Friday, July 14, 2017

Another one bites the dust

The Boy has been given his pink slip. Apparently my daughter cut him loose right after the school year ended. She is not allowed to have a boyfriend, of course. She is only 12. However, it is normal and natural for her to show interest in boys so I don't have a problem with her interacting with them. Whole relationships are carried out via text message these days. It seems pretty harmless for the most part. I check her phone periodically just to make sure the texts aren't actually coming from some 50-year-old pervert from Albuquerque.

This is the third boy who has been sent packing since September. I can only imagine how her love life will play out when she gets to high school.  The halls will be littered with broken-heart emojis.  Speaking of which, the most recent boy was listed in her phone with his given name plus some gooey emojis (hearts, etc.) Now, his name is just his name. He's probably lucky that she let him keep that.

The first boy (from back in September) fell out of favor because he's too nerdy and awkward, I think. He lives in our neighborhood. He would walk his Rottweiler past our house, the kid's little sister following along behind on a tricycle or big wheel. I kind of miss those days because my daughter also walked our dogs so that she could walk past the boy's house. Now she doesn't bother. The dogs could really use the exercise, though.

The second boy came along later in the fall. I don't think I ever met him. I know that he was short like my kid is. From what I can gather, he was simply too needy.  Too many texts, too much attention. Apparently, the poor lad cried in class when my daughter cut him loose.

The third boy was my favorite. He's funny and polite. He came to her birthday party and showed up at our house a few times. I even took both of them to our local amusement park one Sunday afternoon. I felt pretty cool sitting on the rollercoaster by myself while middle-school love was blooming in the front car. The two of them Face-timed so much that it sometimes seemed like he lived with us. I pondered the merits of charging him rent. He even came to our anniversary party back in May. He wore nice pants and a vest to the party, which earned him at least a thousand points in my book. He's diabetic so I would sometimes tuck his testing kit into my purse so that he wouldn't have to carry it around. He once told my daughter, "Your mom is funny." She disagreed and rolled her eyes.

I'm not sure exactly what he did wrong but maybe it was just one Face-time call too many. She wouldn't give me a lot of details but I think she just felt overwhelmed with the attention.

"So, um, can I still talk to him?" I asked her recently.

She rolled her eyes. "Mom! Seriously?"

I felt a little defensive. "What?! I liked him."

She said she still texts him periodically. "Tell him I miss him," I say. She just rolls her eyes.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

15 Knope

My daughter and I participated in a local cycling event for charity today. Participants could choose from multiple distances ranging from 15K to 100 miles. We chose the short, family-friendly one. Last year, we finished the event but she complained relentlessly the whole time because her bike didn't have gears. She couldn't adjust the resistance on hills and such.

I fixed this issue by buying her a brand new bicycle for Christmas. The new bike has 18 speeds. That's about 17 more than she had before. I figured we'd be all set for this year's bike tour.  I warned her to practice ahead of time since the gear-shifting bit was new to her.

This morning, I hauled her out of bed at 6:30 so that we could be out of the house at 7:30.  I loaded the bikes onto my bike rack and we drove to the starting point for the bike tour. As we prepared to set off, everything seemed fine. We applied sunblock and checked in with the organizers. We mounted our bikes and started the route.  The event features staggered start times so that there aren't hundreds of bikes crowding the streets all at once. We pedaled out of the parking lot and turned the corner.

That's right about when the complaining started. "Mom, wait."  I pulled over every few yards to wait for her, even though I wasn't going very fast at all. I could hear the incessant clicking as she changed gears over and over.

"Just find one that works and stick with it," I advised. I added: "Didn't you practice like I suggested?"

"No, because it's been raining so much." I could still hear the whining on top of the clicking of the gear shift.

That's when I started to go from annoyed to borderline furious.

"Really? It has rained every single day between Christmas and now?"  Last time I checked, we don't live in the rainforest. If we had received the amount of rainfall she seemed to be describing, our bikes would have rusted in place months ago. And for the record, yesterday was the quintessential perfect summer day and the sun didn't go down until after 8:30. It would have been, you know, the perfect night to ride a bike.

This went on for several miles. Whine, click, grind. I tried to keep riding and assumed she'd figure it out and stop complaining. "This is too hard!" she would wail.

Meanwhile, grandmothers and children of all ages were blowing past us. "Good morning!" each one would call out cheerfully. It wasn't a race but still, this was getting a bit ridiculous. An aid van stopped to ask if we were okay.

I did try to give her some suggestions. The trouble is that this is something that only the rider can really "feel." I tried to explain that it shouldn't be overly hard or overly easy to pedal. She should feel a little resistance but not so much that she couldn't pedal. I tried to show her how my gears were set.  Nothing was working.

We made it to the rest stop at the five-mile mark. She wanted her dad to come and get her.  I called him and told him where she was. She plopped down in the grass with a cup of Gatorade and a chunk of bagel.  I don't know if this makes me a terrible mother but yes, I got back on my bike and kept riding. And you know what? It was pretty awesome. It was a perfect morning - cool but not overly so. A breeze but no wind.

I crossed the finish line and then sat down to eat an orange, wondering just exactly how bad my hair looked after I pulled off my helmet. I felt less annoyed by then.

Needless to say, I will be doing the event alone next summer. I'm annoyed with myself for losing patience with my daughter. I'm also annoyed with how easily she gave up. Is this a side effect of the "everyone gets a trophy" generation? I was not at all surprised at her lack of preparedness for this event, but I was surprised at how unwilling she was just to power through it and get to the finish line. Part of me wonders if this is my bad parenting at work. Have I not said "no" often enough or something?

When I got home (her dad did pick her up and bring her and her bike home), I was met with a teary-eyed middle schooler who apologized for ruining what should have been a fun event. I accepted her apology but yeah, I'm still doing it solo next year.

This photo was taken before everything went to shit.



Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Lamest milestone ever

I finally did it! No, not the murders I'm always threatening to commit. I got my first pedicure.

I have mentioned my reluctance to get a pedicure in the past. I always just felt very weird about it.  I had planned to get my (finger) nails done on Tuesday afternoon so I decided that maybe I should go ahead and get my toes done, too. It's summertime so my toes are spending more time on public view, as it were.

I normally keep blue or black nail polish on my toes.  I do this in direct protest of all the times my mother said, "Blue fingernails?  You look like you're in heart failure!" when I was a teenager. I decided I'd better take the polish off before going to the nail place. I had a hard time getting all of the blue stuff off so I still ended up looking like I, um, have heart disease. You win, Mom.

The nail place wasn't too busy so I ended up in the pedicure chair right away. I was assigned to a nice motherly lady who spoke very little English. She had dark hair that was pulled back into a ponytail. "This is my first pedicure!" I told her. She gave me an open-mouthed smile as if I'd said something pretty funny.

I watched her face closely as she examined my feet. I do take decent care of my feet so I felt pretty confident that compared to the gross stuff she's probably seen, mine weren't too bad. She didn't seem terribly alarmed by them as far as I could tell. Before I knew it, she was soaking my feet in the swirling water,  fishing them out to apply various potions and exfoliants, and then dunking them again. She even massaged my calves, which was also a first for me. I didn't want to be rude and stare at my phone the whole time, so I just watched the TV that was hanging on the wall. It was the middle of the afternoon on a weekday (that just happened to be a holiday), so the good news is that I have the full scoop if I do need a personal injury lawyer at some point.

After at least a half hour of the dunking/exfoliating/moisturizing, the lady wrapped my feet in hot towels and then patted them. I smiled at her. She had mouthed the word "hot" before applying the towels. I sure wish I could have learned more about her, like where she's from originally and whether or not she has nightmares about some of the feet she's seen.  At the end, she painted my toes in the color I'd chosen (NOT blue or green).  She wiped off my flip-flops and installed them on my feet.

