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Maybe “All You Need is Love” but some deserve so much more…

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My columns have been rather sparse recently, and other than a tirade a while back about people stepping up and “Owning their sh*t,” I really have tried to keep a cork in the bottle of my opinion. My own personal take on opinions is this: They are like belly-buttons…we all have them, but there are some just a little too unsightly to be exposed.

Until now. I have had a wide range of experiences in my four-plus decades on the planet, but if I’ve learned anything worthwhile, it is this: Love is the most important thing. There is no “unless” to that statement, it stands on its own with a final period at the end.

I’m well aware that I’m about to: annoy, disappoint, irritate, offend and otherwise piss-off a few people with this column, but frankly I don’t concern myself with that. What I do concern myself with is treating people right…and to that end:

I believe in Marriage Equality. There. I said it. Call it what you want, and feel free to respectfully disagree with me. Because if you feel oppositely, I will respectfully disagree with you.  And I know full well, that many people will have stopped reading this by now, and again I’m not concerned about it.

It breaks down pretty simply. I don’t believe “Biblical” arguments from certain groups and organizations on the matter, because the same argument could be made to advocate slavery…  Oh wait it was!  Now we know better.  Not everyone agreed on the matter, but we, as a nation saw the ridiculousness of people “owning” each other.

When it comes to marriage, I’d MUCH RATHER give the right to two human beings of legal age to consent be allowed to marry and have it be recognized as a complete union.  Male or female, gay, straight, it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference to me. Love is love. Don’t hand me the load of crap asking if I believe whether or not a person should be allowed to marry their dog. Come on, get real, and knock it off. (Although, it should be said in the case of my second husband I’d have been better off marrying my dog. At least the dog respected me, and followed instructions)

And now the cat’s out of the bag. Yes, I’ve been married more than once. I have been given the right to make a crappy decision at least a couple of times, and managed to emerge from it wiser, stronger, and qualified to speak on the importance of the matter. Yes, there will be those of the gay community who may rush into a hasty union and therefore have to file for legal divorce. But with a current divorce rate of nearly (or is it now just above?) 50%, my money is on the gay couple to actually lower  that percentage.

Of the gay and lesbian couples that I know, the vast majority of them are in committed, monogamous relationships. And what, you may ask, does it matter that they have the legal paperwork? To them, it does. It means: gone are the days of having to pose as relatives to one another just to be granted access in the hospital as “family.” It means: they are just as entitled to the legal protection of the relationship that mixed race couples eventually won in 1967 in  Loving v. Virginia. It means: when we broke the barriers of the definition of  “family” by having our country acknowledge that supportive, single parents can be more beneficial to a child than the standard nuclear family full of dysfunction, then we began to open this door.

If Kim Kardashian can spend $10M on a wedding for a marriage that didn’t make it 3 months (not her first marriage either, btw) and Newt Gingrich can have infidelity in at least two of his marriages, all the while retaining their ability to continue to marry again; who the hell has the right to tell any of age couple that they are; by definition of their sexual orientation, unqualified for legal union?!?

Please. Just please.  Hypocrites be gone!

And why do I care if  Larry & Peter,  Jim & Darold, Gwen & Jo, or Cheryl & Nancy become legally espoused?  Because I know them, I love them, and I care about their respective happiness’.  It’s time.  It’s past time. I know it, and  you know it, too.

My final statement on the matter came from the Facebook page of George Takei: “Claiming that someone else’s marriage is against your religion is like being angry at someone for eating a doughnut because you’re on a diet.”

December 24, 2011

Wish Big!!

This year my husband and I ran away for Christmas. The kids are all out of state visiting various relatives, which provided us the chance for a guilt free holiday at the coast. Along the journey to the ocean, I spotted something that at first seemed quite simple, but upon review went deeper than I thought. In the predawn hours of Christmas Eve morning, I awoke thinking the message that was stuck in my head, “Wish Big.”

I spotted the words written with crooked vinyl letters in a giant picture window of a ramshackle house. Those two words that not only caught my attention, but commandeered my thought processes.

Displayed proudly in a house that had seen better days, decorated haphazardly for the season, they invoked the magic of hope. The house and those who lived within its walls seemed to challenge the status quo while demonstrating that what they already had was, at least on some level; working for them. It was humble. The driveway was half gravel, half weeds. Cars were parked askew, and with no particular order. The paint was weathered in some spots, bare in others, and the lawn (such as it was) was dead. The entire viewable property announced a lack of regular maintenance, and an absence of a Homeowners Association (Bless them!) But in the midst of all the imperfection was unmistakable celebration.

The festooned twinkly lights were uneven and dangling precariously in a couple of spots, as if the lightest breeze could take them all out. The Christmas tree was prominent, and enthusiastically adorned with tinsel. Lots of tinsel. Tinsel that would at any other time, be sufficient to use as reflective markings for the third runway at SeaTac Airport. The visual assault was unmistakable. These folks were ready for Christmas, and they were not afraid. They were prepared to ask for and receive abundance, and in the meantime  stayed steadfastly grounded in the reality of their surroundings. They inspired me. Their words triggered an unexpected mental analysis. For the rest of the day and well into the night I pondered the implication of that brief missive: Wish Big. What was my wish? Should I even be wishing for myself? How big is “Big?” Are we talking monetarily, or otherworldly? I have already been blessed with more than I deserve: a home, a healthy loving family, a job that I love, supportive friends…the list goes on. Sure, this year has had its share of ups and downs, but whose hasn’t? Where do I get off wishing for anything? But if I dared to, how ‘Big’ would I wish…?

