Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving Remix

Happy Thanksgiving.

I've said before that I feel bad for turkeys on Thanksgiving not because we eat them, but because they don't know how delicious they are.

Today, instead of feeling bad for turkeys, I will try to focus on the things in life that I am thankful for: the blessings of home, loved ones, and the beautiful world that we live in, the laughter of my children, the health of my family and friends, the forgiving and wonderful God who made me.

And turkeys.  I can't help but love them.



**I first published this post way back on Thanksgiving 2011.  Those were the days.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Holy Crap

So Thanksgiving’s tomorrow, and everyone’s excited about feeding their faces and eating the heck out of a turkey and some stuffing, because on this special day, gluttony is acceptable.

Except in my world.  Here in Andrealand, gluttony has been acceptable for a few weeks now. 

Seriously.   The day it got a little chilly and I put on some blue jeans, I announced that sugar, bread, booze, and sodium were the new main food groups.

And since then I've gained like 800 pounds.

Now obviously, I’m exaggerating.  A person cannot gain 800 pounds in a few weeks.  But I have to admit that at the rate I’m going, it’s like I’m trying.

I’m not sure what changed exactly, but it’s like a little switch in my brain flipped and at mealtimes instead of warning “Alert!  You are full!  NO MORE EATING!” it crooned in my ear, all silky smooth and seductive-like, “Hey girl.  Everyone loves a healthy booty now.  Have another cinnamon roll.”

Every.  Time.


But you guys.  I hit the wall.  None of my clothes fit anymore.  Well, okay, I’m not exactly going around in the nude.  But if you look closely, elastic and lycra feature heavily in all my wardrobe choices.  At least three people I know are doing or have just finished a detox/dietary cleanse.  I never knew so many at once to do this before, when I had a handle on things.  Someone is telling me something.  Maybe God is saying “Okay, Andrea, you’ve shown me that you’re thankful for all the food I’ve provided.  It’s time to settle down.”  It’s a wonder that I heard anything over the chomping.

And I have to admit, I’m not altogether thankful that this is all going down the week of the biggest eating tradition in the history of our noble country.

But this Thanksgiving, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say: ENOUGH.  I can’t keep going in this direction.  I feel terrible.  My body hates me.

So I’ve decided to cut back a little.  I’m getting a head start on my springtime health kick.  I’m doing my New Year’s resolution to be more mindful of what goes in my mouth a little early this year. 

I feel good about it.  I hope my body responds in rapid succession, because cutting back on eating during the holidays is a Capital S Stupid idea.  But I can do it.  Heck, I’ve even been known to do a cleanse once upon a time.  That was fun.

So wish me luck and shoot me a prayer or two, if you’re that type of person who prays for another to be less of a hog.  I’m totally thankful for it.

*******

Monday, November 25, 2013

Good Morning, Brain

The other day my husband said to me, “I’m impressed at your commitment to getting up so early every day.  I hate doing it.”

I thanked him and tamped down his compliment (why am I still doing this?!?!?), explaining that I’m no hero.  I enjoy the quiet, and I find it best at 5 am.  I get up early so I can write. 

During the week I sit down with my journal, the computer, and a cup of coffee, and I don’t move for two hours.  It’s really two different things, his 5 am and mine. He gets up early so he can exercise before work an hour away.  Everything about that sounds just awful to me. 

I love that writing is the first thing each day, except when I get up to write and have nothing to write about.  My dreams don’t always leave me with deep thoughts, the internet doesn’t always inspire with topics of interest, and nothing has happened yet that I care to talk about.  There are five blog posts in my drafts folder and I’m bored with all of them.  The subjects that popped into my head yesterday as I grocery shopped, folded laundry, talked with my kids?  All gone.  I’ve not yet made a habit of writing everything down. 

Still, I get up early and write.  It’s not great writing.  It might not even be good writing.

I write anyway, hoping that something will shake the thoughts loose.  So far this morning, the following is what brewed in my mind:

Why some moms have Pinterest boards devoted to smashing down other moms.


A blog post by a parent responding to other parents who only have boys OR girls and talk about having it so much better than parents who only have the other gender, or parents who have both.  How I hate when people make comments like “That’s why I’m so glad I don’t have {insert opposite gender here}.”  Don’t people realize that they sound rude?  And trifling?

Should I get the kids up?  Should I let them sleep?

The upcoming holidays and annoyance at “I’m done with my Christmas shopping!!” posts on Facebook.

Deserted cabins being overrun by forest animals.

No one talks about bandits anymore.

Facebook birthday wishes.  It’s one of the simplest nice gestures out there.  Do people notice if you miss wishing them a hbd?

