Saturday, March 30, 2013

Blasé is "in"

“There are no uninteresting things, only uninterested people.”
― G. K. Chesterton

I blame myself.

My children would prefer to stay at home in their jammies all day long and simply be home.  I offer them countless opportunities to leave the boundaries of their domestic bliss and go out into the world and they ask, "Are you ASKING us if we WANT to go or are you TELLING us that we HAVE to go?" They love nothing better than puttering around from room to room making their own decisions about what to do (within the confines of the home, naturally) next.

When they were small, we would read a book that started with "When I was growing up, my parents were homebodies, so I stayed home."  My ex-husband and I would laugh and laugh about that because he said HIS parents were homebodies (author's note to my former in-laws:  HE SAID THAT!) so HE stayed home.  We vowed that our children would NEVER have to stay at home.  So they didn't.

We took them OUT.

When they were tiny, I had the luxury and the privilege of staying home with them (until I was home with them so long I wanted to cut my own stay-at-home moms do it every day is beyond the scope of my imagination).  I planned daily Great Adventures and would whisk them off to parks, to museums, to stores, to wherever it is I wanted to go.  Thing 1 was born in Hawaii and, since he was my only child at the time, we were off.  When I look back on pictures of him in all these amazing locales, he doesn't have a single smile.  He was apparently suffering tremendously with all this running around and simply didn't have the words to say it.

Thing 1 was always thrilled(?) to have Great Adventures
So my children went.  Everywhere.  A few years ago, I decided to take them on a Great American Family Road Trip.  We drove north.  We went to New York City and conquered the Empire State Building.  We explored Times Square where they DID enjoy the ginormous ToysRUs.  But on our ferry ride back from the Statue of Liberty, Thing 1 looked at me and said, "Can we go home now?"

Little did he know we still had DAYS of Adventure left!  They were thrilled when we spent a few days at my good friend Aimee's house.  Always a fabulous hostess, Aimee was looking for fun things to do while we were there.  I don't know that she believed me when I told her that the boys would MOST like to simply stay home.

We spent a day in Boston exploring the historic streets and sights and on our way home we stopped in at Hershey where we created our very own candy bars.  

They have never mentioned that trip again.  There are no nostalgic longings of "boy, I wish we could do THAT again."  I doubt they even remember it.  

We are preparing to embark on yet another Great Adventure:  The Tilyard Family 5th Annual Spring Break Adventure.  We spend every spring break going to a different amusement park.  At this point, we've exhausted all the fairly local options in North Carolina and Virgina so we're headed to Six Flags Over Georgia.  We had discussed it early in the year but I thought they'd forgotten since they hadn't mentioned it again. I was going to SURPRISE them (another thing they LOVE, not) with their season tickets in Easter baskets tomorrow morning.  Nope, they knew all about it..they've discussed it with their dad.  They just haven't mentioned it apparently because they are "so over" my Great Adventures. Thing 1 has already asked me how long we have to be gone.  HAVE TO BE gone.  

They are already uninterested in the world around them.  They're going to end up being recluses akin to Thoreau or, God help me, Ted Kacynski.  I'm such a cottonheaded ninnymuggins.   I tried to instill in them a hunger for travel and knowledge and I've created two homebodies.

So do we have to stay home???

(NOTE:  To "like" my brand-spankin'-new Facebook page for this blog so you can receive updates and valuable cash and prizes [KIDDING!], go to My Rockin' Chair on Facebook.)


Friday, March 29, 2013

Selfishly Speaking: It IS all about me!!

“Each one of us is selfish, including me.”
― Santosh Kalwar
An acquaintance of mine sent a "funny" New Yorker cartoon to me via e-mail.  The caption of the cartoon read (I'm paraphrasing since I don't have it in front of me): "The reason no one visits your Web site is because it's all about you."  His attached comment was something along the lines of "Hope this doesn't happen to you."  

I was offended.  

I am guessing he didn't mean to be hurtful but I'm going to answer him publicly (even though he won't get the message because APPARENTLY he doesn't visit this blog because it's all about me.  She shoots, she scores!!)  

  1. I am selfish.  I admit it.  I want things to go my way 110% of the time.  Please acknowledge my birthday.  Tell me I'm smart.  Tell me I'm a good writer.  There is so much "me" in my head sometimes that I can't get out of my own way.  BUT, that doesn't mean that I don't have heart and it doesn't mean that I can't put my selfishness aside for the benefit of others.  I am a mother so I come home at night and I make dinner and I pay attention to homework.  Do I want to do those things all the time?  No, I really don't.  Sometimes, I want to come home and lose myself in a good book with my hoodie-footie jammies on.  But I don't because I CAN put myself aside.  My Ex-Boyfriend-Turned-I'm-Talking-To-Him-Again has, on several occasions, counted the number of times I use the word "I" or "me" in an e-mail when I am upset with him. Looking back on this paragraph, I see it about a bajillion times.  I am selfish.  
  2. Society teaches us that women are to put their needs aside and selflessly serve.  I am selfish but I have sacrificed and martyred myself to the point of exhaustion at times in my life.  I have stuffed down my own needs to give and give and give again until I'm so depleted I have nothing left for anyone or anything. Doing so creates an annoying, whining mess of me and I, for one, have learned my lesson in this regard.  Mother Theresa was super good at being selfless.  Paris Hilton, not so much.  I hope I fall somewhere in between.
  3. I am writing this blog because it frees me.  The response to it has been amazing and unexpected...but I honestly don't care if anyone reads it.  I expect a few people close to me to read it far as the general public goes....I doubt if they will find it terribly interesting because, as the cartoon said, it IS all about me.  The coolest thing that has happened since I started this blog has been hearing that people who DON'T KNOW ME AT ALL are enjoying what I write.  But, that aside, the whole point of it is to have a place to put my catalog them and to examine them.  I don't WANT to be silent anymore.  The effort of being silent is too great of a burden.   
You know what?  Here's the thing:  I write because I enjoy it.  Along the way, I hope that someone gets a laugh out of it.  Or maybe we shed a tear together because of a shared human experience.  Either way, it's something that I need to do..for myself.  People say "write what you know."  Well, you know what I know best?  Me.  And if you don't want to hear me prattle on ceaselessly about myself, my thoughts, my family and my life...well, I'm not mad at you. 

My name is Kelly.  And I am selfish.  Let me have this ONE PLACE to fully embrace it.  
Now, I promised the kids I would make them dinner...

Rewarding Mediocrity

“You will either profit by or pay for what your children become. raise them properly.”
― Darnell Lamont Walker

My generation, as a whole, is taking bold steps to ruin our children.  We shield them from every disappointment.  We deny them freedom.  We offer praise for every single task, completed or not.  We refuse to spank and then refuse alternate discipline.  We don't ask them to excel but rather we reward mediocrity and allow every child to take home a participation trophy.  What kind of people will they become?

Trust me, I am not throwing stones.  I am equally as guilty as everyone else.  I am ridiculously overprotective of my sons.  We have a neighborhood park about a mile from my house.  It's straight down my street with one left turn.  It's easy to get to and has a locked access gate where cars can only get in with a code.  (My fear: anyone can walk in.)  Last fall, when my kids were 12 and 10, I allowed them to ride their bicycles (with helmets on, duh, 'cause that's not overprotective, that's SMART) to the park as long as they were back within 45 minutes.  They had to take my cell phone and call me when they arrived at the park.  I allowed them a very brief 45 minutes of freedom to stretch their kid legs and be unsupervised by adults.  How on earth can they be expected to drum up childhood fantasies and learn to make their own decisions if I allow them 45 minutes of freedom?  It must have scared them as much as it did me because they have not asked to repeat the experiment.

Maybe we are frightened of the scars from our childhood.  I think our generation is the one most likely to go to therapy and we've poked and picked at all of our "issues" and realized that most of the deep dark places we have formed within us during our childhoods.  We resolve that OUR children will not HAVE these aching wounds and so we do everything we can to make their lives perfect.

Newsflash:  LIFE ISN'T PERFECT.This is a losing battle.  All we're doing is raising a generation of people who are unwounded...and unprepared.  When you look at it closely, we've come up with a whole NEW way to create scars...these scars will crop up when our children become adults and they don't get what they want and they never, ever move out of our houses.

