Thursday, December 31, 2015

20 years ago today

20 years ago today, I received a marriage proposal. Mr. M and I had just moved halfway across the country and were renting a one-bedroom apartment as we worked to find jobs and establish our new life. To be honest, the proposal was not a complete surprise. I had given up everything I knew in order to start this new life with him, in the city where he had grown up. I made it fairly clear that, in exchange, I would be in need of some sort of commitment. :::cough cough hint hint:::

And so it was that on New Year's Eve, 1995, we went out to dinner at a supper club and then went back to our little apartment, where he dropped to one knee and asked me the big question. I accepted his proposal and started planning my wedding, which would take place 17 months later.

I've been wearing this diamond ever since. It was bitten by a dog once and was no worse for wear. I never take it off, partly because it doesn't come off without a fight from my finger. It's possible that I've gained an ounce or two or 500 since my wedding day.

Did you ever watch those paternity tests on Maury? Is that show still on?  I caught a few episodes years ago - it was pretty corny. One thing that always struck me was how young the who-fathered-my-baby chicks were. Also, I wondered about their math skills ("I'm 150-percent sure that JJ is the daddy!")  When the dude would come out, there was sometimes a conversation between the two that went something like this: "Baby, you and me been through so much together."  And I always thought, "What are you talking about? You're 16!"

Me and my guy, though?  We have legitimately been through some stuff. 23 1/2 years worth of stuff.  Good, bad, ugly, you name it. I still dig him, though. Would I do anything differently?  Probably not. I know I would accept that proposal all over again. So, I'll happily keep wearing this ring because well, you know.

One day, a few weeks ago, I pried off the ring to clean it. I realized I was ringless when I got to work. So, I was officially single for the day. Nothing exciting happened, though.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Snow What

More often than not, we get a white Christmas in these parts. But, we had nary a flake this year. It was unseasonably warm well into November and December. My daughter kept saying things like, "It's great that it's still so warm!" In my head I was thinking, "It's called global warming! We're all gonna die!" Anyway, Mother Nature got back on schedule last night and dumped a foot of snow on us. A foot isn't that terrible, but the high winds caused some crazy drifting. I made it to work on time, but I couldn't get into the parking lot. This never happens. My boss does not like to take any chances when it comes to employees being able to work a full, productive day. Normally, even after a major snowstorm, the parking lot is clean as a whistle. But not today. The office building is near a hospital. I thought of parking over there and then hiking to the office, but I wasn't really dressed for that (I was wearing waterproof boots, but they weren't tall enough to take on the snow mountains). So, unsure of what to do, I decided to turn around and head home. I can work remotely if need be. It's not encouraged, but I figured I had a decent excuse.

On my way back home, I got stuck on the road the leads to my house. Suddenly, I was re-thinking my policy of not getting chummy with any of my neighbors. I have this policy for two reasons:  one, when I was in fourth grade, we lived in Vienna, Virginia and had the world's worst neighbors. Apparently, our family made the mistake of being nice to them and then the next thing we knew, their kids were knocking on our windows when we were sleeping and stuff like that. Two, I have two dogs and usually have a foster dog, too. I worry that nosey-begosies will start complaining to animal control about the fact that I usually have an extra dog in my home (the ordinance allows for two dogs). So, I always feel like it's best if neighborly interaction is limited to a wave and the occasional "How's it going?"

As I was busily doing completely ineffective things to get my car to move (like switching from Drive to Reverse and back again), a neighbor I'd never seen before came out of his house with a shovel and started digging my car out. He seemed like a nice guy, even though he was wearing a Chicago Blackhawks hat (Go, Caps!).  Finally, with his help, I was able to get to my driveway . . . where I promptly got stuck again. I let the car sit there for a while  (half in the driveway and half in the street) as I pondered my options (I did my pondering indoors, where it was warm). Eventually I bundled up and headed back out to jab at the snow around the tires with a snow shovel. I am not good at this stuff, in all honesty. I'm way too prissy for shoveling snow. My husband was at work or I would have just left the job for him.

I felt sorry for the guy across the street who was clearing his driveway with a snowblower. I think he was trying not to make eye contact with me lest he'd feel obligated to help my sorry ass. I kept jabbing at the snow, periodically hopping into the car to try again. Just then, a woman came by with a younger woman - I think they were mother and daughter. I don't even know where they came from - they just appeared. They offered to push my car up the driveway. I gratefully accepted their help.

"Just a second," said the mom-lady.  She grabbed my snow shovel and cleared all kinds of snow in about ten seconds flat. I mean, she must have been born in a snow pile or something. She was so fast - like a cartoon or something!  I seriously felt like a pussy.

I got behind the wheel again and tried my luck. The ladies pushed from behind and voila! I made it back into the driveway and into the garage. I thanked them profusely. I then vowed to stay in my house for the rest of my natural life.

I spent the morning/afternoon working from home. I was actually able to get a fair amount done. I moved Gideon's bed into the office so that he could be my assistant for the day. I've always wanted my own assistant. I guess I was envisioning someone more industrious, but I'll take what I can get.

Sunday, December 27, 2015


Normally, I get the itch to take our tree down on December 26th. Mr. M likes to have it up until New Year's Day, though. So, I am trying to enjoy the Christmas-y ambiance instead of rushing to put my living room back the way it used to be. Of course, I did manage to flood an end table with red cinnamon-scented wax after leaving a lit candle unattended for a few hours. Ooops.

We had a good Christmas. We went to a candlelight service at church on Christmas Eve. My daughter sang "We Three Kings of Orient Are." She didn't practice like she was supposed to and flubbed a couple of lines, but the congregation didn't fire her or anything.

On Christmas Day, the kid actually got up early. Well, early for her. It was after 7, I think. She was so excited to check out her pile o'presents. Part of me was terribly sad when some brat told her about Santa a couple years ago, but I have to say it is also nice to get credit for all the stuff I bought with my hard-earned moolah. It was fun watching P watching her as she opened her gifts. He had no earthly idea what we had gotten her. Because the one with ovaries has to do all the shopping and wrapping (and ALL THE THINGS), dontcha know. Last week they went to the new Star Wars movie while I wrapped for hours. I guess it didn't occur to anyone that I might like to see that movie, too. :::cough cough:::

This year's big gift for the kid was a comforter set for her bed. She also got clothes, games, art stuff, and a skateboard. My middle sister got her some roller skates - they are hot pink and I'm pretty jealous. As for what I got for Christmas . . . I was super helpful and kept a running list on my Google Drive. I happily provided it to my husband when he requested it. I have to say he did quite well. He got me a new yoga mat, a choppy thing for the kitchen, a spiralizer, some cologne, a cutting board, an automated wine bottle opener, and two cookbooks. I've already tried two recipes from the Thug Kitchen cookbook.

After the gifts were opened, we went to our niece and nephew's house for brunch. A was excited to play with her cousins. I brought some roasted potatoes and some chocolate chip pumpkin muffins.  I was truly touched that my niece went out of her way to make some vegan food that I could eat. I am such a lucky goil. Anyway, it was a nice, relaxing way to spend the morning/afternoon. The mulled wine might be why I mostly remember it as relaxing. The three girls got along well - our normal rule of thumb is to leave once someone bursts into tears, but that didn't happen this year. Two of them got make-up sets so they holed up in a bedroom and and started slathering it on.

Banana bread recipe from the Thug Kitchen. Mmmm, nanners.
The actual bread was in focus, I should add.
When we got home, we spent the rest of the afternoon finding spots for new stuff. I was anxious to use my new choppy thing, so I made some tofu scramble with vegetables (I make it once every week or two, and then keep it on hand for breakfast). I may have gotten a bit overzealous with the chopper, as I ended up with zucchini pieces so small that they cannot be perceived by the naked eye. I'll get the hang of it.

It was a fairly quiet afternoon. It's weird having only two dogs in the house since Kevin got adopted. When I let the dogs out into the yard and then back in again, I keep trying to count to three. Part of me feels a real need to take in another foster dog right away, but part of me knows that I need to spend time with Gideon. He breaks my heart about fifty times a day. Random side story:  Gideon can no longer jump up on beds/couches/whatever. So last weekend I thought it would be nice if I took a little nap with him. I lifted him onto my bed and helped him to lie down. We snuggled for a little while. Then Gretchen tried to get in on the action. I explained to her that she's not my dog (she's my daughter's dog) and that she should try to talk to her owner about her needs. I should also add that Gretchen suffers from coprophagia, which is a fancy way to say that she likes to eat poop. Anyway, as Gideon and I were attempting to indulge in our little spooning session, Gretchen jumped up onto the bed, made a brief retching noise, and vomited poop. ONTO MY BED. If I were to make a list of the Top 10 Worst Things That Have Ever Happened to me, this event could easily make the list. Blech.

