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!

Friday, January 18, 2008

I'm inked!

This little ol' suburbanite single mom just got inked last weekend. There were definite country mouse meets city mouse aspects to the whole event. As much as I try to act worldly and sophisticated, at times, I truly am just a dork. Part of my charm.

Wanting company while taking this rite of passage, I asked Maggie if she would join me on my adventure. So after my dance class on Saturday, the plan was for me to stop at Maggie's place, shower, change and off we go on our field trip. Sadly, I have this innate ability to make myself nervous over the stupidest stuff, so having something permanently adhered to my body was definitely nervous inducing. Therefore, while running out the door to my dance class, I forgot my going out clothes and was not about to be seen in my dance attire. So, after class I drove from the West Loop (dance class) to Countryside (home) to Rogers Park (Maggie's) and then to Uptown for my tattoo. And how expensive is gas these days?

When we finally arrived at the Tattoo Factory, I showed Maggie the two angels I had seen before. The first one definitely had attitude. My impression of Alexis as an angel...just a little pissed off about there. The second has a very sweet serene face. She's the one I went with. While waiting for an available tattoo artist, Maggie May and I were looking around. She found Chinese symbols to go with my favorite saying, "Live well, Laugh often, Love much." Hmmmm.... If all goes well maybe one day I'll get the three symbols that mean To Live, To Love, To Laugh. Just not sure where on my body they will go and I really wanted to know how I was going to feel about my angel before I added any other ink or symbols to my body.

So, once we talked to the tattoo artist, my natural dorkiness set in. When looking at their website they listed a coupon for 10% off, so I printed it out. Yet, while talking to them I realized that although coupon was in hand, it was really dorky to mention it. They looked at me funny and I really felt dumb. They did discount the price but did not take my coupon. I'm not sure if the discount was due to them shrinking my angel a bit, or because I asked them to remove the pink glowing aura around her, or because they took pity on me and knew I was completely out of my element.

Nick, my artist, was adorable. Wanting to get to know the guy who was going to adhere my angel to my shoulder, I started asking a variety of questions. Ask my kids, I can come up with a million questions. He answered them patiently and never made me feel ridiculous (although on a couple, he may have thought it). He's been a tattoo artist since he was 15. Although he has a definite baby face, I decided he was older than he looked and guessed his age at 27.'s 23 and I think now insulted. Crap! Does that mean you are going to put a moustache on my angel? He laughed. I asked about the whole process, how it was going to feel, how long it would take. And then made him promise that at no time he would say, "Oops!" when tattooing. He laughed again. Yes, even when out of my element, I can still be charming.

Nick kept telling me that I'd be back for another. And I kept telling him, probably not, this is it. No more tattoos. Yet, when he was done and I saw what a great job he did with my angel, as Maggie and I were getting ready to leave, I needed to look at those Chinese symbols one more time. Just where would I put them?

So, the next morning, I figured I better inform the masses. I really just didn't want them to see it one day out of the blue. My mom was so cute. Her first reaction was laughing, "So, you finally did it!" Then, "Was it a clean place?" Next, "Did it hurt?" Her last question was very funny, "Did any of the ink come off on the bath towel when you took a shower?". I hope not!!!

When the kids got home from their dad's I told each of them separately. Kat's reaction was, "Why didn't you take me?" Well, Baby, you would have begged me to be either inked or pierced before we left. Safer to keep you home. Of course, she asked about her requested mother/daughter field trip when she is 16 and my response was still, you will wait until 18 to be tattooed. After the experience I wonder if I will give in. No, I will resist the temptation. I waited until I was 46 for my first tattoo, she can wait until she is at least 18.

Adam's reaction was not what I was expecting. He hates needles and is definitely his father's child. "You're stained!! That's disgusting!" Oh, Baby, it's not good to hold back your feelings. Tell me how you really feel! He did ask if it hurt, but holds me in complete disregard. Note to self, never mention pole dancing class.

I love my angel. She is beautiful. Nick did a great job! I highly recommend him. Tattoos are addicting. I am seriously thinking about my Chinese symbols: To Live, To Laugh, To Love. Except I really don't know where to put them. Considering it took me 6 or 7 years to decide on this one. (It took me a year to pick out my bedspread, and another year for the paint for my room, so something this monumental needs definite consideration) I just might figure out where I want those placed by Kat's 18th birthday. We can do our mother/daughter field trip then.

