Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Alien Being in my Boob

I still have not been able to completely wrap my head around this chain of events. And being the 21st century, I have serious doubts about modern medicine. Let me start at the beginning rather than my usual attempts to begin at the end and work my way backwards.

Last October, I met with a psychic who I reference often in this blog. Except for a few minor details, he has been fairly spot on in all areas. During my one and only reading with him, he mentioned that I was going to have a scare with regards to my breasts, but that it was all going to turn out OK. Let me tell you after the past month that phrase, "it's going to turn out OK" is the only thing keeping me going.

A few months ago I noticed a lump in my left breast. A procrastinator to the end, or possibly, due to the resurfacing of my alter ego, Cleopatra, Queen of Denial, I avoided the thought of setting up a mammogram appointment. As it turns out it would not have mattered (but I digress). The lump seemed to disappear on its own, so I did not rush making the appointment. I assumed it had to do with my menstrual cycle and never thought twice.

The hospital where I receive my mammograms is pretty terrific on sending late notices. I never wanted surgery at that hospital, but mammograms are OK. After the fourth late notice and an implied threat that Nurse Ratchet was picking me up at my house and dragging me to the hospital, I finally scheduled an appointment. Even the woman scheduling my mammogram commented that I was a few months behind. Impressive. They take "the girls" quite seriously. Of that I am thankful. Hopefully, their surgical techiques are as impressive as their mammogram follow-up. Although never wanting to have surgery there, guess where I am going?

Upon filling out the form pre-mammogram I answered the question of "Do you have any concerns regarding your breasts". Although tempted to state, "I always wanted to be a C cup", I refrained. Instead I listed the fact that I noticed a lump in my left breast, but could no longer locate it. The poor nurse almost went into apoplexy. "What!? You are only scheduled for a screening! We are not staffed with a doctor this evening. If you have a lump, we need a doctor here and a diagnostic mammogram." Wow! They DO take "the girls" seriously. I assured the nurse that it was OK. I stated that the lump seems to have disappeared, so I was not too worried. Since I was wrapped in a false sense of security that mammograms see everything, I was fine with a screening; assuming that if there really was a lump it would show up. Silly, naive woman am I! My mammogram came back perfect. Two healthy breasts. Obviously, one was lying!

A couple of weeks later, I noticed the lump again. My stomach sunk a bit, but my mammogram was fine. No worries. Telling myself it was nothing, I called the nurse at my doctor's office. Candice suggested I come in. My doctor finds the lump as well and sends me for a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound.If anyone is unsure of a what a diagnostic mammogram is, think of it as your breasts being flattened to the size of a crepe. OK, maybe that is a slight exaggeration. Your breast is flattened to the size of a pancake. Once we hit pancake status, my lump decided to reveal itself; obviously afraid of "popping" if the technician flattened to crepe status.

So, I have a lump that likes to play hide and seek. Great! My alien being has personality. I would not expect anything less. They kindly escort me to another room where I will have an ultrasound. The nurse/technician comes in and positions me on a table. Pours warm (thank you) gel on my left breast and proceeds to look for my "something". Which, obviously afraid of being squashed again, had not gone back into hiding. The nurse measures my lump on the ultrasound screen and informs me that she is going to bring in the doctor. The doctor comes in, introduces herself and proceeds to scare the ever loving shit out of me. After looking at the screen, she points to my something that I am seriously hoping is a nothing, and proceeds to show me where my something has developed its own blood supply. Not only has my something moved in uninvited, played hide and seek, but acquired plumbing?! How rude! Sadly though, the doctor is in dire need of a course in Interpersonal Communication and Bedside Manner 101.

I know I tend to become hyper and wiggy all on my own. I also admit to taking artistic liberties at times, but what I am about to write is the God's Honest truth! While the doctor is pointing at my alien, she says, "It's formed a blood supply. See right there...a blood supply. Hmmm...a blood supply. Tell me, have you lost any unexplained weight recently?" "Uh...no" is my only response, as my stomach starts to slowly sink again and I am sincerely thankful for not having lost the last 10 pounds I've been carrying around since Adam's birth 13 years ago. "I'd like to biopsy this immediately. What kind of insurance do you have?" At that sentence, the nurse pats my knee and says, "It's going to be OK, sweetie. Don't worry."

Really wasn't worried until Doc opened her mouth. Once they learn I am on an HMO, they state that they are sorry, but an immediate biopsy is impossible. I am to speak with a breast cancer case worker and they will schedule a time convenient for me and my HMO. Have I ever mentioned how much I despise our health care system? So, my something that I am seriously hoping is a nothing, is actually a potential something which needs to be biopsied immediately, BUT because my HMO requires pre-authorization my immediate biopsy needs to wait 4 days. This scenario makes as much sense to me as the terms buffalo wings and liberal republicans. Our health care system is in dire need of serious reform. But that is a blog for another day.

After getting dressed, I am escorted to my breast cancer case worker, Kathie, a very friendly personable woman with whom I immediately feel comfortable. She tells me that she is a survivor and not to worry. The advancements in research are amazing. Woah! We have not yet determined that my something is a something. I'm still holding strong to the hope that my something is a nothing. Albeit a very rude something for wreaking a ton of havoc within a very short period of time. I listen to what she says, and nod appropriately, but honestly my memory of the conversation is akin to listening to the adults talk in Peanuts cartoons, "Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah."

I leave the hospital with my appointment for my immediate biopsy at the end of the week and a folder with my case worker's business card. Can this truly be happening to me? Surreal...completely and totally surreal...

Folks, it is about to get weirder.

I call home to tell my mom. No matter what age you are, when you are scared, you want Mom. My mom, although knowing why I was at the hospital, answers the phone saying, "I was just walking out the door to by a dryer. Ours will cost over $500 to fix." "Uhm...OK...I just wanted to let you know that I am going in for a biopsy on Friday. They want to biopsy the lump." "OK...Friday? OK. I'm going to go buy the dryer." "Uh...OK. Bye!"

Now, my mom has a way of never showing emotion unless something is extremely funny or you have her so pissed off her blood pressure is off the charts. I've seen it happen - the blood pressure off the charts thing. I've caused it to happen. My brother's have too. So have my children. It's not easy, but it's possible. It's the Irish in her. As my grandfather use to tell her, "Good Irish children don't cry." Interpretted as, never show emotion. Thank, God I have some Italian in me! But, I honestly thought there would be some reaction to a biopsy. Maybe she was in a hurry to catch a special sale at Sears. Maybe she had not wrapped her head around it. Maybe you don't worry until there is something to worry about, which is my mother's general belief. But honestly...lump...blood supply...biopsy... I was scared to death and my mother was out buying major appliances; reacting as if I was stating Friday's weather.

Or maybe, she could not comprehend what I was telling her. No matter the age, us parents never want to hear the words biopsy when referencing our children. I can't even imagine Kat calling me one day with the same sentence. Hopefully, I would act less odd but if the Gods are with me that is one conversation we will avoid forever and always.

I called my doctor's office to get my approval for an immediate biopsy that needs to wait four days. I speak with Candice whom I love. She is young, extremely straight forward, yet sensitive. Something I appreciate. I am already a bit shaky. It is probably evident in my voice. Candice, attempting to put my mind at ease, suggests that my something is probably a nothing - most likely a cyst. And so I ask the question that I was afraid to ask in the doctor's office. I know Candice will tell me the truth. "Does a cyst form its own blood supply?" Dead air. And then I hear on the other end of the phone, "Awww..." (I know she wanted to say "Shit" instead. You could hear it in her voice.) "No. A blood supply? They told you that? No. A cyst does not have a blood supply, honey." I knew that. I just needed to hear it from someone that would tell me the truth. Candice did state that fibroid tumors do form their own blood supply. OK...a 50-50 chance. I can do 50-50.

It took at least 10 days for Friday to arrive. Honest. Initially I planned to go to work after the biopsy, but came to my senses with a little assistance from my boss. He strongly suggested I take the day off after the biopsy. Smart man.

I am truly blessed with great friends. Six different friends offered to sit with me at the hospital. We could have had a party. That hospital never would have been the same. Dara lives the farthest away and is generally on Dara time - a minute or two late. She drove down from McHenry; arriving as Adam walked to the bus. She has known Adam since birth and barely recognized my man/child walking down the street. The only thing that has not changed on Adam are his dimples. We get to the hospital where they inform me that I am a bit early. Funny, we arrived at the exact time they told us to get there.

Dara sat with me in the waiting room watching Oprah and eating Altoids. We chatted about everything and nothing. The nurse stopped by to explain the procedure and told me that they would be inserting a titanium clip during the biopsy so that any doctor could locate the biopsy site forever and always. My own internal GPS.

Dara encouraged me to ask many questions in the procedure room. I have a tendency to just go with the flow. It's not that I am not inquisitive, but my mind became rather numb with the overwhelming possibility that my alien being truly is a something. So, gathering courage from Dara and Altoids (wishing that it was liquid courage in the form of Jack), I start to assert my questions on the nurse. She is clearly not use to one of the flock using their brain. If it wasn't for my friend's encouragement, I would have been one of the masses walking into the procedure room with my brain the consistancy of jell-o. The nurse must have told the doctor that there was a rebel in their midst, because when the doctor arrived, she introduced herself, firmly shook my hand and immediately stated, "I hear you have many questions about the clip." She then explained why they needed my homing device. Since the lump is rather small, 1.5cm, and because it tends to play hide and seek, they need a tracking device (my verbage not theirs) to locate it. Unless there is an understandable explanation, I prefer most synthetic objects to not be inserted in my body. She stated a fairly straight forward case and a reasonable explanation. This alien seems quite insufferable and I wouldn't put it past him to go all incognito on me and disappear again. A GPS made perfect sense. The thought of my lump with shades and raincoat made me giggle. They thought I was nervous.