World Peace. Hmm besides being cliché, it’s terribly unrealistic. If I could wish for and achieve peace on any level, it would be for my teenagers. Siblings still living together are fighting factions under parental governance. Yet, there is seldom an agreeable treaty, and almost never any honoring of a cease-fire.  I need to get it local before I can go Global. Wishing for it anyway.

A Cure. Whether cancer, AIDS, or (insert another disease or disorder here); I wish that we as humans did not have suffering. That ought to just be a  given. No pain, no agony, no hurt. With the exception of gas and hangovers; because both serve as reminders for us not to overindulge. Wishing for it anyway.

Love. I am very fortunate to have found it with the person whom I share my life, and also with so many friends and family. It is a reassurance to me when I feel sadness or self doubt. No matter what sucky thing may happen, I know…I know…that I am loved. Not everyone experiences this. Wishing for it anyway.

As for anything else…I’ll keep an open mind…right alongside an open spot on my Big Wish List.

As for everyone else I wish you a wealth of Wishing Big!!

October 20, 2011

Own Your Sh*t, People!

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Generally, I believe in “Live and Let Live’. But specifically I believe that you damn well better be ready to account for how you live.  It’s the lesson I drummed into my kids’ heads forty-kazillion times. The things you do and decision you make are your own. You can’t blame other people for the things you choose to do. Unless there was a gun LITERALLY held to your head (which will be highly unlikely in your lifetime), you will be expected to full responsibility for the things you say and do. This is what I call “Owning Your Shit”.

Thanks to ‘reality t.v.’ there are those human train wrecks going through life thinking that they are a gift to humanity, and have no Shit to Own.  And are they truly a gift to humanity? NO. Chocolate is a gift to humanity. Wine is a gift to humanity. Polio vaccines, antibiotics, water purification, art, music and the WHEEL are gifts to humanity.  The Jersey Shore cast? Nah. Lindsay Lohan? Um, like, no. Of course there are those of fame and fortune who have striven to do right by humanity, some more humbly than others, but hey, at least they’re doing SOMETHING. Shit-owning, as it were.

If you park in a clearly marked no-parking zone, don’t get pissed at the cop who had you towed. If the sign is there, it was your responsibility to make note and not break the rules. Your choice, your consequence, your shit. Shut up and Own It.

There is a lot of respect to be found in looking someone in the eye, and stepping up to the plate. Have you screwed up at some point and taken responsibility for it?  How did that feel? A damn sight better than trying to hide from it or blame someone else, right? Right.

That having been said, I’m not immune from this law of choices and consequences. Sometimes I’m a goddamn genius, and other times I have two ex-husbands. My first marriage was courtesy of youthful inexperience and a steep learning curve, but produced two AWESOME human beings…so…no regrets, no takebacks.

In the case of the second marriage,  however, I completely ignored the signs that were right in front of me. Short of having my dead Grandmother appear on my wedding day like the spook librarian in Ghostbusters, I was not about to follow my own instincts and better judgment. Bound and determined to do what my gut was screaming against, I took the plunge with blind faith in someone’s unproven word. My bad, and that’s on me.  I chose it, it was disastrous, and I own it. I’d love to sit here and blame the ex, but that’s my point. Regardless of my feelings about his failings (and there were plenty), this is the simple truth:  my choice, my consequence. My shit.

So what’s out there that you’ve been needing to take ownership of? (Yeah, I know I ended that sentence in a preposition, but I don’t care)  Were you snotty with a sibling because you didn’t get something all your way? Too bad, knock it off. Are you pissed at the food server for screwing up your salad dressing? Get over it.  Unless you have an anaphylactic reaction to it, in which case you are entitled to be irked once you can breathe again.

It’s time we all come to terms with a simple truth, we need to Own Our Shit.

We as Americans voted into office the people who had an active hand in driving our nation’s economy into the ditch. The President didn’t flush this nation down the crapper by himself, he had A LOT of help. Some was before he took the oath of office, and some of it since. Regardless of it all, come election day 2012, it’ll be His Shit to Own.

Bottom line is this: you can Occupy whatever and wherever you are allowed to legally…but what’s YOUR Shit to Own?

September 12, 2011

We Sing…We Dance…

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As I watched the sun setting over Puget Sound on September 10th, I listened in awe to the sounds of music and revelry, I was overcome with a remarkable sense of peace. Nine years 364 days and 12 hours ago, we as a nation has the figurative rug pulled out from under us. Yet at this moment, I stood listening to the sounds of happiness, merriment and joy on the eve of a most somber anniversary.

Ten years ago, a day that started like any other, ended like nothing we have ever seen or experienced before. Some people who were doing nothing more than going about the business of their day were unknowing targets. Others, who knew the risks, offered everything they had to save as many as possible.

For the rest of that week, politics were not important. We were no longer Democrats, Republicans or Third Party, we were human beings. Everyone helped in whatever way they could.

We’ve heard the tales of the heroes; how the ordinary became extraordinary and we empathized with the pain of everyone’s loss. Husbands, wives, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and more.

As a people, we have given time, money and blood to help. Songs have been sung, books written, and movies made. We mourned…

… and then…

…we began to move forward. Every year we commemorate the anniversary and vow to never forget. I’m pretty certain that we never will. We have been forever changed. People will always understand and know the significance of the date.

But beyond the remembrances, we learned about fortitude. We can grieve, and go on. We will not let extremist hate-mongers keep us down. We will celebrate birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and life in general. We love, laugh and live.