So, anyway, Christmas 2015 is officially in the books. I'm hoping for a quiet week at work this week. The kid has been invited to a sleepover on New Year's Eve and P has to work, so I MIGHT JUST GET THE HOUSE TO MYSELF.

The cousins on Christmas.

Monday, December 21, 2015


For the past 15 years (a full third of my life), I've been a volunteer with a local Boxer rescue organization. I left the rescue in November. I still have my foster dog, Kevin. He is going to his new home on Wednesday. I'm very happy for him. I waited patiently for the right match (he has separation anxiety) and I think this placement will work out great.  They seem excited to get him, which is exactly what I like to see - enthusiasm!

Once Kevin gets adopted, my time with the rescue formally comes to an end. I've written a whole "why I left" blog entry, but I don't know if I'll ever publish it. I think I wrote it so that I could work out my own conflicted feelings about everything that has transpired.  I've spent the past few weeks helping volunteers take on my old jobs. I really want the rescue to be successful even though I'm not a part of it anymore. For some reason, handing over the Facebook page was the hardest part. I worked really hard to build the page to over 4,100 fans. I actually shed a tear when I removed myself as an administrator.

Me and a foster dog named Alex,
back in the early days.
Leaving is one of the hardest things I've ever done. I truly had a passion for the rescue. 15 years is a long time. I met a lot of great people, loved a lot of dogs, shed a lot of tears, and drowned my sorrows and frustrations in more than a couple glasses of wine. I sure learned a lot - about dogs and about people, too.

What I'm asking myself now is: who am I? What is my identity now? I feel a bit lost. In time, I am sure I will connect with some other organization that could use a seasoned rescue volunteer. I still want to help dogs in some way.  I know I will not take on a major role again, but I'd be happy to be a minor player. I have learned a lot over my rescue career and I like to think maybe someone would find my skills to be of value in some way.  I need to proceed carefully, though. 

My more immediate concern is the declining condition of my boy Gideon. He has degenerative myelopathy and is slowly losing his ability to walk. He has lost weight and experiences head tremors at times. On the other hand, he still gets pretty excited at dinnertime so I won't make any decisions as long as he still has some mobility and enjoys his meals.  I know he will leave me in 2016, though. I can't think about it too much. I love that goofy dog to a degree that defies definition.

Having extra time is somewhat of an adjustment. I devoted several hours a week to the rescue. During busy periods like the annual fundraiser or the end-of-year flood of donations, I sometimes had to devote entire days to rescue work. It feels weird not to have this "aaaaah, there is surely something I should be doing" sensation all the time.

I am not one to blather on about "focusing on myself" or "nourishing my soul," but I do think this is probably a good time to tackle a couple of issues that have overtaken me. One is my sugar addiction. I know I probably shouldn't throw around the word "addiction" but I think I could at least call it a fixation. I would like to get control of it.  I haven't been going to Weight Watchers but as I understand it, they've revamped the program and the topic of sugar consumption is addressed.  I need to get myself to a meeting.  So, I would like to focus on my health and well-being a bit more than I typically do. I will stop short of making a New Year's resolution, though. That always feels like a sure way to fail.

The other fun little tidbit is that I've developed plantar fasciitis in both feet. So fun!  It took me a while to figure out what was going on. I'm turning 46 soon and I've learned that when some body part starts to hurt, there is a good chance it will just always hurt now. So, I thought maybe that was the case when I started waking up to heel pain every morning. In November, I got really sick and couldn't go to the gym for a while (I typically clock 2-3 hours a week on the elliptical plus a yoga class or two).  My feet didn't hurt as much.  Then I went back to the gym once I was better and bam! Owie feet again.  I talked to the yoga instructor and then started doing some research.  There is a lot of conflicting information out there, though. So, I made an appointment with my podiatrist (the dude who operated on my left foot last year). I couldn't get an appointment until January 21st, though, so I'll have to tread lightly until then, I guess. I hope this is something that can be fixed because I, um, anticipate a need to have feet for the next few decades until I kick the bucket.

So, there you have it.  I'm feeling like a bit of a train wreck - both emotionally and physically - but I am also feeling hopeful. On January 9th, I am getting a tattoo. Don't worry - I will show it to you whether you want to see it or not. I am very excited about the design that the artist, Tara, has created for me. It will honor my love of dogs, my 15 years of rescue work, and my beloved Giddy Giddy Gumdrops.

Friday, December 18, 2015


First, I have a message for parents: If you go to an elementary school to attend a concert, you need to sit through the whole thing. You don't leave after your kid sings. You just don't. Rude!  Yesterday I attended the annual holiday concert at my daughter's school. The show always starts with 4K (with the adorable wee tykes waving to their parents and occasionally singing a few words) and then proceeds through each grade. This was my seventh and last year attending. It seems like just yesterday I was attending my first school concert. Next year, my daughter will be in middle school. (waaaah!)  This year's concert was particularly exciting because my kid had a solo.  The fifth grade was the last to perform.  The people sitting next to me were there to see a girl in the 4K class. After she was done, they got up to leave and never came back. I noticed others trickling out after the younger grades had performed. It definitely occurred to me to trip some of them on their way out.

By the time the fifth graders had scaled the risers, a friend of mine invited me to move up and sit by her. Her daughter is close friends with my daughter. Anyway, this was perfect because it enabled me to record my daughter's solo with my crappy phone. I tell you, I don't know when I've felt so proud. I shed a tear or two as she sang. Later, I uploaded the video and then my mom called, crying. I think we are just that excited to have a singer in our tone-deaf family.

Today, I attended another school event: gingerbread (AKA graham crackers) house-making. Parents and grandparents were invited to come and join in with the construction. Several people (including teachers) came up to me and complimented my daughter's performance from the day before. I always feel a little weird about saying "thank you" in those circumstances. I didn't make the kid (as in, construct her from my own DNA) so I feel like I probably shouldn't take credit for her singing voice. I'm no less proud than if I had built her from scratch, though! I also shared the video with her birthmom, as I knew she'd be proud, too.

The gingerbread house project was interesting. I'm not very good at that sort of thing.  I kept encouraging the kid to think it through before she just started slapping stuff together. It seemed like she was mainly concerned with running her mouth and checking out what everyone else was doing. Then she just started slapping stuff together. You'd think that a kid who has spent 9,486 hours playing Minecraft would know a little more about building stuff. It was fun, though.

I've finally reached that point in the pre-Christmas frenzy where I can start to enjoy the festivities without suffering so much anxiety (because now I've gotten everything done that I was obligated to do). Last Sunday, my daughter and I went to a Christmas program that was completely amazing. I think this was the fourth year in a row that we attended.  Even my little non-believer heart got a little gooey at the beautiful music and the living nativity at the end.

I'm looking forward to Christmas next week. I would like to thank the universe for placing Christmas on a Friday so that I don't have to go back to work the next day.  I do have to work a half-day on Christmas Eve, though . . . also known around the office as "zero productivity day."  More good news for next week: my foster dog, Kevin, is going to his new home on Wednesday. Woot!

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Performer

My daughter had her first choir concert last Saturday. She is part of a city choir that is comprised of four separate choirs. There are two training choirs (beginner and advanced) and two upper-level touring choirs for older girls. Singers must audition to get into the touring choirs.  My daughter is in the advanced training choir. I'm very happy for her to have this opportunity because she receives formal voice instruction. With public school music programs being what they are (her music teacher services two schools and is spread pretty thin), I don't think she is able to get a lot voice instruction at school.

I always thought my daughter had a pretty good singing voice, but it was hard for me to tell because I am basically tone deaf. As much as I love music, I can't sing at all. Not even a tiny bit.  So, it's been nice to get some confirmation that she really can sing. With more instruction and practice, I think she might even be awesome at it.

The concert was held at a large Catholic parish and included all four choirs. A few weeks before, my daughter came home from choir practice with a note saying that moms could sing with the choir during the last song (Silent Night) of the concert. I think she understood when I explained that me singing would not be a good thing for the show. So, I was content to sit in a pew with my other half and listen to the concert from start to finish. It was really beautiful. Plus, I was so proud of my baby.