Any suggestions where?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Angel on my shoulder - Part II

Katrina's guardian angel has to be her second cousin, Alexis. I'm not sure who Kat's guardian angel was prior to July 19, 2005, but on that date, Alexis staked her claim. We all would have preferred Alexis to guide Kat in teenage wisdom through text messaging, her myspace page, or via IM's, but for whatever reason, there was a different plan. One thing we all agree on down here, He/She has some serious 'splainin' to do when we cross the pearly gates.

Kat and Alexis were 3 years apart - almost to the day. Kat's birthday is 11/17 and Alexis 11/19. Kat adored Alexis. So did everyone else. How could you not? As Kat has matured, Alexis' family decided Kat is a "mini-me" version of Alexis. They truly are two peas in a pod. Occasionally, when Kat does something rather Alexislike (Katlike), I tease her about channeling Alexis.

Alexis' sister and parents created a virtual memorial for her. It truly is a beautiful testiment to how much Alexis was loved and adored. Alexis' mom, Patty (my cousin) once asked if Kat would like to write anything to be included. Kat didn't say anything right away, but eventually came to me and said that anything she wanted to say was probably not appropriate. So, I asked her to tell me some of the memories she had, or stories she wanted to share about Alexis and, well, she was right. Although hilarious stories, and none are particularly bad, none are appropriate for a virtual memorial. They will stay Kat's memories though. And she will cherish them forever.

To say the girls are ditzy is putting it mildly. While Alexis was sick, she had been tested for everything you could imagine. At one point they even tested her for Lyme disease. When her sister, Brooke, asked her what tests she had done, she said, "I don't know, limestone, or something." Later a cousin, who had heard the limestone story, told Alexis she had heard about the testing for limestone, Alexis response was along the lines of, "See! I told you it was a real disease." Yep, the girl was ditzy.

Kat has had similar moments. When Kat was 13 she insisted she was old enough to hang out at the mall with her friends. I just as strongly insisted she was not. The argument had continued for a couple of weeks when I found an article about a town in New England not allowing kids to be at the mall without parental supervision until they were 15. So, when Kat woke up, I handed her the article. As she is reading it, her eyes were rolling, and she was shaking her head. Finally, she looked up and spoke in a very matter of fact, taking control of the situation voice, "But this is New England! New! England! Mom, this is all the way across the..." I so hoped she was going to say country...really, I did...but she didn't. She finished the sentence completely filled with disdain for my stupidity, "...ocean!!!" Just what is that school teaching you?!

There are times as a parent when I go to my room and stuff my face in a pillow so as not to laugh in front of the kids at what they have said or done. Couldn't be done this time. I full out belly gut laughed at my daughters expense. Wouldn't you? Once she realized what she said, although really ticked off about knowing she was stuck with me at the mall for the next two years, she realized how funny she sounded.

Another time she confused the name of the Broadway musical Lion King with a gang. I still giggle at that one too.

I can't help but wonder what these two would have been like as they got older. They would have been a definite comedy act. Being two kids who love anything loud - loud music, loud debates, loud laughter, loud talking. With the two of them together, no doubt we would all need ear plugs. We didn't get to see each other often, but I know for a fact they would have been very close. Alexis does visit Kat. For those of you who don't believe in spirits you may think I'm nuts. That's OK. I know I'm not.

Alexis died of unforseen complications to her chemo treatment on a Tuesday evening, July 19th. She died the day after her leukemia diagnosis. Not knowing what was about to happen, after dinner that night I asked Kat if she would like to go to Oakbrook with me to buy Alexis a Build A Bear. Kat and her friend Cory picked out a purple fury bear. We dressed her in a Tae Kwon Do costume, named her Roundhouse Rosy and planned to write on the card, "Let's kick some leukemia butt!" As we walked out of the store, my cell phone rang. It was my mom calling to tell us Alexis died. Kat has never stepped foot in Oakbrook mall since. Last November, Patty and Jim gave Roundhouse Rosy to Kat. Many mornings Kat wakes up with that purple bear in her arms, when she knows it wasn't near her when she went to sleep.

Alexis also refuses to let a poster stay up on Kat's wall. It was a poster that Kat's friends were making for Kat to bring to Alexis in the hospital, but it ended up instead being a sympathy card for Kat. Everytime she hangs the poster up, it falls. She can use tape, thumb tacks, super glue. It doesn't matter which wall, or what she uses. That poster likes the floor. Kat has finally resigned to set the poster against the wall. Alexis seems fine with it there.

I once went to a psychic. He was known for talking to spirits who have passed on. I asked him about Alexis. He said, there is so much sadness around her. I agreed. He then said, she keeps showing me her shoulder/back. She likes the idea of your angel tattoo. The psychic did not know that I have always wanted a guardian angel tattoo on my shoulder. I didn't have it in October when I spoke to him, but for the passed couple of years I've talked about it all the time and just got it this weekend. So, she's around. I know.

