entire youth group, a daddy, a mommy and a partridge in a pear tree.  But indulge me...)

I was a Stay-at-Home-Mom for a good chunk of my parenting years and - some of you will hate me for this, but I gotta be honest - it was pretty doggone easy.  I never thought of it as hard or stressful or claustrophobic.  Sure, we were always broke.  Sure, I was always picking up 'odd jobs' to make ends meet.  Sure, our entertainment came in the form of board games and park days and movie nights with videos checked out from the library.  Sure, we took advantage of mooching off my parents as much as possible, but I'm telling you, I wouldn't trade my gig as a SAHM for all the blog readers in the country.

A few years ago I moved from SAHM to "Take Him to Work with Me Mom", and this year officially graduated to "Empty Nester", and I gotta tell ya, I'm growing accustomed to having things my way.   I fix what I want for dinner, take long baths with no interruptions, read books besides "Little House on the Prairie", and I never have to feel guilty for staying up too late playing Scrabble on Facebook.

So, my four days with my 19-month-old granddaughter in this upscale suburban hotel didn't come without its challenges. 

First, there was the unrealistic expectation by the hotel housekeeping staff that we would actually get out of bed sometime before noon so they could come in and make the beds and vacuum and take out the trash and bring clean laundry.  Oh, the inconvenience.

Second, since Mayah and I were without a car, we had to actually WALK a half mile or more in balmy 70-degree weather to places that fix your food and let you hang out and drink coffee...and then clean up after you.  Again, such hardship. 

Third, I was forced to lie, thus ALMOST making me feel guilty.  See, several people every day told me how adorable/sweet/smart my little girl was.  And I TRIED to be honest.  Well, honestISH.  One woman said, "Oh my, your daughter is BEAUTIFUL!" to which I responded, "Thank you!" (My daughter IS beautiful, she just happened to be 20 miles away at the time.)  Another woman smiled and asked, "Is she your first?" and I answered truthfully, "YES she IS!"  She didn't say first WHAT, so it wasn't REALLY a lie...right? 

Fourth,  Mayah had moments of missing her parents.  "MamaDada?" she queried, as she pointed to the door.  I would assure her they were coming back, but for today she was just getting to play with M.E.  But occasionally, she missed more than 'MamaDada'... she missed her nursing time with mommy.  And she let me know in a myriad of ways that she was CERTAIN I could serve the same useful purpose for her if I would only let her try.  She would poke me, roll her wrists (her sign for 'milk'), climb into my lap, try to pull my shirt up, and look at me as if to say, "WOMAN, you're holding out on me!  Don't try to tell me THOSE puppies are not loaded with boobie juice!"   Sorry kid, been there, done that, and happy to no longer have my body used as a vending machine, thank you very much.  So she would just curl up in my lap and let me sing to her as she drifted off to sleep in my arms.

I told you...it was a tough week.

May 01, 2012


I spent last week with one of the loves of my life.  We held hands, took long walks, and kissed - a lot.  We stayed up late in our hotel room, talking and reading and snuggling, and cuddled in bed until late in the mornings.  We watched birds and picked honeysuckle.  We laughed.  We even fed each other grapes.  No stress, no worries, no expectations, just 96 hours of falling more in love.

I guess, at this point, you should know that this particular "love of my life" is my 19-month-old granddaughter, Mayah.

I was blessed to tag along with my daughter and son-in-law, to Atlanta, where they attended a conference, and Mayah and I got to be together - just the two of us.  Living 5 hours away in Indianapolis has made our limited time together very precious - especially now that she's old enough to like me.  :)    
There's more to come on this blog about the difficulties of living out of a hotel room with a toddler, but for today, I just want Mayah to know I had the BEST week.  I love you, little girl.  Someday I hope you fully understand how much. 

April 17, 2012

crunchier than grape nuts

I was recently invited to join a "Crunchy Moms Group" on Facebook. (If you don't know what that is, Google "crunchy mama". Yes, now. The rest of us will wait.)

