November 14, 2011

Best. Game. Ever.



It was a big day in the Mc Donald household Saturday.

After all the whining I've done - for the past four months - about being a football mom, you know I have secretly loved every minute of it.  I even read "Football for Dummies" so as not to look like too much of an idiot at the games.  I spent more money than I thought possible on outfitting a kid so he wouldn't look like too much of an idiot.

The Pee Wees didn't start out to be a great team. Actually, they weren't even really a very good team.  They were scattered and mostly new to each other, and the record they had to go on was, well, pretty crappy.  Last year, this team won one game. The bar was low, but so was the morale.

I didn't care much in the beginning that they might be the laughing stock of the league. I was still in the Everyone Gets a Trophy/We're Just Here to Have Fun stage of my son's athletic career.  But it didn't take long before I had to either go big or go home.  Either I got serious about football, or Jack was going to fail miserably.  So I stopped going to practice with him.  I stopped babying him, trying to get him to tie his shoe by shouting to him in the middle of a play.  I sat still when he was mowed down by a bigger player and I was certain that multiple bones lay crushed beneath his pads. I didn't really bond with the other completely obsessed moms, but I did develop the Competitive Mom Yell and could hold my own in the stands.

In the end, it was all worth it.

When those boys walked onto the field Saturday morning, I'm sure I was the proudest mom there. They came to that game with an amazing 7 and 2 season record, and I was as ready as anyone to scream my head off as they faced the toughest team in the league - an undefeated team - for the Season Championship Title.  They could have lost, and I would have told you it was the best football season I'd ever seen.

But they didn't.

With three minutes left in the game, my son and his team pulled a two point lead to take home that trophy.

I've never yelled so loud for so long.  I cried. All the moms cried.  The coach cried, the boys cried.  I don't think I've ever had such a proud and exhilarating moment as a mother.

Now that the season is over, I wonder what we will do with all of our newfound free time.  (Or worry.  God, this means I have to start cooking again.  No more excuses for drive-thru.) I realize I am really going to miss the insanity of football.

Which just means that I'll have to gear up to start it all over again next August.

Thank God :)

October 18, 2011

Getting It

By all accounts, I've traveled a lot in my lifetime.  There aren't many people who have been so blessed as to begin stories with lines such as, "Once upon a time, on the southern coast of Portugal ..." Yet I am one of them, and I am one of an eclectic group of people to whom this means something extraordinarily special.

It was the early 1980s and we were ex-pats - American teenagers - transplanted from Any Given City, USA (or any other place on earth, for that matter) to London, England.   We carried the world in the palms of our hands; we had freedom beyond reason, we had money and opportunity that most of us have never seen since.  We were living in a surreal wonderworld, light years away from the reality to which we were accustomed.  

Tonight, some thirty years later, we're in Chicago, Illinois.  They call it our high school reunion, but it's not what you think.  Our American school was in London, but very few of us live there now, or can afford to get there for any reason.    Tonight, in an English-themed pub in the center of a city that is foreign to many of us, we met up with a few others to share our past over a few pints of Guinness and more than a couple orders of chips.

There are no limits, there are no boundaries, and all memories are worth repeating. We share stories from the glory days, interspersed with bragging about our kids and trading business cards.  You could say it's like any other high school reunion in that way.  There is something about revisiting the past - particularly those formative, untouchable years - that awakens every human spirit.  

But there is something else for us.  There is something about having lived in that place, in that suspension of time and reality, that transcends our need to prove anything to anyone these days.  We don't judge each other.  We are all equally proud to have become the diverse group that we are - the parents, the nurses, the salesmen, the artists, the lawyers - we live pretty ordinary lives now, most of us.  We aren't rich and we aren't starving; most of us aren't doing anything with our time that will make its way into a history book.  But the interesting thing is that, if you had seen us then, you would have pegged us for much more noteworthy ventures.  

Throwing back a happy hour PBR, none of us thinks it's odd as we wax nostalgic about drinking champagne at the top of the Eiffel Tower back in the day. No one considers it pretentious to relive every turn of the ski as we killed the slopes in Crans Montana, after three bottles of gluvine.  There is no rolling of eyes at the mention of riding on the backs of camels in the sands of Egypt and no one ever tries to wrench us back into the real world once we get going on our memory train.  

When we do return, there is not one of us at these worn oak tables who does not miss London with an aching in our hearts we cannot explain.  

We tell our children stories of those days that have become our own hand-made fairy tales in their little heads, and our significant others listen patiently when we reminisce idly.  Only a precious few of us were fated to marry one of our own, one who doesn't just listen but who melts into the past with us whenever we so choose.  Our experience became such an integral part of each of us that, even as we move farther from it every day, we do not know how to let go.

Perhaps I speak only for myself, but I’m willing to guess that the reason we all show up at these things every few years is because we miss that connection to something no one else in our present lives fully understands.  I know we are happily married, or happily single. We have true and genuine friends who may have never left this country.  It’s just that, once upon a time, we experienced something tremendously unique…with each other. 

Riding back to Liz’s in the back seat of Roger’s BMW, with the sound system blasting Freebird, the five of us are singing at the tops of our lungs. We don’t care that we are middle-aged or that our own teenagers would be mortified to see that all the windows are down and people are staring and glaring as we fly by. We have traveled back, if only for a moment, and we are belting out the lyrics to a soundtrack only we have ever heard.

We get us.

August 8, 2011

30 Day Photo Challenge - Day Eleven

Day Eleven
~ A picture of something you hate ~





I hate 3:00 in the morning these days.

The past year or so, I've been unable to establish a normal sleeping pattern where I fall asleep and stay that way all night long.  