"Thank you very much," I said. She smiled.

I finished my visit to the salon with a quick repair to one of my fingernails and a coat of the same pink nail polish I'd chosen for my toes. As I walked back through the salon, I saw the pedicure woman watching cat videos on her phone. They're hilarious in any language, amiright? When I paid, I left a very significant tip in hopes that most of it would go to that nice lady (she didn't wear a nametag - otherwise I'd definitely call her something other than "that nice lady.")  I guess I just didn't want to be yet another white chick sitting in the pedicure chair with a petite Asian lady crouched in front of me. And yet, I guess I was. I don't know how to reconcile that.

I have to confess that my feet felt pretty great when I left. And they certainly looked better than they do when I attempt a pedicure on myself.  Will I go again?  I don't know. Maybe. Probably not.


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Before I get too embarrassing . . .

I stood in the aisle near the girls' clothing section at Old Navy, shifting my weight from one foot to the other. An upbeat song was playing through the store's speaker system. I picked up the pace a bit and added a little bounce, bending my knees as I moved back and forth. My purse swung from my shoulder. A look of horror appeared on my daughter's face. "Oh, Mom! No!" she hissed.

Unable to resist, I added a head bob for good measure. Before I had time to add any snaps or claps, my daughter flung her arms around me in an attempt to restrict my movement. "I love you - please stop!" she said, her her check pressed against my tee shirt-clad shoulder. She was desperate now.

"Okay," I replied. I was afraid she might have a seizure out of pure embarrassment.

Here's the thing, though. There was no one around. We basically had Old Navy to ourselves. If a tree falls in a forest and no 12-year-old girls are around to hear it, is it still embarrassing? Yes. Yes, it is.

The Old Navy visit occurred during a road trip that my kid and I took over the weekend. We stopped there on the way home in order to take a quick break before finishing the drive. We'd left home the day before and embarked on our little adventure. We stopped for dinner Friday night and then headed to a hotel that I'd booked (about two hours from our home). We swam and played in the pool almost as soon as we arrived (per the written contract drafted and ratified by hotel-dwelling kids all over the world). My daughter had packed three swim suits for our one-night stay. She must have studied at Diane D's Packing School, owned and operated by my mother. Motto: "You just never know." I have carried my mom's luggage and let me just assure you that she is a pro.

The next morning, I hauled Miss Crabbypants out of bed so that we could go out to breakfast. The hotel had breakfast available but I wanted to seek out a restaurant that serves items that are specifically vegan. After she plowed through a massive pancake with copious amounts of syrup, Her Highness seemed less crabby. I had an amazing tofu scramble with potatoes on the side.

After breakfast, we headed downtown for a huge farmers' market and street fair. It was so much fun. We both enjoyed the street performers - we saw acts ranging from a capella groups to full-blown marching bands. I stopped at a jewelry vendor bought a really cool necklace - I think I'll get a lot of wear out of it. On the way back to our car, we stopped in a shop that sells bath products. They have a lot of interesting/unusual items. I took my mom there on one of her visits. It's been a running joke between us ever since - the people who work there are so hip that they can't help, I guess. I have been in there dozens of times and not once has anyone ever greeted me or offered to tell me about some of the products. At this point, it's so ludicrous that I'd probably keel over if someone did greet me.

Our next stop was the real reason for our journey. I had booked us for a barn tour at a farm sanctuary. We couldn't wait! The tour was as amazing as we'd hoped. An outgoing, animated tour guide named Tera told us stories about each of the animals we saw: from Mister the goose who doesn't like women to Winnie the market pig who fell off the slaughterhouse truck when she was just a wee lass (she weighs about the same as a Smart Car now, I think). The last animals on the tour were a pair of donkeys and a miniature horse. This horse was shorter than my Boxers! The donkeys have a companion - a sheep named Joanie. We were repeatedly told to "Ignore Joanie. Don't even look at her."  I guess Joanie's kind of a twat towards you if you're not a donkey.

We bought tee shirts on our way out in order to support the cause. I wish there was a farm sanctuary near our house - I'd happily volunteer. I think we may make this sanctuary an annual trip - that is, until I get so embarrassing that it's not even possible to travel with me. I was sitting next to my daughter at breakfast yesterday as she returned a text from The Boy. "Can't talk now. Having fun with my mom." God only knows how she would have responded if I hadn't been sitting there.

Before  heading home, we stopped at a bakery that sells vegan cupcakes. We decided to split a drink as we ate our treats.  The bottle we had selected contained some sort of carbonated lime drink. My God - what an abomination. I gave the kid some money and sent her back to the beverage cooler to choose something less offensive (root beer).  After a quick trip through Trader Joe's, we finally headed back to our car. A black cat flung himself onto the sidewalk in front of us and required us to rub his belly before we could pass. It's times like these that really make me miss having a kitty.

We finally hit the road, stopping only at Old Navy on the long ride home. Other than my transgression at the outlet mall, I think I behaved pretty well.  I'll be sure to work on my choreography before our next shopping trip.











Friday, June 16, 2017

Artsy-Fartsy Project

I can share this now that my niece has seen the final product. My sister had an amazing idea for a graduation gift for my niece. Pinterest may have offered inspiration - I'm not sure.

She sent everyone in our extended family a 4x4 canvas to decorate. The idea is for the graduate to hang the whole grid in her dorm room at Penn State. It's a very cool gift and I may be tempted to play copycat when my kid graduates in 2023.

Have you ever had an idea in your head and then your creation turns out almost exactly like you'd pictured it? I do not consider myself to be artistic by any stretch of the imagination. However, I thought I had a pretty cool idea for "my" canvas. I dragged my kid to Michael's and wandered around for what I can only describe as a "very long time." My kid and my husband also decorated canvases. A painted hers and wrote "Follow your dreams." It turned out great. The Mister cut up a comic book and pasted the pictures all over the canvas. I helped out only slightly by applying Mod Podge to seal it.

First, I painted the top half of the canvas yellow. Then I applied some tiny star stickers. Using masking tape, I cut tiny strips of tape to make one of the stars look like a shooting star. I painted the top half of the canvas black. Once that dried, I picked off the star stickers and masking tape very carefully.

Next, I painted the bottom half green and created a hill in the middle. The next hurdle was to create a small replica of my niece. I actually spent a lot of time stalking her Facebook page to find a standing photo of her that I could use as an outline. She refused to cooperate, which was super effing annoying (just kidding, Blondie!). I ended up finding a tiny paper doll on shutterstock and used that for the body. I cut out some floral ribbon to make a tiny little sundress. My niece wears floral sundresses pretty regularly so I was hoping it would work.

The next challenge was the hair. I had picked up some blondish embroidery floss at Michael's. I fashioned it into a ponytail and glued it to the head. I had purchased some ribbon for the ponytail but the ribbon was too thick. So, I improvised with some blue thread. 

I did have a couple glasses of wine while working on my creation, but I was really happy with how it turned out.

So there you have it - my Blondie wishing on a shooting star. I was excited to play a little part in this gift, as we send this talented young woman out into the world. If you see a mom sitting in a white Suburban, parked just outside Penn State's campus, crying her eyes out . . . that's my sister. Go easy on her.







Monday, May 29, 2017

Recent Goings-On

The Mister and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary on Wednesday (we've actually been together for 25 years - the five-year lag is a result of him having very slow reflexes). Guess how we celebrated? We went to the optometrist. I'd nagged him to make the appointment and I don't think he thought about the date when he called. I accompanied him to his appointment because I knew he'd tell the doctor that he is "fine" and "doesn't need anything."  I strongly believed that the boy needed bifocals. I knew this because I'd already passed through the intersection of Age and Nearsightedness myself.  He reads a lot and typically takes off his glasses to read. He keeps leaving them around the house and Grover chewed the earpiece on one side. My husband just said, "It's fine. No one can see it behind my ear."  Because his near vision seemed to be growing worse, I knew he was headed for ye olde bi-focals.

