Monday, November 24, 2008

Worst. Day. EVER! Well, Almost.

OK, can I just say being a single parent sucks?

Yesterday, I was supposed to go to Cyd's school to meet with her counselor to discuss her classes for next year, then take Mychael to the orthodontist. I printed out Cyd's appointment when I made it on-line, but for whatever reason, did not write it down in my little appointment book. I remembered to call The Tool (easier to write than "my Soon-To-Be-Ex") to tell him about the appointment, though.

And, the orthodontist's office is really good about sending reminder e-mails and phone calls before the appointments, too. And, just as a safe guard, I did write this one down in my appointment book.

So there I was, just going along with my regular day, when I get an e-mail from my friend asking me if I want to go to lunch or dinner one day this week. I get out my appointment book to see what I have going on, and realize that I have completely spaced the orthodontist appointment! No worries, though - I still have about an hour and a half or so before I need to leave work to grab the kids on the way to the ortho.

I am working, working, working, and as usual, leave it until the last possible minute to squeak out of there and race to get the kids. I belatedly realize that I so entirely, completely, just plain forgot about this orthodontist visit, that I didn't even remind the kids about it! So, I hurry and text Mykie on the fly. Or at least, as fast as I can, given my limited texting ability during the best of times, let alone while walking to the car.

Just as I hit "send," I remember Mychael has lost her phone, and won't get the message, anyway. So, I think, "No problem! I'll just call Bretten!" Which I do, and she answers as she is on the bus home. I tell her to tell her sister to be ready as soon as she gets off the bus because I'm on my way to get them to go to the orthodontist.

Bretten says, "Well, Dad just called and says he already has Cyd and he's going to meet us at the first bus stop and take us from there."

"What? Why?" I say. Bretten starts to explain, but I can hardly hear her for all the background noise of the junior high bus. Frustrated, I say, "Nevermind. That's fine. I just wish someone would tell me what's going on," and I hang up.

I build up a head of steam as I call The Tool, all ticked off because, no matter how many times I have asked him to communicate with me directly, it seems he is prone to make plans with the kids, and none of them remember to tell me what's going on - or, I get bits and pieces of things from the kids that I can't decipher and then they feel like they're in trouble when I quiz them to try to figure out what is happening, when. I hit "send" and wait for him to pick up, ready to pounce as soon as he answers.

"Hello?" he says.

"Hi," I say. "What's going on? You're taking Mykie to the orthodontist?"

"Well, yeah," he says. "I figured I'd better. I tried to get ahold of you earlier to see what was going on when you didn't show, and I couldn't find you, so I just planned on doing it."

"Didn't show? Didn't show for what?"

"Cyd's appointment with the counselor."

It had completely, and I mean completely, slipped my mind. The appointment was there, written down on a paper, and I had totally, 100% forgotten about it. Suffice it to say, I was mortified. I hate messing up. I am not good at it. I am not gracious about it under the best of circumstances, though I manage to apologize to The Tool and figure out what's going on now and what I need to do to get back on course.

The Tool takes the kids to the ortho, and shows up at the house about an hour later. We exchange information about Cyd's appointment and Mykie's next ortho appointment, and then he says, "By the way - I forgot to change the direct deposit on my travel checks. They have been going in to your account, so I am just going to deduct that amount from the child support check I give you this weekend."

Not that I don't trust him, but I don't. I went and looked at the bank account, and sure enough, there is a deposit that is just labeled "Federal" but it is a weird amount - obviously not my regular salary. So yeah, I owe him the money. I never did the bills when we were married, and I have been really trying to get the financial crap all squared away because he always told me I wasn't good at it. I had kind of been thinking, "See? I can, too, do it!" because I've gone five months now with no late payments, no bounced checks, etc., etc. I even managed to pay for San Francisco and fit Christmas shopping in there, too, with minimal impact to my savings. And yet, here was evidence that I am not nearly as good as I thought I was, as I will only have half the money I was counting on for December.

So after absorbing that blow, he leaves and I turn to the girls to tell them the plans for the rest of the day. Before I can even open my mouth, one of the twins (I won't say who, to protect the guilty), says to me, "Where were you?!? Why did you forget?!?!"

Well, I'd had it. I got all teary (I usually try to do my crying in private) and just said, "Well, excuse me. I've had kind of a crappy day!"

And of course, the sight of me in tears immediately has her crying, too.

So now I am thinking I can't manage the kids' scheduling crap, I can't manage the money, and I can't even manage to be "The Mom" without falling apart! It seems I can't do anything right today!!

But then I remember some wise words from one of my cousins, who was born and raised in the southeast (North Carolina). "It's okay," she said. "Tomorrow is another day, Scarlett."

It's true. Oh, sure, it feels like the most totally craptastic day, ever. But I'm alive, I'm healthy, I have a house to live in and food to eat. Most importantly, I am surrounded by people I love and who love me back - who remind me that tomorrow is another day, when I need reminding. What would I do without them all?

So it was not the Worst. Day. Ever. Just almost. ;)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Make It A Good One!

I am not the best housekeeper in the world. In fact, I am pretty much a sucky housekeeper. I don’t clean my house at all – I pay to have someone else come in and do it. I manage to keep the surface of things picked up pretty well, but the interiors of my cabinets, drawers, and shelves mostly have all sorts of junk stuffed in them higgledy-piggledy. My desk at work is no better, and neither is my car.

My car is probably the worst of the three, because I have no cleaning company or janitorial staff to take care of it for me or to force me to pick it up in preparation for the deeper cleaning of their visit. In fact, I am often guilty of leaving a half-empty bottle of juice, a handful of receipts, or an unwashed lunch container in my car for several days (geez, I hope it’s not weeks, but time does fly….) at a time. In my defense, though, it’s not just me: my kids help contribute to the mess by leaving candy wrappers, fast-food bags, school papers, and dirty socks in the back seat, too.

So, although it doesn’t happen all that often, it’s also not horribly unusual for me to get in my car, breathe in, and say to myself, “Whoa!! Time to clean out the car!!” Yesterday was such a day.

I picked the girls up early from school for an appointment to go get flu shots. I picked Cyd up at the high school first, and then went over to get the twins at the junior high. I parked in the visitor’s space and asked Cyd if she wanted to go in with me to get her sisters.

“How long will you be?” she asked.

“Well,” I said, “Not that long, but I’ll have to get them checked out and everything so it might be a little bit.”

Cyd decided to wait in the car.

I went into the school and walked to the attendance office. It is run by students so it’s kind of a slow, laborious process to fill out the papers, have the student look up the class, call the teacher on the loudspeaker, and repeat the process for the other twin. Then, of course, both girls are on opposite sides of the school, about as far away from the attendance office as you can get. They finally appeared, and then we had to stop by the locker to drop off books and pick up backpacks, too. So, by the time we got back out to the car, probably close to 10 or 15 minutes had lapsed.

As soon as I got in the car, I immediately noticed a rather unpleasant odor. As I prepare to pull out of the parking lot, I have my "time to clean out the car again" thought and begin mentally running through the checklist of things I may have left in my car that could be the origin of such a funky smell: hmmm, haven’t been through a fast-food drive-in for a while, didn’t take my lunch to work today, Mychael washed her gym clothes over the weekend…what could it be?

Then it dawned on me. “Cydanie,” I said, “while I was getting your sisters, did you make a fartie in Mom’s car?”

There was a long pause, and then she finally replied.

“Well,” Cyd said, “it was only one!”

So, the moral of the story is, if you’re only going to make one, make it a good one – whatever it is.

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's Been A Long Time - Next Time Will Be Better, I Swear!

I have been so busy at work lately - I have sort of fallen out of the habit of posting. I know that I am being paid to actually work while I'm at work, and believe me, I feel plenty guilty that I don't give it my all, all the time. But let's face it: between the stuff at home (kids, cars, house, etc.) and the divorce crap, a half hour or hour at work is really the only time I have to do it, when I also have the energy to do it! I could give you a list of stuff that has happened lately, but it's all gross and I don't want to think about it, let alone write about it.

Suffice it to say that my car broke only 6 weeks after the warranty expired, and it cost me over $200 to get it fixed - it was possessed by something otherworldly, which caused the lights and dials and gauges and stuff to go on by themselves, even when the switches were off. Oh, yeah, and it wouldn't start. On the bright side, it turned out to be a relatively simple problem which was corrected by replacing the battery, and it didn't cost the $400 that the dealership told me it would. But it was still a lot of running around for parts and stuff, and I had to make my dad help me (I still suffer guilt because he is 70 and I should be helping him, not him still taking care of me...).

One of the twins is not turning in her math homework again. On her first junior high school report card, she got around a 2.9 or 3.0 or something like that. Which I would say was fine, except that I know she can do so much better than that. Her sister got a 3.9, fer pete's sake - all A's and only one A-! I know that one just "does" school better, but still - I would've thought their grades would have been a little closer. That is the downside about having multiples - the regrettable tendency to compare them to one another, and always find one of them "less than" the other. Don't get me wrong, I love them equally! But I catch myself thinking, "I wish this one was as organized as that one," or "Why can't that one be as accommodating as this one?" For me, at least, it is a constant struggle to appreciate them each for their own individual strengths and not always be wishing that each had the other's strengths, too. And this is not helped by the fact that THAT one won't do her math homework!!!