Those who perished that day know this truth; take nothing for granted, ever.

In the midst of countless memorials, tributes and ceremonies I was fortunate to partake in an event of celebration and resilience.

A simple festival of beer and blues music. Sponsored by an organization to benefit music programs in elementary schools, the afternoon and evening were not about tears and sorrow, but about hope and promise for the future…because that’s what we have.

And on Saturday evening, as the sun was going down, a blues band named Left Hand Smoke played while people danced, enjoyed beer and demonstrated exactly what makes this country so great. We prevail.

You can help the Highline Music4Life program by contacting Des Moines Rotary Club, or visiting the Music4Life website at: http://www.highlinemusic4life.org/

September 4, 2011

WWJD? What Would Jay Do?

Perhaps the best ‘boss’ I ever had was a man named Jay Dickey. He still is named that, but he hasn’t been my boss for over 10 years. I went to work for him in the grocery store he managed back in the late 90s. As bosses go, he was the best, period. Again, in my opinion he still is, but I don’t have the pleasure of being his employee anymore. He had the gift of making his employees feel valued, worthy, and appreciated. If you couldn’t make it in his store, it was for no other reason than because as an employee (and possibly as a person) you sucked. That may sound harsh, but certainly true. Jay’s store had the lowest employee turnover in the entire division, and the corporate offices knew it. They also knew that his store was the last chance to salvage an employee whose career was headed into the ditch. Again, if you couldn’t turn it around in his store, then you only had yourself to blame…
Because he worked with human beings, he knew that we made mistakes, and allowed for it. I made my share, and believe me I was held accountable by him. He didn’t delegate the responsibility to some lackey, he dealt with employees and customers personally. That’s just how he rolled.

Jay pulled no punches in speaking truthfully. The one formal reprimand that I ever had to get from him had two simple words hand written on the form: STAY CALM. It was a two-sided instruction.
1) Stay calm when doing your job and don’t let your energy distract you from accuracy in transactions.
And…
2) Stay calm once you realize you’ve made the mistake, and you’ll learn from it.

Jay was the first employer who let me in on the key to my success: I mattered. He brought me that realization at a critical point in my life. Ever since then, I’ve tried to take his lessons with me. Here are a few more.

• The dirtbags are out there…don’t let them drag you down.
• Being poor is no excuse. People have more to give than just money.
• Don’t expect others to clean up your mess. You made it, you own it.
• Truly helping someone is never a waste of time.
• What goes around comes around.

These lessons aren’t verbatim, but things that I’ve discovered as a result of working for the man known among my co-workers as “Daddy Jay.” He valued honesty and integrity, and most of all treating people better than they deserved.
All of these things came back to me this week when; I was accosted by a neighbor who had nothing more productive to do than lash out at me because she was angry, and because I happened to be there.

Her rudeness was beyond inexcusable, and it made me very angry. All I could do at the moment was to stay calm, try to speak reasonably, and leave as soon as I was able.

I would be lying if I said that I put it behind me right away. It took a while. I vented to my very patient husband (a few times), I hibernated for a day, and ultimately I reminded myself that I hadn’t done anything to warrant the neighbor’s nastiness. She just wanted to drag me down, get me to clean up her mess, and give nothing in return except a bad attitude.

Even though it sucks to have her as a neighbor, I’ll treat her better than she deserves. Because I successfully “Stayed Calm” and I know that would make Daddy Jay proud…also because, what goes around comes around, and she’ll have only herself to blame.

July 26, 2011

Card, Please…

I have half-jokingly told friends that parenting a teen or “tween” should be automatic qualification for a medical marijuana card. Talk about chronic pain, oy! Next time the teen(s) break curfew, violate a basic house rule, or manage to be a general pain in the tush, parents should be allowed to take a long, slow drag from a big fat joint….inhaling deeply.

That is my fantastic, cartoonish imagination letting me deal with momentary stress. I’m not here to debate the merits/benefits/whatever of pot. Far more educated minds than mine have given voice on the matter, and federal law is clear on the matter. I have no plans to grow, buy, or use cannabis. It just makes me feel better thinking that most parents of teens understand the sentiment.

I have two children. Grown children. They are out in the world making their own respective way, and learning what life has to teach (not that mom didn’t try). I also have two more children. Blended family, so to speak. With them I have been getting a refresher on teendom.

Although the youngest is not yet a teen, her life is no less complex. The world that she inhabits has also been gifted with ADHD. It’s a gift she’s often said she’d like to return. With those four not-so-little letters, we parents have found ourselves thrust into something that there is no preparing for, so we muddle along. Mistakes (hers and ours) are abundant and sometimes amusing. She has given us the gift of perspective. What we understand is not what she understands. Yet, through her frustration she has managed a sense of humor:

     Sometimes living with ADHD can be tough. I’m reminded regularly when being told, “Sweetie, we love you but you just aren’t ready for texting yet.” Well, shipoopie.

     I am more ADD than ADHD. I tend to have trouble with concentration instead of being hyperactive. Hyper is definitely my brother’s line of work. When he gets wound up, he makes Robin Williams look comatose.

     My parents keep saying that one (or both) of them must have some form of ADHD, because “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” But this apple has rolled a little…

     In the past couple of years, I’ve been through endless and mind-numbing conferences, counseling sessions, and doctor’s visits. All to deal with the ADHD, and trust me, it’s not fun. Not that I don’t enjoy being treated like a science experiment, but even a lab rat has limitations.