So, let's prepare them (and ourselves) now before this little mob of couch potatoes rots.

The tiny monkeys and me in Times Square
  1. Allow them to be disappointed.  They do not need the latest iPod.  They have four others.  They don't require every single article of clothing from Aeropostale.  They don't have to go to DisneyWorld just because every single one of their friends has been there.  If you have prepared grilled chicken for dinner and they "prefer" a hot dog, then that's just too bad.  They shouldn't get everything they want.  I want a new car and a trip around the world but am I getting those things anytime soon? NO.  And if or when I DO get those things, they will not be handed to me.  Unless you're fully prepared to support them yourself into old age, STOP GIVING THEM EVERYTHING THEY WANT.  
  2. Give the little buggers some freedom.  As noted, this is a tough one for me.  We all know what our main fear is:  predators.  Let's put this in perspective though.  I have a big, big piece of information for you:  Children are far more likely to be abducted or harmed by someone they know and, usually, it's someone they know really well.  Stop thinking about the strangers and be like me:  focus on the people they know.  :)  I'm suspicious of everyone, not just the random guy on the street.  In some cases, they might be safer on the street than in your own home.  Sad and scary but it's true.  
  3. Stop praising them for everything.  When your kid is two, it's OK to let them know how proud you are when they dress themselves.  When they're 16, it's a little much.  Don't tell them how great it is that they are doing their homework:  they're SUPPOSED to do their homework.  If they bring home artwork, it's OK to tell them it's "interesting" but stop hanging up EVERY SINGLE PIECE.  Hang up the special ones or, if your kid isn't much of an artist, hang up every fifth one.  When you make everything that they do a big deal, they're going to realize one of two things: a) "I'm freakin' amazing and nothing I do is wrong" (future sociopath) or b) "My parents are liars.  This art sucks.  I am a loser." (future life of therapy).   
  4. Discipline your children. The big key here is follow-through. I am not a fan of spanking but I DID do it once.  I had threatened to spank them if they continued to do whatever annoying behavior it was.   I was really mad and was hoping to scare them into behaving...I knew that spanking to them was this big scary thing that had never happened.  They were maybe 9 and 7 years old at the time.  Well, they kept doing it.  I did NOT want to follow through but I knew that I had to.  So, I discussed it with them.  "What did I tell you I was going to do when you continued with this behavior?" Wide-eyed kids stared back at me, unbelieving. "Is she REALLY GOING TO SPANK US?"  I had each of them lay across the bed and I delivered three (short, quick and not very hard) smacks to their jean-clad bottoms.  I did not do it when I was angry and I hugged them and told them how much I loved them after I did it.  It was THE WORST parenting day of my life, hands-down.  But I did it because I said I would...and they understood that.  Usually, I discipline with time-outs (when they were little) or by removing privileges (like their beloved technology).  But whatever it is I SAY I'm going to do, I do it.  
  5. Expect them to do their best.  Stop rewarding mediocrity.  I don't praise grades when they are anything less than an A (yes, I'm mean) because I know that my kids are fully capable of straight-A work.  I don't berate them over B's but they know that a C will certainly raise my ire.  When they clean their rooms or their bathroom, they get an inspection.  If it's not right, they are to clean until it is.  When they work on homework, they are REQUIRED to do the bonus work.  I tell them that it doesn't say "bonus," it says "required additional work."  
 We have a long road ahead of us, parents.  We're not responsible for them for just 18 years...we are responsible for who they are to become.  These are people we are raising...and we need to understand that the fruits of our labor will be rotten unless we straighten up and fly right, as my grandpa always said (thanks, JT). 

Are you raising the kind of people who you would enjoy being around?

Comments welcome.  :)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Are Information Clouds Fluffy?

“Thirty-nine years of my life had passed before I understood that clouds were not my enemy; that they were beautiful, and that I needed them. I suppose this, for me, marked the beginning of wisdom. Life is short.”
― Iimani David

When I was a kid, I would lounge on the grass and stare up at the sky and make pictures of the clouds...just like every other kid on the planet.  (Well, at least kids of MY generation did this...I think TODAY they lay on their living room floors and play video games that may or may not have clouds in them.  Grumble, grumble, grumble. I am SO FREAKING OLD.) I even do it now, as I drive along looking at the sky to see if that turtle up there ever DID turn into a castle.  Does that qualify as distracted driving?

Clouds THESE days have a whole new meaning.  I wonder if you realize how much of your life is located securely "in the cloud?"  I was setting up my new iPhone recently and was SHOCKED to realized that it booted up AUTOMATICALLY as soon as I plugged in my iTunes account information with ALL the random stuff that was stored in "the cloud."  If any of you reading this are in my contact list, I'm sorry, but your cell phone number and e-mail addresses, and possibly your home address as well, are in my "cloud" and therefore probably accessible to random hackers in the cloud-o-sphere.  Yeah, do NOT give me your social security numbers because I simply cannot be trusted.

I decided to find out what in the heck these clouds were all about.  I put on my Suzy-Q-Investigator hat and started Googling.

  1. One of my favorite all time "I need to know what this is about NOW" sites is How-To Geek  and they broke it down for me.  Cloud Computing=Web Applications.  Even THAT made my brain hurt until I saw that they had awesome diagrams and pictures that helped explain it even to a mind as small and tired as mine.  In a nutshell, the "cloud" is a whole big bunch of servers that IT-minded people keep up in a big giant warehouse (probably located in the sky) so that other IT-minded people don't have to have a little server in each company to hold all the information.  They like the idea of a cloud.  (Well, I assume they do.  I haven't asked them.)
  2. I am a SPACE HOG when it comes to files.  I KEEP EVERYTHING.  I am an electronic hoarder.  On my work server, I have something like 4GB left out of 160GB.  What if I NEED that ad I created in 2004?  And I do NOT want to reduce the file size.  I may need a print reproduction.  If my server were a house, I would be sleeping close to the ceiling precariously perched on boxes of cat food and stacks of newspapers.  Because of this need for space and more space, I like the idea of a cloud. 
  3. I am a little uncomfortable with the knowledge that all my Information is now stored OUTSIDE of my little magic Computer Box.  It's languishing on a cloud somewhere, probably sipping margaritas and talking to Other People's Information.  These little Information guys are having some sort of party with all of our credit card numbers, I just KNOW it.  I like the idea of a cloud party.
After wracking my brain trying to figure out how all this works, I decided that I don't really NEED to know how the cloud works.  I just need to know that it does and try not to be bothered with worrying about it.  My Information can be a little slut if it wants to as long as it remembers that it's MY Information at the end of the day.



Daddy Love: The Rest of The Story (A little Paul Harvey thrown in)

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
― Maya Angelou

I had, as you might imagine, put a great deal of thought into where in the WORLD My Real Dad might be.  I guesstimated that he was probably around my mother's age and that, like many people, he had never really strayed far from home.  In my experience, the great majority of people I know still live within 100 miles or so from their birthplace.  "Home" is a connection point and we tend to stick close to the nest.

So, there were TWO men in the state of North Carolina with the same name.  One was the EXACT same age as my mother and the OTHER was approximately five or six years older.

I decided to go with the first one.  I sent the letter out on my birthday one cold January day and gave it to Fate.

I heard nothing.

Not a peep.  Not a sound.  I assumed this was a Very Bad Sign.  But, finally, one August day, an e-mail arrived in my inbox from a woman purporting to be the sister of the wife of My Real Dad. The wife had intercepted the letter all those months ago and had held onto it, consulting with her sister and they had determined that the letter was, indeed, accurate and they were going to confront him with it that VERY weekend.  But first, they wanted a few more details to arm themselves with.

I was nervous and excited but a little hesitant because I really hadn't planned on this being a confrontational kind of event.   I gave them their information and sat back to wait. Bear in mind, that there were a couple of problems here:  1) The man in question was already in the relationship with his now-wife when I was born and 2) He had never 'fessed up about my birth.  These women were ANGRY.

I heard nothing.

A couple of weeks went past and finally, I could wait no longer.  I e-mailed the woman back and asked her how it had gone.


A couple more months passed and, finally, in November, I sat down and wrote an e-mail saying "Look, I am sorry if I screwed things up, and it appears he doesn't want anything to do with me, but could you PLEASE just tell me if he is My Real Dad?"