It's been so long since I've seen eight uninterrupted hours for more than a couple nights in a row that I'm now going to do a sleep study with a neurologist.  God, I hope this helps.  

I'm exhausted.

June 1, 2011

30 Day Photo Challenge - Day Ten

Day Ten
~ A picture of the person with whom you do the most *#@*-up things ~

At my age, this one's a little tough.


I don't really do *#@*-up things anymore;  I can't stay up that late.  And even if I can, I can't get up in the morning so I try to avoid such activities.  

But I guess if I'm going to get a little crazy, like dancing until the cleaning crew comes on at the Nine Fine Irishmen in Vegas, or singing Bohemian Rhapsody at the top of our lungs at a Christmas party, or drinking like fish at the BLT on a Friday night, I'd have to say that Todd is my best *#@* -up buddy. 

I know, it's not like we've ever woken up in jail together or bungee jumped off the Space Needle.  

But I'm pretty sure that, back in the day, we totally would've.  

May 8, 2011

30-Day Photo Challenge - Day Nine

Day Nine
~ A picture of the person who has gotten you through the most ~



I'm sure this is cliche, but it's my Mom.  Without question, she is the one person who has brought me this far.




Nine years ago, I wrote her this letter :

Dear Mom,

I just opened my email to find a picture of you that Dad sent yesterday.  IN the picture, evidently, you are talking with me on the phone while gardening, which I think is a uniquely accurate portrait of you. Tending the earth and tending your family, balancing the corners of your life in both hands.  I sat here and looked at the picture for a long time, thinking to myself how beautiful you are, have become, have always been.

Over the past few weeks, which I’m sure has been a culmination of many moments since my first child was born, you have been on my mind.  My boys are growing up and into their own little people and each day, I find that as I learn more about them, in some ways I understand less.  Their hearts and minds are feeling and thinking things I cannot see or touch and it is often hard for me to accept that.  As they try new things and wander off in their own directions, I feel such a strong urge to pull them back and insist on knowing their every hope or dream.  


But as time passes, I see that not only is that impossible, it’s not my place.  I have to let them grow and in those moments where I love them so much it hurts, but I don’t like them one bit, I have to learn to forgive myself.  I see that sometimes they might make me want to run away from home but that there is no time on earth when I love them more.

I learned all that from you and I don’t think I’ve ever once realized it until now.  I don’t know why it’s starting to make sense; maybe because time seems to be flying by so quickly that I’m worried I might not figure out all that I’m supposed to figure out and I’m putting a little pressure on myself to give it a shot.  Maybe it’s just that I am still growing up myself and this is a new stage of understanding and acceptance for me.  Whatever it is, I feel there is so much I want to say to you and I don’t know where to start.

If I could apologize for every horrible thing I ever said or every time I ever doubted your counsel, I would, but I know that doesn’t mean much.  Sometimes I say to Matthew, “I don’t want an apology, I just want you not to do it again”, and I think that’s true for most people.  I’m sure an apology doesn’t make up for years of whining or complaining or attitude or ungratefulness.  But for what it’s worth, it’s there in my heart anyway.

Before my kids came into my life, I never knew it was possible to love another person as much as I love them.  It has taken me almost ten years to realize the full impact of that love and I’m quite sure there’s more to come.  I live each day completely and totally devoted to them and it must seem effortless at times.  I look back at my childhood and you made it look so easy that I thought it took nothing out of you to be our Mom.  But now I know that it takes everything, and then some.  I know that it takes every shred of patience, every ounce of energy, every drop of creativity in your soul to raise children and I am astounded.  


I sit here looking at this picture of my mother and I suddenly realize how much of her is there that I have never seen. I wish I could thank you for every worry and every dream and every second guess that I know you harbored in your heart for us.  I know you did because I do it now, and for the first time ever, I understand.  I understand that the reason I love my children is because you loved me.  The reason I am able to teach them right from wrong, table manners, multiplication and why it’s important to be nice to people even when they’re not nice back is because you were successful.  When I can’t find the child-rearing manual, the only reason I know what to do in a crisis is because in some way you have taught me how to improvise.

I’m not writing this because it’s Mother’s Day.  I’m writing it because of all the people in the world who deserve to know that their life has been an amazing success, you are at the top of my list.  I know this because when I speak to my kids, I hear your voice.  In the harshest of words born of love and the warmest of words born of gratitude, I hear the unmistakable likeness of my mother.  


I never tell you how much I love you, or how much I miss living close enough to visit with you more often.  I have many days when I would give anything to just hop in the car and go have lunch with you.  Days when I wish I could hear your life story, spend some time, for once, listening to your dreams. In my whole life, I don’t think I’ve ever asked you what you wished for, what is important to you.  I want to apologize for being so selfish but then I look at my boys and I think that they are my wish, they are what is important to me.  Is that true for all mothers?  I want to ask you, “What else was there? What was there before us?” 

Mom, you have been, and continue to be my inspiration.  “Thank you” and “I’m sorry” are completely meaningless here as I’m trying to write what I really feel.  I suppose I just want you to know that there does come a moment in your child’s life where they look back and finally “get it”.   I thank you in my heart every day for my life, my ability to listen and to love, to give to others and to stay afloat when the waters are rough.  It will never be enough to say that but it’s the truest thing I know.

I hope you have a bright and wonderful Mother’s Day and that you celebrate the success of Motherhood you have so selflessly earned.  I look forward to hugging you and telling you myself the next time we’re together.

I love you more than I can say.

April 25, 2011

30-Day Photo Challenge - Day Eight

Day Eight
~ A picture that makes you laugh ~ 



This is Matthew, up near Mt. Rainier, about 13 years ago.  It puts me in a good mood every time I look at it.

That river was close to freezing, in late May I think, but the fact that he sunk right down into it explains my kid better than I ever could with my own words.  

