Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Contact Info

Andy has had a new schedule for a couple of weeks that allows him to study from home three days a week.

He doesn't study at home though.  Abby is often here.  Abby is often loud.  Our pantry is always here.  Our snacks in the pantry are always convincing.  And so on.

In light of these distractions, Andy's been going to the library all day to study in peace.

When he comes home we don't catch up much because the kids are excited to see him and I'm scrambling off upstairs to have a shower and a Kelly Clarkson concert.

Before tossing my clothes into the dirty laundry, I always empty my pockets and put the contents on top of our bureau.  Usually the contents are nothing more than a hair tie, a busted pen, and a receipt for hot chocolate.

Today, however, I had digits.  I chatted with some new parents, a married couple, during lunchroom duty at Grayson's school.  We wanted to continue our talk over email so the husband gave me his card (pictured below w/a zip drive over his name to protect his identity) with their email address on it.  Innocent enough.

Thinking nothing of it, I placed his card on the bureau. I put it right next to the snowman mug. 

When I came out, my card had a partner.

Look who else got digits today?  From a lady named Lisa who works in a place called Leisure Fitness.

Uh-huh.  The l-i-b-r-a-r-y, eh?

The quote on the card (that I got him for being extra patient lately) reads: 
Anything and everything, little or big
becomes an adventure
when the right person shares it.

Looks like I'd better step up my game.  He just might be shopping for a new "right person" with whom to "share it."

I see you, Lisa from Leisure Fitness.  And I raise your "Leisure Fitness" with some CrossFit like a woman scorned.  Because we all know a woman scorned is a woman with kickass obliques and killer calves.

And maybe even a husband who won't be spending all day at the l-i-b-r-a-r-y.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Labor of Love

Have you ever gotten so obsessed over a project that you threw logic to the wind and dove face first into sleep deprivation over it?

Me too.

Meet my most recent obsession:  The Socktopus.

In Grayson's class, parents are invited to teach a lesson for their Letter of the Week.

It took me a long time to work up the nerve to sign up for a letter to teach.  Like four months.  I know.  I'm not even sure how I leave the house most days.

Why be nervous to teach kindergartners?  Because there are 26 of them and two of me.  Abby and me, that is.  The math is not in our favor and I know myself well enough to realize my strengths (snuggling, laying down, kissing dogs) do not match up with my weaknesses (teaching, wearing real pants, loud places).

After giving this volunteer lesson much thought, I came across the cutest idea for the Letter O.

The Golden Jelly Bean Blog, click here s'il vous plait.

I figured, if the kids had this awesome little cephalopod to make, there wouldn't be much room for me to screw up the teaching part, right?

So wrong.

Because I didn't describe the steps at all whatsoever well, these poor babies barely had enough time to stuff their socks much less cut the sock up with their school scissors.  Most ended up with two tentacles or fourteen shredded limbs.  Only because their temporary leader failed them.  I planned to have them glue their eyes first, leaving the more difficult cutting-of-the-legs part up to me.  Then, in the heat of the classroom moment, their teacher cheerfully asks, "Do you want them to cut the tentacles now?"

To which I classroom cheerfully replied, "Yes, that would be great!"

When what I really meant was OhHellNo, the legs are too hard.  There are pipe cleaners, PIPE CLEANERS!!

Needless to say, the tentacle aftermath was intense.  I was not prepared.  Some made it through without serious injury. Many, however, were not as lucky and required major surgery.  A few suffered amputations, or the much less desired, tentacle wrap-arounds.

I have a new appreciation for people who work with heat.  Never have I singed off so much of my own skin in all my years.  After a while, you kind of lean into the pain and forget to remove the searing metal nose from your forefinger right away.  If you meditate enough on each rote move, the pain is relative.  Crazy, I'm guessing, is too. 


Oh, did I mention the lesson took so long that I asked to complete them myself at home?  You know, in all my free time that hasn't existed since 2006 and downright disappeared altogether come 2008?

Squeezing in tentacle operations here and there plus the going rate of thirty minutes per Socktopus, all 26 Socktopuses took me a full week, one tube of Neosporin, and all of my sanity.

But man, aren't they adorable with their curly little legs?

 I kind of miss them.

I would do it all over again.

 Goodbye, my little squids.

As long as I still don't have to teach in a real classroom with organized thought and tons of mental preparation.

That, I have to work up to.