The reply came the next day, with apologies.  He had denied everything.  He had NO CLUE what I was talking about.  It was apparently a rather large brouhaha with them accusing and him denying but finally, in the end, they had (somewhat reluctantly) believed him.

I owe that man a beer.

Since Christmas was coming up, I decided to give My Real Dad, Option 2, a break over the holidays.  I felt pretty bad about wreaking havoc and almost ruining My Real Dad Option 1's life so I gave it a rest.

Then, about a week or so before my 36th birthday in January, I revised the date on the letter and sent it out into the world again.

A few days before my birthday, I received an e-mail.  It said, simply, that he was the man I'd been looking for and that he would call me in a few days.

My Real Dad.  My Father.

He did call me.  We fumbled through a first conversation and then a second.  He sent me a picture of himself and his wife (whom I shall call One Good Woman).  He had told her about me but I think they had never expected that they would hear from me after the passage of so many years.

I wept.

After all those years, I had finally talked to My Real Dad.  The connections started falling into place and I began to feel whole for the first time in my entire life.  He told me his story and he told me about the two sisters I have who live near him.  I met him and One Good Woman.  (The meeting is a story for another day.)  So much of me was SO MUCH LIKE HIM.  It was uncanny.

Over the past several years, I have met My Father and his wonderful wife a few times.  I swap e-mails with his wife (who is one of the MOST AMAZING women I have met, hands down) and every now and again My Real Dad and I shoot a text to each other or we break down and give each other a call.  It's still awkward at times but we've talked through a whole bunch of stuff.  I know he has regrets but I also think that this is the only way it could have been.

I met one of my sisters who is EERILY like me.  We are similar down to the cadences of our speech.  I recognize so much of myself in her.  She is much younger (by about 10 years or so) but she and I are easily cut from the same cloth.  She's a busy, busy, funny, sassy and headstrong with three kids of her own.  I enjoy her tremendously and only wish I could spend more time with her.

It has been beautiful.  It turned out to be the best possible scenario...with maybe only one bittersweet exception:  my youngest half-sister.  She refuses to acknowledge me.  The arrival of my letter threw a big GIANT curveball into her family.  There was some pain there.  It couldn't have been easy for ANYONE to have had a stranger thrust into their midst.  I have reached out to her in an e-mail once...but I am respectful of her choices and do not intend to force myself into her life.  But, regardless of what she chooses, I hope she knows that I send her nothing but love.

So, I send out a public Thank You to My Real Dad and his wife.  They have made me feel welcome and loved.  They have accepted me into their hearts with abandon and I am forever grateful.  God's grace and mercy shine through them clearly and profoundly.

I finally know who I am.

Hear me roar.     

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Just a note

Like my momma always said, 'Life is like a box of never know what you're gonna get.'"
                                                       --Forrest Gump

There are many pieces to me...some of them funny, some of them dark, some of them ridiculous, some of them snotty and some of them bordering on the edge of lunacy.

This blog is about my attempts to conjoin all of those pieces of myself into one whole.

It's therapeutic.

It's fun.

It's revealing.

It's intensely personal.

And it's a huge and wonderful risk.

I hope you'll join me on this adventure.  Sometimes it's fun.  But it might also be serious.  Or sad.  Or scary.  I write it all down in faith, in healing and in the belief that the truth will always set you free. 

Daddy Love: Part One

“What I really want to tell him is to pick up that baby of his and hold her tight, to set the moon on the edge of her crib and to hang her name up in the stars.”
― Jodi Picoult, My Sister's Keeper

I grew up without a father.

It sounds dramatic, I realize, especially when I tell you that my mother WAS married.  She simply wasn't married to my father.  She was never married to my father.  Technically, this makes me a bastard.  I won't tell you THEIR story because it isn't mine to tell.  Suffice it to say that it was a big ol' nasty mess.

It got tricky for a few reasons, one of which was that my mother never actually TOLD me that the man she had married when I was about two was not ACTUALLY my father.  We've never discussed it, but I would guess that, in her own way, she was trying to protect me from the knowledge that I was illegitimate (don't you LOVE that word to describe a kid?).  I found THAT out the hard way.

Let's take a trip in the way-back machine.

Six-year-old-me:  "Daddy..."

The man my mother married:  "Don't call me that.  I'm not your daddy."

Six-year-old-me (perplexed, right?): "Why aren't you my daddy?" (I don't remember the exact wording of this question.  I do vividly remember that my mind was blown, so it's hard to say WHAT my question was but I do very much remember the answer.)

The man my mother married: "Your mom stayed up very late with some other man, after everyone else had gone to sleep.  HE'S your daddy."

Well, THAT got my little wheels turning.  I tried to remember all the people I could think of who were night owls and ticked them off in my head as possibilities.  I imagine he must have told me to keep it a secret (although I don't remember him specifically doing so) because I didn't ask my mother about it.  I then began a long and arduous campaign to avoid calling him ANYTHING (was I supposed to call him by his first name?) to keep from setting him off.

But THIS was a NEW AND WONDERFUL thing!  My Father became this wonderful, mystical creature in the tangled wilderness that was my brain.  He was a pilot!  No, he was a KING!  He was a doctor!  He was out there somewhere SEARCHING for me.  He probably carried a picture of me in his wallet and he would pull it out and stare longingly at me.  He probably had millions of BOOKS to read.  It went on and on...and on.  I carried fantasies of My Father with me in almost every scenario.  Every award I earned, I knew he was there, secretly proud and beaming at me in the midst of the other proud parents.  On my graduation day from high school, he sat in the bleachers, videotaping the song I sang and clapping louder than anyone when I received my diploma.  On my wedding day, he watched with a tear in his eye as someone else walked me down the aisle.

It's an odd thing to grow up without a parent or, as many adopted children know, parents.  There is a disconnectedness that you feel when you don't know your whole story.  I had a longing to know who I was and where I was from.  Did I have his eyes?  His nose?  Did he talk to himself or make up stories in his head like I did?  Did he hum to himself when he was concentrating?  Anything about me that I couldn't pin on my mother was immediately assigned to My Father. And he was PERFECT.  And he LOVED me.

I didn't talk about this.  A few of my friends knew but mostly I kept My Dad to myself.  He was my own secret dream and I knew that one day I would find him.

I found my father's name when I was 18.  My mother had asked me to look through this dilapidated green metal file box to find my brother's social security number.  When I was pawing through all the documents, I saw a letter from an attorney.  Never one to shy away from a mystery, I opened the letter.  It was the letter my father had signed to abdicate his parental rights to me.  AND THERE WAS HIS NAME.  My world shifted a bit...and I sat down hard, staring at the name and etching into my brain.  I tried his name out with mine like a young teenager writing the last name of her One True Love intertwined with hers.  I tasted it on my tongue, rolling it out into my world for the very first time.  I folded the letter neatly and put it back in the file.

I did not mention it to my mother.

Years passed.  I graduated from college, got married and started a family of my own.  I thought of My Father often and idly wondered if I should reach out to him.  It was never the right time.  Mostly, my heart was too tender and too fragile to bear the potential rejection of the man who was mythical in my imagination.  I loved him from afar.  I consulted with him in the depths of my mind, offering myself advice and wisdom on his behalf.

My youngest son was born with a medical issue.  We had to visit a geneticist and I had to tell her I was sorry...I had no information about his maternal grandfather's side of the family.

More time passed. I spent the years building my confidence and my life.  I tried to love myself and often failed.  I knew My Father was growing older and I watched my beautiful children begin to grow and I knew it was Time.

It was time to take the biggest gamble of my life.  It was time to reach out to the man who had never reached out to me.  I knew that he existed and I knew that he knew of me.  The attorney's papers had made it very clear.  What I never really thought about was that he had rejected me outright in the signing of those papers.  Those papers clearly said, "I do not claim this child."  But that never crossed my mind.  He had remained infallible and perfect to me for all those years.

But I was ready.  I was at a place in my life where I knew I could live beyond the rejection I thought was about 95% likely.

I wrote a letter.  If you're reading this blog, you know how I write.  I poured my heart in that letter, hesitantly, with honesty and hope.  I told him a few things about me and about his grandchildren and I asked him to reach out to me.  I offered that I understood if he didn't want anything to do with me.  I was frightened of hurting his family and didn't want to insert myself where I didn't belong.  But I didn't have a choice:  I had to reach out to this man who was MY FATHER and risk the biggest rejection of my life.