Now that you know what a
Crunchy Mom is, you should know ... I am not one. But I joined the group anyway, because it seemed like the polite thing to do.

I feel like such a fraud.

I am not crunchy; I'm caffeinated.

Crunchy moms are granola women who make their own soap and wear hand-made calico peasant skirts and love farm animals. They hug trees, listen to twinkle ding-dong music, go braless, and consider flip-flops as dress shoes. They braid their hair, bravely venture out in public without makeup, grow their own mushrooms, and clean their houses - and their bodies - with nothing but baking soda and vinegar.

I, on the other hand, wear deoderant. Yeah, the aluminum-laden, cancer-causing regular kind. I tried to give it up.

I ordered an all-natural, Jasmine-Lemon Grass Crystal Essence from hippiestuff.org. My bout with that lasted precisely 37 stinky days when I decided a long, healthy life ALONE, reeking of Jasmine-Lemon Grass BODY ODOR wasn't as fulfilling as the risk of a shorter pleasant-smelling life with an active social calendar.

Clearly, I am NOT a Crunchy Mom. Pseudo-crunchy at best, dipped in a little organic coconut oil.

Although, a couple of days after I joined the Crunchy Mom group, someone posted a "How Crunchy Are You?" quiz. (And you KNOW I can't pass up a good quiz.) Okay, so I was a co-sleeping, partial-cloth-diapering, non-vaxing, homebirthing, homeschooling, non-medicating, organic-baby-food-making, recycling rebel whose youngest self-weaned at 30 months. Oh yeah, and I'm a doula.

QUIZ SCORE: "Granola Earth Mama". The only thing that saved me from a perfect score of "Crunchier than Grape Nuts" is that I paint my toenails and shave my armpits.
Well, most of the time.

Still...L'oreal is my best friend, I haven't worn a peasant skirt since 1977, the only mushroom I ever grew was behind the toilet in our humid Georgia apartment, and thanks to Mary-Katherine Gallagher the thought of tree-hugging kinda freaks me out.

All things considered, maybe I am a little crunchy. Crispy perhaps. Half-baked more likely.

But for all of my truly crunchy friends out there, I AM proud to announce that I'm growing organic onions in my spring salad garden. Oh wait, that's not a salad garden... that's a flower bed.

Never mind.

April 07, 2012

my life as a newspaper - second edition

A school official replaced a child's "unsatisfactory" sack lunch with ... chicken nuggets. Seriously? Yeah. Watch THIS .

The REALLY ridiculous part to this (beside the fact that school lunches are among the worst of the worst nutritionally), is that kids will only eat what they are taught to eat at home. I eat lunch most Wednesdays with a group of 20 second graders - not ONCE in the entire school year has ANY of them ever chosen a vegetable (usually green beans and carrots are the offerings) when they go through the lunch line. OCCASIONALLY a few of them will pick up a piece of fruit. OFTEN many of them will use their pocket change to buy an extra bag of chips or a Capri Sun to supplement their chicken nugget, instant-mashed-potato, white roll and chocolate milk cafeteria lunch.

Speaking of children, Mayah and I were Skyping the other day, discussing arachnology*, optimism* and astronomy*, the depths of which exhausted her little 18-month-old brain, and she fell asleep. Her lovely mom and I continued to talk for a bit about more mundane subjects like nutrition and parenting, then we said our goodbyes. A bit later, I got a text that read, "Mayah just woke up very confused about why her M.E. is not still on the computer!" Needless to say, M.E. logged back on and said goodbye with waving and "I love you" signing and kiss blowing.

*arachnology = Itsy Bitsy Spider
*optimism = If You're Happy and You Know It
*astronomy = Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

Speaking of texting, because my son does not properly know how to express his emotions with anything other than sarcasm, he texts me horrible things when he travels so I will know he made it to his destination safely. Our last exchange read something like this:
Kevin: I died in a car crash.
Me: Well, I certainly hope you were wearing clean underwear.
Kevin: I was ... BEFORE the crash.