Tomorrow morning, she'll be singing (with the choir) on a local radio station as part of a Toys for Tots event at the mall.  Next week, she has a solo in her school's concert.

She can't get up on time and she can't get dressed on time, and she generally just doesn't do what she's told, but she can sing!  Here she is practicing for her solo:

Do you want to build a snowman? 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Ice and Fritos

Now that I got the serious stuff out of the way, I want to take this opportunity to blather on about the rest of my trip. It had been five years since my last trip to Oklahoma, which is much too long.

After our travel delays, the kid and I made it to my mom's house Sunday evening. I had booked a rental car, so we didn't need anyone to pick us up at the airport. The first thing I noticed when I arrived at the house, other than the fact that my mom has more cats than anyone really needs, was that there were mostly just condiments in the refrigerator. So, I headed "into town" to buy groceries.  I had planned ahead, too. I had shipped a box to myself ahead of time. I wanted to send some vegan goodies to my sister, as well as some stuff for myself that can be hard to get in rural (very rural) Oklahoma.  Nutritional yeast and vegan mayo, for example. I also brought along some cookbooks in preparation for Thanksgiving.

The next day, the kid and I visited my sister, who lives about 20-25 minutes from where my mom and stad live. My sister and her husband have three boys. It was great to see my nephews. My sister made us some dinner and then the kid and I headed back across the miles of country roads.

On Tuesday, I did absolutely nothing. I helped my mom troubleshoot some issues with her iPod and that was about the extent of my activity. My mom took my kid out for shopping and dinner, so I just hung out. It was fabulous. There aren't many days in my life when I don't have anything I need to do or anywhere I need to be. I made myself dinner and then spent the rest of the evening batting away various cats who wanted to be all up in my business. I'm mildly allergic and I think they know that.

Random anecdote: my mom dug out some old photo albums during our visit. I had a lot of tun looking at them. I showed my prom photos to my daughter.

"My dad looked different," she said.

"Sweetie, that's not your dad." (Did she think her dad and I have been together since infancy????)

She gave me a disapproving look, like I was the whore of Babylon or something. 

Wednesday was fairly uneventful, too. I noticed that my kid had fallen into what we call "Meemaw Time." One night I woke up at 1:42 a.m. and found that my daughter was still up, blissfully playing Minecraft on her iPad. Again, my apologies to her future employer. She'll be at the office by mid-afternoon at the latest. Anyway, I needed to head back to the grocery store for Thanksgiving stuff so I left her at the house - in as much as she wasn't conscious and whatnot. This issue continued to get worse as the week wore on. She was staying up later and later.  On Wednesday afternoon, we met my sister and her kids at a park. It was unseasonably warm. The kids had so much fun, running around without jackets. Little did we know that the weather was about to tank big time.

The next day was Thanksgiving. I got up early (I'm surprised I didn't pass my kid in the hallway while she was on her way to bed) and got all of my cooking out of the way. I made gravy, green bean casserole, and a chocolate cake. All were vegan, of course.  My mom made mashed potatoes to go with my gravy.  We all headed over to my sister's house for dinner. We had an all-vegan meal and guess what? We were none the worse for wear. It turns out that Thanksgiving is just another meal and that no one will go into convulsions if they don't eat any dead things. My sister made all kinds of goodies, including pizza for the boys. It was a good day.

My mom and my stad took my kid back home with them and I stayed at my sister's that night. We had planned it this way on purpose. My daughter needs an ugly holiday sweater for a concert at school. I had suggested to my mom that they buy a sweater at a thrift store and then ugly it up. So, they needed to finish that project. The plan was for me to pick up the kid the next day. So, naturally, we woke up to a crazy ice storm. My baby and I were separated by miles of icy roads. Seriously, I'd take three feet of snow over that kind of ice. Despite the less-than-ideal conditions, I headed out after lunch to retrieve my kid. I knew she would be very upset if I don't come to get her. As a mother, I try very hard never to let her down. If I tell her I am going to do something I do it. I drove slowly and steadily there and back. Whew! For the next two days, we basically stayed indoors and watched ice piling up on everything. I was able to do some online shopping for Black Friday before my sister's wifi gave out.  The kids played together well - there was no bloodshed. My kid got her cousins hooked on Minecraft. On Saturday, the younger brother (he'll be four on December 26th) actually fell asleep on me while we were all watching a movie. It's been a long time since I had a little kid fall asleep on me. When he was awake, he made me scratch his back and then demanded that I scratch it faster. He also made me pretty paranoid by constantly asking, "What's that 'mell?" I had bathed but still, I wondered.

Since the kid and I were leaving Sunday morning, I decided I'd better get some of the ice off my rental car. It was quite the project. My brother-in-law even came out and helped me. Seriously, I've never seen anything like this ice storm. The kids had been desperate to play outside all day but we could hear tree limbs creaking and breaking. It just seemed too dangerous. So, we kept them in.  There were also six dogs in the house. Speaking of which, I played Rock-Paper-Scissors with my nephew and won his dog fair and square. I'm waiting for Moose to be shipped to me.

The next morning, the storm was over and it was safe to travel. My daughter and I had about a 90-minute drive to Oklahoma City and we saw an insane number of downed power lines along the way. My mom had already been without power for a day at that point. We saw tree limbs down all over Oklahoma City, too.

While I really enjoyed the quiet days that led up to the trip to the city, we were ready for a little more excitement. We met my friend Susie and her kids at a place called The Main Event that featured laser tag, a ropes course, video games, and bowling. The kids had a blast and of course it was great to see my friend. It had been too long!

After that, we checked into our hotel.  We were spending our last two days of the trip in the big city. My stad works for a hotel chain and had gotten us a friends and family discount. It was a really nice room. Two beds, thank goodness. Any day that I don't have to share a bed with Kicky McKickerson is a good day. I asked the woman at the front desk for a recommendation for dinner. She recommended a Mexican place that wasn't too far away. I pulled it up on my GPS and headed out. However, it turns out that I goofed and went to the wrong restaurant. There were so many Mexican restaurants in the vicinity that apparently the names all just sort of ran together in my brain. The restaurant I chose was one of those Mexican restaurants that actual Mexicans frequent. The server was so sweet. He could tell we weren't local and asked us where we were from. He then told me all about his road trip to Iowa City to meet his new cousin.  I don't live even vaguely close to Iowa City but he really seemed to want to tell that story.  Also, he seemed to understand me when I told him I wanted my burrito with no cheese and no sour cream. "And no meat," I said.  He nodded and told me that he understood because he is a Seventh Day Adventist and doesn't eat meat.

Let me take this opportunity to attempt to explain Oklahoma's liquor laws to you.  The main goals of the liquor laws are to, um, prevent you from getting any. Liquor stores are closed on Sundays. If you can find a liquor store, they will sell you some alcohol, but don't bother asking for a corkscrew because it is not legal for them to sell you one.  You can buy beer at the grocery store, but the maximum alcohol content is 3.2%. (You hear people referring to "three-two" beer a lot.)  I don't even drink beer. I just think it's funny. They also restrict what can and can't be sold cold. Anyway, I was on vacation and thought it would be nice to have a margarita at the Mexican joint. I asked the server if I could get a "real" margarita, because the description on the menu was a little confusing. He nodded. "Yes, real margarita." Anyway, he brought me some sort of carbonated thing that only dreamed of being a margarita. C'est la vie.

When we got back to the hotel, the kid and I went for a swim and then went to bed.  The next morning, we had breakfast at the hotel and then I yelled at the kid to get dressed. It took her about two hours to get dressed. I am not even exaggerating. Meanwhile, I was doing research on places I thought we should check out. I found an awesome spot for lunch called The Red Cup. If you ever get to Oklahoma City, you have to check it out. The all-vegetarian menu had tons of vegan options.  I had the Frito Pie (they removed the cheese and sour cream to make it vegan). I have to tell you, this thing was life-changing.  I am going to try to make something similar at home. It was so good. I ate every bite - it was like all of my fat vegan dreams came true.