Our optometrist, Dr. K, did seem to wonder why my husband had brought his supervisor along for a routine eye exam. "I'm here to help him choose his new glasses," I said. Because my husband had successfully avoided eye exams for four years, the doctor decided that he needed to dilate his eyes to make sure his eyeballs are healthy. Better him than me. The last (well, only) time I had my eyes dilated, the nausea was so bad that I had to be driven home and I went straight to bed. I feel woozy just thinking about it. Blech.

After the dilating drops were in, we decided to look at frames quickly while he could still see well enough to take a gander at them.  An optician handed us a bunch of pairs for my guy to try. He shrugged at each one so I chose the ones that I liked best. Then I left to race home and get the kid to guitar lessons on time (we had taken separate vehicles). I can't wait to see my handsome guy in his new glasses.

We did celebrate our anniversary in a more festive way, too.  Last Saturday, we hosted a party at my church.  My middle sister and her four kids were in town, so it was extra special to have some of my family members there.  We had drinks and cake and freshly-made guacamole (made by my niece). It was a lot of fun.

The final (and arguably most expensive) celebration will happen in July, when we head to Florida for a week of sun and roller coasters. We are shipping our kid off to Virginia to hang out with relatives. I know she will have a blast doing fun stuff with her cousins.

Speaking of those cousins, here are a few photos from last week's visit. My sister and niece ran a half-marathon while they were here (I loped along at the 5K that was part of the same event).










Sunday, May 28, 2017

Thanks for the memories, Paul

If you've read my blog for any length of time, you know how I look forward to our annual cabin-by-the-lake trip. We typically go each August and it's one of the biggest highlights of our year.  We hike, we swim, we relax. The cabin belongs to my friend Paul.

Back in 2000, I worked with Paul at a technology company. He was a sub-contractor and stopped in regularly to drop off his timesheets. He and I were chatting one time that year and I mentioned that I had rented a cabin for an upcoming vacation. "Just use my cabin!" he said. That wasn't really an option because I'd already paid for the other cabin. However, I remembered his generous offer and when 2001 rolled around, I asked if we could borrow it that summer.

"Of course!" he said. "Go up and have a great time."  He gave me directions and we made plans to head up there for a little R&R that summer.  His directions turned out to be critical because the cabin is on privately-owned land inside a national forest. The path to the cabin includes miles of dirt roads and few landmarks. We had a heck of a time finding it that first year.  We took a wrong turn and drove up on a man camping alone in a tent. Fortunately, he didn't shoot us or anything. My husband and I still joke about that poor guy.

Once we found the joint, we fell in love - with the lake, the forest, and the whole area. The lake is four hours from our home but it was worth every minute on the road. My husband and I felt so fortunate that Paul let us use his cabin. I had offered money (that year and every year after) but he would not accept it.

That first year, we learned just how soul-satisfying it is to step out onto the deck and see the lake shining through the pine trees. We listened for the loons, which we never failed to hear. At night, we stared up at the stars, amazed to be so far from civilization that no other light was visible. Humming birds came to the feeder that hung on the deck. If I listened closely in the early morning before anyone else woke up, I could hear the beating of their wings.

Every spring, I would tentatively ask Paul if we could borrow the cabin. "Sure thing, kiddo," he would say. One year, we didn't ask to use the cabin.  We had planned a trip to Texas and plus, I was always cognizant of not wanting to cross the line between enjoying Paul's generosity and expecting it. Later that year, Paul called me. "Hey, why didn't you go up to the cabin this year?" he asked. I think he truly just loved having families enjoying the cabin. Once A was born in 2005, we couldn't wait to take her to the lake. In fact, her first visit to the cabin occurred when she was just a few months old.

Since Paul would never accept any money for the use of the cabin, we made our own small contributions to it. Whenever I'd go "into town" I'd pick up food storage containers or other things that the cabin seemed to need. On our last visit, I installed a new shower head. One year my youngest sister joined us at the cabin and purchased a blender just in case any future visitors might also be in need of a margarita. When we left, we always cleaned the cabin as thoroughly as we could. The joint was rustic and there were always dead bugs in the windowsills.  One year my dogs found a dead mouse behind the couch. The rustic nature of the cabin was part of what we loved.

Paul and his brothers built the cabin themselves, which made it that much more special. There was a photo of them on the mantle of the fireplace. The harsh winters "up north" did a number on the cabin, so Paul was forever painting the deck or making other repairs.

Over the years, we made so many amazing memories at the cabin. My husband I still laugh about the time our daughter fell in the lake. My husband jumped into the shallow water after her, his phone still in his pocket. Sometimes friends or family would join us at the lake. The cabin wasn't spacious but we were happy to squeeze in some extra people so that we could all enjoy the crisp air and the amazing view. We received hundreds of mosquito bites and at least a couple of ticks in our annual visits to the cabin. Countless fish were caught and tossed back in. We ate S'mores and drank lots of adult beverages. We played games (the cabin had no TV and no internet, of course, which was also part of its appeal) and read books. We took afternoon naps while waiting for the cooler evening air to drift in. After sundown, which watched bats streak across the night sky.

Recently, I had a dream in which Paul told me that he bought new furniture for the cabin. It was powder blue and looked very expensive. In the dream, I was wondering what on earth he was thinking (cabin furniture usually consists of cast-offs from other dwellings - the main goal is "sturdy" and "doesn't stain easily"). I left him a voicemail recently and was going to tell him about the dream when he called back.

Instead, one of his sons called me after hearing my voicemail. "My dad died this week," he said. I couldn't believe it. Paul was 77 but in my mind he hadn't changed in the 17 years I'd known him. He was involved in pee-wee ice hockey and so many other things - he was very active. When I hadn't heard back from him, I guessed that he might be in Germany. Paul originally went to Germany for a work assignment but made so many friends that he kept going back just to visit them.  He had a lot of friends and I felt fortunate to know him. I remember that he used to wear a pin that said something like, "Men against violence against women." He was just a cool cat.

"Okay, kiddo," he would always say to me.

"Paul, I'm 47!" I would reply, laughing.

I would like Paul's children and other family members to know just how much Paul's kindness meant to me over the years. After our visits to the cabin, I would often send him photos in the mail - of my daughter in the rowboat or my husband fishing off the rocks. I know he liked knowing that friends and family were creating memories in that place that he built.

We'll find other cabins on other lakes for future vacations, of course. And I'm sure we'll have a great time. But, I'll never forget the generosity and kindness of the man who allowed our family to make a million priceless memories. Rest in peace, Paul.

With love from Kiddo.










Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Being selfless is for the birds

Is it wrong to plan a trip out of town - alone - for Mother's Day? How about when you're a mother? I am seriously thinking of doing this next year. A little overnight stay somewhere. I'll pack a bottle of wine and a good book to read. Maybe I'll get crazy and book a massage for myself.

Mother's Day is tough for me every year. I don't know why I get so upset, but I have a minor breakdown every May when this particular holiday rolls around. Maybe it's the price I pay for being an adoptive mom, feeling like I never quite measure up on the momscale. My poor husband seems to know he's going to botch it and probably wishes I would go away for the weekend. This year, our daughter went camping Saturday night. She returned home Sunday afternoon. I am 99.9% sure that she'd had no inkling it was Mother's Day until she heard someone mention it. Later, while I was walking one of the dogs, she signed a card that her dad thrust in front of her and left it for me on the kitchen counter. She spent the rest of the day in her bedroom. I spent the rest of the day washing the smells-like-campfire clothes she brought back from her camping trip. I have to confess that I miss the goofy Mother's Day art projects that she made for me when she was little. I wouldn't mind having a paper plate with some rigatoni glued on it in the shape of the letters M O M.