He's always been a daredevil, the kid who would try it, when even Mikey wouldn't.  We dared him to take a bath here, but instead of the argument we might have gotten from any other kid, this is what we got.  Matty, laughing his head off in that ice cold water.

This picture makes me laugh, every time I look at it.  

It's Matthew at his happiest, his most free.  These days, that smile appears when he's skydiving, or engaging in some other crazy, life-threatening activity, but I hold on tight to that moment when all it took was a glacial river and a double-dog-dare from his mom.



April 13, 2011

30-Day Photo Challenge - Day Seven

Day Seven 
~ A picture of your most treasured item ~ 


You're so lucky you're not in my head with this whole photo challenge thing.  My friend Joanne is the only one who truly gets my insane over-analysis of every tiny, insignificant thing.  She would laugh at how I sit here and break down each day's assignment, as if it were the prompt for my entrance essay into heaven. 

My most treasured item? Is that like the one thing I'd grab if my house were on fire? Or the most expensive thing I own? Or do they mean the one thing that has the most sentimental value to me? God, why can't they be clearer about this? And I have to pick one thing? I'm a borderline hoarder, people, don't make me pick one item.  Do they mean, like, my senior year scrapbook from high school? My Grandma's bible? My wedding ring? My kid's first tooth? God I need a drink.  Whose idea was this challenge?

Whatever.  And I wonder why I need drugs.


Here it is.  It's my signed Salvador Dali print, that I have loved, loved, loved for years.

I used to love it hanging in my parents' house, when we lived overseas. My parents bought it in the late 70's at Bonham's Auction House in London for some ridiculous pittance; my dad remembers it to have been in the $150 range.  Who knows what it's really worth? It could be nothing, or I might take it on Antiques Roadshow someday and be that woman who passes out when the guy tells her the old painting will settle the national debt. 


Funny thing is, I can't remember where it hung, but I know it always brought me peace and struck me with its beauty, every time I looked at it. When I was older, I told my folks that someday, I would like to have it.  You know, how we - as "kids" - start picking out things that will mean something to us when our parents are gone.  Only with my parents, I had to start early, because they're the opposite of me.  They're Anti-Hoarders.  They started on this "downsizing" kick a few years ago that, quite frankly, was a little worrisome.  They were getting rid of things that seriously mattered to us, my brother and I.  Like the time we were home for Christmas and, while making tacos, Brother John discovered that the red taco shell pan was gone.  The one we'd been frying taco shells in since the dawn of time. Red on the outside, cast iron. Perfect taco shell size. Just gone.  Like it's possible to fry taco shells in anything but. 


"Oh, that old thing? Here. Use this new one." our mother said, in a painfully off-handed way. New one?  We didn't need a new one.  We needed the red one


Anyway, I digress.


So I mentioned I'd like this painting, and the next thing I knew, it was mine. Good thing I said something. It wasn't even hanging up anywhere by that time; it was sitting neatly stacked in a closet, framed in this old, canvas-matte, unfinished wood frame that was, honestly, hideous.

I brought it home with no clear idea of where it might go in my simple house - void of any "real" art whatsoever - until I decided to have it reframed.  I hung it proudly above my fireplace, center stage, and to this day, find the same joy in it that I always did as a child.  Now it's above the wine rack, but I like it there too.

When my parents came to stay, my Mom walked into the room and stared at it.

"Edward!" she exclaimed. "Look at that! Look what she did with that painting!" They stood and admired my prize, then she turned to me and said,

"Can we have it back?"

Um, no.

It's my most treasured item,  Mom.

April 6, 2011

30-Day Photo Challenge - Day Six

Day Six
~A picture of a person you'd like to trade places with for a day~





When I was little, all I wanted to be was rich and beautiful; I wanted to be Jackie O.  I didn't care much about being smart or talented, I just wanted to gallivant around the world in million dollar outfits and ridiculously glamorous sunglasses, stepping gracefully from private jets to the blinding light of camera flashes.  I spent hours daydreaming of seeing my own face on the cover of a magazine.

As you may have noticed, I have ended up neither rich nor beautiful.  I don't even have really good sunglasses. So you would think that if you asked me who I'd like to trade places with for a day, I would jump at the chance to spend my Freaky Friday as Jennifer Aniston.  Or [Almost] Princess Kate.  Or, God  rest her soul, Elizabeth Taylor. 

Who would say no to a few hours of sky's-the-limit shopping? Catching sight of yourself in a store window on Rodeo Drive and thinking "Holy crap! Who's that hottie?"  Who would turn down the ego-boosting attention and the ability to go and do and be whoever you want today? 

I guess I would.  Jodi Foster once said, "Turning 40 means you give up some things.  Like you give up the hope that you're going to be a rock star. You just aren't." Being Jackie O is my rock star, and it's off my bucket list these days.  

If I could trade places with anyone for a day, it would be me, when I am an old lady.

I will spend my day surrounded by grandkids and my grown children, marveling at what happy, productive, loving, good people they have become.  Delighted at how they aren't in therapy or jail, or working in fast food. 

My heart will be warmed, knowing that my friendships have lasted through the years and that my family has mended its cracked places...that my husband and I did indeed grow old together and he's over at the ballpark in Phoenix, chatting up the folks at spring training.  

I will rock on my front porch, feeling just fine about never learning to knit, or jumping out of an airplane, or losing those last ten pounds.  I will sit peacefully at ease with how I raised my kids, the way I kept my house, what I chose for my career and how it all ended up. 

And tomorrow, I will return to being Present Day Me, and I will have a really, really good night's sleep.