What is it about GIFs and Vine that make me Love them?  I could spend hours looking at both.

I love coffee.  I should cut back.  Forever for the rest of my life.

I’m still confused about perimenopause, both what it is and how to say it.  I pronounce it “periomenopause.”  That's not right.

One of my children’s heads is going to spin right off onto the floor.  I can almost see the hormones whizzing through the air and plinking off the walls.  How many days does this vacation last?

Like I said, it’s not great writing.  It’s not even good writing. But it’s mine, and it’s what 5 am brings sometimes.



*******

Friday, November 22, 2013

How Do You Keep Track?

This post is sponsored by React Mobile.  I have been compensated for this post, and all words, perspectives and opinions are my own.

The big question in my circle is: when should a child have a cellphone?

And surprise, there’s no one answer to this question.  Were you looking for one?  This is parenting, people.  If you are looking for clear answers to parenting questions then you should not be a parent.  The answers are as diverse as there are children in the world.

Some of my kids’ friends have had cellphones since they were 8 or 9 years old.  My kids at 8 and 9 were inherently careless with their stuff, and I knew that they weren’t ready for a mobile device that needs to be handled with care, updated, charged regularly and placed properly in its holding place until the next usage.  Their electronics at this age were handheld video game systems and iPods that never left the house.

One reason for giving young kids cellphones is for parents to keep track of them when they are away from home.  Now, look: my kids are usually at home.  When they're not, they are at school, at a school-sponsored activity, or with a trusted adult.  Even today they're not out of our sight for long, and we know where they are headed if they are out alone.  On rare occasions we hand them one of our cellphones and tell them to call when they get where they are going, and call again when they are on their way back.

As kids grow, the instances of their independence correlate with their maturity and ability to take better care of possessions.  My celebration as a parent who raised youngsters to take care of electronic devices for more than a month without breaking or misplacing them was short-lived when I realized that they are spending more and more time without my protection.  They can wait for me to pick them up.  They can call me when they’re finished.  They can get rides with friends' parents.

They can wander the earth alone.

And this makes me, as a mom, a little nervous.  Because I know what’s out there, and it’s not always friendly.

My son is getting a smartphone this year.  When he does, I will be relieved that I will have a way to contact him reliably.  No more will he have to rely on a friend’s cellphone; he’ll always know what time it is so he can check in, and we will be able to let him know if we will be late or if plans change.  He’ll be safer with a cellphone when he’s out and about.  I know, I know – welcome to the 21st century.

But there is an added measure of protection that I’m going to share with you.

We will be sure to download the React Mobile app onto his phone, which is a fantastic new tool that can be used to keep track of your kids using their smartphone.  Much more than a “find me” app, React Mobile is a safety feature that a smartphone user can activate if they are alone in a place where they don’t feel totally comfortable.







You enter in your contacts, turn on the Follow Me option, and your contacts are alerted if you need them. Or if you want them to know where you are.  Or if a mom wants to know where her son is.




Parents can use the app to track their child's position in real time as they move from place to place.  Say my son is going to the high school football game, then getting a ride from a friend’s mom to the local pizza shop for a post-game hangout.  He can send me a text through the app to let me know where he's going, and after he activates the Follow Me option, the app shows me in real time (using Google map info and his phone's GPS) that he is where he says he is, and when he taps the "I'm Safe" button, I know that he is okay.
  



The React Mobile app can also be activated (Send SOS) if he finds himself in a dangerous situation.  He can use the app to alert me and any of his emergency contacts (including an automatic option to call 911) that he needs immediate assistance.  The app will provide all his emergency contacts with the alert and his location, which is vital information for the authorities, not to mention any worried parent.




The React Mobile app is a tracking device, a lifeline, and an alert system all in one, and the best part is that it’s free.  Okay, that's not the best part.  The best part is that it gives me peace of mind when my child goes off into the world by himself.  But it’s still pretty great.

And it’s the first thing that is going on his new smartphone.  I think we’re both ready for it.

*******

Download the React Mobile app for free:

Google Play (available on select smartphones):
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.reactmobile.lite 

*******

For overview video:
 http://vimeo.com/61906781

For demo video:
 http://vimeo.com/61927390



Thursday, November 21, 2013

Her Name Was Lola

I was a kid in the 70s.  Feathered hair, bell bottoms, banana seat bicycles, Holly Hobbie – this was my time. 

