November 30, 2009

Hibernation's Over, Guys, Let's Get Outta Here!

Just in case you thought I was lying about the small village of Christmas Yard Art that lives in my garage. Look, Santa's having a good stretch after a long year hanging upside down from the rafters.

All I Want for Christmas is a Stone Tablet and A Chisel

For once, I'm not going to apologize for being gone for awhile, since it wasn't my fault. I mean, it was technically my fault, that part about pouring my cup of coffee on the keyboard last week. That was the technical problem. But I went right out and bought a new keyboard and replaced the whole operation (at a bargain price, I might add), so the blame for being off the computer for the rest of the week was technically off me.

Said new operation didn't work. The first time. Or the second time. Or the third time, which involved a little alcohol, of course. (Could anyone blame me? By my third visit to Office Depot, I was pretty sure I was going to get a nametag.) But to no avail; I was trying to be all Take Care of the Problem and Don't Whine Ask Hub Nicely to Do It for Me, and what ended up happening?

When John had cussed at worked on the computer for quite some time, then eventually gone down to Office Depot himself and bought an entirely different operation (which is not to say that I bought the wrong one, oh no, nuh-uh) it finally started working again. Well, mostly. Up until I wanted to print something. That was all effed up too, which really has nothing to do with a drowning keyboard, but it was simultaneous, so I figured...never mind what I figured.

Don't even get me started on those stupid "connections". Why can't there just be one cord, for the whole thing? Plug in, turn on. How hard would that be? The fact that you have to plug in like 15 things, no less in all the right plug holes (technical term) is absurd.

I'm back. Didn'tcha miss me?

November 22, 2009

I Can't Help It

So we're sitting in Applebees the other night, John, the Jackster and me. Jack's new desire for a cell phone started to rear its ugly head at some point, and he started asking questions about buying his own phone. When he got the information that he would also have to buy the two-year calling plan, and that you had to be 18 to sign that contract, he got a little stumped.

And here is why I shouldn't be allowed to have life-question conversations with my kids. I just want to make sure my kids are informed, but I always seem to cross over from enough information to answer the question to way more information than they need, leading to more questions I cannot possibly answer.

J: "Why do you have to be 18?"

Me: "You just do. Like you have to be 18 to do most stuff."

J: "Why?"

Me: "Oh, I don't know. Someone randomly picked 18, after a bunch of psychological testing or something, to be the age that you can do stuff."

J: "Like what?"

Me: "Like sign a contract. Or vote." Should have stopped right here. "Or join the army," or here "buy a house," or even here "get married."

J: "You have to be 18 to get married?"

Me: "Well, do...." could have stopped here "unless your parents say it's ok to get married earlier."

J: "So basically your parents can tell you who to marry even if you don't like her?"

Me: "No, not like that. But let's say you're 16 or 17, and you think you're really in love, and you want to get married." Stop the train "The law says you can't, but if your mom and dad say it's ok, then they sign something and the law lets you."

J: "Why?"

Me: "Well, because when you're that young, sometimes you don't make the best decisions." Full speed ahead "You tend to get all caught up and think you're really, really in love, but most marriages don't last when they start at 17."

J: "Oh. When do they start to last?"

Too late.

John raises his eyebrows and looks at me, all smug and smart and shit.
"Yeah, honey. What age do they start to last?"

This is Husband of the Year, all Mr. Supportive alright.

November 20, 2009

I Remember

Well, I suppose learning to make a festive, seasonal wreath was one way to avoid thinking about the upcoming holiday's downside. It's not the shopping, the crowds, the money, the stress, or anything I used to freak about. I can deal with all of that pretty well these days, but I'm not dealing too well with the fact that Matt won't be here.

This picture was taken about this time last year, right around the time everything was going to hell. It's funny, but it's not how I remember him best. This is what I remember, when I let myself go there:

I remember when he used to smile, a real smile, not that snide, too-cool-4-u smile I came to hate. I remember when his hair wasn't green and his nails weren't painted black, when he loved Legos and still slept with Barney on his bed. I remember when he made me laugh so hard I cried, when I couldn't believe how smart and witty he had become. Talking about the places we wanted to visit someday, trips we planned to take together.