Let me know if you want to know how it turned out.  :)


Monday, March 25, 2013

Baseball for the Bored

“Baseball is like church. Many attend, few understand.”
― Leo Durocher

It's baseball season.  Yay.

Oh...did I seem underimpressed?  Let me pull out the pom poms and give a yell.  Yay.  OK, fine.  I understand baseball is the Great American Pastime and, once per year, I DO go to the stadium and buy hot dogs and beer.  Sure, I like to go on Thirsty Thursdays when the good beer is $1/pop.  But still.  I like the seventh inning stretch and I like the stupid infield games they play with the big inflatable sumo wrestler suits. I like baseball.  I really do.  Once per year in the big stadiums.  Once.

Thing 2 has loved baseball from the start

Unfortunately (did I say "unfortunately" out loud?), I have a son who plays baseball.  And THIS year, he's playing for real.  He wants no part of that namby-pamby Y ball where the coach is still pitching to the kids.  (Back story: He has the misfortune of an August birthday and an overzealous mom...he started school JUST after turning five so he's younger than ALL his friends.  THEY all moved up to coach pitch LAST year.)  He wants to play REAL BALL.  So, this year, he's playing real baseball with real kids throwing REALLY hard balls at his head, his knees and wherever else they can.

There are some things I've learned about REAL baseball for kids:

  1. These people are hardcore.  When the coach's son hurt his finger trying to catch a ball (he missed), one of the parents asked the kid if he was OK.  Before he could answer, the coach spoke up, without looking, "He's all right.  Shoulda caught the ball."  No, this is not Y baseball.  Last year, at the Y I watched a kid throw a SCREAMING FIT on second base because he was called "out" and refused to move from the base.  I watched as the mother went out and tried to REASON with this kid, offering him this and that to move off the base.  You could see the pleading look in her eyes as she appealed to other parents to "just let him play it out."  Are you KIDDING ME, LADY?  Although I am not a proponent of physical discipline, I would have yanked that kid off the base so fast his head would have spun around.  Hmm.  Maybe I do belong with the hardcore team, after all.
  2. The equipment is real.  And expensive.  I have paid out enough money this baseball season to feed an entire third world country for at least a year.  And I'm not finished yet.  I still have to get that face-cagey-thing that attaches to his helmet.  I found out that this is required because, well, the KIDS ARE PITCHING.  Wildly.  Thing 2, after crushing the side of a ball in the process of hitting it to the fence, was told he could use the bat he had used to crush said ball during the games.  When I asked the coach if I needed to buy that particular bat, he looked at me and shook his head (as if to say, "You silly know nothing about BASEBALL, do you?") and said, "Nah, you don't wanna get that bat.  That bat goes for about $300."  $300?   Are you HIGH?  You paid $300 for a bat for a TEN-YEAR-OLD?  Hardcore.
  3. Practices last even longer than the scheduled times.  In Y ball, those coaches were OUT of there.  In THIS league, the coaches stayed an extra half an hour one night JUST PITCHING BALLS TO THING 2.  AND, one of the coaches meets with a few of the kids for an extra hour just to teach the MECHANICS OF BATTING.  Who knew that you could minor in BATTING?  (Mom brag alert:  Overheard "This kid has the mechanics of a great to-the-fence hitter.")
  4. It really is harder for the kids to pitch to a lefty.  Thing 2 almost never gets a chance to even swing at a ball when the kids are pitching.  He watches them go by about three feet from the plate.  OR, he has to jump out of the way so they don't whack him in the shoulder.  As the tiny pitchers grow more and more frustrated that they can't seem to find his strike zone, the throws get even wilder. 
  5. There are no adult beverages NOR is there a seventh inning stretch. All of this hoopla is conducted without the benefit of a soothing (numbing) beverage.  And where's my music?  How horrified would my children be if I broke out into a chorus of "TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLLLL GAME...?"  Kids baseball TOTALLY sucks all the fun out of real baseball.  
So, the season has begun.  Games begin soon.  My life will be fields and sky and sunburn for a couple of months.  I'll take some pictures of Thing 2 in action.  He's so looking forward to the season and, in spite of my dread, I sure do love seeing that little guy happy.

And maybe I'll look for that flask... 

How do YOU survive kids' sports? Helpful tips for me?

Big Wheels Keep Turnin'

“Why is it that all cars are women?" he asked.

"Because they're fussy and demanding," answered Zee.

                                             ― Patricia Briggs, Silver Borne

(Note: My very good friend, John, is going to be driven NUTS by the above quote...not by the CONTENT of the quote but by the author.  He's been asking me to read Briggs for MONTHS now and I just keep...NOT reading Briggs.  :) Now, on to other things...)  

I don't have incredible luck with cars.  They break down.  They need this weird thing called "regular maintenance" that completely befuddles me.  I think you should just be able to gas 'em up and put your pedal to the floor and GO.

My car decided to cry all over my garage floor this weekend (probably due to my continued scornful neglect) and I ended up taking it to my ex-boyfriend because he just happens to be the general manager of the place where I get my car fixed.  (Yeah, my car does this EVERY SINGLE TIME I go Psycho. I swear the two of them are in cahoots.)  Actually, he forced me to take it there because he likes to make sure that I'm safe and the boys are safe and Sparky (my labradoodle) is safe.  (He's a ridiculously nice guy.)

Cars and I...well, we have a long history.

This is the example car...a WHITE '73 Catalina
The first car I ever drove was a 1973 Pontiac Catalina, owned by my grandfatherIt was a mammoth of a vehicle, long and red and floaty with a big block engine and back seats that stretched out for miles.  You could easily fit 15 skinny teenagers in that car if you were so inclined.

Keep in mind that I didn't turn 16 until 1987 and wouldn't even consider driving until two years later when, at 18, my mother basically forced me to get my driver's license.  Unlike most other teenagers, I recognized the imminent threat of death behind the wheel.  I knew that I was a dangerous beast with 2,000+ pounds of metal under my (tentative) control.  And I was a terrible, terrible driver.  My driver's ed teacher NEVER EVEN LET ME ONTO THE HIGHWAY.  And it's not like I lived in a thriving metropolis.  I lived in Granite Falls, NC, which consisted of a couple of stoplights and a few convenience stores. (There might have been a dry cleaner there, too.  Oh, and there was a Hardee's.)  So, there really wasn't any real TRAFFIC to speak of...the man was just afraid for his life.  Truth.

So, anyway, picture THAT car on the road with all of the cute little 1980's Toyotas and Hondas out on the road.  I think the car took up a lane and THEN some and this was BEFORE I became a distracted driver.  I learned to drive in that car and then JT gave it to me to drive the summer after my freshman year in college during my ill-fated, short-lived stint as a door-to-door census taker.  I was ON MY WAY to the FIRST house on my list and stopped at a gas station to consult my map.  (This WAS Caldwell County and there are some houses that are out in the middle of NOWHERE.)

So, feeling fresh and froggy and ready to begin my Great Census Taking Adventure (armed with knowledge about how to fend off dogs and how to get into the door to snoop around but no real mention of how to avoid creepy people) and....the Pontiac wouldn't start.  Nothin'.  Hmm.  Tried it again. Nothin'.  I started to panic a little bit because my stepdad wasn't exactly a prince and I KNEW he was going to be PISSED that I had broken down.

Well, nothing to be done about it now.  I placed the call.  Sure enough, he was livid.  (Because, naturally, it was MY FAULT the car had broken down.)  They came to get me and had my great uncle Ralph tow it back to the house...

...where it sat for the next THREE YEARS.

Fast forward through most of college.  I had a job as a waitress and needed a way to get around.  I was a little glum because there was NO WAY I was going to be able to afford a car AND pay for college AND rent AND food.  I casually mentioned the car to my boyfriend (who eventually became my husband), sadly shaking my head because, while I had loved the car, it was dead.

"No problem," he said.  "I'll fix it."

Needless to say, I was doubtful.  That car had been sitting for YEARS. But I was all dewy-eyed and believed he could do ANYTHING.