After visiting the memorial and museum (as described in a previous blog entry), the kid and I met my mom in Yukon so that she could spend the afternoon/evening with us.  It was our last hurrah with Meemaw before heading home the next morning. During my morning research, I found a candy/bakery place called Pinkitzel in the Bricktown area of the city. It was so much fun!  I bought cupcakes and candy for my mom and daughter, and some cotton candy for me.  Finally, for my third awesome find of the day, we went to dinner at a joint called Picasso Cafe. I had - get this - a chicken-fried portabello mushroom with gravy. All vegan. I would try to recreate that one at home, too, but I wouldn't even know where to begin.

After saying good-bye to my mama and taking her back to Yukon, the kid and I went back to the hotel to prepare for our early morning flight. I guess I mean that I packed while she played Minecraft. So helpful, my girl. We flew back home the next day and it was all very straightforward - no drama like we had on the flights to Oklahoma.

It was a great trip and I'm happy to report that Okahoma is still OK.  Ya'll can keep that ice, though. Sheesh.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Good Stuff, Solemn Stuff

During our visit to Oklahoma, I took my daughter to the memorial museum in Oklahoma City. I felt that she would be mature enough to handle it. I told her what happened and explained a bit about what we would see. I explained to her that the bombing in Oklahoma City is one of a handful of major events seared into my memory. The bombing takes its place among: 9-11, the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, the fall of the Berlin wall, Hurricane Katrina, the OJ Simpson trial, the death of Princess Diana, and the shooting of President Reagan. I also have fuzzy memories from my childhood of John Lennon's murder and the Iran hostage crisis. In her lifetime, I fear that violence will have become so commonplace that nothing (good or bad) will seem particularly significant.

If you ever get to Oklahoma City, the memorial and museum are definitely worth seeing.  I didn't take any photos inside the museum. It seemed . . . in poor taste, I guess? The museum is very well done, very informative. The tour is self-guided and easy to follow.  We started out in a room full of displays about Oklahoma City itself, making the point that April 19, 1995 was just an ordinary day. Then, we heard an announcement over a loudspeaker that a water resources board meeting was about to begin. We were ushered into a conference room.  There were a handful of other museum visitors in the conference room with us. There was nothing in particular to look at - just a table with chairs and a blank wall. Soon, we could hear a woman's voice. If memory serves, this is the only audio recording of the bombing. The meeting had been held in a building adjacent to the Murrah Federal Building. The woman's voice droned on and on about some sort of water proposal. If you've ever worked in an office for even five minutes of your life, it was one of those mind-numbing meetings you dread the most. Just sheer drudgery.  Then, we heard a massive explosion, followed by chaos and yelling. Just then, the faces of the 168 people killed in the bombing flashed on the blank wall. We were then ushered into the next room.

The rest of the exhibits had as much impact as that audio recording of the bomb detonating. We listened to news reports about the bombing, we saw piles of keys found in the wreckage, and we read stories of survivors. I had a whole new appreciation for the efforts it must have taken just to coordinate all of the different first responders and agencies that were there. There was even an exhibit to honor the search and rescue dogs that assisted in the recovery efforts.The exhibits proceed chronologically: the bombing, the aftermath, the investigation, and the trials. I was particularly touched by a room filled with photos of the victims. Each photo was in a clear lucite box, each accompanied by a memento of that person. The photos of the children, accompanied by their toys, were particularly heart-breaking.

After we completed the tour, my daughter and I went outside to see the 168 chairs displayed outside. Part of the original fence, where families and friend of victims left flowers and personal items in remembrance, still stands at the site.

My daughter seemed to take the visit seriously and took the time to read and interact with the various displays. I told her that whenever something like this happens, there is a counter-action, an attempt to make sure it doesn't happen again.  "This is why," I told her, "If you drop someone off at the airport, the security people lose their minds if you try to leave your car there for a few seconds. Also, some dude tried to put a bomb in his shoe and get on an airplane, so now we have to take our shoes off when we fly somewhere. There is always a reaction."

The harder part of the conversation centered on the death penalty. The end-game for Timothy McVeigh was execution, of course. His accomplices were sent to prison. I explained to my daughter that I'm against the death penalty but that I really struggle when it comes to someone like Timothy McVeigh. He was clearly a monster and yet his death did not bring those poor souls back. So, I don't know what to say about cases like his. It's not like there was any doubt that he did it. I can certainly understand why society as a whole simply did not want to have to look at his face every again. Hard stuff to ponder for me, and hard stuff for a fifth grader to understand. 

My daughter asked me why he did it. "He was mad at the government," I said. "He wanted to make a point by killing innocent people."

"What point did he make?" she asked.

"Exactly," I said. 

She and I haven't talked too much about the recent spate of violence. As a parent, I don't even know what to say about it. :::sigh:::


Good news: I have another blog post about my trip. This one, you'll be glad to know, involves Fritos.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thanks, Donna!

A few days before leaving for Oklahoma, I started checking the extended weather forecast. After not seeing a flake of snow yet this season, I was somewhat alarmed to see a snowflake symbol on Saturday's forecast. The chance of snow? 100%.  I try not to worry about things I can't control, so I pushed it to the back of my mind. On Saturday morning, the three of us went to a holiday parade and then went home and had lunch. My plan had been to leave at around 2:00 but in light of the weather forecast, we left earlier. My daughter and I had a flight to catch at 5:35 and the airport was two hours away.

So, we loaded up the car, said good-bye to daddy/husband, and then hit the road. We saw flakes as we got closer to the airport but a quick check of our flight status showed that it was still scheduled to depart on time.  We parked in the long-term parking lot and then caught the shuttle to the terminal. We then rolled our suitcases to the baggage check-in.  This is when things started to go downhill.

First, I noticed that all of the United Airlines employees were dead behind the eyes, signaling a long day filled with crabby travelers. I started hearing rumblings of problems in Chicago. Apparently, Chicago (where we needed to go in order to catch our connection to Oklahoma City) had been slammed with a foot of snow. Flights in and out of Chicago had been canceled or diverted. When we finally got to the desk to check-in, the United Airlines employee informed me that our 5:35 flight was now scheduled for midnight. She looked at her screen and said, "It shows wheels-up at 12:01 a.m. which means that it will probably be canceled." She checked us in anyway and the kid and I went to the gate to wait.

The flight listings were still showing that our flight was on time so I kept hoping that maybe we'd be one of the lucky ones. My daughter was starting to worry about things like sleeping at an airport, but I assured here that I am the grown-up and therefore will assume all of the worry-related responsibilities.

As late as 5:15, the flight information screen at the gate was still showing as on time. I couldn't help but notice that there was no, um, airplane at the gate, though. I checked the flight again on my phone. It now showed a departure of 7;45. This would have been fine, except that we would obviously miss our connection (which was the last one of the day). I saw a line forming at the desk so I joined it, waiting for my opportunity to speak to the apathetic gentleman about what options were available to us. After a few minutes, he told me that he had re-booked us for the next morning. We would connect through Denver and then land in Oklahoma City at 4:45. At that point, I was just relieved to have a firm plan.

The kid and I headed back to the main check-in area to retrieve our suitcases. I also asked for a hotel voucher that would get us a discount at a hotel across the street. At this point, our luck started to change a bit. I called the hotel and asked about availability. The friendly guy on the phone (who, unlike the United employees, had apparently not lost the will to live), told me that he had rooms available and that he would send a shuttle right over. "Just go to Door 4 by the baggage claim," he said.

We walked to Door 4 and within two minutes, the shuttle was there. We checked in to a room (using the "distressed traveler" rate) and got settled in. Since our car was still in the remote parking lot, we didn't have a lot of options for dinner. So, we headed to the hotel's restaurant. This is where we met Donna. She was an energetic blonde lady - in her 50s, I'd guess. "Sorry for the wait!" she exclaimed. "I thought I was getting off early tonight but wow! Everyone came in at once!" I told her how a lot of flights were canceled, which might account for the unexpected influx of hungry people.

She took our order. I ordered a pasta dish and the kid ordered a quesadilla. I also ordered a glass of merlot - my reward for a long, sucky day. Donna winked and said, "I'd order one of those, too!" She laughed as though I had ordered something naughty. She brought us our drinks and also dropped off a salad and a basket of bread. "The bread isn't really supposed to come with your meal," she whispered, "But I brought it anyway."

The salad had some ranch dressing on the side. I didn't really want the salad (and obviously couldn't eat the ranch) so I figured I'd just let my daughter pick at it. Donna leaned down to tell us another secret. She looked at my daughter.

"Dip the bread in the ranch," she said. "When I tell people that, they say, 'You're crazy, Donna!' but just try it and you'll be addicted!"  She nodded knowingly.

