Friday, January 18, 2013

Anyone know what happened to quicksand?

My new Know Me Journals website is launching any day now. And among its many exciting features (hello, Pin It button!) will be my blog, right there, for your convenient viewing pleasure. Stay tuned for the new link, because this link will officially retire.

Speaking of retiring, I am "over" the Crazy/Cool format. It was good while it lasted, but is getting hard to write around. From now on, I'm just bloggin'. About whatever. Expect posts that are less thought-out and more ramble-y because I'm also amping up my business with lots-o-passion, vigor and a Pin It button! Oh yeah!

In the meantime...

My book club is throwing an 80s party. Why? Why not?

It's interesting to watch a group of ten people plan an event together. I would say a third are really into it (bidding on e-bay for vintage outfits, you know who you are), a third are excited but tempered, and a third are completely regretting decisions made after many glasses of wine.

I'm super into it. Easy guess. My dress is ah-mazing.

We are trying to put together a truly fun and authentic experience for our guests (well, a third of us are) and that has me thinking a lot about the best decade in recorded history. So bad it was good.

Here are three things I don't miss about the 80s. And (you know me and balance!) three things I miss a lot.

Don't Miss
1) The hair. Not for its ugly factor, but for being so high maintenance.

I was a swimmer in high school and we had morning practice several times each week. Getting up was no picnic, but styling your hair post-workout in the stinky, humid locker room with bad mirrors and zero time was torture.

And then living with poorly styled hair all day meant constant anxiety. Serious, stomach churning, can't concentrate on anything because my bangs have flopped in Physics, anxiety. It's hard to understand today, when cute, confident girls just pull their hair back in a slick ponytail and head to homeroom. We didn't have that option. That option didn't exist. Even a banana clip required a bit of teasing.

When I was maybe 13, I went to Penn State with my parents to watch my brother swim in the State Championships. We forgot to pack conditioner. I had such a giant panic attack that I still remember it clearly. I couldn't tell you how my brother swam. I can't even remember what the pool looked like or where we stayed. But I remember the potential for frizzy hair and demanding that my mother find a bottle. Immediately.

2) Phone chains were the worst. Like a bad game of Whisper Down the Lane. I can still see the complicated, multi-tiered flow charts hanging on the family bulletin board. Who do I need to call and who's calling me? Just to let everyone know that softball practice is cancelled. It meant engaging with people, perhaps leaving a message with the chatty and possibly senile grandmother, or what if, God forbid, the hot older brother answers. "You were eating dinner? So sorry. Softball's cancelled."

I felt especially bad for the families at the end of the alphabet. They were consistently uninformed or misinformed at best. The Zieglers were clueless.

Email is the greatest for disseminating information quickly, easily and without interrupting someone's chicken a la king. It's like the coward's way out and I love it!

3) I don't miss my fear of quicksand and soulless Soviets.

What ever happened to quicksand? Seriously, it was once a pop culture staple. I swear it was. I thought it lurked everywhere, waiting to suck me away. Anyone else?

Upon further reflection, my fear of the Soviets has just been replaced by a fear of terrorists. I think I prefer the Soviets with their fun fur hats and ice-skating talent. If only the terrorists would put together an Olympic team, we could track them better. Where are they? At the skatium!

1) I miss the music of the 80s. Not necessarily the quality, but the way it moved me.

I participated in a trivia challenge at a social event held by our very social neighborhood in Baltimore. I handled all the 80s music and rocked it out. An older woman approached me later in the evening and asked if I studied. She couldn't believe I could remember so much. I explained that the 80s were my formative years. Everything was so emotional. Love, friends, fashion. You're on the cusp of the rest of your life, you're at the top of the roller coaster. It leaves a mark.

Now that I've settled into the rest of my life (and the coaster is a series of small bumps - mostly comforting, sometimes nauseating), I still love new music, but it doesn't give me the same feeling. When Bruno Mars sings "'Cause you make me feel like, I've been locked out of heaven..." I know he's not directing it towards me or anyone who resembles me. 

And I miss that.

2) I miss the food. And the not knowing what we know today about food and nutrition. I miss the ignorance. I miss not caring.