As the doctor explained the procedure of a core biopsy, I positioned myself to watch the monitor. Both the nurse and doctor questioned why I wanted to watch. It was perfectly logical to me...this something is going to be a nothing, so this would be my one and only opportunity to watch. They may have thought I was nuts, but after the doctor showed me how she would take the biopsy (think tapered lighter to light hard to reach candles with a hollow needle inside) and shot the aparatus off; allowing me to hear it (very loud...must have been invented by a man...few women would have created something that obnoxious), we were off. After 3 good biopsies, she asked what I thought about 1 or 2 more samples. I reminded her that this was our one and only time to do this, because I was not returning. She better make sure she had enough. Famous last words.

Dara and I go out for breakfast afterwards and then I go home to ice my boob and sleep. By the way, seat belts are not a good idea after breast biopsies. I eventually took off my seat belt and said if any cop pulled me over, I'd pull up my shirt and show them my very purple boob. I would either get out of the ticket, or arrested for indecent exposure. I really did not care which.

I went to LT's first home football game that night as I promised Kat's friend Eric that I would see him play the JV game. Prior to that evening Eric held a special place in my heart. But that night, Eric branded my heart. He is the only person who reduced me to tears. Good tears though.

First off, many of Kat's friends call me mom and hug me upon site. Some of the girls even scream and then hug. Full frontal hugging was not a possibility that evening. I got very good at side hugging. After a few enthusiastic hugs and seeing the pain on my face, Kat slowly filled in her friends as to what was going on. I watched Eric play and then sat with the parents of my best friend from high school. They were there to watch their grandson play on the varsity team.

After the JV game ended, Eric walked up to me with the saddest eyes I have ever seen. He patted the left side of his chest and just said two simple words, "You can't." I ran down the bleachers and hugged him. I told him he couldn't think that way. I needed him to think positive. We all have to think positive. I hugged him again. Praised his football game and reminded him that I loved him. He hugged me back and told me that he loved me too. Yep. A 15 year old boy who raids my refrigerator and guzzles lemonaide reduced me to tears. I had been strong up until that point.

Because the biopsy was performed on the Friday before Labor Day, we were fortunate enough to have to wait an additional day or two for the results. This alien continues to piss me off. Stops by uninvited, decides to stay, plays hide and seek, installs plumbing, requires a GPS system and now the damn thing shows up on a holiday weekend, forcing me to wait a few extra days for diagnosis. GRRRR!!!!!

The results finally arrive on Tuesday. There is one nurse at my doctors office that really should take a job where she never interacts with people. Coal mining might be a better position for her. Where was Candice? How dare she take a day off?! Who cares if this is a holiday weekend! Did she not know that this was all about me at the moment?! This nurse did not do a very good job of giving me the biopsy results. First she calls in the middle of dinner to tell me that my doctor has already left for the day, but I need to discuss a lumpectomy with my surgeon. Whoa, there Missy! One, I don't have a surgeon. I haven't really needed one since my tonselectomy when I was nine. He is the same doctor that delivered me and has been dead almost 20 years. My guess is that my surgeon is currently unavailable. And two, does this mean it is malignant? Her response was very non-committal and suggests that my doctor call me in the morning as he has (again) already left for the day. Great! I get to wait one more day.

The next morning I call Candice. She sets me straight. My general practitioner wants me to speak with a surgeon. They will provide me with a name or two. Since Adam has an appointment for a sports physical that night, I chat with our doctor after Adam's sports physical. He basically informs me that my alien needs an eviction notice. They cannot determine if it is malignant or not from the biopsy. I thought tissue was either cancerous or not. How can it be inconclusive? Since they biopsied the inside of the tumor, if any cells on the top or bottom are malignant then they will not know until removal. He gives me the name of a surgeon. I ask if I can wait a month. We have family arriving at the end of September and I really prefer surgery after they leave. He looks at me as if I am an alien being. He sternly informs me that I can wait until the beginning of October, but no more.

Honestly, I knew I needed to speak with a surgeon. But for me, I need to let the information seep into my brain. I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer and occasionally just need to think about things before I proceed. I did not want to accept the fact that my something could in fact be a something. Hell, it now appears that not only does my something show up uninvited, play hide and seek, installs plumbing, goes incognito and has personality. My something can actually be Jekyll and Hyde. Is it malignant...is it benign? Get. It. Out. Of. Me. NOW!!!!!

Since I'm not exactly Dolly Parton I ask if there will be a dent. Most likely. Your breast is small (don't be getting personal here Doc!) and the mass is rather large. (Didn't the doctor who performed the biopsy say my alien was small and that is why I needed a GPS device?) Can you medical-types keep the story straight? Maybe the GPS is because my alien likes to play hide and seek.

OK...dent. Can you fill with a little lipo from my hips or tummy? He stares at me blankly, but Candice laughs. I hate when my humor is wasted on people. No, he states slightly condescendingly, they don't fill with lipo.


I decide even if my relatives are arriving at the end of the month, I better meet with my newly appointed surgeon. I want this done on my time table, but at the same time, I am not liking this parasite setting up shop in my breast. For us women, breasts are hollowed territory and this something needs to go. The surgeon is compelled to give me best and worse case scenarios. Best case is great. Remove alien being, stitch me up inside and then superglue me together on the outside. I never even see stitches. A couple days off and ice my breast. OK. I can handle this. I ask him about lipo. He too is seriously lacking a sense of humor. But I am sure they can fill an empty spot. Can't they?

It appears that the type of tumor I have is generally benign when small. People only need to worry when they are large. When large, they can morph from benign to malignant. It is Jekyll and Hyde!!! I Knew It!!! My tumor is on the larger end. Having never done anything half-assed in my entire life, I would not expect it to be any less. Why did the biopsy doctor tell me it was small. Was she just installing GPS devices for the hell of it?! Is this some type of conspiracy theory? Hmmmm.....

OK...my tumor is an over achiever. Of course it is. The more my sponge-like brain soaks up this information, the lights turn on and somebody is home for the first time since this nightmare began. Get it out of me as soon as possible, especially if he is currently Jekyll and has not yet hit Hyde status.

The worse case scenario is not an area I want to entertain. I would face additional surgery depending where Hyde finally staked his residence. As he begins to explain things further, I realize that I would be looking at reconstructive surgery. Wow, all this from a grape sized lump? Whenever I thought about breast surgery, it was always as an enhancement.

As my stomach is sinking farther and farther and I am becoming more and more nauseous, I continue to take notes and ask questions. The only good thing about our worse case scenario is that radiation would win out over chemo. I remember making some stupid remark about having just grown out my hair out to my desired length and that I would be very crabby about losing it. Sometimes I really wish my mouth would not open because I do realize how stupid I occasionally sound. The surgeon reiterates, this is worse case scenario.


He is fairly confident that it is benign.

Can you be sure?


Crap!!! I want to ask his take about the blood supply issue. But remind myself to never ask a question when you are afraid of the answer.

So, September 30th it is.

Really hoping that my psychic is right about all of this. I will have a definite problem with one of my breasts, but everything is going to be OK.

Please, Dear God. Let this all be OK.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Extreme Makeover Dropout

Let's just put it out there; saying it like it is, I am an Extreme Makeover Dropout! Is there a 12-step program for this affliction? Ty Pennington would be so disappointed in me. I could never come up with a bed made out of an old race track and hot wheels. Honestly...not that creative. A Martha Stewart clone? Martha would shake her head in shame. Tim Allen's character from Home Improvement is getting closer, but even if he was occasionally a bumbling fool and clueless about stuff, it all worked out at the end of 30 minutes. Generally it takes me 6-8 months at least! My home decorating adventures are more akin to DIY meets Lizzie Borden...with her ax.

Our house is in dire need of home improvement. Adam often asks if we can write Extreme Makeover. It isn't that bad, except for the snarky plumbing problem, electrical issues and seepage in the basement. With Hurricane Ike's aftermath swamping Chicago, our basement seepage is not slight. We actually contemplated turning the basement into an indoor swimming pool. The front lawn was so flooded that we may have an outdoor one as well.

If I had the time and money we could fix the plumbing and electrical, as well as extend the bedrooms over our garage so Adam's room is not the size of a closet. Plus waterproof my mom's bedroom. It tends to leak during heavy rains and power failures. Oh...and the driveway could use some resurfacing. The weeds in the driveway are ridiculous. How many other houses need to mow and weed kill their driveway? Lastly, after the village idiots allowed the condos behind us to build a fence, we have a 3 foot property drop off in the backyard. If it wasn't for the 6 foot weeds blooming back there, it would be problematic for all visiting toddlers and drunken friends. Hmmm...maybe, Adam is on the right track after all. Little did we know upon purchase that it was a fixer upper in disguise.

It looked so cute. It has so much potential. How odd is it that our house mirrors the men I tend to date?

After the deal was done, one of our first clues that we bought a lemon was the puff of smoke and electrical sparks Adam encountered when pulling the string to his bedroom ceiling fan. He stepped out of his room a little jolted stating, "I feel like a french fry!" Then there were the live wires underneath the kitchen cabinets, lights that dim when the garbage disposal turns on, or better yet just turn on or off on their own. The oddest problem though was when we discovered the previous owner duct taped two pipes together. This little problem was not discovered until a couple years down the road when a wall became a bit spongy. Duct tape is not waterproof. Go figure. I'd love to have a conversation with the previous owners, but they are happily retired in North Carolina. Here's hoping that karma is going to do her job.

My life has been hounded by many home improvement projects, starting with my first condo. I actually love the process of playing with home improvement ideas. When showing my real estate clients properties I can always point out the potential in every home. My only wish is that I could afford a Pottery Barn existance. Instead my projects are more Walmart-esque. My home improvement projects are not always fiascoes, BUT they are never perfectly smooth.

When first engaged, we bought a one bedroom condo together. Although the year was 1987, the place was straight out of the early 70's. It was impeccably decorated, but the 70's home decorating style should NEVER be revisited. The condo's kitchen wallpaper looked as if it was actually gold stucco which perfectly matched the gold in the gold, brown, avocado and rust plaid entryway wallpaper. To say it was a hideous color combination is an understatement. Yet, it was impeccably hideous.