As soon as I get out of my comfy pants.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Something Happens

When I babysat kids, I thought it was easy to be a mom.  That one just needs a sticker chart, I'd think when she refused to put her plate in the sink.

When I was a teacher I thought it was tiring be a mom.  Bedraggled parents at IEP meetings would show up and I would identify with dark circles under their eyes. "I know,  I was up until one a.m. grading papers."

When I got my first dog, I thought I felt what it was like to be a mom. 

Sadie needed to have her surgery so I stayed by the phone for three hours until the vet called to say she was okay.  Three hours.

Then...I had a baby and understood the first second I was alone with this tiny little boobie sucker that I had no idea what the hell it was like to be a mom.

Something happens.

When you become a mom, your heart bursts open like the 4th of July and all the terrifying sh*t inside it comes careening out to the front screaming from every angle.  "Do NOT screw up! Stay awake!   Only you can do this!  You can't do this.  You call that a swaddle?   Maybe it's colic. Call your mother!  Are those mosquito bites? Go the ER.  Fall asleep?  ARE YOU CRAZY?!  Can you believe your husband is snoring?"

Tough, terrifying, asinine, worthless nervous sh*t.

And it doesn't stop there.

Preschool rips you a new one.  The little four year old face that tries so hard to be brave melts to the floor while tiny fingers scrunch deep into your jacket.  Small shoulders sob below you and you cannot believe your job is to walk in the opposite direction.

Kindergarten slices you right down the middle.  Your boy, who over enunciates now for some reason, asks if you can find his mag-ic crys-tal or his bell-ly pills because he is already nervous and searching for comfort before leaving the house.

1st grade is barreling down on me like a fighter jet with a full tank.

Today we are in the car, after school pickup.  I am driving around and notice nobody's screaming.  It's cold outside and warm in here so before long, I see two little heads bobbing around like they do right after eyelids give up their fight to stay awake.  They are both cozy in thick jacket hoods and snuggling down like bunnies.  I can see their faces in that weird double rear view mirror light that happens as the sun goes down, their actual mirror image and their see through counterparts right above them.   It's like they are angels leaving their bodies.  Out of nowhere, this sight undoes me so I drive and drive and Starbucks. Just to be with them in their quiet for a while longer. Tethered to their precious bodies like a little girl clinging on to her favorite balloons:  yellow and pink.

Don't go.  I plead but their half light continues to rise.

The tears make my chest ache and I desperately want to freeze these minutes, bottle these seconds, and hermetically seal our familiar proximity. I cleave to them the only way I know how, by ordering a vanilla spiced decaf latte. Venti, please. And sipping on that puppy to soothe myself as we drive around with no destination at all.  Detouring down side streets, checking out that pretty house with the stained glass windows. Circling the neighborhood again and again.  Just so I can hear them breath, have them within my reach, be together here for a few more minutes.

A blip on life's radar.

They are sound asleep now so I devour their sweet pulsating temples with my eyes.  Their perky noses beg to be kissed.  Then re-kissed.  Their eyelashes come from a place made of snowflakes and baby deer as their soft eyebrows rise and fall with dreams of Show & Tell, cake pops, and scooters around the park.


Something happens when you become a mother.

Puppies.  Make you cry.
Folding ladybug socks and Batman underwear.  Makes you cry.
Your husband answering the phone, "Yeah." instead of "Hi Baby," makes you want to drive his truck through a closed barn door.

Another mother in pain or hurting because her baby is sick or worse, gone, makes us insane.  It hurts us as moms when another one of us faces these demons. Because we have gone there in our minds millions of times, recovering but trembling and breathless.  What every mom knows is how much your baby takes with them when they even go to school. And if they are gone forever...  When you do the math to see there is nothing left over you shake again and want to hold that mama up with your bare hands until she grows whole again from love and effing miracles which might take awhile. Like forever.  It's not right to lose a child. Every mama knows that.

When you become a mom, you love with your heart spilling out toward street lights, life is raw, extreme, divine, irreverent, dirty, noisier than hell and connected to the very thing that makes us human:  empathy.

Being a mother is knowing nothing.  And caring too much.

Something happens when you become a mother. 