Kat often questions why Alexis had to leave us. She is definitely pissed off at the Universe and mistrusts all doctors. Can't blame her on this one. Losing someone you love is horrible at any age, but to lose someone you care about and look up to when you are 12 has life altering effects.

Like I said before, we all would rather have had Alexis personally mentor Kat through life. Instead, she is going to have to offer wisdom and strength in other ways. I'm just surprised she's doing it so quietly!

Below is Alexis' virtual memorial website. I've tried to list it as a link, but Blogger and I are still not getting along about listing links. Therefore, if you can't just click the link please copy and paste the site to your browser. You will see how much Alexis is adored.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

ME? ADD??? OMG!!!

ADD? Me??

Is this even be possible? I heard of adult ADD, but mid-life ADD? That's a new one! My whole life I have always been a tad unfocused - constantly losing stuff, feeling disorganized, flying by the seat of my pants, stopping mid conversation to start another, or just to stare at something that caught my eye, shutting down because there is too much to take in, or thinking about 40 things all at the same time. As far as I was concerned, those traits are part of my normal nuttiness and just part of my charm.

Granted, being a single parent, working a full time job as well as a budding real estate career (I'm still a one hit wonder), my life has been on overload for way too long. It's possible that I am scattered because there is so much going on all the time. At times I wondered if Valium just needed to be part of my daily diet.

How do I begin to decipher this mess so you can understand the chain of events? Ten years ago, I was in overwhelm and counseling was the only answer. My divorce, working full time and raising Kat and Adam was all too much for me. Counseling was more of a need than a want. For those of you who don't know, it is not always easy to find a good counselor. Actually, finding a good counselor is like finding the perfect pair of pumps. You need to try them on, see if they are a good fit. Do they make you feel good? Or uncomfortable? Can you be yourself while wearing them? I've been known to lug boxes up and down from storage while wearing the perfect black 3" heeled pumps. That's when you know you own the perfect shoe. It's the same with a counselor. If you can be yourself and not worry about what is about to come out of your mouth, then it's all good.

When you are an exhausted, stressed out single parent, who constantly questions all decisions, finding the perfect counselor is not an easy task. At the time, I was a bit unsure about the counselor I found. She was more of a Birkenstock rather than a 3" black patent leather, stiletto heeled pump. She seemed OK, but I was so emotionally tied in knots she could have been the Gandhi of all counselors and I would have been skeptical. After a couple of sessions, she told me that she thought I was ADHD. She gave me a packet of literature about adult women and ADHD. I went home and told my mother and a friend about her assessment. They both informed me that it was impossible for me to be ADHD. According to my mother, I could not have graduated from U of I with my grade point average and be ADHD. Funny, neither person has psychology degrees, yet it was easier to believe them and be the Queen of Denial. I never went back. Although I did save all the materials she handed me that evening; reading a few articles. They were interesting and I could see myself in them, but it was easier to believe she was a quack than adding anything else to my overfilled plate.

I saved those articles for quite awhile and occasionally looked at them. I eventually saw another counselor who was a rockstar of all counselors. She never came up with this assessment but we were focusing on issues brought about by my trying to move the kids and I to California and the legal battle that ensued - which I lost. I never really thought about the ADHD thing again until about 3 years ago when I met with another counselor. He mentioned that he too thought I was ADHD and gave me a video to look at...which I promptly lost. Freud may have a thing or two to say about that act. The seed that was planted a few years prior was starting to take root. I was less stressed and realized the first counselor may have been right. I found those articles and read them again. They listed my behaviors exactly, but again, I wasn't ready to face this issue; hiding behind my Cleopatra alter ego and denied the possibility. After telling myself I wanted a female counselor, I stopped going.

Then, last summer (which I fondly refer to as the summer from hell) I finally faced the facts and admitted something was very wrong. I couldn't state what it was, but everything around me was blowing up in my face. I was beyond a bit nutty and extremely stressed. I read somewhere that stress exacerbates ADHD behavior. And well last summer I hit the charts on stress. When writing it all out, it seems rather benign, but there was so much more going on than the typical full time job, part time real estate career, 1 teen, 1 teen in training who is a gangsta wannabe, and an aging parent who occasionally gives cantankerous a whole new meaning. Those things are all normal to me - typical day in the life stuff. Besides the mundane, there were other events that I would prefer to not list on line. One regarding Kat gives me hives and tics just thinking me, that issue is hive and tic worthy.