We repainted and re-wallpapered and I learned that Oriental rice-paper is extremely expensive. Who knew?! As usual...champagne taste...beer pocket. We only needed a small amount, the condo was the size of a postage stamp. So, we found a store that had wallpaper remnants. Woo-hoo! Oriental rice paper remnants replaced plaid. I often wondered who besides owners of small condos ever needed wallpaper remnants. It's not like someone living in a normal home is going to wallpaper one half of a wall. No wonder that store eventually went out of busines. Once the condo was painted and wallpapered, I experienced my first decorating fiasco. Well as much of a fiasco as you can have with a postage stamp 1 bedroom condo.

The wallpaper was cream with shades of peach and sage green. We picked out a peachy paint for the living room/dining room combo. Silly me did not realize that paint changes color in sunlight, or lack thereof. My peachy paint was great during the day, but once dusk hit it was more of a pinky/peach which clashed with the severely discounted Oriental wallpaper. Crap!

In our first horrible financial decision, a theme which continued throughout our marriage, we flipped our condo fairly quickly and moved into our townhouse. Soon thereafter I was pregnant with Katrina and was met with the dilemma that every first time mom in a cookie cutter/Stepford Wife townhouse subdivision encounters. Every pregnant woman was measured by her baby's nursery. The poor babies were still floating in cocoon like status, clueless to the fact that their fate was judged and sealed by their Mommy's' decorating tastes. Sadly for Kat, her mom was already a decorating dropout. Every neighbor wanted to see our nursery.

The nursery was a country bunny theme with little country boy and girl bunnies walking with a wagon. I planned on stenciling bunnies all the way around the room. Being a procrastinator to the end, I was fairly along in my final trimester when I started stenciling the walls in the nursery; beginning with the wagon, then overalls, next dresses and finally the bunny heads, ears and hands. Sadly, the color of the bunny heads looked rather cartoon pig pink versus the tan/pink color I envisioned. And my daughter's nursery waited patiently with decapitated bunnies stenciled around the room while I searched for the perfect color. I was petrified that she would be born and brought home to a room of headless bunnies. Hormones and stress do not mix well. I was a basket case over finding the right tannish pinky color for the bunnies. The look of horror on the Stepford Wives faces when they walked into the nursery was almost worth the stress of not finding the perfect bunny color. I'm sure they discussed the nursery behind my back. Hell, they discussed everything behind every ones back. Why should I be any different? In my own sick, warped way, it was rather funny. But eventually the proper bunny color was found and the bunnies got their heads and hands prior to Katrina's birth. But it was close!

Babies, full time jobs, divorce and general life experiences side tracked me from any other home improvement projects for quite a few years. I was too busy to even consider redecorating. One foray into painting Adam's room reduced me to tears. I bought the paint, Mickey Mouse Sorcerer's Apprentice blue and some other Disney lighter blue. I planned to paint when Kat and Adam were with their dad. My eager VanGogh and Picasso were not going to assist me. No how. No way. I knew I was a disaster waiting to happen when painting. With their assistance at 7 & 10, we would have the ceiling and floor painted and nothing on the walls. When I got home from work one night, my mother and children had a "surprise" for me. They painted Adam's room all by themselves. It was a disaster. There was paint everywhere and I sat down on the floor and cried. I was not sure with whom I was angrier. The children who did not follow the guidelines, or the grandparent who did not enforce them. That cured me for about 4 years.

But then last year when Kat graduated from 8th grade and we threw her a graduation party, I had to take home improvement projects seriously. The wallpaper in our bathroom was falling off the walls and I was not about to allow my out-laws to see our home for the first time with wallpaper falling from the ceiling. So, I removed the wallpaper and learned that the wallpaper was covering missing drywall in many places. Again, I looked up at the heavens and asked God, "WHY?!?!?" My easy project was about to take an unexpected turn. There truly are so many unexpected turns in my life.

Not only was there missing drywall, but in other areas, chunks of drywall adhered to the wallpaper upon removal; leaving me to wonder if some of the wallpaper paste included superglue. The nightmare continued with beads of wallpaper paste that refused to come off. So as I mudded, patched and smoothed, my walls would occasionally adopt a pinstripe effect from the superglue-like residual wallpaper paste. Piss me off! I sanded, mudded and finally gave up. The walls were not the smooth canvas I envisioned; meaning I needed to give the paint some type of texture effect. My little wallpaper/paint project was becoming a nightmare and I was more than just a little crabby. To make me loathe the project even more, I stepped backwards against the wet white wall not realizing that my pony tail was about to look as if it had been used as one of my brushes. Great! It was a look. Not the look I generally go for. But...

This bathroom has a lavender tub, toilet and sink. I painted the walls white and planned to give it a texture look of lavender and sage green. So one afternoon, I grabbed a sponge, rags and dry brushes and tried various effects on my wall; constantly painting, wiping off and repainting various colors and styles. I didn't like anything. So, I grabbed my laptop while sitting on the bathroom floor and googled "painting techniques & finishes". There were a ton of ideas. I hated them all. Finally out of complete frustration, I took a paint brush and dotted lavender paint on the walls, swept a dry paint brush over the wet dots. It wasn't a bad look. It was different. The jury was out on a verdict, but I was running out of time. When done, it was OK. Not my favorite, but OK. The sage green was too much, but we had a unique lavender and white bathroom. My Sigma sisters would be so proud.

That same summer, before the party, I also built a reading grotto in front of our house. The idea for the grotto sprung when I parked in our weed infested driveway and saw my daughter sitting on the ground with her back against the garage door. She wanted to read outside, and wanted to know what was happening in the neighborhood. The only place to sit was in the driveway.

With that thought in mind, I attempted our grotto. It too is not perfect. But fifty 50 pound bags of stone later, and too many paving bricks to count, we have a nice little place to sit and read in the summer. Like our driveway, it is fairly weed infested at the moment. The plastic under the stones did not block out the weeds like the packaging promised. I am so home improvement challenged! And so gullible when people tell me it is fool proof. This fool will always be able to prove them wrong.

Always a glutton for punishment, this March we decided that Kat's wallpaper definitely needed to come down. Mine was falling off on its own, so I might as well do two projects at the same time, right? What was I thinking?! It's not like I have anything else to do.

When we moved in, Kat's room was the girly pink room with raspberry sherbet carpet and butterfly wallpaper. Kat is not a girlie girl and HATED the room. We removed the carpet immediately, but the wallpaper remained for 5 years. In her hatred of her butterfly wallpaper, she, with her grandmother's permission, allowed her friends to write on her walls. There were poems, lists, hellos and well wishes, letters and drawings. Think of your high school year book. Now picture it on wallpaper. We initially tried to save some of the more sentimental comments. Eventually, we opted for taking pictures.

Her wallpaper was impossible to remove. Possibly due to all that Sharpie ink. We scored the wallpaper and then Diffed it. After two weeks of trying to chemically remove it, we rented a steamer; removing the majority, but not all. We attempted Dif again and more came off. Many days I came home from work and Kat was using tweezers to remove the specs of wallpaper permanently adhered to the wall. Finally, I just painted over the suckers and tell people it is texture!

Kat is decision challenged, except when it comes to pizza...that she knows...bacon and black olive, please. Ask her to choose between two movies at Blockbuster, or two books at Borders and she is completely incapable. She acts as if it is a life and death decision. Ask her to choose paint colors for her room - Oh! My!! God!!! Do you know how many colors there are at Home Depot and Menards?! Do you realize how many color combinations are possible with Ralph Lauren, Behr, and Pittsburgh Paints? We reviewed them all. Do you know how nearly impossible it was for her to pick colors? Her first thought was blue and lavender which matched her comforter. Then dark plum, with metallic plum stripes. Then it was dark plum and 1 black wall (decorated with a silver metallic moon and gold metallic stars). One day when I got home from work there were samples of red, orange and yellow splashed on her walls. What the hell!? We had been on one side of the color wheel and suddenly...BAM!!...jumped all the way to the opposite side. Did you know there is a difference between purple and plum? There is. Because once we revisited that theme again, we were hit with a plethora of color combinations until she finally chose Grap Surf, Vintage Purple and Moon Rise for her trim.

My paint choices were fairly simple. In Ralph Lauren speak, the colors are Celery and Vera Cruz Suede with Daisy White trim. Painting both rooms simultaneously were a challenge which I have tried to block out of my mind. There are snippets of the nightmare that occasionally flash through my brain; wearing sunglasses while I painted the ceiling to block out paint falling in my eyes (Thank God for Steve and Berry's cheep sunglasses.) Other flashes include Adam painting the accent wall color on an unaccented wall, my realizing that the color I initial wanted for 3 of my 4 walls (Shoreline Blue), was much more Caribbean blue than green/blue requiring a trip to Home Depot covered in paint to pick out the new color of choice - Celery, Maggie doing the best trim job I have ever seen, Kat and Adam are whizzes with a roller brush, Kat's friend Joe unknowingly stepping into lavender paint and then onto hard wood floors. Kat not realizing there was wet paint in the paint tray and dripping paint all the way down the sidewalk and driveway. All in all, painting was the easiest part. It was the wallpaper removal and paint clean up that nearly killed me. The paint project started in March...I just finished decorating my room this week. Yep! 6 Months! Right on schedule.

Adam, now feeling rather left out of the DIY projects, asked if we could paint his room...the color of a wolf. Someone please tell me, what are the colors of a wolf. They are not part of the color wheel I have recently visited. Also, aren't they rather dark for a room the size of a closet? I was leaning towards Shoreline Blue. Hell, we have a full gallon sitting in the garage! Hmmm...

That project will have to wait for a bit. I am not ready for another 6 months of hell. But since his room is the size of a closet, maybe it will only be a 3 month project. It will be finished just in time for Christmas.

On that note, I better go mow my driveway. Bye!

Thursday, July 3, 2008


Religion keeps popping up in my life these days. It's not that I've ignored it in the past, but for whatever reason, I've had more conversations in the past two months about religion and spirituality than any other time in my life. Then the other day I visited a blog where the writer posed the topic of religion. He asked people their opinions of organized religion. Being a definite religious blend, I have a lot to say on a very sensitive subject.