Speaking of underwear, Kacey nap-dreamed that I was an out-of-control wedding planner at my niece's wedding. In the dream, I got mad at Kacey and threw her bridesmaid dress into the hall and made her wear a sports bra and a black leather mini-skirt, which of course, is completely ridiculous. No self-respecting wedding planner would allow a bridesmaid to upstage the bride.

Speaking of leather, Norman Mailer is dead. Not the author - though he is dead too as of about 4 years ago. The Norman (and) Mailer I'm referring to were cows. 'Norman', after the calf Billy Crystal brought home in the movie City Slickers, and 'Mailer' because once you have a cow named Norman, the two writers in the family saw it as the obvious, and humorous, second choice. Anyway, Norman and Mailer recently took a one-way trip to visit the butcher, after which Kevin confessed to his father that he once punched Mailer dead in the nose when the cow tried to kick him. When his father expressed disdain, Kevin said, "Dad, the cows are hamburger now. Just think of what I did as 'pre-tenderizing'."

A few nights later, as I was eating some Norman Mailer spaghetti, Sara M. asked me if I was thinking about the cows as I ate it. I said, "Yes. I'm thinking, 'You're DELICIOUS.'"

Speaking of hooved animals ... I think Deer Crossing signs are discriminatory. They're really Buck Crossing signs. That's why you almost exclusively see does as roadkill, because we aren't properly warned to look out for them.

Besides that, I'm pretty sure the antlers on these signs are backwards.

March 26, 2012

a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils

To say I'm a big fan of words is a hyperbolic understatement. Words set the stage for life. Your use of words shapes how others see you, perceive you, respond to you. But for your words to have any worth, they have to come, not just from your mouth or your fingertips, but from inside who you are. Your words have to be real. Genuine.

That being said, I find the dialogue in most chick flicks to be fluff, and outside of a good pillow or a toasted marshmallow, I don't have much use for fluff. But great dialogue? Well, great dialogue has me still holding my eyes open at 1:30 a.m., completely enthralled with a sappy Nora Ephron movie I have seen at least a dozen times because of language like this:

Well, it was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, meant we were supposed to be together... and I knew it. I knew it the very first time we touched. It was like coming home... only to no home I'd ever known... It was like... magic.

'What will he say today?', I wonder. I turn on my computer. I wait impatiently as it connects... and my breath catches in my chest until I hear three little words: 'You've got mail'. I hear nothing. Not even a sound on the streets ... just the beating of my own heart. I have mail. From you.

I would have asked for your number, and I wouldn't have been able to wait twenty-four hours before calling you and saying, "Hey, how about... oh, how about some coffee or, you know, drinks or dinner or a movie... for as long as we both shall live?" And you and I would have never been at war. And the only thing we'd argue about would be which video to rent on Saturday night.

I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell you on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.

I've been thinking about you. Last night I went to meet you, and you weren't there. I wish I knew why. I felt so foolish.... Anyway I so wanted to talk to you. I hope you have a good reason for not being there. You don't seem like the kind of person who'd do something like that. The odd thing about this form of communication is that we're more likely to talk about nothing than something. But I just want to say that all this nothing has meant more to me than so many somethings.

All I'm saying is that somewhere out there is the man you are supposed to marry. And if you don't get him first, somebody else will, and you'll have to spend the rest of your life knowing that somebody else is married to your husband.

People are always saying that change is a good thing. But all they're really saying is that something you didn't want to happen at all... has happened. Someday, it'll be just a memory. But the truth is... I'm heartbroken. I feel as if a part of me has died ... and no one can ever make it right.

I'm gonna get out of bed every morning... and breathe in and out all day long. Then, after a while I won't have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out... and, then after a while, I won't have to think about how I had it great and perfect for a while.

Do you ever feel you've become the worst version of yourself? That a Pandora's box of all the secret, hateful parts - your arrogance, your spite, your condescension - has sprung open?

Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life - well, valuable, but small - and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn't it be the other way around? I don't really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So, good night, dear void.

And then the dream breaks into a million tiny pieces. The dream dies. Which leaves you with a choice: you can settle for reality, or you can go off, like a fool, and dream another dream.