On top of everything else, Kat was flying to the Grand Canyon and her father and I planned an 8th grade graduation party. The week I mailed out the invitations to Kat's party I learned that her father was suddenly financially strapped due stupidity. Although promising to reimburse me at a later date (which I have yet to see), he could not pay for his portion of the party, nor help with Kat's trip to the Grand Canyon. During that same conversation, I also learned that child support was disappearing for an indefinite period of time due to legal issues caused by his stupidity. Although financially strapped, I chose to continue with the party for 60 people.

By then I had already ripped down the wallpaper in our bathroom because I refused to let my "out-laws" see peeling wallpaper the first time they entered our house. While removing wallpaper, chunks of drywall came down as well, so there was more to my quick bathroom renovation than I had planned. Yeah...things were a bit stressful and my behavior was quirky, a little extreme and slightly irrational at best. There are a few people who may suggest other adjectives for my behavior, but I'll stick with quirky and slightly irrational, thankyouverymuch!

While cleaning the garage the week prior to the party, an old friend called. While catching up on families, life, etc., he mentioned that he was recently diagnosed with ADD. As he started describing the symptoms, I pulled up a crate and just plopped. It was if he was describing me. After we hung up, I googled ADD, took a test and - Holy Crap!! I either passed with flying colors, or failed miserably. Choose how you want to look at it. Per the explanation of the test, out of the 75 questions, if my score was over 20, I was probably ADHD. My score was 36! So, the Birkenstock counselor was more of a stiletto black patent leather 3" heeled pump after all. Who new?!

At that point the realization of being ADHD for my entire life finally hit me. Memories from grade school, high school and college came flooding back. The puzzle pieces finally fit and explained so many different experiences and life choices. Soon thereafter, I contacted my doctor, found a new black patent leather, stiletto heeled therapist and have been working on me for the past 7 months. It hasn't been easy, but its all good.

During the next part of this particular journey, a variety of drugs to combat ADHD come into play. This chapter was a roller coaster I never want to ride again. My doctor suggested an experiment of sorts. He was going to prescribe something to me. If in fact I was ADHD, I would know immediately. If I didn't notice a difference, there was something else going on and we would proceed accordingly.

You need to understand, I have never been a chemical kind of girl. In fact, I remember a very exasperated obstetrician trying to explain to me when pregnant with Kat that taking Albuteral during an asthma attack would not harm the baby. Finally in shear frustration he yelled, "If you don't take your inhaler you won't breathe. If you don't breathe, you will die. If you die, the baby dies. UNDERSTAND?!" Talk about your bedside manner. Somebody needed a nap. I understood. I was just trying to explain that I don't like chemicals. In his defense, that may have also been the same appointment where I naively asked if I could donate blood while pregnant. He was definitely worried about my common sense at that point and pitied the poor child I was carrying.

So, back to ADHD chemicals. The fact that a little pill could make me more focused was intriguing. The fact that it was a prescribed amphetamine was a little frightening. I really wasn't sure how I felt about controlled substances. To be honest, the question still looms, was I excited about being more focused, or of the added benefit of losing weight? The idea of taking a daily dose of something still bothered me. I still don't take my asthma inhaler until I'm about ready to cough up a lung, so I wasn't sure how this would play out.

My first attempt at this whole chemical experiment started with Adderall. My friend who was recently diagnosed took it with no problems. I was definitely ready for this little one month trial. Honestly, after just a few days I felt more in control of my thoughts, actions and emotions...something that has been seriously lacking for...oh, about my entire life. The lights were on and somebody was actually home. Then the question arose, was this little controlled substance really working, or because I wanted the outcome to be a specific way, was I mentally tricking myself into thinking it was working? I don't have an answer. I just know I felt as if I was a new and improved me.

Many of my friends were/are skeptical, but I was now more than positive about my assessment. The only snarky problem that bothered me was my aversion to chemicals. I was grateful for the fact it made me focused and clearer of thought. I worried about the effect of this daily pill on my body and began investigating homeopathic options after reading the insert the pharmacist gave me. One has to wonder when one reads the following warning on one's prescription, "may cause heart attack, stroke, or sudden death".

Now this is an interesting choice to make...spacey, ditsy, disorganized and messed up relationships for the rest of my life, or sudden death where I don't have to worry about any of the above.

Hmmmmm...tough call.

My other thought was, what about alcohol? I enjoy a beer, glass of wine, or my frozen Grey Goose on occasion. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that no one would have made it out of the 60's without combining amphetamines with alcohol once in a while. I was definitely careful though.