I remember when the hair coloring was fun and funny. When he and Casey and I would go shopping at Hot Topic and we would put together outfits for him, thinking "Oh, this Emo thing is weird, but it's so much better than the non-fashion he followed before."

I remember when I could talk to him. When I still had some connection, however volatile or tenuous it might have been, with this boy, my first born child. By the time he left, I hardly knew him and I even had a hard time remembering the boy he used to be. But here it is, almost Christmas again, and my memory is recovering a little. Some memories are warm and make me smile, some just about kill me with longing and regret and sadness and hope.

This will be the first Christmas I have not spent with my son. I know, there are millions of parents who will be away from their kids this holiday season, and I don't ever mean to discount the emptiness in the heart of every soldier who won't be home this year. I don't mean to minimize the pain of any parent who has had to bury a child, or who will divide time this season between home and a children's hospital. Without a doubt, I thank God that my son is alive and well, and that I know where he is. It could be so much worse.

Still, I miss him terribly.

November 19, 2009

Fruits of My Labor

So here it is. My fall wreath.
I'm proud, actually. If you only knew how not crafty I have been all my life. Unlike my kindergarten friend Karlynn, (with the uber-perfect curled pigtails) whose artwork was always displayed in the halls and whom I am absolutely certain grew up to be a professional scrapbooker, I was the kid who was eating the paste instead of working with it. Which could explain many things about my adult life, aside from being creatively challenged.
P.S. John, now our front door is pretty.

November 17, 2009

Husband of the Year

I'm making a fall wreath for my front door today. Yeah, I'm a little late, and I likely won't finish it until the turkey's in the oven next Thursday; the day after that I will take it down and replace it with the Christmas wreath. This leads my husband to wonder why I need bother? Why don't I just leave the door blank -- Our front door is pretty, isn't it? he asks.

Well, no, honey, not so much. It's empty. It's just sitting there all bare and season-less (who knows what time of year it is if I don't have the right wreath up, for God's sake?)

I have to send a little love out to the hub, at this point. He didn't understand about the wreath at all. He didn't care about the wreath at all. He had no intention of ever giving a crap, in any way, about any wreath, anywhere. And yet...

Sunday afternoon, he went craft shopping with me. We're not rolling in money, and I'm pretty sure the last thing on earth he wants to spend it on is fake leaves, (especially since he's a little touchy about the mountains of real leaves covering his front yard). But he did. I won't even tell you what I he blew on stuff that I will cover my little wreath with. But at every turn, every time I would place some must-have wreath adornement in the basket, he would just smile and keep on pushing that little non-manly basket around.

Most likely, with my haul, I could make a wreath for everyone on my block, but how was I to know what I would need? I've never done this before. Now I have extra fake leaves to place cutely on the table at dinner next week, and little plastic (totally real looking) pears and apples with which to fill a bowl on the coffee table. Of course, he doesn't get this either.

But I bet he will, pretty soon. See, after the craft store aventure, he took the Estrogen Train to a whole new destination. We came home and he watched Dirty Dancing with me, for no reason at all.

Like I wasn't going to put out, after he navigated all that glitter and ribbon.

Dirty Dancing? Hon - ey!

Here, go crazy with this Sears Tool Catalog. You've earned it.

Post-it Note Tuesday

November 14, 2009

It's Starting....

Yep, this picture was taken today, November 14th. And yes, that is a wreath you see, between my husband and his Trusty Assistant. Indeed, those little colored round things are lights.

Christmas lights. Here we go.

We're not the first house to get our lights up this year, but we're the first DIYers to do it. (Woah, did I just say "we"? I am so sorry. There is no "we" involved in the Exterior Holiday Decorating of this house. I am occasionally required to view from a distance and determine if something is straight. Other than that, I must admit, I do absolutely nothing in that department.) Other people have paid professionals to crawl around the roof before today, but after twelve years of this, I'm pretty sure John's got the "pros", hands down.

I know what you're thinking...Wazzup with the lights before Thanksgiving?? For one thing, the Pacific Northwest is not a tropical area, if you have never been here. By this time of the year, we have lots of rain and ice and sometimes even snow. So if we get a dry weekend, with temps over the low 30's, we take advantage of the gift and get the bling on the house, albeit a little early. You would too, I believe, if you had known the pleasure of stringing slippery, wet lights across an even slipperyer roof, with icy rain pouring down the back of your neck (ask John).