I was raised Catholic, yet my father's family are the only Sicilian Baptists I know, or ever heard of. HONEST!! During the depression, my grandparents could not feed their 6 children. The local Baptist church aided in feeding and clothing my father and his siblings. Gran and Poppo, fresh from Sicily, did not know how to repay the church, so they did the only thing they knew to do, convert. Except for my dad and an occasional cousin, my dad's family were the only Sicilian's I knew who did not drink or smoke. Most Italian weddings are filled with wine and dancing. Not ours. The "heathens" of the family were usually trying to find a nearby liquor store to smuggle contraban into the reception hall.

When my dad married my mom all sorts of conflict and chaos ensued. He couldn't marry that "Catholic" girl! Funny, just a few short years prior they were all Catholic. I don't think anyone saw the hypocrasy behind their concerns. To them lines were drawn. They were now Baptist, so Dad should marry a Baptist just like all of his siblings. And to be fair, I am positive there were a few raised eye brows on Mom's side about Mom not marrying a Catholic. The two of them did something even more scandalous for both families. They ran off and got married by a justice of the peace. Eventually, Dad converted (back?) to Catholocism and they were married in a Catholic church. When I think about it now, it all seems odd. Gran loved my mom inspite of her being the wrong religion and Gram O'Sh loved Dad. Much to the chagrin of my dad's family, we were raised Catholic. Not the best Catholics (which bothered Gram O'Sh just as much) but we did occasionally go to church and went through all the rites of passage: Baptism, First Communion and Confirmation.

Although I didn't grace the steps of a church too often, I always loved the ritual of mass. The one area that I always questioned in Catholicism was confession. In theory it sounds great, but were you really absolved of sin after confession. Shouldn't there be some remorse to go along with your actions. Sadly, I know people that can be cruel, or rude to others, but justify it because once they walk in the confessional they are free of sin. WHAT?! Was that really how the program was set up? Break a commandment, go to confession, slate clean; repeat. Just one of the many questions I have about religion.

After doing battle with the Catholic church during my divorce, I opted out of raising my children with any religion. Our Parish in McHenry suggested that I stay and fix my marriage. They would not assist with counseling. I didn't consider annulment an option. Kat and Adam existed, so there was a marriage. Good thing I thought that way, as they informed me that they would not assist with an annulment if I requested one. I was told repeatedly that in God's eyes I needed to return to my marriage. No ifs, ands or buts. Sorry, God. I was not going to subject myself or my children to that living hell any longer. And so we left. The marriage and the church.

Later the Arch Diocese of McHenry told me that if I paid them $400 my marriage would be annulled. Hmmm...annulled with two small children. That seemed too weird. Besides a year ago, they said it was impossible. No thank you. That's when I looked into a Protestant based church and finally decided that I am completely unsure about organized religion. My beliefs are more spiritual than anything else. I believe in a higher Being as well as angels (spirit guides), etc. To me, He/She has many different names for many different cultures - God, Allah, Buddha, The Big Kahuna...

I believe in prayer. God, Jesus and I chat all the time. I need to remember to say "Thank you" much more often. These past couple of weeks have been strong reminders that I do not say thank you enough. The area of religion that consistently confounds me, and one of the reasons why I walked away from organized religion, is that people are ridiculed or ostracized for their religious beliefs, or lack thereof, as well as their differences. Think about it, my father was not supposed to marry my mother because she was, God forbid, Catholic! I'm sure the Catholic side did not recognize their marriage until they were married in a church. They both believed in God and Jesus, so what is wrong with two divergent viewpoints? To me, God would not condone ridiculing others for their beliefs as He/She is a benevolent Being; loving anyone and everyone.

The idea of someone being killed because he/she is different is impossible for me to wrap my head around. Yet, this has been the cornerstone for wars. Someone recently tried to explain it to me and although his arguement was quite persuasive, it is still a difficult thought to swallow.

Organized religion seems to categorize people which I find extremely unhealthy. Should a women fall out of favor with her church because she finally found the strength to file for divorce and leave an abusive marriage? Should homosexuals be told that they are sinners because of their God-given sexual orientation? Just because I believe one way and you another does not mean that we fight to the death. To me, diversity is to be embraced, to ignite discussion and growth, and finally a way to learn about each other.

Leaving organized religion offered a variety of challenges and many would say I failed miserably while raising Kat and Adam. I was never very good at biblical stories and my children gleaned what they could from me, but more so from the neighborhood children. I remember one day when Adam and Jake (his best friend at the time) were 5 and sitting in our living room discussing the story of Adam and Eve. Jake went to a Lutheran school, so he had a much better grasp of religion at 5 than I did at 40. The two of them were talking about Adam (of Adam and Eve fame, not my son) eating the apple when Kat walked in the room. She turned to me and stated that Adam and Jake really had the whole Snow White story mixed up. My children were obviously raised more along the lines of the Gospel according to Disney.

In fact this past Easter, in front of the relatives, Kat announced that she was pretty sure that Jesus was just a regular guy who did a pretty good magic trick or two and had everyone bamboozled. Our relatives are sure that I am raising devil worshippers and are now praying over their souls. I questioned many beliefs while growing up, but wasn't as vocal. Kinda wish my kids weren't so vocal either. As a parent you can't wait for your children to speak and then when they are teens, at times, you really wish they learned to be quiet!

Yeah...I am in definite trouble when it comes to my children and religion. Quite often I wonder, "Who ARE you two?"

Kat's questions started with her first communion. By then the church already knew that I was planning a break. Kat, my little sage soul, at the ripe ol' age of 7 questioned many things in her CCD class. Then, due to a bout with the flu, she threw up suddenly and forcibly on her desk in CCD and possibly (if I remember correctly) her teacher. Kat swears her religious life was fairly non-existent after her teacher yelled at her for being sick. After her first communion we planned our escape. Looking back, I should not have made her follow through with her first communion. It was rather hypocritical on my end. Yet, at the time, I was confused and thought if she started something she should finish it. The fact that Katrina lost a tooth just prior to her communion and we almost had blood spilling down the front of her white dress should have been another sign that organized religion was not for us three.

When it came time for Adam to make his First Communion, we were living here and he heard how much money his friends received. His commitment to religion was purely economic based. So, he did not even enroll in a CCD class.

Kat has always entertained the idea of a more spirituality than religion. If you ask her today, she will tell you that she is more Wiccen than anything else; being one with the world. Adam has announced that he is atheist and believes in evolution. Sadly, Adam also learned freedom of speech and religion can be quite costly. He has been ostracized by many of his friends due to his beliefs. Many of the kids at his school are Latino and they take their religion very seriously. Those children do not take kindly to someone who questions Jesus' existence. It was a hard lesson to learn. But freedom of speech and religion unfortunately have their costs.

I believe in a higher power. Who else could create such amazing sites and sounds. The beauty of a sunrise, or a baby's laugh have to be the creation of a higher Being. I am lucky and blessed to be here and to have the most amazing friends and relatives. That fact alone are acts of God. Yes, I do need to say "Thank you" much more often.

Kat, Adam and I are all firm believers of karma. What goes around comes around. We believe in treating others the way we want to be treated, with love and respect. Lies and cheating have no place in our lives. We may not be religious, but we are good people. Not perfect. But good. We love and care for others. A trait that some of the most devout need to learn.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

My Man-Child

So...as I'm standing in the living room the other day, Adam walks up and states, unbeknown to me, the obvious, "What's up, Shorty!" As I turn to look at him, my eyes naturally focus on where his eyes are usually located - eye level with me. That's when I realize that my eyes are now focused on his nose and my eyes need to travel ever so slightly upward to look into his. His eyes are smiling at the fact that he is taller than Mom. What the hell just happened? When did he get taller? Granted, I am somewhere between 5'1" and 5'2", so being taller than me isn't a huge feat. But Adam is my baby, not this "man-child" staring at me.

The signs have been there. I just chose not to acknowledge them. A year ago in January was my first realization that Adam was growing up. The poor kid had one of the worst flus I had ever seen. He spent 4 days with his head hanging into a bowl, garbage can, or toilet. Anytime he ate anything, he threw up. During one of his many trips to the bathroom, as he kneeled in front of the toilet, I witnessed the biggest feet I had ever seen. I should have been next to him holding his head, soothing him as he got sick for the umpteenth million time, yet I stood in the doorway mesmerized by his feet. It was amazing how big they had become. It was as if someone put clown feet on my then 11 year old.

Then there was his 6" growth spurt from June to December. His request for size 10 Pumas this Christmas. His deepening voice. I no longer have to play a guessing game when calling home to determine which child I am talking to. Neither one liked the fact that I didn't recognize their voice, but for the past 12 years they sounded exactly alike. Conversations began with, "Hi, Baby! Watcha doin'?" Generally, from their answer I knew who I was talking to. Occasionally, if their response was noncommittal, a little investigative questioning was required. For a while when Adam would call me he would start out with, "Hi Mommy. This is Adam." just to clarify who was on the phone. Now, there is no question. Adam's voice, when not squeaking, is deep.

Up until last year there was a voice mail message from Adam saved on my cell phone. It was a message he left when he was 5 or 6. In a very sing-song voice it said, "Hi Mommy! This is Adam. I love you! See you at 6:00". Verizon promised me the message would not be lost when I requested a new cell number. They were wrong. Although very apologetic, that precious message was lost. I was crushed yet I can still hear that sweet voice in my head. Just as I can hear his voice when he woke me daily as a pre-schooler, "Wake up, Mommy! It's a bright and shiney day outside!" Although I always wanted to pull the covers over my head at 5AM, how could that sweet sentiment not make you wake up and hug the little guy?

He has always loved coffee, but it was generally a splash of coffee with a ton of French Vanilla creamer and milk. Last month his mug contained much more coffee than creamer. Two weeks ago he announced we didn't have any mugs that were manly. All of our mugs were girly with flowers, or "Mom" or "Gramma" written on them. There weren't any "man mugs" around. He finally found a brown Bloomingdales mug. That is his mug of choice. His "man mug." While out shopping for a Mother's Day gift, I found some forest green mugs for him to use as well...just in case his "man mug" is dirty.