And since I am complaining about school stuff, I might as well tell you that Cyd growled at her Foods teacher (sigh...). I guess I am used to it when Cyd goes "Urgggggh!!!" at me, and I just laugh it off. However, I can see how a teacher might be shocked if she got that noise, just for asking Cyd to copy down a recipe. So, now I can't laugh about it anymore; I need to train Cyd to realize that growling is not "socially appropriate."

And then there's the whole divorce thing. We are still battling over finances and assets and all that. I long for the day when my description of "me" can just be about me, and not include "soon-to-be-divorced" as one of the qualifiers.

I am truthfully less angry with Mr. Soon-to-be-Ex about all the mechanics of the divorce than I am about the idea he seems to have that you can divorce your kids as easily as you can your spouse. Sure, we have been squabbling back and forth about possessions. I continue to doubt his continuing denial of the existence of any type of "inappropriate relationship" with a woman he works with. I am irritated that I have just now discovered a mysterious multi-hundred dollar expenditure in an out-of-state jewelry store that occurred back in April, especially since the person he is NOT having a relationship with (yeah, right!)happens to live in the town where said jewelry store purchase occurred. Hmmm, I think I would remember if I were the recipient of anything from such a store, don't you? But that's all petty crap which, in the long run, doesn't mean much.

However, I am completely bewildered as to how Mr. Soon-to-be-Ex either is not aware, or just plain doesn't care, that his slavish devotion to his own happiness has so negatively impacted his own children in one way or another. I have had to explain to Cyd more than once that the whole concept of divorce means that Daddy doesn't get to have a birthday party at Grandpa Bob's this year, even if Dad's birthday is in December, because that was Daddy's choice. Do you think he's even explained that once?

I have another child in therapy now because she is struggling so much. All the therapist had to do was ask her where her dad lived, and the shaky hold she has on her emotions just burst. She could barely choke the words out through her tears. Why doesn't he get to witness this, and feel the knife twist in his gut the way it twists in mine when I see how miserable they are? The therapist asked her what her dad was like, and the only answer she could think of was, "He's in the Army." You know, I think I could tell you a dozen things about my dad, and never once mention what he does (or did) for a living.

Granted, I am an adult with supposedly better communication skills, but still....I would be embarassed if my kids ever thought of me as such a one-trick pony. And I'd be ashamed if any child of my own grew up to be that way, too. How could I have lived with and loved a man such as this for all those years? Were those years a lie, or is who he is now the lie?

Oh, now look: I wasn't going to write about any of this crap because it was just all too gross, and here I ended up doing it anyway. Next time, if I can't think of anything more fun, I am going to borrow a cute idea from my cousins and make a list of 100 things about me which WILL NOT contain anything about car trouble, kid trouble, or divorce crap.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Blog Thievery

I am super busy at work this week, and so likely won't have time to do a "proper" blog post. However, I read a blog today that I thought was totally hillarious and worth sharing. If you have ever heard of Natalie Dee, she is kind of a sureal, off-the-wall, web-based comic artist who, in my opinion, is extremely funny. I won't pretend to "get" all of her stuff, but the things she draws and writes about her pug, Chester, are absolutely hillarious. As is 80% of the rest of the stuff she does. If you have ever seen Dana's shirt that has a cupcake plus a multivitamin on it, with the caption "Super Breakfast," or my cat-in-the-catbox shirt that says "Free Samples," those are Natalie Dee.

Anyway, Natalie just had a baby, a little girl. The baby was born prematurely, as Natalie had fairly severe pre-eclampsia. In addition, the baby was breach, so not only was Natalie on bed rest, she also had to stay in the hospital for longer than normal, have the baby via C-section, and take home a 4 lb. baby. All of you who have ever been on bed rest, had a C-section, had a preemie, or even just a lot of swelling and/or a really, really tiny baby, will recognize just how accurate (and yet, bitingly funny!) Natalie's portrayal of those experiences is. I am warning you in advance, though, that she swears. A lot. Try to overlook it, though - you don't want a little thing like freqent use of the f-bomb to keep you from enjoying such priceless observations.

So - here's the link: Go to the October 30th entry, and I challenge you not to laugh.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Can You Say "Stubborn?"

I'm sure you'll all be happy to know that no table slapping was required last night. The next four pages of Foods homework have been completed, and with minimal belly-achin', and we only have three left to do tonight. Woo HOO!

And because there was minimal bellyachin', Cyd earned some free time on the computer last night. Normally, she visits Pokemon websites, Cartoon Network, or You Tube to watch Sailor Moon; Pokemon; The Grimm Adventures of Billy & Mandy; or Trick My Truck episodes. Every once in awhile, though, she'll play a game - usually Pokemon related somehow.

So, though she plays her Nintendo DS every once in a while, games aren't really her "thing." Imagine my surprise, then, when last Saturday at Target, she brought me a computer game called "Cake Mania" and told me she really, really, really wanted it. It was only $10, but I was thinking that's kind of a lot of money for just a treat for no reason. But then, the twins saw it and chimed in, too. "Ooooh, Mommy, yes, yes, yes!! We love this game!! It is soooo fun!!!" they said. "Please let's buy it, OK, Mommy? OK?!?"

I figured $10 divided by 3 kids was less than $3.50 per kid, which is a more reasonable amount for a "treat." So I looked at Cyd and said, "Well, OK, but if I buy it, you have to share it with your sisters, OK?"

She looked back at me, and said in all seriousness, "Why would you want me to do that?"

We have been working on this "sharing" concept since she was 3, so I am used to explaining "why I would want her to do that." So I explained it to her once more: the game was $10, and it was kind of a lot of money, so if I was going to buy it, then it had to be for all the girls, not just her. That way all the kids could play with it and enjoy it, and not just her.

"But I don't want to share it!" she whined. Really? I hadn't guessed!! But sarcasm is lost on her.

So instead I said, "Well, you can pay for it with your own money, then."

I get the big, heavy sigh. "But Mom, you know I'm saving my money so I can buy a vehicle!" (see my post of September 9, 2008)

I repeated my earlier explanation of $10 being an expensive treat for just one girl, and if I bought her a $10 treat, I'd have to buy a $10 treat for Bretten and a $10 treat for Mychael, too, so that it would be fair. Then that would be $30 in treats. But if all the girls shared the game, then I only had to buy one $10 treat, and so on.

She gave me a look full of disappointment and disgust. "Fine!" she said, and stomped off to put the game back.

I called her back over, and tried to explain that sharing the game might not be as fun as owning it all to herself, but even if she had to share it, at least that meant she still had the game, and that would be better than not having the game at all, wouldn't it? But she was having none of that.

"Mom, I told you, I just don't share."

Well, the twins had observed this exchange, of course, and were jumping around and yapping at me, afraid their slice of the $10 was going down the drain. "Mommy, Mommy!" they cried. "Don't let her put it back, Mommy. You said we could get it. Can we still get it, Mom, huh, can we? We like it, too!! Please, Mommy, please, can we get it, huh?!?!"

"Fine!" I said, and they ran happily off after Cydanie to get the game, anyway. I figured that once we had the game home, the temptation of playing it would help Cyd get over her aversion to sharing and she would end up enjoying the game, anyway.

Flash forward to Cyd's free time last night. I noticed that one of the twins had left the Cake Mania game out right next to the computer as Cyd came in and sat down in front of it. I stealthily tried to observe her as she logged on, while trying to look like I wasn't observing anything (if she knows I'm watching her, she gets irritated with me). I was fully anticipating that as soon as she got started, she'd go ahead and put the CD in and play the game and act like she'd gone along with this "sharing" business from the start.

Imagine my surprise when, instead of putting the "Cake Mania" CD in the computer, Cyd Googled "Cake Mania," instead - and then began playing the free version via the internet!

The internet version has fewer levels, fewer rewards, and runs a lot slower. But apparently, in Cyd's world, it is better to play an inferior game on the internet, than it is to capitulate and actually share a better version of said game with your sisters!

Can you say "stubborn?" Grrrr!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

If All Else Fails, Slap the Table

My oldest daughter (the one who has autism) goes to school in what our local school district calls a “self-contained learning center.” That’s a fancy name for what is, essentially, a class room that is set apart from the main school. It has its own lockers and a restroom so that the kids in that class never have to leave it during the school day. All the core subjects are taught there, and my daughter and her classmates only leave to attend whatever “mainstream” classes they might have, or to go to lunch. They wouldn’t even have to leave for lunch necessarily, if they bring their lunch from home.

Anyway, these types of classrooms generally have two teachers and only 10 to 12 students, all of whom have some kind of learning disability and/or sensory or behavioral problems. The small pupil-to-teacher ratio ensures that the kids get the extra academic help and support they need. The fact that this also limits the amount of time they are swimming with the all the neurotypical (i.e., “regular”) kids in the main hallways helps them, too, by minimizing what could be overwhelming sensory input/stimulation, thereby reducing the chances of conflict with any less-than-tolerant neurotypical students.

One of Cyd’s mainstream classes this semester is Foods. Back in the day, we used to call this class “Home Ec.” The name may have changed, but the gist is the same: a couple of days of classwork learning about nutrition and measurements and so on, and then a day cooking in the lab. Cyd loves to cook, so this is, naturally, one of her favorite classes. At the beginning of the school year, I emphasized to Cyd that if she didn’t cooperate on the classwork part, she wouldn’t earn the privilege of being able to cook in the lab part. I assumed she understood, and the school year was just floating along smoothly.