March 16, 2012

it's not in my best pinterest

I have a subscription to Teen Vogue, y
es I do. Come on, you know how I love Zac Ephron, and articles on dealing with jealousy from my BFF, and learning how to accessorize an outfit with toe socks and glitter heels. Seriously though, they started sending it to me based on some online purchases for my niece, and despite numerous efforts, I can't get them to stop sending it.

Aside from Teen Vogue, I don't subscribe to magazines. At all. No Newsweek or Cosmo or National Geographic. No Guns N Ammo or Martha Stewart Living. I'm just not a magazine person; seems like a tragic waste of trees. Besides, I have MSN and Google and bookshelves filled with novels.

That being said, Pinterest is the hottest thing going right now. Anybody who's ANYBODY (mostly of the female persuasion) is addicted. I, however, don't get it. I mean, I GET it, I just don't "get" it. According to the Pinterest website, " Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes."

Truthfully, this is the kind of stuff I look at on Pinterest:

To me, Pinterest is the equivalent of earmarking magazines, and passing them on to my best friend, who turns down the corners on the pages she likes and then passes them off to her sister, who in turn marks the pictures and articles that appeal to her, then takes them to her doctor's waiting room for the next patient to read, ad infinitum.

My questions for Pinteresting people are: What am I going to do with 3 different recipes for baked oatmeal? For heaven's sake, I don't even own 3 cookbooks. Why do I need a virtual bulletin board filled with pictures of cupcakes? Does EVERYBODY in the world like Nutella? WHY do I want to repost pictures of furry kittens? And DIY projects??? Get real. I do NOT want to melt down my leftover Yankee Candles and turn them into a dissection tray or sand down the cedar chest my granny gave me as a wedding gift to make my own coffin (though there is some metaphorical significance there.)

I have so many better things to do with my time. Now, somebody please start a Scrabble game with me on Facebook.

March 05, 2012

how low can you go?

When my son tells me about his Ultimate Frisbee Tournaments, it sounds like this to my brain:
"So this guy ran down the field and dove and caught it and then he threw it and they scored and then another guy jumped and caught it and then HE threw it and WE scored and then the same guy who made the first throw caught it again and then..."

When my husband tells me about horse stuff, it sounds like this to my brain:
"So the horse ran to the back field and I ran after it and made it run in circles until it got tired and then I went to the barn to get the other horses and I took them out to the back field and then I got the tractor and hauled a round bale out to the back field where the horses were running and..."

So when I tell a birth story, I'm very aware that to some of you it sounds like:
"So then she had a contraction and then we walked and then she had more contractions but she was only dilated to 4 so we walked some more. And then her back hurt but she was only dilated to 5 so we squatted and lunged while she had more contractions. Then she was dilated to 7 and the contractions became really intense and then the contractions were really close together and ..."

But I've got a story to tell and I promise, it won't sound anything like that.

She was only worried about two things:
1. Transporting the 40 miles to the hospital in the dead of winter,
2. Staying calm, relaxed and peaceful. (She, MaryKate, had been very stressed and anxious the last time, and did NOT want that experience again.)

The Call came at 12:40 a.m.. Contractions 10-12 minutes apart, MaryKate is ready for me. Foregoing my usual "I-have-plenty-of-time" shower, I dressed quickly and hit the road, stopping to fill my empty gas tank at 1:00 in the morning. I am 6 blocks from their house when her husband calls (NEVER a good sign), "Steph, we are at 4 minutes apart, we need you now!"

Two minutes later I let myself in the side door. Hubby takes my keys and starts loading things into the van. I find MaryKate laboring in bed, eyes closed, very internally focused. I remind myself: calm, relaxed, peaceful. During contractions I do my "back magic", and in-between I get her some water and put on her shoes.

I hold her hair back away from her face and doing my best Julie Andrews impersonation (who once said about herself, "Sometimes I'm so sweet, even I can't stand it.") I whisper, "We're not going to be laboring at home, MaryKate. You're doing great, but this is happening fast." Inside my head, Gilbert Gottfried is shrieking, "OH MY GOODNESS, THIS IS TOO FREAKIN' FAST!!!"