And secondly, even if the weather were lovely, it's not a small project. It's kind of a two-weekend deal anymore. Used to be, back when all we had were a couple of cardboard boxes of C9 ceramic light strings in the garage, John could knock those babies out in an afternoon. But those days are gone, ever since some show-off put up icicle lights. I think that's how it began, all those years ago, although it's a fuzzy memory. And then, some guy put a lit-up deer in his yard. I mean, that kind of makes the C9s, look a little lame, doesn't it? We didn't used to be competitive people, but you gotta stay with the speed of traffic or you're going to get run over.

You should see our garage now. Well, you could see it, the original walls and all, if it weren't lined with shelving that now houses the two dozen labeled plastic bins, neatly filled with the Christmas decor. You could see the ceiling too, if it weren't for the deer and the polar bear and the sleigh and the massive Santa and the garland and the 6' wide wreath that hang upside down from the rafters for the other 10 months of the year. And if you think that's bad, let me be clear: we're not even close to being The Best House on the Block.

We do it big, here in Sky Island, or we don't do it at all. We make the news sometimes; we have a steady stream of Looky-Loos for hours, every single night, the entire month of December. We have something for everyone - from the beautifully elegant to the over-the-top musically synchronized light shows, we've got it all. Not until after Thanksgiving, though, are we allowed to turn any of this on. We have scruples, for God's sake! How tacky would that be? Christmas lights before Thanksgiving. Please.

You want to know what the best part is? The thing I look forward to every year, with never dwindling anticipation, is when we bundle up the kids, way past bedtime on a school night, and walk down our spectacular street, oohing and aahing, as if we don't look at it every night. It makes all the prep work and rainy installs and the quadrupled electric bill totally worth it.

It may be my favorite night of the year, here. After Halloween. Or maybe the night we all stumble down the street, sans kids, at our Annual Twelve Drinks of Christmas party.... but wait.

That's another story.

November 9, 2009

Seeking Smell Good Job

Crikey! Someone didn't take her meds yesterday! The kid's ok and that's all that really matters. In the end, all of this will work itself out, right?

But a little retail therapy didn't hurt today. I was wandering around Nordstrom with Karma, half-thinking that I might be able to work there, regardless of the fact that I have no retail experience and I really suck at folding shirts. It's just so darn nice in there; who wouldn't want to go there every day? No one ever comes home from a grueling day at the MAC makeup counter smelling like french fry oil, I'm sure of it. And those little black aprons are totally cute "uniforms".

But then I got to thinking about how I'm really not a pretty girlie girl, when it comes down to it. I have to work at getting all dressed up and making my hair perfect. I'd have to do that every day. Hmmmm. I used to throw on a fleece vest and a pair of worn-out clogs for my old job (oh, yeah, and pants too); it might be a little stressful to have to be all jewelled and hairsprayed and such. And I'd probably have to wear lipliner, which, I swear, is the most bizarre thing ever invented and I would just have to put my foot down on that.

This is probably part of the reason I'm still unemployed. I'm a little picky. I don't like teenagers, so I can't use my college degree. I don't like smelling bad, so I can't do fast food. And since good, old fashioned Chapstick trumps all the gloss and goo in my entire purse, I can't work at Nordies.
I should have jumped on the Fish Feeder when I had the chance.

November 8, 2009's the trouble with being a control freak...

...just when you think it's all in line, you realize that, in the grand scheme of things, you really have no control at all.

There I am, puttering around my ordered garden, raking up [messy] leaves and pulling up [ugly] dead plants, and I get a phone call from my neighbor/friend, the one who keeps an eye on my kid since he moved out. (Read this first if you're relatively new here, and the related link for a better understanding.) Candy is my oldest friend here, and we've been through a lot together. Her son, Conner, and my son, Matt, are close friends, so Matt still hangs out there. This is how I see him, and how I know that he's ok. He never comes over here, or even looks this way, even though he can be over there for hours, even days at a time. Candy kind of takes care of him where his completely irresponsible father doesn't, since he's "not interested in parenting" (direct quote out of his mouth).