My husband did get me some gifts. They came from the Pick-n-Save across the street: wine, flowers, and an iTunes gift card. Also, he bought me a Kermit. While I was at a meeting a couple of weeks ago, a stuffed Kermit (the kind with bendy arms and legs) fell off of a shelf in the office/guest room. The dogs chewed it up. On his watch. So, he ordered a replacement for that on eBay.

The gifts were nice. I have no complaints. What I really wanted, though, was for the day to feel different from all the other days. My days, it seems, are an endless cycle of work-cleaning-cooking-laundry. Wash, rinse, repeat. But mothers are supposed to be selfless, right? I'm not supposed to wish for something different.

A lighting fixture in our bedroom is not working properly. It's an electrical issue and God knows we can't hire an electrician. I decided to buy a floor lamp for my side of the bed so that I can, you know, see. I picked it up at Home Depot on my way home from church on Sunday. I dragged the box into the bedroom and proceeded to put the lamp together. You can probably picture what it looks like - a light fixture atop a heavy metal pole.  Pretty standard stuff. As I was looking down at the instruction sheet, the dogs ran through the room and somehow stepped on the cord, causing the pole to crash into my skull.  It hurt like I don't know what.  My husband heard me yelp and came to pull the dogs out of the room so that I could continue. It seemed like a good time for a husband-type person to say, "Hey, I'll finish putting it together. Besides, it's Mother's Day - you should be relaxing!" Honestly, that's all I really wanted . . . just to hear things like, "What can I do to help you?" or "What would you like to do today?" I wanted some sort of acknowledgement of the fact that the people in my home have clean clothes in their closets and two clean toilets in which to poop.

My expectations, I know, are too high. I know the issue lies with me and not with them. I also know that I need to say off Facebook on Mother's Day. I see all of these other moms being treated to breakfast in bed and having all of their favorite things delivered to them - from Starbucks to jewelry. And then I think, "I didn't get any special treatment - it must be a side effect of me being a terrible mother." And so on it goes. I end up feeling depressed and annoyed.  I really need to do something different next year. Maybe I will.

Monday, May 8, 2017

What do you mean, you don't want to hear about my feet?

When my plantar fasciitis was at its worst about two years ago, I did a lot of googling in attempt to figure out how I should proceed. I watched countless videos, perused medical websites, and joined a Facebook group started by fellow sufferers. I visited my podiatrist again and again. I was desperate for help.

So, just in case some other middle-aged chick is googling the same stuff I googled and happens upon my blog, I thought I should provide a bit of information about what worked for me. I am now pain-free.

First off, let me say that plantar fasciitis is no joke. Unless you live in the 17th century and are a member of some royal family who gets carried around and doesn't have to walk . . . you probably have to walk. PF makes every step a nightmare. When my pain first started, I thought maybe I had just overdone it at the gym.  I was hitting the elliptical a lot at that point. You know how it goes.  You get into your mid-40s and when something starts to hurt, the initial thought is, "Oh, I guess this will just always hurt now." You don't know what is fixable and what isn't.

I spoke with a yoga teacher at my gym and described my pain to her.  The pain was primarily in the arch of my foot, close to the heel. She confirmed that it was probably plantar fasciitis. This theory was later confirmed by my podiatrist. In addition, my body reacted to the strained fascia by laying down some extra bone on my heel, AKA "bone spurs." It looks super sexy on an x-ray, let me tell you.

So began an odyssey lasting over a year. As PF sufferers will tell you, the worst time of day is first thing in the morning. At night, we all naturally sleep with our feet somewhat extended (like a ballerina). This shortens the fascia alongside the bottom of the foot. This is why that first step is so brutal - the connective tissue on the sole is pulled taut as soon as the foot hits the floor, and that's very owie. For most people, the pain subsides somewhat after walking around for a bit.

I proceeded to try a bunch of stuff that I read about on the interwebs.

Here are the things that ultimately did not work:

1. Rolling my feet on a frozen water bottle. I did this for months. All I got was cold feet.
2. Wearing a special boot at night . The idea of the boot is that it holds the foot in a flexed position, thereby denying the fascia a chance to bunch up. My right foot was always worse so I just bought one boot (it wasn't cheap) and tried that foot. I slept with the boot on for a few nights. Mostly what I accomplished was to kick myself in the left leg with my right leg and wake up thinking, "WTF?!" every few minutes.
3. Getting cortisone injections. I did this twice, on my right foot both times. It did help to numb the pain for a day or two, but the injection itself hurts like a sumbitch and, in my opinion, isn't worth it.
4. Wearing crocs. My podiatrist recommended that I get some Crocs slides and wear them around he house. I did that for months. It didn't help. Crocs don't offer proper arch support and don't hold the leg and foot in proper alignment. And my God were they ugly.
5. Inserts in my existing shoes. My podiatrist recommended some standard orthotics inserts.  They did help somewhat, but not fully.
6. Arch support bands.  You can find these at most drug stores. They did feel kinda good (it's basically a band that wraps around your foot and provides some cushion to the sole), but I don't have any evidence suggesting that they fixed anything.
7. Standing on a step and letting my heels hang over the edge, thereby stretching my feet.

I should add that I did not invest in custom-made orthotics. I know a lot of people do go that route with some success.  Some people also have surgery to correct PF, but the idea of operating on my feet seemed unappealing at best.

What did work:

1. Investing in shoes with built-in orthotics.  I know that there are several brands that offer built-in orthotics. I invested in several pairs of Vionic shoes. Fortunately for me, they do offer several styles that are not leather. I learned that there are two main features that PF sufferers need to care about when it comes to shoes: arch support and heel cup. I bought some flip-flips, worky-type shoes that I can wear to the office, and some tennis shoes.  (Asics also makes some styles that are good for PF).
2. Babying my feet. I am almost never barefoot. At this point, it actually feels weird when I am barefoot. When I am at home, I am either wearing my Vionic flip-flops or my Vionic slippers. I had a setback last summer after I walked barefoot on the beach while visiting my dad in Ocean City. It seemed like a good idea at the time . . .
3. Losing some weight. I guess this one is just common sense but if your feet hurt, it's probably better to have slight less weight smashing them into the ground (if possible).  However, I will also say that I have talked to other people at my gym who are struggling with PF and they were not even a little bit overweight. 

After six months or so without pain, I have now been able to ease back into some "normal" (AKA "cuter") shoes. However, I still make sure that the insole is cushioned (the bone spurs are still there, of course) and that I switch into my flip-flops or slippers when I get home.

The other tactic I use is to roll my feet on a golf ball almost every day. I keep a golf ball in my bathroom and roll my feet while I am getting ready for work. I really try to work the ball into any tender spots so that I can keep an eye on the situation in case it starts to get sucky again.

After wearing the Vionic shoes consistently for many months, I started to notice that I did not have any pain. Now, I will say that it can take a few wearings to get used to these shoes. In fact, the company suggests wearing them only for short periods of time in the beginning. The arch is very exaggerated and feels weird at first. In my case it was worth it to work through the initial weirdness of how they feel.

I think my main annoyance with this whole saga is that my podiatrist did not recommend Vionic shoes (or even some similar brand). PF is very common with middle-aged women so I think it was just like, "Oh, here's another one" and then they handed me a pre-printed list of the orthotic inserts.

I wish I could go back in time and stop myself from wearing cheap flip-flops or flats with no arch support. A lifetime of failing to care for my feet left me limping and in severe pain. I'm a lot more careful now. I even give myself foot massages while I'm watching TV (my family doesn't offer to do it, if you can believe that). I yelled at my dog Grover for stepping on my foot when he came bounding in from the back yard this morning. Doesn't that jerk know what I've been through?