After Donna left the table, my daughter did indeed dip thick slices of bread in the ranch. I drank my merlot and looked away. A few minutes later, Donna came back to the table with our entrees. "What did you think?" she asked my daughter. The kid gave her a thumbs-up.  "See! I told you!"

Every time she came by our table, she told my daughter, "I love those quesadillas! I have two of them in the back!" By the end of our meal, I started to wonder about food safety issues related to Donna not eating her quesadillas in a timely manner.

Finally, dinner was over and we were ready to head back to our room. "I wish I could go swimming," said my daughter. "But I didn't bring a swimsuit."

"Good news, Goober. I packed two swimsuits for you." Her eyes lit up in gratitude and for about two seconds I think she forgot about how her mean old mother wrongs her at every turn.

Donna came back to give us our bill. I handed her my debit card. She opened up the little black padfolio she uses to take orders and showed me two photos that were taped to the bottom. "These are my boys," she whispered. Both young men are in the Navy and are currently deployed. "I'm not really supposed to be over here right now, but I wanted to show you my boys."

"They're very handsome," I said. "You must be very proud."  I couldn't help but wonder if hotel management actually cared if she showed off photos of her sons?

We bid Donna a fond farewell and spent the next hour or so at the pool. "She was nice," my daughter said.

"She sure was," I agreed. Donna really did make a terrible day a lot less terrible.

The next morning, we got up bright and early and the hotel's shuttle took us back across the street to the airport.  This time, everything went exactly as planned. Our flight took off on time. Because we were booked on these new flights at the last minute, the airline had given us the only seats available, which were in different rows. I asked a young woman if she would mind switching with us and she was more than happy to do that. As a matter of fact, because of the switch she was seated next to a young guy who appeared to be her age. They chatted for the whole flight and even walked together on the jetway. If they make babies together, I'm taking credit.

We connected in Denver, where we had several hours to kill. It's a really nice airport, so we didn't mind too much. Our flight to Oklahoma City took off on time, too. We landed on time, picked up our rental car, and headed to my mom's house. We were finally on vacation - woot!

As I was typing the blog entry, though, I just realized that my daughter's swimsuit and cover-up are still on the back of the door at the hotel. Crud. I guess they are probably dry now?

I wonder if this guy on the plane knew that I could see him.

Friday, November 20, 2015

New Niece

I have a new niece! Usually, when one of my sisters gives birth, the person who comes out has a penis. But not this time!

She didn't want to come out voluntarily, so she had to be evicted. The little lass was born on Wednesday, November 18th and weighed 8 pounds and 14 ounces. This probably seems big to a lot of people, but her birth weight was actually lower than my middle sister's three other kids.

I won't get to pinch her cheeks in person until February, when I travel to DC for a visit.

Isn't she perfect? Squeeeee! 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Thanks for nothing, lungs

I haven't written a new blog entry for a while because I now spend all of my spare time coughing. I caught a cold about a week ago. The cold did not pass Go and did not collect $200. It went straight to my lungs, triggering an epic asthma resurgence. I hadn't had an asthma attack in quite a while so I didn't even have an inhaler (dangerous and stupid, I know). I coughed for about five days and did all I could do to get better - went to bed early, stayed hydrated with lots of water, etc. Finally, on Thursday, I went to the doctor. I tried to get in to see my asthma doctor but couldn't get an appointment. So, I headed to urgent care. I only had to sit in the waiting room for about 20 minutes before a nurse called me in. She took a brief history and then the doctor came in. The doctor, as far as I could tell, was about 14. This is how you know you are getting old.* Seriously, though, I don't think any bartender on the planet would sell her a beer.

I think she was in the exam room for all of 90 seconds. And honestly, that was fine. If she was my regular doctor, I'd be annoyed, but she gave me exactly what I knew I needed, which was a course of steroids (prednisone) and an inhaler. I'm pretty sure that since I didn't come in asking for percocet for my imaginary back injury, my visit didn't send up any red flags. Nobody wants prednisone unless it's absolutely necessary. Ultimately, I was sort of glad that I bypassed my regular asthma doctor because he would have given me quite the lecture on managing my condition better and would have sent me home with an action plan (you know, just doing his job an all).

It's been a few days on the meds and I'm still in rough shape, but I think I'll be back to normal (or something close to it) within a few days. If I had to get sick, I guess it's better that it happened when it did. My daughter and I are boarding a flight to Oklahoma on Saturday. If you think people hate it when other people cough in their vicinity, try coughing on a plane. They'll have you brought up on charges.

The most important thing is that my family has been SO attentive while I've been ill. Every time I turn around, it's "What can we do to help you?" and "Can we get you anything?" and "You just rest."  Ha ha! I'll be here all week! Tip your waitress!

Other than the coughing, things have been pretty quiet. For the past few weeks I've been cleaning out our basement. We have all kinds of stuff down there: our own junk, stuff we got when my in-laws passed (such as tools we don't know how to use), and stuff that belongs to the rescue. I just didn't want it to turn into a Hoarders situation. My stepdad sells a lot of memorabilia-type stuff so I checked with him on a couple things I found.

Me: "Hey, I found an old Instamatic Camera in the original box."

Him: "Yeah, everyone had one in the 70's."  He rattled off the names of everyone he knew who had one. It reminded me of that scene from Wayne's World where Wayne notes that "Frampton Comes Alive" was issued to every person in America.

Me: "Hey, I found a box of Yahtzee scorecards from 1956."  (These came with the house, oddly enough.)

Him: "Yeah, you should just use those to play Yahtzee."

So, I didn't find any hidden treasure in my basement, but it is looking a bit less cluttered down there.  I went through some of my mother-in-law's old things (she's been gone ten years now).  We have her wallet, her jewelry, some photos albums, and other odds and ends. As I was poking through the box, I found an envelope that was addressed in my handwriting. When P and I were dating, a couple of times I sent her photos (of our trip to Harper's Ferry, our trip to Virginia Beach, etc.) and sent along letters with the photos. I didn't even remember writing them, but I find it so touching that she kept them. She really was a sweet lady. As for the jewelry, I think I'm going to let the kid go through it and see if she wants any of her grandma's things.

From my father-in-law, we mostly have tools.  We also inherited two drills from him (which I actually forced myself to learn to use earlier this year). Oh, and we also have my father-in-law himself. He's in an urn and we have never known what to do with it. He didn't have a great relationship with his siblings or even his children, so people weren't exactly lining up to take him home. So, he stays with us for now. He and I did not get along, if I'm being honest, but I also don't want to disrespect his memory. I always try to remember that when I first moved here, he was the first to greet me and give me a hug.

So, that's all the news for now. I'm plugging away at my Christmas shopping. I've switched to a new email address, which is a bigger job than one might think. I also need to start packing for the trip to Oklahoma. I will also need to pack the kid's stuff. I could let her pack her own gear, but I don't really want a repeat of last weekend's "I didn't bring a jacket and I'm wearing flip-flops even though it's 38 degrees" scenario.

*Another sign of this aging thing? I've had a splinter in my hand since Monday and can't see it well enough to perform surgery on myself.

The three of us went to a hockey game last night. This was taken right before she spilled an entire 7-Up on the floor before even taking a sip. Most of it landed on the floor by her dad's feet. As a matter of fact, he's still at the arena. His feet were stuck to the floor so he lives there now.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Mother-Daughter Weekend

My daughter and I joined another mother-daughter pair for a fun weekend. We stayed at a resort about 65 miles from home. Because my daughter is 10 1/2, I challenged her to pack her own gear for the trip. (I know, but I like to live dangerously!)  Shortly before we needed to leave on Saturday morning, I noticed she was wearing flip-flops. "It's 38 degrees outside. Put some shoes on," I told her. She stomped back to her bedroom to exchange her shoes. Is it just me or is this one of those common sense kind of things?

We loaded the car and then drove to my friend's house to pick up the other half of our foursome. Then we headed to a craft fair. I go to this craft fair every year even though it is crowded beyond all belief. You just never know when you might stumble upon some amazing Christmas gift that you couldn't have gotten anywhere else. As we walked towards the building, a chilly gust of wind slapped me in the side of the head. "Hey, where's your jacket?" I asked my daughter.

"Oh, I didn't bring one." She shrugged like this was a dumb question. Seriously? I was scared to ask her if she was wearing underwear.