March 30, 2011

30-Day Photo Challenge - Day Five

Day Five
A picture of your favorite memory


I knew this was going to get hard at some point.  I was hoping it wouldn't be this early on in the game.  My favorite memory?  Seriously??  I'm almost 47 years old, for Pete's sake; I'm supposed to pick one?

I guess if I were really nostalgic I'd choose the day my first kid was born, or the day I got married, or graduated from college, or something really meaningful like that.  But I'm not feeling all that sappy right now, and I came across a picture in my search for the perfect memory that seemed to fit my current mood.

I turned 40 in June of 2004, but for some reason, I didn't do anything in particular on that day.  I'm sure we went out for dinner or something, but I knew my friends were cooking up a party.  In the meantime, my daughter Casey was living in Belgium, on a horse farm, for the summer. (That's another story.)   She had been there about six weeks when she called home with a small request.

"So, I was thinking...." as all small requests begin.

The next thing I knew, I was getting my passport picture taken and buying an airline ticket to Brussels, so that Casey could see a little bit of Europe before heading home at the end of the summer, with a tourguide.  She had originally asked her Dad to come meet her, to explore Paris and London and Belgium with her, but he had little interest (???) and suggested I should go instead.  I think I was out of bed and packing before he got off the phone with her.

It was mid-August, and I was heading to Europe for the first time in seventeen years.  The last time I had been in London was Christmas of 1987, when my parents were still living there, and it never occurred to me then that it would be so long before I went back.  I couldn't imagine a better 40th birthday present.


But that's not the story.  That's kind of the icing on the cake - the one that hadn't been served yet. 

I was due to leave on September 4th and I learned that my birthday party was to be held just two days beforehand.  Could this summer get any better? It wasn't a surprise, by any stretch.  But I didn't know much more than that it was to be an 80s Party, and that everyone would be required to dress accordingly.

I couldn't tell you which part of it all was the most memorable.  Whether it was shopping through every thrift store from here to south Seattle and back, searching for the perfect outfit with Shawnie, or trying to figure out what John was going to wear (he had no say in the matter).  Or sitting in my bathroom watching Shawn paint John's nails, once we had figured it out.



It could have been the marble-top table, perfectly balanced, that Todd built me especially for playing Quarters on, or the collection of photos on the wall of all the guests in authentic photos from the 80s.  It could have been Chris Kaufman's 1985 brick cell phone, or the fact that Susan wore the same dress to the party that she wore in the photo on the wall - really, who can do that?


Maybe the music was the best part - the nine CDs that Todd spent days making, a quintessential collection of every "Oh my God that's my favorite song!" from 1980 to 1989.  Or that we played them so long and so loud that the police came to bust up the party.  Just like the old days.  Only this time, Fire Chief Mc Donald and Police Chief Jeter answering the door was waaaaay better than anything I can describe.  That rookie cop standing on the porch, looking at the two of them, speechless.  I think "Evening, Chief" was all he could manage, followed by a mumbling "oh some neighbors called but I'm sure it's nothing sorry to bother you have a good night. Sir."





The best part is that I remember every minute of it, miraculously, since I was drinking from these cups that guests had to purchase to get in  - just like the old days - 
and I'm not entirely sure what was in them












Is it too late to make this my official Thank You Note to Kim and Josh and Shawn and Todd, for one of my very favorite memories ever?


Even if I did have that whole problem with the quarter when I got to Belgium.

But that's a slightly less pleasant memory.

March 24, 2011

30-Day Photo Challenge - Day Four

Day Four
A Picture of Your Night


So I'm not really sure what they mean by this.  All that comes to mind is an infrared image of me sleeping.  That's pretty much my night.

But I'm going to interpret it as "evening".

Now, do they mean My Dream Evening?  Like this?



Or my Real Life Evening?  Because there's a slight difference.

In my real life, I might be doing something more like this:


Or  I might be found helping Jack with this...


And even if I'm not particularly good at it, I do enjoy this most nights...



And, as spring descends upon us, one of my favorite things in the evening
 is having all the neighbor kids out of hibernation, hanging out on my street.


Usually, I make time for a little of this...


And because I'm pretty good about relaxing, 
when it's all said and done, my evenings often end like this.


March 23, 2011

30 Day Photo Challenge - Day Three

Day Three
~ A photo of the cast from your favorite show ~

The cast of Criminal Minds
I have to say that this is my favorite cast - not the current one - since it changes from time to time.  Sadly, Jason Gideon (Mandy Patinkin), one of the greatest tv characters of all time, is now gone :(

Criminal Minds is, hands down, the best show on television.  I only started watching it, in out-of-order reruns, about a year ago.  This past Christmas, my kids gave me the whole five-season set on DVD and I can't get enough. The writing is superior to any other crime drama, and there's a clever mix of horror and humor on the odd occasion.  I am inspired by the character development and the relationships between them, on which the writers seem to really focus.  And I'm a living room psychologist, so I'm all over the study of the human mind and the human condition.  

I've never been one for scary stuff, though, so it's odd that I am drawn to this show.  I would have thought it would keep me up at night, but it's not really about the sadists and the sickos, it's about how the rest of the world copes with their existence. 

Oh, and I almost forgot. 

There's Derek

 * sigh * 

March 22, 2011

30-Day Photo Challenge ~ Day Two

Day Two
~A picture of you and the person 
you have been closest with the longest~

At a Mariners vs Rangers game, Safeco Field
October 15, 2009

I couldn't tell you the first time I met my oldest friend, Amir.  But I do remember distinctly that I didn't like him.  Isn't that the way most great friendships begin?

It was high school...my junior year I think.  He moved to our school and instantly befriended my best friend, who also happened to be the absolute unrequited love of my life.  Naturally, I was jealous.  

He was loud.  And gregarious.  Smart and funny and really, really popular, right off the bat.  Hated him.