Expensive but effective flippity-flops

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

12 (subtitle: just 365 days to go until I have a teenager in my house)

My baby, my goober, my curly girlie . . . is 12 today.  :::sniffle snifle:::

In the photo below, she is wearing a necklace that was given to her by a BOY! (I know, right?!)

In addition to hosting a birthday party for her and her friends (at an indoor trampoline park), her dad and I got her a ukulele, some new earbuds that she can step on, break, and then hide under her bed, some new sandals, and a birthday shirt. (And by "her dad and I," I mean that I bought her some stuff and then told him what I bought). Gifts have been trickling in from other family members, too.

It's been fun (and a little bit heartrending) to watch my baby girl growing into a young woman. In just six short years she'll be headed off to college. Ack! She both exasperates me and fills me with joy - pretty much on the daily. We are a typical mother-daughter pair, I suppose. We laugh at jokes together and then two minutes later I am yelling at her because she left food in her room (and is rolling her eyes in response). All par for the course, I suppose.  The other day she told me she was buying pizza for lunch at school.  I looked at the online lunch account and learned that she bought ice cream.  Two of them, in fact.  And no pizza. Why do kids bother to lie? They are SO bad at it!

Despite all the hijinks and questionable decision-making, I am so proud of my kiddo.  She has the typical amount of middle school angst, but she has such a good heart. She's the best hugger in the hemisphere. I love watching her musical talent develop, too.  She is taking lessons for the guitar and is learning the keyboard and ukulele on her own. She sings in two choirs and grabs a solo any chance she gets.

Happy 12th birthday to my sassy, doesn't-get-up-on-time, homework assignment-losing, shower singing, beautiful baby girl. I love you with everything I am.


Friday, April 28, 2017

New wheels and such

Last Saturday, I attended our city's bicycle auction, sponsored by the local police department. It's amazing how many lost/stolen bikes they end up with in a given year. Hundreds of them! I have been riding my Craigslist bike for nearly a decade, so I decided it was time to see if I could get something a bit newer. I am not a daily rider or anything like that, so I didn't want to spend hundreds of dollars on a bike. Me so cheap.

I arrived at the fairgrounds just after 8 a.m. to register for the auction.  They give you an hour to look at the stuff (they also had surplus equipment and stuff like fishing poles and folding chairs). I made my way up and down rows of bikes. I kept thinking of that scene from Pee Wee's Big Adventure when he topples a whole row of motorcycles.  Whenever I saw a bike I might like, I added its number to a list I was keeping in my phone. Some of the bikes looked like they'd been run over by a semi, but there were some really nice ones, too. I had my eye on a powder blue Schwinn that appeared to be in perfect condition and another one with an aluminum frame that looked really nice, too. I also listed a few decent back-up selections.

When 9:00 rolled around, I climbed up to a spot on the bleachers. I picked a seat next to an adorable couple in hopes that they might chat with me during the long morning auction. They just seemed interesting, I guess.  They were the best dressed at the auction, that's for sure. What is it with gay men always looking cuter than the rest of us?

The first bike I wanted was number 197, so I had to sit there for an eternity first. They start with number 1, as you might imagine. Auctions are pretty entertaining, though. The auctioneer would rattle off some be-de-be-de stuff in his secret auctioneer language. When 197 (one of my back-ups) finally rolled around, I decided to hold off for 223 - the powder-blue Schwinn.  When that one hit the stage, I waited for the bidding to start and flung my auction bid card into the air. I was having a hard time following what was happening, but what I did discern was that some jackass was bidding against me.  I flung my number into the air a couple more times and then gave up when the bidding went over $100.00.  Up until that point, no bike had gone for more than around $20.  Just my luck.

The couple behind me bid high on a super fancy bike and got it.  Deep pockets on those gentlemen, I guess. Apparently they don't have a spoiled tween at home bleeding them dry. 

The aluminum-frame bike came up shortly thereafter.  Again, the bidding quickly escalated beyond what I was comfortable bidding.  The bikes are all "as is" so I was worried about spending a hundred bucks on a bike and then finding that it needs all new everything.

I climbed down from the stands and took another peek at the other bikes that had been on my list.  I decided they weren't worth waiting around for.  I was disappointed, but I left empty-handed.

Since I already had a bike rack attached to the back of my car, I thought I should take one more shot at getting my hands on a bike.  I ran a couple of errands and then stopped at a used sporting goods store. They had a couple of nice bikes that seemed like a good fit. I ended up choosing a Huffy that's in great condition. Plus, the seat was easy to adjust. A couple years ago, my husband went to the police auction and bought me a mountain bike. However, I've never been able to ride it because he wasn't able to raise the seat. Instead of casting a wider net to figure out a way to adjust the seat (I think it was just rusted in place), he ended up getting annoyed with me about the length of my legs instead. True love, that's what we have.

So, I am the proud owner of new-to-me wheels. My daughter got a new bike for Christmas and she and I are entered in a cycling event this summer. So, that was another reason why I wanted a new bike. So far I've only ridden it around the neighborhood, but I think I made a good decision.

Since Saturday was such a beautiful day, I decided to get Grover saddled up and take him to a recreation trail. We walked for several miles and had a great afternoon together. There were tons of people on the trail because the weather was so nice. Cyclists, walkers, and rollerbladers galore. Grover has decided that rollerbladers, collectively, can go suck an egg. He does not have any love for those shifty characters with wheels on their shoes.

Other than that, there hasn't been much going on lately. Tomorrow is the kid's birthday party. I think we are expected to worship her for the next week, at least (her birthday is on the 3rd). She asked for a Ukulele (which we are getting for her) and, um, a Macbook. You know, just in case we have $1300 sitting around and were hoping to part with it toute de suite. In other news, apparently I am still largely ineffective in my attempt to teach her highness how money works.


Sunday, April 9, 2017

11 and 11/12

I wrote this poem for a poetry service at church so I figured I may as well dump it here, too. It barely qualifies as a poem (more like prose), but what the heck.

11 and 11/12

“What is this?” I ask, plucking a shred of neon paper from the carpet in her bedroom.
She shrugs. She must have limber shoulders from all that shrugging, I think to myself.
“Wash your plate when you’re done with your dinner, please.” I deliver my request in a measured tone.
Later, I find that the plate has been washed but not the fork. I didn’t mention the fork, after all.
I gently inquire about some missing assignments for math and science classes.
In response, the eyes roll back so far that I sometimes wonder just how far they can go.
“I think you need a shower,” I suggest, delicately at first and then less delicately.
She agrees, but requires me to turn on the water and check the temperature for her.
For the next hour, she sings Adele songs into the showerhead and drains the city’s water reserves.

Adolescence, it seems, has replaced my Dora-watching cherub with a determined yet tentative almost-twelve-year-old.
Her face, framed by wild cascades of curls, is both the baby I cradled and the woman I will someday know.
She spends more and more time away from me now, at sleepovers and choir tours and such.
I give her some money and she’s off, never bringing me any change when she comes back.
Her burgeoning independence glistens like a newborn calf, leaving us both unsure of its boundaries.
The days are a blur of boys and classes, clubs and performances, friends that come and go.
Mascara and text messages. Tears shed over slights large and small. Jeans that cannot be worn if I picked them out.

But at night, I still must close her closet doors fully before she can go to sleep
The monster cannot open doors, you see.
I lean down to kiss her good-night and she throws her arms around my neck.
“I love you,Goober” I say.
“I love you more,” she responds.