I did pick up a couple of little gifts at the craft fair, so it was worth the extra trouble to find parking and plow through the massive crowd.  Then we headed out of town.

I had it in my head that I wanted to eat lunch at a particular pizza joint that offers a build-your-own-pizza option that include vegan cheese and vegan sausage. So, I was determined to go and my friend was willing, too.  Little did I know, we would stand in the tiny waiting area for a solid 55 minutes before getting a table. We were weak from hunger by the time we were finally seated. My pizza was pretty good - maybe a little overcooked. Vegan cheese doesn't melt as quickly as non-vegan cheese, so maybe they felt the need to scorch the pizza a bit. I was so hungry I would have eaten the table itself. My friend said her pizza was good. My kid ordered a grilled cheese from the kids' menu and ate two bites of it. I am not even exaggerating - she took one bite out of each half. Ah, that's money well spent, eh?

After lunch, we did a bit of shopping and picked up some stuff to have for dinner. The girls mostly chose to stay in the car. What was weird was that they didn't interact with each other all that much. They had headphones on. They are friends, though. Kids these days, I tell ya. We stopped at a candy store. I had to tease my friend because she bought those black licorice all-sorts thingies. Blech! I bought some blow-pops, which are much healthier, don't you think?

After our shopping excursion, we spent a quiet afternoon hanging out in our suite, watching TV. After dinner, my kid and I went swimming.  My friend claims not to own a swimsuit, so one of these days I might just have to dig around in her dresser drawers just to confirm. I think she's bluffing.

When I got to the pool and swam across, I realized I was winded. I don't claim to be any sort of athlete, but I log several hours a week on the elliptical at the gym (plus yoga classes) so splashing across the pool should not wear me out, in theory. I realized I was getting sick. Crud. I wasn't surprised, because just about everyone I know has been sick lately.

We spent the rest of the evening hanging out, watching TV, and eating things we wouldn't ordinarily eat.  We'd all gotten up early, so we didn't stay up too late. My daughter and I shared a bed and she didn't kick me as much as usual. Or maybe the margaritas I drank before bedtime made me notice it less?  The next morning, we cuddled in bed for a while, which we don't get to do very often. Isn't amazing how one little person makes your heart explode and also makes your head explode sometimes?

We went to the resort's continental breakfast on Sunday morning (I had brought along a protein bar and mandarin oranges from home) and then checked out of the resort. I was feeling cruddier by the second. In fact, I'm home sick now. I had every intention of making it through the work day but my lungs had other ideas.

Anyway, the weekend was a lot of fun and I'm hopeful we can do it again next year. Next Saturday, the kid and I are heading to Oklahoma for Thanksgiving. I'm hopeful that my lungs will be back in working order by then.

What kind of mother lets her child buy candy cigarettes?!  Oh, wait . . .

Friday, November 6, 2015

Halloween and Stuff

(I know Halloween was a week ago, but I've been busy, so hush.) 

Bad weather on Halloween seems like one of those Murphy's Law kind of things. As I'm sure most parents were, I was thrilled that Halloween fell on a Saturday this year. Much better than a Monday, that's for sure. There's nothing quite like telling your child, who has eaten 473 pieces of candy, that she must go to bed by 8 because it's a school night.

So anyway, yeah, it rained on Halloween. I took the kid trick-or-treating in the pouring rain. She was determined to go, though. There's candy in them thar hills! She dressed as a rock star and found it a bit challenging to juggle an umbrella and a plastic microphone. I took her around the neighborhood for an hour or so, and then brought her home to dry off a bit. She wanted to hand out candy to other trick-or-treaters, but her dad was not a fan of this plan because he was worried that she would give away the specific types of candy he wanted to keep. They finally worked out a compromise that seemed to involve him hiding some of the candy.  Later, the rain slowed down and the rock star went back out into the neighborhood with her dad. I am still not sure where he hid the candy that he didn't want the trick-or-treaters to have.

The real highlight of  the weekend was a visit from my friend Rachel. We've been friends since the sixth grade (34 years, in other words). I sent her a text a few weeks ago asking her if she might be able to come for a visit. We saw each other in Chincoteague (Virginia) back in July, but it was about 187 degrees that day and it was just a short visit. She booked a flight right away. Had I known it was that easy, I would have invited her much sooner!

I picked her up at the airport last Thursday.  As soon as we left the airport, we had to head straight to
an animal control facility to pick up a female Boxer whose stray hold was up. I had been told that the dog was 11 but judging from her exuberance, she's probably a little younger. You've never seen a dog so happy to get out of a shelter. My job was just to transport her to a vet clinic for boarding until another volunteer (foster home) could pick her up. I am leaving the rescue next month but it felt good to do one last shelter pick-up. The poor skinny girl (named Stella by her foster mom) barked for two solid hours in the car. She had a touch of kennel cough, so the more she barked, the more she sounded like a pack-a-day smoker. I kept thinking of that lady from Beetlejuice who had smoke coming out of her neck.

We delivered Stella to the clinic as promised and then drove across town to pick up my kid from after-school care. We ate a quick dinner and then we had to accompany Her Highness to a Halloween-themed school dance. Rachel and I sat in the cafe-gym-atorium while costumed children ran around like wild beasts. Thank goodness she was there. Last year I sat there by myself for two hours, staring at my phone.

Now, if you've ever had the privilege of knowing a tween, you know that they get embarrassed easily.  For days before the dance, I had been threatening to do the Robot on the dance floor. "Rachel's been practicing, too!" I told her.  Much eye-rolling ensued. Towards the end of the dance, I saw my kid on the dance floor with one of her friends. I wanted to let her know that it was just about time to go. I know her friend pretty well and know that she has a great sense of humor. "Hey, look what I can do!" I shouted above the music. I extended my right arm straight out to the side and let it drop at the elbow, swinging the lower part of my arm back and forth a la The Robot. Then I flattened my hands, bent my arms stiffly at the elbow, and slowly moved them up and down. I saw the look of horror on my daughter's face.

"MOM!" she yelled.

I wasn't done, though. I found her principal on the other side of the room. I knew he would know who my daughter is (she's been at the school since 4K). "Hey, when you see my daughter, you should tell her, 'Hey, your mom can really do the robot.'"  He nodded and laughed.  I figured he'd see her in the halls a few days later or something.

A few minutes later, we were heading to the car when I noticed my daughter was stomping across the parking lot looking quite peeved. "Why are you in such a hurry, Goober?"

"Really, Mom?! Mr. M just said to me, 'Hey, your mom can really do the robot!'"

Ladies and gentlemen, I have reached Parenting Level: Awesome.

The rest of Rachel's visit went well despite the rain on Saturday. On Friday evening, we went to an improv comedy show with a couple of my other friends. It was a lot of fun. I am so fortunate to have so many good friends. Truly. My daughter didn't have school on Friday and I had to work, so Rachel kept an eye on her for the day. She brought her some craft projects and stuff to work on.

On Sunday, I returned my friend to the airport and sent her back home. I already have some fun stuff in mind for her next visit. As for my daughter, I don't have anything specifically embarrassing planned but I have a feeling that before too long . . . just breathing oxygen in her presence will be embarrassment enough.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

20 Years Ago

20 years ago this week, I left my hometown, my extended family, my job, my friends, and everything I knew. I took a chance and moved 1,000 miles away from my home in Northern Virginia. It was just a few days before Halloween, in 1995. My boyfriend and I packed up everything in our apartment, including our two kitties, and hit the road. Why did we move? Well, my boyfriend (who later became my husband, of course) was a Midwestern boy. After he left the Marine Corps, he wanted to move back home. He asked me if I wanted to come, too. There were many good reasons why it all made sense: lower cost of living, decent job market, and affordable real estate. Also, I had finished college and now it was his turn to go. He had the GI Bill waiting for him. Plus, we knew that we planned to get married and buy a house. With even the skinniest townhouses selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars in Virginia, we could spend a lot less and get a lot more. And so, we packed up and moved.

The transition, at least for me, was hard. Really, really hard. I was terribly homesick for the first year or so. P had flown out ahead of time and found us an apartment. When I saw it, tears sprang to my eyes. I couldn't cry, though, because my (future) father-in-law was there, hugging me and welcoming me. I cried later. It was a one-bedroom apartment, which was fine, but it looked like it had been built sometime between the two World Wars. Old, dingy, ugly carpeting, ugly tile in the kitchen. Waaaah!