Silly me.

Yesterday, I get a call from Mrs. K, the Foods teacher. She just doesn’t know what to do, because Cyd is missing 11 assignments and is getting a D-, and the term ends Friday. Mrs. K doesn’t want to fail Cyd, but she can’t, in good conscience, give her a B based on labs alone. I panic. I know it’s “just” Foods. It's not like its Calculus or Chemistry or something really hard or even part of the “core” curriculum (like reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic)! But, seeing as this and gym are the only two mainstream classes she has this semester, it's important that she at least do all the assignments and maximize her participation points to help offset any difficulties she might have in other areas. I tell Mrs. K I understand her dilemma, of course I don’t expect her to pass Cyd if Cyd is not doing the work. I ask if there is some way Cyd can make up these assignments and bail her grade out of the toilet.

Mrs. K says sure - all the “assignments” are, are end-of-unit summaries/quizzes that Cyd has just plain refused to do. None of them have more than 20 questions, and the questions are not difficult. But, I explain that Cyd has always had a test-taking "thing" (from the age of 3 and her first autism “diagnostic inventory”), so I am not surprised that when they tried to get her to do these in class, she would just cry. So then Mrs. K said she told Cyd she could just copy them out, giving her the answers and everything, but all Cyd would do was put her head down and pretend to sleep. Why Mrs. K waited to tell me about the problem until the last week of the term, I'm not quite sure, but that’s a different story.

This story is about doing homework with Cyd, and I had to give you all that background so that you could fully appreciate the following:

Knowing that any homework is enough to set Cyd off on a melt-down, I try to be very cheery when I get home and ask Cyd for her papers from Mrs. K. I get Cyd some freshly sharpened pencils and some notebook paper, and set Cyd up at the dining room table. She is ready for business! I give her one paper that has 18 questions on it. They are mostly just pretty basic things, like, “The US Food and Drug Administration recommends six servings of grains per day for optimum nutritional health,” and “Unsaturated fats tend to be liquid at room temperature, and consist of monounsaturated (found in olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds), and polyunsaturated (found in walnuts, soybeans, and oily fish such as sardines and tuna).” All Cyd has to do is copy these sentences, as the words that were left blank in the “real” quiz have already been filled in for her on this copy.

I explain this to Cyd. “Just write these sentences,” I say. “Copy them onto your paper, just like they are written here. I’ll be in the kitchen, so just holler if you need any help.”

I go into the kitchen to read the newspaper, do the dishes, and just putter. It is dead silent in the dining room. About a half hour goes by, and I go in to check on Cyd. The paper in front of her is blank. She has not done a thing but sit there and stare at it for 30 minutes.

“Cyd! What are you doing? C’mon – get started!” I say. She looks up at me from underneath her too-long bangs, and tears well up in her eyes.

“It’s hard!” she wines.

“Oh, Cyd, you don’t need to cry! C’mon! Just write your name at the top of your paper. You can do that, can’t you? That’s not hard!”

“I just don’t want to do it,” she moans.

At this point, I’m still full of patience and sunny optimism. “I know you don’t want to do it, honey, but, if you don’t do it in school when Mrs. K asks you to, then you have to do it at home. All you need to do is just copy the words – you don’t even have to look anything up or guess. The faster you start, the faster you’ll finish. C’mon!”

All I get is more tears.

Mind you, an hour has now gone by, and she still has not so much as even touched the pencil in front of her, not even to write her name. Tears are dripping off her chin and leaving dimples on the paper. And mind you, she has eleven of these pages to copy!

The minutes tick by. I pull out all my tricks. I bargain: "If you finish one, then you can have a break and get a snack!"

“Mom, I told you, I just don’t want to. I don’t do homework!”

“Well, if you don’t do it in school, you certainly DO do homework, alright! That’s the rule – do it in school, or do it at home. Either way, you’ve got to do your work.”

No response except the occasional sob.

So then I plead: "Please, Cydanie, Mommy doesn't like to fight with you – just please do it! C’mon!"

All I get in reply are more sobs.

Now I am losing my cheeriness (!) and am starting to get mad. I threaten: "If you don't do what Mrs. K says and write down these sentences, she won't let you be in her class anymore. Then you'll have to spend all your time with Mr. B! And even worse, you’ll be in trouble with Mom!"

Cyd continues to stare morosely at her pencil.

I am ashamed to say that this is the point at which my last button was pushed. I smack the flat of my hand down on the table, the loud bang making Cyd jump and look up at me. I yell, "That's IT!! You are acting like a baby! Grown-up kids…” Here, Cyd interrupts me.

“I’m not a grown-up!”

I roll right over the top of her words. “…Grown-up kids who want to get driver's licenses do their work when they’re told. But if you want to act like a baby…”

Cyd interrupts again. “I’m not a baby!”

“Well,” I growl, “you’re sure acting like one! If you want to act like a baby, then I'll treat you like a baby - a big, almost 16-year-old baby!”

Cyd interrupts again. "But Mom, I'm not 16. I'm only 15!"

I am all worked up now. I shout, "I don't care! 15 OR 16 - it's too old to act like this! I'm going to count to 10 and if you are not writing by the time I get to 10, I'm going to spank your butt!" I grab her hand and put the pencil in it, and set the point on the top of the blank sheet of paper.


I flop back in the chair across from her, red-faced and breathing heavy, and stare her down. Finally, she starts to write her name. I hold my breath as she starts to copy down sentence number one. She stops midway, and looks up at me. I narrow my eyes and point back to her paper. She goes back to writing.

We continue this way for the next 90 minutes or so. I keep getting the stink eye every now and again. She writes a line, glares at me and complains for a couple of minutes, then writes another line, then glares and complains some more, then writes a line, then glares/complains....

At the end of the evening, we had finished four of the eleven papers that are due Friday. That means four tonight, and three Thursday night, and then she’ll be all caught up. I certainly hope we don’t have to repeat this entire process tonight to get her started on the next batch. I think I'll go straight to the slapping the table part, if so.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A One-of-A-Kind Souvenier

I just got back from a quick trip to San Francisco. We stayed in a hotel about two blocks away from Fisherman's Wharf. We visited Chinatown and the North End ("little Italy"), as well as took a cruise around the bay and a ride on a cable car. I had some of the best meals I've had in a l - o - n - g time: roasted mussels with garlic, gnocchi with spinach and walnuts, a burger from In-and-Out, and so on. San Francisco is one of my favorite towns - it has a sensibility and an eclecticness that just seem to "match" me. "Weird" is normal there, and that appeals to me.

I truly love the wharf area, though. I love the smell of the ocean and the faint, lingering, fishiness of the day's catch. I love the smell of sourdough baking. I love the sound of sealions barking and gulls squawking. I love all the "only in San Francisco" sights, from the beautiful orange bridge rising out of the bay, to the glass cases full of pink shrimp and red crab lined up like soldiers in formation, to the numerous oddities you find populating the piers: the homeless lady who drops down to the sidewalk like she's going to do push-ups, only to lick the cement; the "Bush Man" hiding behind his fake shrubbery to jump out at unsuspecting tourists; what seem like dozens of "robot man" guys who paint themselves silver (one was gold!) and pretend to be statues as they stand on top of a milk crate, and so on. I love the feel of the sea breeze in my hair and the salt mist on my skin, and the kaleidescope of brilliant colors in all the cheap tourist-trap shops along the Embacadero. If I were ever going to live in a "big" city, San Francisco would definitely be on the top of my list.

My brother, Bert, asked me to bring him "something cool" from my trip. I was only too happy to oblige, since he was taking care of my dog while I was gone. However, since I was not exactly sure what qualified as "something cool," I asked him to be more specific. "I don't know," he said. "Maybe something hippy?"

So with nothing more specific in mind, I wandered up and down the Embacadero. Finally, I saw something that would be perfect for him. I walked past a man, sitting in one of the flower planters that line the sidewalk, wearing what were clearly last week's clothes (if not last month's) and eating something unidentifiable out of a styrofoam container. He had a sign made out of cardboard propped against his chest, and on it was scribbled in marker, "Why lie? Need money for beer. Out of luck - spare me a buck!"

I approached him and said, "Hey, I'll buy your sign from you!"

He had a hard time making both eyes focus on me at the same time. His right eye seemed to be looking at me, but his left eye was squinting and looking off to the left somewhere. "You aren't going to go panhandle with it, are you?" he asked me.

"No," I said. "I just want to buy your sign."

"If I sell you my sign, what will I use?"

"I don't know," I said. "You can make yourself a new one."

He hesitated. "Welllll..."

"I'll give you twenty bucks for it."


I handed him a twenty, and he gave me his sign, and we were both happy with the deal.

As I walked away, I heard him mumbling under his breath, "Geez, I should just make signs...." I laughed, and congratulated myself on scoring a truly one-of-a-kind souvenier that pretty much epitomizes San Francisco.

The next day, we were out on the wharf again. I saw my former business partner sitting in the same flower bed. Guess what? He had a new sign that read, "Why lie? Need money for beer...."

Guess it's not so "one-of-a-kind," after all.

Monday, October 6, 2008

How do YOU determine the worth of a soul?

As promised, here is my blog post on determing the worth of a human being.