Sunday, March 26, 2017

A Tale of Two Concerts

I attended two concerts in the past week. This is a rare occurrence because I'm usually too cheap to pay the scandalous "convenience" fees that always seem to come along with concert tickets. On Wednesday night, I went to see the English Beat in concert. The concert venue is over two hours away and I had to be at work the next morning, but I really wanted to go. My friend Karen agreed to go with me and even agreed to drive. This was pretty heroic of her because although she is aware of the band, she was not what you'd call a rabid fan. I appreciated her willingness to drive (and to explore some music that wasn't super familiar to her). The last time she and I went to a concert (Gossip), I drove and got a tickie on the way home.

The concert was great. A local ska band opened for them. They were a lot of fun, too, and I'd definitely enjoy seeing them live again. Shortly after their set was done, Dave Wakeling and company took the stage. The current incarnation of the Beat is basically Dave Wakeling and some other musicians that were not part of the original band. That's okay with me, though. As long as they know the songs and do them justice, I have no complaints.

The concert venue was not a large one. There were a few chairs upstairs but the main level was a standing-room only situation. I'd been there to see Fountains of Wayne a few years ago so I knew what to expect. I didn't mind standing one bit because I was too excited to sit down anyway. I had a couple of vodka cranberries on board so I even *gasp* danced a little. Being just yards away from Dave Wakeling . . . for a minute there, I felt like I was 15 again. I found myself with a huge grin on my face and I am not a naturally smiley person. I listened to the English Beat and General Public relentlessly when I was a teenager. In short, seeing him live was just what I needed in the middle of a very rough, very hard week.

A few days later, I took my daughter to see Daya live. I was only vaguely aware of Daya myself, but the concert was happening in our town and the tickets were reasonable ($25 each). On our way to the concert, I was given some pretty specific instructions about not dancing and not doing anything deemed to be embarrassing in general.

I did as I was told, and dutifully sat in my seat. This was the kid's first "real" concert so I was eager to see her reaction.  The crowd was at least three decades younger than the crowd at Wednesday's concert. There was an opening act - a singer who appeared to be about 14. That's how you know you are getting old - everyone looks 14. Daya took the stage at around 8:30. Her whole band is comprised of young women which, I think, is inspiring for a theater full of teen and pre-teen girls. In fact, her whole message is a good one for young women like my daughter.

For the encore, Daya sang "Sit Still Look Pretty," which is one of her biggest hits to date.

Oh, I don't know what you've been told
But this gal right here's gonna rule the world
Yeah, that is where I'm gonna be, because I wanna be
No, I don't wanna sit still, look pretty


I bought my own empowered kid a $25 tee shirt that she can't wait to wear to school tomorrow. Oh, and I didn't do anything embarrassing.


Friday, March 17, 2017

Life with the Tween

As my reader may have noticed, I'm writing fewer blog entries these days. I think the main reason that I'm less productive and prolific these days is that my daughter is getting older now. I owe it to her to respect her privacy - at least somewhat. Here's hoping she never finds all those old posts about the times she pooped herself back in the potty training days.

These days, I assume that she poops but it is not a regular topic of conversation. Instead, we mostly talk about missing assignments for school.  When questioned about missing assignments, she typically bursts into tears and blames: her teachers, the concept of time, the bus driver, and her locker.  I have to say that I won't be too sad when the school year is over.  The first year of middle school is rough, yo. In many ways, she's done great. She has made lots of friends (though they seem to vary by the day of the week - it'll be interesting to see who she invites to her birthday party next month) and has participated in a lot of activities.  She had show choir in the fall, the musical in the winter, and now the talent show in the spring. I am very proud of her. She was one of the few vocal soloists to get into the talent show when auditions were held a couple weeks ago.

Her grades are pretty good, but she struggles in science, math, and reading. The reading grade, in particular, causes me pain right down to my soul. I started teaching that kid to read before she was walking. Her teachers all assure me that she is very bright and is fully capable of handling the material. It's the homework. She was missing one particular worksheet for reading. She assured me that she did not have it and could not remember to ask for a new one. I finally emptied her entire backpack (which weighs about as much as she does) and found the worksheet at the bottom. It looked like it had been run over by the school bus (which, incidentally, she missed last week because that villainous bus driver refused to let her on, dontcha know). The kid is in an accelerated math class but again, unfinished assignments are causing problems. I need to send her to one of those new age-y schools that doesn't assign homework.

We've also fought an unrelated battle regarding the availability of vegetarian food in the cafeteria.  80 emails later, I think we have that one settled. It's a challenge, because she doesn't want to stick out or be different in any way (which is typical behavior in middle school, I think). So, she doesn't want to say, "I NEED THE VEGGIE BURGER THAT IS LISTED ON THE MENU BUT IS NOWHERE TO BE FOUND."  I had to get all mama bear and wage that battle on her behalf.

Middle school romance is another interesting topic. Needless to say, my daughter is not allowed to have a boyfriend and is not allowed to "date." Her dad and I haven't set an exact age for that, but 11 is definitely not the age.  I think mid-30s would be a good time for her to interact with boys. However, that doesn't stop her from having crushes on various lads at school, which is fine.  Back in the fall, there was a boy who was head over heels for my daughter. She seemed to like him, too - at first.  I check her phone regularly and saw the texts he sent her. "Good night, my star" he wrote. There were lots of mushy gushy emojis, too. Eventually, she felt uncomfortable with the intensity of his affection. "He's just not chill about ANYthing," she told me.  She broke it off with him. More recently, she's had her eye on a different boy. This boy does seem to like her. However, his best friend also likes her and was laying it on pretty thick. She told him she didn't like him "that way." He sent back a broken-heart emoji.  My kid is breaking hearts all over the sixth grade, man.

As for me, I'm an anxiety-ridden mess as usual, but maybe I'll write about that some other time.

In the meantime, here is my songbird. This is not the song she is singing in the talent show, but I never get tired of hearing her voice. And no, I don't know why I didn't turn the phone the other way. Me not smart.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Those People

The circus came to town this weekend. There was a peaceful protest scheduled for all performances. I joined the protest Friday evening and Saturday afternoon. I got a lot savvier with my sign this year - I invested in a nice foam core poster board (my sign was too flimsy last year and did not hold up against winter weather).

My daughter decided to join me for the protest on Friday. I gave her a rundown of what the protest would be like so that she knew what to expect. Initially, I was a bit torn about bringing my daughter. When I was a student at George Mason University in the early 90s, I remember seeing a man dragging a large wooden cross around the quad. I think maybe he handed out leaflets - I don't specifically recall. What I do remember is spotting his young children with him once or twice. I recall thinking that maybe young children shouldn't be indoctrinated into anything. So, I've always been careful with my daughter and what I say to her. I take her to church with me, but I tell her that she'll be free to choose her own religion when she grows up. I have raised her on a vegetarian diet, but I've told her she'll be free to choose her diet, too. She's almost 12, though, so I felt like she's old enough to decide how she feels about the circus.  So, we bundled up (it was around 19 degrees) and headed over to the arena. We parked in the same lot as the circus-goers, grabbed our sign, and walked to the intersection we'd need to cross to get to the arena. Surrounded by families headed for the circus, we waited patiently for the light to change. We could see the protestors starting to assemble on the sidewalk across the street.

"Those protestors are so stupid," said the woman in front of me. I looked down and noticed that her daughter was wearing sandals. In 19-degree weather.

"I'll be the judge of who's stupid in this scenario," I thought to myself.

My daughter and I crossed the street and joined the other protestors.  There is a specific area where we are allowed to stand, and we have to be careful that we are not blocking the flow of foot traffic into the arena.  The circus is hosted by the Shriners and they will find any excuse to call the police on the protestors. (Side note: money from ticket sales does not benefit Shriners' Hospitals for children.) We do not shout at the circus attendees. We simply stand there with our signs.

A family streamed by me and I saw that one of the children, a girl of about nine, was wearing a crop top. Her bare stomach was turning pink against the cold wind. "Maybe they should go sit with the sandal family," I thought. Again, to myself.