We haven't taken ourselves to the doctor's in years, yet we move the earth to take our kids in for five small pink welts. We stop wearing black so often because the 4 yo says it's ugly on our pale skin...and she's probably right.  We stop doing the dishes and wipe our hands to listen, really listen, when our 6year old HAS to know when do the people who work in the grocery stores get to buy their own groceries like bananas?  We take our kids to Chuck E. Cheese in the absolute peak of flu season because Daddy's on a hunting trip and you want home to be fun too.  We lose ourselves in them.  To them.  Around them.  For them.

I never thought I'd be the kind of mom who measures her worth on whether her kids say please and thank you, get 100% on their reading logs, and don't rub off her kisses at night.  But I am.

Because something happens when you become a mom.

And I can't quite describe it.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Soft Morning

Nobody is rushing now.

It's that time of morning when nothing has rules;  our day hasn't yet been defined. The kids are background music, playing made up games together, outside the lines. I don't interrupt or correct when someone gets too rowdy.   They grapple at first, then find their own civility. 

Dogs are curled up close by silent except for short puffs of contented sighs.

Even my hair is in a good mood despite being slept on, no ponytail today.

No rules at 8:38 am means freedom to listen, write, and sort things out.  

Meditation for bloggers.

Our morning unfolds in the kitchen:  tea kettle, turkey bacon, homework packet, an ABC book for Abby.  She is readying herself for Kindergarten.  In her daddy's glasses.


My husband is off for the weekend, grouse hunting with his sister and brother-in-law.  He is getting back to his happy place as am I, essential things we forget sometimes.  Our smiles were beginning to fade again.  We always forget the essentials for too long.

Abby is pouring through our new stack of library books:  fourteen this time with naughty cats, smart hippos, reading dogs, rotating planets, and more than a few ballerinas.

Grayson is peering over Abby's shoulder humming a song only he knows.  His mouth is one part happy melodies to two part Trader Joe's strawberry apple fruit strips most of the time.  I hope I never forget.

Abby's giggles peel out over the naughty cat who licks a baby's nose and a daddy's bald spot.  Even though she's never felt a cat's tongue, she imagines how funny it might be.  Wait till she gets a load of the purring.

Grayson disappears into his room and now I hear his MobiGo.  He knows about those precious stolen minutes before the day begins with rules and self-induced pressures.  I'm happy the morning is soft.

It's so nice to be outside the lines, if only for the morning.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Om, I'm Totally Taking a Yoga Class Now

The latest book I'm reading is called, Proof of Heaven, by Eben Alexander, M.D.  

A quick and unprofessional synopsis of this story is that he is a neurosurgeon who fell into a (spontaneous meningitis caused) coma.  For the five days he was lifeless, he experienced an afterlife or "journey of heaven," even though his brain had completely shut down.  He was brain dead.  The chances of him coming out of the coma into a non-vegetative state were so slim to none that doctors and his family prepared themselves to let him go.

Many coma patients remember journeys while they were unconscious but none can claim them to be "afterlife" like Dr. Alexander's experience.  The difference is that he is the only known patient who had this experience while 100% brain dead; meaning his body was kept alive with machines even though his brain was completely shut down.

I can't succinctly speak of the afterlife he saw, heard, or felt.  The one theme in his story is that he cannot accurately describe how much acceptance, love, and compassion he felt from Om (how he referred to God).  He said words do not do the depth of it all any justice whatsoever.  He described our brains as not the origin of consciousness, but instead the filtering agents that block out knowledge/memory of other realms.

He also spoke of different levels or realms he "elevated" or "descended" into depending on how how much of himself (not as Eben, just as a self in general) or his ego he could forget.  He described the last level as the most beautiful thing, where you could taste the color blue, see the tang of lemon, and feel a bird's call from the sky.  In other words, all senses collided.  In a great way.  Time wasn't linear like it is here.  It was this hard to describe layered up mosaic of powerful knowledge, indescribable beauty, and utter peace.

Yea, man.  I am down with that realm.

Although I'm only halfway through the book, I find myself intrigued by his concept of layers we must "graduate" to get to a pure world of love and compassion.

What does a level feel like?  Is each level different for each spirit?  Would it be Ariel floats and Dumbo rides for children taken too soon?  Is it a mosh pit with a private Kurt Cobain concert for teenagers who expired before their time?  Is it soaking up the sun in a double wide rocker (like those at Cracker Barrel) for very tired and worn out souls? 

My pure world would be a curvy expanse of wildflowers streaked with one lane of dog angels launching themselves toward my smiling face.  And warm chocolate chip cookies at the ready.