One summer, my friend Betsy and I heard that drinking a lot of water was good for you. It was new information. People didn't walk around with fancy water bottles. And we certainly didn't sell it at the snack bar. If you wanted some water, you went to the water fountain. As self conscious and totally bored snack bar employees, we decided to take turns walking to the water fountain and trying to drink for a count of 60. That's a lot of water fountain water. We then took turns going to the bathroom. Kind of wish I invested in a water bottling company that summer. I'd be blogging from my estate in the south of France.

3) I miss having a Mom. Now that Lu is an age that I can totally remember, I miss her more than ever. My mother was in her 40s in the 80s. My age. I finally understand the work she put into me. 

News flash, you are absolutely molding your children. Every day.

While doing laundry, cleaning dishes, calming their irrational fear of quicksand and running out to buy conditioner because the screaming won't stop.

Friday, January 11, 2013

One ticket to Uzbekistan.

I have a very small cut on the tip of my thumb. I've had it for more than two weeks. It won't heal because, I've discovered, you use the tip of your thumb a whole lot. Who knew? And I wash my hands like crazy during flu season, so that doesn't help. And I change diapers because it's not an optional activity.

Did I mention I love Clementines this time of year? I eat several in a sitting. They are edible sunshine! But Clementines are not friendly to my sore thumb. The pain is quite intense, for such a small sliver of a wound. I have considered dull kitchen knife amputation. It would hurt less.

I hydrate myself constantly. Head to toe when I exit the shower. I leave greasy stains on things I touch. I've tried band aids but they slip off and land places band aids don't belong. I wear gloves while doing the dishes or cleaning, but only after slathering my hands with the thickest lotions I can find. I know a lot about emollients.

Yet this thumb wound persists.

Yes, that's my crazy item of the week. Oh, and one more trivial incident so you don't feel cheated.

When Jon travels, the days seem very long. No relief at night. Constant catering to children.

Lu had a choral concert on Wednesday evening and Jon was away. I debated getting a babysitter for Bea, but then decided that she might actually enjoy the music. Plus it was only the fifth grade, so it wouldn't be packed and I could walk around with her in the back.

Once we arrived (miraculously on time), I leafed through the program and came upon a long list of Concert Etiquette Dos and Don'ts. More than one bullet referenced getting up during performances and small children misbehaving. Really? This is an elementary school. I'm sitting in a cafeteria. It smells like tater tots.

Bea lasted about ten minutes in her seat and then was all over the place. I didn't remove her, however, because I was there to hear my daughter sing. Such a rebel.

Needless to say, I was feeling frazzled after the event. I was ready to relax, but had three kids to get in bed and a house to put back together. We pulled in the driveway and Lu asked, "Mom?" "What." "Can you go forward when the car is in reverse?" "No, when the car is in reverse, it goes in reverse." "Can it go in reverse when it's not in reverse?" "No, because it's not in reverse." "So you need to put it in reverse every time you want to go in reverse?"

Oh. My. Lord. Head on the steering wheel. It's a conspiracy to make me crazy.

I wanted to write this down because I knew it would be funny... later. But in the moment, I nearly lost it. 

But I didn't. 

Sometimes during these mentally and physically exhausting weeks, I consider setting my alarm for 3am, driving (forward) to the airport, and taking the first international flight with open seats. 

But I don't.

My sister Gail was very cool.

She had parties at our house when my parents went away. The kind where the cops come and kids scramble up the trees and shove themselves into our closets.

She was fun. She was genuine. She was kind.

She was the person you called with good news because she would be truly, very happy for you. She was the person you called when you were in trouble because she wouldn't judge.

I am uptight. I am high strung. I know that about myself. Gail wasn't. She was cool. You could sense it.

Ovarian cancer took another life this week. A woman who I met many times and who reminded me so much of Gail. We shared several candid conversations about Gail's kids and her kids and the reality of the future. We talked about having lunch sometime, but it never happened. Neither one of us followed up. In all honesty, I was scared to get too close.

When you love someone with cancer, it's constantly on your mind. Whether you're worrying about their physical pain and mental anguish or simply waiting. There's a lot of waiting. And hoping. And bargaining with God while waiting - for test results, to see if a treatment will work, for the damn side effects to subside.