My parents were music lovers and they played records at home and the radio in our station wagon was always on.  We sang along to James Taylor, The Jackson 5, America, Kenny Rogers, Neil Diamond, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Diana Ross, and Donna Summer.  They were huge Beatles fans and when my parents stopped listening to their records, my brother and I continued, having memorized all the lyrics.

And I loved disco.

At the holidays my favorite album was Christmas Disco.  Disco Duck was a regular on our turntable, music sung by Donald Duck to a thumping and syncopated disco beat.  The Bee Gee’s Saturday Night Fever was an 8-Track that we rarely played, yet I’d stick it into the slot on my stereo and attempt to sing along to the falsettos and hard-to-decipher words that garbled together over the synthesized melodies. 

But my favorite song of all wasn’t the run-of-the-mill disco that we heard on the radio.  It was to become the end-all and be-all of disco tunes that marked my childhood.  Seldom heard on the radio, I sang the tune over and over in my head, imagining the story behind the words, the drama played through the swoops and strings and the tragic ending to Barry Manilow’s Copacabana.

She was a showgirl

The love affair between Lola the showgirl and her bartender boyfriend Tony was a grown-up fantasy set in sophisticated New York City, filled with suspense and murder and ending with a poor elderly woman dressed in a thirty year old costume, drowning in her sorrows at the bar where her love began and ended.  Don’t fall in love, the lyrics warned.  It was the perfect blend of catchy, intrigue, and camp.  I loved it.

The hottest spot north of Havana

Still do.  To this day, Copacabana is the most frequently played song on my iPod.  I could sing all the lyrics right here, right now.  And I am.  I’m actually singing it. 

His name was Rico, he wore a diamond

During high school and college, we requested music on the radio.  We'd dial the number to the radio station, stay on the line, and talk to the DJ who might or might not play our requests as part of his line-up.  While my friends were waiting to hear Madonna and Duran Duran, I was wishing that the Top 40 DJs would play Copacabana.  After all, the song had long been gone from the airwaves, and it never occurred to me to find it in a record store.

Music and passion, always in fashion

In my twenties the 70s found resurgence in various bars and they would play disco music along with the popular music.  I made sure we frequented these places and they always played Copacabana.  I would spin and twirl and sing when it would play, my husband and our friends surely thinking that I was the weirdest person with the strangest taste in music.

Now it’s a disco, but not for Lola

Later, after I made my first iPod purchase, Copacabana was the first song I bought.  I played it for our children, taking their little toddler hands and dancing and singing along and watching their little faces brighten and eyes widen with the drama of the music.  We sang the story together, and they never minded when I played it over and over.  These days, they listen as I play it in the car on the way to youth group.  They tell their friends to listen to the words.  

She lost her youth and she lost her Tony
Now she’s lost her mind

These days, when I hear it, my eyes fill with tears at the first beats of the percussion.  It might be memories of my childhood, or leftover emotion from when I first realized the sad story behind the song, or my own sappiness that looms larger and larger with every passing day.  Whatever it is, my love for Copacabana is without equal – no other song comes close, can simultaneously make me sing and dance and go there.  To the Copa.

*******

This post inspired by:

Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt #1: An old school song that makes you happy.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Old School Blogging – November

I’m linking today with Elaine of The Miss-Elaine-ous Life and Brittany of That’s Vandy for November’s Old School Blogging edition!  It’s the one where you answer random questions about what you are doing right now.  Simple, fun, endlessly interesting.

This one is from May of 2008, when I wasn’t even on Facebook yet but would be in a few months, and then I participated in all of these internet memes.  I didn’t even know what a blog was back then, which isn’t hard to believe, considering my general cluelessness. 

But I do now, and I’m helping Elaine and Brittany bring it back!  Get ready, people.  This is going to blow your mind.

Where is your cell phone?  OMG WHERE IS IT?  Ha ha ha, just kidding.  It’s sitting right over there, plugged into the wall being charged so I can put it in my purse to die.  My cell phone is an afterthought.  I know, can you believe that?  I’m so weird it’s crazytown.

Your significant other?  He is on his way to work so I can sit here and fill out questionnaires for you fine people to read.

Your hair?  Is terrible.  Last time I got my hair colored was in March of this year.  I have quite a few white hairs that I pulled out a few months ago, and they grew back in and stick up about 4 inches from my head.  It’s pretty much the worst ever.

My hair doesn't even look this good.

Your mother?  Was here over the weekend and I told her that her sweatshirt smelled stinky.  She didn't even care and wore it all weekend.

Your father?  Was here with my mother and probably missed the whole stinky sweatshirt thing.

Your favorite thing?  Hanging out with family and friends and laughing and talking.