     The upside to it all is, after each session I get to go to lunch with Mom and even sometimes have ice cream. So even though it’s annoying, it can also be alright.

     The bottom line is this: my little bubble of a world is filled with the reality of ADHD, and bursting with new experiences every day.

     These are just a few thoughts from My Little Monkey Mind.

This is her very first blog, and there is plenty more where it came from. I am proud and delighted to be a part of her life, and wouldn’t trade her for a dozen Stepford-children. Her mother expressed exquisitely how this ‘tween affects the lives we thought we knew:
“She is here to make us rise to a new level of complex thinking and problem solving, and then do it all again in a different way, checking any expectations we have at the door. She is going to push us to grow past our comfort zones.”
Just in case, I googled ‘comfort zone,’ it has nothing to do with medical marijuana. Well, shipoopie.

July 17, 2011

Clear and Present Stranger

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Writer’s block and wine shortage are two things that I fear. This week, they happened on the same day. Just damn. So my apologies for the two-day delay in the posting of this column.  As soon as it’s finished, I’m off to the liquor store. My mom must be proud…

Speaking of my mom…

She has always told people that when it comes to making friends, my life is an open book. She should know, having been my librarian for years.

Ok, so that analogy was a stretch…but the point is, I talk to strangers. It’s just who I am.  Regardless of all the ‘Stranger Danger’ lectures from my parents, even as a child, I could not help myself.

My husband has accustomed himself to this reality and has adapted accordingly.

He has learned that if I’m in a public setting with opportunities to socialize, I will do exactly that. He avoids going out with me. Okay, not really, but he has developed an incredible ‘game face’ about it.

Thankfully I’ve learned how to read people and am able to tell if they are receptive to chit-chat while seated next to me at the coffee shop. Especially if they have the good (mis)fortune to be stuck waiting for their take out sandwich. Enter Steve and Rebecca.

After spending too many hours web-surfing at Auntie Irene’s Espresso, I had the opportunity to meet Steve and Rebecca, my unsuspecting new friends-to-be. Steve was wearing a Marine (ooh-rah) t-shirt representing his son Eric. Which prompted me (as a military mom) to ask the standard questions: Marines? Duh. Current station? San Diego. Duty Assignment? Infantry…and so forth. Rebecca answered very kindly, and shared with me the same feelings common to military moms.

Steve smiled and nodded in all the right places (he has a good ‘game face’ too) and contributed occasionally as Rebecca and I shared mutual parenting stories and woes. We agreed that age of middle school is toughest…for parents…and observed the blessing/curse that is known as the digital age. We also risked sounding ‘old’ by stating that the current generation of kids simply doesn’t get the value of quality face time. During the course of our chitting and chatting I learned that Rebecca has garnered the Trifecta of Transition:

  • Recent Move
  • Unemployment
  • Empty Nest

All of these happening to her at once. Add to that an active duty son in the Marines (ooh-rah) currently prepping for deployment, and she has every reason to be a babbling incoherent mess. But no. She’s charming, poised and gracious. I think I hate her.

Again, not really. But I do envy her ability to compassionately listen and converse with the ramblings of strangers (me) while remaining patient. Even after her takeout lunch arrived, she lingered and politely let our random conversation wrap up naturally. Her life is nearly an ‘open book’ as mine.

After final pleasantries were exchanged, they headed out, lunch in hand and ready to go about the rest of their day, leaving me with a renewed inspiration to write and an empty wine rack still to be filled. But it looks like someone else just walked in the door. I wonder what they’re having for lunch…

July 2, 2011

Kickin’ it Old School

This week has been both a new education and a return to my roots. School was released last week to the jubilant cheers of students and collective groan of parents.

After the observations of how different the world is today and how quickly it can change, I took measured action to slow things down…for at least one of the children.

Saturday found us headed to my hometown. Although I am a Pacific North Westerner, my hometown can be found in central Eastern Oregon. Specifically, Baker City…which is also the hometown of Darling Husband.

Last weekend it was just us girls, youngest daughter and myself. Her world this past year has been moving way too fast, and the time had come for her to get a good old fashioned education. I took her to my brother’s ranch where we kicked it ‘old school.’ Awaiting our arrival was a considerably sized barn with stalls that needed a good mucking out.

We arrived late Saturday evening, had a quick visit, and then headed off to bed. Awake at first light, I rolled over to check the time; 4:45 a.m.! Because it was Sunday, we had planned to just relax that day and dig into the barn first thing Monday. I remained in bed for 30 minutes, and at 5:15 was unable to stay there a moment longer. My brother was already up, and the coffee was beckoning. We sat in the clear quiet light of dawn chatting softly about what needed to be done over the next several days. He called me ‘sis’. I’ve always loved that. Hearing it again brought peace, comfort, and reconnection for me, as well as the hope that youngest daughter (known as ‘Wee One’) will have those same feelings by the end of this trip.

At that moment she emerged from her slumber. Rubbing her eyes, she asked to go outside and play with the litter of ten puppies residing in the barn. Shortly after that, she joined her uncle to help change irrigation pipes, while I remained at the house and cooked breakfast. As a side note, there is nothing, and I mean nothing, better on a Sunday morning than bacon, sausage, and scrambled eggs cooked in a cast iron skillet. Hearing the sizzle & pop, and having the delicious aroma fill the house was just another thing I’d been missing! I don’t care about the cholesterol or calories…it was simply amazing. The remainder of the day was spent visiting with friends and family to catch up.