We got his tools and rode to the big GF and, true to his word, he had it running that VERY DAY.  I was a little disgusted with the stepdad who obviously could have TRIED to fix the thing at SOME point over the last few years since a 20-something college kid could get it running in the space of about two hours.

So, the Catalina and I rode off into the sunset....happily ever after.  Until it got towed out of the ghetto apartment my friend John and I shared (yep, same Patricia-Briggs-John from above).

That was the beginning of my car troubles. That's where it all started.

And, now, I sit and wait for the tally of my fears to come true.  The Ex-Boyfriend rattled off a whole long list of things (gleefully, I think) that he was having done to it.  He delivered it this afternoon (because he's far too good to me) but said he "hadn't had time" to run the bill yet. And he'll be sweet and the price will be ridiculously low (for all that was done to it...but probably still high enough to make me want to cry) and then I'll end up telling my inner Psycho to get lost and then we'll be On Again and ride off into the sunset...

Big wheels keep on turnin'.... 

My ex-husband is so lucky to have me

"You are the best ex-wife I've ever had.  Ironically enough, you were also the best wife I ever had."
                   - My ex-husband (who has only had one wife, so far)

My ex-husband is FUNNY.  I thought he was very funny before I married him.  While we were married, he became much less funny.  Now that we're divorced, I think he's hysterical again.  Apparently, we should have left well enough alone.

We get along surprisingly well for a divorced couple.  You hear a lot of stories about how one former spouse can't get out of the car when drop-offs occur or how you have to meet in some neutral location for kid exchanges (like it's some sort of seedy drug deal).  There are custody battles and arguments about child support.  Those things are all real and they are truly horrible for everyone involved, especially the kids who never really wanted their parents to be divorced in the first place.  But, in our case, we get along fabulously well. 

During our actual divorce we sat in the courtroom and waited alllllll day while couple after couple stood before the judge and requested an annihilation of their marriage ("annihilation" is SO much more fun than "dissolution").  We sat together (unlike most every couple there who typically sat on opposite ends of the courtroom) and, much like we did during the happy times in our marriage, judged the world.  We used to call it "sitting on the couch, judging the world," because it's SO EASY to do!  We mocked each marital defendant mercilessly, holding back our laughter as much as we possibly could while the court bailiff gave us the evil eye.

When it was finally our turn, the judge gave us each a measured look and said one of the most wonderful things that has probably ever been said in a courtroom full of miserable soon-to-be-divorced people:  "If you two get along outside this courtroom as well as you did today, then your children are going to be fine."  I got a little teary because, honestly, the one thing that I ever REALLY worry about is how this divorce affects my kids.  If my kids ever start talking about how crappy their childhoods have been, I'm going to tell them that a COURT OF LAW said they were going to be FINE.

So far, it has held true.  We agree on most things and we usually speak up if we have a problem (amazing what a little divorce can teach you).  We co-parent effectively, with each of us keeping the kids 50% of the time.  It's important to me that he be an active, involved parent and I'm pretty sure he feels the same way about me.  And, so far (knock on wood), our children are growing up to be some pretty terrific people:  balanced, even-tempered and happy, for the most part.  Even though I know that they would STILL, after all this time, prefer that their parents be together, I hope they are beginning to understand that the way it is makes the best solution for our family.

So, if you have an ex-husband (or if you're serious about making your current husband an ex...I'm KIDDING!), you can follow these simple steps to ensure you have a smooth relationship to co-parent your kids effectively:

  1. Stop playing the role of the martyr.  You know, it's the same role you worked on while you were married.  You do all this work and you offer to do things he hasn't even ASKED you to do.  And then you complain to your friends about how much work you do.  It's easy.  And it's fun.  :)  Remember, though, now that you're divorced, he cares EVEN LESS about your self-sacrifice.  Stop doing that crap and put on your big girl panties.  If there's something you don't want to/can't do then don't do it and tell him why, nicely.
  2. Keep your trash talk to yourself.  Don't tell people all about his flaws.  NEVER, EVER call him names, especially in front of your kids.  Stop blaming all your problems on him.  Be nice.  This is a great time to start learning to accept your ex-husband for all that he is AND all that he is not.  You don't have to live with him anymore and there must have been SOME reason you married him.  Find those reasons and focus on the positive.  
  3. Keep lines of communication open.  You probably shut these down during your marriage.  Well, now it's time to let the words flow.  And let him know that you're open to hearing what he has to say.  If you have children together, you are still involved in THE MOST important roles of your lives.  And if you want to raise them well, you still have to be a team.
Now, I realize that there are many cases where the above simply won't work.  Maybe your ex is an alcoholic or a psychopath.  Maybe your ex simply abandoned your family (in which case you really don't have to worry about getting along!).  Maybe he isn't reasonable.

I'll offer this up, though, as a first step solution BEFORE you give up the fight:


Even if you don't think for a million years it will work, try it anyway.  Be nice.  And then be nice again.  And again.  You might be surprised.

Of course, he could still turn around and be a jerk.  But at least you know YOU haven't been one.  Which will make you an awesome martyr! Score!

How do you get along with your ex?  Am I just nuts?  Comments below are open!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Distracted While Driving: I am Judging YOU

“The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status, or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we all believe that we are above-average drivers.”
― Dave Barry, Dave Barry Turns Fifty

The number one cause of traffic accidents is distracted driving.  Did you know that?  Number one on the list is people who are doing other things while they're driving.  Knowing that, it's a wonder I don't have an accident EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

I don't know if I could drive AT ALL if I wasn't distracted.  

The problem is SO HUGE that there is an OFFICIAL government Web site entitled (appropriately) D! dedicated ONLY to facts and statistics on distracted driving.   They say that ALL distractions can endanger driver, passenger and bystander safety.  Distractions listed include:
They LOVE my driving!
Let's go through these, Mom ('cause I KNOW you're the only one reading this blog), and figure out if any of the people I know are road hazards.

  1. Texting.  OK, FINE.  I've done it.  I've done it a LOT.  My oldest son (whom I refer to as Thing 1) will no longer allow me to text while driving.  BUT HE'S NOT ALWAYS IN THE CAR WITH ME.  Actually, I've scared myself so badly doing this a couple of times that I've vowed to seriously reduce the amount of time I spend texting while driving.  Now, I only do it at stoplights, and when I'm on cruise control at 70mph on the highway.  And I only do it without kids in the car (because my life isn't NEARLY as valuable as theirs).  I've watched other drivers do it, weaving and careening in front of me, completely unaware that their minivan texting just makes them look like drunk moms.  Way to go!  (OK, this is a SERIOUS problem and I am making light of it.  I am a very, very bad person.)  I would like to point out to the US government that they did NOT include Facebooking while driving.  (Also guilty.)
  2. Using a cell phone or smartphone.  This is not me because I don't currently have a cellphone or a smartphone.  Ha! Next...
  3. Eating and drinking.  Hello?  What are DRIVE-THRUS FOR?? If we weren't supposed to eat and drink in our cars then why in the heck do they make it SO CONVENIENT?l
  4. Talking to passengers.  So, I'm going to ignore the 2-year-old in the car seat who's asking me why God made flowers?  No, I'm not.  Some of the best conversations my kids and I have ever had have been in the car.  It's where I told them what sex ACTUALLY IS.  (And they WERE horrified.) It's the only time I have them completely captivated as long as their iPods are firmly tucked into my driver's side door panel.  But, hey, Big Brother, if you think talking to my children in an honest, open manner makes me distracted then I can stop.  
  5. Grooming.  Sigh.  Guilty.  Again.  I pluck my eyebrows while driving.  (I am smiling SO BIG right now because I know there will be gasps over that one.)  Yes, I put a sharp metal object near my eyeball while cruising around in my metal box at speeds of over 35mph.  I am very, very careful, though.  This is probably only a danger to me.  Until I blind myself and then all bets are off.
  6. Reading, including maps.  I am a TERRIBLE PERSON!
  7. Using a navigation system.  See above...apparently you just can't get where you want to go without being distracted.  Perhaps if we had a USB with uploadable maps we can plug into our brains?? Is that the answer?
  8. Watching a video. I have never done this (FINALLY!). But I have listened while my kids watch videos. So, yeah, I'm probably distracted.  But I'm NOT TALKING TO THEM.  Ha!
  9. Adjusting a radio, CD player or MP3 player.  Who doesn't do this?
We are a society of distracted losers.  We are all going to end up crashing into each other daily if we don't stop doing all of the above things.  (Don't look at me like that, you KNOW you do it, too!)