Your dream last night?  I helped Gwyneth Paltrow move out of her apartment.  She had packed nothing and was very disorganized.  I wondered how she was so successful.  She even had rats.  Later, I was a chef’s assistant and helped assemble desserts at a fancy restaurant.  The dessert was a plate of cookies and chocolate mice.  The cookies kept falling apart and I was sad for the people who were likely paying a lot of money for me to handle their food so much.  It was my birthday and the chef made me some stir-fried vegetables as my birthday meal.  I wanted cake.

Your favorite drink?  Red wine.  I don’t even care what kind.

Your dream/goal?  To write for a living.

The room you are in?  The kitchen.  It’s super early and I drag my laptop here each morning so I can write before everyone gets up.

Your fear?  Drowning/being buried alive/burning alive/bear attack/shark attack/lion attack/gorilla attack/escaping zoo animals/sleeping outside/dying with my husband and leaving my children orphaned.  Going crazy/being in a city and forgetting what hotel we’re at/someone taking my children from me.  There are more but I think I got the point across that I fear many things.

Where do you want to be in six years?  I hope to still be right here.  My son will be a senior in high school and I can’t see making any big changes to our lifestyle between now and then.  But you know, anything can happen.

Where were you last night?  At a roller skating party.  Not mine, silly, a friend of my daughter’s.  The kids, they still like to roller skate.  It’s kind of a nice feeling.

What are you not?  Ambitious.

Muffins?  Of course.  In college I ate a huge cream cheese muffin every day.  I also drank a huge cup of coffee with cream and sugar along with my muffin.  Those were heady times.

One of your wish list items? I love art and would love a great, quirky art collection.

Where you grew up?  In rural western Pennsylvania.  I never tipped a cow, but we did go corning.

The last thing you did?  Slept all night.  Dreamed about Gwyneth Paltrow.  Last night before the skating party, I helped my daughter with her science project.  I think I’ll get an A. 

What are you wearing? Sweatshirt, sweatpants, socks, and slippers.

Your TV?  A source of frustration and grief.  It’s got too many channels, too many options.  I watch almost no TV whatsoever and could cancel our subscription any time and never miss it for a second.

Your pets?  No pets.  We are terrible pet owners and every single animal we’ve had has died prematurely, except for the one we had to give away because we got anonymous hate mail because it didn’t know how to behave in the neighborhood.

Your computer? A black laptop that I love but it's probably in need of an upgrade.  I’m not a good judge of the nuances of electronics performance.

Your life?  Pretty good.  I can't complain.  Although I do, sometimes.

Your mood?  I just woke up and the house is quiet; nothing has happened yet.  I'm content. 

Missing someone?  My brother Tyler, who I only see once a year and who shares my sense of humor completely.  He’s quite a bit younger than me so I always feel like I miss out on a lot with him.



Your car? An 8-year-old Nissan Altima that likes to surprise me by refusing to start right away.  Will I be stranded somewhere today?  There’s always a possibility.

Something you are not wearing?  No makeup, no jewelry, no actual shoes, no barrettes in my hair.

Favorite store?  I’m not much of a shopper, but I spend a lot of time in Target.  On occasion, I try on all the clothes at TJ Maxx.

Your summer?  Always too short and packed full.  It’s kind of a pressure-cooker.

Like someone?  I’m most like my mother.  Sometimes my clothing stinks.

Your favorite color?  Yellow.

When was the last time you laughed?  Yesterday.  Today is still too new.  I laugh at a lot of things.  And why not?  If I didn’t laugh, I’d be curled up in a ball sobbing.

Last time you cried?  On Saturday while watching two movies: Parental Guidance and The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  Oh, I’m sorry, did I just say that I hardly watch any TV?  Well, I don’t watch any except for nights when I watch TWO movies in a row.  For the record, I would not miss them if we did not have TV.

What is one thing on your to-do list?  Buy Christmas gifts.  ‘Tis the season, people.

Okay, bloggers, now it’s your turn.  Copy the questions and get yoself linked up with Old School blogging!  Go ahead and tag Brittany (@BrittanyVandy) and Elaine (@elainea) on Twitter with #OSBlogging and see what other trouble you can get into.   Non-bloggers, thank you for reading.  I love you all. 

Now you are up to the minute on me.  What about you?


*******

Friday, November 15, 2013

Ten Ways To Avoid Stress Over The Holidays - My post at at QueenLatifah.com today!

You guys.

I'm SOOOOO excited to be over at Queen Latifah's website today talking about how to avoid being stressed over the holidays!!!  Wheeeeeee!!!

Whee with seven e's means I'm pretty darn excited.