Not long after we met, he was invited to a concert with our group of friends.

"Seriously???" I groaned.  "Not that kid. He's sooooo annoying!"

I lost the argument with whomever had invited him, whomever was madly enamoured of him at that moment.

And I lost every one after that, until he ended up invited to a party at my house.  And I think the rest is history.

What do I love about him?


~ A trip to Boston, and sitting at the foot of the Harvard statue in our cashmere scarves, pretending like we could actually have been students there.

~ The summer in London that he surprised me with tickets to Lloyd Weber's Chess on stage in Piccadilly, and we went dancing at the Lyceum. Crazy fun.

~ Too many nights downtown, too many beers, prom at the Waldorf.  

~ The fact that my parents consider him a second son. 

~ A road trip we took to Vancouver BC for Mona's wedding.  We took mushrooms on the way.  Hello, it was college.  I lived in Eugene.  What a blast we had!

~ He made me a thousand cassette tapes of our favorite songs, and each song would have a little explanation of why he chose it.  Each tape had its own unique title.  He mailed them to me all through college and beyond.  I saved every one of them.  For whatever reason I cannot remember, we took to calling each other Scarlett and Rhett, so each of the tapes was addressed and signed that way.

~ He has never once, in all that time, forgotten my birthday. Nor has he forgotten to call and send a card.

~ He never lost touch with me, even when I wandered away and our friendship risked extinction.

~ He takes more pictures than I do.  And good ones.

~ He loves his family.  He adores and admires and respects his parents (his mom is now deceased and I know he misses her terribly.)  He is devoted to his father and his daughter and he's even nice to his ex-wife.

~ We have travelled across continents to see each other, to be in each others' weddings, to celebrate in each others' successes and cry through each others' failures.  

~ In thirty years, we have never had a single romantic encounter with each other and have never spent a single moment being jealous or wishing otherwise.


In July he's flying out here just to sit at Safeco in a Ranger's jersey, while the Mariners kick some Texas butt.  Or the other way around, it doesn't really matter.  

Baseball, beer and hotdogs with your oldest, truest friend.  It doesn't get much better than that. 

March 21, 2011

30-Day Photo Challenge ~ Day One

I stole this from Facebook; I sure hope it's not some copyrighted thing I'll get sued for.  I could have done it on FB, like everyone else, but I'm going to use it differently.

The thing is, I spend way too much time on FB these days and not enough time writing real things, so I thought this might be a good way to get myself "to the page", as Joanne says, every day.

I have 30 days and 30 assignments.  I also have a really nice new camera and four weeks of photography classes under my belt, so I think I'm ready to go.  And instead of scribbling a one-sentence response to each of the daily assignments, my goal is to actually write.


So here we go.  Welcome to my 30-Day Photo and Writing Challenge.


Day One
~ A picture of yourself with ten facts ~


Circa 1966ish in Southern California.  I guarantee
either my Mom or my Grandma made this dress. 
1.  I'm a sucker for junk TV, but not like you think.  I can't watch a whole minute of Jersey Shore but I can sit through four hours of Full House reruns without a second thought.

2.  My initials spell my name.  Except for a brief period when I was married to my ex-husband, they always have.

3.  I once sold Rainbow vacuum cleaners for a living. It wasn't a great living, mind you.  I set a woman's carpet on fire one time trying to show her the dirt in the fibers with a big spotlight.

4.  I have lived in seventeen houses or apartments, in nine cities.  This is the longest I've ever lived anywhere - 14 years! Before that, my longest stint was in London, where I lived for five years during high school.

5.  I love to travel - anywhere - even if it's not far away. I love to fly and stay in hotels.

6.  I went to a British high school in England for awhile. We wore hideous uniforms and were not allowed to wear nylons or makeup. I got beat up pretty regularly by mean British girls in the bathrooms at lunch time.

7.  I've met David Cassidy.  I'm still in love with him.  Sorry, honey.

8.  I never lie about my height or my age. Why bother? Clearly I'm short, and I kind of like getting older. It makes me feel like I've earned something.

9. I am the least athletic person I know. I am highly uncoordinated and ridiculously non-competitive.  I don't understand game rules very well, either, which makes me a liability in any organized sport.

10.  I talk to myself incessantly and I think I'm hilariously funny.  Especially when no one else does.


March 7, 2011

Seeking a Cease Fire

Teenagers.

That sums up my weekend in its simplest form, although I wish it really were as simple as a word that I could type out, then hit "delete".  No, that came out wrong.  I don't mean I want to delete my teenagers.  I just want to erase all the shit that comes along with them that makes being a parent such a crappy job sometimes.

I'm sure my own parents are sitting back with a glass of wine, laughing, thinking "Yup, this is payback."  I know I wasn't the greatest kid on earth.  I remember once my mom even told me that I wasn't "her favorite person" when I was a teenager. Wow, that's nicer and more diplomatic than I think I could be right now. Of course, that was when I was in my 30's and the scars of my hateful self had all healed for her.  I think.

But after all was said and done, this weekend, after battling with both my boys about doing dishes and taking out the trash, it came down to Matt and me, like it always does, butting heads over so much more than chores.

This is the kind of day when I talk to his dad.  I talk to him every now and again, when I think he's missing out on something he ought to have been a part of.  When it's something good, like something Matt does that I know would have made him proud, I talk to him with a little kindness.  I tell him things like,

I'm sorry you're missing this.  I wish you could be here to see the wonderful things he's doing and the young man he's become.  I wish for both of you that you could share this moment.  I'm so sorry that you felt you had no other choice, that your heart was so heavy that leaving him was all you could do. 