I knew I couldn't "go there" again and it was entirely my loss. Because Dara had the same awesome vibe as Gail. Dara was cool.

My children were cheated out of an incredible aunt when Gail died, but they have a great guardian angel. That calms the sting. When Bea was born, Dara gave me a little wooden "B" for her room. I touched it the other night and imagined Bea with two cool guardian angels. Which is perfect because she's a total terror who likes to surf counter tops.

Now please, in honor of Gail and Dara, consider voting for the Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer video that - as it so happens - features Gail's story. If the Organization wins, they will be awarded $250,000. It takes 5 seconds and you can VOTE EVERY DAY. No excuses. It's the cool thing to do.


Friday, January 4, 2013

Happy HAPPY New Year!

I can't believe it's 2013. That sounds so futuristic. Where's my jet pack?

We spent the early part of New Year's Eve at a friend's house with kids running around. I drank three sidecars expertly mixed by the hostess's much younger brother. I started following him around at one point. He was sufficiently spooked, but I love a good cocktail!

We came home and ate spaghetti with sauce I made and froze last summer using tomatoes and peppers from our garden. It was delightful and very unlike me to be so culinary and resourceful.

Then we waited and waited until midnight. Bea went to bed, but Lu and Edy played 100 rounds of Just Dance 4 to stay awake. Stay awake!

I watched random bits of the New Year's Rockin' Eve tribute to Dick Clark and found it totally depressing. Jenny McCarthy is so botoxed, she's hardly recognizable. They showed clips from just a few years ago and the difference was striking. I also felt sorry for the people standing around in Times Square. It was cold and crowded, two of my least favorite conditions. Taylor Swift was great. The Gangnam Style guy was confused. Ho hum. Stay awake!

So another new year has arrived. Scary #13?! Jon was born on the 13th and he's been good luck for me, so I'm not too worried.

Edy is disappointed because 13 is an odd number and she doesn't like odd numbers. She has a strange connection to numbers. She makes weird number analogies and can remember very specific dates. Maybe I should side with Edy? When I put multiple things in her lunch box – grapes, crackers, cookies – I always make sure there's an even number. She notices.

Honestly, I believe any year, odd or even, lucky or unlucky, is what you make of it. Every day, too. You create your reality. I'm choosing a grateful year, a productive year, a fun year and a happy year.

When you think everything is someone else´s fault, you will suffer a lot. When you realize that everything springs only from yourself, you will learn both peace and joy. Pride leads to violence and evil. The truly good gaze upon everything with love and understanding. —Dalai Lama

Lu turns 11 on Sunday and is suddenly so mature I can't stand it. I'm getting glimpses of our adult relationship and I like what I see. Probably because she is beginning to remind me of me.

Not her high strung part. I can assure you, I have never been very hard on myself. I am full of excuses and convenient explanations. Not Lu. Whenever she struck out playing softball last spring, I wanted to announce to everyone watching that I don't in fact punish my child severely when she fails to get on base. The tears, the intensity, it's pressure she puts on herself.

And not the diligent part. At her age I probably worked at about 45% of my potential. Maybe 43%. Lazy comes to mind. Bored. Lu is all in. She tries so hard and takes everything very seriously. I have giggled my way through all life events with any element of seriousness.

And definitely not the respectful part. I've heard it over and over again from teachers and coaches. She is polite. She is a dream. I was a pain.

But a few weeks ago we were driving to a swim meet when we passed a lighting store. Just a regular retail establishment. To most of the world. Then Lu starts explaining how lighting stores are super, duper creepy, packed with lights, on every inch of the wall and hanging from the ceiling. So low. Dangling. All that electricity. Humming. Too bright. Too cluttered. And you never know when they are open because the lights glow 24/7. Maybe they never close?

She was right! They are creepy! It's a quirky thought and I am full of quirky thoughts. She IS my child!

We also both love soup.

Eleven year-olds are great for wrangling squirmy toddlers.
I totally need the help. Happy birthday, Lu!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Apologies for making you envision my clear cylinder.

Crazy. (Five reasons I'm thrilled that the holiday season is coming to a close.)