How do you keep from going over the edge during the holidays?  I've come up with a list of things that I'm going to keep in mind this year.  And no, guzzling wine isn't one of the ten things.

Believe me, I've tried that.  It doesn't work.

Follow me and read more about it!

See you there!

Click:

Thursday, November 14, 2013

She’s Such an Andrea

When I was a kid I was into finding out more about myself.

Okay, I am an adult and I am into finding out more about myself.

This is just the type of person I am.  Some may call me introspective.  Others may say that I’m deep.  Maybe even a navel-gazer.  Self-absorbed.  Egocentric?

Yes.  I will claim all of these.

Anyway, in the past I consumed information about zodiac signs, and I was amazed at how accurate the descriptions fit me.  When I had a dream I’d pore over dream analysis books and try to guess what my brain was telling me while I slept.

So of course I know what my name means.

Traditionally, Andrea means womanly, the feminine counterpart of Andrew, which means manly.  It’s probably the most boring meaning of a name ever in the history of name meanings.  And when you’re a kid and you are looking up the meaning of your name and it says “Womanly,” you wish your name meant charming (Bonnie) or beautiful (Jackie) or beloved (Holly).  Womanly is boobs and hips and having your period and wearing mom jeans and being old (Andrea).

Andrea can also mean brave, which is cool I guess, but not how I would describe myself.  I can support being thought of as brave, but as I eschew the outdoors mostly because there are WILD ANIMALS AND PEOPLE out there, no one’s naming a movie after me.

Uh huh.  Not me.

In my quest for meaning, I turned to my favorite research spot and yours, the internet.  And on the internet I found some interesting meanings for my name that I can really get behind.

From Urban Dictionary, which not only provides definitions, but also examples for usage:

Andrea comes from the Latin meaning "Womanly" or "Beautiful Lady". She is steadfast and confident,honest and reliable.A tower of strenth (sic) for thoughs (sic) she cares for and a rock to the family.
That girl is quite the andrea. 

Oh, my grammar and spelling.

Short and sweet:

the sexiest person on the planet. funny, smart, and just amazing. everyone needs a piece of andrea.
hey did you see andrea? 
omg yeah she is so hot!!!

Yeah, I get that a lot.

And here:

1. a sound out girl 
2. has a worrying appreciation of queen 
3. the best person ever 
4. someone who is attractive and nice 
5. very feminine and has a vagina and is straight and not manly at all!
oh wow she is such an andrea.

I like Queen for sure.  But I’m not sure that anyone should worry about it.  And I think #5 is just another way of saying “womanly.”

Meaning "princess"-often leo's (sic) or cancers. Very athletic and amazingly hot.And almost everyone has bown (sic) hair.
guy#1:wow that girl was hot and a good kisser 
guy#2:do you know her name? 
guy#1: no but most likely it was andrea 
guy#2: true dat

I like the way that this author added the qualifier “amazingly” before hot.  Where is this person?  I’d like to send him a thank you card.

So evidently Andrea means hot, smart, good kisser, confident, nice… and womanly.  I guess I shouldn’t complain that my name means something boring.  After all, I’ve always liked it, and now that I know I share it with so many other amazing women, I like it even better.

It definitely is more palatable than Kuwanyamtiwa, which means badger going over the hill. 

Then again, true dat.

*******

This post inspired by:

Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt #5: The meaning of your name... does it suit you?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Loner

I am a stay at home mom, belonging to a group that remembers its heyday in the 1950s and 60s, when women were expected to stay home and take care of housework and the family’s needs, watch soap operas and bake fresh cookies every day.  Dresses with crinolines were optional, as was the heavy use of tranquilizers to get through the maddening dullness of everyday life.  Smoking cigarettes was required.

Life has changed since then for the stay at home mom, although the tasks have stayed the same.  Babies cry and need to be bathed and fed.  Kids make messes that need to be cleaned up, grocery shopping needs to be done, as do laundry and cleaning.  Car pools need to be arranged.  The mundane is still mundane.

These days it is no longer implied that a mother will stay home to take care of the children.  For many families this just isn’t possible.  Lifestyles demand a dual income.  When people find out that they are going to be parents, the smart ones sit down and map out a plan.  They shop for daycare, figure out time off from work and save money for college. My husband and I were pretty young and less established when we found out we were going to be a family.  We made one decision: I would be a stay-at-home mom.

This decision was easy to make. I didn’t have a career; had just started working, in fact.  And my employer was gracious enough to let me to work from home, which was unusual at that time and the best of both worlds.  Six years later I was no longer working for an income.  Two months into full-time stay at home status and I was spending my days leisurely looking around for tranquilizers.