Then came Monday… the day planned for the barn. This was the primary purpose for our trip and it was time to get to it. As barns go, it’s fairly large with approximately 12 horse stalls, (six stalls on one side, six on the other) with two corridors, a calving pen in and a tack room between them. (I knew this would not be a one day job) Armed with pitchforks, hard rakes, shovels, and wheel barrows, the Wee One and I mucked out 4 of the six stalls on one side, the calving pen and most of that corridor. We finished the remaining stalls and second corridor the following day, and cleaned out the loft on day 3. The Wee One surprised me by attacking this job with gusto, and never once complained. When so many kids her age would respond with “gross” or “eew”, she dug in and tackled the whole thing with heart and pride.

She also learned a few things in the process:

Cowboy boots are also known as sh*t kickers for a reason
There is always work to be done on a ranch
Don’t leave a rake leaned/laying with tines out/up
Close your mouth when pushing a wheelbarrow of muck into the wind
John Wayne is an American icon.
Sometimes it’s okay to sit on the front porch, listening to the world, and just ‘be’.

I re-discovered a few things about myself as well:

I love the sweet smell of sage, juniper, and alfalfa after a summer rain shower.
Watching horses run through a field makes me smile.
Living on a dirt road means the car gets/stays dusty.
It’s impossible to stay mad when holding a puppy.
Spending time with my family can be fun and inspirational.
Sometimes it’s okay to sit on the front porch, listening to the world, and just ‘be’.

Wee One now refers to her uncle’s ranch as her ‘happy place’, and stayed an extra week without me to celebrate the 4th of July by watching a parade and see her cousins ride in the rodeo…

… and even though work obligations brought me back, I’m keeping the dust on the boots for a while.

All things considered, it appears that we both got much needed instruction and reminders about life in general, and my hope is that neither of us will forget the lessons learned about honesty, integrity, and the inherent value of a hard day’s work. Happy Summer everyone!

June 25, 2011

School’s Out…Or Is It?

“Best. Day. Ever.” Came the text message from one of our kids. The certain sign that school is out for Summer Break, and that their reference as to what qualifies as ‘best’ is somewhat narrow. For the moment, it is ‘best’ simply because it is current, and nothing more.  Over the course of the next three months, we expect to be bombarded with requests for sleepovers, pool party invitations, and group gatherings with no specific purpose other than to ‘hang’, all of which will be interspersed with moments when they will announce “I’m bored.”

One thing is clear. We are in a separate circle of hell known as teendom.

With each passing year, teendom as a concept never changes. Parents vs. kids. Filled with angst and eye-rolling, (theirs and ours) life in our home has been tempered with random skirmishes whilst the ever-adolescing neo-humanoid-units challenge us daily for their independence. Not that we’re unwilling to let them have it, (for the love of God, we SO want to let them have it) but we’d like them to have an understanding about how rapidly this world, their world, changes.

Our parents had a console stereo with a turntable, 8-track tape player, and ‘albums’ were cellophane wrapped vinyl records. Television sets still had dials, and electric coffee pots percolated. Their world was rapidly changing, and they wanted us to understand that.

When my parents were thrust into my teendom microwave ovens, cordless phones and cassette playing boomboxes, were the raging and current technology. The 8-track player was going the way of the dodo, and VCR’s were bringing commercial free movies to television (unless you already had HBO on cable). Video games were the newest form of entertainment, Asteroids and Pac-Man challenged our reaction time and improved our reflexes.

This was our world, our time, and we couldn’t see why our parents were making such a big deal of it. They just needed to open up and embrace the fact that the future was here.

So in the course of a few short decades, time has brought us into the future that our parents could not have predicted. Everything that we thought was so cool back then smacks of cheesiness today. Photos of permed hair and acid wash jeans evoke fits of giggles from our kids. We don’t even talk about mullets. Their present day reality contains smart phones, wi-fi, self parking cars, and instantaneous online status updates.

The difference in what we knew ‘then’ and what the kids have now can best be identified like this:

  1. “Friending” was something done by sharing the Twinkie from your lunch.
  2. “Tweeting” was what the birds did outside the window early in the morning.
  3. “Text” was followed by “book” and usually wrapped with a brown paper bag covering.
  4. Writing on someone’s wall was NOT a good thing, and could get you in serious trouble.
  5. Messaging was passing a note in English.
  6. Laughing Out Loud was heard not read
  7. Touch-Screen just meant you’d be wiping fingerprints off the T.V.
  8. 3-D was a novelty, nothing more.

So how do we dinoparents keep ourselves relevant? We don’t. We can’t. The kids look at us and see big-hair, acid-washed, asteroid playing dodo birds. Just as we scoffed at our parents, our kids are scoffing at theirs. But not for long.  I have an idea, an idea that has morphed into a plan. They won’t know what hit them, there won’t be time to be bored, and for me it will be the:  Best. Day. Ever.

Stay tuned…

June 10, 2011

From Pookie with Love

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Being a parent in a blended family requires the ability to not take yourself too seriously. I never knew how much so until this week. In preparation for impending military deployment, my eldest son decided to send a ‘love note’ to his blended teenage siblings containing ‘insider information’ about yours truly.

The original list had 25 bullet points, but is abbreviated here due to space constraints. Here is his wisdom:

To my brother and sister.

This is for the very next time you think you are getting a raw deal…

I understand that you have been told (repeatedly) that you are dealing with Mom Lite™; but I recently came to realize that you probably don’t grasp what this really means. So, for your benefit and with your best interests in mind, I have compiled a list of Rules and Regs from the Old Regime of the Deity known as Mom. It is not complete, but I can assure you that it is accurate. Remember, this is a labor of love; Big Brother is trying to look out for ya here. The following rules are absolute. Disregard at your own peril.