As I wrote in an earlier post, my counselor gave me a task: determine how to ascribe worth to a soul. Ostensibly, this is so that I can try to see myself as valuable not because of how much I make, how many degrees I have, how hard I work or how much I accomplish, but valuable just because I am. We got on this topic because I mentioned to her that I come from a family who, to a person, is probably "better" than average in terms of kindness, intelligence, generosity, goodness of heart, etc., and yet probably a good 75% of them feel "unworthy" somehow. No matter what they know about themselves empirically, they struggle to believe it emotionally.

And, if you go back and read some of the writings of my great-grandmother's mother, you realize that it has been this way for us generation after generation. Why is that? Especially when there are those out there who are less of all those characteristics that I think "should" lead to lots of esteem, and yet somehow they are convinced that the planets revolve around them (and everything else should, too!). How does that work?

So anyway, the counselor told me to try to determine what makes a soul worth something, and how would I determine that one soul, for whatever reason, might be more or less worthy than another one. Here is where I am at so far:

At first I was thinking that all people had worth simply because they were alive. But then I thought, well, cows and chickens are alive, too, but I don't think they are worth as much as a human being. So the mere fact of being a living, sentient being is not the determining factor - at least, not for me.

So then I thought, well, anyone who makes the world a better place has worth. But, I think everyone makes the world a better place. It's just that some do it by coming into it, and others do it by leaving! So anyway, that's not going to work, either.

So, to all three or four of you who actually read this, I am conducting a poll: How do YOU determine the worth of a human soul? And using whatever you use, how do you determine what makes one person better than another? I'm looking forward to your input...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Returning To Your Roots and Karma

Some things have happened lately that make me realize that who you are as an adult, has a lot to do with how you were raised. You can fool yourself for a little while, trying out different lifestyles, etc., but you generally return to your roots, I think. For instance, if as you were growing up, your parents emphasized honesty, responsibility, charity, kindness, etc., chances are that you will emphasize those same values in raising your own children. Or, if you were raised to believe that you've always got to be looking out for Number One and you are perfectly justified to plan and scheme every weasel-ish way to work a situation to your advantage (like someone who shall remain nameless - but I bet you can guess who it is!) then you will eventually go back to that, no matter how many years you tried to live your life a bit more honestly/generously.

I know that I was not nearly as nice of a person 20 years ago as I am now. Not saying I'm nice now, mind you, but I'm nice-er. Case in point: when Grandma Jean was still alive, we were at the park celebrating a birthday. I think it was my brother, Elj's, but I'm not sure how old he was at the time - maybe 10 or 12? Anyway, my grandma was diabetic and diabetics tend to have a lot of circulatory problems in their extremeties, so she had been having trouble with her feet. So here we are at my brother's birthday - a big day in the life of a little kid, for sure! My mom (Pegge) is rushing around, organizing the big "Happy Birthday" song and trying to light candles and everything, but my grandma was like, "Pegge? Come look at my toe. What do you think, Pegge? Do you think it's OK, Pegge? How does it look? Pegge? Pegge?"

My mom dropped everything to go look at my grandma's toe, and for some reason, it irritated the crap out of me. I was like, "Geez, Grandma - this is Elj's birthday! Can't you wait a minute? Gosh - why does everything have to be about you! Can't you see my mom is busy? Don't you realize a kid's birthday ought to center around him, and not his grandma's toe? Can't we at least sing to him first? Fer cryin' out loud!" I didn't say anything like this, of course, but I was having a lot of uncharitable thoughts about Grandma and my mom, too, for getting sucked in to Grandma's "poor me" quest for attention. I thought to myself, "Man, I'm never going to be like that with my mom, or anyone else! How would anyone know that that is inappropriate behavior, if I reward them with attention? Grrr!"

Skip 18-some odd years into the future, to a day earlier this week. I was telling my mom about a recent visit to my counselor, and how she had talked about how easy it is to assign value/give worth to others, but how hard it was for me to find charity in my soul for myself. The counselor gave me an assignment: how do you determine the worth of human being? What is their intrinsic value, not because of who they are or what they have or what they've done, but just because they merely exist, and just are? This is a topic worthy of it's own separate blog post, to be sure, and I'll get around to it, eventually, but I was telling my mom how difficult of a question I thought this was to answer.

My mom proceeded to tell me, for at least an hour if not longer, how she would answer the question. Oh. My. God. I thought I would die from boredom. I kept blanking out, as unfortunately, her voice was like the hum of an air conditioner, or the sound of far-away lawn mowers on a sunny summer day: just a distant, steady, droning of "Bzzz, bzzz, bzzz, bzzz. Buh-bzz, bzz, bzzzz. Bzzzzzzzz!" If I was still the same person I was during Grandma's toe incident, I would have been all, "Uh, yeah, OK. Thanks, Mom! Gotta go! Buh-bye!" about 10 minutes into the monologue - afterall, this was a question about me, from my counselor, that I was supposed to answer for myself - NOT my mother's views on life!

But, I forced myself to practice charity and listen generously, even though I didn't particularly want to, because I knew she was enjoying having the chance to have an intellectual discussion and a willing ear. I was surprised at my mom's depth of insight. She's actually quite a philosopher, in her own way, and rather wise for someone who never got a college degree or ever, according to her, even felt particularly intelligent.

And I realized, also, that not only will who I am now listen to an hour's worth of "speechifying" from her mother and try to find value in it, even when it's difficult - who I am now would've stopped the party to pay attention to my grandma's toe, too, if I had the chance.

I guess my mother raised me right, after all, even if it took me a while to figure it out. I must have learned, unintentionally, from my mom's example, how to be a kinder, gentler person. I did come back to my roots - or at least, I'm in the process of it. Perhaps the Karmic pay-off to my mom for listening to Grandma's toe complaints all those years ago and making her feel valued, was me learning to listen to my mom now and making her feel valued. And one day, my surly pre-teens will (hopefully!) learn to do the same for me, and that will be my Karmic pay-off.

So, yeah, I was raised to be nice, and I think I'm nicer now than I was. But - I am not nice enough, to not sincerely hope that the Karmic pay-off for individuals who return to their weasel-y roots, will come back to bite them in their weasel-y little (bleep!)!!

Friday, September 26, 2008

My Two-Cents' Worth

OK, since I live in what has got to be the most polically-conservative state in the entire nation, I generally try to avoid broadcasting my own political views in order to avoid confrontation and the odd Relief Society mom looking at me like I am from another planet. Suffice it to say that I am a good bit more liberal than the majority of my friends and neighbors. I try to be respectful of all opinions, though, and don't try to ram my own viewpoints down others' throats (would that many of my conservative friends might practice the same....).

However, I have to admit that the selection of the overwhelmingly underqualified Sarah Palin has really got me in a lather, and I have just got to vent - especially after reading transcripts of her recent interview with Katie Couric. Specifically, I point to the following:

"...When [Palin] struggled to respond to Couric's suggestion that the $700-billion bailout might be better funneled through middle-class families instead of Wall Street firms, [she said] "That's why I say I, like every American I'm speaking with, we're ill about this position that we have been put in . . ." Palin began, before meandering off in fruitless pursuit of coherence.

"But I'll let the governor speak for herself:

" . . . where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the healthcare reform that is needed to help shore up our economy. Um, helping, oh -- it's got to be all about job creation too. Shoring up our economy, and putting it back on the right track. So healthcare reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions, and tax relief for Americans, and trade, we've got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, um, scary thing, but 1 in 5 jobs being created in the trade sector today. We've got to look at that as more opportunity. All of those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that."

OK, how did the bail-out vs. middle class refunds, get to be about health care? I have heard better "current events" responses from Miss America contestants and high school debate students!!

And "reducing taxes...has got to accompany tax reductions"?!?!?! Duh! Does she even listen to herself?!? Does anyone from the McCain campaign even go back and read transcripts of this woman?

Oh. My. God. I find it stunning, the amount of arrogance she must possess to think herself actually qualified for the #2 job in the land, if not the world. I'm afraid she knows so little about what's entailed, that she doesn't even know what she doesn't know, but should!! How could any self-respecting, half-way intelligent person think this woman even minimally qualified for the VP slot, much less the best qualified?

OK, rant over. I can't afford to continue my zealous public critique of Ms. Palin, lest I end up being forced by the majority of my friends and neighbors to begin wearing a giant scarlet "P" on my person....

Seriously, all I ask is that you dilligently research the candidates, and actually think about them and the issues and what kind of America you want for your children. Then vote your conscience - not just the party line.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

An UGH Mood

Last night, I was really, really tired for some reason. I got home from work, made spaghetti for the kids, and then pretty much just veg'd the rest of the night. All I wanted to do was park my butt in front of the TV and just zone out as much as possible until I could justify going to bed.

Cyd, however, had other plans. She came up to me after dinner and said, "Mom, is it alright if I make some desert?"

Normally I am OK with this, as Cyd is a pretty good cook. However, her clean-up skills leave a bit to be desired. And, since I am trying to sell my house, I have to stay pretty vigilant about having it "showing ready" at the drop of a hat. So I weighed Cyd's desire for desert with my desire not to have to clean any more than absolutely necessary, and with a heavy sigh, I caved.

"Ugh! Fine!" I said.