Eventually I got into a groove, and today I own this job.

My husband has an unusual work schedule, so his time at home varies.  This suits me fine, since I am a loner who doesn’t require constant human interaction.  I like the simplicity of aloneness. I like quiet.  I like not sharing.  And it’s nice to have one less person’s underwear to fold or plate to rinse off at the end of the day.

That’s not to say living without him is preferable, although sometimes it seems that way.

The problem with being alone so much is exactly the thing that draws me to it – I love it.  When he returns home, there I am, finger waving at him: Pick up your shoes!  Put those papers away!  Stop yelling at the kids!  Did you drop sauerkraut on the floor?  He returns home, only to disturb my well-run machine, and his parts don’t fit.  The machine has to be re-calibrated, and for what?  A day where he works from home, say that again?  I was planning to vacuum the floors.  I don’t come to your workplace and mess up your system.

It’s not fair.  I am not a 50s housewife, deferring and yes, dear-ing and fetching slippers and applying lipstick before he comes home (okay, I’ve done that – I love lipstick).  I am SAHM, the CEO of this biz.  So, you started a new company within your company today?  Well, I got ninety-six gallons of laundry detergent for five bucks using two coupons.  Now everyone has clean socks for another month.  BOOM.

He doesn’t always appreciate my love of being alone.  It’s an okay quality to have, but not when I’ve normalized his empty seat at the table.  I’ve alienated him more than once.  It’s something that I struggle with, something that our marriage struggles with.

But we make it work.  We committed to it, and we take it seriously.  The love is there.  The family we’ve made, the life we’ve decided on – it’s hard, like anything in life.  Plus, my love of being alone isn’t my biggest love.  Once upon a time, it was him.

And it still is.


Happy 14th, Keith.


Um, this is your gift.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Harder They Fall

The front door swung open, and there was my rumpled and gangly seventh grader, tossing his backpack onto the floor.  “Guess what, Mom?”

“What?” I called from upstairs.  He tipped his head up to look at me.

“We are blogging in my Language Arts class, and I told my teacher that you are a blogger.  Check your blog, Mom.  My whole class was on it today.  All of her classes were.  You probably had a lot of hits on it.  Check your stats!”

My ego blipped as I scanned my brain for any recent online swearing I might have done, any complain-y posts about school or education or how much I hate homework, or anything that could be embarrassing for him or me.  Mostly me.

I checked the stats.  Nothing of significance had happened.  No surprise there.  

“She is going to ask you to speak to my class, Mom.  Probably all of them.  You should write her an email and tell her when you’re available.”

I looked down at my house slippers and then at the screen of the computer, which still bore the evidence of the “work” I had been doing that day in the name of blogging – examining yet another BuzzFeed article akin to the one I perused today with the headline “The Cast of Honey Boo Boo Dressed As The Kardashians.

I am always available.

“I will wait to hear from your teacher,” I responded calmly.  I didn’t want to appear eager.  Plus, my messenger was a twelve-year-old who has to be reminded to use utensils when eating.

Meanwhile, my stomach flipped.  Me?  Talk about blogging?  Well, I guess I’ve been doing this for a while.  I could be considered an expert.  I have a faithful readership, numbering in the dozens.  I personally make up only a third of my blog hits per day.  Maybe I’m not The Pioneer Woman.  Not right now, anyway.  But I could be.  I am a blogger – anything can happen, and this could be the first step.

The days wore on and I checked my email no less than ten times a day.  When would she contact me?  Was my middle-schooler playing a cruel joke?  He is so grounded.  Maybe my email address isn’t clear on the blog's home page.  Maybe I should send a note to school.  Maybe I will get business cards made and tell him to make it rain in English class.

The email came.  Mrs. Mowery, would you like to come and talk to my classes about blogging?  Why, certainly, I calmly replied.  When would be an opportune time for me to speak to the young scholars?  I prissily asked. No matter that Gmail doesn’t have a crisp British accent feature.  I am Blogging Royalty, a local celebrity asked to speak to four middle school English classes on a Friday about my expertise.  I am a super star, Young House Love with DIY Lasagna instead of DIY Whole House Plumbing Overhaul.  I am the second coming of The Bloggess, Miss Jenny Lawson. 

I. Am. The. Next. Dooce.

I spent the bulk of the next day asking for tips from my blogger friends, reading internet articles about netiquette and typing up links to websites that would help these budding bloggers produce quality online work, knowing that in the future they would think of my visit and how much my advice had helped them wade through the tangled interwebs.  I would impart priceless wisdom that they could previously only glean from expensive blogging conferences.  I typed up no less than three pages of blogging knowledge.  It was not overkill in the least. There is so much information, and I had so much to give.