Alright, here goes:

1. When Arguing with Mom: YOU. ARE. WRONG. You shall forever be so, no matter how logical your argument is. If you are proven right later, guess what: You’re still wrong. This is a fact of life; get used to it.

2. If you are summoned at any time before 10 am, you are to appear by Her bedside with a cup of coffee in hand, half creamer, two Splendas. This is not negotiable: sleep on your own time. Acceptable substitutes for your name are “COFFEE!!” or “BEAN JUICE!!”

3. MOMMA’S CHOCOLATE IS MOMMA’S CHOCOLATE. Get your own.

4. You are not Chuck Norris; SHAVE. YOUR. FACE.

5. This is not GQ and you are not a body builder, so put on a damn shirt and cover your hairy self. NOW.

6. The Impending Apocalypse is not an acceptable excuse for getting out of school. If these be your last moments, then sucks to be you, now get outside, you’ll miss the bus.

7. When asked your opinion, “Whatever you say” or “Yes, Ma’am” are your options; quit fooling yourself.  ”I’m on it” is also acceptable.

8. You can’t use the Force, so quit telling Her that “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for” and walk the damn dog.

9. It doesn’t matter if you just walked the dog, do it again, he needs to poop. Don’t agree? See Rule 1.

10. No goose-stepping around the house. You aren’t that funny.

11. If the word “Revolution” leaves your lips, you better be reviewing history.

12. If She says you did it, you did it. See Rule 1.

13. Chores are not “slave labor,” now do the dishes.

14. If She tells you more than once, IT. IS. A. WARNING. So get off your butt and take out the trash…

 

As a final note: I admittedly laughed through the entire thing, until I came to the realization that compared to his life with me, Basic Training must’ve seemed easy for eldest son. So, to him I say, “Thanks for helping the younger ones, and I’m sure they will have a response in the coming future. We love you, Pookie!”

May 27, 2011

Catitude to Gratitude

As my cat yakked up her breakfast this morning, I looked out the window at the seven thousandth day of rain, and muttered a quiet curse. Not that the one had anything to do with the other, but it’s Friday, and I really wish I didn’t have to deal with either situation.

But my reality is, on THIS Friday I need to take a breath. While the rest of the world is concerned with American Idol (Can you believe Scotty won?) and the Governator’s Love Child (only one, really??), I am reminded that we live in a pretty remarkable place.  Despite its flaws, (don’t get me started on that) ours is still a pretty great nation.  We have the freedom to express our opinion…blahbity, blah, blah…and not get thrown in jail. Unless your opinion happens to challenge the parentage and fashion sense of the cop who just pulled you over for speeding; then you may have to make a little trip downtown (and that’s on you).

So, as you savor an extra day off this weekend; looking for the perfect barbecue sauce, matching napkins or margarita, give just a moment please. Give a moment to those who have given to us. You don’t have to discuss politics, or agree with the current military action. Just know that without our Armed Forces men and women who chose to serve, we would not be protected as citizens. For all those who are planning to attend festivals, cookouts, or just lounge around in jammies, please remember this: You get to do so at the donation of our military service personnel. They have all volunteered to dedicate their lives to protect and defend of the Constitution of the United States. So, go ahead and offer a simple “Thank You” to those who have, do, and will continue to perform dutifully…here’s mine:

Thank you, Keith. This is the last Memorial Day that you, my big brother will serve as active duty in the Air Force. Your retire one week from today having given nearly three decades of your life to the job. Sorry I can’t be there in person to shake your hand and hug you. Thank you for 28 years of putting your commitment to this nation ahead of your own personal wishes. Thank you for going where you were sent, even if it didn’t make sense to the rest of us. Thank you for the things you’ve seen and must keep tucked in the far corners of your mind that you can’t tell us about. Thank you for serving proudly and with as much dignity as your broad shoulders could bear. Thanks to your wife and daughters, too. They endured your obligation with grace and support.

And most especially, thank you for explaining to me what I need to know as a mother of a son who now proudly serves. Thank you for the patience I hope you will have with me as I try not to worry during his upcoming deployment, and keep the Xanax and margaritas handy for me, just in case. I love and admire you for all you have done!

Gotta go now, the sun is trying to shine, and I need to clean up the cat barf.

May 20, 2011

Let’s Get the Party Started!

For all of you who are reading this locally, I hope you have been able to enjoy the beautiful weather we’ve had the last few days. For those who read this column from distant time zones, it’s a Des Moines, WA thing…you had to be here to understand.  For the first time in over 6 months we’ve had 3 days in a row of temps that reached the sizzling 60s, and today we anticipate finally reaching at searing 70!

That’s the upside of the upcoming predictions…the downside is, according to Harold Camping a civil engineer-turned-biblical-scholar the ‘Rapture’ is set for 6 pm tomorrow night. Well, at least we got some good weather beforehand.

According to Mr. Camping, the estimation of 200 million people will be raptured, which is about 3% of the earth’s population. Although I haven’t seen any schematics on the geography of this world event, I’m pretty sure that the line at Starbucks will not experience any significant reduction. Alien invasion and nuclear apocalypse combined won’t shorten that wait.