Cyd bounced off, then came back a few minutes later with a box of spice cake mix. "It's not 7:30 yet and I just have enough time and so is it OK if I bake this?" came out of her, all on one breath.

I don't like cake all that much. In fact, the only kind of cake I really, really like is chocolate with white frosting, but Cyd doesn't like chocolate anything (besides brownies, that is...). And, Cydanie and Mychael generally only have one piece of cake each, and Bretten won't have any at all because she doesn't like any cake. That means whenever Cyd makes a cake, I either eat 3/4 of it by myself, or I end up throwing away almost a whole cake - both of which drive me crazy. I didn't have any better suggestions for Cyd, though, so once again, I caved.

"Ugh! Fine!" I said.

Off she runs again, only to come back five minutes later to say, "Is it OK if I just go over to Kerry's house and borrow some eggs because our eggs are all gone and I only need three!" Again, I am irritated - besides the fact that I don't like to borrow stuff, in general, and now I would have to go to the store sooner than I was planning on so that I could return the eggs to my neighbor, I was also thinking that if Cyd would only read the box before starting and assemble all her ingredients, then she'd know we didn't have eggs before she even started! Then I could convince her she couldn't make a cake, and then I wouldn't have to eat it all or throw it out, or clean up the mess afterwards! But no, it was too late - the mix and the oil and the water were already in the bowl. So, here I cave again, with another exasperated sigh: "Ugh! Fine!"

I am sitting there, reading the paper, thinking that finally Cyd is all set and I don't have to worry about her until it's time to clean up. It was not to last, as Bretten comes in with the bowl in her hand.

"Mom," she says, "is this all stirred up good enough? Cyd can't stir it all the way, and neither can I, but when I told her to come tell you, she's all, 'Mom's ugh.' Then I said, what do you mean, Mom's ugh? And she said, 'Mom's just ugh.' So I asked her what that meant, and she said, 'Mom's in an ugh mood.' So I asked her what an ugh mood was, and Cyd said, 'Everytime I tell Mom anything, she just goes 'ugh!'"

Of course, then I felt guilty for saying "Ugh" to Cyd all night, but I was also a little bit tickled at her perception, since recognizing and understanding other people's moods is generally a struggle for people with autism. And that was enough to get me out of my 'ugh' mood for the rest of the evening.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Everything I Need to Know, I Learned from a Slumber Party...

As predicted by some of you, my Friday night experience is showing up on my blog:

I went to a "Slumber Party" Friday. A Slumber Party should not be confused with a slumber party. For those of you who don't know, a slumber party is when a bunch of girls get together to spend the night at a friend's house. They watch movies, play "Truth or Dare," paint each other's toenails, eat popcorn and pizza and other crap, and prank call boys, among other things.

On the other hand, a Slumber Party is a little get-together similar to a Pampered Chef or candle or Avon or Tupperware party. You get a bunch of friends together to look at some products and then the hostess gets to credit a portion of the sales from her party to her own order. The only difference is that instead of cooking utensils or cosmetics or whatever, the commodities to be purchased at a Slumber Party do I say this in a family-friendly manner? The commodities to be purchased are designed to enhance personal relaxation and/or pleasure.

Anyway, I am no prude! I enjoy a raunchy joke as much as the next person. I have seen my share of pornography, and even have a couple of volumes of erotica in my own vast book collection. I still have a naughty pen that I got from Paul Arguello in the eighth grade (it has an inch-tall spread-eagled man on it. When the pen is right side up, the man is wearing black speedo trunks. But when you turn the pen upside down, his trunks slide back into the pen to reveal the tiny man in all his nekkid glory. But I digress...). When I worked as an investigator, I went into numerous stripper bars, and have sat in the dressing rooms of the dancers and listened to their conversations with one another, etc. I have even been into Spencer's in the mall - more than once. I, myself, have even danced with a lesbian!*

What I'm trying to say is, I know the facts of life. I am very accepting of all genders, persuasions, and orientations, and generally believe that whatever happens between two consenting adults is their own business and none of mine. I have not led a sheltered life by any stretch of the imagination - especially compared to the vast majority of The Beehive State.

So, I didn't really think I'd be embarrassed about this Slumber Party. And I I wasn't, not really. I mean, I was thinking along the lines of, "Geez! I was married for almost 20 years! And I wasn't a virgin when I got married, so, I know stuff! They can't surprise me!" I was expecting things like edible underwear and the odd 'personal massage tool' or two. Maybe even some padded handcuffs or flavored lube or something.

They had all that, and more. I didn't have any trouble recognizing the various "products" the sales consultant brought out, or why there might be a market for such products. That is, until she got to a pink, gell-filled, pillowy thing about the size of a can of soda. It rolled back and forth in the consultant's hand, and I thought it looked like one of those water-weenie things you used to get in your Happy Meal back in the day. You know, the ones that were like an extra-long doughnut, hard to hold onto because if you squeezed it too tightly, all the water inside the tube squished to one side and it would just pop out of your hand?

Anyway, the consultant said this thing was called a "sleeve." I'm thinking, "A sleeve? For what?" I was actually thinking that a girl couldn't possibly have any fun with such a thing - how would she use it? Is it supposed to go on top of your Wascally Wabbit or something? And what good would that do? How could that possibly make things any better or more fun? I truly was clueless.

I voiced my confusion. "I don't get it," I said. "What are you supposed to do with it?"

Answers seemed to come at me from all around. "It's for the man!" came one voice. "You just hold it!" came from another. "You can use it together, or by yourself!" said someone else. I still didn't get it. How could holding this bubblegum pink, water-weenie tube-pillow-sleeve thing be fun together OR by myself? It wouldn't fit in anywhere, and what good would it do to just hold such a thing - even if you were holding it together? I'm sure my confusion showed onmy face.

Luckily, my cousin has purchased something similar to this item before, and this was not her first Slumber Party! "Oh, fer hell sakes!" she said. "Put some lube in it and give it to me!" The consultant squirted some goo into the center tube of the pink jelly roll thing, and passed it over. Grabbing my hand, my cousin said, "Here! Stick your finger in there! Now do you get it?"

Oh, I got it, alright. As the pressure from the gell-filled tube closed around my finger, and the warmth of my skin warmed the lube inside the tube, my cousin began to move the sleeve back and forth on my finger, creating suction. The proverbial light bulb went on!! I now know exactly what such a thing is used for. Turns out it's not really for us ladies, after all! Oh, I s'pose you could hold it for him, if you wanted to, but I do believe this thing was designed with the gentlemen in mind...

So what did I learn, besides what a "sleeve" is for? Well, for one, I learned that you really do learn something new, every day! Or at least you can, even if you are fast approaching 40 and think you've seen it all. Just go to a Slumber Party...

*See 9/15/08 post

Friday, September 19, 2008

Why Divorce Sucks

I'm sure anybody who has gone through a divorce - or even a bad break-up before - could give a list of a million of their own particular reasons for why divorce sucks, but here is one of mine:

I had a meeting with the attorney the other day and it was very stressful. It went as well as that kind of thing can go, I guess, but after it was over, I was totally drained. Wiped out. Exhausted. Just plain pooped. And yet, at the same time, I was also antsy, keyed-up, and just a little bit wired. The twins had gone to a Young Women's activity with the neighbors, and Cyd was off doing her own little thing, so I was just sitting there, twiddling my thumbs, going a little bit crazy.

Thankfully, my next-door neighbor called just then and told me her daughter's friend was over at their house with some beaded bracelets she had made, and would I like to come over and see them? I about jumped at the chance to be distracted by bright, pretty, shiny things, so I walked over there. Before I left, I told Cydanie to make sure she told her sisters that I was over at Kerry's house when they got home, and she said she would. I also happened to see Mychael across the street doing her Young Women's activity and waved to her as I was walking up to Kerry's front porch.

Well, the night was fun. Kerry's house is always full of stuff going on - she has three daughters who all have at least two or three friends, each, coming in and out, and Kerry is very social, herself. So, for someone like me who doesn't do idle chit-chat all that well, I can just find a chair and observe. I listened to their stories, laughed at their jokes, and generally, was very effectively distracted from the day's earlier stresses. I even bought a piece of jewelry from the friend.

I looked at my watch at one point and it was 9:40, and I thought,"Wow! I'm going to have to leave pretty quick to get the kids in bed!" Then I kind of let myself get lulled back into listening to a few more stories, following the banter back and forth between Kerry and her kids, and being distracted by bright, shiny objects. Then I looked at my watch again: it was 10:20!! "Oh, crap!" I said. "I've got to go!"

I ran home, and of course Cydanie was in bed. Bedtime for her is 10:00 PM, and she goes to bed at 10:00 PM come hell or high water. In fact, if she is tired at 9:15 PM, she waits to go to bed until 10:00 PM (all part of the joys of autism). Anyway, Mychael was on the computer, so I was going in to tell her to get off and get ready for bed. Bretten met me half-way there, arms folded across her chest, toe tapping, and a ferocious scowl on her pretty little face. I stopped short.

"Where were you?!" she burst out.

"I was at Kerry's - I thought you knew. I told Cyd to tell you guys when you got home, and I saw Mychael on my way over there, so I thought you knew. In fact, I was kind of surprised I didn't see you over there." I explained.

"Oh, I knew you were over there. Why are you so late?!?"