Yes, I am a judging judger.  Stop driving distracted.

You're welcome.

My Stupid Life Requires a Smartphone

“We are all wonderful, beautiful wrecks. That's what connects us--that we're all broken, all beautifully imperfect.”
― Emilio Estevez

(Before I begin this, who KNEW that Emilio Estevez was so deep??  Apparently HE is why The Breakfast Club was such a phenomenal success.  Way to go, Emilio!)

When Henry David Thoreau went to the woods, he did so by choice.  He wanted to experience a disconnectedness with the world of people and a new awareness of himself and nature.

I was thrust into the woods by my own clumsiness.  So. Very. Different.

I have been without a phone now for about 24 hours.  I am assuming that, like cigarette smoking, the harmful effects of my cell usage are now leaving my body and I'm experiencing the worst of withdrawal.  If you see me around town curled up in a corner, talking to myself and drooling, just keep walking.  I'm certain the side effects will pass soon.

It's my own fault that I'm walking around so completely disconnected from the world.  I DROPPED my iPhone (OK, and it's NOT like it was the first time I'd dropped it) and the screen shattered.  And because I'm like a freakish character in some film noir series, I'm really odd about things like "being shafted by those darn insurance companies."  (Insert picture of crazy-haired woman shaking her fist at insurance companies.) I think it's a matter of PRINCIPLE that the cell phone company wants to CHARGE ME $159.64 (NOT $160...I was corrected by the snottily helpful customer service rep) to replace the phone I've had when they give away THIS SAME MODEL FOR FREE every day.  And it's not like MINE was free.  I had to pay for it because I bought it just after the latest model came out.  So, I feel like they're taking advantage of me when, in fact, they're just doing what companies do:  shafting the little guy/girl/clumsy freak.

My repair kit off the internet.
Anyway, I did some research and found this awesome little repair kit on the internet.  You know you can find just about anything on the internet, right?  I mean it.  People sell EVERYTHING.  But I digress...that is another blog post altogether.  I bought it for $5 and, when it arrived on Friday, I sat down to embark on a three-hour adventure of taking the phone apart.

You know what happened to Gilligan and friends on the three hour tour, right?  They were LOST ON THAT ISLAND FOR A BAJILLION YEARS.

Granted, the guy on the YouTube video with the calm voice took only 15 minutes to dismantle HIS iPhone.  But his voice was so calm and soothing. Looking back, the guy had to be on some sort of mood-altering drug because no one could be that calm with THAT MANY microscopic screws.  I did need his calming voice after I got the shakes about an hour into the process from my own frustration and lack of any technical skills whatsoever. 

Oh, did I mention that?  I am completely inept when it comes to repairing anything.  I once tried to repair a blow dryer and, after I removed the cover, I stared into the conglomeration of screws and wires and metal thingies.  I touched ONE THING and the entire innards of the dryer vomited all over me.  I looked around (even though I was in my bedroom alone, I thought there might be hidden cameras) and quickly shoved the carcass into a garbage can.  Unfortunately, the hair dryer probably never even NEEDED to be repaired.  When I went to plug in ANOTHER hair dryer, it DIDN'T WORK EITHER.  I'm sorry to say that my stupid first reaction was "WHAT are the ODDS that BOTH hair dryers broke ON THE SAME DAY?"  before I realized that the outlet wasn't working properly.

So, not only am I inept but I am also completely oblivious much of the time.

Regardless, by the time I finally finished dismantling my phone, I was left with a gooey, shattered screen and a conglomeration of parts that made me feel like crying.

So I caved.

My new phone will arrive on Monday.  Until then, I am out in the world completely disconnected save for the the internet connection and Netflix on the TV.  I find that I MISS those beeps that tell me I've gotten a text message.  I miss the weight of that little guy in my pocket.  I went out last night and could have sworn I could feel it vibrating in my purse. 

No man is an island.  But a Kelly certainly can be.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Risk Taking: How to Live Fearlessly

“Let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”
― Dumbledore (J.K. Rowling)

People often ask me how and, more often than not, WHY I do the things I do.  The answer is simple:

I passionately believe that we have this one opportunity in this life to get it right.  We have one chance to live our lives and we can do it by living it the same way each and every day or we can take risks.  We can learn and grow and challenge ourselves and others or we can sit and wait while opportunities pass us by.

It's a long-winded mission statement for my life, I realize.  But I firmly believe in and LIVE by the idea of the Great Adventure.  I teach my children that EVERY SINGLE DAY holds the possibility for magic.  They believe me less and less as they grow older but I hope that some of my passion will stick with them or that they will return to it when they are adults.

I seek out challenges.  I dream of learning.  It doesn't bother me to do things on my own because who knows what characters I might meet?  And, if I don't make a new friend then I've probably learned something new about myself.

What is it I do?  Everything I can.  Here are a few things you can try to ease into the world of Great Adventure (sometimes without ever leaving home!):

  • Learn to sew.  Oh, right...that doesn't sound very adventurous, does it?  But let me ask you this:  How many people do you know who can sew?  (And I mean REALLY in buying that Simplicity pattern and making a skirt?)  I'll bet it's not very many.  I'll have you know that I learned to sew a mitered corner.  And I made a skirt that actually fit me.  Mainly because I am hardcore.
  • Try an improv class.  Improv changed my life.  You probably think I'm kidding, but I'm not.  I took a few classes at the AMAZING Dirty South Comedy Theater with Jeremy Griffin and the ridiculously funny, very gifted Zach Ward.  I became a member of a Harold team there and  I learned lessons that continue to grow me to this day.  Along the way, I formed a few friendships that I feel sure will last a lifetime. Can I get a "Yes, and...?"
  • Learn to drive fast.  OK, they SAY they're teaching "high-performance" driving but really, they are teaching you to careen a car around corners Mach 2 with your hair on fire.  This is NOT NASCAR, people.  This is seriously fun stuff (maybe a little dangerous)  You should try it.  I went with the BMW club at Virginia International Raceway.  You can register for your own school with the Tarheel Chapter of the BMW Club
  • Go skydiving.  There is nothing like hurtling to the earth to make you feel alive.  This was one of the most mind-boggling experiences of my life and I cannot wait to take my children and my godchildren on their own flights of fancy someday.  Of course, the friend who went skydiving with me didn't have quite the same experience since she plummeted to earth completely unconscious but AT LEAST SHE HAS THE VIDEO.  
  • Take a writing class.  I have taken classes with some "serious" writers which aren't generally that much fun because they prattle on about INTENT and plots and characters and they think, think, think.  But some writing classes are FUN.  They have classes to teach you to write your memoirs.  Anyone can learn to write. Maybe you can write stories about your childhood, your parents or your grandparents to pass along to future generations.
  • Learn to act.  I took a super fun acting class a few years ago but the only thing I really remember is the best compliment I ever received from a virtual stranger who was my acting partner in a scene:  "What you're wearing is fine.  You look good in everything.  I think you'd look great in NOTHING."  Was my face red?? But I loved that comment because it was so honest and immediate and offered by someone who obviously didn't make comments like that every day.  I don't know if the acting class helped but it certainly didn't hurt my chances when my youngest son and I auditioned for (and secured big parts in!) a Christmas play last year.
  • Go to movies, plays and to dinner alone every now and again.  You'll be amazed at how different the world appears when you go at it on your own.  You have no one to hide behind.  It will open your eyes to a brave new experience.  What I do very often (as crazy as it sounds) is pretend that I'm starring in my very own movie.  I imagine that the people in the restaurant or the theater are starring in the movie alongside me and I am able to develop their characters in my head as I people-watch.  
  • Learn to dance.  Or just dance.  This is my newest, most unaccomplished goal.  I DID take that ballet class for a PE requirement in college.  How was I to know that EVERY SINGLE other person in there had "taken" ballet for THEIR ENTIRE LIVES?  The ballet instructor was aghast that I had never had a class before...ever.  What in the hell was I doing in college if not to learn new things and have new experiences?  I think I may have been the only student to have ever done that in the history of the class (but I sure hope not).  Good thing I took it pass/fail.
Risk taking is...well, risky.  This blog is a risk.  I am putting my words and my life out there for all to see.  And some of what I write isn't very good.  But I'm doing it because it's's fun...and it's a way for me to connect with people in a way I haven't before.