The day came, and I chose my outfit carefully, packing my laptop in the computer bag I had carried for official business in graduate school nearly a hundred years ago.  I am on a new path now, I thought, as I dusted the years of disuse off the black pleather.  My son and I drove to school and I walked stoically to the classroom while mentally transforming myself into the sage advisor on all things in the blogiverse.

After we settled into class and I introduced myself to my son's lovely Language Arts teacher, I sat quietly at a desk and listened as she talked about their blogging exercise and I waited until the floor was mine.

I stood, gathered my pile of handouts to give to the students, took a deep breath, and spoke.  “Hello. I’m a blogger.”

And the lights went out, plunging the room and the entire school into darkness.

I made the rest of my speech that day, and I think the kids enjoyed it, but not as much as they enjoyed hanging out in the room with not much to do but their blogging assignments and play games on the school’s still-working laptops until the principal announced that they would be dismissed two hours after school had begun.

Fifteen minutes later my son and I returned home and I changed out of my Blogging Royalty costume into black sweatpants to do the rest of the chores that I had smugly charged my husband with as I left that morning.

We did go to Chili’s for lunch, where my son and I shared our adventure with my husband.  Their Chicken Tortilla soup is pretty awesome.  I’ll bet Ree Drummond doesn’t know that.  And OMG, did you see the photo article on BuzzFeed about Disney Princesses with beards?  Genius.

My son and me, The Queen of Blogging.

*******


Friday, November 8, 2013

Blink

In a moment, my kids are firmly ensconced in tweendom, one with his foot caught in the door of teendom.

Soon they will be high school graduates, then college students, then young marrieds, then parents, then senior citizens.

I’m not being dramatic.  This is how fast the time goes.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to see many of the people that make up my history: parents and brothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, family friends.  It’s funny how a funeral can be so sorrowful yet so comforting at the same time.  It felt like a holiday during any of the past thirty years, except there was a casket and everybody was crying.

When we came home and I looked at the pictures, I saw my own girl’s face smiling back at me.  There I was wearing white tights at Christmas time, sitting next to Granddad.  There I was at ten, twenty, thirty, forty.

The time is gone, yet I feel the same as I did in this picture taken ten years ago.  My babies are almost looking me in the eye today, and there they are sleeping in our arms.  It went by so fast.  I talk to my mom on the phone and it’s like when I finished school and began life and we started talking every day.  It could be the day we bought our first house, the first day I was alone with my new baby, the day I quit my job, the day I made spaghetti for dinner.

My life is a cliché.  Everyone from here to there says it – you blink and they’re gone.  “They” are children, grandparents, years, hours, minutes.  Seconds.  I get it.  I’m living it.  I say it.

I miss my babies.  I miss the simple tasks of the day with them.  I miss bathing them, feeding them, strapping them into the car seat.  There was no juggling of schedules and calendars, no fitting all the puzzle pieces in.  There were naps, and chicken nuggets, and diaper bags.

There were nighttime rituals.  There were snacks every night and 8:00 bed times.

Last night, I kissed my son goodnight and because I’m a silly thing who is over my head in nostalgia these days, I rubbed my nose against his just because it was what I did when he was little.

His surprised smile, a rarity these days, told me that he remembered.

Never underestimate the power that an Eskimo kiss has on a t(w)een boy.  Or the wonders it can do for his mom’s homesick soul.




*******

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Do You Hear What I Hear?

I live for early morning quiet.

Yeah, I’m one of those.  If I’ve gotten some time to sleep well, and get up in the morning while it’s still dark, and it’s just me and the new day, it’s a good day.

There’s just something about the softness of silence that wraps around everything like a familiar blanket.  It’s warm and comforting.  It inspires me to take gentle steps, to move more deliberately, to be nicer and more at peace with everyone, including myself.  A great day is when the calm of the morning influences the entire day.

Everyone still sleeps in the house when I get up.  I love the idea of peaceful snoozers just a floor above.  I love that we are all together here in the silence.  My coffee mug and I keep watch while they snore. 



The occasional car on the highway – dark-early commuters getting a head start on the traffic – interrupts the hum of my computer, the brewing of the coffee, the fan of the heater blowing on chilly mornings like today.  My husband, an early commuter like the few on the road outside, wakes and leaves so quickly that his noises are soon forgotten, absorbed into the quiet.

It only lasts a short time.

