Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

I am blessed to have an amazing childcare provider with wonderful kids.  Her son and daughter come to do evening sitting for us once in awhile.

Recently I was talking to Wit-wee (as Caden calls her).  I was wishing her a good vacation and telling her how much we would miss her.  I know Caden will.  I know I will.

Surprisingly, I said this.  "If I had a daughter this is what I would tell her on the way to a vacation without Mom and Dad.  Don't fall in love.  Come home and make sure to laugh a 100 times a day." 

At first I felt like the idiot I sounded like.  Then a little ache spread in my heart.  "If I had a daughter...."

I distinctly remember the ultrasound when I discovered that Caden was indeed a boy.  I had a little ache in my heart then too.  I kind of wanted to have a boy and a girl.  It would have mirrored my brother and I. 

If I had a daughter...how would things be different?  I wouldn't know how to play air hockey as good.  I also wouldn't know the best way to wrestle someone to the ground.  I would have missed the mythology of the X-men and the male angst so thoroughly portrayed in Spiderman. 

Sugar and spice and everything would be kinda nice.  But I'll take my two little fellas any day.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Business in the Front/Party in the Back

(Thank you to those who patiently keep checking back for my blog.  It's been a busy couple weeks.  I spent time settling my mother's estate and hanging out with my awesome brother.  I'm back!)

I live in a small, post-industrial town in western PA.  We have now lived here full time for nearly two (!) years.  Here's a couple things I have come to learn and love about our little neck of the Laurel Highlands.

Mullets
Business in the front and party in the back.  It means the front and sides of the hair are cut short, very short.  The back is long, stringy and hanging listlessly.  I LOOOOOVE a good mullet.  It's not just the societal dichotomy (business vs. party).  It's the absolute hilarity of trying to take someone seriously whilst staring them in the mullet.  My absolute fave?  A WOMAN with a mullet.  Anywhere else in the country wo-mullets (women with mullets) have girlfriends, not here.  Where I live, a woman with a mullet often has as an accessory a power tool and/or skinny, downtrodden husband.

Obsession with Pork Based Products
Originating with those ever so thrifty Amish, there is a pork based product which defies explanation-scrapple.  It's a block of grey mush fried and served with maple syrup.  It is as the name implies-the
scraps of pork left after sausage, bacon or other pork related goodness is created.  The scraps are ground together and made into blocks.  Dad ordered it with his bacon and egg breakfast the other day.  I swear it jiggled on the plate.

The following sign was posted at a fancy casino restaurant.  Note the last item.


The side of beef, surely the serving size of the prime rib, isn't enough.  The Father's day brunch isn't complete without pork kielbasa off the grill! 

Pantyhose in All It's Glory
Pantyhose is good, sorta.  I prefer tights, black and only in the winter.  However, in my beloved western PA pantyhose are the universal symbol of being 'dressed up'. 

During a recent trip to the casino in Pittsburgh (where my father wanted to spend his special day), he warned me what happens after 5 o'clock.  Apparently, right at the stroke of 5 men in crisp suits (obviously not worn during the day) show up to sit at the slots.  Behind them stand dolled up dames (invariably younger) looking bored at best and bitter at worst. 

I witnessed it first hand.  However, with one of the dames was her equally unhappy mother.  She impressed me with her black pantyhose in the middle of a sweltering June evening.  What did Mommie Boredest pair it with?  White flip flops, naturally!

I have to close now.  It's time to go to Giant Eagle to pick up some kielbasa for a picnic this weekend.  I'll be wearing my flip flops, sans pantyhose.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

10 Days and 10 Ways

10 days since I last had the time, energy and spirit to write.  Here's some things I learned since we last visited. 

1.  I appreciate my brother more than ever. 
He flew 'home' to help pack, sell and store my mother's lifetime of stuff.  He lifted 100 times his weight and answered 100's of silly kid questions.  He had no space to call his own for three weeks.  He only complained once.  Once.  I complain more getting from the bed to bathroom in the morning than he did in 3 weeks.

2.  I appreciate my husband more than ever.
Last night, in the hangover of the busy-ness of the last three weeks, I needed quiet time.  I didn't want or need to talk to anyone.  He understood and left me alone.  I read and recharged.  Tonight I'm going to make him watch a dance show with me!

3.  I appreciate my dad more than ever.
In packing my mom's house, we were packing his life too.  Not once did he disagree or complain or ask for anything.  In fact, when we offered 'stuff' to him, he made sure we didn't want it for ourselves.

4.  I miss my mom.
I was making an old family recipe.  It's "Peach Dessert" and I couldn't find my card.  I walked to the phone to call her to ask her how many boxes of jello go in each layer.  She wasn't there.  She never will be again.