Based on my brief research, (because Googled and found an entry in Wikipedia) I discovered that the predictions are formulated using calculations involving Jewish feast days in the Hebrew calendar, the lunar month, and the Gregorian calendar.  Which begs the question, is there an app for that for my smartphone? Anyone who knows me knows that I’m about as open minded as it gets, but this is a stretch even for my twisted little brain.

I cannot disprove him, but the debate I can offer up is more simplistic. It’s simply impossible to perform this particular arithmetic: Rosh Hashanah + Yom Kippur x 365, divided by 13,025 (his assertion of the earth’s actual age in years) = May 21, 2011. That comes out to the best example of ‘fuzzy math’ I’ve ever seen.

Besides which, I have asserted for DECADES that Algebra isn’t even real math.  Numbers added, subtracted, multiplied or divided to, from, and with each other is “math”.  When you throw letters into it, you begin to turn it into words.  Call any English teacher, they’ll confirm this. Don’t even get me started on Geometry; otherwise known as “Art.”

Mr. Campings followers are also convinced of their impending departure and have taken to the streets of New York with signage attesting the fact.  I’ve yet to see anyone on Marine View Drive making a statement about it, so I have to assume that his shortwave broadcasts haven’t reached us yet. Maybe I’ll stop in at the Lighthouse today to check if they’re having a Rapture Party tonight; and if so, does that include music by Blondie?

Ultimately there’s a lesson to be learned in all of this. Never take anything for granted, live each day as if it were your last, and go ahead and pay your utility bill. There isn’t a customer service department anywhere that will accept “my check is in the mail, pending the outcome of the Rapture” as a payment option.

And quite frankly, although I do not share this particular belief, I’m not making fun of it. Okay, maybe I am. But there are plenty of people and faith systems that I do not agree with, and this one just happens to fall in the ‘unlikely to be true’ category. If by chance it is, well, I’ll miss the 3% of you that will be gone, and I’ll hold your place in line while I’m waiting for my Caramel Macchiatto.

May 13, 2011

I Get By With a Little Help…

In a recent chat with a friend of mine, I came to the realization that I am blessed to have a pretty amazing support network.
“So, how’s your daughter?” Jeananne inquired.
“You mean the turd?” came my cheeky reply.
“Uh-oh. Okay. Tomorrow. Coffee.”
Jeananne is a true friend, indeed. She knows, she really knows. Like me, she has grown children whose decisions have often left us confused. She understands my frustration.
Everyone needs a friend like that, and I think it ought to have its own title and Facebook setting too. Simply calling them “Friend” doesn’t really cover it, and I just can’t bring myself to use “BFF” with a straight face.
What I’m talking about is a top-tier relationship; people who deserve supreme acknowledgment. These folks are First-Rate-Friends or FRFs (Pronounced: Furffs). It is possible to have more than one Furff. In fact, it’s generally better if you have multiple Furffs…for different situations.

Furff qualifications can fall along the following lines:

1. Someone whom you have known for several years and with whom you have mutual blackmail material.
2. Someone who has been in the room with you for childbirth, tattoo application, or removal. (Super-Furff status is granted if they have been there for all three)
3. Someone who will take you to, or pick you up from the airport at 4:00 a.m.
4. Someone who knows your weird habits and idiosyncrasies yet never mocks you publicly. (privately is ok, because of item #1)
5. A Furff can be a family member, but being a family member is not qualifying criteria in itself.

Most importantly, Furffs know when your kids are being turds, but wait for you to say it first. They know when their own kids are turds too, and concede that fact completely. They know you well enough to know if you need a margarita and a meal or chocolate chip cookie dough and a bottle of Bailey’s.
My personal Furffs have existed in many forms throughout my life. My Bestie Furff is the pal that I have known for the past thirty years; a stinging reminder of our age. She and I have been to and through mutual weddings, births, divorces, deaths of parents…and the biggest challenge ever; teenage daughters! That is a Furffdom for the ages!
It should be noted that spouses can also be Furffs, but it is a shaky status and subject to revocation:
“I’m having coffee with Jeananne tomorrow, I need to vent about The Daughter.” I informed Darling Husband at dinner.
“What is going on with The Daughter?” He inquired.
“You mean the turd?!? I’ll tell you what’s going on…she is out there in the world making ill-advised decisions with no grasp of long term consequences…”
“Know what her problem is?” he cut me off as my crazy train was chugging full steam.
“Yes, she won’t listen…”
“That’s not it, but you’re probably right about that too.” He countered.
“Oh, no. No, no, no…. I know where you are going, so don’t.” I cautioned.
“Yep. Not hard to figure out, really. She’s just…” this is where he jeopardized both his Furffdom and his health.
“Don’t. Say. It.”
“She’s her mother’s daughter.” Status revoked.

Furff coffee chat the next morning was fueled by major caffeine and minor chagrin. We laughed about our kids while we determined that sometimes adult children need to make their own decisions in order to learn life’s lessons. The rest of the visit was most enjoyable.
“So, how’s the husband?” She asked next.
“You mean the butthead?”
Some days there just isn’t enough coffee.

May 2, 2011

Granny was Rockin’…the purple!

As a non-native, out-of-towner that moved to Seattle three years ago, I wasn’t sure how I would be received by the locals because, well I’ve been the ‘new kid’ a few times in my life and I’ve developed a healthy paranoia about it. Having just spent the past decade living in the Deep South, I was ready to begin a new chapter of my life, even if that meant being an outsider again. What I discovered in my first weeks here was that I needn’t have worried.