I knew this day was arriving, but it was always at a distance. Now...his maturity is staring me in the face...or, actually, over my head. He starts middle school next year and has requested more responsibility around the house. Where did my little guy go? In a blink he's no longer my baby. I'm a little sad. Yet, very proud of my son and extremely curious as to what Adam will do with his life.

Regardless, Kat still reminds him that no matter how tall he gets, or how old he is, she will always whip his butt.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

On Line Dating - II

In February, 2007 I swore I'd never on-line date again. Then in October, 2007, with the realization that forever is an interminable amount of time, I attempted on-line dating one more time. Today, I've come to the realization that maybe on-line dating really isn't for me. Am I destined to a life alone? Well, that is an unpleasant thought. And anyone ever walking into this house realizes "alone" is definitely subject to interpretation. Summer's on its way and this house resembles a zoo, or more appropriately, and insane asylum during warm weather.

I have to admit, that on-line dating has become an amusing source of frustration. My tongue firmly planted in cheek these days. And once again, God has impressed upon me His/Her warped, sick and wacky sense of humor. A very sage southern gent keeps reminding me that this whole concept of dating is a numbers thAng. Plus, it only takes one. I get all that, but my numbers seem to be seriously skewed! Per my little ol' dating website, my profile recently surpassed 4700 views. Why am I putting that number into cyberspace? Boggles the mind doesn't it? Do you want to know how many dates I've had out of those 4700 views? Two. Both dates with the same guy back in November. If this is a numbers thAng then I am seriously in trouble.

Back in November, when I was unjaded and filled with the promise of many, many dates I met Don. After a few emails, we decide to meet. He teaches architectural history at a couple of Chicago colleges. We graduated from the same University a year apart, our kids are similar ages and we had similar interests. We agreed to meet at a little restaurant in LaGrange called Palmers. Now, I should have known better than to meet there because that restaurant has bad karma all over it from my blind date with a cop. Note to self, never agree to go to Palmers on a date EVER again.

We never actually made it to Palmers because on my way into the parking garage, my car battery decided to die...in the middle of the entrance to the garage. Ever multi-tasking, I stopped in the entrance because the lockbox to pay for my monthly commuter parking is attached to the parking garage. Since no one was behind me, I hopped out to drop off my check. Out of habit (I guess...it's the only reasonable explanation there is) I turned off the car. Fifteen seconds later, when I hopped back into my yellow beast attempting to start the engine nothing happened. CRAP!!! I looked up at the heavens above me thinking this can't be happening. It was. It did.

Yes, folks, no one could enter the garage until my bright yellow vehicle moved its butt out of the way! And my bright yellow vehicle wasn't moving out of the way until the battery got a well needed jolt of juice! Yes, God has a seriously wacky, wacky sense of humor!

So, I call Don, praying that he has jumper cables. He didn't. Neither did I. Mine were sitting on the floor of my garage. An excellent place for them, don't you agree? He pulls up behind my car. We introduce ourselves and I can tell he is a bit put out by the turn of events. I want to tell him, "Sweetie, you need to learn to roll with the punches...especially if you are going to hang with me. My life is chock full of rolling with punches." But, I don't...tell him that is...and decide to wait and see how the evening plays out.

A friend comes to my rescue who admonishes me for not having jumper cables in my car and shakes his head when he learns where they are sitting. How bad would I look if I told him that even if the jumper cables were handy, I wouldn't have a clue what to do with them? Don follows me to the dealership where I drop off my car so they can install a new battery in the morning and we go out for a drink to a little bar by my house. After a pleasant evening of conversation, he drives me home.

OK...that went well...he passed the rolling with the punches test after all. We both have a nice time and agree that we need to go out again sometime...soon. So, we do. On Friday, we meet at a bar near my office where we bump into a table of 10 guys with whom I work. Don asks if we can go to another bar. Sure. Do you not like the idea of my office-mates nearby? I rather liked the idea of them in eye shot since I didn't really know Don that well. Realizing it could be rather disconcerting for him, I agree to go somewhere else. We have a couple of drinks and great conversation. He brings up the subject of moving our relationship at a rather slow pace. Whew! I am very content on moving slow; refusing to make the same mistakes I made earlier in the year. (Offering the opportunity to make room for new and improved mistakes.) Slow...good...Mary likes slow...snail pace slow...excellent. I want to be friends first then work on the whole relationship thing. Sounds like a great plan. He drives me to my car parked at the train station. And attempts to maul me.

What the hell happened to slow??!!?!?
He apologizes.
I get in my car and drive away.

On Sunday, I get an email telling me that he has thought of me continually since Friday. He can't wait to see me again. Call as soon as I get this email. Even if we can only spend an hour together it would be great. Tempted to log on to dictionary.com to make sure I understand the meaning of slow...because his meaning is WAY different than mine, I email back stating I'm flattered, but gently remind him that we were moving slow. He calls to apologize for mauling me and for rushing the relationship. He suggests I call him sometime - on my terms - and we will go out. I do just as he suggests. I call a few days later, got his voicemail, left a message suggesting we go out and never hear from him again.

Yep. That went well.

I took the holidays off, but once January hit, I was back on track; seeing who I'd meet. I'd wink. Email. Respond. They all lead down dead end roads. Until I met Jim. His pictures were a little quirky, but they were definitely creative. His profile stated that he recently moved back to Chicago after being away for 15 years. He was looking for someone to reacquaint him with the city. It also stated he is a photographer which explained some of the interesting shots. I made the bold move and emailed him. Which once again proved that I should never trust my instincts.

His return email was a poem stating that I inspired him. Not sure how my short note could be inspiration, but being a muse always boosts ones ego. We emailed back and forth, yet his emails were always in poem form. Little did I know what that foreshadowed. We exchange phone numbers as I planned to be in his area the following week. When he called I realized that not only does he write letters as poems, he only speaks in rhyme...and in the third person. At first, I was intrigued. He made rhyming and third person conversation appear so easy. In less than 5 minutes, I was irritated. Jim also had an alter-ego named Mr. Positive who recited daily affirmations. Between the rhyming, third person and alter ego, I was praying the conversation would end soon. We had two phone conversations. Both were surreal at best.

My kids have a knack for interrupting the most important of phone calls with the least important crisis. Once while discussing a real estate deal with a client, Adam complained that there weren't any pizza rolls left in the freezer and wondered why I didn't hop into our car and careen off to Jewel to pick up more for his hungry little belly. Although both Kat and Adam are accustomed to my withering stares during these incidents, I too have become accustom to their popping into a room while I'm on the phone.

When they were younger and they attempted to interrupt a phone conversation I'd launch into the 1, 2, 3 checklist. They knew the first finger held up meant, "Is somebody bleeding, or is a major appendage broken?". Two fingers meant, "Is the house on fire?" Three fingers meant, "Is someone dead?" If they answered "No" to all three questions, whatever crisis they were experiencing better wait until I was off the phone. Do you think that during either of surreal phone conversations they interrupted with crisis du jour?! No! This is the first time in their short little lives they chose to respect my privacy. I'd have happily faked a house fire, broken leg, or immediate purchase of pizza rolls!

(Be careful what you wish for.)

Soon I received an email from Fred who is a governmental consultant in Iraq. He was coming home in April, saw my profile and was interested in getting to know me. His message stated that if we hit it off maybe we could go out to dinner when he got home. I read his profile, but did not respond immediately. Although intrigued by his profession, he mentioned wanting to meet someone who could pick up at a moments notice and travel. That is SO not my life! I decided to write anyway, but before I could put fingers to keyboard I received a slap across the face...all the way from Iraq. I was internationally picked up and dumped before I could even respond.

Fred's second note stated he noticed that I checked out his profile, that I seemed pretty, but my profile wasn't anything special. He compared our salaries and stated that I obviously wanted to be taken care of, but wondered why he would he want to take care of a 46 year old single mother, when he could have a 26 or 36 year old woman. Then wished me luck in my search. OUCH!!!

Fred made me crabby! I sent Fred a note back thanking him for showing me his true colors before I wasted any more time and suggested if he needs the merits of a more experienced woman spelled out over a 26 year old girl we truly had nothing to discuss.

This is just ridiculous!!

Then I met Steve. Steve is quiet. Sweet. A vegetarian Buddhist(?)/Hindu(?) high school teacher who is currently on a cleansing fast. I tend to be hyper at times, so a serene person sounded like a very good thing to me. His voice was soft, controlled and his words were carefully thought out. Someone who could ground me when I move into warp-speed. Steve and I chatted for quite a while. When we finally figure out the logistics of meeting, Steve drops a bomb on me. This is one I never saw coming. Neither will you.

Steve told me that he joined a tantric sex club. Yes, you read that right. This time I used dictionary.com to make sure I understood the meaning of tantric sex, "a Hindu philosophy combining spiritual and indulgent sexual practices". Yep, except for the Hindu part, I was pretty spot on that definition. In this club he is partnered with two women and they help each other "heal". Clothed or unclothed. They assist each others' every need as they "heal." Clothed or unclothed. His concerns were whether he could hold a monogamous relationship if he entered into these sessions unclothed. Ever the PR rep and being as diplomatic as humanly possible, I ask for the website (which I have since forgotten...sorry folks) to do my own research before destroying his phone number. Rather than just falling off the face of the earth, I called to say that I couldn't meet him - but wasn't honest enough to tell him that it was due to his club. I chickened out. Ever diplomatic. Ever the wimp.

Honestly, you can't make this stuff up!
Please note, the above names have been changed to protect the truly wacky.

Around the same time frame I start chatting with two men. One fairly distant, and one local. David - the fairly distant one, is from Georgia. He is charming, funny and has two teenage daughters. The local guy, Mitch, has just been accepted to grad school, divorced with a young son. I "met" them both within days of each other. It was the weekend where I successfully juggled waaaayyy too many activities in one day. A talent that I have almost honed into an art form.