Take a chance.  Do something new.  Don't wait.  

Addendum:  My friend who passed out while skydiving was a little peeved that I did NOT mention that she passed out due to whiplash and concussion from the chute deployment.  She was NOT A SCAREDY PANTS.   She was a very, very brave woman.  Who just happened to pass out while skydiving due to injury.  :) (Better, Linda?)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Why Women Go Nuts (Or, Saga of a Pscyho-Ex-Girlfriend)

“You have no idea how crazy I am, I should be wearing yellow Caution tape, I'm that bonkers.”
― Robin Benway

Yes, I admit it.  Tonight I fell into a trap.

I have this on-again, off-again tumultuous relationship that is on-again, off-again for reasons I won't go into publicly.  Suffice it to say that neither one of us is fit for the other.  But we have kept at it...over and over again we hammer at it because we just can't seem to stay away from each other.  Apparently it's a kill-or-be-killed kind of relationship.

It's currently off.  Again. (For reasons which I won't go into publicly because, after all, deep down I AM a nice person in spite of being completely off my rocker when it comes to this Man.)

So, earlier tonight, I decided something.  I was going to tell him why he had hurt me and how he had hurt me and why that was a bad thing and how I just can't keep putting up with this anymore and this is absolutely nuts but obviously it's my fault because I keep putting up with it and I guess you just don't even CARE, do you?  (Breath) 

I should have this warning system installed somewhere on my body.  When my blood pressure starts rising and my eyes start rolling around in the back of my head, I should have an ALARM that goes off like a First-Alert-System.  Maybe it would stop me in my tracks and make me breathe for about 10 minutes BEFORE I turn into Psycho-Ex-Girlfriend.

Now, obviously Man is not drawn to Psycho-Ex-Girlfriend.  As a matter of fact, Man would rather jump off the nearest bridge naked into a pit of lava rather than deal with Psycho-Ex-Girlfriend.  I mean, a sobbing, whining mess IS, granted, TERRIBLY attractive, but the Man just prefers to smile politely and edge away without turning his back when Psycho-Ex-Girlfriend is anywhere in the vicinity.

I worried for a while that it was only me who does these kinds of things.  But then I started talking to more women and realized that this is not at ALL uncommon.  We freak out on boyfriends, ex-boyfriends, bosses, husbands, ex-husbands and sometimes even that kid who helps us out at the local discount supercenter.  Sometimes, we just freak out.  And as the words are coming out of our mouths or flying off the tips of our fingers into a text, we KNOW we're acting crazy.

And. We. Just. Can't. Stop.

Maybe it's estrogen.  Maybe it's just that we are emotionally-driven creatures.  Or maybe it really is that sometimes we step over that line into CrazyTown and all bets are off.

I have some theories, though, that might explain why we women edge over the deep end when we feel wronged in a relationship:

  1. Listing your faults is like a hobby for us.  It takes all the attention off our obsession with our growing waistlines or our worries that our middle child is being picked on in health class.  It makes us forget our flaws for a minute when we're laser-focused in on your latest screw-up (and, honestly, all the screw-ups you've ever had SINCE THE BEGINNING OF TIME).
  2. You call us we'll EARN it.  Remember all those times you rolled your eyes and told us we were nuts?  Yeah, we'll SHOW YOU NUTS.
  3. We are tired.  We women are exhausted most of the time.  You have no idea how much EFFORT it takes to be the woman behind the man.  We make sure that things run so seamlessly that you have no idea how much we're doing behind the scenes.  Honestly, every house on your street is a facade being held up by a woman.  Truth.
  4. Sometimes, we want you to be like our girlfriends.  Sometimes, we really do want you to just say "oh, what YOU need is a good cry!"  and wrap us up in those manly man arms of yours and let us do just that.  (Hint:  We might feel like crying a lot less and *wink, wink* you know what I mean...)
  5. You're kinda mean.  Yeah, you cut us off when we're trying to tell you something.  You dominate the remote control.  You attempt to solve our problems without really listening to what the problem is in the first place.  Who wouldn't go crazy?

So, I feel bad about sending those 10 texts and leaving those three voicemails. He'll delete them all without reading them or listening to them because he HONESTLY couldn't care less when I am emotional.  I can hardly blame him (for THAT, anyway).   He much prefers Fun Kelly over Psycho-Ex-Girlfriend. 

And THAT, friends, is the roller coaster that is my life.

(Author's note:  No children are harmed in the course of this obviously dysfunctional relationship.   With the exception of a few meals here and there, all On-Again, Off-Again "fun"
is conducted outside the bounds of the core unit family.)

Taking Pascal's Wager

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
― C.S. Lewis

This is not a post I set out to write.  On my way home last night, however, I was practicing some music for our Easter services at church, weeping and driving.  (Don't worry, no gnashing of teeth was involved.)  I was overwhelmed by how beautiful this life is and how fortunate I am to benefit from God's grace and at once I knew that here,  at the beginning of this blog, is the time to profess my faith and to explain the round-about way I got here. 

For much of my life, I was agnostic.  I called myself "spiritual" but knew that I was far more enlightened than my peers and others who professed to believe in a higher power.  I scoffed at their Bible, even going so far as to call it the "greatest novel ever written."  I know now that my scorn broke the hearts of my Christian friends but they tolerated it, and me, far better than I had any right to deserve.

I had experienced a great deal of pain growing up and I reasoned that any "loving Father" wouldn't allow pain like that to happen to anyone.  I knew better than to accept this "myth" of religion and, while it confused me that I knew extremely intelligent people who were firmly steeped in faith, I figured they would eventually uncover the error of their ways.

But over and over again, I was bombarded with the Christian message by people who loved me.  I watched their lives unfolding and saw how they made God the center of everything, like the fulcrum of a wheel.  They seemed passionate and I longed for that kind of spiritual certainty...but, no matter how I tried, I just couldn't accept it.  The "magic" of it was too great for me to comprehend.

But then, a couple of things happened that would forever change me and it would open me up to the mysterious and offer a chance at faith:
  •  A tumor was discovered in my then seven-week-old youngest son.  I had no idea where to begin, so I reached out to EVERYONE I knew and asked for prayers, positive energy...whatever.  I was willing to look to anyone and anything.  On the first day, we were told that the tumor was as large as a tennis ball and it would require surgery and quite possibly chemo.  The next doctor we saw said that the tumor wasn't QUITE as large as they had thought and that chemo would almost certainly NOT be necessary.  I knew that literally hundreds of people were praying for that tiny baby all over the world.  On the day of the surgery, nuns gathered at my mother's church to pray as well as other friends and family.  When the surgeon came out, he said the surgery was so INCREDIBLY easy.  He said it was as if everything just opened up to him and he was easily able to get the entire tumor with no had been one of the easiest surgeries he had seen of that type.  
  • My marriage began to collapse.  I was struggling emotionally and spiritually and I just did what I hadn't ever done before and what had never occurred to me as a solution:  I went to church.  I sat there, alone, Sunday after Sunday, hearing the music and the messages and I wept.  I wept openly and profusely.  I simply COULDN'T STOP CRYING.  And, for the first time in my life, I began to pray to a God that I wasn't sure existed.

I was overwhelmed by what seemed very much like a miracle with my son.  And I was conscious of a deep pull in my heart whenever I would go to church. But things still didn't seem to fit.  How could I accept a truth without proof?  It seemed crazy.

So I began to read.  I read The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel.  I read many apologetics books.  I read Biblical passages.  I talked to people.  I asked questions.  I found Pascal's Wager intriguing.

Blaise Pascal
Blaise Pascal was a 17th century French philosopher, mathematician and physicist who, and I am putting this VERY simply here, said that all humans place a bet with their lives:

1.  God exists or He doesn't exist.
2.  If you think He exists and you are RIGHT, you gain everything.  If you think He exists and you are WRONG, you lose nothing.
3.  If you think He doesn't exist and you are RIGHT, you lose nothing.  If you think He doesn't exist and you are WRONG, you LOSE EVERYTHING.  

So, really, there is only one premise where you lose everything.  That made me think. 