What would yours be?

In thinking of these other dimensions of altruistic acceptance and ego-less-ness, I am reminded how offensively human I am.

Despite trying to have a flawless mommy day it has yet to happen.

Spilled milk in my van still pisses me off.  I still snarl when my family yell-talks over our dinner table like the winner gets a sitcom deal...or a Kit Kat, respectively.  Abby whining at all ever sends rusty nails down my skull.  Grayson's migraines frustrate and terrify me to no end.  Andy's occasional grouchy is met with a cold shoulder instead of a back rub.  The dogs don't get me upset but that's because I'm half Labrador myself.

No matter how much I try to be the best version of myself in the morning, I end each night with I love you and an I'm sorry every single time.

It will be a long, long, earthly journey for the likes of hormonal me if Dr. Alexander's story holds true.

Maybe that's the point.  Lessons learned here are hard, repetitive, and shouty because the reward is a ride through heaven chaperoned by mind-reading angels who take you straight to Om when you can leave you behind.

Cool.  Looking forward.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

My Bridge

Sadie is not just another pretty face.

She is my bridge from a former life to now.  A physical, spiritual, heavenly dog smelling bridge.


Sadie brought me light when everything I knew fell away.


After she came to live with us, I took her everywhere with me in my brand new-to-me Maxima.  She even went to the dank and mouse-riddled music studio with me when I was singing in DC.  She would perch herself high on the nasty couches, disgusted with such deplorable surroundings.  One cold winter night we had a gig and I couldn't bear to leave those gorgeous brown eyes (with white eyelashes) at home so I took her with me.  Obviously, my plan backfired when the manager balked at our "mascot" entering his establishment so I had to leave her in the car.  Between sets I would run out to the back of the bar, where I illegally parked, just to blast the heat for five minutes so she wouldn't freeze.
Sadie had a lot of Marley in her.  She was the uncratable dog.  Still is.  Our first attempt at crating her, she Houdini'd her way out.  We knew she was trouble when we saw her peering out the window looking for us while standing on our kitchen table  (She still waits for us on our kitchen table unless I put exactly four chairs on before leaving the house.) In that same townhouse, she got herself stuck in my bathroom and managed to rip up door jams, 40 ft of carpeting, heavy sliding glass door curtains, wooden/plastic/metal door handles, kitchen curtains, and most anything standing in her way between her and daylight.


Sadie quickly became my bridge to a new busy life with her as the starring role.

But she didn't start out that way.

Back in early 2003, when we adopted her, I didn't want a dog; my new husband did.  I loved dogs more than people but just wasn't ready for one.  I was still grieving some heavy duty losses. 

Within the course of ten months,  I had gotten married, lost my grandfather, lost my grandmother, quit my teaching job, sold my childhood home, and rocked my brains out in a rocking chair while my husband wondered how the F to fix his new broken wife. 

From about Kindergarten on, my grandparents were parents to me every bit as my mom was.  As was my brother.  As was my uncle.  Those years, the really really good years, we all lived under one happy roof.  Life was so sweet I can still taste it (yellow cake batter and Ragu spaghetti sauce), hear it (lawn mowers, crickets, the crunch of white pebbles in our driveway), and see it clearly (billowy trees, Persian rug, Christmastime), decades later.  

Andy and I were married in August, 2002 and too quickly for words, I had to say goodbye to my grandfather just a few short weeks later in October, 2002.   My grandfather was the epitome of practicality and had been preparing for his death for ages.  I can remember him setting out his burial uniform so often it became a morbid joke between us.

"You know I'm going to switch it to a sailor uniform, last minute," I teased the retired Army Brigadier General.

"You wouldn't," he feigned disgust to play along.  He always played along.

Then, as sometimes happens with couples, my grandmother unexpectedly passed away soon after he did.  Just a piddly five months later.  My heart had cracks where gaping holes lived. 


"C'mon, let's just go look," encouraged Andy.  "We don't have to buy one today, let's just go take a look."

"Oh, Honey, that'll never work.  You know we will come back with one.  Or seven."

For weeks, I was a sad buoy bobbing in and out of hours;  lost without a compass.  My world as I knew it had tilted upside down.  The people who had been absolute and steady anchors for my entire life had disappeared in a blink.  Who I had been seemed to follow suit as well.