The sun lightens the sky as the noises outside get louder, more frequent.  The noises inside do, too.  I hear the bathroom door close, the water of the shower.  Soon there will be footsteps, then voices. The buzz of the refrigerator will again be background noise instead of the featured solo.

Voices talking to me.  Voices vying for my attention, rising up against each other.  My voice will join theirs.

The morning quiet is replaced by chatter about schedules, the rustle of breakfast, the preparing of book bags and lunchboxes.

The day is here.

*******

This post inspired by:

Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt #5: Listen.  Write about what you hear, right now.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

After

After a loss, everything changes.

The air is different.   No longer are familiar surroundings the same.  That tree is now growing in a world that contains a vacant spot that wasn’t there just days before.



Tears stream down faces that are typically smiling, happy to see you again.

Relationships change.  Cousins who see only each other once a year now hug with a ferocity and strength that you’ve never felt before.  Voices that you have never heard say the words “I love you” speak these words to you over and over and over again.  You hang onto these affirmations as if they had healing powers.

Old photos take on a different light.  You love them now for different reasons; the people in them are no longer within arms’ reach, and the photos are the closest thing to them besides your own memories.



You come home to a house that you have filled with love and warmth, and it seems cold in places that weren’t before.  It feels off.

Soon, the warmth and comfort will be back.  The memories will help, and so will the mundane.  When this load of wash is finished, when those pictures go back into the album, when the last excuse for absence is turned into the teacher – the everyday will smooth the rough, eventually.

Life will go back to normal. 

Or a semblance of what that was.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Shut Up

It happened twice in the same month.

I was alone, shopping.  Both times happened in the middle of the morning, that magical time where stores are empty of the throngs of shoppers that highlight evenings, weekends, and holidays.  It was just me, the retired population, and the dwindling sea of stay-at-home moms with their small children, out looking for deals on cheap T-shirts, chips, and two-for-one London Broil.

As I perused the selection of spaghetti sauces at the grocery store, I idled my cart next to a young mom and her small child, an adorable girl with bouncy curls and long lashes, a little rumpled as if she had just woken from a nap, little leggings covering chubby legs that were stuffed into sparkly pink Velcro sneakers.

I smiled at her while her mother shopped.  Such a sweet time when kids are little, I thought, as I always do when I see a mom out and about with smalls in tow.  I remembered those days in my own past, the fog of wistfulness obscuring memories of tantrums over toys, food refusals, all those sleepless nights and my own lack of self-care brought about by the never-ending mothering that bled each day into the next.  Good times.  It seemed like yesterday.

I was thrust out of my idyllic reverie when this little cherub looked me up and down, and, never taking her eyes off of me for a second, pointed at me as if I was a sideshow participant, void of feeling or personality and placed there for her entertainment, and proclaimed loudly to her mother, “Mommy, she’s BIG!”

I was taken aback.  I raised my eyebrows a fraction, bit my lip and smiled. 

She’s just a child, I thought.  She doesn’t know any better.  Rudeness in kids is nothing but innocence when they’re this young.  Plus, at nearly six feet tall, and over that with any kind of shoes on, I AM big.  I’m just sensitive.  All my life people have taken it as their personal mission to advise me on my tallness.  It’s the stranger-touching-the-pregnant-woman’s-belly phenomenon – everyone feels impelled to reach out and comment on my height.  I’ve learned to smile and respond:

Yes.  I am tall.

The mother said nothing, clearly embarrassed and flustered by her daughter’s outburst.  She smiled at me while simultaneously avoiding eye contact and tried to distract the tot with a can of diced tomatoes.  I self-righteously wished she would have admonished the child and apologized to me, but she didn’t.  Maybe she’d wait to correct her until they were safely out of my earshot.  Maybe she wouldn’t, and raise yet another human who feels it’s okay to comment on strangers' appearances.  I felt the child’s eyes on me as I finished my shopping and the pair scurried away.

The next time it happened I was in a big box store, searching for something specific in the toy aisle, a futile task if you know anything about how big box stores are organized so that the one thing you want is missing, but there are twelve of everything else.

Maybe it was the time of day, or the mood I was in, or the fact that the same incident had happened to me just a couple of weeks before, but I was not so zen about the name calling this time.  The girl, at the other end of the aisle with her mother, stared at me the same way the other one did.  As they exited the aisle, she turned to her mother, thinking she was out of earshot and with eyes fixed on me, said “She’s BIG!”

I lowered my eyebrows into a frown, wrinkled my nose, and bared my teeth slightly at her.  Then I turned and walked in the opposite direction before I said it.

Shut up.




*******

This post inspired by:

Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt #5: The last time someone called you a name.