That Saturday, Kat was going to her turn-about dance and Adam to a birthday party. In the morning I worked at the real estate office for a couple of hours. Mom dropped Kat off at the office so I could take her out for a manicure. After that we picked up her friend, Marina; bringing her back to our house. Alex, who's father rescued me and my dead car back in November, came by to do their hair for the dance. While she made them gorgeous, I watched Alex's 22 month old daughter, Ryan. Quickly remembering that 22 month old toddlers have the energy equal to a nuclear blast and an unquenchable curiosity. She is one busy little girl!

Once Marina was gorgeous, I drove her to a friend's house for group photos and dropped Adam off at the birthday party. Only to get home, say good-bye to Alex and her mini nuclear reactor, help Kat get dressed, take pictures and drive her to the dance since her boyfriend had to work that night. Come home make a quick dinner. Whew! Relax for a few minutes until Adam arrived home from the party. He and I chatted for a while until I left to pick Kat up from the dance. Her boyfriend stoped by from work with a custom made pizza from his job. (I like this kid!) Then a few more of Kat's friends arrive on our door step. My day started at 7AM and ended at 1AM. These are typical days for me when the kids are home. Occasionally an open house, or house showing is thrown into the mix - not to mention errands, grocery shopping, etc., etc., etc.

I've always joked that I would never date anyone out of state since I don't have time to date anyone within my own zip code...but maybe that's the whole problem. If I dated someone at a distance, I would know to take a weekend here or there to be with that person. So, that night, with that thought in mind, while a variety of high school kids and Adam were sitting at my kitchen table, I expanded my search. And I "met" David. I don't even know what I entered into my search, but there he was. His profile simultaneously touched my heart and made me laugh. Parts of it were beautiful, other parts hysterical. Although very far away, I knew he was someone that I would want as a friend. He is now someone who I hope is going to stay a friend...albeit a very long distance friend.

David answered my initial letter and told me up front he was dating someone. Normally, I'd just say thanks for the note and wish him the best, but instead I told him if they ever came up to Chicago, I'd happily be their tour guide, or give them some "non-touristy" places to visit. From there we built a friendship. His emails have made me full out belly laugh more than once. He occasionally becomes my dating cheerleader with an email question of "Soooooooooo...how's Match goin'?" Generally not well.

It's sad that the best rapport and conversations are with a man 11 hours away...who is dating someone. Once again proof that God has a wacky, warped and sick sense of humor!!! But I like my new friend and hope that one day he and his family will trek up north. I'd like to meet them.

That same evening I chatted with Mitch; exchanging phone numbers, he mentioned that he preferred to write vs. call. He thought it would be more romantic. He marveled at my busy schedule and asked if we could meet the following week - which was Kat and Adam's spring break. A few weeks prior I had injured my back. It has yet to heal properly and at the time I was busy coordinating an MRI, as well as jumping from doctor appointments to chiropractor appointments and coordinating a visit of one of Kat's friends from our old neighborhood. I explained that once I knew those logistics, I'd let him know when I was available. After looking at my calendar, I suggested Tuesday. He suggested Monday. I had an appointment that day. So I suggested Wednesday. I didn't hear from him. When I wrote again, I received an email stating that my schedule is extremely frustrating and disappointing. I KNOW!!! Babe, you are preaching to the choir! I wrote him back; apologizing for not making the time to meet him. I'll never hear from him again.

That is when the realization hit me that many non-custodial parents haven't a clue as to what life is like for the custodial parent. Kat and Adam are with me 12 out of 14 days. When they are at their dad's they are not even gone a full 48 hours and my Friday evening every other week is spent driving 1 hour north to his house and driving 1 hour home. Their dad is not faced with coordinating who needs to be where and at what time. It will ease up when Kat starts driving, but until then my life is very full - bursting at the seams full. Between working full time, a part-time real estate career, side projects and attempting to be a present parent to my children, my time is limited. Throw in an unscheduled MRI and doctor visits and the whole mix is off kilter. Is it an excuse so I don't have to get close to someone? Or is it a fact of life for me right now? I don't know the answer. How do I fit it all in? If the right guy came along would I know? I hope so. I've juggled it all before because I wanted to be with someone. Hopefully, I'd do it again.

My dating life was turning into a sieve with more men leaving than arriving. The eternal optimist keeps saying, "All you need is one."

Continually giving "the good ol' college try", I found a profile of a man who lives in the next town. He is an architect. A widower with 3 small children. His profile could have been written by me. I sent him a note. He wrote back stating the same thing. It was uncanny how similar our profiles were. Unfortunately, he felt zero chemistry towards me (which I read as, "You are not cute") and wished me well. Yep...God...wacky, wacky sense of humor!

After that, Kat announced she is glamming me up and taking new pictures of me. She says I'm beautiful. But then reminded me to make an eye doctor appointment because she needs glasses. My life is filled with irony.

So my on-line subscription expires in a couple of days. The masochist in me is very curious as to what else can befall my attempts at love and romance in the on-line dating world. The optimist wants to believe that there can't be any more like Jim, Fred and Steve. The realist is beginning to wonder if I am just an actor in God's universal sitcom.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Will I ever have the answers?

The other day Adam walked up from his little cubby in the family room that is basically Xbox 360 Central. He found me sitting in my favorite spot in the house. He was angry...ranting about the injustices of being 12...scheduled bedtimes, showers, homework, the fact that someone ruined his hieroglyphics project at school. The list was endless. Finally (I can be a little slow), realizing this wasn't about tween angst, I asked what was up.

My little guy with tears in his eyes asked why so many people were dying in this war. Why is there war? Why do people have to kill people? I have a hard enough time explaining war to myself. So, to try to explain it to Adam was near impossible. I was honest...I don't know the reasons, nor the answers. As far as I'm concerned, war is senseless. His response is that we should kill who is responsible. Well...that sure would make a lot of people happy in this country, but is quite illegal and I'm not sure killing over killing is the answer. There is so much senseless death at the moment.

Not just regarding war. Look at our college campuses, malls, every senseless act of violence to speak of. I never really realized until now how odd the phrase "senseless act of violence" truly is. Of course violence is senseless. What initial act of violence ever makes sense?

Adam is afraid. Afraid of war. Will he have to go there one day? God, I hope not. When he was 8 he wanted to be a Navy Seal. He loved the idea of saving the world...being a hero. Now with a little acquired wisdom over the past third of his life, he realizes that the act of being a hero could get him killed. I don't want to raise a coward, but I, just like every other parent in this world, wants to keep my children safe for as long as humanly possible.

A couple of weeks ago, our family celebrated my mom's birthday. We were all sitting around the table, Mike and Renee, Mark, Ashley and Donny as well as Kat, Adam, myself and the birthday girl. Kat who is loving world history was discussing war with her uncles. Now, as liberal as we are, Mark and Mom are as conservative. Renee sides with us, Mike somewhere in between. Ashley is definitely her father's child and Donny, smart guy that he is, kept his mouth closed. I really don't know where his political views stand and with our heated group, he was probably smart to keep quiet. Ashley could have dumped him, or Kat thrown him out of the house (don't be messin' with my girl in a heated debate).

Mark made the comment that we should just bomb Iraq and Afghanistan. I have always taken issue with the thought of bombing to stop a war. The photos from Hiroshima were burned into my brain at a very young age and make me shiver upon thought. Kat jumped on to her Uncle's statement and ran with it. Much to her dismay though, Kat adds comic relief even when she is discussing a serious topic. I will first attempt to explain what she meant to say, and then replace it with what she did say.

Kat learned in world history about Shiites and Sunnis. If I have my facts correctly, the Sunnis are 90% of the population and are not the extremists whereas the Shiites are the other 10% crazy people. If I'm wrong flip flop it. It boils down to 90% good - 10% bad. (So...after that statement you understand where Kat gets her comic relief.) ANYWAY...Kat wanted to know why we should bomb a whole country when 90% of the people are thrilled that they have some sort of democracy. Why bomb a country when only 10% are problematic?

Unfortunately, Kat being Kat and completely hyped up over the fact that she had her facts and figures straight even if she jumbled up the names.

Her argument started with, "Uncle Buddha (a loving nickname given to Mark after he survived a 20 foot fall, crushing his entire right side and subsequently gaining a few pounds during recovery. Don't feel too bad about Mark's Buddha nickname...he's nicknamed her Kat-Tastrophe!!), how can you even think about wiping out a whole country when 90% of the people are good? The Shinazi's are only 10% of the population. They are the crazy ones. You can't massacre a complete country when 90% of the people haven't done anything wrong."

We all stopped at Shinazi.

The whole table at the same time looked at Kat and asked, "SHINAZIS?!!?"

"Yeah, Shinazi's! You know the bad guys. The Shinazis! They only make-up 10% of the population. Shinazis!!" (looking at us all like we are idiots.) I'm envisioning Hitler with a burka.

After repeated questioning of what the hell she was talking about, Mike finally figured it out. You mean the Shiites and the Sunni's? What the hell are Shinazi's? And Kat in her Katlike ability to dismiss anything and everything, "Well, you knew what I was talking about, so what's the big deal?"

Actually, we could replace the names with Sharks and Jets. Tulips and buttercups. Who cares what they are called? Do we really need to annihilate a whole country so our loved ones can come home? We have just hit a new milestone in this war: 4,000 US troops killed in Iraq. When will it end?

How do I explain the fact that men and women are over there fighting for us. For our freedom. We need to thank them, yet I can't stomach the fact that they are there. It makes me frustrated and angry because I can't fathom what it would be like to send a son or daughter to war. The not knowing. Just book me a padded cell, please.

Do I tell my son that? If he's scared. Should he see me scared as well? Shouldn't I be the strong one with answers? What if I don't know the answers? Do I punt? Parental punting is OK with minor issues. Not sure I should advocate punting with issues like this. My guy was sad, scared and needed to know that it will all be OK. Do I lie and say it will be fine and pray that it will be very soon. Jeez we've been in this war for 5 years. How much longer will it be? In 6 years he could enlist. I'm sure there are some parents out there now who 5 years ago had a 13 year old and were positive the war would be over before their son or daughter turned 18. How many of those teens have enlisted? How many of those teens will die before its over?

I understand protecting our country. But it sickens me that it has to be done.