Sadly, it was all short lived. My daily dose of amphetamines caused a "slight" problem in the breathing category. Being asthmatic, I am always conscious of the importance of breathing and how the lack thereof makes you feel slightly on edge. Adderall worked perfectly on making me focused and feeling like I wasn't flying by the seat of my pants. I was thrilled about the weight loss thing too. Bonus!!! But for some reason it also made me feel as if I had 10 bricks sitting on my back and chest. I was soon literally gulping for air. Not good. After an EKG, we verified that my heart was not misbehaving. My doctor gave me the EKG print out which I saved to prove to the kids that although sometimes questionable, I truly do have a heart.

One drug!

Little did I know how much of a guinea pig I was going to become. Strattera was the next attempt. It was explained that this would not have the immediate effects of Adderall. It was initially used as an anti-depressant, but they later learned it helped with ADHD. This drug takes a minimum of 2-3 weeks to take effect. OK. Let's give it a whirl.

According to Maggie, I was still me, but a much calmer me. Not so anxious and a little more relaxed. But the side-effects were not for me. Let's just say, I have now seen menopause and it ain't pretty. Sharp spikes in blood pressure, hot flashes (which are not fun in the middle of August) and an aversion to alcohol. OK, alcohol aversion is not menopause related, but it wasn't fun either. My counselor explained that with Strattera, alcohol's effects are more than doubled. Not the fun effects - feeling good and silly. The bad hangover effects. I was informed of this after drinking double margaritas that hit me like a ton of bricks. I haven't been that hungover since my freshman year in college when introduced to everclear punch. Grudgingly, I could live an alcohol free life if need be, but the blood pressure and hot flashes on top of no alcohol had me checking into drug #3, Ritalin, which did absolutely nothing.

Drugs were beginning to look like the men in my life.
They come and go so quickly!

I so want to go back to Adderall. Really, how important is breathing? It was the first time in my life I felt focused. You know, God really has a seriously warped sense of humor. Teases me with something and then takes it away. He/She did a lot of that in 2007 and made me very crabby. we are on Concerta. This drug was tested in November and December, my absolutely craziest time of the year. Initially, I couldn't tell if it was working because I was moving 24/7. I was so busy at the office that nothing would keep me focused. Now that things have calmed down, I do feel as if it is working. I would still rather find a homeopathic remedy, but most of the ones you read about stimulate the brain (like caffeine), but they don't stimulate the correct part of the brain. I have a website or two I need to investigate further. But for now, Concerta and I are partners.

Kat is very similar to me and I highly suspect she too is ADHD. I should have her tested, but do not want to introduce her to drugs. The side-effects on teens are even scarier than the "may cause heart attack, stroke, or sudden death." Some list suicide, hearing voices, and other bizarre behavior. She's a teen and has her own quirks as it is. Besides, Kat has had a rough enough year. I'd like to wait for a bit.

The two of us do laugh though, because in the past we were both easily distracted and when talking we bounced all over the place. I still do on occasion, but not nearly as much. She can be all over the map. Our code phrases have become, "Look at the pretty bird.", or "Ohhhh, shiny." Usually said when the other has drifted so far off the conversation, we haven't a clue where they are leading. It may sound ridiculous, but it usually is cause for giggle fits. Kat could be talking about one thing, drift to another, then another, and I'll say, "Oh, look, it's shiny!" and Kat snap out of where ever and start to laugh. I'm currently trying to instill some of the behaviors I am learning to see if they will help her.

What a journey this was. And why did it take until I was 46 to figure it all out? Maybe because it's not the end result, but the journey that matters.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Ring

I wear an engagement ring on the middle finger of my left hand. Because it is a bit big, on top of that ring I wear a silver band that reads, "wishes do come true" as a ring guard of sorts. Although still waiting for that statement to in fact be true, I have a ton of hope. Occasionally, I take the silver band off and wear my mom's wedding band, or a ring from Gram O'Sh

Anyway, back to the engagement ring. It is gold, with a very simple yet elegant setting. A small diamond set with two really tiny diamonds to each side. It was the prettiest ring Granny could afford to purchase back in the 40's. The story behind it is a little twisted, but I still love it.
My grandmother gave me this ring on my 16th birthday. I knew it was special to her and could not understand why she entrusted me with this beautiful ring. I wasn't the most responsible teen. Looking back, maybe she hoped I'd lose it and then no one would know what truly happened to it. I proved her wrong and still have the ring.