The next contraction finds us squatting in the driveway. Her mom - who will be following us in her own car- asks, "Are we going to make it to the hospital??" Calmly I smile and hear Julie Andrews say, "Most certainly!" (Internally, Gilbert panics, "We may not make it to the hospital until AFTER the baby comes, but we'll definitely make it!")

Before we hit the road, MaryKate insists I teach her husband how to do "that back thing", so Lance gets a crash course in a technique I've been perfecting for nearly 3 years. Now the 40-minute drive...and though I could drive crazy fast and get us there in 30, there is a laboring woman on her knees in the place of my center console, so safety has to take precedence. Through all of this, I am pretending to be cool as a cucumber. Driving 80 mph, talking over my shoulder in my best Mary Poppins voice, "You are doing such a great job, MaryKate. Practically perfect in every way. Take a deep breath through your nose ... now blow it slowly out through your mouth. Goooooood."

With every mile, contractions are growing closer and more intense, and suddenly she responds to one of them with a screeching dolphin-call. "MaryKate..." I speak in a soft, low tone, and quite possibly with a British accent, "remember what we talked about. Keep your throat relaxed. Bring your voice down low. Moan it out. Remember: LOW."

From the floor behind me I sense the beginning of the next contraction...her throat tightening, her shoulders rising, her voice starting to squeak with the pain...and the next moment I will forever remember as one of my Favorite Things (Sing with me: "Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and MaryKate's contractions...") She remembers what we talked about, brings her dolphin screech down to a deep Darth Vader growl, and for the next 45 seconds I hear, "low low low low low low low low low low low low..." as she literally chants the word "low" through the entire contraction. It is ALL I can do to keep from laughing hysterically!

Now I become the living GPS, only with a slow, lilting voice.
"Only 10 more minutes and we'll be there."
"Three more contractions, MaryKate, and we'll be at the door."
"Just a spoonful of sugar and the baby will be out."

Maneuvering the parking lot like Speed Racer, avoiding the bumps, swerving around parked cars and a cigarette-smoking nurse, I zip to the front door, jump out and grab a wheelchair. After some chair-not-working-and-what-do-we-do-about-the-bags confusion, the four of us glide through the deserted hospital corridor, up the elevator and into Labor and Delivery.

It is 2:02 a.m.

"This is MaryKate and she's having a baby," my Julie Andrews voice says. And even though we are pre-registered, the nurses respond with a myriad of questions, asking for insurance cards and social security numbers, and a request for MaryKate to get on the scales so they can weigh her. Clearly, they are not understanding, so Gilbert makes an appearance outside of my brain, "Ladies! This is MaryKate's THIRD baby, it doesn't matter what she weighs as she will weigh 12 pounds less in only a few minutes! We need a room right now!" Sensing the urgency, one of them says, "Room 4!" and in we go. MaryKate stands up out of the wheelchair and grabs the bed as I instinctively take my place behind her. I feel a splash on my foot just as she announces, "My water broke! My water just broke!" Why, yes, yes it did.

She lays down on her side as we get her lower half undressed, feet still dangling off the bed. Dr. M. comes in and says, "Let's get you all the way up in the bed." So with hubby on one side and me on the other, we pull her up in the bed. Before we can even get the bed raised, one nurse is trying to get her shirt off, another is trying to monitor her. I politely ask them to "get real", as MaryKate is hit with one MASSIVE pain - her feet on the bed, her head on the bed, the rest of her body imitating the St. Louis arch. She looks wide-eyed at me and declares, "I'm on my back! I'm on my back! I don't want to be on my back!" I tell her I understand completely, and as SOON as this contraction is over, we'll get into a better position. Before I finish my sentence, Dr. M. announces, "We're crowning...and THERE she is!" And Gilbert Gottfried screams, "WHAT THE...???"

Time of birth 2:09 a.m.