Families continued to flow through us and around us. I saw fathers enveloped in clouds of cigarette smoke, dropping f-bombs in front of their kids (not aimed at us, just as a part of normal conversation). One woman looked at our group's "pro animal" posters and said flatly, "Well, it's a good thing I don't care about animals." Her male companion laughed loudly.

Since this is the Midwest, the vast majority of the circus-goers were polite. They walked by without speaking.  The adults looked down or away, but many of the kids read our signs. Once the 6:30 p.m. show had started, we packed up and headed home. I couldn't feel my toes anymore at that point. I made a mental note to wear thicker socks the next day.

On Saturday morning, I watched a documentary on Netflix as I was getting my act together. It's called Accidental Courtesy in case you want to check it out.  The program follows the travels of a man named Daryl Davis. Daryl Davis is a black man (and fairly well-known musician) who believes that there is value in meeting with KKK members one by one. If they can sit down together and find some common ground, maybe they can build a friendship. Sure enough, many Klan members have had a change of heart and have actually given their hoods and robes to Mr. Davis. He has around 25 of them so far, in addition to other KKK trinkets like pins.  His work has put him at odds with the Black Lives Matter movement, but I do think there is merit in his overall theory: don't be so quick to condemn your adversaries. Look a little deeper.

I thought about that documentary a lot on Saturday as I took my post in front of the arena for the 1:30 show. While I do think that we (the protestors) are on the right side of history, I knew I needed to be less judgemental of the circus attendees. After all, there was a time when I routinely ate a quarter pounder with cheese without thinking twice about it. Granted, that was almost 30 years ago, but still . . . an awakening of conscience causes one to see everything in a new light.

So, I held my sign and chatted with my friend who organizes the protests each year. My daughter opted not to join me this time - partly because she had just slept 12 hours straight and hadn't even gotten dressed when it was time for me to leave.

At the Saturday show, not too many people shouted at us, fortunately. One person did yell, "Don't you have pets?!"

Heidi responded, "Yes, I do, but I don't train them with bull hooks."

Another guy said, "You aren't doing anybody any good." I wasn't sure what his main beef was: was he simply annoyed that we weren't using our time wisely, in his opinion?

Another circus-goer confessed, "I'm totally with you guys - I am just doing this for my kids."  I have some hope for that guy!

I invest most of my hope in the kids. The ones who are old enough to read do read the signs as their parents are whisking them past us. Maybe in a few years they will look into how baby elephants are actually trained and will tell their parents, "Nah, I don't want to go." I'm counting on my daughter's generation to end this crap once and for all.

Monday, February 20, 2017

If only the magic carpet took kids to rehearsals


After months of rehearsals, our daughter finally had her chance to perform on stage in Aladdin last week. She played a couple of roles - she was a Harem girl and an attendant to one of the princes. She was also in Genie's chorus, which included a very impressive tap dancing number. There were four performances in total: one for students and three for the public. I volunteered to work concessions at the Friday night performance but still got to see most of the show. P and I attended the Saturday afternoon performance together. We brought the kid a rose to congratulate her on a job well done.

We were in the front row at the Saturday show, and she looked right at us a couple of times - DURING the performance. I made a mental note to remind her about not breaking the fourth wall (which may be the one and only thing I remember from the drama class I took in high school). The show was very enjoyable and perfectly cast. My daughter did want to play Jasmine but as an 11-year-old with little theater experience, that type of role would have been a bit much for her. The girl who played Jasmine was outstanding. It wasn't hard to see how much work the kids, director, stage crews, etc. put into the production. I mean, for a middle school musical, it was really outstanding! You could tell it was a middle school production because about half the cast had braces, including Iago, the parrot.

After the show, we waited for our daughter in the crowded hallway outside the theater. When we found her, she informed us that it's tradition for the cast to go to Culver's while still in stage make-up (but sans costumes). We agreed to take her. We handed her ten bucks and dropped her off. It's a weird feeling, knowing that your kid is old enough to hang out without you. I figured a group of theater kids couldn't get into TOO much trouble and I assumed a few parents would stay, too.

As far as what we'll do with our spare time now that the mister and I don't have to drive the kid back and forth to rehearsals five days a week? Well, fret not. She still has choir on Sundays (with Tuesday rehearsals being added soon) and guitar on Wednesdays. Later this month, she plans to audition for the talent show at school.  I'm assuming there will be a rehearsal or two for that (if she gets in).  Then, in the fall we can start the process all over again: show choir, musical, talent show, and city choir.  I sometimes joke that it's a good thing we only have one kid - a second kid surely would have run away by now, purely out of sheer neglect.

Needless to say, though, I am one proud mama.





Monday, February 6, 2017

Hello, Gecko

It finally happened. My daughter got a reptile.

In exchange for the kid volunteering in a reptile education area at an annual pet expo for the past several years, my friend Cindy told me that when we were ready, she would hook us up with a Crested Gecko. A Crested Gecko is considered to be a good "starter" animal for reptile hobbyists. There is a commercially-available powder that is specifically formulated for them (just mix with water). I'm just not sure that we were ready to share our lives with someone who must eat live mice to survive.

My daughter had rehearsal for the upcoming musical all day on Saturday, so I drove to the expo by myself to pick up our new friend. It's about two hours away. I stayed at my friend Kathy's house the night before so that we could drink wine and act uncivilized. I headed to the expo Saturday morning. (With a bonus trip to Trader Joe's on the way.) This is a HUGE expo - thousands of people attend every year. I pulled into the vendor parking lot because I needed to get the cage that Cindy was giving me. As I was waiting in line to pay for parking, I spotted a red truck in front of me. Then I noticed the Pantera sticker on the back. And a blonde driver. In an incredible stroke of luck, Cindy was directly in front of me. I was able to park next to her and get the cage and stand. She told me I didn't have to pay for the stuff but I slipped her some cash anyway.

Inside the expo, I was able to talk to the breeder from whom Cindy had obtained the gecko. Interestingly, Crested Geckos were almost extinct and it was the pet trade that essentially brought them back. I wanted to get a gecko from Cindy and her peeps because I felt like it would be a better/safer source than a pet store. Of course, I had about a million questions about feeding, how much water to give, etc.

I did some shopping at the expo and then looped back to the reptile education area to pick up the little dude (he/she hasn't been sexed so I guess we're just calling it "he" until someone tells us otherwise). He was in a small plastic travel case.  One good thing about these little guys is that they are not super sensitive with temperature and don't need a heat lamp. It's not like you have to keep them between 74 and 76 degrees or something. However, temperature is still a big concern. He shouldn't be in an environment lower than 60 degrees or higher than 80. If the air hits 80 degrees, he's probably a goner. Needless to say, it's wintertime and well below 60 degrees outside.  So, not knowing what else to do, I took off my coat, wrapped it around the plastic cage, and then hoofed it waaaaaaaaaaay across the snowy parking lot to my car. I'm sure I looked super cool, gingerly carrying my coat out in front of me like that.

On the long drive back home, I kept the heat on to make sure he didn't get chilled. It's kind of funny to think of going to all these lengths for someone who's so tiny that you can't really even feel him when he walks on your arm. I have to say he is very cool, though. His "sticky" feet allow him to climb just about anything. He jumps pretty far distances. The reptile people at the expo told me that even if he falls/jumps from a significant height, he is unlikely to get hurt. The other random tidbit: it's fairly common for a Crested Gecko's tail to fall off. In the wild, this is a defense against predators. However, it happens in captivity, too. Two different people told me that if the tail does come off, it will twitch for a while after that happens. That's good to know because if I hadn't been made aware and the tail fell off later  . . . well, that's the stuff of nightmares, I think.