But on days like today, I'm less likely to be kind, and more likely to let the bitterness from his death overwhelm me.  I'm more apt to say things like,

Damn you. Damn you for leaving him, and leaving us to pick up the pieces of your mess.  We didn't deserve this.  Now we're here, wading through the wreckage of your untimely and selfish departure, trying to survive this pain and all the questions that will never be answered.  You're gone, and in part because of that, we are hurting each other in ways that mothers and sons should never do, because both of us are angry at you. How can I forgive you? 

I know my issues with Matt aren't all due to his dad. Of course, as the ex-wife, I'm supposed to say they are, but I admit we have done our own damage that Kenneth had no part of.  Perhaps we're no different than any other mother and child, struggling to find their own unique connection that leaves them both content and secure.

Someday, I would like to hope,  Matt and I will find a connection that is more like what I believed mothers and their sons shared.  Someday, we will stop being at war with one another, whether he lives here, or far away from me.  I have to believe that, right?

Sometimes, our only mode of transportation is a leap of faith.

January 24, 2011

I Remember...

The other day, I was on Facebook "talking football" - ok, I use that term loosely - with a small group of women with whom I went to high school.  I mentioned that I was pulling for the Packers, and Emily warned me not to tell Liz that I wasn't in favor of her Chicago Bears. In the meantime, I was trying to make sure I was rooting for the Jets, Kim's team, but worried that if I didn't put some faith in Pittsburgh, I might hurt someone else's feelings. In the end, I giggled and thought it was pretty cool that all four of us, Emily, Kim, Liz and I - were wearing four different jerseys last Sunday, yet we all grew up in the same town.

How's that? you ask. And, how is it that we will all be attending our high school reunion in Chicago this fall, when none of us is from Chicago? (Ok, Liz, maybe you are.)

When I explain it, I'm always afraid of sounding arrogant or pretentious.  Sometimes I try to downplay my upbringing, or act like it was no big deal, but the older I get, the more I realize it was a big deal, and it's something of which I am very proud. My parents weren't rich - far from it - but I was privileged in a way that I will never be able to bestow upon my own kids, no matter how much money I make.

When I was twelve years old, about halfway through the worst year of my entire life in Portland, Oregon, my Dad announced that he had been transferred and we were moving.  (I was being horribly bullied at school and was miserable every waking moment of the day, so he couldn't possibly have delivered more welcome news.)  Thing was, we weren't moving to California, or even Washington - places with which I was somewhat familiar and that I could picture in my head.  In fact, we weren't even moving to some remote, cool place, like New York, which I could have romanticized, having never been there.

My Dad had taken a job in England.

Great Britain.

Hmmmm.  Where was that again? My seventh grade geography skills were a little rough.

Soon after my thirteenth birthday/going away party that summer,  my family packed up and hopped a plane to London.  By that time, I knew exactly where it was, and I was pretty clear on the fact that it was a gazillion miles away from everything and everyone I knew and loved.  And, it was a gazillion miles away from Steve Greer and John Coleman, 7th Grade Terrorists.  I was ready.

My parents bought a house in north London, away from the military bases and the centralized "American districts" in the city. My brother, John, and I tested to get into a public school (that's private, for us Americans) but neither of us passed the entrance exams. (Come to think of it, John might have. I know I didn't.) They wanted us to assimilate.  We, conversely, missed Doritos and Oreos. Finally, they put us in a comprehensive (read: public) British school and wished us well each morning as we headed into what later became a loving family legacy joke. Ravenscroft was the name of the school, but I think even my Dad called it Ravenscrap in the end.

We spent Christmas of my eighth grade year in a gorgeous Zermatt, Switzerland, hotel room, overlooking the peaks of the Matterhorn.  The real one. During that holiday, which was no more or less spectacular than any of the countless others we took as a family over the course of the next five years, my parents discussed the option of pulling us out of the British school system and enrolling us in The American School in London.  I remember walking to school that following week, in our hideous school uniforms, making a pact with my brother that if our parents would let us move, we wouldn't even ask for new clothes to wear in the fancy, new, non-uniformed school.  American kids??? American teachers?? Just like "home" ???  We would happily continue to tie our orange and navy and gold striped ties every morning if that's what it took.

We entered ASL that January, and I was fortunate to spend the following four and half years there, graduating in the 101-member Class of 1982, with some of the greatest, truest friends I will ever have in my life.  Friends who came from all over the world - not just the United States - friends who had been uprooted from ordinary suburban American lives like I had, and friends who were merely stopping briefly in London between adventures in Saudi and Teheran and Melbourne.

Twenty nine years later, I am still in touch with many of my fellow ex-pats and we have shared many memory-filled weekend reunions in cities all over the U.S. Most of us can't get to London so easily these days, so the school holds our reunions over here, choosing a different city every five years.  We have become teachers and nurses and investors and stay home parents; we have built families - some of us have married our old high school sweethearts, and others, like me, have raised children with steadfast Americans who can't begin to understand what it meant to grow up in a foreign city.

Except it wasn't foreign to us.  The day I caught a plane "home" after graduation, I couldn't stop the tears.  I had no idea what I was going back to, nor did I have any desire to go there.  Everything I had come to know and love was intrinsically woven into the fabric of that city - and that school - and I was unsure of how to return to a place I no longer belonged to.

I made it ok. I went to college here and I live quite contentedly in the Pacific Northwest now.  But there isn't a day goes by that I don't miss

... the London rain. The smell of the platform of the Totteridge tube station at 7:41 on a Monday morning, the taste of a sweet, room-temperature cider when an Op Period backs up to lunch time...I miss the cobblestone streets and the leaded glass windows of my bedroom looking over my mother's rose garden. 