That kind of caught me off guard. "Uh," I stammered. "Well, I lost track of time. I was just talking with Kerry and stuff and looked at my watch and it was 9:40 and I was thinking I needed to leave soon, but then the next thing I knew it was after 10:00, so then I came right home. I'm sorry I'm late."

She grunted and stomped past me in a huff. I hollered in at Mychael to get off the computer and go to bed, and followed Bretten to the stairs.

"What's the matter?" I asked her, reaching out to turn her around. "Why are you being so grumpy to me?"

"Because!" she stormed. "I don't LIKE it when you're out past bedtime!!"

A million thoughts were going through my mind just then. What was this all about? She stays by herself all the time! I go places without her and even stay out late sometimes, and I don't get this reaction. What's going on? Then it hit me.

"Honey," I said, in my most patient, sincere tone. "I will never, ever leave you forever. Even if I ever have to go away for a little bit, I will always, always come back. I promise. Never doubt that for a minute."

And then she buried her face in my chest, wrapped her little arms around me, and just sobbed for all she was worth. The whole time she was crying, shoulders shaking, soaking my shirt, etc., I was thinking, "Damn that man for giving her this separation anxiety. Even if he came back, he can't take back this 'gift' of worrying about being left behind. This is an 'issue' she'll carry with her throughout her whole life, and who knows what kind of crazy company she'll end up keeping, just so she can feel secure; or how many times she'll shoot herself in the foot just so she can do the leaving instead of being the one who gets left."

I calmed her down as best I could, and we all went upstairs and got ready for bed.

But that, dear friends, is just one good reason why divorce sucks.

Monday, September 15, 2008

So I Was Dancing With This Lesbian....

I'm sure that headline got your attention, eh? Well, the story goes like so:

I went to a concert at Redbutte Gardens last week. G. Love and Special Sauce were the headliners, and the John Butler Trio and Tristan Prettyman opened up the show. I had never heard of JBT or Ms. Prettyman (I understand she is married to Jason Mraz of "I'm Yours" fame...), but I have heard of G.Love, et al. I am not a big fan of theirs, by any means, but I was mostly going for the company and just the fact that it was something to get me out of the house. A little break, if you will...

If you have never been to Redbutte Gardens, it is the absolute best concert venue for having a good time. Maybe not for acoustics, necessarily, but for just a pleasant ambience, it can't be beat. It is set in the foothills behind the U of U, and there is a little rushing brook with a bridge over it and several stands of trees, expanses of green lawns and planters full of flowers, etc. The restrooms are large, clean, and well-lit. And perhaps best of all, you are refreshingly treated like an adult when you go there. You can pack in your beverage of choice (adult or otherwise) and no one asks to go through your bag with a flashlight, nor are you frisked or otherwise patted down or anything! That must be what it's like to live somewhere other than The Beehive State....

The crowd was really fun. There was a real sense of camaraderie among the concert-goers - people seemed to be laid back, pleasant, and generally into one another's well-being. This is also a refreshing change from many "large crowd" types of gatherings I have been to.

Soon after we arrived (I went with a friend I used to work with, and four friends of hers that she works with now) Tristan Prettyman took the stage. I apologize in advance if you are a fan - it just seemed like generic folk-guitar stuff to me. However, it rained during her performance, and the rays of the setting sun shining through the light sprinkle formed a brilliant rainbow over the canyons behind the garden. I enjoyed some cheese and crackers and sushi and a little Dewar's and water. It was so pleasant - the good food and drink, the sounds of the little stream beside me and the guitar of Ms. Prettyman, the smell of rain and green grass, the beautiful gardens and wild canyons all has been ages since I was so relaxed.

Then, when the John Butler Trio took the stage, the rain stopped. I think I liked this group the best. The main guy - I'm assuming it's John Butler - was an absolute master on the 12-string. Even though I had never heard of him/them before, I couldn't help but be impressed. He is an enormously talented individual.

But what about the lesbian, you ask? Well, G. Love and Special Sauce's style of music is quite a bit more electric/bluesy funk style. They're best known for the song "Cold Beverages," but I personally like "You Get the Ankles, I'll Get the Wrists" better. The first two acts were nice "sitting-and-vegging" music, but G. Love, even if you're not really into him, makes you want to dance.

So there I was, along with my friend and her friends, and we were all just standing and dancing, clapping along to the music like ya do at a concert. I felt someone come up behind me and start the bumpin' and grindin' kind of thing. I was feeling very happy and was kind of getting into G. Love (even though I mostly think he's just "meh") and I just assumed it was either my friend being a smart***, or one of the guys she had brought with her making a pass at me.

Imagine my surprise when I turned to find it was not a guy at all, but one of my friend's female co-workers!! Silly me, I didn't want to offend her, so I just kept dancing, trying to inch away slightly while pretending like that wasn't what I was doing at all. Then, I started thinking that maybe I had misinterpreted what was going on - maybe it was just that crowded, and she couldn't help it or something. Besides, it was dark - maybe she didn't even realize I was a girl! So I just danced on through the rest of the song and tried not to think about it.

I sat down on my blanket and took a breather after that song was over. I had about convinced myself it was all in my imagination - maybe she was just a MAJOR G. Love fan, and had just been carried away by the music. My friend/former co-worker asked me to go to the restroom with her (you know how girls are...). So, as we are walking over there, she very casually says to me, "You know L [I'm not going to use her real name] is a lesbian, right?"

"Oh, really?" I say, trying to keep the panic out of my voice. "I didn't know."

"Yeah, she's pretty out of the closet. In fact, she thinks she can 'turn' anybody."

I couldn't help it - I just blurted it out: "Well," I said, "I might be able to hold still long enough for someone to practice on me, but I'm sorry - I just can't get up any enthusiasm whatsoever for doing something to someone else!"

My friend laughed and said, "That's OK. She's a bit of slut, anyway. I just wanted to let you know what you were getting into!"

Needless to say, I tried to keep my distance from "L" the rest of the night lest she be under the mistaken impression that, in any way, shape, or form, I was interested in being "turned!"

Since my avoidance strategy seemed to be fairly effective for the rest of the night, I kind of thought that maybe my friend had been over-reacting with her "warning" to me. In fact, it was so outside the realms of stuff you expect to happen to you, I was still unconvinced that "L" had made a pass at me, specifically (it was dark - how could she know?) in the first place. Well, apparently, it was no mistake on L's part as she said to me, on the way to the parking lot after the show, that if I was ever interested in "exploring," to give her a call, OK? Uh, yeah...sure....

Y'know, I read all the time about men who prey on the recently divorced because they think they'll be easy to get into the sack. I had no idea the same applied to lesbians, too. I guess you learn something new every day!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Somedays, it's a miracle....

Anyone who has no children, or only has very young (i.e., baby) children, will probably think I am the worst mother in the world when I say this - nevertheless, I offer the following confession: sometimes, one of my children will make me so mad that for at least a minute or so, I think I might gladly be able to peel off her skin and toast her over an open flame.

Case in point: One of my girls, who shall remain nameless at this point to protect the guilty, brought home a paper from school the other day. Mind you, this is a child who tests smarter than 97% of kids her age (this is the honest truth - I am not making up random numbers just to brag). School has only been in session for two weeks, but she brought home a paper from her algebra teacher two days ago that said she was getting a C+ so far - and that if she didn't have at least a B+ by the time mid-terms rolled around, she would be put into pre-algebra, instead. This particular child had pre-algebra in the 6th grade, and she managed to do just fine, so I was both puzzled and concerned.

I therefore went to discuss the matter with this daughter. "What's going on, sweetheart?" I asked. "Have you turned in all of your assignments? Is it just that much harder than last year? What can I do to help?"

"No, Mama," she said, her voice cracking. "I've turned in all my assignments. It's just too hard. I get too many wrong! I don't know what you can do to help because I don't know what to dooooo!!" she ended on a wail.

At this point, my heart is breaking as her tears overflow and run down her cheeks. "Oh, my poor baby!" I think. I fold her in my arms, and give her a hug and tell her everything will be OK - we'll figure something out, because she'd feel bad if she had to go back to pre-algebra, wouldn't she? Yes, she said. She would.

So, being the proactive mom, I e-mail the algebra teacher and ask, "What concepts is she just not getting? Is there anything in particular I can work with her on?"

The teacher responds, and I quote: "The concept of the importance of turning in all of her assignments would be a good place to start!"

Grrrr. Like I said, for at least a split second, I could've gladly squished her like a grape. Somedays, it's a miracle they survive....

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Duh, Grandpa!

Another Cydanie funny:

Cyd's favorite TV show these days is "Trick My Truck," on CMT. For those of you not familiar with the show, it is where a bunch of mechanics surprise some deserving trucker with a complete overhaul, update, remodel, and/or restoration of his "rig," generally centered around some central theme. Like, the guy who hauls cases of honey around to grocery stores, got his 18-wheeler painted to look like a beehive, complete with bees and honeycombs (the real kind, not the cereal!). Well, Cyd likes this show so much, she is now saving to purchase her very own "vehicle" - she's got $29 saved so far! And she is very specific, as well - it will not be a car, nor a truck or van, but a "vehicle." She is always asking about what kind of "vehicle" she should get, as well. Lately I think she has it narrowed down to a GMC....