This afternoon, she called in a panic to tell me that the boys had been in a car accident, that Matt had flipped his van. They were both unhurt, but Matt couldn't get ahold of his dad and he needed parental consent for a medical release from the paramedics. Since we were outside, we didn't hear the phone, so John missed the direct call and page from one of his BCs, telling him that his kid was in an accident, and I missed the call from Matt. I just happened to step inside to get some water when Candy called.

No one was hurt. That's the most important thing. But Matt wasn't calling to tell me that; he wasn't calling because he needed comforting. When I got him on the phone, I asked if he was ok. His response was, "Yeah. Here, you need to talk to this medic" and he was gone. The medic was there, on the line, obviously a guy I know, who's trying to explain to me what happened...I finally just interrupted him and told him to talk to John. Like I was listening to him, anyway.

Come to find out, The Most Perfect Dad in the Universe is actually out of town. In Chicago, to be exact. And gets better...isn't even due back until Monday. So this 17 year old kid is home alone, with a car, for how many days?

And I lost custody in court!

Then, he (idiot dad) asked Candy if Matt could stay with her until tomorrow, since he couldn't get a flight out of Chicago tonight without paying extra. Just didn't want to spend the money.

Yes, really.

I drank a glass of wine (ok, three) and took a really long, really hot shower. I tried not to slump down in my closet in the dark and cry, even though that's what I felt like.

I don't mean to bring anyone down on this Sunday evening, but this is the reason I write. I was scared for him, and for Candy and her own son's safety. I am confused as to what my role is here. Legally, I'm clear. I have no jurisdiction over any of this. Not since he and his asshole dad took me to court. Not my car, not my responsibility for the damage. However, just as a mother, aren't I supposed to give a shit?

You know that ex-boyfriend you have, the one who's different from all the other ex-boyfriends? The one you are done with and the one whose number you actually did delete from your contact list because he was such a complete d**kwad to you that you're past it? My kid is kind of like that for me. I wanted to hold on to him for so long, no matter what horrible and awful things he said and did to me. I kept forgiving, allowing and enabling, and then, one day, I was just done. Weird analogy, huh?

I'm always afraid, when I'm this *out there* with my thoughts, that you'll think I'm a terrible mom. You must wonder why I don't run across the street and grab him in my arms and tell him how glad I am that he's ok and how much I love him.

Maybe you wonder why I didn't go out to the crash site in the first place.

Or why he's across the street at a neighbor's and not here in my house.

I don't know, maybe you are, maybe you aren't. Truth is, I wish all these things were true. I can't tell you what it felt like to get the news, but not be the one to get the call.

When my son was about two, and I was newly single, I would put him to bed at night and be grateful for a bit of me-time. But he wasn't a sleeper - still isn't - and could lie awake for hours in the dark. So I would go in and curl up on the bed beside him, and I would stare into his little blue eyes. We would just lay there, staring at each other in the darkness, in a silent, unspoken contest to see who would fall asleep first. I was smarter, of course, because I would fake him out. I'd start to purposely droop my eyelids, which would cause him to ease up a little. Then I'd watch him from underneath my "closed" eyelashes, until he gave in to the sleep. We did this every night for a long, long time. I was so sad when, one night, I went in and he was already fast asleep. Our game was over, and he had moved on without me.

As I sit here now, a house and a world away from him, don't think for a minute that I wouldn't trade everything I have in this world for one of those nights - or to have been able to be there for him, today.

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” - Elizabeth Stone

P.S. For a minute, I thought I might apologize for slamming my ex-nightmare husband, for being that ex-wife, but then I thought: naaah. Today, I'm entitled.

The Apple Doesn't Fall Far...

I'm a total control freak. I've only recently earned the title, though. I haven't been this way my whole life. Oh, sure, I've always been a bossy boss, and I'm quite adept at pouting when I don't get my way. But growing up, I never had the weird OCD housecleaning obsession, or the not-wanting-help-with-anything-because-you-won't-do-it-right issue.