1. I'm so, so sick of jingling bells. What gave me goosebumps in November, is now a migraine trigger. This encompasses every Christmas song ever sung. They all feature bells. During the lead up. In the chorus. As it wraps and fades. Goodbye, holiday radio! I would physically kick you out of my life if you weren't invisible.

2. Art projects. When the season hits full swing, the kids develop an insatiable urge to decorate, create and make stuff. Lots of stuff. All kinds. Of course, these holiday projects require my participation and/or supervision. My achy knuckles can only cut so many paper snowflakes.

3. Holiday food. I once watched a British tv show where they took everything an overweight person ate and dumped meal after meal into a giant clear cylinder. Then mixed it up - churn, churn, yuck - to make a graphic point. I tell you, my clear cylinder would be so nasty and full, I bet it would bubble and belch.

4. I'm a tired mom. I am fighting the urge to nap right now. Heavy lids. Heavy and getting heavier.

5. People. From crowded malls, to parties, to school functions and bizarre family members, I'm over the sheer volume of you and the weirdness (some of) you peddle. Because you have overwhelmed me, I'm going to request some space. Let's start with infinity miles through the end of winter.

Cool. (Five things I'll miss.)

1. Bea singing jingle bells, though she hasn't let up and it's three days post-Christmas. (Her vocal pizzicato is pure perfection!) Explaining the calendar to a two year old is wasted energy.

2. Lu and Edy's homemade gifts on Christmas morning. Even though they relied on me heavily to craft their cuteness, I realize that once they are old enough to purchase supplies, work my fickle printer, safely cut with adult scissors and not glue their fingers together, they will no longer feel motivated to declare their affections so sweetly. I'll get a text. If I'm lucky.

3. I do love food and will miss the "go ahead, it's the holidays," mentality I so fully embrace. Perhaps I am slightly proud of my clear cylinder??

4. Tired kids. There is nothing better than kids who hit the pillow hard. Head down and they're out. Exhausted, happy kids who are safely tucked into their soft, warm beds. It's a beautiful thing!

5. I'm sick of people, but not my people. My family of five. Come January 2nd, I will miss having the girls home from school and Jon in his lounge-about clothes, lounging about. I like us huddled inside while the winds whip and slushy snow falls. Cozy bliss.

Happy post-holidays to you!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Ridiculously mature.

I wasn't going to write about twenty elementary school children being gunned down. My puny thoughts can not begin to make sense of the terror or console those who are broken. But what else is there to compare? It's not just crazy, it's horrifying, a nightmare come true.

Here's my opinion on the bigger debate, for what it's worth.

I am a "live and let live" kind of gal. I truly believe it takes all kinds. When it comes to lifestyles that differ from my own, I am open-minded.

That said, the unreasonably paranoid gun enthusiast has me baffled. I respect your right to own weapons, but why can't you agree that the deadliest of rifles should be banned? Destroyed. No longer manufactured. As a nation, we can make this happen. Are you hunting herds of deer? Do you need to shoot an entire case of empty beer cans? Quickly? Without reloading? I'm sorry, but my children's safety trumps your hobby.

The NRA spoke out today and said what we really need are armed guards at every school. That's like handing out flame retardant suits in a raging inferno rather than working to put out the fire. Keep playing, kids! You'll get used to the heat! Oh, and who's paying for these suits, I mean guards? Schools are woefully underfunded as is.

What about the movie theater? The mall?

I'm also confused by moms getting all second amendment crazy because they identify as conservative and that's how the conservative playbook reads. Step back and think for yourself. Think about the fear those children felt. (Yes, they would have been afraid of a man with a machete, but they would have also stood a chance.)

The fear. That's what sticks with me. The children are at peace - now - but I'm certain the parents will never stop imagining the fear. Imagining the scene.

God bless them.

There's so much more to say, but I don't have the time or talent to word it well. There's a holiday sing at our elementary school in less than an hour and I will be there... because my children are my everything... not just a hobby/sport/recreational activity/reason to play in the woods.

For many years, Lu declared that she was not at all interested in piercings. Or tattoos. Mohawks were also on her "never" list. She wanted us to know.