During one Sunday service, our pastor (in a move I had never seen before nor have I ever seen since, five or so years later) asked us to join together with people near us and simply have a time of prayer.  I joined a circle of strangers and, as we locked hands, I began to sob silently.  Tears streamed out of my eyes and snot dripped onto my clothing.  They prayed for me openly then.  I believe now that God was working on my heart while I was trying to reach Him through my brain.

And after about another six months or so, I sat in church and the pastor said, once again (as he does so often), that God's love was available and His mercy was free to all of us if we would only let Him in.

For the first time in my life, I thought, "Yes."

From then on, I have felt my heart change.  I know it sounds hokey, but I really believe that I love more deeply and that I have more patience and wisdom than ever before.  I see things more clearly and I am more apt to respond to people in love than ever before.  And I believe this is because I have opened myself to His grace and mercy.

I took Pascal's Wager.  And I'm pretty sure I'm winning.

Amen.  :) 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

White Picket Fences

"Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal." 
                                                                                               --Albert Camus

There are five states in the US with towns by the name of Normal.
  • Normal, Illinois
  • Normal, Indiana
  • Normal, Kentucky
  • Normal, Tennessee
  • Normal, Alabama
My question is this:  Can anything in Alabama be classified as "normal?"  OK, fine, that isn't my question.  What I DO want to know is what these town founders were striving for when they decided that THEIR town, above all others, was just going to be run-of-the-mill ordinary?

I know people who strive for perfection.  They reach for that Golden Ticket of the American Dream.  They desire for every one of their children to be freshly scrubbed, their lawns to be immaculately clipped, fertilized and weeded and their spouses to be beyond reproach.  They want to blend in by being perfect.  Well, let me tell you somethin', sister:  perfect isn't normal and you aren't blending in. 

I live JUSTONTHISSIDE of crazy town so, to me, normal is an unreachable goal.  I always say it's fortunate I didn't have girl children because I guarantee they would be the most unkempt children in the school with wild hair unbrushed, mismatched socks and ridiculous wrinkled outfits pulled out from behind beds or books or pets.  I forget appointments and I say stupid things.  I hurt feelings and I almost always forget to floss unless I have an upcoming dental appointment...which I only remember because that AWESOME Brenda always gives me a call (on all my numbers) the day before my cleaning.  I mow my lawn when you could easily lose a gnome in it and I think about weeding when you can no longer see the other plants.  My house is messy more often than I'd like and those darn white kitchen floors always look like a dirty-footed shoeless village has walked through it. In short, I am a walking disaster.

But I DO have a picket fence!

Things 2, Me and the tiny Sparky with the PICKET FENCE in the background.

Please note, however, that MY picket fence is not white:  I am shy of the mark EVEN in this small effort to be normal.  If it WAS white, it would be chipped and fading with missing fence posts.

Here's the thing, though:  Who WANTS that life?

As chaotic as my house can be, it is filled with laughter.  The kids are (sadly) unafraid to make BIG messes.  My kitchen table has been used over the years as a backdrop for art projects and I adore every single paint mark and scratch on it.  If they want to see what happens when you drop an egg on the floor...well, we drop an egg on the floor.  When my kids were little, I filled the rooms with little tents for them as a way to make them see the world as a kind of a wonderland, filled with new adventures around every corner. Now that they're big, we sometimes run through the house waving our hands in the air like lunatics and screaming.  Just because. (You'll be right over, right?)

I never wanted normal.  I honestly never thought I'd get married and I REALLY never thought I'd have kids.  When I was young, I wanted to be the first female president of the United States (fortunately for me, that job is still open; unfortunately for the country, I don't want that job).  I never imagined my wedding and I counted the days/weeks/months/years between dresses.  I think I managed to get my whole 5th and 6th grade years in without wearing a dress once.  I avoided the color pink and I tried not to shower or brush my hair if I could get away with it.  I was a staunch Gloria Steinem feminist when I was about 10 years old.  I was not a normal child.  

I have softened over the years.  I don't see pink as a weakness anymore AND have even purchased a few items of pink clothing for myself.  Yes, I was 40 when it happened but that just means we all have room to grow.  But even with my softening, I still embrace my quirks and the oddities of my kids.  I seek out people who are smart and funny who don't have this burning need to "fit in."  I READ the "Dick and Jane" books.  They were paper people.  But those kids in The Cat in the Hat?  Now, they were magic.

Life is far too short to be worried about fitting in and being "normal."  My wish is that all the people with the white picket fences don't freak out too much when the paint starts peeling.  Hey, here's a thought: paint it pink!


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Things That Polite People Avoid

 "Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.  If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use."                                                                                            --Emily Post

Today, I sat behind a Toyota Corolla trying to make a LEFT turn on a very busy four-lane road without the aid of a traffic light at 6pm.  I tapped on my steering wheel and asked the driver, "Seriously?  Is this a good idea?  Are you a federal government employee?"

I watched as the traffic flew by.  Cars whizzed by from the left.  They chugged along from the right.  I became more and more frustrated with the decision-making skills of the driver in front of me.  "Because I have SENSE," I told myself, "I am making a RIGHT turn onto this very busy road.  You, Ms. Toyota Corolla should take a page out of MY book and do what is GOOD and, more importantly, JUST."  Honestly, this person was just being RUDE by making this left turn. 

See, I have this list of Things That Polite People Avoid.  I believe fervently that rudeness is actually evil incarnate and I try to be polite to people as much as I can, often to my own detriment.  In my 20's and 30's, I should have been involuntarily committed because of the lengths I would go to to avoid "putting someone out."

So, here's the (condensed) list.  Learn it.  Live it.  Or at least try not to take advantage of those of us who are overly polite.

  1. Polite people avoid talking on their cell phones while checking out of any line.  I want to CUT people who do this.  If you have a conversation that you absolutely MUST have (and I have HEARD some of your conversations...they have more to do with Sally Jo's latest hair disaster than a 911 call involving the person behind you in line), then please do it BEFORE you approach the register.  The person behind the register is actually human.  Seriously.  They really don't want to hear (second-hand) about your knee problems or the fact that your husband went to the Bahamas with his dental hygienist.  Honestly, you are forcing them to eavesdrop. 
  2. Polite people avoid saying no.  To everything.  Yes, of course you can cut in front of me in line.  Yes, you can be two hours late for any event I am holding.  Yes, you can have my kidney. (You see what I'm getting at here?  I've had some serious issues with this whole "polite" thing.)
  3. Polite people avoid blocking lanes of traffic when trying to ease over into a left- or right-turn lane at the last minute.  I will go MILES out of my way if I make this error rather than force the traffic behind me to wait while I nudge my car into a non-existent space into a turning lane.  I abhor people who do this and who stare straight ahead as if they have every right in the world to block ALL the traffic behind them.  Nope, suck up your mistake Suzy Q and keep driving.  Do a u-turn (legally of course) down the road but do NOT BLOCK TRAFFIC.
  4. Polite people avoid asking for help.  Even if you are in a store and an employee is STANDING RIGHT NEXT TO YOU, you do not ask for assistance.  What if they're busy?  OK, they don't LOOK busy, but maybe they are on the cusp of solving the world hunger problem and if you ask your stupid question (e.g. "In what aisle could I please find the cat food?" because of COURSE you have to throw in a please if you DO ask your stupid question) they are going to completely lose their train of thought and, bam, world hunger still exists.  Because of you.  Keep it to yourself and find your own damn cat food.  (I have a REAL problem here, I'm telling you. I am a ridiculous human being.)
  5. Polite people avoid telling you that they are angry or that you've hurt their feelings.  In almost 13 years of marriage, I really don't remember my ex-husband and I ever REALLY arguing.  I mean, I would get snippy sometimes but he never did.  We didn't argue.  By the time we figured out that arguing was probably important (and actually healthy), we were so disconnected that neither one of us cared enough to be angry about anything.
  6. Polite people avoid people.  After all, if you don't connect with people, then you don't have to ever be rude.  Duh. 
In case you're wondering, that Corolla finally DID make their left turn and I was able to quickly make my right turn, shaking my head at the complete lack of respect that Corolla driver had.  After all, I would have driven ALL the way around the block in order to avoid making the line of cars behind me wait.  Did I mention that I try to ONLY make right turns when driving if at all possible?  OK, we'll leave that for another time.