In the past, I was lazier than all get out. Clean my room/dorm/apartment? Why would I do that? I mean, that coffee table - made out of cement blocks and a slab of plywood - isn't going to look any better without a stack of magazines, a full ashtray, four half-full coffee cups and two empty M&M's bags on it, right? When I was married to my wrong first husband, our house was a pit. We lived in this crack-house apartment complex (that's another story) with wood paneled walls and dark brown shag carpet (and it wasn't the 70's). We had a 3' x 6' galley kitchen that had about 2 sq. ft. of counter space. We managed to put (and keep) about 10 sq. ft. of crap on that counter - which, I like to think now, was simply a subconscious attempt at hiding the almond gold formica top with cigarette burns in it.

But then I bought my first house, which is the same one I live in now, and all that changed. And morphed - beyond housecleaning and general tidying up to full-blown towel-straightening and canned food organizing, a la Sleeping with the Enemy. OK, maybe not that bad. But I might be headed that way...

I got it from my Dad, this disorder. I used to make fun of him - we all did - and his perpetual neatness. I could tell you how, as a teenager, I wasn't allowed to hang posters in my room. They were ugly; instead, over my bed, I had hammered brass wall hangings, that my Uncle Fred artistically created in his garage. I had to tape David Cassidy up inside my closet door. We didn't have a fridge covered in school pictures and report cards, because that was messy. We made our beds every single morning. We never, ever went to bed with dirty dishes in the kitchen sink.

I used to think he was a freak, but now I sort of get him. In defiance of him, my fridge is choc-full of pictures and report cards. But they're in magnetic frames and perfectly arranged. My kids' rooms are full of things they love, things they've chosen, and things that reflect their individual personalities. But I've made sure it's all neatly hung with matching thumbtacks and that all the trophies stay dusted and arranged by sport, from tall-to-short.

Lately, I've had some snide comments thrown my way about my OCD love of tidiness, and I feel a little bummed about that. I've been a slob my whole life and now, finally, I've managed to become a neatnik...and people are calling me a Control Freak. How fair is that? I've worked hard to get here! It's not easy, you know, making sure everything in the world goes my way.

Thank God my Dad will be here this week, for his annual holiday visit. He'll come in and be all kinds of impressed that our new beer fridge is not only stocked with every possible beverage choice, but that all the bottles are lined up in Type Categories on each shelf. And the best part is, he'll say something about it. He'll validate me and my craziness. He won't tell me I'm a freak, he'll say, "Who are you, and what did you do with my daughter?"

Which is probably the nicest thing he could say to me, since growing up to be my Dad hasn't been such a bad thing, after all.

Check out this awesome post about letting go of the control:

November 6, 2009

Fresh Flowers Just Aren't Enough

I'm procrastinating. Can you tell? New font. I'm sorry, Joanne. I got tired of the old font, which is related to, sort of, why I'm procrastinating this morning.

I'm having a big party tonight and the only things I have left to do are all the things I hate doing, like mopping. All the decorating and prettying up of things, I did yesterday. All day. As if I were waiting for the Cribs film crew to arrive for the episode on my place. I arranged flowers and candles and organdy table runners; I finally figured out what to do with that cool beaded thing I bought at the after-Christmas sales two years ago. I dusted and polished and rearranged stuff (didn't have the energy to move any furniture, although I've been known to completely reconfigure a living room for a dinner party.)

I can't help it; I'm obsessive about entertaining. It starts small, in my head, when I tell myself: "These are all people who've been here before and who know your house. You don't need to impress them. Just run the vacuum over the carpets and put some fresh flowers out. Done." But then I get started, and it becomes a disease.
Inside my head, while simply cleaning the bathroom:

Wow. That door is really dirty. God, I wonder what magnitude of life-threatening germs are on that door handle? I should probably Clorox Wipe it. And maybe the whole door, really, it's pretty gross. Hey! This door is white. So why do I have a cream-colored towel in here? All the other accents are olive green. Why don't I have an olive green towel in here?
...while dusting the den:

OMG, these glass doors on the curio are practically frosted, they're so dusty. I should Windex them. Maybe I'll rearrange the stuff in the curio. It's been like this for years. That stuff on the shelf is all cluttered, too. I should rearrange all those little things too. God, it's dark on this side of the room. Why is there no light over here? I should move that lamp over here...but then I won't be able to see in that corner... why aren't there two lamps in here?