5. I need to have a good cry.
I am a champion 'coper'.  I can cope right until my face falls off.  I have learned to be more authentic and experience my emotions.  However, the tears dammed up in my soul are so deep I am afraid to let them go.  Last night, while taking my brother to the airport, a few spilled over.  It occurred while we listened/sang to, "A Year in the Life" from the musical Rent.  How do you measure a year in the life?

6.  T-ball is a v-e-r-y loooooooooong game.

7.  I can do my job.
More on that later.

8.  It's summer and nothing tastes better than bbq chicken.
Which is exactly what we are eating tonight!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Renting Space In My Head

Just heard an amazing quote from Admiral Thad Allen, "I am careful who I let rent space in my head."  He is the federal government's chief on the oil catastrophe in the Gulf.  This was the Admiral's response to the CNN reporter on how he deals with the criticism he deals with on a daily basis.

Wow.  Made me wonder who I allow to rent space in my head.  Made me think what I let squat in the real estate of my soul.

Today was day 147 of packing up my mother's stuff.  It was the day I had to decide what to do with all the cards she never responded to and the pictures she never took out of the envelopes.  I threw the unanswered letters and cards away.  I kept the photos of my sweet babies.

I am still rehabilitating a shoulder that has been healed once already.  I keep re injuring it.  I keep mistaking painlessness as strength.  The absence of pain is not wholeness.  Today, I had a free afternoon with no family, no agenda.  There's stuff to be packed and arranged.  There is vacuuming and cleaning to be done.  All of which would require me to use and abuse my shoulder.  Instead I took a nap.

I gave the disappointment and rejection from my mother an eviction notice.  I served notice on abusing myself and choose to invest in rest.  I am not going to allow my painful past with my mother to sign a lease into my future.  I am going to purchase a small place all my own.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Moment or Two or Three

Had several moments today.

The first occurred in the middle of a difficult phone conversation.  It was difficult in that I had to share the demise of a project.  A project I and so many others put in considerable personal, intellectual and professional capital.  I had to deliver the bad news a prospective contract was DOA.

I had to deliver the bad news to someone I deeply admire.  This woman represents so many of the spiritual, professional and personal qualities I want in my own life.  In short, she is who I would most like to be when I 'grow up'. 

In the conversation she shared how she got to be such a mothering, mentoring rock star.  Layered within her testimony was such encouragement and wisdom.   I was inspired as she shared her heart, so much so I actually took notes.  I also cried.  I cried because her experiences mirrored mine.  In that moment I saw a glimpse of what was possible in my life.  A rare moment indeed.

The second moment came on the commute home.  I called home and did my customary pleading through the phone for someone, anyone to pick up.  My 6 year old answered.  He announced his dad was busy but he would love to have a conversation with me.  He would love to talk to me.  To me. 

He wanted to talk to me-the woman who still remembers every failure, every mistake, every shout and lost temper.  Hopefully he has forgotten.    There are moments of excruciating love from my children where I am reminded how blessed I am to be a mother.

The third and final moment came in the kitchen.  My boys and I were watching my favorite dance show (So You Think You Can Dance).  During commercial we did medicine/vitamins.  The boys danced across the kitchen.  I told them how wonderful they were moving.  At that moment they believed they were Baryshnikovs in Buzz Lightyear jammies.  In that moment, I believed it too.

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sitting on a Pile of Panty Hose

Memorial Day is a day to remember.  Remembering our service men and women.  Remembering those that have gone on before us.  Remembering what makes our country great.  Remembering. 

This was a weekend full of remembering.  We held the 'mother of all yard sales' (no pun intended) to sell my mother's stuff.  While we packed and sold and donated, we remembered.  We remembered the stickers placed on everything the Army moved for our family (15+ moves).  We remembered Mom's turtle collection extended beyond the 300+ on display and into the scores of earrings, pins and necklaces.  We remembered Mom was crafty, in the multitude of started and abandoned embroidery and crochet projects.  We remembered how she made much of our childhood clothes as we sold piles of swatches of fabric and 20 year old patterns.

Sunday we remembered to spend time together doing nothing.  On Friday night, my 6 year old asked when we were all going to stop working and have family time.  We were always so busy and he didn't get to play baseball with Uncle Michael.  We got the message.

Monday began with a mass in the St. Anthony cemetery to remember those fallen in battle.  Taps was played and a 21 gun salute opened the service.  The National Anthem, God Bless America, and the Battle Hymn of the Republic made up the song lists.  It was quintessentially American, spiritual and amazing. 

In parking the car at the cemetery, I spilled my coffee all over the back seat of Dad's car.  That's how I ended up sitting on a pile of pantyhose.  They were the only thing handy for sopping up caffeinated, Starbucks goodness in his back seat.  I was later totally weirded out to learn his girlfriend-who-is-only-the-person-he-spends-time-with-and-not-really-his-girlfriend had donated the pantyhose for tieing up tomato plants.

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