It took me a couple weeks to find a job.  I hated that first job I landed after the move (I was a project assistant for a manufacturing company), but I stuck it out for six months before finding a job with an Information Technology company.

P and I got engaged on New Year's Eve, 1995. We moved into a muuuuuch nicer apartment and then got married on May 24, 1997. A year later, we bought our first home. We are still in that home because, frankly, moving is a shit ton of work. I'd love to have walk-in closets but every time I think about packing up my kitchen . . . that thought is quickly followed by, "Nope! This is juuuuust fine."

I could probably write a whole essay on the differences between the East Coast and the Midwest. There are plenty of pros and cons for each, of course. I've had 20 years to get used to people calling a water fountain a "bubbler" so I can't really pretend to be a newcomer anymore. It's interesting to think back on my 25-year-old self. I had no idea of the joys and heartbreak that lie ahead. I didn't know that I'd get involved in dog rescue, miscarry four times, adopt a baby, lose my in-laws, change my religion, go vegan, and all the other crazy/wonderful/awful things that have happened.  I'm still hanging out with the same dude, so that's good.

Do I ever think about moving back?  Not really. I have gotten used to living in a town that doesn't really have a traffic report. I make less money but have more time. On the other hand, I miss being near my family. I miss the stores. I miss the Metro and the unlimited supply of fun things to do. I miss the diversity.

P and I have talked of moving to the Carolinas when we retire, but who knows. According to those reports I get from the Social Security Administration, it looks like I'll need to work until I'm about 107. So, that may put a damper on the retirement plans. If we do move, it will probably depend on where our daughter ends up. I don't want to be too far away from her. When she has kids of her own, I really need to be there so that I can watch them reject the food she has cooked for them. What comes around goes around, sister! 

It's all good, though. All good.

I hated this tile with a burning passion that will never die.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Boys Don't Listen

My husband is a good egg. He really is. He's a great dad. He works two jobs to provide for our family. Sure, he reads comic books and he has a metal container full of multi-sided dice (that I don't think I'm supposed to mention, so shhhhh), but I think he spends a lot more mental energy putting up with my quirks than I do with his.

He is not, however, a good listener. Tired of answering questions like "What are we doing this weekend?" I bought a magnetic monthly calendar and slapped it onto the refrigerator door. I make sure it's always up to date.  Of course, this doesn't stop him from asking questions like, "What time are you leaving for church?" (Answer: "The same time I've been leaving for church for nearly a decade now.")

It does get a wee bit frustrating at times. One day last week I needed to take my daughter to the orthodontist at 8:30 a.m. The night before, I told my dear husband that I had turned off the kid's alarm clock and that I would wake her up myself at around 7 a.m.  The next morning, at 6 a.m., he flung open the kid's bedroom door, turned on her light, and notified me that our daughter wasn't up yet. Grrrrr.

Do you know how many times I've announced, "I'm going to the gym!" only to return home to have him ask, "Where'dja go? The grocery store?"

When I need to tell him something really important, I usually require eye contact and then quiz him on what I've just said. My other beef relates to his information gathering skills. This is why I don't send the guy solo to parent-teacher conferences. He would surely come back with no information at all, outside of confirmation that our daughter is indeed in fifth grade and does, in fact, have a teacher.

I've had 23 1/2 years to get used to my husband's brain and how it works, so I usually don't get too bothered by the whole not-listening-and-not-asking-questions thing. However, I guess my sub-conscious is a little more upset about it.  I had this dream the other night:

I was in the hospital having some sort of surgery. My sleeping brain didn't tell me what kind of surgery it was, so I assume it an exploratory surgery or a relatively minor fix of some sort. When I got out of surgery, the nurse gave a post-op information sheet to my husband. We then went home. I asked him to let me see the document so he handed it over. The document diagnosed me thusly: "Terminilly Ill." 

"This says I have a terminal illness," I said. "Are you sure it's from the doctor? It seems weird that a doctor would misspell the word 'terminal.'"

"Yes, it's definitely from the doctor," he confirmed, nodding.

"Well, what kind of terminal illness do I have?" I asked. I was understandably upset.

"Oh, I don't know. I didn't ask." 

I'd like to think this scenario would not actually happen. But my unconscious mind, clearly, is not so sure.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Unattended Parents

Our daughter went to an overnight camp with her choir group last weekend. The choir people are very organized. They sent out a very detailed checklist. She needed to bring a flashlight, two changes of clothing, her sheet music, and a bunch of other stuff.  I had to go to the grocery store on Friday evening so I left her to do the packing. I figured . . . she's 10 1/2, the checklist was very explicit, and she should be mature enough to handle this sort of thing on her own.

Needless to say, she didn't pack while I was a the grocery store. So, I made some rumblings about canceling the trip and then she stomped off to her room, ostensibly to pack.  The next morning, I went to the gym and to Weight Watchers, then dashed home to grab a shower before dropping her off for camp. She was so excited and couldn't wait to go. When we got to the church parking lot (the choir's offices are inside a local church), she checked in and then hopped on the bus. I put her duffel bag in the luggage compartment and then chatted with my friend Sharon while we waited for the buses to pull out. (By the way, spell check doesn't like "duffel" or "duffle" so I am officially giving up.) My friend mentioned something about how her daughter almost forgot to pack a towel. I didn't remember seeing a towel in my kid's stuff.  I climbed aboard the bus and found my daughter. "Did you pack a towel?" I asked her. She shook her head. "Then why did you bother packing shampoo?" She shrugged. The expression on her face was something like, "Mom. Go away. Now. Ixnay on the oweltay."  She'd almost forgotten her sheet music as well, but I happened to ask about that at the last second.

Anyway, I guess I don't know what she packed or didn't pack, but it was only a 25-hour absence so I figured she'd be fine. After leaving the church, I did a little shopping and then headed home. How come when parents get a little time away from their children, they immediately do something for the kid(s)?  I found myself using a coupon on snow boots for Her Highness and also bought her a shirt to go with a hard-to-match sweater she has.

Now, Mr. M and I had a whole afternoon and evening to do whatever we wanted. He played video games and I cooked.  I know - crazy! I am not a particularly good cook, but I do like to cook.  Well, I like to cook what I want - mostly for myself (because my family thinks everything I make is simply too exotic for consumption). I am not as big a fan of the I-have-to-cook-dinner-for-my-family-on-weeknights scenario. I feel like I got elected to that position based solely on the fact that I have ovaries, which seems unfair. Anyway, I spent the afternoon making butternut squash soup, chocolate zucchini muffins, mock tuna casserole salad, vinegar and sea salt roasted potatoes, and peanut butter cups.  I took the peanut butter cups to church the next day because I cannot be trusted with such things in my house.

After dinner, we went to see "The Martian."  We didn't have to get a babysitter! It was all very exhilarating.  The movie was good, though a bit long for my tiny attention span.

Later, we tried to watch Saturday Night Live, which seemed like it should have been really funny because Tracy Morgan was hosting. But, alas. I think we were both asleep before midnight.

After church on Sunday, we picked the kid up and the three of us went out to lunch. She couldn't stop talking about how much fun she'd had with the choir - the new friends she'd made, the singing, the team-building exercises, and so forth.  Oh, and in case you wondered . . . no, she had not showered.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

No More Brace Face

The kid got her braces off today. She was a pretty good sport about it. They also fitted her for a retainer, which we will pick up next week.

When I look back at photos of her taken a couple years ago, I can really see a huge difference. The palate expander re-arranged her face (by correcting an underbite) and then the braces straightened the top teeth. So, for the moment, we are in good shape. She'll wear the retainer until she loses enough baby teeth that it no longer fits. Or, until she leaves it on her lunch tray at school and throws it away, I guess.

I do suspect that we have some more dental woes ahead of us. The kid has a baby tooth that will need to be pulled because it is attached directly to the bone. It hasn't "erupted" properly. (Is it just me or is it super gross to use the word "erupt" in conjunction with one's mouth?!) We'll address that wacky tooth at her next dental appointment this winter. Also, we don't know what will happen when more adult teeth come in. As in, will they point every which way? I'm crossing my fingers because I can think of other things on which I'd like to spend a few thousand dollars.