People here take things as they are, plain and simple.  Live and let live is not just a motto, but a way of life. To each their own, so to speak. I wasn’t used to that mentality having just come from the ‘fiddle-dee-dee-you’re-new-here-ain’t-ya-bless-yer-heart’ area of suburban Atlanta. And believe me, I’ve had my heart blessed quite a bit thank-you-very-much. Although the South has a well-earned reputation for hospitality, it can also be a little passive/aggressive. Insults come wrapped with concerned looks and an almost apologetic “Bless Your Heart.” (that’s a whole ‘nother column, to be sure). Which explains my initial nervousness about what to expect here. Like I said before, I needn’t have worried.

My first exposure to the easygoing way of life here in Waterland came unexpectedly on a sunny summer day.

While grocery shopping at QFC (actually it was after grocery shopping) I spied a gal in the parking lot whose glowing hair caught my eye. It was purple. Not like: I-tried-to-dye-it-red-and-came out-burgundy, but PURPLE. Barney the dinosaur PURPLE, and styled somewhere between a beehive and spiky-punk ‘do. At first glance, I just thought that this was a rebellious teen expressing her individuality, and didn’t give it a second glance. Primarily because, I had raised two teens of my own, and am well aware of what they will do for simple shock value. That’s when I gave her a second glance; and realized she wasn’t a teen.

My initial thoughts about her rebellion could not be chalked up to coming-of-age…because she was, well, more going-of-age. A woman of maturity, to be oh so very PC…and what had really taken me by surprise was; apparently, no one noticed. Really, no one.

My prior 10 years spent below the Mason Dixon line had conditioned me to anticipate that someone would have acknowledged this woman. Someone would have taken pity on her, because going out…even to the grocery store…required strict attention to one’s appearance; and being seen at the Piggly Wiggly with purple hair simply wasn’t done.

“Oh my, you poor thing! Let me give you the number of my girl…she’s a miracle worker and can fix you right up.” With a knowing nod, a phone number would have been folded in to her palm, and the well intended Stepford-Belle would have sashayed away.

But not here. Granny’s got her purple on. With her strappy sandals, Capri leggings and Bedazzled shirt she was positively rocking her look; and no one minded it one little bit.

As I loaded the groceries in my car, it occurred to me that I liked it. I liked seeing public displays of purple hair. I liked feeling free and confident again. I liked breathing in the marina air, and savoring the sounds and fragrances of the Farmer’s Market.  Headed down Marine View Drive I thought to myself, “You Go Grandma!” followed by, “Welcome home, Joy, welcome home.”

April 22, 2011

Shout out to my Peeps!

Now that I’m out of prison…oh, wait…wrong Blog.  Okay loyal readers…here’s the latest from me.  You can also find it on the Waterland Blog.

This week marks Passover. Today is both Good Friday as well as Earth Day. Sunday is Easter. This is a time when mankind will honor in various ways; The Earth, the Creator, and Salvation. As a result of the spiritual observations of faith, rites and customs, I have chosen to honor that which means so much to me: Peeps. Yes. Seriously, Peeps.

As far back as I can remember, and much to my mother’s dismay, I have loved those sugar-coated marshmallow confections. For me, the first signs of Spring are always the sightings of cellophane wrapped trays holding brightly colored chicks and bunnies begging to be stuffed into my mouth. Yes, they beg. And I am all too happy to oblige…the thought of which makes my mother retch.

When I was I small child, it was necessary for her to purchase those little packages of nasty goodness two at a time. The first package served to lure me from the store back to the car, and the second package was to appease me on the trip home. Once home, I would fall  face first into a sugar crusted crystalline coma, giving my mom a much needed break.

My Easter dresses were neon testaments to the need for napkins and wet-wipes. As much as she was disgusted by them, mom embraced Peeps because of the peace that accompanied them. If my mouth was stuffed full of crunchy marshmallow goo, then I was unable to talk. Or whine. Or complain. Yes, Peeps were a very necessary evil for her.

As I grew, I discovered some disturbing things about Peeps. The first thing being that not everyone likes them. My mom was not alone in her revulsion, and there is no middle of the Peep road. You either like them or you don’t. Love ‘em or hate ‘em.

The subject alone triggers some pretty passionate and heated discussions. My mother is staunch in her belief that they will readily survive a nuclear apocalypse. The giant mushroom cloud will be followed by sparkly phosphorescence…and if you’ve ever put a Peep in the microwave, you can guess what it will look like.

Current research on Peeps is that they are not soluble in: water, acetone, sulfuric acid or sodium hydroxide. Yet, none of this information will deter me from eating them. Peeps are tasty, Peeps are good.

It’s reasonable to say that I’m a Peep-ophile. I love them, and thanks to a wonderful support group, I have discovered new ways to enjoy them. Just a few ideas:

  • Float one in a cup of hot chocolate.
  • Melt one between two graham crackers with half a chocolate bar.
  • Roasted over a campfire (Caution: the sugar may overheat or ignite posing an extreme burn hazard.)
  • A Peep-tini. Yes, someone decided to buoy one in a Martini. (Probably not for the squeamish) Truthfully, I’ve never tried this one, and likely never will

Peep-ophiles are hard-core Peep-lovers. Their devotion knows no bounds or limitation. But just as they love the candy treat, there are others who are at the other end of the equation. The common response from the Peep-haters is “Blech.” Again, nothing middle of the road there.

In total, approximately 600 million Peeps are consumed every year, so I would hazard a guess that they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. So the best we can hope for is some kind of “PeepsAccord” Maybe the UN has some kind of PeepsKeeping Security Council? All I am saying, is give Peeps a chance…

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