The first car I ever drove was an Austin Mini - half the size of the ones you can buy today and twice the fun...but I miss taking the tube everywhere we went instead, and keeping an eye on my brother, who always fell asleep to the rhythm of the clickety-clack of the tracks, and who counted on me to wake him in time to get home. (I often failed...hence the late night calls to Dad...)

I miss standing out on the library steps after school catching up on the gossip, meeting up at The Chiltern in Baker Street station on a Friday night for a pint...I miss the theater and the cheesy tourist stuff too, like Madame Tussauds and the Changing of the Guards. I miss Mr. Jesse and his crazy self teaching us how to love Shakespeare, and Mr. Noble being the best PE teacher a non-athletic girl could ever love. I miss the hours-long ride out to Molly's in the country, and the excitement of a sleepover smack downtown at Suzan's dad's pub. 

I spent the night before Princess Diana's wedding with these friends, curled up in a sleeping bag on the concrete of Trafalgar Square, just to catch a glimpse of her satin gown the next morning - and it was one of the best nights of my life. 

I took a trip down memory lane tonight, unintentionally; Matthew asked me to sit down and watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail with him and Jack.

I agreed, a little reluctantly - I mean, it's been 25 some-odd years since I last saw it and I'm pretty sure I was under the influence of something much stronger than red wine at that time.  I knew Jack wouldn't understand most of it, although with as much Spongebob as he watches, he should have clicked into the random humor.  But I love that Matt loves British humor,  and I remembered it was really effin' funny at the time, so I gave it a shot.

And suddenly, I was travelling a long way back to a time I keep thinking is going to fade from my memory, but it never does.

I'm so glad I found you again, Kim and Emily, Liz and John P, Molly, Beth, Andi, Julie, Suzanne, Neil, LeeAnn...and for those of you I never lost...Jochann, Amir...you can only imagine how hard I laughed tonight and how many good times came flooding back to me as I sat there, in my suburban American life, sharing my past with my kids.

Thanks for the memories :)

 Trafalgar Square, July 29, 1981 (that's me in the middle)


January 19, 2011

Enough

I'm struggling a little here. Ok, a lot.  I can't keep my mouth shut.

On The Today Show this morning, there was a segment about a high school in Tennessee that reportedly has some 90 teen mothers, or currently pregnant students enrolled.  I listened to the story and then I read a few articles about the school district and the superintendent.

What I inferred from my reading is disturbing: somehow, some way, this "epidemic in teen pregnancy" is going to end up being A) the fault of the educational system in Tennessee and B) the responsibility of that system to fix it.

Huh?

The school's fault.  Why haven't the teachers and the principals and the superintendent been paying more attention? Why are they offering support and resources to these teen parents? Why are they condoning this behavior?

Huh?

When I was a kid, these are the things we learned in school:

Math
Language Arts
Science
Social Studies
PE
Music
Art
and maybe like one week of sex ed in 6th grade that taught us the mating habits of turtles or some animal completely unrelated to humans.

SCHOOL.  It was a place for learning ACADEMICS.

The rest? We learned AT HOME. From our PARENTS. And our friends' parents. THE VILLAGE.

Three years ago, right before I left the profession, I was teaching 10th grade English.  For the most part, that includes a lot of reading and writing, some public speaking, some organization skills, some research skills and, as in all classrooms, some learning about how to sit still and pay attention.

In addition,  I (the school system) was held responsible for each student's success in the following areas:

manners and general courtesy
money management (Ms. M, I don't have any lunch money; Ms. M, I don't have any money to buy school supplies)
homework completion
makeup work
special tutoring
getting along with others
drug and alcohol abstinence/education/counseling/enabling
getting along with parents
homelessness
hygiene
nutrition
[teachers, add your own here]

When did all of those things stop being the responsibility of PARENTS and COMMUNITY?

When did it become okay for Mom and Dad to disengage from a child's life to the point that a school superintendent is now in the hot seat because he has pregnant students? Is he organizing orgies in PE? Is that why it's his fault?

Seriously?

Freakin' Walmart might as well be just as responsible.  There are far more pregnant girls in there than I've ever seen in a school and no one's calling their CEO up to the front of the room to explain what the hell they're doing wrong.

This shit has to stop. It's been making my blood boil all day.

Stand up and raise your kids, people.

January 17, 2011

Still Faking It

Jack just got a little irked with me over my last blog post.

Evidently, even though I'm on the upswing of the Football Learning Curve, and I know why and how my Hawks actually lost that game to Da Bears, I am NOT allowed to trash talk them with comments like "got their asses handed to them".

God, Mom, they didn't play that bad. 


Seriously? They didn't show up to the game until the end of the 3rd quarter, dude.


Whatever.  Way to support your team, Mom.

Oh.

Woops.

January 16, 2011

Icing our Wounds

After the Seahawks got their asses handed to them on a platter today, Karma and I took the kids ice skating as a consolation prize. Only two of them had ever been before; Karma and I weren't first timers, but we couldn't count back that far trying to remember how many years it had been.  We ended up having a blast, even if everyone's ankles are burning tonight, and Jack has a blister the size of a silver dollar on his foot.  There was a fair amount of laughter mixed with pain and humiliation, although Brian kind of showed everyone up with mad skillz. 




Sydney, Shane, Jack, Brian, Matt and Elijah





and a LOT of this.

There was some of this...


Karma almost let go of the wall for a bit.

Jack kept trying to pull me down with him,
but I was way too smart for him.










and so did Syd...

except for when she was laughing at Shane.


Who would have thought a day on the ice could cure all ills?


January 9, 2011

Fake It Til You Make It

By all standards, I'm not a huge football fan.  I usually can't tell you who plays for which team, I don't fully understand the game, and I often confuse college teams with NFL teams, as in "So the Ducks are playing the Colts today, right?"