"C'mon, let's just go look," Andy tried one last time.

"Fine," I conceded, "But we are only looking at black boy labs.  Only looking."

By the time we arrived at PetCo's Lab Adoption, most of the dogs were outside.  It was a gorgeous sunny day with a breeze that seemed to add the perfect excitement for meeting new friends.

We immediately fell in love with a big yellow lab named Banner.  Banner was a tank and a sloppy kisser, our kinda guy.  One major problem.  Banner and Radar (my brother's dog with whom we resided) had a serious beef with each other.  Teeth and snarls ensued so we reluctantly made peace with leaving him for another family.

In our search for the perfect boy dog, a volunteer kept steering us over to a yellow female lab who was a great distance from the rest.  She was this shy little skittish girl who hid behind her owner the entire time; we almost didn't go over to meet her.  Her owner who, I must add, looked much sadder than any one of the dogs up for adoption that day, had me convinced he was there only in body.

"You sure you want to let her go?" we asked the nice gentleman holding Sadie's leash.

He responded with his truth that he and his wife gave it their best but this sweet young thing had boundless energy and required more exercise than they had anticipated.  She would not be a great boating dog for  many years to come.  He said he they did not want to but felt they had to let her go.

Judging by the mournful rest in his eyes, I did not believe him.

"C'mon, Honey," I whispered to Andy.  "This guy loves this dog.  He will take her back home, look how attached he is.  Plus, she's afraid of us."

Only, Andy didn't hear me.  He was too busy swooning over Sadie.  This little sleek thang curled right into his lap and speckled him with many tentative kisses.

Well he is the one who wanted a dog in the first place.  Here ya go, Honey.  Here's your new dog cause she's scared shitless of me.

Within a few minutes, my husband's heart was adrift with new love and I could tell Banner and all other dogs at that event could not compete.

The black male lab I had my sights on was quickly turning into a skinny little bleached blonde girl dog.  She even had girlie paws.


The adoption was rough  Although Sadie really liked Andy, she was scared silly of me.  I almost lost inside the store as she pulled like an ox to get back to her original owner.  It broke my heart that we were separating these two.  So much so, I nearly pulled the plug entirely right before signing the papers.

(Only I couldn't find Andy to tell him we shouldn't steal this guy's dog.  Andy was too busy yanking dog supplies from the shelves like a lovelorn optimist.)

Sadie and her owner's goodbye was so heartbreaking it makes me well up ten years later.  If I had gotten my way that afternoon, Sadie would not have driven home with us in our truck, staring out the back for her real daddy.  Her daddy would've had to convince another person to take her because the love in his eyes told us the last thing he really wanted to do was let her go.

The blessing has been that we keep in touch.  Sadie's first daddy and I have become friends throughout the years and he sends us a wonderful letter on the anniversary of her adoption.  I send him pictures and videos in response to his letters and he even reads this blog to keep up with Sadie. (I owe you a bunch, G, coming soon.)

Maybe she is his bridge, too.


Happy Birthday, Sadie Girl.  You will always be the Queen of our hearts.  Forever and ever.



Through the Years:

 Christmas 2007, PA Home:  Just the Four of Us

 Christmas 2008, PA Home:  Make That Five

Christmas 2009, At the new VA home

 Easter 2010

October 2010 - Day of Andy's Deployment to Bahrain

 Christmas 2010 - Mommy's Little Helper While Daddy was Gone

 Horrible Solo Winter of 2010:  Mommy's Peace & Sanity

 Christmas 2011:  Daddy's Home!

My Sadie, still rocking the beautiful eyelashes at eleven years young.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Her Royalness

Today is a very special day.  You may have seen in the news.

It's The Queen's birthday.

 Sadie Maria

We were introduced to her majesty when she was one so have been amongst royalty for ten years.

 2003:  We all look like babies!

 (Taken days after she was entrusted to us.  We had just moved back into my childhood home.)

The Queen turns eleven today.

And now, if you'll excuse me.  I have a gourmet lemon cake to bake. The Queen prefers lemons at her party.

It's going to be a surprise party.

My friend Julie asked if Andy was going to stroll her around the neighborhood while we set up the red carpet.

Yes, I believe that might be the only way to pull this off because me thinks her highness suspects something...

..and isn't happy about all the fuss.

Stay tuned for paparazzi (puparazzi?  boo, hiss, find a real job, blogger girl).