The morning of 9/11 I remember that I left for work late that day. I was going to drive the kids to school for some odd reason. Adam was in kindergarten, Kat in 3rd grade. Adam dressed in overalls and a horizontal striped shirt. Funny how you remember the oddest things. Our neighbor called to say a plane hit one of the twin towers. We turned on the TV. I was expecting to see a prop plane. That is when we saw the second plane hit. Adam turned to me and asked if they were drunk drivers. Truly, out of the mouth of babes. Comprehending that this wasn't some accident, yet not fully wrapping my head around the events, Kat stated what I was thinking. Mom, that wasn't an accident was it? No, Baby. I don't think so.

I was sick to my stomach.

Kat couldn't handle the events. Someone suggested that if she was so upset, I should protect her from the images. How do I protect her when it was everywhere. She refused to have the TV on because she couldn't stand seeing the constant coverage. She refused to walk into a grocery store because the images were plastered on every magazine and newspaper. When everyone else cheered because we heard planes again, my daughter shook at the sound of their engines overhead. They were a reminder and a source of fear. Any time a plane flew over our house, she ran inside afraid it was going to crash. The Sunday after the attack, I was reading the Tribune, my chair facing the hallway, when I heard a noise. I lowered my paper to find my 9 year old daughter sitting cross legged on the floor, rocking back and forth in the hallway, sucking her thumb, holding a blanket and teddy bear. I didn't realize the back page of the Trib showed people jumping from the tower. It was her first image that morning. How horrible.

Again, I was sick to my stomach. I can hug my children and tell them I love them. Calm their fears and tell them it's going to be OK. Tell them what they need to hear. What they want to hear. Yet, I don't know how to talk to my children about war. I'm not an advocate, yet I know it is a necessary evil. I don't have the answers. Will I ever? If so, do I really want to comprehend war?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Conversations with a Kat

Katrina: "Mom, I want to learn to drive. Everyone I know is driving."

Me: "You will...one day."

Kat starts naming her friends that have permits and are already driving. One is supposedly driving with 5 family members in her car. (Note to self, stay off the sidewalks in our surrounding towns). Since they haven't even started driver's ed, I'm not sure how the kids have accomplished this feat. Then, in Kat's Katlike ability to make me wonder what is going on in her little ol' head, she says, "I'm tired of not being able to text my friends because they are driving."

Me (attempting to understand the logic of that sentence and finally giving up): "And you think you will be texting while driving?" She just laughs at me at the same time as saying, "NO! Not me!"

The logic of a 15 year old eludes me at all times.

I strongly suggest she has her father teach her the basics as I tend to be a bit high strung. She then suggests that a friend of hers, who just got his license will teach her. I don't be thinkin' so!

A few minutes after that conversation, she, while on the phone with Emily from our old neighborhood, informs me that Emily drove to the gas station to get milk. I explain that since Emily is 6 weeks older, it makes perfect sense that she should be driving to the gas station and Kat barely backs the car out of the driveway. I also suggested that if Kat walks the 50 miles to our old neighborhood, Emily's parents can give her the keys to their car and she can drive to the gas station to get milk for them.

Katrina and I banter all the time. Our conversations make us laugh and we never really think about what we sound like to others. We joke around. Tease each other. She laughs at me while I try to keep her from growing up too quickly. I laugh at her when she thinks I'll buy her clothes that I didn't wear until I was well past drinking age. Little did we know we had a comedy act going until I took her shopping for school clothes last August. We went to her favorite store Mandee. I can't tell you what we were laughing about, but a couple of months later when she and I returned, the sales clerks remembered us. We were told that we were unforgettable. I didn't have the guts to ask if that was in a good way or a bad way. Never ask a question if you aren't sure you want to hear the answer.

This afternoon while in the check out line in JoAnn Fabrics, we started discussing celebrities and their tendency to name their children extremely unusual names - Coco, Apple, Shilo, Suri. The conversation started because Shilo Pitt's picture was plastered on the cover of a magazine. I commented that Shilo is going to be gorgeous with her father's looks and her mother's lips. Kat started pursing her lips trying to make them as big as Shilo's. Which started me giggling. Then Kat wondered out loud if Shilo was the name of a dog in a movie. From there we discussed the idea of naming children unusual names. Then on to Britney Spears who was (of course) on the cover of the same magazine. While noting Britney, I start to say, I still want to invite...Kat finishes my sentence...I know...you still want to invite Britney over for coffee and try to straighten that poor child's life out. I didn't think the conversation was that funny, or unusual...for us, but the woman behind us kept laughing at our one liners to each other.

Somewhere along the way, I told Kat about Abbott and Costello's, "Who's on first." Found it on YouTube and she agrees, that is the two of us on a daily basis.

We'll be headlining at Zanie's next month. Look for us.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Parental Rights

I just read a statistic stating that within one given year, the US has 2.4 million marriages and 1.2 million divorces. That sure drives home the 50% divorce rate statistic and got me digging into other facts. It appears that 67% of second marriages and 74% of third marriages end in divorce. These statistics are very disheartening. Makes one wonder if monogamy is really possible. One article stated our divorce rate is realistically around 25% (oh, come on!!!) while others state it is as high as 60% (maybe they just averaged the first, second and third marriage/divorce statistics).

In our old neighborhood the divorce rate was negligible. We were the only divorced family in the preschool my children attended. Also, we were the only divorced family in our neighborhood. That is until the lady down the street had a love child with a minister that was not her husband and the woman on the next block (who could not believe that I would file for divorce) ran off with a guy 20 years younger; leaving her two children with their father. I never did thank them for taking the spotlight off of us. But they both disappeared so quickly that I was never given the opportunity.

Although divorced myself, I am a firm proponent that divorce devastates everyone. Lines are drawn. Friends and family take sides, yet there are no winners but many losers. Families are ripped apart, emotions are eviscerated and children never quite learn how to cope with what happened between their mom and dad. A friend of mine whose parents have been divorced for years stated that when her mom complains about her father, my friend, even as a grown woman, still feels horrible, "It's as if she is ripping on my DNA." Although I avoid saying anything negative about my ex-husband in front of Kat and Adam, after that conversation I am even more aware.

In my marriage, I asked for our divorce. It would be dishonest to say that I couldn't live another day in our marriage. I could have existed in that life, but I chose to live, not exist. Even now knowing how the divorce would affect Kat and Adam, I would do it all over again. Grading on the curve, I truly believe they are happier now than they would have been if we stayed. Besides, living a farce is not conducive to raising smart confident children. I was extremely unhappy. So was Kat. Her migraines started at 3 years old. The stress was so thick you could cut it with a knife. Adam was too young to remember what our house was like.

I actually thought that Adam would adapt the best out of the two kids, yet he never quite adjusted. Per Adam, Kat remembers their father living with her. Even though life was not a Norman Rockwell experience, Kat knows what it was like to live with a mom and a dad together. I filed for divorce when Adam was 11 months old. We moved out when he wasn't quite 2 and divorced by the time he was 2 1/2. He doesn't have the memory of his parents together. That fact bothers him immensely. It's not easy living with the fact that my choice is the cause for that pain.

Kat remembers what our life was like. Although she too had difficulty with the fact that her father did not live with us, she was more bothered by the fact that he tended to not excersize his visitation rights. Initially he only lived 1 block away. Then he was only 1.3 miles away. Sometimes the only time she saw her father was when he drove down the street to watch a game at a friends house. Kat saw other fathers in the neighborhood spend time with their children. She often asked why she didn't have a Daddy who wanted to play with her. For a long time she thought the reason that her father wasn't around was because he didn't love her enough. There have been so many conversations where I have explained that it's not that he doesn't love them. He's just not capable of giving more than he does. He's flawed. Not them. I don't know if they will ever truly comprehend that fact. When your father is by choice fairly non-existant in your life you will always feel a bit unloved.

On the other hand, Adam blames me. Adam was once told by his father that he wanted to fix our marital problems, but I refused. Since then, Adam went on a campaign of you left Daddy alone. You made him live by himself and took us away. Adam was 9 at the time. Adam wanted to move in with his father so he wasn't alone. It was a very difficult time in our house. There was a point when I tried to simplistically explain the chain of events, but it fell on deaf ears. In reality, the situation was not simplistic. I did not know how to explain it. So I did not pursue it. He didn't want to hear the facts. Besides, how do you explain that when counseling was suggested his father said he would rather see me in divorce court. A week before the papers were final is when his father asked for a reconciliation. By then it was too late. Maybe one day Adam will ask again and will hopefully understand. Maybe he won't. I doubt the scars left by divorce ever truly heal. And when parents pit the children against the other parent, the scars are even deeper.

When I hear my friends discuss their divorces, I am always surprised that divorce settlements are so skewed. The settlements are a true indication as to who had the better attorney, not what is best for the children. I wanted out. That was it. When we moved to my mom's, I took our clothes, Kat and Adam's toys and furniture as well as the silverware and crystal. The bedroom furniture that I bought prior to our marriage and all living room furniture stayed with my ex-husband. When we moved into my mom's I used the bedroom set I had when I was 12. People thought I was insane to leave so much behind. My dignity and sanity was more important than any material item.

I know friends (male and female) driven by other forces and emotions. They ended up paying through the nose and the ex-spouse reaping the benefits of the other's emotions. Loving fathers have paid the price of a BMW just so they can spend a(n) additional day(s) with their children every other week. Others have absorbed all the household debt and attorney fees because they felt it was the "right thing to do". In other cases, such as mine, I settled for less materialistic items. Some people also know how to work the system. I receive less than $500/ month in child support. I could go back to court to request more, but know how the system was worked before and know it will be worked the same again. I would be paying legal fees with a negligle, if any, outcome. Were our attornies looking out for us, or did they smell blood and take advantage of the situation? Or is it our legal system?

Basically, in the state of Illinois the courts generally side with the mother regardless of who is the more fit parent. I understand the anger and resentment that a person feels during a divorce. Been there. Done that. But throughout I never quite felt that my children were taken completely into consideration.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to take a new position with the company I had been with for 12 years. I knew my current position was not going to be around much longer. It was just a few months after 9/11 and positions within the hospitality industry were few and far between. Therefore, the only glitch is that we would need to move out of state...to California to be exact. The state of Illinois has very strict laws about taking minor children out of the state in which their non-custodial parent resides. The attorney I hired stated it would be extremely difficult and quite expensive, yet I needed to try.