...while putting away the groceries:

Hmmm. Why is there never any room in this pantry? I can't find anything in here it's so clogged up. I wish I could afford one of those custom closets. These wire shelves suck. I should put in flat wood shelves, at least. How hard would that be? Hard. Maybe I could put, like, bins or something in here. Nice bins. Colored bins! Color coordinated bins! Then I could have everything in its right place.

And that's why I have a new green towel in the bathroom, two candles transported from the back patio to the shelf in the den, and a dozen pink and green plastic bins, lined up side by side, in my pantry. Will my guests care in the slightest (or even notice) that all of this has occurred?

No. I get that. I can tell myself over and over that I'm wasting precious time, spray painting the picture frame on the side table in the living room (because the color is so hideous I can't bear to look at it another minute, even though it's been sitting there minding its own business for five years.)

Is this just me? Are the other people out there who feel the need to completely rennovate their homes just because a few people are coming over for drinks? Seriously, I'm already stressed about the fact that my barstools are broken (dangerously loose hardware, but still useable if one is careful). But I can't find any new ones I like! Not by tonight! (Notice I don't care if my kid gets killed when one of them comes flying off its frame, I'm just worried about what my girlfriends will think about my busted up kitchen furniture.) What is wrong with me?

Anyway, gotta go. I have a light fixture for the hallway I have to install. It is sooo much nicer than the brass one that's been there for twelve and a half years. Can you believe I put up with it for that long?

November 4, 2009

Career Ops

Slacking again. Sorry.

First off, let's just get the whole I Hate the Yankees thing out of the way. What a depressing game. I'm not even a true Phillies fan, but the slaughter was pretty unbearable. Aside from Cutie Patootie Jeter and Amazing Athlete Rivera, they're all so smug and annoying. Even the adorably adorable Kate Hudson doesn't make up for A-Rod's ego. In case you were wanting my opinion.

I've been actively job hunting again (kind of took a break there for a bit) and still finding no luck. I did, however, get some really good leads from Jen. She thought that my Drew Barrymore Roller Girl fascination, coupled with my superior customer service skills, made me a perfect candidate for Waitress at Sonic. Which is perfect, of course, since we have a new one in town. The thing is, I have a hard time carrying food from the kitchen to the table without making a mess; I can't imagine trying to carry it across a parking lot [in the rain] on wheels. My health insurance doesn't cover injury to pride.

And, I am very sad to see that my Favorite Job Posting of the Week has disappeared from the web, and I didn't bother to actually copy the ad for you. But it went something like this:

Fish Feeder (Part time)

I have approximately 5 fish. Come every day at 2pm and put some flakes in the bowl. Owner just doesn't like the smell of the food. They are nice fish.

Approximately 5. Maybe 4, some days 6, not entirely sure. I'm so bummed someone got the job before I could apply.

Jack is looking for a job too. He had to write his own resume tonight. It's very specific, since the job he is interested in is the part of Danny in the school musical, Grease. The drama teacher required the kids to write a resume to be considered for an audition, which I thought was a pretty cool cross-curricular exercise, even if it did take all night and there's no way on God's green earth he'll get the part, bless his little tone-deaf heart.

He can't sing to save his life. Not like he's 11 and he hasn't grown into his voice, but like he has no concept of tune whatsoever. But he loves it. More than just about anything, besides football and baseball. He sings day and night, whatever little song that pops into his head. When he was a toddler, he used to make up a song for everything he saw on the road when we were driving. Instead of pointing and saying "McDonalds!" like any non-musically inclined kid, Jack would make up a little ditty, like "I love McDonalds / They have good hamburgers / I want a hamburger nooooooooow!" (I won't put the accompanying musical score here, since it would be impossible to recreate the unique randomness of notes.) And now, all day long, I hear "It's electrifying!" and "Grease is the word, is the word, is the word", over and over again, perfecting his solo for the audition.

How can I shoot down that kind of life-long dedication now? What can I do but support him? Please, please don't tell him I told you this, but my favorite line in his resume, under Profile, is "Can sing in a low voice that doesn't make my face look weird."

Ya mean, like this?

Who has that kind of talent, really?

That's a gift.

Rock on, dude.