Then she got a little older. Then she changed her mind. Not about the mohawk, thankfully. She wanted her ears pierced and I had no problem with it, but I suggested she wait until soccer season ended. After soccer season, she seemed to forget. So did I.

On Monday night, I decided to drag the girls to the mall. Jon was (shockingly) out-of-town. I knew Bea would be a disaster, but I wanted a picture with Santa and we missed every other lap-sitting opportunity in town.

So Lu asked, "Can I get my ears pierced?" Feeling guilty about making an almost 11 year-old engage a mall Santa ("Have you been good, young lady?"), I said fine. She was stunned. And nervous. But resolved.

After Santa, we went straight to Piercing Pagoda. While waiting for the teenage manager to call Lu back, I stroked her perfectly formed earlobes. So soft. I made them. There was a sudden sense of ownership and a rush of regret, but it was too late. Deep breath.

Five days post-piercing and her ears look beautiful. They aren't red or sore or infected. So far. Most importantly, Lu is thrilled. Some changes are good not just for the surface reality, but for the way they make us feel. In Lu's case, it's "sassy" with a touch of "aren't I ridiculously mature?"

Yes you are. Getting there at least. 

Friday, December 14, 2012


For many, many, many years, I did not enjoy trimming our Christmas tree. I like order. I like balance. I like visual aesthetics. Maybe more than the average guy. Haphazard kids hanging ornaments haphazardly was no fun at all. For me.

I have been known to rearrange a shelf because too many books of the same color are too close in proximity. My eyes don't like it. Why suffer?

I have four versions of our Christmas card on my laptop. I have tweaked it to death.

In college, I pledged a sorority. During the entire semester, we were encouraged(!) to do favors for sisters in exchange for signatures. The goal was to get as many signatures as possible. I was born for this!  I cared for an iguana, I got a signature. I told a joke, I got a signature. I returned a sweatshirt to an ex-boyfriend, I got a signature. I had pages and pages of signatures. But I didn't like the way they looked. The different pens! Some light, some dark! Too random! My eyes!

So I went from page to page and simply traced each one with the same felt tip marker. (Oh, how I love a felt tip!) On the final night of pledging, I got in serious trouble. The good girl had gone bad. Apparently, it looked as though I forged them. Gutsy! (Um, is your iguana alive? Yes? Because I fed it!) I tried to explain, but how do you explain neurosis? At that moment, it seemed so ludicrous. (At my desk, with felt tip in hand, it seemed like a super plan!) I took my punishment which may or may not have been eating five fat bouillon cubes.

Twenty years later, I still use that incident to gauge whether it's worth fixing/changing/altering something when the result may please me, but may confuse/upset/alienate others.

The tree is an ideal example. For the last many Christmases, the kids would merrily decorate then walk off. I would quickly fix/reposition/totally change everything top to bottom until it was perfect. Someone had to intercede. Edy hung 14 ornaments on the same branch!

This year, they are older. (And a little uptight like me.) When every ornament was out of the box and on the tree, I stepped back and was pleased. Sure, there were a few I could have moved around, if I stared and obsessed. But I didn't. Stare or obsess. The tree was good and it was theirs.
Even Bea helped out by not putting hooks in her mouth and by not sucking the glitter off anything sparkly. Progress!

I was still basking in my chill mom status when I heard a loud crash. The tree fell.

I rushed downstairs and realized right away that there were some serious casualties. Anything fragile near the impact zone was smashed.

For our wedding present, Gail gave me a box of German glass ornaments, each with special meaning. She also gave us a beautiful Victorian angel -- ironically enough. For the last fifteen years, I have faithfully hung those delicate ornaments and proudly wedged that angel on the tippy top of every tree we have ever owned. For the last 6 years, it's been bitter sweet.

Now two of her ornaments were in teeny tiny pieces and I was faced with a decision. I could completely lose it or I could accept that the ornaments had a good run and nothing lasts forever. As I was mentally debating my reaction, I saw a breast cancer ornament among the mess and it buoyed me back. It's not a big deal. Cancer is a big deal. The love I feel when I remember Gail, that's a big deal.
It says "Faith Hope Love," not
"Weep for hours because your ornaments smashed."
I did most of the rehanging myself. The kids had moved on. So, a perfect tree again this year! I can't help myself.