My reasoning may have been selfish. Some would argue that I didn't take my children's feelings into consideration. Yet I was faced with the fact that my current job was not going to be mine much longer and I had a position with a company for which I enjoyed working. Take the position, or face the unemployment line. The options were quite limited. Although my ex-husband lived near, he rarely saw the kids, so any guilt of taking them away was asuaged by the fact that he never spent any more than 24 hours with them on any given visitaiton week and there were times that 60 days went by without him ever laying eyes on his children. No, there wasn't any guilt in my decision. I was trying to be the responsible parent and support my children.

The subsequent legal battle was endless. The costs insurmountable. I jumped through every hoop the courts required of me. My ex-husband jumped into the role of father of the year, yet couldn't be bothered to show up for his court appointed meetings with a mediator/psychologist. The court system proved to be a debacle. After spending the costs which could have been used to purchase my own BMW, I was told that I could move to any part of the country, or world, for that matter, but "the minor children shall reside in the same state as their father until they are 18 years of age." So I turned down the position in California.

The court did not care that I was left unemployed. Nor were they concerned that our sole monthly income was less than $500 a month in child support. I had no other income. (We are still receiving the same amount, less than $6000 a year in child support. Insane!) Nor did the court care that the non-custodial parent was continually late with his half of medical, dental and school registration fees. No, the courts didn't take any of those facts into consideration. They were concerned that I was trying to "steal" my children from their father. It didn't matter that I complied with their every request, jumped every hurdle to do all that they required during the court proceedings. None of that mattered. I was the bad parent. I was irresponsible when all I was trying to do was support my family.

The icing on the cake to this debacle was when I attempted to apply for public aid, unemployment, or food stamps until I could get back on my feet. The state of Illinois denied my application. Their reasoning? Because I was offered a position in California, but chose to not accept it. Therefore, I turned down gainful employment and ineligible for aid. Can you believe it? The System did not care that they dictated my choosing between my children and career. The choice was easy. But the System then made it impossible for me to support my children. What or where can anyone survive on less than $500/month. If it wasn't for my mom, we would have been homeless. It was a horrible chain of events and a reality check to what others less fortunate endure on a daily basis.

That is when I realized how flawed our legal system remains. I've heard discussions about paternal rights as well as maternal rights. Why does it need to boil down to gender. What about parental rights? Our legal system is skewed and needs serious reform. I don't know how to start, or who to go to. How do you fix a system that is so severely flawed? It's tragic.

Divorce is difficult enough. The innocent and naive pay the penalty. The legally savvy run to the bank. It makes zero sense to me.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

Last night I watched massive amounts of snow fall to our yard. Our total accumulation at 6AM today was 10", yet more was still coming down as I drove to work. Although I am not a huge fan of winter and even on summer's hottest days, it can always be about 10 degrees warmer for me, watching the snow fall is one of my favorite pastimes. It is SO relaxing. Just wish we had a fireplace to make it more comfy cozy.

When we first moved into this house I decided that we needed to install a fireplace in the living room and a sun room off the dining room. Being a tad cash challenged, I still want to those renovations, but haven't quite figured out how to do so. When watching the snow fall, I really want a fireplace!

Anyway, while it was snowing, there was the cutest fattest bunny I have ever seen romping in our front lawn. He cracked me up. He jumped, hopped and played in the snow. Sadie wanted to go play with him. Don't worry. Sadie would never harm a fly, let alone a bunny. In fact, every morning when I let Sadie out in the back yard, I tell her to go chase the bunnies. She runs outside ready to play with her friends. Unfortunately, the bunnies run away and Sadie just stops in the middle of the lawn and sits; looking very forlorn. She's like the kid in the playground who doesn't have any friends. The bunnies run away and she can't figure out why they won't play with her. Sadie has never figured out, what those bunnies already know, that most dogs her size chase and kill bunnies. Sadie doesn't have that killer instinct. She just truly wants to play.

Last night when the snow started, it was crazy windy; howling through the windows and rafters. I believe the wind gusts were 4o mph. Kat saw two bunnies in our front lawn playing. One was bigger than the other. The littler bunny kept hopping in the snow with the wind behind him. The little guy took flight every time a gust of wind blew past him. Hop..hop...fly. Hop...hop...fly. Since I missed the show, Kat tried to explain what the bunny was doing. Her impression of a bunny taking flight was probably funnier than the actually event. She was laughing so hysterically that the sentences couldn't quite come out, just odd words like, "hop...vroomm...flying". Adam and I began laughing along with her. We hadn't seen the "bunny show", but her impersonation of the little guy was priceless. If the bunnies were looking in our window they probably got their own show. The three of us looking rather ridiculous...one of us impersonating a bunny taking flight and the other two full out belly laughing at her.

Little did the bunnies know that they are the only creatures allowed in our front lawn after a snow fall. Kat is very particular after it snows. No walking in the lawn when a fresh blanket of snow has fallen and Lord help the unknowing individual who puts one toe in the newly fallen snow. That girl can be lethal. The back yard is OK territory, but not the front. I have to admit the lawn is beautiful when unblemished by footprints. Although Kat does fall short of standing on the front step scaring other animals away, bunnies are the only animals she allows on our snow covered lawn. Probably because of their entertainment capabilities.

I still wish we had a fireplace in the living room, but with the bunny show appearing every evening, we'll just wait until we are a bit more cash solvent.

Friday, January 25, 2008


This weather is just stupid cold! It's days like this that I wish I was living in sunny California. It's also days like this that I want to create a voodoo doll in honor of the judge that prevented the kids and I from moving to sunny California. We were his last case prior to his retirement to Arizona. Hmmmm.....he's toasty warm and we are freezing our butts off waiting for school buses and trains in 30 below wind chill factors. Hardly seems fair. Me? Bitter?! Never!!! Maybe if the Gods are with me, the judge has a perpetual sunburn and his golf game never improved.

So, the cold comfort (sorry, couldn't resist the pun) in that $25,000 legal battle debacle that I am still paying off is their father is much more a part of their lives now. Honestly, that is a very good thing for everyone.

In a mood to be random, I am just going to free form my hatred for the cold.

  • Trying to convince teens to dress warm is nearly impossible. Adam seems to think that -4 just means he should wear two sweatshirts to school and no coat. His mother is not the best role model since I still prefer my black leather coat that hits my thighs and is missing a button or two to my puffy down coat that hits my ankles. Yes, I'd be warmer, but I love my leather coat with missing buttons and always feel a bit claustrophobic so bundled up. Maybe it is a small rebellion against the fact that I am not in sunny California.
  • Yesterday, while the air temp was -4 and I refuse to even acknowledge the wind chill factor, I didn't have time to iron a pair of pants because it was more important to send an email breaking a date for that evening. (When dates are so few and far between it is really stupid to break a date, but our doctor's schedule just doesn't coincide with my office and social calendar. Need to discuss that with the doctor after we discuss Kat's headaches.) So I resorted to a black short skirt which did not require ironing and which did not quite meet the knee high boots I was wearing. Yes, a slave to fashion even when impersonating a block of ice at the train station. Maybe not a compete slave to fashion, with two scarves wrapped around my head I resemble a character out of Fiddler on the Roof. As I stood waiting and waiting and waiting for my train, two questions kept popping into my frozen brain. Can knees get frostbite? Why are trains perpetually late in the cold? Just an hour prior I was bundling up my 15 year old like she was 5 and going out to build a snowman. Three layers later, 2 sets of socks, scarf, mittens, headband, no boots - just gymmies, and her coat she is looking at least slightly warm. She thinks I'm nuts. She's probably right. As a typical parent we occasionally get to say, "Do as I say, not as I do." Never claimed to be perfect.
  • Kat stands at a bus stop which I remember hating as a teen. Buses are never on time, so you end up just standing there freezing. When it is this cold an extra minute freezing is an eternity. Adam's bus offers front door service (it literally stops at our mailbox). Next year for middle school he won't be so lucky and will realize two sweatshirts just won't cut it at a real bus stop.
  • Kat's room is the coldest room in the house. Both hers and Adam's rooms face west, yet his is a mini sauna and hers we can double as a meat locker. Kat has a favorite glass which changes from blue to purple when you pour a cold beverage in it. It is always in her room. The other day she showed me the empty glass which was sitting on her desk. It was purple with nothing in it! Yes...that room is frigid. Why and how? I'm really not sure how to fix it without installing new windows and that just ain't in the budget at the moment, so we have towels between the storm and window to block out the breeze (yes, breeze). Although she is welcome to hop in bed with me, she refuses. She actually prefers a cold room, but this is ridiculous. So, this morning when she walked in my room shivering from the cold, I wondered why she wasn't wearing her bathrobe. In perfect teen logic, she explained that she hangs it on a hook by her window and it is too cold to wear. In perfect parental logic, out of curiosity I countered, can you hang it somewhere else so it is not in direct contact with the cold? Probably, but she never thinks about it until she wants to wear it.
  • This semester Kat has gym 10th period. From a high school girl's perspective this is the perfect period to have gym class. You don't have to worry about how your hair or make-up looks after gym class when all you are going to do is go home. It definitely has its perks, except when for the next 4 weeks, your gym unit is swimming. That waist length mane of hers is too long and thick and takes hours to dry in normal weather. Blow drying it is even a forever process. So, not only does she get to freeze at the bus stop in the morning, but she gets to freeze at the bus stop with wet hair in the afternoon. I have serious concerns over wet hair and -30 wind chill factors. She is more concerned that her hair smells like chlorine. I guess her logic lies on the same hook that she hangs her bathrobe.

Next week we are suppose to see 50 degree temps. Taking in the wind chill factor that is a swing of 80 degrees in 7 days! Kat's room will be livable, she won't freeze on the bus stop, my train will be on time and I won't even have a problem with Adam wearing a sweatshirt to school in January. Life is good!