She did state that I could not wear it all the time, but I didn't really understand what she meant. Although she moved here from Sicily in her late teens, she still spoke very broken English and sometimes things were lost in translation. I thought she meant I could only wear it for special occasions. Not so. I came home and showed my parents the extravagant gift from Granny. Both parents had the same reaction, "She gave you THAT ring?!!?" Neither one would divulge the story behind the ring, but I knew that the story they weren't telling me was something very intriguing which only made me more than persistent.

Being a tad relentless, my mom finally gave in and told me the following…

When one of my dad's older brothers was leaving for the war (I'm a bit fuzzy on whether it was the end of WWII or the Korean War) he left behind a girlfriend. She lived down the street and my grandmother adored her. I believe her name was Rose, but I could be very wrong. For the purposes of this story, she will stay Rose. Granny LOVED Rose and hoped that one day Rose would join the family. Granny received a letter from her son asking her to pick out an engagement ring because he was getting married. Since Granny assumed it was for Rose, she bought a very special ring. The best she could afford. My ring.

My uncle then wrote stating the day he would be flying home. When that day arrived everyone, including Rose, went to the airport to pick him up. He stepped off the plane with the woman who became my aunt. To say Gran was furious is the mother of all understatements!! She was one irate Sicilian and you never messed with my Gran on a good day. Messing with her when angry was sheer stupidity. Gran swore like a truck driver alternating from broken English to Sicilian and back to broken English again. She didn't know who this woman was and could not imagine giving that ring to anyone but Rose. (I always felt bad for Rose. Can you imagine standing at the airport watching the man you love step off a plane with another woman. He actually did Rose a favor. It turns out that my uncle was not the nicest person in the world, but that story is for another day.)

Anyway, my grandmother was not giving that ring to anyone except Rose. And she especially wasn't giving it to that "putana". Yeah, my Gran had a temper. The woman who was to be my aunt already had a child but was never married. Being that era, having a child put her in putana status immediately. If Rose wasn't receiving the ring, she was keeping it. My uncle and grandmother fought for days. My aunt and uncle eventually moved out of state (without the ring), but every time they came to visit, my uncle would look for "his" ring. I always wondered where she hid it because my uncle practically turned her house upside down.

Gran held on to it for a ridiculous amount of years until I turned 16. She must have decided that he would never take the ring away from his niece, but no one in the family was taking any chances. I was instructed that when my aunt and uncle visited, I could not wear the ring. How silly. Was he really going to wrestle his 90 lb. niece to the ground for a ring. Knowing him...possibly. As I got older (and a little more bolder) I started wearing it all the time; turning the ring around so it looked like a thin gold band. My uncle was persistent though. He searched for his ring when Gran died and was more than crabby that no one knew its whereabouts. Until recently, very few knew it was in my possession.

I treasure my ring. Not because of the bad karma or story that is associated with it, but because it is the only item I have from Gran. It is a simple and beautiful ring which was purchased for someone whom she cared deeply. She loved the ring and stuck by her principles. Therefore, I also love my ring and will pass it on to Kat one day.

I wish I knew what happened to Rose.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

2008 - Tattoos and pole dancing?!

2007 was a year of self discovery for me. An awakening of sorts. I've learned more about myself in those 365 days than I have in a lifetime. It is wonderful to re-discover the good things. There are definite areas of self improvement though that will require industrial strength focus. But I guess we all have a vice or two.

In part of my self discovery I realized I need to find "me" again. A few years after my divorce I changed my last name back to my maiden name. There was so much anger built up between my ex-husband and I that there was an overwhelming desire to distance myself in every way possible. It was the first time that the saying, "needing to find myself", made sense. Since murder is still illegal in this state, reverting back to my maiden name was the best possible (and safest) choice. So I did. The kids handled it fairly well. There were questions and I answered them as honestly, yet sensitively, as possible. Now, both of the kids have adopted my last name hyphenating the two last names together. Although not legal, and quite lengthy, many school papers come home with both last names. Kat's 8th grade diploma lists both names. Her choice. Her father was not pleased.

As I said before, 2007 was a year of self discovery; a need to find out who I was once again. Possibly redefining the definition of me. I still am missing a thing or two. Mainly, the need to stop being afraid of what others think. That's big. Confidence is a huge piece of that puzzle. I lost my confidence a long time ago. There are occasional spurts of confidence, but nothing that arrives on a sun up to sun down manner. I am the master of bravado and often appear self confidant and occasionally actually feel glimmers, but deep inside, I am a marshmallow of self doubt. Many would never guess my insecurities. Kathrine Hepburn had a great quote that sums it up perfectly, "Everyone thought I was bold and fearless and even arrogant, but inside I was always quaking." That's me.