Anyway, the other thing Cyd loves to do is draw. Sometimes it's Pokemon characters (Ready? Sing to the tune of "Milkshake:" "My Pokemons bring all the geeks to the yard, and they're like, "Do you wanna trade cards?" And I'm like, "Yeah, I wanna trade cards. I'll trade you Jynx but not Charizard"....) Anyway, sometimes she draws other TV cartoon characters, sometimes it's outfits for playing sports or battling Pokemons or whatever, and sometimes it's food or outerspace or bakeries or....well, you get the picture. So, in keeping with her latest "Trick My Truck" focus, she's been drawing trucks.

Her truck pictures aren't "just" a truck, though. She usually does a full-on 18-wheeler, complete with decorated cab, fancy wheels, and psuedo-air brushed murals. Normally, she will break her drawing down into an "outside" picture, and an "inside" picture of what the "sleeper" part of the cab will look like. She finished one recently that had a stagecoach on the outside of it, and the interior picture she drew featured diamond-tucked upholstery, carriage lanterns, a flat-screen TV complete with "media cabinet" to store her DVD's and DVD player, and an easy chair placed front-n-center in front of her plasma TV.

She was quite proud of this picture and spent a while designing and coloring it. Well, my mom and dad stopped by for a minute last night, and she finally had her picture done so she was excited to show it to them. The carpet was a brick red, the upholstery kind of a cordovan, her lanterns bronze and her media cabinet and TV a rich, woodsy brown.

However, she left the TV screen uncolored. My dad, puzzled by this one little bit of unfinished (to him) detail on what was an otherwise fairly complex and detailed picture, said, "Very nice, Cydanie. Now, you know what this needs? This TV needs a picture on the screen!"

And little practical Cyd says to him, "Well, Grandpa - the TV's turned off. Duh!"

Hard to get mad at her for being a smart-*** when she's so funny, and makes such perfect sense at the same time!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Where Did That Man Go?

I am warning you ahead of time: today's blog will be a divorce rant, of sorts. If reading all that angst, etc., makes you uncomfortable, you probably ought to skip this one.

It doesn't rain, but then it pours. I have had plumbing problems, cat-odor problems, clutter problems, pond problems, wasp problems, balcony problems, and so on and so on, in trying to get my house ready to sell so I can move to a place that is more "psychically soothing," and Mr. Soon-to-Be Ex can get his all-important share of the equity from our house. Anyway, it seems like I just get one thing crossed off my list, only to add two or three more to the bottom. It's been very frustrating because even though I have had A LOT of help frommy wonderful family, I have still felt no small amount of stress just thinking about the sheer magnitude of the thing, and about being responsible for it all, all on my own.

Technically, the stress comes not just from ME feeling solely responsible, but is also due, in part, to no small amount of frustration with him (i.e., Mr. Soon-to-Be Ex). I have to say it hardly seems that he is pulling his fair share of the load. He spent a couple of hours once doing yard work one day, and he patched a hole in the ceiling, too. But that's it. That's all he's done. And, the hole in the ceiling was caused by the plumber, that I researched, hired, found someone to be at the house for while he came and worked, and who ultimately, I paid for (although, to be fair, Mr. Soon-to-Be Ex did give me a check later to help with some of the expenses). I also researched, hired, paid, and took off work to meet the guy who did the gardening and the carpet cleaners (twice). And it has been me and my family members who have repaired and cleaned the windows, cleaned out his junk-filled office and laundry room, found the attorney, paid the filing fees, found the realtor, signed the papers, etc., etc., etc. Yep, me, me, me. Honestly, I am feeling like it was his idea to leave and dissolve our family, but I am doing 95% of the work it takes to make that happen in such a way that leaves no more scarring on any of us than is absolutely necessary.

The latest crisis occurred the night-before last. I had finished up packing, sorting, and cleaning for the night, and was just going to put a few dishes in the dishwasher and start it before going to bed. Well, the dishwasher door wouldn't shut! I looked at it, but couldn't see any way to fix it. So I just said a few choice words and went to bed.

The next morning, I called Mr. Soon-to-Be Ex to see if he could either tell me what to do, or come look at himself. This is approximately how the conversation went:

Me: The dishwasher door is broken, and I don't know how to fix it. The latch won't work - is there anything in particular I should try?
Him (with irritation): Well, I don't know. What do you want me to do about it?
Me: Well, didn't it do this before?
Him: Yeah, but it just had something stuck in it. Just look at it and see if you can get it unstuck.
Me: I looked already, and I couldn't see anything. I couldn't even see anywhere where you could stick a screwdriver in it to pry it up or anything.
Him: (heavy sigh) Wellllllll........
Me: Do you think you could look at when you come over to pick up the girls?
Him: (long, exasperated sigh) I guess. I mean, I don't know how to fix those things!
Me: Well, you certainly know more than I do!
.....long silence.....
Me (cont.): Or do you just want me to call my dad and see if he can come look at it?
Him: (quickly, and with noticeable gratitude!) Oh, well, yeah, sure! I mean, if your dad wants to, you might as well just have him look at it! I mean, he's better at that stuff than I am, by far!"

Geez. Thanks a lot for nothin'.

By this time, I am all for dissolving our union. I just want a little help with making the dissolution happen, for heaven's sakes!

And, I want it to be fair. Mr. Soon-to-Be Ex has told the attorney that he no longer does much business on e-bay because he is "too busy." However, I have print-outs from e-bay showing that he continues to pull in $2-3K per month. So I guess what I want, is a little help, and some equity.

Contrast the man I just described, with one who, about 16 years ago, told me that the little girl we found out we were having and had decided would be named "Cydanie Marie," should really be named after my grandma, instead. My grandma had been in poor health and it meant alot to me that he would be the one to suggest such a way to honor her. When my grandma passed away almost three months to the day of what would've been her first great-grandchild's birth, I was doubly grateful that he had suggested the change, and that we had had a chance to tell "Grandma Jean" about it before her death - I know she was touched. And that is why Cydanie Jean is Cydanie Jean, and not Cydanie Marie.

What I want to know is, where did that man go? He's not the one I've seen lately - maybe not even for the last few years. And that is what is most depressing of all.....

Monday, September 1, 2008

Honestly - the Things You Find in a Freezer!

As most of you know, I am going through what feels like a long, drawn-out divorce right now. I'm sure no divorce is easy, and this one may not be all that bad, comparably. But since it's the only one I've ever been through, it feels that way to me. I am in the process of selling my house, and due to the market conditions, I've not had much interest. So, I am slowly decluttering, packing, etc., both to better-prepare the house for showing, and to get ready to eventually move.

I have had a lot of help in this process, most notably from my best cousins ever, Mindi and Kim. Last Friday, I was having a pity-party kind of day, left over from an emotional meeting with my attorney and the soon-to-be-ex. Mindi had planned to come help me pack and sort some more, but I just didn't have it in me. I called her, bawling, to beg off, and bless her heart, she and Kim showed up on my doorstep a couple of hours later, anyway, with root beer and ice cream in hand.

We had an absolutely lovely time sitting around the kitchen table, eating (drinking?) root beer floats and laughing about squishing bugs and snakes (Mindi can do bugs, but Kim and I can't - however, snakes creep Mindi out, but they don't bother Kim or me at all) and how hard it is to patiently listen to seemingly never-ending stories from your children when all you want is a few minutes to yourself to unwind before bedtime or shower or just breathe!

Well, I freely admit to not being the best housekeeper in the land. For people who know me at work, they would think this out-of-character, but at home, I agonize over decisions. If I have pink and white shirt that needs to be washed, I dawdle, going back and forth over whether it should go in the "whites" laundry pile, or the "reds" laundry pile. If I have duplicates of an item, I struggle over throwing away or otherwise getting rid of the old one (I might NEED it!) - thus the explanation for the work described in the first paragraph!

Anyway, mid-root beer float party, I had to run out and pick up the twins from a "back-to-school" party they had been at with friends from their elementary school. When we got back home, I was surprised to see Mindi and Kim cleaning out my refrigerator! I was chagrined to realize that when they had tried to put the root beer away, they couldn't find a place for it - so they were compelled to clean out my refrigerator in the process of making room for the 2-liter bottle of root beer. For the record, the oldest item in there were some bacon bits that expired in 2000....

I helped finish the fridge, and we started on the freezer. Mychael came down stairs and said, "Hey, we might still have Cyd's snake in there - did we ever bury it?" I had forgotten all about "Slips," a little green garter snake that Cydanie had as a pet a couple of years ago. It didn't last long - it was our first experience with reptilian pets and either we didn't care for it correctly, or it wasn't very healthy to start with, or the stress of bringing it home did it in. It only lived for a month or so after we brought him (her? Hard to tell, with snakes...) home from the pet store. It was winter when it died, and Cyd wanted to bury it, but we couldn't because the ground was frozen. So, we put it in a little baggie, sealed it up, and put it in the freezer to await a proper burial service in the spring.

I was telling Kim and Mindi this story as Mindi was wiping out the door of the freezer and I was working with Kim on deciding what in the freezer would go, and what could stay (yes, this decision-making stuff is a two-person job for me). I was fairly certain that we had already done away with Slips - I hadn't seen him in a very long time so I figured someone had finally sent him to his final resting place in the bottom of the trash bin. It could have even been me, and I had simply forgotten - my memory is not what it used to be!