But I like it.  I like the sound of a game filling up my house on a Saturday morning; I like that my kid loves to play it and that I get to stand out in the cold and cheer him on.  I watch a lot on tv these days, and I've been to plenty of games in my time. Of course, most of these were in college at the U of O, and, if I remember correctly, that was more about who had the best tailgater in the parking lot, and less about what was happening inside the stadium. Still. I was there. Sporting logo gear and all.

I do know that the Seahawks are "my team" and that, being an Oregon Duck, I should be setting aside a few hours tomorrow night for wings and beer.  I'm not entirely sure why - I mean, I know they're playing a championship game, but I couldn't tell you if it was the championship between college teams in Oregon or between all the football teams in the country.  Or some contest in between.  I just know that it's supposed to be a great game, and I'm going to watch it.

Yesterday, as the Hawks gave the Saints a little southern ass-whoopin' of their own, (and yes, I can say "Hawks" because they're my team, remember?)  my son Matt came in and said to me,

"You seem so....involved... in this game."  I felt a little silly then.  Honestly, I had no idea what was going on, in terms of plays and stats and penalties and timeouts.  I just knew that we were playing a game we shouldn't have even made it to, (although I can't explain that either) and we were winning! Of course I was involved!

Who can deny that kind of energy, even if you can't tell the difference between a quarterback and a tight end, unless you've got a clear shot of the number on the back of the jersey to tell you it's Hasselbeck?

Not me.

I get all caught up in the glory of the game and I'm hootin' and hollerin' and posting scores on Facebook with the best of them.  Sometimes I wish I knew more, so I could hoot and holler intelligent things, like John does.  He shouts advice at the players, and I have no doubt that it's good advice.  Someday, after I get through Football for Dummies, I'll be able to do the same.

For now, I'm just making noise and having fun.

My parents house in Arizona - they're Ducks by Tuition

January 4, 2011

Back in the Day, I Could Handle This

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, I lived in a pretty low-rent college apartment in Santa Barbara with a couple of friends.  Back then, we didn't actually consider it low-rent, seeing as how we were newly post-college and trying to make it on our own.  We split a one-bedroom three ways and made it work somehow. The thing was, we thought we lived on Melrose Place, since it was only four blocks from the beach and a few miles into downtown and the party center of State Street.  We had furniture from RentWorld and dishes we'd stolen lovingly kept as souvenirs from the dorms.  And life was great, even if we did share our little place with several thousand huge cockroaches.

Yep.  Lots of 'em.  One night, I remember sitting out in the hallway, reading (I think this was because one roommate was sleeping in the living room and the other might have been entertaining in our bedroom).  Every few minutes, I had to brush the bugs off my legs. But I sat there anyway, instead of running back to my parents' house in tears, which would have been a much nicer arrangement. The little guys had become such a norm around our place that they were more annoying than disgusting.  When the exterminators came and we had to evacuate for the weekend, we thought our problems were over.  But after they bombed the entire complex, they neglected to clean up the casualties.  So we had to go around the apartment, sweeping up piles and piles of shiny little black corpses, which we then had to scoop up and dispose of on our own.

So one would think that now, having survived that, and being a mother who has cleaned up the horrors of children's injuries and sickness, one who has had spiders and snakes and other icky animals thrust upon her by small boys, one who currently lives with teen aged boys and who is subjected to not just the incessant talk of, but the toxic odor of, their bodily functions every day, one would think that I wouldn't be freaking out about the newest guests in our house.  But I am.

We have mice. 

Or one, very industrious, very smart, very busy mouse.  I'm certain there's a whole herd of them, or flock, or whatever you call a gang of mice, because they did so much damage to the food stores in my pantry that we had to empty the entire thing out and toss at least half of the contents.

They got into almost everything.  And the funny thing is that they were reorganizing my food.  John opened a bag of rice, and inside it were a dozen Milk Duds.  Huh???  There was popcorn in the box of cornmeal.   Like the critters didn't think I had things in the right place.

I Clorox bleached every inch of my pantry and kitchen, as well as every can that survived the attack.  And I still don't really want to put my feet on the floor.  Or wonder where they're all hiding since I just cleared out their Armageddon stockpile.

Eeeew.

My skin is kind of itchy now.

January 2, 2011

Oh help.

I hate this part, where you have to actually parent teenagers.

Since Matt came back in April, I've been pretty lenient with him in terms of house rules.  I don't bug him too much about keeping his room clean, or staying out late.  I don't read his texts and I'm not his friend on Facebook.  I have chosen my battles very carefully, hoping that the glaring unfairness between his rules and Jack's won't come back to bite me....too hard. I've just tried to keep the boat steady, while still upholding my morals and beliefs.

And then he got a girlfriend.

Now I have to draw some lines.  Like, for one, you can't spend the night in the same room.  And...and...ok, that's really the only one I'm all that twitchy about.  Kiss all you want in front of me (eew!) and hold hands and talk in that stupid lovey-dovey voice on the phone all night.  I don't care. Write love notes.  Stay out all night, even.  Sleep together somewhere else - honest, I'm good with that.

Just not here.

Call me old fashioned. It's just not ok for teenagers to sleep together in my house.

And the "But I'm 18!" argument doesn't hold any water with me.  Yeah, you're 18. That does not mean that suddenly, you are the King of the World and can do whatever you want, whenever you want, with whomever you please.  No, you are still My Kid, you still live in My House and you still abide by My Rules.

Tell me I'm not totally uptight.  Any parents out there letting your teenaged love birds share a bed under your roof?

If I remember correctly, Brooke Shields and her boyfriend were allowed to do that in the movie, Endless Love, and look what happened there.  He burned her freakin' house down.

See? It's a bad idea.