So, it is time to change. Time to stop worrying and time to exude confidence, sexuality and a positive self image; even if I am the only one who notices. My first step into this metamorphosis is to finally get the tattoo I've been talking about for years. Maybe to some, tattoos are not sexy. Yet, to others they are very sexy. Sexy or unsexy, for me, it's a symbol of empowerment. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I have thought about an angel on my shoulder forever. I never found the right one. They were always too big, too cartoony, too bright, etc., etc., etc. The tattoo bug hit me again last week when I stumbled upon a tattoo parlor.

Our little Barney Fifedum town doesn't have tattoo parlors in its vicinity. Heck, we don't have a library, nor a post office, so a tattoo parlor is pretty far down on the list of establishments our town lacks. But we are only a few miles from Chicago and well, they have a plethora of tattoo parlors. Initially, I drove into Uptown to buy my brother Mark a stove top wood smoker for Christmas at this great little cooking store called The Wooden Spoon. Oh My God! I love that store. They also offer culinary classes that Mark and I may need to investigate. A block away from The Wooden Spoon was a little tattoo shop. I had a few minutes before meeting Maggie for a Christmas drink, so I stopped in to see if I could find my angel. I found my angel, BUT the tattoo parlor was so disgustingly dirty that I felt the need to detox after I left. They weren't tattooing me in that joint if they had the only perfect angel tattoo in the world. When Maggie and I met, I gave her a quick kiss on the cheek and immediately found the bathroom to wash, no scrub, my hands. that I had the angelic image in my mind, the bug was once again upon me. On my way home I got lost. Typical. My internal GPS has always been broken. Once in the city, I can only go home the way I came, otherwise someone moves the expressway on me. So, I needed to backtrack the way I came, going back to the kitchen store where I bought Mark's gift and then home. I know...ridiculous!!! Sadly though, Chicago's one way streets always throw me off. So, somewhere along the way I stumbled pass a tattoo parlor that looked interesting. Noting the streets, I decided to return soon to see what they had to offer.

A couple of nights ago, I drove out to see if I could once again find the tattoo parlor and my angel. Found both. Since it wasn't too far from Maggie's old neighborhood and near where I delivered Christmas gifts for an office project, as soon as I got my bearings I was OK. I walked in. It looked busy (a good sign) and most of all CLEAN!! Yippee Skippee. Spoke with Hank. Nice guy. A definite flirt. He does the piercings, but he gave me a tour of the tatts. This is a completely different world from my little suburban lifestyle. Also, I realize it's not the smartest thing to be walking into a tattoo parlor by myself at 11PM on a Thursday night. But I've always been a little more independent for my own good and generally Maggie ALWAYS knows where I am off to. She's my wing girl. When going on a date for the first time, Maggie knows the complete itinerary. Stopping by a tattoo parlor at night, Maggie knows where I am. So, never worry. Maggie May knows my whereabouts.

It's not like I can tell Kat, "Sweetie, Mom's going to a tattoo parlor on Montrose. If I don't come home, call the police." Actually, Kat is so into tatts and piercings that she would probably hide in the car and surprise me upon arrival. Her goal for her 16th birthday, besides her driver's license, is for the two of us to go for mother/daughter tattoos. It's the only way she will get one before she's 18. I have yet to promise the requested mother/daughter fieldtrip though. Her father would KILL me. He won't even care that murder is not legal in Illinois.

My angel search is very specific. Nothing cartoony. Nothing huge. Colored, but not too bright. She needs to look realistic and soft. I am not into smurfs, cartoon characters, or anything with fangs or too suggestive. It's an angel for God's sake! Why are there drawings of naked angels, or even worse, naked angels with fangs!?!? I'm sure it's a guy thing and since in a previous writing, I established that I rarely understand men, this is just another area where I am clueless.

Fairly soon, there was my angel. The one found last week at the very scary tattoo parlor. Upon second look, she is a little larger than I planned - probably 5" tall by 3" wide around her wings. Hank explains they can shrink her a bit, but her facial features may be lost. Hmmm. Need to think about this some more. It's still a bit angel on my back vs. angel on my shoulder. Maggie called while perusing various other tattoos and that's when I found a better version of my angel. Yes, my angel. Her colors are a little more muted, blue gown, blond hair (Alexis was very blond...Meg blondish/brown. Perfect!) Since Meg and Alexis are Kat's and my guardian angels this tattoo fits the bill. I still think Daddy is Adam's guardian, but honestly, there weren't any chubby, bald angels with beards to represent Daddy. Sorry, Pop, we are going for symbolism here. Your guardian angel duties will be in spirit only. The price not too bad and would be completed in 1-2 hours. Getting better all the time. Also on my shoulder/back, Hank explains, it shouldn't hurt too much. Oh, yeah. The pain factor. I forgot about that. I also forgot about the needles. This isn't exactly a temporary thing here where you wet a washcloth against the artwork, press it against your skin and and it magically appears.