My daughter had a sleepover on Saturday so she saw her new friend only briefly before she had to leave. She has decided to name him Geo. The display cage my friend gave me is really beautiful. We are lucky to have it.  I set it up in my daughter's room. Later, I ran to Petco to pick up the powered diet. I also grabbed a bag of crickets (just four small ones).  Crested Geckos fare just fine on the gecko diet but I was told that crickets are good for supplementing. Apparently this particular type of gecko is prone to calcium deficiencies so we just have to keep an eye on his intake. It's common to "dust" the crickets with calcium powder.

Now, this part is a little weird for a vegan to say, but hey - circle of life and all that. My husband and I watched Geo's reaction as I dumped the four crickets into the cage. People at the expo had told me that it was fun to watch, so we wanted to see just how fun it is. The three smallest crickets disappeared into the mossy stuff at the bottom of the cage. The largest one, however, marched across a branch directly towards Geo. Moments later, little Death Wish Cricket's legs were dangling from Geo's lips (I don't know if he actually has lips - just bear with me here).  I'm assuming that the other three crickets surrendered later on.

Anyway . . . so far, so good. My kid finally has the reptile she's always wanted. And, when she leaves for college in 6 1/2 years . . . I guess I'll be the proud owner of a Crested Gecko.

He's in there somewhere . . .

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Birthday Boy

Of the six dogs (Lucy Annabel, Karl Lee, Gideon, Gretchen, Grover, and Glinda) and three cats (Bobby Shafto, Franklin, and Ella Fitzkitty) that have lived with us, we've only known the date of birth for one or two. So, Grover is the rare case in which we didn't have to assign him a birthday. 

Anyway, it was touch-and-go there for a while, but we decided to let Grover live long enough to see his first birthday, which is today. Happy birthday to Grovie! (AKA Grover from Dover, Jerkface, Grovie-Dohvie-Doo, Get-That-Asshole-off-the-Counter, Grovielicious, Groovy Grovie).

He is currently taking more classes through the local kennel club. I still have hopes of getting him into Agility. He stole a muffin off the counter yesterday morning so, as you can see, the training is going just greaaaaat (and yes, he even ate the wrapper). It's a good thing he's so cute.


Monday, January 30, 2017

Some Recent Goings-On

As my reader may recall, my company was acquired back in October. I've been acquired twice now. I lost vacation hours in the transaction both times but hey, I need to be steadily employed and you can't rock the boat too much when you need to make sure you stay that way. This recent acquisition has turned out to be a positive event in most ways (at least for me). I was nervous about working for such a large company, but it hasn't been as daunting as I feared it would be. And then something extra-good happened two weeks ago: I was promoted and got a raise. I knew that I was under-paid by my former employer but again, my bargaining power has been limited. I am glad that the new company recognized that my 21 years in the IT field does count for something and that I am a competent employee. So yay for competence and being paid a fair wage!

In other news, I got a tattoo last week. I'd been planning it for a while. For obvious reasons, I like to make careful decisions about this sort of thing. When I was at the tattoo shop on Saturday, a young woman walked in and asked if she could get a tattoo that day. Tara, the artist, told the young woman that she was all booked up.  I made my appointment back in November. Plus, I attended a consultation meeting weeks beforehand. I guess I just find it odd that someone would get a tattoo on a whim and expect an artist just to be sitting around waiting for them. As a matter of fact, I think that there has been at least one drop-in every time I've been in her shop.

As far as the design I chose, I gave this a lot of thought. I decided to go with a watercolor elephant with the thought that I may add other watercolor animals later on - like maybe a giraffe, bird, or rhino. I chose the elephant for a couple of reasons. The main one is that I think the elephant is probably the most glaring example of the atrocities we commit against animals. I guess the other reason would be that I think they are simply beautiful. I decided to add Ahimsa, in Sanskrit.  Ahimsa is an important tenet of several religions, including Hinduisum and Buddhism, and it essentially means "compassion and non-violence towards all living creatures." I first learned the term in a religion class I took in college.

I am very happy with the tattoo.  It's a little bigger than what I had envisioned initially, but the size turned out just fine in the end. I had Tara tattoo the elephant on my back (vs. other possible locations) because a) I do have to do the corporate thing and b) it just seemed to be the most logical spot for it (particularly if I want to add other animals later on).

I arrived at the shop on Saturday morning for my appointment. I wasn't too nervous because I've done this before and knew what to expect. Tara had me lie down on the orange table (that also converts into a chair). She chose the ink colors and off we went. I was face-down, of course. The first hour or so wasn't too bad. I listened to music on my phone and did my best to keep my yoga breathing going - I tried counting to four on the inhale and exhale. I also tried to focus on not clenching any muscles. I turned up the music so that I couldn't hear the buzzing of the tattoo machine.

Eventually, I asked if we could take a break so that I could use the bathroom. I looked at the tattoo in the bathroom mirror and saw that we had a long way to go. I quickly washed my hands and submitted to the needle once again, before I had a chance to talk myself out of it. The second hour was rougher than the first, but I was determined to walk out with a completed tattoo. Tara is a talented artist so I also didn't want her to feel rushed. This art will be on my skin for the rest of my life. Noticing that I was getting fidgety, she asked me if I'd like to sit up instead. I figured it was worth a try. She handed me an enormous teddy bear to hug. So, I was hunched over that bear as the buzzing resumed. I checked the weather and played Words with Friends on my phone to distract myself.  I didn't last long with the sitting, though. "I need to lie back down," I said.

As we entered the third hour, I think Tara sensed that I was ready to tap out. She completed the outline of the elephant and told me she would spray some lidocaine on my back. She couldn't apply the local anesthetic prior to that because it would have wiped out the stencil. Now that the tattoo was mostly done, it was safe to lose the stencil. "I'm going to break up your skin," she told me.

"What on earth does that mean?" I asked. It certainly sounded horrifying. She explained that she would use a dry needle to puncture my skin in multiple spots. She would then using a numbing spray on my back. The dry needle bit felt about as good as you'd expect, but when the anesthetic took effect . . . ahhhh.  As she got back to work on my tattoo, the pain was still very real but the edge was taken off. She was able to finish her work without me bitching and moaning. I mean, I think I have a pretty high pain tolerance but three hours is a lot for anyone, I think.

When I finally stood up and viewed the tattoo in its entirety, I loved it right away. Tara is very talented.  Plus, she's an all-around nice person. As I was waiting for the gel bandage to dry, a young woman came in with her mother and her baby. She had an appointment, so her presence was legit. Tara turned around and mouthed the words "Why would they bring a baby?" to me.  Why indeed.

The hour-long drive home was a little rough because, essentially, I had an open wound on my back. I regret nothing, though. Like I said . . . careful decisions.

The only other news of late is that we are fostering a pit bull for the local shelter. Rudy (AKA Rudy-Tooty-Fresh-n-Frooty) has a visit with an applicant on Saturday. That applicant happens to be a friend of mine. I thought it would be a great match. Alas, it turns out that the little goofball gets a little protective when strangers come into the home (we've learned that he does better if the visitor is already there when he comes out of his crate). I have a couple of volunteers from the shelter coming over to help me work with him. It was disappointing because Rudy is such a great dog! He gets along great with my dogs and has always been fine with me, my daughter, and my husband. He does jump up and can get mouthy, but it wasn't a big deal because my dogs jump up on people, too.  The only version of him we'd seen (at least until Saturday) was just pure silly/goofy/knucklehead.  I know there's a home out there for him, though. I just need to convince him that we don't need to be protected from the visitors who enter our home.

So, that's about it for recent happenings. When I'm not at work, I'm driving my kid to guitar lessons, choir practice, or Aladdin rehearsals. It's all worthwhile, though, because she's super grateful and never leaves a single tap shoe at home so that I have to drive across town to deliver it and am 15 minutes late for work.