Now, someone bring this kid some taffy, caramel, and corn on the cob.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Mandatory Halloween Activities

Last week, I packed up my summer clothes. We were getting close to the freezing mark at night and I found myself needing a jacket for the chilly journey to work in the mornings. So, I figured it was time. My closet is too small to host winter clothes and summer clothes simultaneously, so I swap them out seasonally. So, my flip-flops, tees, and capri pants were unceremoniously shoved into plastic totes, which were then stacked precariously in our basement.

What this means, of course, is that the temperature immediately skyrocketed to 76 degrees. Sunday was flat-out hot. It was in the 60s on Saturday. The kid had a friend over on Sunday and I all but begged the girls to play outside. "You won't see 76 again for at least eight months," I told them. They didn't look up from their iPads. Because Minecraft.

Anyway, we did some traditional October-y stuff over the weekend. On Saturday, we joined a group from our church at a farm (about an hour south of our house). It was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed getting to know some of my church peeps a little better. We took a hay ride and learned about the farm's maple syrup operation and other stuff. As we rolled past a small herd of beef cattle, I overcame my urge to yell, "I don't eat your people!" to the cows. After the hay ride, our group hung out in the barn and had some lunch. I knew there wouldn't be anything there I could eat, so I had brought along a gargantuan Honey Crisp apple.

Next up was the corn maze. Believe it or not, I had never been in a corn maze. I was a little bit concerned because I have no sense of direction. I never knew just how bad my internal compass was until we went to Disney. At Epcot, my husband kept saying, "You're going the wrong way." And he was right every time - I was usually off by at least 90 degrees and sometimes by as many as 180. Thank goodness for GPS or I'd get lost in my own town.

It was windy, so that's why I looked like the Unabomber.
My main strategy with the corn maze was: follow the children. They seemed like they knew what they were doing. The farm also handed out clues to help visitors make their way through the maze. Other than a tantrum thrown by a pre-schooler in our group who was furious that he couldn't take two paths (in opposite directions) simultaneously, we all made it out just fine. The maze was divided into two parts. We'd already completed the first part, which took about 20 minutes. Part 2 was estimated to take about 45 minutes. Most of the members of our group decided to go for it. I decided to sit with my friend Michael who keeps getting body parts replaced and didn't think his new hip was up to the corn maze. Another friend from church stayed behind with her baby. So, we just hung out, enjoyed the weather, and tried desperately to keep the baby from eating wood chips. You have never seen a child so determined to eat a wood chip.

We ended the afternoon with a trip to the pumpkin patch. They even had a slide that took you from the top of the hill down to the pumpkins. Yes, I rode the slide. Did you have to ask? There is a certain appeal to the time-honored tradition of trudging through a muddy field to pick out your still-attached-to-the-vine pumpkin. I carefully selected the prettiest pumpkin with the most perfect "face side" and then when Halloween rolls around, I will use my limitless artistic skills to turn that pumpkin into a fanciful, magical jack-o-lantern . . . by which I mean that I will stab out some triangles with a steak knife.

By mid-afternoon, we were dirty and tired and I was getting hangry, because that apple could only do so much. So, we headed home, making a couple of stops on the way. I had some Kohl's cash (and a coupon, of course) so I bought Her Highness a pair of ugly boots she wanted.

On Sunday, after church I took the kid and one of her friends to a haunted house. The haunted house people set aside two days in October where they keep the lights on and let kids in during the day. It's a lot of fun (and only two bucks a person!). You get to take a train to the haunted house. Then, while you're waiting in line, people dressed up in various costumes toss candy and little trinkets out of the windows of the haunted house. The kid shoved her goodies into my purse. We were then escorted into the haunted house. The three of us wound our way through the various rooms. Kids from local organizations were dressed as ghouls and dead people and such, popping out around corners and attempting to scare us. One of them broke character, pointed at my daughter, and said, "Hey! I know you from summer camp!"

On the way back to the car, I noticed that one of the trinkets my daughter had received was a plastic magnifying glass. The day before, she had woken up with a pimple. She was trying to cover it up with her hair but I knew it was there. Before the haunted house, I told her that I was pretty sure that her zit was the scariest thing I'd see all day. Much to my amazement, she actually let me hold the magnifying glass up to her pimple and snap a quick photo. Don't say anything to her about the pimple, though. She was mortified enough and I know some of you people have a lot of trouble keeping things to yourself.

So, that was the weekend. Lots of fun stuff. My daughter is a rock star for Halloween. We aren't taking her to as many activities this year because, to be honest, most are geared towards younger children. But don't worry - she'll still have several opportunities to wear her costume. She gets her braces off tomorrow so she is excited about being able to eat her Halloween candy this year. Last year she had a palate expander in her mouth and it seemed like every house in town handed out nothing but Jolly Ranchers and caramel blobs.

Monday, October 5, 2015

A fast is so slow

On Friday, October 2nd, I completed the #fastagainstslaughter sponsored by the Farm Animal Rights Movement. I have to confess that I felt a bit anxious beforehand. The last time I missed three meals in a row was when I had my foot surgery last spring, and in that case it was because of the painkillers. The pills told me, "You don't need food, you only need uuuuuuuusss!" The pills also told me to sleep a lot.

My last meal was on Thursday. I went to the gym and then had tofu scramble for dinner. It's heavy on protein and usually keeps me full for a while. On Friday, I skipped breakfast and then headed to work as usual. At work I sometimes chew gum to keep me from eating other stuff. I couldn't decide if chewing gum would be cheating or not, so I opted to go gum-free for the day. I usually also eat a granola bar mid-morning when I'm at work. On Friday, I could hear them calling me from my desk drawer. "We have nuts and choooocolate," they said. "Also, we are gluten-free." I kept the drawer closed.

I pounded water all day. I think I peed about four times before noon. It was a long day, indeed. Every time my stomach started to rumble, I just reminded myself that it wasn't about me. It was about raising awareness for the plight of animals on factory farms. At lunchtime, I did a little shopping in an attempt to occupy my brain (which loves bargains almost as much as my stomach loves food).  Many states away, my wee baby sister was also fasting (she's the one who told me about the campaign) and also did some shopping. Great minds think alike! My friends Jennifer and Leslie fasted on Friday as well.

Because I am hopelessly schedule-oriented and do almost everything on a schedule (or at least according to a to-do list that I've scrawled in my serial-killer handwriting), I was scheduled to go grocery shopping on Friday night. So, after not having dinner, I headed to the grocery store. "I'm buying everything they sell," I told my husband on my way out the door. You know how they say not to go to the grocery store hungry? Try it when you haven't eaten in 24 hours.

The first thing I saw was a display of these:

There are products on the market that are referred to as being "accidentally vegan."  Oreos are one of those products. Nabisco didn't set out to make a vegan snack, but there you have it. They are not in any way healthy, of course. Believe me, we know. Anyway, I couldn't get them in my cart fast enough. Normally I do not even buy cookies at the grocery store because I cannot be trusted with them.

Another accidentally vegan item?  These:
Oddly enough, the smaller version of Keebler Fudge Sticks are not vegan. This is probably for the best. I've had a problem with fudge sticks dating back to childhood. There were times when I actually denied buying a box of them so as not to have to explain where they had all gone. They're right up there with Girl Scout Thin Mints. The term "serving size" is so subjective, amiright?

Anyway, I bought the jumbo fudge sticks, too. "I should probably just go home," I thought. But, I persevered and finished my grocery shopping. I didn't buy anything too outlandish.

The next morning, I went to my usual Weight Watchers meeting. I didn't eat before the meeting (because that would be crazy). I figured I had gone that long without eating, so what's another hour?  When I got home, I decided that I'd probably better eat a fairly light meal so as not to overwhelm my empty insides. I ate a piece of sourdough toast with Earth Balance, a veggie sausage, and a handful of grapes. I have to say that the toast seemed like the best thing that had ever happened to me. The bread was really fresh, ya'll.

By the end of the day, life was back to normal. My co-worker gave me a butternut squash, so I roasted that (and then used it in vegan burritos the next day). I did a lot of cooking over the weekend - sometimes I make stuff ahead of time to make life a little easier during the work week.

Will I do the fast again next year? I'm sure I will. Me skipping meals for a day doesn't really do much in the scheme of things, but I think every little bit of awareness helps. I posted my photo and the corresponding hash tag on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Thousands of people around the world participated in the event. If it causes even one person to make the connection between the meat they buy at the grocery store and how that meat got there . . . then I think it's worthwhile. All it takes is that one little spark of awareness. And awareness can lead to compassion. I'm sure of it.