Do I really want to do this? Does this have trailer trash written all over it? One friend asked if I thought about what it is going to look like in 10-20 years. Not really. Is this a mistake? Possibly. My father would be SO proud! (said dripping in sarcasm). Actually, he is probably doing pin-wheels in his grave! Sorry, Daddy!

Actually, my father was the only member of the family with a tattoo. When he was in the Korean war, he had my mom's name tattooed on his left (?) forearm. She was furious about it. Her concerns were what if they got a divorce, or she died. (Never realized what a fatalist remark that was until now!) What would he do with the tattoo once wife number two came along? His response was that he would tattoo a #1. in front with a line through her name, and tattoo a #2. and wife #2's name underneath. Perfect. Problem solved! He was always a funny guy.

I'm still a little nervous about the whole thing. Do I donate blood one more time before I get my angel since I won't be able to donate for a full year after? It would be the nice, thoughtful thing to do. Lifesource would appreciate it. I've check the BBB about the tattoo parlor - no complaints ever. That's a good sign, but the cynic in me wonders do people who get tattoos really complain to the BBB if there is a problem? Wow, that came out rather snobbish. I am stepping into a whole other world and still a little nervous about the whole thing. Do other people think this way? Truly, what would my mother say? What would Adam say? But another Hepburn quote comes to mind, "If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun." Thanks, Kate!

We already know Kat will be jealous...if she has her way her tongue will be pierced, nose pierced (someone please tell me what happens when you have a cold?), plus the following tattoos: sun and moon on her neck (OUCH!!!), the words, "Live well, laugh often, love much" around her wrist (again, Owww!), a red and pink awareness ribbon representing breast cancer and leukemia on her ankle (I think). She has given up on the teddy bear - Thank God!!! I might be missing one - maybe Chinese symbols - which may be my next tattoo if all goes well. I'd like Chinese symbols to reflect life, love and laughter. One tatt at a time please, Missy, but I digress.

So, you see empowering myself with these feelings really isn't easy for me. I want to be one of those people who really is strong on the inside and out - not wishy-washy like the above paragraph proves. Again, one step at a time.

In my ever attempt to banish wishy-washiness, I also decided to try something just a little different. Something a bit outside my norm which would also be fun. The radio station I listen to in the mornings, WTMX, talked about a pole-dancing class that just opened up in the city, S Factor. Yes...pole dancing. In the class you do learn to spin around a pole (which is fun!), but it is so much more. You also learn to feel sexy, powerful, strong and confidant. I've taken an intro class and it's not what people would think. Yes, you do learn to twirl around a pole, but it is also a fusion of Pilate's, dance and yoga. There is a definite workout involved where muscles that I didn't know existed are screaming in toned up pain. I've signed up for 8 weeks and will see how it goes. I need a little excitement in my life. Even if it is for just me.

It's not like there is anyone else around who is interested in what I am learning. The kids might slightly freak if I firefly around a light pole when going for a walk. It's not exactly a Gene Kelly, Singin' in the Rain, twirl around a pole. Besides, being a newbie is cause for bruises and klutziness when you take your first swing. I have yet to feel sexy with 4 huge bruises on my right leg. My first twirl was better than twirls two and three, but once you have the hang of twirling, it is a lot of fun.

Right now this is just for me. To feel strong and confidant. Maybe one day, someone else will appreciate what I've learned, but that's not what is important at the moment. Right now, gaining confidence and strength is my goal. Besides, can you see me trying to explain to my mother and children why I've installed a pole in my room? Nah...not at the moment. Nor can I imagine either of my brother's reactions. To Mark, it would be new material for constant jokes and harassment. Mike would never be able to look me in the eye again. So, for now, this is just for me...and anyone reading this blog.

As for my father looking down from heaven, his baby girl, the one with so much potential, the one he was so proud of. You left before you could see me graduate with honors, or meet your grandchildren. Thankfully, you missed the debacle called my marriage. Yes, your baby decided to start the new year with a tattoo and pole dancing classes; stretching the boundaries of what is acceptable in every day society. Yep...yep...yep. You should be beyond proud! I love you and miss you, Daddy! You can stop spinning in your grave. Instead, I'll take a spin or two around a pole; flashing my angel on my shoulder. I'm going to be OK.