Shortly after I had assured them that we likely would NOT be finding any snakes in the freezer, Kim reached over to the door next to Mindi, grabbed a little plastic bag with Christmas packages printed on it, and said, "Here, this can go - it has Christmas presents on it!" All of a sudden, Kim screamed! She dropped the bag and bolted out of the kitchen. Mindi was hot on her heels, screaming hysterically as well! And I? Well, I was just standing there, looking around wondering what the heck just happened! Then it dawned on me - could Slips be in the Christmas baggie?

Sure enough - I picked up the baggie and there was Slips, remarkably well preserved. For the morbidly curious, he had little freezer burn, considering he had been in there for at least two years. All of us - including the twins - were now laughing so hard we could hardly breathe. I thought perhaps Kim had picked up the bag knowing that Slips was in there to save Mindi from discovering it, given how she feels about snakes. But no, she was not being altruistic at all. It was just a split-second thought on Kim's part. Sad to say, Slips didn't get his burial - he went in the garbage sack with the rest of the freezer's contents, baggie and all.

Perhaps it was one of those "you had to be there" moments. I am leaving out the parts about how far away some people ran, and who was laughing so hard she drooled, to protect the guilty. However, I bet the next time Kim and Mindi go to clean out a freezer, they will be a little bit more wary about just diving in. Though I hope it wasn't sufficiently traumatic to discourage them from bringing root beer floats to me some other time....I promise there are no more snakes in my freezer.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Incredible Shrinking Problems!

The kids started back to school this week - Cyd in high school, and the twins in junior high. It has been kind of hectic, to say the least, as we have reviewed, read, and/or signed lists of school supplies, class disclosures, permission slips, bus schedules, and so on. Cyd has had a hard time trying to decide which pictures to take to show her teachers. Bretten has had to figure out how to get her violin to third period out in the armory, after her second period Spanish class that is upstairs and clear on the other side of the building, since she doesn't have time to visit her locker in between. And Mychael has had to figure out how to see the board in her algebra class, since she is so tiny and, thanks to the teacher's seating chart, has ended up sitting behind a much-bigger eighth grader (one with an afro, no less).

As I talked with each girl over the past few days about these "problems," I found myself thinking about my own days in junior high and high school. Remember when your biggest problem was finding something "cool" to wear? Or whether that cute boy in 4th period would actually talk to you today or not? Back then, it was the absolute end of the world if your best jeans were in the laundry, or if Cute Boy didn't even look at you that day! I compare those problems to the ones I have on my plate today - things like, "When will this @#$! divorce ever be final?" "Will I ever find someone I trust enough and care about sufficiently, to marry again?" "And if I do, what if, 20 years from now, he turns out to be as big of a jerk as the first one?" "Will my house ever sell?" "How am I going to get all the crap and clutter out of my house in time for my yard sale?" "How am I going to get the kids through this first holiday season without their dad?"

Those kinds of "heavier" concerns made it especially nice to set them aside for a little bit, and concentrate on possible solutions for my girls' issues. Those school-girl issues seem so light in comparison!! However, in the process, I also realized that 20-25 years from now, my girls will look at the problems of choosing pictures, getting classroom materials to the right place at the right time, and seeing around large afros as being relatively minor problems, too. On the one hand, that's kind of sad because one of the reasons those formerly major issues become minor, is because you now have larger issues to compare them to! However, I also think the human brain is designed to forget trauma. Otherwise, who would ever be pregnant more than once, or get back on a bicycle after a particularly nasty fall, or make peace with someone after an argument?

Whatever the reason for big issues shrinking with the passage of time, I can only hope that it will eventually apply to my current problems, too - I want to look back at them and realize that they really weren't as big as I think they are now. It just better not take 20-25 more years for that to happen - I am not that patient!

Monday, August 25, 2008

"Will Make Faces For Food"

Most of my stories/moments so far have been about things that happened a while ago - sometimes a long while ago! However, just because Cydanie is older, doesn't mean she doesn't still come up with the occasional funny moment anymore.

Case in point: last week was hectic as I had relatives visiting from the east coast, the twins had "Cub Camp" in preparation for starting 7th grade (today!), and I have a big trial going on at work. Well, in order to get everyone where they needed to go last Thursday, I dropped Bretten and Mychael off at Cub Camp and left Cydanie home alone for a couple of hours. The plan was that my mom would pick Cyd up on her way to get the twins from the junior high, and then take all three of them down to Kim's place for the rest of the day. As I was going out the door, I was giving Cyd a bunch of last minute instructions: "If someone comes to the door, don't open it unless you know the person!" "No cooking on the stove or oven - microwave only!" "Don't forget to bring Bretty's stuff!" "Call Grandma if you need anything!" "Remember to put the dog in the laundry room before you leave!" and so on.

Well, I got home that evening and was quizzing Cyd on her day. "Did you remember to put the dog in the laundry room when you left?" I asked her.
"Yeah. And, I just gave her some food, too."
"You did, huh? Good job!"
"Yeah, she told me she was hungry, so I feed her."
At this point I am secretly smiling, but I maintain a straight face as I say, "She told you she was hungry?"
" did she do that?"
"Well, she made a face at me. So, I feed her."

Cracked me up! She gets very offended if you laugh at her, though, even when she's done something cute, so I had to struggle to keep the giggle in as I pictured our dog, a slightly chubby Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Sarah, making faces at Cyd in exchange for weight-control formula Purina One.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Learning and growing...

I was reading the blog of my dear friend (and cousin), Mindi, today (here's a link: She was writing about her little boy's attempts to wipe his own bum after pooping in the potty (he's not even 4 yet), and it reminded me of this story from my own experiences:

When one of my twins, Mychael, started talking at about 18 months old, she never stopped. She sort of "skipped over" the one- and two-word phrases and jumped right into full sentences. So, one evening shortly after she started talking - she couldn't have been much more than two - I had her in the bathtub with her sister. I had filled the tub up to roughly their armpits, scrubbed them all and washed their hair, etc., and was ready to get them out. I got Bretten out first, wrapped her in a towel, and sent her on to her dad. I hadn't let the water out of the tub yet because I didn't want Mychael to get cold while she was waiting for me to finish with her sister. Mykie, however, anticipating that she would soon get out, stood up in the tub, anyway. She was kind of crouched down with her hands still in the water, when suddenly she straightened, turned to me, and with a look of wonder on her face, said, "Hey!! I've got a HOLE in my bum!"

I don't miss all the work of those earlier days, but I do miss witnessing that constant joy of discovery on little people's faces. Every day would bring something new! As my girls get older, they are still learning, of course (I used to have a boss who said "learning is growing, and if you're not growing, you're dying." I think he was right!) but apparently they get used to it or something because they don't get as excited by their new discoveries as they once did. Now they just have their noses attached to computer screens or buried in cell phones as their thumbs text away. Next I guess it's probably school dances and boyfriends. I can't wait to tell the "hole in my bum" story then....

Monday, August 18, 2008

Looking at life a little differently....

So, most of you reading this know that my oldest daughter was born with autism. She is considered high-functioning, so often times you almost forget that she is any different from anyone else. However, every once in awhile things come along that remind me, that how she sees the world is very different from how I do!

As an example, we were at the grocery store on Friday night (yes, I know - its pathetic but that's my big weekend night out. Woo hoo!). I asked my other daughter, Bretten, whether or not we needed any eggs because a) I knew she and Mychael had been eating scrambled eggs for breakfast fairly often, and b) I also knew that she and Cydanie had been baking lately, and finally, c) Cyd informed me earlier that she intended to make cookies - all of which would indicate that our household consumption of eggs was on the rise! Bretten assured me, however, that we had plenty of eggs. I was being a typical grumbly parent and said, jokingly, "OK, but if we end up running out of eggs, I'm sending you to the store to go get more. AND, I'm making you walk!"

Bretten, pre-teen that she is, just rolled her eyes at me. Cydanie, on the other hand, said, "Why would you want to make her walk to the store, Mom?"
"So that I don't have to drive her," I replied.
"Why don't you want to drive her?"
"Because I don't want to waste the gas it would take to bring her all the way back to the grocery store just to get eggs," I said.
Then Cydanie gave me one of her priceless looks that seemed to say that she thought I was just about the silliest person on the planet, and said, "Well, you could just get some eggs at the gas station, you know!"

Yes, I know. She's absolutely right, I could just go get some eggs at the gas station....

Which reminds me of one other example of Cyd's unique outlook on the world. One time, about three years or so ago (I think Cyd was in the 7th or 8th grade at the time), we were on our way home and drove by a small pasture on the corner. In this pasture was a horse, I think of the "paint" type - a white body with large black splotches on it, kind of like a Holstein cow. The route was one we use fairly frequently, so I didn't think much of it one way or the other. But Cydanie said to me, "Mom, is that a horse or a cow?"

I marvel at how her brain works and how the world must seem to her. I looked at the horse, saw it was the outline of the horse, and without even thinking about it, assumed it was horse. Cydanie saw the outline of the horse, but with the coloring of a cow, and deliberated on how to weight that information - is the outline of the figure more telling, or the way the figure is filled in? Sometimes I think it would be absolutely fascinating to walk in her footsteps for a day, and look at life a little differently....

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I always thought it would be kind of fun to have a blog, and yet, now that I actually do, I can't think of what to write about! I mean, I feel like my very first post should be momentous, somehow, but unfortunately, all I can come up with right now is - well, this!